Thursday, April 26, 2018

We Went to South Africa

Our mission organization has an all-Africa conference every couple of years. In the past, it's always been held in either Kenya or Tanzania, so this year, it was a very special treat to be held in South Africa.

Since we figured this might be our only chance to visit South Africa as a family, we arrived a couple of days before the conference and stayed a day longer.

This was how we spent a good portion of the conference, which was wonderful and soul-filling. 

But we weren't always super spiritual, like when we put Oreos on our foreheads.

The kids got their own program with their own helpers. They had to do homework every day, since this trip happened during school time, but they still had a blast.

Many, many hours were spent right here. The kids also got to go on their own safari.

The hotel where we stayed had its own petting zoo, which included tiger cubs. Which, FYI, are Indian, not African. But hey, who's asking? Still super cool.

The kids insisted we go to McDonalds. Still blech, even in South Africa.

The grown-ups, however, went out for amazing steak. South Africans know their meat. (And wearing sweaters was almost as equally exciting.)

We went to the Lion Park, which is kind of like a zoo and kind of like a safari park. The animals are in large enclosures you can drive through. Yes, we were this close.

Mostly they all looked like this.

Until feeding time, when they became like this. 
This was all very thrilling until later we found out that the lions in this park have actually killed a number of visitors who dared to do things like roll down their windows. Yikes.

Look, Mom! No Fences!

We went to an adventure course where my children proved that they are much braver than their mother.

While Gil had fun taking pictures of my misery.

We also visited an amusement park....

....and a gold mine.

But perhaps most meaningful was taking our children to historical sites in South Africa. We had talked about South African history before the trip, and watched some documentaries as well as (edited versions) of "Sarafina" and "Invictus."

We visited Soweto, the site of the youth riots of 1976 (and basis of "Sarafina").

The memorial of Hector Pieterson, a 13-year-old killed by police who became a symbol of the apartheid resistance.

The Mandela home in Soweto

 Hoping for a better future for our children in Africa.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Everything is Moldy

While the northern hemisphere is battling through the end of winter, we down in the south are battling through the end of summer.

And that means we have entered the Season of Mold.

Kindergarten students in America and Europe dutifully cut and paste snowflakes in January, flowers in May, and orange leaves in October. But down here in the tropics, we never see snowflakes or orange leaves, and we get flowers year-round.

But every April, when the rain barrels in to wage war against the heat, we get the Season of Mold. Fortunately, we don't require kindergarteners to cut and paste little green spores. Unfortunately, the mold decides on its own to paste itself to their pictures.

In April, everything molds. My kitchen table can grow a nice white layer overnight. The wooden arms of the couch. The couch cushions. The floor. Leather shoes. Belts. Vinyl lunchboxes. Pretty much anything that is capable of holding moisture manages to grow mold. Outside, the ground shoots up massive mushrooms.

Of course, that's because there's water everywhere these days. Overflowing the gutters, creating swimming pools in every yard, flooding the city. We even had two government-prescribed "rain days" last week when school was closed.

The bugs, which had been happily content in their trees and rocks, come out of nowhere. The flying termites and dragonflies swarm the air, seemingly popping out of the ground. Cockroaches scurry up flooded drainpipes. Giant African snails slime around on the walls. And the ants go marching two by two, hurrah hurrah....into my get out of the rain (boom, boom, boom).

The air temperature plunges down into the high 80's (with 85% humidity), which means that most HOPAC kids come to school wearing sweaters. And my kids just don't understand why I won't let them wear theirs. I am such a mean mom to allow my children to freeze to death in this frigid weather.

The other night, as the kids were getting ready for bed, the smoke detector in the girls' bedroom went off. Gil had to yank it apart to get it to shut up. The next day, a smoke detector randomly went off in a HOPAC classroom. Coincidence? Nope. Extremely high humidity will do that. There's no fire, but even the smoke detector is protesting the condition of the air.

But like the snow melting away into spring, the rain eventually melts away the heat. The mold doesn't stick around, but everything is green and lush and growing--just like spring. It's beautiful and renewing and soul-refreshing, just like the changing of the seasons should be.

Medina Life, January through March, 2018

She turned 12 and got braces. My beautiful girl.

The Medina Four with the Quad Squad: Everyone's favorite quadruplets.

In January, Gil was invited to be the speaker at a Young Life retreat for HOPAC students, and he rocked it. (Of course, God had a little something to do with that.)

Basketball season! Josiah played his heart out.....

But it was Grace's team that took the championship! (Gil was their fantastic coach!)

Reach Tanzania Bible School 2018 cohort of students!

We hosted our church district fellowship group in March.

Book Week! Here we have Papa Bear...

And Ralph S. Mouse

Service Emphasis Week sent all our kids on service trips to other schools.

And this picture was taken for future bribery purposes: Josiah with his (very mini) man-bun and pink headband, which, apparently, is very cool in the soccer world. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Dear Missionary Mom of Littles

As much as I love those little faces and wish I could go back and squish them one more time, I must admit that I am relieved to be done with the days of diapers and Dora and Itsy Bitsy spider. Focusing mainly on my kids for so many years was a privilege....but it was hard. This is a letter to those missionary moms who are there right now.

Dear Missionary Mom of Littles,
I see you.
I’m starting with that, because I know that often you don’t feel seen. You stay home with the kids while your husband goes out to teach the Bible study. You hang around the back of the church, trying to keep the baby quiet. You have to leave the team meeting early so that your toddler gets his nap.
Of course, every mom of littles, in any culture, is going to struggle with similar things. But I think that this particular season of life is even harder on missionary moms.
Quite likely, you are raising your kids in isolation. You don’t have your own parents or other relatives nearby to help out. There isn’t a Mommy-group at your church or a pee-wee soccer league in your city. There might not even be a McDonald’s Playland or a safe park to walk to. And you feel trapped.
Yes, there are other ladies in your host country with small children. But they may be parenting their children very differently from you. They might live in their mother-in-law’s house. They might put their kids in all-day preschool at two years old, or hire a full-time nanny, or be okay with letting their children freely roam the streets. They might criticize you for not keeping your child warm enough or spoiling them too much or not spoiling them enough or for giving your child a popsicle, even when it’s 90 degrees outside. And you feel very alone.
Maybe you’re remembering earlier days, when you worked right alongside your husband, or when your job felt significant. When your ministry was thriving and you could look back at the end of the day and feel satisfied with all you accomplished. Now you feel exhausted but have nothing to show for it. Your newsletters are full of your husband’s adventures, but you don’t have anything to contribute. And your life just feels….boring.
And you may wonder, What’s the point? Why am I here? You know the importance of spending these years with your little ones, but it feels like you could be doing the exact same job in your home country. Except there, your life would be less lonely and less difficult.
I was you for ten years. When I see you, I remember.
Go here to read the rest.