We all occasionally have a day that causes us before it is finished to think perhaps we should have stayed in bed so as to avoid all the day’s mishaps. Yesterday was my turn.
I didn’t expect everything to take longer than usual and to feel rushed. I didn’t expect to have a headache all day, or to have an invasion of ants akin to an Alfred Hitchcok movie. Less than an hour after my floors were swept and mopped, ants were all over the floors AND walls of one end of the house. I did not expect that as I was spraying insecticide and sweeping ants off the walls and floors, my son would accidentally spill an entire box of Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder on yet another portion of the freshly mopped floor. It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
Cocoa can be hard to find here and very expensive when it is available. Good cocoa is even more rare and Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa does not exist here at all, ever. I had brought back a couple of boxes from furlough and they were going to have to last until the next furlough two years later. It was an accident, and I knew it, but for just a second I wanted to turn into something like Gollum yelling about his Precious. I thank God that as I knelt there sweeping up the mess I looked up and saw my son’s face just before I was about to let my frustration fly out of my mouth like an arrow and hit him right in the heart. It gave me enough pause to be able to stop myself. I still had to explain that my frustration was with the way our day was going and not with him, but at least I did not have to apologize for hurtful words.
It is in those "unexpecteds" that our true character shows, and I saw that I had plenty of room for improvement. I also saw that God is even now still working on me. I saw Him give grace in a moment when I needed it. He gently reminded me that cocoa and clean floors are very nice things to have, but they are not precious. We are here in Congo because people are what is precious - so precious that Christ gave his life for them.
Please be in prayer for us, that we might always be mindful of what is truly precious and that our words and deeds will reflect that. Pray for the precious people of Congo, that they will place their faith in Christ and find their strength in Him.
|Three phase pole mounted transformer in Syria. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
- Our daughter needed oral surgery. We carry very high deductibles, and this year she actually met hers. That's not a good thing but it meant if we could get her surgery done this year, it would save a ton of money. The problem was that she is going back to school in a week and has no transportation once she gets there.
- Honey, the toilet is leaking again."
- Honey, the bedroom air-conditioner is not working."
- Honey, the a/c in the car (that just got repaired) is not working."
Everyday it was a new problem and no time to deal with figuring out what is wrong, shopping for tools and parts, and repairing it all. The really fun news came yesterday, when we called the electric company after our power was off for 24 hours:
- The transformer is burnt up. It will be a long time before you have electricity again.
Without a transformer, there is no power. Period.
The very word transformer brings up some unpleasant memories of our first year here. The transformer burned and it was over five weeks before we had electricity. Then just weeks after we finally got one, election season began and a candidate commandeered our transformer and hauled it away to use for a neighborhood that housed some of his constituents.
I won't lie. That was hard. It would be challenging enough for anyone raised with the convenience of 24/7 electricity. It was our first year, so we were still not accustomed to the different life and the climate. It was hard to sleep at night in the heat, and being exhausted just made things harder to deal with. At the time I was dealing with painful bone spurs in both feet that eventually required surgery. AND, we were all dealing with the emotions that go along with the first child graduating and getting ready to go to live across the ocean.
But one thing we learned through all of that is that we were not all alone. God never left us, and He showed his love and presence in very tangible ways. We had friends and team members who let us use their washing machines and take showers at their houses. He provided extra funds so we could buy fuel to run the generator to charge batteries and cool down the fridge. He used others to counsel me to make plans to get my feet taken care of instead of trying to stick it out until furlough (another two years away). He gave us people who prayed for us and encouraged us. The fact that without a transformer we had no power source for our home reminded us that God is the source of our strength.
God is no less present or loving this time around either. As challenging as it can be to schedule a medical procedure on short notice, He provided someone with a great reputation who not only fit Emily in right away but also worked with our insurance and handled everything with professionalism and kindness. Emily had her surgery yesterday and is recuperating in the very capable care of my parents.
Once again we have friends who have already offered to let us come over and use their washing machine.
The toilet still leaks. The a/c in the bedroom and the car are still broken. The power is still off. But I am confident that God knows what we need and will provide it. It will be fun to see how He choose to do it. Do I hope we get it sooner rather than later? Sure, I do. I also know that if we have to wait, good will come of it. The lessons I learned last time have hopefully made my faith stronger and made me more perseverant and more grateful for this go-round. I am hoping and praying that God uses our transformer issue to transform me.
(Our new prayer letter just went out. If you didn't receive one you can read it HERE. If you go to our MAF web site you can subscribe to our prayer letter.)
We started school this week. This year, instead of using a full-blown Bible curriculum from a major publisher, we are changing things up a bit. I opted for a devotion book centered around something my son loves and will be interested in - animals. I wanted more of our Bible time to be spent discussing and praying together and culturing a love of scripture. I felt that all the hours of workbook exercises were accomplishing the opposite. My son was dreading Bible class every day. Yes, he was learning the content, but if he could grow up loving God's Word then he would eventually learn that anyway because he wanted to and not because I forced him to.
Today our devotion was about roaches. Is that not a disgusting photo? It gives me the creeps. Roaches are not on many people's list of top ten favorite living creatures, but the point the author made in the devotional is that they are everywhere (polar ice caps excepted). Wherever people are, there are roaches. In that sense, God is like cockroaches. No matter where we are, He is there (Psalm 139:7-10). Not only can we not escape from God, we can't be hidden from Him by others either.
We talked about how comforting it is is to know that God is always present with us, thanked Him, and asked Him to remind us all day long that He is with us. Daniel said he would never see a cockroach now without remembering that God is everywhere. Hmmm.
That led to a discussion of the ebola epidemic and the persecuted Christians in Iraq and elsewhere and how we didn't have to ask God to be with them because He already is. We asked Him to remind them that He is with them, to guide them with his hand, and to support them with HIS strength as He did for King David.
I am glad my kids know a lot about the Bible, but I wish I had done a better job of planting and nurturing in them a love of God's Word.
Yesterday we had a team meeting, and during the discussion our director read from Luke 3:12-14. In the passage, government officials inquired of John the Baptist what they ought to do.
His reply to the tax collectors was: "Don't collect any more than you are required to."
To the soldiers: "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely --be content with your pay."
We either witness or experience first-hand all of these scenarios on a regular basis here, both as individuals and as an organization. Congo is a place where if someone doesn't like you or doesn't want your business competing with theirs, they simply pay someone to "take care of it." Police and soldiers are often not paid, or paid inadequately. Falsely accusing others who have no choice but to submit to their authority is a tempting way to make up the shortfall. Inflated fees that enable civil authorities to line their pockets is not uncommon.
It is frustrating and naturally we sometimes get angry and struggle to respond in a way that honors God and protects our testimonies. It hinders our work, taking time and money that could be used in ministry. It makes life more difficult, adding to financial and emotional stress. And it makes us grieve for the people of Congo. Whatever burden it may be for us is magnified for them.
Obstacles like these are often opportunities. We are given the opportunity to do what is right, set an example and be witnesses for Christ. We are given the opportunity to pray, often very specifically. And we are given the opportunity to surrender things to God because we know we can't fix them in our own power. Finally, we sometimes have the wonderful opportunity to see God work in ways that only He can! This country, like any other, cannot reform itself but it CAN be transformed by God. There are people here who want to do their jobs with integrity. God is using righteous men and women to teach and influence community leaders here and it is having an impact, one righteous act at a time, like with my friend Jill and her recent court victory (STORY HERE).
Please join me in praying Luke 3:12-14 for the Democratic Republic of Congo and those who have positions of authority here.
Tax collectors also came to be baptized.
"Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?"
"Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them.
Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?"
He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely - be content with your pay."
I have always had mixed feelings about the Proverbs 31 woman, mainly because if each of her aspects were listed in a report card I would have a long list of "Fails", a few "Passes", and maybe one, possibly two "Excels". Maybe. On a very good day.
Yesterday was a very good day. I made these:
They are called Garlic Knots, and I found the recipe here at The Recipe Critic. It did not matter that there were dishes in the sink and laundry to put away. The house was filled with a wonderful hot bread and garlic smell that worked like a siren's song to distract everyone from all that other stuff. And they tasted wonderful. My son arose and called me blessed, my husband also and he praised me.
Score one "Excel" for the day!
This morning I was up at an indecently early hour and decided to try another new recipe I found: One Hour Easy Cinnamon Rolls.
Except that because I am me, it took two hours. I just barely got them out of the oven before the morning power outage started. And it only made a dozen. So I will have to either double it next time or find another recipe. And instead of getting up early I will have to just not go to bed the night before. (Pillsbury Grands!, I miss you!) I think now I remember why I don't make cinnamon rolls very often.
They were quite yummy, so if you are not me, and you don't have to feed a growing man-child, and you like to get up before the rest of the world goes to bed, it is a good recipe. I think next time my family asks me why I don't make cinnamon rolls more often I will just whip up a batch of garlic knots for supper and make them forget all about everything else.
|Medical thermometer (Photo credit: RambergMediaImages)|
It was a small thing and if we had been in the U.S. any general practice physician could have taken care of it right in the office. Getting it removed here turned out to be a bigger deal than we anticipated.
We first went to a new clinic in town that is run by a Canadian company and has a good reputation. The doctor there would not even see me. Without having even looked at my little hitchhiker, he insisted I needed a specialist called a stomatologist and told me I could find one at a place called CMK.
We were not sure how to even find CMK and really wanted to go someplace we had at least heard something positive about, so we decided to call a Belgian physician we knew. He had seen David before and diagnosed his gall stones last year. He told me not to bother making an appointment because he could not remove it and recommended I find a stomatologist.
At this point we were asking each other “what the heck is a stomatologist?”
Not knowing what else to do, we called CMK to get directions and headed back down town. The end result was I got the care I needed and did NOT need a stomatologist to get it done. When I saw the doctor there, he said he could remove it. When he realized I was nervous about having something cut out of my mouth he said: "It is a small thing."
I noted some similarities and some differences between taking care of something like this here versus the United States.
1. We had to wait a long time. It was one of those set ups where you “take a number” and wait for someone to yell out your number. We arrived before 8:30 am and they were already on number 29 with standing room only in the waiting area. We therefore stood a lot. After your number is called you go to the desk and give them your name, and go back to find that while you were at the desk someone stole your seat, if you had one. Then you wait until your number is called again and you go to a different desk and pre-pay for your exam. Cash only. Then you wait again until they call your number and you go to a little room and get your vital signs taken. Then you go back to the lobby and wait some more until they finally call your number to see the doctor. We finally got out of there about three hours later and still had to go next door to the lab for blood work and then on to the pharmacy.
2. Doctors wear white coats.
3. You have to be proactive about your own health (though this is perhaps more true here).
That’s about it.
1. The concept of germs and sterility. When the nurses called me in to take my vital signs, they pulled out a digital thermometer and stuck it in my arm pit while they took my blood pressure. Before the thermometer beeped they removed it, recorded the temperature, and placed it right back in its case. Without cleaning it with anything. I could not help but think about the fact that before I got my temperature taken, thirty-five or forty people had also gotten their temperature taken that day. The doctor who did my procedure washed and put gloves on but when he told the nurses to tie his mask on they didn’t know how to do it and he had to instruct them. They got it on really crooked, which was a nice distraction for me while he was approaching my tongue with a sharp cutting tool.
2. Equipment and resources. The doctor did not have the option of a big bright light on an extendable swinging arm attached to the wall or the ceiling. He had an old floor lamp with a nice hot 40 watt bulb which he kept having to ask the nurses to move around until he could see into my mouth. I know the bulb was hot because it was almost touching my eye lids.
3. Lab work. The pathology lab is not on site. You have to take your specimen to the lab yourself. It is in another part of town and we had no clue how to find it so for an extra fee we could have someone take it to the lab for us. We have been told that it is not uncommon for things to get lost in the system.
4. Payment. Even in the states you have to arrange payment up front, but here you have to pay for everything up front in cash. No money = no doctor.
5. Patient privacy. This has happened at every clinic we have been to, not just CMK. While the nurses were taking my vital signs and asking me questions the doctor was examining someone else in the same room with just a little folding screen between us.
Today is a special day. On this day TWENTY-ONE years ago, our first child was born. It hurts to be so far away from him today, but I am glad he has his new wife and her family to celebrate with.
And on this day SIX years ago, we were in Idaho for orientation and became official MAF missionaries. Yaay! Here is a photo from the week prior.
And on THIS day, as in today, Daniel did THIS:
He was playing with a dog that we are babysitting for a few weeks and fell and sliced it on the air conditioner. We took him to the same clinic that we went to the last time he cut his leg (story here) but thankfully this time around he was not hurt as badly and did not get stitches, though I still think he could have used a couple. He will definitely get another "cool scar or two to add to the collection." His words. Not mine.
Also on THIS day we woke up to another power outage. Nothing new there. We found out that the line was stolen again. Unfortunately that is nothing new anymore either. Third time in as many months. I am grateful for the cooler weather, for our generator and that we had just stocked up on fuel, for our little gas stove, and for battery-powered lights and internet so that we can skype Josh on his birthday!
I tell people that I don't like surprises, but I really do. Let me explain. No. There is too much. Let me sum up.
I don't like when company shows up unexpectedly.
I don't like these kinds of surprises either.
I don't like having to make big decisions on the spur of the moment. Actually I don't like making decisions at all.
Beth Moore said in one of her Bible study videos that she regularly asks God to delight her and He regularly answers in ways that only God can. Those are the kind of surprises I like.
Ways God has recently surprised me:
Visitors who did not know I had been missing treats from home brought us m&m's candy. God knew!
While walking a friend's dog on the American school campus I found this fascinating critter. I thought he was a wasp at first but it turns out he is a "wasp moth" and his disguise is his defense. I'm weird, and easily entertained, but I really thought it was cool to see an insect with so many colors. Made me wonder what the caterpillar looks like.
You might not think this is a nice surprise or a good thing to give someone, but when our MAF friend David Francis brought this to us I was delighted. This was a part we needed to repair our water reservoir system. Without it, we had to keep city water turned off most of the time to keep the tank from overflowing and flooding the yard. When you live here, shutting off water supply just feels WRONG, because you never know when it will be available again. Now our tanks are full and our yard is dry.
Today we went to the orphanage in Kimbondo with armloads of soft knit hats and blankets for the babies and toddlers. Many of these kids are malnourished when they arrive and have little to no body fat or energy for keeping warm during the cool dry season. Several friends donated items and money to make this possible.
Traffic is heavier than it used to be on the road there and construction projects add to the congestion, so it took about 90 minutes now to go 25 kilometers (about 16 miles) to the orphanage. By the time we got there I was tired and thinking about all the stuff I still had to do today so I decided I would just find Father Hugo, give him the stuff, and excuse myself to go home. After I talked to him and showed him the gifts from friends in the states, he excitedly told a nurse about it and next thing I knew she and another person had taken it all and told me to follow them. Turns out they wanted to distribute the hats and blankets right away and they were
David told me that he had a conversation with a Congolese friend this week and the question arose: "Do you think you have all that God wants you to have? Maybe not all that He intends you to have, but all He wants you to have at this time?"
Compared to those of us who were born in the U.S., this friend has basically nothing. Nothing. It was a difficult question for him.
It is also a difficult question for the rest of us because the more we have, the more we tend to want, and we desire that God would want us to have it. If we answer "yes" then we have to accept that what we want for ourselves and what God wants might not be the same. And if that's true, then we have to accept that our will might not be in line with God's will. Uh oh. If we answer "no" then we are sort of saying that God is holding out on us. Or maybe that we don't believe He is powerful enough to give us what He wants us to have. Neither is a true assessment of God's character.
It's easier for me to understand if I compare it to raising my kids. There were times I have
held out on them protected them. I even withheld good things when I knew that my child was either not ready for it or could not handle it. If I had something they wanted and did not give it to them, it was always in their best interest.
I know God loves me and those in my sphere of influence and because of that He gives me what He wants me to have to help me grow more like Him, trust Him to meet my needs, and bless others.
I have a friend here who is about to leave for a vacation in the U.S. That means I have an opportunity to send mail back, so I have been busy writing letters. Serving as a missionary with MAF means we raise our own ministry support. We literally could not be here without the help of our partners who pray for us and give financially. A lot of the letters I write are thank you notes.
When I was a kid and someone gave me a gift, my mom would make me write a thank you note and I would whine about it. It was a chore. Now when I look over at a stack of thank you letters that I have written, each one represents a relationship. Whether it be an individual, a business, a church or a family - all of them have invested in us not just financially but also in friendship. We are a team working together to advance God's kingdom.
I took that photo of the church above a few years ago when we had the opportunity to visit the village of Nkara. This photo is one I took a couple weeks ago of the church in Kikongo village. They represent people in Congo who are part of the Body of Christ.
There are more churches that have been planted and established here. There are also hospitals, seminaries, schools, ministries to lepers, and other evangelistic missions - even a Christian radio station! We are deeply grateful to be part of MAF and to be a tiny part of all that.
I get really excited when I consider that one day, believers in Congo and believers who helped send all the Christian workers, including me, to Congo will meet one another in heaven and adore Christ together!
I always used to think as a kid that we wrote thank you notes to show that we are grateful. As I grew up I learned that expressing thanks actually makes you more grateful. In fact I am not certain that sending a thank you isn't equally as beneficial for the sender as it is for the recipient, if not more so.
Writing thank you notes is a privilege! Each one is a reminder of God's power and provision, of a common vision He has given to us to see others come to know Him, and the incredible gift of a relationship rooted in the love of Christ.
How cool beans is that?!?
Thank you for reading my blog, for praying, for giving and sending!
Last weekend we went to the village of Kikongo with another MAF family, the Pedersons. Yes, it was very "cool beans!"
We toured the mission station and learned about the ministries, which rely on MAF to function there.
Imagine if this is where you or your wife or sister had to go to deliver a baby, and you felt privileged to have this option. We met two women who had delivered their babies recently by cesarean section!
Imagine if this was the pharmacy and supply cupboard. You can see that there is not a lot there, but all this nurse asked for was some better baby aspirators for removing amniotic fluid from the babies' nasal passages. They only have one and it does not work well.
Imagine if this was your house...
...and this was how you and all your neighbors got water.
Imagine if these were your neighborhood strip mall, grocery store, etc...
...and this was where your kids went to school...
...and this was the neighborhood playground equipment...
...and you were grateful.
We saw lots of cool things! Kikongo is situated by the Wamba River, so we spent some time at the river and even crossed it and went on a hike to some small waterfalls. We saw cool flowers and animals. The Chapmans had baby crocodiles, mongoose, and duikers that were orphans and they were raising until they were ready to be released to make it on their own. We learned about local food options and tried a few.
Glen had a wooden "skim board" and showed us how to use it. Yes, I tried it. NO, you don't get to see a photo. You can see a photo of me by the falls, where I am standing up nice and straight and graceful looking.
We tried smoked corn on the cob, but we passed on the smoked viper. We did buy some smoked fish and mantete (squash seeds).
This is the mantete after it is prepared with the smoked fish. We ate it served over mashed potatoes. We also tried mantete rolls - which looked a little like sausage and had a bit of hot pili pepper in them. I liked the mantete prepared both ways but not everyone did.
One of the coolest things we saw is Glen's powered parachute thingymabob. He uses it to take vaccines and medications to other villages. This is an important time saver over tromping through the forest, especially since vaccines are temperature sensitive and the climate is so hot here. He also uses it to take all the equipment to show the Jesus film in other villages and do evangelism. We did not get to take a ride because it is in need of some minor repair, but we did get to see Glen take it for a test run.
Before putting the chute away, it must be inspected for grasshoppers because if they get in, they chew holes in the chute.
Glen asked David to take a look at the engine. No matter what the type of aviation device is, an aircraft mechanic is always interested.
Our time in Kikongo was an interesting mix of leisure and ministry. We loved getting to know the Chapmans a little better, spending time with the Pedersons and relaxing a bit. We also know more about some of the people and ministries that we serve as part of the MAF team here in west DRC. It really changes your perspective and renews your vision when you see all this in person and also gives you a much deeper insight as to how to pray for the missionaries, the ministries, and the people. If we ever get to go again, you bet we will.