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.
I regularly find legos, knights, army men, bouncy balls, etc in my washing machine. It's part of raising kids, boys in particular.
I also find miscellaneous "boy stuff" in other places.
We don't often eat at our dining table because the air conditioner in that room is broken, so approximately 350 days out of the year it is so hot and steamy that no one wants to be in the room, much less sit down to a hot meal and commence eating while sweat drips off your face.
I use the table in the mornings though. Before it gets hot, this is my station for Bible study, bill paying, letter writing, studying, planning, sewing, etc. It's my "desk."
But this morning as I approached the table/desk, I found this:
Obviously, a boy has been here.
If you are familiar with the organization/cleaning guru FlyLady, you know that she refers to places that attract (and seemingly multiply) clutter as "hot spots." I fell off the FlyLady wagon eons ago, but I am fully aware that my table IS a hot spot. It is conveniently located, large, and flat, so it will hold a LOT of stuff. Some days it looks like a page out of one of those I Spy books with the hidden objects. I had just cleaned it off yesterday. Now look at it.
I didn't have the heart to move any of it. All of those things are his and they illustrate him so vividly. And I love that in addition to all his little toys and his treasures, he also carries around that pocket Bible. Very cool beans, Daniel, very cool beans.
One day, all too soon, the last bird will fly from our nest and there won't be any more puzzles, army guys, bubbles, legos, or other gizmos on my table, my floor, or in my washing machine. So today I just sat at the other end of the table with my Bible and my books and smiled while I had coffee with the little green army guys. If only they could talk to me of their adventures on my table with my son.
Yes, I had just cleaned it off. But look how the space is being used now! Isn't that the whole point? Yes, that table is the first thing folks will see if they come visit and enter my house. Big deal. Maybe they would like to join in the fun or help put the puzzle together. I have plenty of other hot spots I can work on.
I saw this at the grocery store today and thought it was funny. Everybody needs a "meticulously plannd kitchen thing." (spelling theirs) Don't they?
Even though the package says: "advanced stainless steel," it is rusted already. Hmmmmm.
For me this was a humorous reminder that I was indeed meticulously planned. Unlike the makers of this kitchen gadget, though, God does not make mistakes or false claims. He says I am fearfully and wonderfully made, that He knew me before I was in my mother's womb, and that He loves me with an everlasting love. And THAT is somethingeverybody really needs.
"I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful: I know that full well." Psalm 139:14
I'm a Missouri girl, so I can't think of a better place to be refreshed and renewed than Missouri in spring and early summer. Everything is blooming and the colors are vibrant with newness. Baby birds and animals are everywhere and all around you can see and hear their parents keeping vigil and finding food. Everything smells, well, like spring. It's a balm for the senses and the soul and I loved getting to enjoy the season again.
You would think with all of that newness I would have returned to Congo recharged and ready to go. The reality is that a struggle began in me before I left the states and followed me here. It didn't help that I was sick the last three of my four weeks home. That wears on a person. Missionary life has made me more acutely aware that every moment with a loved one, every walk down a favorite path, every routine activity we so often take for granted could be the last, so you better savor it.
I didn't want to just savor the moments. I wanted to keep them. Watching my kids interacting with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents reminded me of all they miss when we are away. My first-born went off to college at 18 and for two years he was the only one in our immediate family on U.S. soil. When breaks and summers came and other students went home, his "home" was 7,000 miles away and unreachable. He had places he could go stay, but they weren't "home." Now my daughter is in the same predicament. My youngest struggles with isolation and life without electricity most of the time and he can't even get packages from his grandparents.
I felt like I had cheated my children.
Feelings cannot alway be trusted, though, and I know that. How I feel can be affected and manipulated by many things but Truth never changes. The truth is that God is our Shepherd and takes care of us as a shepherd cares for his flock. A shepherd safely leads his flock to where they need to be to find nourishment and rest to grow strong and healthy. He carries the weak ones and the littlest ones because he knows how fragile they are and how hard the path is. God knows the path ahead of my kids and He's got them in his arms. A shepherd leads the mamas in his flock with gentleness. He knows my feelings and doesn't disregard them, but gently beckons me to trust Him. To trust Truth.
"He tends his flocks like a shepherd:
he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young."
The other night Daniel and my nephew accidentally spilled popcorn in my open suitcase. Today it is filled with blessings instead of butter.
These are gifts for the orphanage and the Mitendi Women's Center. Some items are still yet to arrive! I have amazing, generous friends and I am grateful to all who donated to make this possible. You know who you are. Dry season is beginning, bringing cooler temperatures, so the blankets and caps will mean a lot to the little ones at the orphanage. The yarn and sewing supplies will help the girls at the Mitendi Center learn to sew and crochet to earn a living. There was even some money donated that will go into the scholarship fund to the Mitendi Women's Center!
Daniel and I leave for Congo early Friday morning and will arrive late Saturday evening. I am still having problems with my ear infection and residual coughing from the bronchitis so would appreciate prayer for no ear pain and no coughing fits that cause anxiety for my neighbors on the plane, as well as safety and that all of our bags arrive on time, undamaged, and with nothing missing. Can't wait to see David.
|my lovely gift from Kristen's aunt Terry|
Here are a few of my favorite photos from Josh's wedding. I know that no one is as interested in the wedding as I am and I have been ill so this post will be short and sweet. The first two photos are mine but the wedding photos are posted with permission and were taken by Andrea Cahill from Distinctive KC.
Daniel escorting Kristen's sister, Amanda. It was a very emotional moment when I saw both of my boys in tuxedos at the same time. Josh is already taken, but look out world, here comes son number two!
Josh escorting me to my seat. Lots of mixed feelings here but pride and joy were way up there, along with a little bit of sadness and a big dose of "phew, we did it, we raised a boy!"
I love this one because Josh and Kristen have a strong desire to keep God the center of their marriage and life together.
It was a very joyful day. We are so blessed and happy to add Kristen to our family.