Thanks for Nothing!


We all have heard the expression “Thanks for nothing!” It isn’t really an offer of thanks at all. It is an angry declaration that the person speaking feels they have been treated wrongly, cheated, held out on.  This week the utility company came to my home and accused me of owing hundreds of dollars in unpaid bills dating back to four years before I moved into this house. It did not matter that I produced all the paperwork showing my innocence. They demanded money and I would not give it, so they cut my power line in two. I didn’t say anything to them, but for a while I sure wanted to say something like “Thanks for nothing. Have a nice day.” In my drippiest sarcastic tone. 

Sometimes, we look at our lives and there is so much stuff to deal with, so many problems we can’t solve. We feel like the squirrel in the movie “Over the Hedge” who runs to one end of the hedge and back and declares “It never ends!” Then he runs to the other end of the hedge and back and says, “It never ends that way too!” We feel helpless. Helplessness is not a feeling we like to experience, so then we become angry. 

We want God to fix it. Make it better. We are his children and when He doesn’t meet our expectations of what a Father should do, we act like, well, children. Children who are angry and ungrateful and say “thanks for nothing.” 

What if “nothing” IS a gift? What if we had to trust Him for everything? What if instead of taking our problems away He walked with us through them? What would we learn from that? How would it transform us? 

If He gives me “nothing,” can I in sincerity say “Thank you, Father, for nothing?” trusting that in His love and wisdom He has given me something worth more than it appears to be?

In church yesterday we sang a Keith Green song, “There is a Redeemer.” The first part goes like this:

There is a redeemer, 
Jesus, God's own Son,
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah, 
Holy One,
Jesus my redeemer, 
Name above all names,
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah,
Oh, for sinners slain.
Thank you oh my Father, 
For giving us Your Son,
And leaving Your Spirit, 
'Til the work on Earth is done.

"In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

We can give thanks to Him IN everything, because He has given us his Son, and that IS EVERYTHING. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

A New Project

photo by Jill Lowery

For those who've been praying for the Mitendi Center and the court case, here is an update. In last week's post, I mentioned a need for prayer for Thursday's court date. The opposition requested, and was granted, a continuance, so everything has been pushed to next Thursday - Thanksgiving Day. That is not a Congolese holiday so that date was not significant to them, but my American friend who directs this ministry now has to spend her holiday sitting in a courtroom. Please continue praying for the center and for a right and just decision by the courts. And also pray for Jill, that in all this God will strengthen her, give her wisdom, and grant her a thankful heart, encouragement, and contentment in all situations.

We have been working on a new project with the girls at Bandal. These girls are graduates of the Mitendi Center and are in sort of an internship or apprenticeship phase, continuing to build their repertoire of sewing skills and improve them while earning money to support themselves. The new project is a request for several small, lined, zippered bags.

Many of them already have experience making zippered bags but we wanted everyone to use the same technique, follow the same pattern and sequence of steps, and practice precision. So we held a couple of workshops this week and last week, showing them how to do everything from tracing the pattern and cutting to doing the zippers and corners. They did the work, we just walked them through it. Then we supervised while they made more to be sure they "got it" and to help with any problems. 


In the states, our culture equates professionalism with quality workmanship and a high work ethic. It is not quite the same here. In addition to honing their skills, the interns are also being taught the value of correcting their mistakes, that customers will pay more for quality products and take their business elsewhere if workmanship is poor, and that ultimately their success is up to them. It is sometimes a not-so-fun part of their training, but it is for their own good.




Daniel usually does school work when I am at the Center, but he tagged along this week so we put him to work, which the girls found amusing.








I have spent enough time with these young women now that they feel comfortable making jokes and sharing laughs with me. Jill and I had spent a day going through all the steps and figuring out the best way to teach them to make these bags. We even made tiny prototypes so that we could show them how the zipper and corners ought to be done and how it should look. They thought our little bags were funny and jokingly told us we earned a "zero" grade on our work, but in the end it really helped them to have a visual example to study.

Goin to the Chapel - Cool Beans!


A week ago, Jill and I had the privilege of joining our friend Mama Jackie in attending her daughter's wedding. I felt honored to be invited, and doubly honored that of all the fabric she could have used to make her outfit for the wedding, Mama Jackie chose the fabric that I had brought to her from the states as a gift from a dear friend (A Gift for Mama Jackie). 

I was triply (is that a word?) honored because the outfit I wore was sewn not by me, but by Mama Jackie. When I tried it on at the fitting, she told me she wanted me to wear it to the wedding, which I was happy to do.




I did my best to get some photos, but between the fluorescent lighting and my obvious lack of skill and training, I deleted far more photos than I kept. My basic plan of attack when I am taking pictures is to take a bazillion and that way I almost always get at least a few good ones. The bride was beautiful, the groom was handsome, and the ceremony was beautiful. I loved seeing the differences and similarities between a wedding in Kinshasa and a wedding in the U.S. 



One of my favorite things about Congolese weddings and churches is their choirs. They have little or no accompaniment, sing from memory, and sound lovely. 







A girl who was in the procession.


Some photos of the bride and groom









Save the Date!


I have a lot of things I want to "write down" and share from the last week or so, but today I really want to focus on the Mitendi Center and it's needs because tomorrow (Thursday) is our court date and I want to urge everyone who reads this to set aside time today and tomorrow to pray. On paper this court date is about property and land, but in reality it is about lives, and its outcome will affect many.

If you don't know about Mitendi Center, I first started blogging about it in my post, Finding Hope in Mitendi. The land that the center is on is owned by the Congolese Baptist Community but for several years now others have been squatting on the land, even building on it, in attempts to steal it out from under the ministry. Funds have been raised to build a protective wall around the property and it is mostly completed. Portions of it have been knocked down and other issues have prevented its completion. 

The Mitendi ministry reaches out to marginalized and at-risk girls with the gospel and practical help to enable them to live a better life, free of bondage. It also has a school that makes it possible for some of the poorest of the poor to get a basic education and to come to know Christ. The Mitendi Center is making a difference in Congo, one girl, one student, and one generation at a time. 
Please take time today, even if you read this after the court date has come and gone, to pray for this ministry and for those who serve here. The last court date was postponed, and that could always happen again, but even if it doesn't, the battle is really a spiritual one, not physical, and the enemy will continue in some fashion to try to thwart the work God is doing here. 


The Blue in My Brown


I walked out into our yard yesterday morning and found this beautiful blue hydrangea flower. My hydrangea bush has been sickly, as you can see by the surrounding foliage. I thought it might not survive. It was almost all brown and most of the leaves had fallen off. Finding this flower was a bright spot in my morning and just a really nice surprise. The sort of thing that makes me feel like God put it there just to make me smile. I have a friend who once said these little surprise blessings were like God was winking at her - a special moment between them and a reminder that He not only loved her, but also took pleasure in blessing her.

It reminded me of something I had read earlier in the week. A fellow MAF'er had shared this article by Jason Carter. He suggests several ways to refresh and encourage missionaries. Even if that subject doesn't interest you, I encourage you to read the post because it really applies to the entire church body. His article is specifically about things people can do while a family is on their furlough, and having recently returned from our first furlough, he is pretty much spot-on. However, there are lots of ways people can bless their missionaries without waiting months or years until furloughs come around. The very first item on the list mentions letters and cards for birthdays and holidays. That is HUGE, especially in this age of emails, and social media. Real letters and cards are so much more personal.

I was reading through all the suggestions and thinking about myself and my family, mentally saying "ooh, that one!" and "oh, yes! That would be so awesome!"  about various items, when my thoughts of myself were (thankfully) interrupted. I need that sometimes.

The article states that one of the least helpful things you can do is ask a missionary to let you know if they need anything, because they won't/can't. But that isn't true only for missionaries. We all throw that statement out to people we care about and often we really mean it, really want to help, and really want to know the best way to do that. But we all also know from being on the flip side that none of us are going to go to someone and say, "Remember when you said to let you know what you can do to help? Well...." 

If the Holy Spirit can spur our hearts to want to bless and help someone, surely He is also willing to guide us in how we can use our skills, our vocation, and our resources to do it without us putting that burden on the other person.

The author also exhorts us to be like Philemon, who refreshed the hearts of others. It must be an important function, and Philemon must have been really good at it, because Paul made a point of telling Philemon how much joy and encouragement Philemon's love for others brought to him. 

When someone does something to bring refreshment to my heart or even the heart of someone I love, that is an amazing thing to experience. It never gets old. Reading this article and talking to God about it made me stop and ask some hard questions.

"Am I being like Philemon? Am I refreshing the hearts of my missionaries? my co-laborers here in Congo? my friends and family?"

"Do I let God inspire me and use me to bring a "wink," a bright spot to someone else's day, like that bright blue flower on my sickly hydrangea? because I would love to be like that."

"Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints." Philemon 7







King Henry's Horse is an Olive


Missionaries know going in that depending on where they are serving, certain conveniences and items they are accustomed to having easy and affordable access to in the United States will perhaps not be so available or affordable in their host country. Congo is no different, but knowing and experiencing are two different things. Experiencing it long term is something else altogether and can magnify homesickness if we allow it to.



For example, we seldom see pancake syrup in the stores. This is the last batch of syrup I found here. That sticker on the shelf that say "B208" is the price, 27,405 francs, roughly $30.00 for one bottle. Not in our range.




There is a lot of diversity in the DRC and products are shipped in to the stores from many different places. It is sometimes very interesting to see what non-Americans think are hot market items.

It is increasingly apparent to our family that what we believe are basic staples are not so basic, nor important to the merchants of Kinshasa. After we went a few months without finding black olives (except one brand that is especially yucky) or dill pickles, we were having some serious withdrawal. What is a sandwich without a pickle? And what is any "Mexican" meal or pizza without olives? I began to feel like King Richard when he said "my kingdom for a horse!" except that I had no kingdom to trade for olives and pickles. Probably a good thing. 

So, you can't always find olives, pickles, or even tomato sauce. There are lots of other things you CAN find that keep life here interesting even if you can't put them on your pizza or eat them for lunch.




You can buy sugar peas. Not the sugar peas I grew up with, but still important if you want to bake something or sweeten your tea.








You can buy cookies that make you want to eat some more. Not really but it's a fun name.









You can buy a toilet for your hamster, and even get refills for it. For a modest price of about $15 your hamster can go potty in luxury and privacy.





You can even buy Goose Bumps!


I can't make a meal out of Goose Bumps and sugar peas, so I do what most of my missionary friends here do: get creative or make my own version. Here are some things I have made just in the last several weeks.

Pickles like Claussen's, in recycled mayonnaise and pickle jars. Real canning jars are not easily found.


"Wheat Thins"


Pancake mix, pancake syrup, "bisquick", granola, salsa (not pictured), fabric softener, and bath fizzies (because after all that work my feet are tired!).


Yes, we sometimes are willing to pay more here than we ever would for the same item in the states because when you can't get it, it becomes more valuable to you. Shakespeare's King Henry was willing to trade his kingdom for a horse. We traded a lot of conveniences and the proximity of our families and friends to come to Congo, but Jesus traded his life for mine and for the lives of the Congolese people. 

A Gift For Mama Jackie


When we look above the concrete walls that surround our home, we can often enjoy beautiful sunrises like the one above. 

One of the most beautiful people I know is Mama Jackie, whom I met through her work with the Mitendi Center. When we came back to Congo in June, it was some time before I got to reconnect with Mama Jackie because she had been ill. When I finally got to see her a couple weeks ago, I enjoyed being able to present her with a gift from a friend in the states who follows my blog and wanted to bless Mama Jackie. I am not sure if you can see it, but the designs on the fabric are hand-cranked sewing machines very similar to the ones the girls learn on at the Mitendi Center. 

One of the things I like about Mama Jackie is that she sees beauty and potential in each girl in the Mitendi Center and truly loves them. She invests herself in them. I am really grateful to know her and to get to be a tiny part of the ministry.

It's easy to only look at the walls, instead of the flowers within or the sunrises without. It's easy to only look at the messes we get ourselves in instead of the beauty and potential we each have as a creation of God. My new post on the MAF Blog, Beautiful Potential, talks about how none of us is finished yet. What we see now in a person is not the end result but a snapshot of one phase in their journey.

Slug Devotion


Look at what I almost stepped on today when I opened my front door. Ew. A little while later, he crawled through the crack under my door and came into the living room for a look-see.

Daniel thought it was cool. When you have a boy, you get to learn things you might not have ever thought you needed to know. Or wanted to. This, for example, is what happens when you touch one of these creatures. When they react this way, they form a suction with the floor, so trying to get one out of the house is like trying to scrape tar off your shoe with a cotton ball.

It gave us an interesting disruption to our day and made me think again about how big that crack under the door is. Whether we have holes in the screens or cracks in the doors, they are openings that allow unwelcome guests into our home. When we have holes in our spiritual armor, they allow entry for unwelcome guests of another sort. Things like anger, fear, envy, etc. We have to spend time with God, study his Word, and exercise our faith to keep our armor in good condition.

Otherwise, we might find ourselves facing something ugly in our life that is difficult to get rid of.
"Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one, and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God," Eph 6:13-17




Sew Exciting!


With all its problems and challenges, DRC is also a place where God is present, active and doing exciting things. Thursday just happened to be a real cool beans day, chock full of reminders of God's love for the people of Congo. I have been feeling bad about not posting and sharing about it sooner, but maybe this is good timing. Today, I became once again a stuck-at-home stay-at-home mom. Our car, which is fairly new-to-us still, has a head issue. (It is a Burton, after all.) So, today turned out to be a good day to share all the good stuff God has been doing here and remind myself what is really important. (However, I won't object if y'all pray for our transportation problem.)

Thursday morning I went to the Maison de Couture (Bandal Center) with Jill. I was excited to see some young ladies working there who I first met as students at the Mitendi Center. They had graduated and are now in the internship program at Bandal. While we were there a young girl came to speak with Jill. She had heard about the Mitendi Center and wanted to know more about attending!



My job was to inspect piles of zippered pouches. Those that did not pass inspection were set aside to be corrected. While I studied zippers, Jill was in an impromptu meeting with a woman who had dropped by to see her.





Mama Myala and Jill Lowery
Her name is Mama Myala, and I am so glad I got to meet her! After she left, I learned from Jill that Mama Myala is a literacy expert and trains literacy teachers. She goes anywhere she is invited, and in 2005, she made contact with a tribe of Batwa people (pigmies) who invited her to stay with them in the forest and teach them to read. She goes back, by a combination of truck and canoe, as often as she can to teach and to encourage them in their faith. Mama Mayala had come to talk with Jill about some Batwa girls who want to learn to be seamstresses. She asked if she could get them to Kinshasa, could they live and study at Mitendi Women's Center? Jill was able to tell her that there are people who give money for scholarships so that girls do not get turned away for lack of funds! 

Mama Myala is hands and feet of Jesus to this tribe of Batwa and to others by bringing the message of the gospel and by empowering them to read the Word of God. Please pray for her and for her ministry to these isolated people. If you are interested in helping the Mitendi Center with scholarships, you can let me know and I can connect you with Jill.

Thursday afternoon, our MAF team met at the airport for a dedication ceremony for our "new" PC-12. Our program has been hoping and praying for this plane for several years! It will enable us to reach more people at greater distances with the life changing message of Christ and with medical supplies, etc. 




Having a dedication ceremony did more than just cement our commitment to be servants and to glorify God with the plane. It brought our national staff and our expat staff together and reinforced our shared purpose and unity. It also gave us a unique opportunity to publicly share with others who work at the airport our reason for being here and the Savior whose love compels us. Pray for our pilots, mechanic, office staff, program manager, moms at home, and the people and ministries we serve here.





Ebola and MAF in Congo

Preparing to fly supplies to Boende, photo by Nick Frey
In our last prayer letter, we asked readers to pray for a quick end to the ebola outbreak and for all the medical personnel, patients, and officials affected by this virus. The outbreak began last March in a remote area in Guinea, and spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. Since we wrote that plea just a few weeks ago, the virus has gained momentum instead of slowing. Ebola has spread to Senegal and to a new area in Guinea that was previously unaffected. Last week alone nearly 400 people died, bringing the total deaths to more than 1,900. One hundred twenty health care workers have died.

Ebola was first discovered in 1976 in outbreaks that happened concurrently in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and is named for the river near the afflicted village in Congo. Since then, there have been over 20 known ebola outbreaks in Africa, eleven of them in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More people have died in the current outbreak than in all of the previously known outbreaks combined. 

Another change since our prayer letter was written is that an unrelated ebola outbreak of a different strain is now here in Congo. To date there have been 53 confirmed cases and 31 deaths in the Boende District. DRC has a lot of experience with ebola and the area was quickly quarantined. Boende is in a remote area, 542 kilometers from Kinshasa, and not easily accessible. That makes it more difficult for the virus to spread, but it also makes it more challenging to get needed medical personnel and supplies in. This is where MAF comes in.

MAF has actively helped in past outbreaks and our team here is already making flights to Boende with medical teams and equipment and flying back with samples for the labs in Kinshasa. One very specific way you can pray is for a portable laboratory so that medical personnel can make a diagnosis within hours instead of waiting for days to confirm if someone has ebola or not.

Please pray. Ask God to burden his people to pray and to give us hearts that are broken over the pain, agony and death that people are suffering.

Pray for all affected.

Pray for an end soon. WHO is projecting that up to 20,000 people may become infected before this outbreak can be brought to an end. I am praying that they are WRONG.

Pray for the suffering economies of the affected countries as commerce has been greatly hindered. 

Pray for the governments and people in authority who have to make decisions about how to contain the virus.

Pray for believers to have strong faith and to be instruments of peace and calm when others are feeling afraid and panicky.

Pray for opportunities for people to hear the gospel and find hope and salvation in Christ.

Click here to read an MAF press release about our connection to the current outbreak.

Click here to learn more about the history of ebola, courtesy of the World Health Organization.

Precious


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.


Two Transformers

Three phase pole mounted transformer in Syria.
Three phase pole mounted transformer in Syria. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Our week went something like this:

- 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

God and the Cockroach


(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. 



Opportunities


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."  





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How do you feel about poo?


Every culture has its sayings and proverbs. Sometimes they are wry or silly, which makes them easier to remember, but they often convey a deeper truth. My newest post, "Just a Little Poo," is a reflection on a Congolese proverb and just went up on the MAF blog. Check it out!

Dough Knot: Try this at home!


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

Tah dah!



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.








Just a Small Thing

Medical thermometer
Medical thermometer (Photo credit: RambergMediaImages)
A while back I found a small growth on my tongue. When it didn’t go away on its own I was advised to have it removed and if possible, sent to pathology. 

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.

Similarities:
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.

Differences:
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. 

Four Things That Happened On This Day


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! 
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