Sunday, June 25, 2017

You Know It's Time for Home Assignment When.... (Part II)

A few months ago I talked a bit about how you know when it's time for home assignment.  You can read that here.  Well, now home assignment is only two weeks away and there are even more signs of that approaching date!

You know it's almost time for home assignment because of the long list of people to whom you are constantly saying good-bye.  The hardest are to those we know we may never see again.

Mostly you know it's time for home assignment because of all the boxes, action packers, and market bags packed and in the store room or ready to go into the store room.

Another way you know it's almost time for home assignment is because of the piles of stuff everywhere.  Stuff to give away.  Stuff to store.  Stuff to pack to take with us.

Stuff on dressers.

Stuff on suitcases.

Stuff on chairs.

Stuff on couches.

You know it's time for home assignment because your closet is looking bare and the clothes that are left are mostly "disposable"....they will be given away or thrown out at the last minute.

You know it's time for home assignment because of all the lists you are making...lists of things still to do, lists for your replacement to do, lists for things to do for other people, lists of places to go and people to see, lists of tasks to do each day to keep moving forward on the doctorate (that would be John, not me!).

You know it's time for home assignment because you start dreaming of things like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries

and of snuggling with little people like Tera, Hezekiah, Levi, and Everett.  (The three boys have grown a ton since this picture, especially Levi and Everett!)

and of just being able to spend time with family and friends.

It's incredible to think that two weeks from today we will be at Trinity Covenant Church in Manchester, CT!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Working from My Car

I mainly have a desk job.  Of course people are involved, because I am, after all, a personnel coordinator, aka human resources manager.  

But there are times of the year when it seems that I spend more time in my car then at my desk.  The past two weeks have been like that.  On these kinds of days, I think of my car as my office.  Sometimes between errands I'll sit in the car in the air conditioning for a few minutes and make any phone calls I need to make, just so I can cool down a bit.  

Don't worry, I wasn't actually driving and messing with my camera at the same time!

A week ago Saturday we had a massive moving day.  We moved furniture into or out of seven houses and a garage.  Usually when we hire a truck, the crew comes with it.  The last two times we did this, they were energetic and got the work done in no time flat.  But this time they were fasting.  It was 106 degrees that day and the air was heavy with humidity.  I don't know how they did what they did, but it took much longer than the other times I've worked with them!  They were pouring water on themselves whenever they could, but that's just not quite the same as having a drink or getting your blood sugar up with a snack!  Between houses when I was alone in my car I'd grab a drink of water or eat the snack I brought along.  Even so, I was exhausted, so I can't even imagine how they felt.  They had big smiles though when at the last house I gave them a very generous tip for "opening the mouth".  I am sure they saved it to buy a special treat for breaking the fast that evening.  Thankfully we had some help from missionaries and some MKs as well.  I am especially thankful for one of the missionaries who helped me with everything even though he was moving house himself that day!

Other things I've been doing are:

  • Organizing the storage room where we keep household supplies like dishes and linens for short-term housing.  This usually involves driving a load over there or taking something to a house.
  • Checking on the work of an apartment that is being renovated.  It is looking really nice, but yesterday I realized only about five of the 16 or so outlets were working.  That problem is now solved and I think all that's left to do is clean up!
  • Set up housing for people coming in which also involves buying some basic groceries and making sure there is toilet paper, soap, matches, etc.  Yep, I forgot the matches, so back to the store I go.
  • Meeting an exterminator at a house to see if we can get rid of the ant problem.
  • Getting an apartment painted for somebody arriving soon.  I don't do the painting, but organize the work and check on the painter.
  • Get somebody to repair a little problem with a cooler.
  • Organize for a guard's house to have the roof and ceiling replaced.  The water literally pours in during a rain and the guard and his family are living on a screened-in terrace, but that's not much protection when the wind blows!
  • Buy gas bottles for an apartment I'm setting up.
  • Making sure the guard's house at the guest house has electricity and a fan installed.
  • Running the guest house; I've just finished that duty and we are having to close it down for a few months due to a lack of anybody to run it.
  • Making sure a landlord of a house we rent comes to fix a leaking roof.
  • Keeping track of keys!
It's kind of fun having a change of pace, but some days it's pretty hard keeping all the details straight!

In the midst of all this, we are trying to pack up our personal belongings to leave our apartment usable by somebody else in our absence.  And I'm trying to get everything ready at the office to turn over to my replacement and to the gal who works with me and who returns on FRIDAY!  YEAH!  It will be so nice to have her back. :)  And John keeps slogging away on finishing up the corrections for his doctorate.  So we appreciate your prayers to finish well.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

I've Got a Sinking Feeling

Tuesday night we got a great rain.  It started raining in the early evening and came down pretty hard for quite awhile and then rained all night.  I had no idea how much it was raining, so I was surprised the next day when I heard different amounts ranging from 96 mm to 120 mm.  For those of you who don't know millimeters, it was around 4 inches of rain in a 12-hour period.

The poor kitty was so stressed.  She kept yowling and then she would follow me everywhere.  I kept going to the kitchen to check that rain wasn't coming in under the kitchen door.  We've had the house flood before during big rains, so I was a bit worried about that.  I could see the water just at the level of the door, but it never really came in.  I also noticed a terrible sewer smell in the house and when I went to use the toilet there was, well, let's just say stuff in the toilet that shouldn't have been there.  When I flushed, it almost didn't go down and later when the rain let up a bit, I could hear the toilet making blub, blub, blub sounds.  

I had a feeling something wasn't right with the septic, so when the guard came to my door and said, "Kaa ka di mota"; "Come and see the car", I definitely had a sinking feeling.  And the car had a sinking feeling, too, quite literally.  

I was really afraid the septic tank had collapsed and had no idea how we would get the car out.  It looked much worse at 6 a.m. when it was still dark than it did at 7 a.m. when I could actually see it.  Oh, and I should mention that John wasn't back from the UK yet, so all of this was mine to deal with!

I sent John a message with a picture of the car and also sent a message and picture to our mission director, who is not only our director, but a good friend.  Once I knew he'd be available I called the contractor who had installed the septic system.  When I tried to describe what had happened, his first reaction was, "Oh, it will be ok, it's just because I got so much rain."  I said, "No, you don't understand.  Something is wrong with the septic and it made a big hole and the car is in the hole."  (Speaking in French is hard enough; doing it on the phone is especially problematic!)  He said he'd be right over.

You can see how high the water and mud had gone.

Soon he arrived with another man.  They were a little surprised to say the least, but figured out right away that everything was ok with the septic system.  The place we park the car is actually between the septic tank and the dry well or seep away (don't ask me to explain the technicalities of a septic system!).  Because the seep away is new, the dirt around it was not packed down well.  The immensity of the amount of rain we got meant that the run off looked for the best place to go and that was into that loose dirt and into the seep-away.  As it went into the seep-away, it sucked the dirt in with it.  As it sucked the dirt in, it created a sink hole and that is where our car ended up.  All this disturbance caused the bad odor that was coming up the toilet.

The neighbor's car was unscathed.

The contractor and his friend dug out around the car a bit and they tried to push the car while I drove it out.  But the wheels were in too much mud and there was no traction.  They tried putting some things under the tires for traction,but we still couldn't get it out.  We decided to find another vehicle to come to pull my car out.  I called our director; his tow rope was in the vehicle his wife was driving so first he had to go get the tow rope.

When he came he said it looked worse than what it looked in the picture I sent him!  They got the car tied up to his vehicle, then he pulled, I accelerated our car just a little, and the other two men lifted and pushed at the same time.  My car stalled which jerked Steve's vehicle to a stop.  I got my car started up and we tried again, this time successfully!

Later that day the contractor came with a big load of dirt and filled in the hole.  You'd never know now that anything had happened.  Personally, I'm hoping there will not be a repeat performance!

Meanwhile, this seems piddly when others had their houses flooded.  A lady I work with told me that a child in their extended family was killed when a wall next to the shelter in which he was sleeping collapsed.  I heard that nine people in Niamey were killed in that storm, mostly from adobe walls that melted falling on them.  We need the rain, but hopefully not so much at a time!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

What I Learned from Our Bible Study Group

We have had a Bible study with students from a university-level school that trains flight controllers, meteorologists, and others involved in the field of aviation.  The average time we have these students in our group is a year and a half; some shorter than that, some longer, depending on their program.  

We have enjoyed every group we've had ... we started this Bible study in 2012 when one of the students who attended our church asked if anybody in the church could host a Bible study.  Since we live near the school, we volunteered and we've never regretted it.  Sure there have been weeks when John barely had time to prepare or when we were so tired we would have liked to have had a quiet evening to ourselves.  But then the students would come, and we'd be glad we had opened our home and prepared a study.

The latest group just graduated.  Several of them have said that when they came here where the majority religion is not Christian, they never expected to grow so much in their faith.  Another said that what she learned in 14 months was like what she would learn in 14 years.  It wasn't just our Bible study, so don't give us all the credit!  They were very involved in church, in studies and groups on campus, and with each other.  I am convinced more than ever that a good community contributes to spiritual growth!  (Of course, the reverse can also be true.)

Not only did the group learn a lot and grow spiritually while here, but they taught me or reminded me of some important lessons.

1.  Sing with joy and with all your heart.  Dance, too!  And who cares if you're off key.  You're not singing to entertain, you're singing to worship.

2.  I am not a touchy person and physical touch is probably way down on my love language list.  But the girls in the group hugged and kissed me every time they saw me.  It was very special and I became very comfortable with their "holy kiss".  Show people that they are loved even if it takes you out of your comfort zone.

3.  When you are struggling with something in your life, ask for help.  This takes humility and a great deal of courage to admit your struggles, but you can't get help if you don't ask.  It's also part of living in community.

4.  All aspects of your life are affected by your spiritual health.  When the Spirit works in your heart, you will change how you live.  That change can be painful, though.  Surround yourself with people who will support you.

5.  Prayer is about praying for your exams and your health, but it's also about asking prayer for your spiritual health and for God to do deeper things in your heart.  It's supporting each other when you're vulnerable in asking for prayer.  It's praising God when you see Him at work in your life.

6.  Be hungry for the Word of God.  Surround yourself with good Bible teaching.  Ask questions.  Attend church regularly and get involved in a cell group if your church has them.

7. Being involved in counseling, mentoring, even giving advice is stretching.  When approached to do any of these, ask God for wisdom and pray much for that person, but don't be afraid to get involved and walk with that person.

8.  You don't know what pain a person may be privately bearing.  Be kind to all and encourage each one.

9.  Opening your home takes time and effort, but it is worth it.

10. We have had some difficult times at our church since November, but in December we had some weekend seminars to help during that time.  Several of the students mark that time as the beginning of a deeper spiritual journey.  God does indeed work all things together for good.  It wasn't a fun time, but God was at work in spite of it all.

11. I still have a hard time following French when people start talking fast!  And these students could sure talk fast when they got going!  Whew, language learning is a never-ending process.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Graduation Season

It's the season for graduations!  Yesterday I attended two graduations.  Thankfully one was in the morning and one was in the evening.  There were differences and similarities.  

The morning graduation was at the flight controller and meteorologist training school.  Six of the graduates attended our Bible study regularly and a seventh came occasionally.  We grew to dearly love this group.  

The evening ceremony was at our MK school and all of the graduates this year were missionary kids and one pastor's kids; the majority of the missionary kids were from our mission.  So I've known most of these kids since they were little. 


The similarities were:
1.  Both groups were fairly small (30 for the flight controller school and 13 for our mission school).  Both groups were very close to each other; at the flight controller school they have all classes together and live in dorms together for 14 months with only a few days off and no real vacations; at the mission school the kids have known each other most of their lives, attend almost all the same classes, and attend the same social events. 

2.  Graduates at both events wore cap and gown.

3.  Both were occasions of joy, lots of photo-taking (including selfies, of course!), and hugs.

4.  Both graduations celebrated the students' achievements and wished them well for their future.

5.  Both are international schools so graduations result in sad farewells.  There will be graduates from both schools I may never see again, especially from the flight controller school.

The differences were:
1.  The flight controller grad was a very simple program.  They had a moment of silence at the beginning, said a few congratulatory words, passed out the diplomas, the director gave a short speech, and that was it.  The mission school graduation was a little more of a program with a prayer, audience singing, two speeches by students, an address to the students, and passing out the diplomas.  It was MUCH simplified from last year's program, so I was thankful for that!

2.  The flight control/meteorology students spent a lot of time teasing and carrying on about inside jokes when each student was called to receive their diploma. Of course, none of the rest of us got the jokes, but it was pretty entertaining none-the-less.  The mission school ceremony was more, shall I say, subdued.

3.  The flight control/meteorology students shook every staff member's hand after receiving their diploma.  The mission school students just shook the hand of the board member who was handing out the diploma.

4.  While both events had students wearing caps and gowns, it was optional at the flight controller school; some chose to wear their own clothing or traditional clothes from their home country.

5.  One was inside in the air conditioning and one was outside in the blazing hot sun (thankfully the sun went down during the ceremony and gave us some relief!) 


I am so glad I got to attend both and I'm thankful for ceremonies to celebrate achievements.  But I'm also sad to say goodbye to friends.  The constant goodbyes are perhaps the hardest part of missionary life.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

May book list

May is our hottest most miserable month here.  Temperatures are around 105 or more every day and the humidity increases making it feel even worse.  One of the hardest things about the heat is the way it zaps your energy.  After putting in a day of work, you're pretty much done.  Reading is a great activity for when you don't feel like doing anything.  And one thing you can do when the power is off, is read.  So May is not a good month for doing big projects, but it is a good month for getting some reading done.

The Power of Suffering:  Strengthening Your Faith in the Refiner's Fire by John MacArthur
 Our culture seems, on the whole, to do what they can to prevent and to avoid suffering, yet suffering of some sort comes to each of us.  MacArthur has some very helpful things to say and this book would be one I'd be willing to share with people going through a hard time. He gives a good solid theology for suffering. He said two things, though, that I'm not sure I agree with.  The first was that MacArthur thinks that when Paul said he had a thorn in the flesh, he believes that thorn was a person. I've never heard that before and am not sure I agree. The other thing he said is that miracles don't happen today and I don't agree with that at all, though I do agree that we probably overuse and loosely use the word "miracle".  I liked how he pointed out that while suffering helps us grow in patience, that's not the main purpose of our suffering. The main purpose is to help us know better how to worship, honor, and glorify God in everything. When we get to heaven, we won't need to be patient, but we will be spending the rest of our lives glorifying God. For me the book was not written in an engaging manner and I would have benefited more if he'd included real ways in which he had suffered and learned these biblical truths.

A House Divided by Robert Whitlow
This book takes a close look at alcoholism and its effects on a family. The author gives us an inside look at the 12-step program while showing that it is God who can change lives. I enjoyed this book, but some of the legal details (the father and two children are all lawyers) went a little over my head. I also thought the case two of them were working on came together a bit fast in the end. Otherwise it was a good read.

Stolen Woman by Kimberly Rae
I think that Ms. Rae did an excellent job developing the characters, but I found parts of the plot quite implausible. Nevertheless, I was sorry to come to the end of the book. I also felt like the author has a good knowledge of India, its peoples, being a third culture kid, and of injustices taking place in our world.

The Photographer's Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos by Michael Freeman
I took my time reading through this book (more than a year!). As the subtitle says, it is all about composing and designing better pictures. The author introduces a lot of technical aspects of photographing which, when you see them in a picture you know it's a good photo without being able to say why. He teaches you things such vectors, using circles and rectangles, dynamic tension, filling the frame, and color in composition, just to name a few. I took a long time reading this book as it has a LOT of information and I found I wanted to look up examples of the techniques on the internet and try to think of how to use what he was teaching in photography. Reading through this book made me realize how much there is to learn about photography and how far I still need to go! The author does assume you know your camera well and that you know basic photography terminology, but you don't need to be a professional to understand the book.

The Young Mountaineers Short Stories by Mary Noailles Murfree
I came across a list awhile ago that compared what 8th and 9th grade students in the 1930's were required to read. Of course, I can't find it on the internet now, but at the time I went on Amazon and found a lot of them and downloaded them for free. This was one of them. This is a series of short stories about young boys having all sorts of adventures in the mountains of Tennessee. The stories are well-written and still very readable and enjoyable, but probably most kids today wouldn't "get" the setting. There was also a lot of dialect that was hard to read. I think boys of today who like to be outdoors and who like adventure, camping, hiking, being in the wilderness, etc. would still enjoy these stories. The stories are also good because, without being preachy, the author shows her characters learning how to be honest, to be brave, to be honorable, etc. 

True Religion: Taking Pieces of Heaven to Places of Hell on Earth by Palmer Chinchen
I liked this book as far as it went, but I felt like Dr. Chinchen's emphasis did not go far enough. He really did a great job on challenging young people to get involved in missions and to do what they can to bring "pieces of heaven to places of hell on earth". No believer should ignore the plight of others and Dr. Chinchen really challenges young people to get involved. I think the audience of the book is meant to be university age students and I love how he makes helping the poor and doing missions something that is in the realm of possibility for each person. However, the focus really seemed to be on short term missions and on short term solutions such as collecting shoes for people, which I'm not criticizing. But I do wish he had put more of an emphasis on committing to life-long missions. It's a lot different to take a day and wash dirty children than it is to have dirty children surrounding you year after year and realizing that whatever you can do is so small compared to what they really need. It's fine to go in and deliver hundreds of shoes, but it's a lot different to live year after year with people who, when those shoes are worn out, still won't have the means to purchase a pair of shoes for themselves. There have to be better ways of helping pull people out of poverty than "band-aid" solutions like passing out shoes and giving kids baths. Those things are great.....but I wish Dr. Chinchen had put more of an emphasis on getting in there for the long haul. As a personnel coordinator of a mission in one of the poorest countries in the world it is my job to place teams and individuals. I can tell you that teams are a lot of work for the missionaries on the ground and that the benefits are more for the team members (and often those benefits are worth the hard work of hosting teams!) than for the host culture. I also have mixed feelings about the phrase "hell on earth" because somehow it feels judgmental to me. There are places that truly are hell on earth; but I think it's a misconception that everybody living in poverty is miserable and unhappy. Some of the poorest people I know are happier than some of the richest people I know. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Fixing Our Focus, Part III

Fixing Our Focus, Part I
Fixing our Focus, Part II

Looking through the viewfinder or at the screen on the back of your camera makes taking pictures fairly easy.  You more or less get what you see through the viewfinder.

But have you ever seen a photographer trying to take a picture with the camera facing behind them?  It even sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?  You take pictures of what you can see, and you can't really see behind you. For a photo challenge where you take a picture a day for a month, the challenge was "hair".  I tried and tried to take a picture of the back of my head.  It was way harder than I thought it would be and this was the best I got.  Yeah, it turned out to not really be focused behind me.


I suppose it’s possible to hold your camera backwards and take whatever kind of picture you get, but if you can’t see in the viewfinder, it’s awfully hard to find the focus.  Paul reminds us to “forget what is behind”.  Yes, there is a sense of remembrance, especially as the remembering brings to mind God’s goodness to us in the past.  There is nothing wrong with memorial stones.  But if we keep ruminating on how we hurt somebody, on how they hurt us, on all of our awful sins that Jesus has already forgiven, on how we were victimized, on how we have been dealt a bad lot, we will run off course just like a runner who keeps looking back runs out of his lane.  We will trip and fall.  We just can’t run well while looking back any more than a photographer can take a good picture holding his camera backwards.

Finally, a photographer can take a landscape picture or a picture of an event happening in a room.  The photographer will use a broad focus, showing everything at once.  The foreground, the background, and the central areas all have the same focus.  

While that is easy enough to do in photography, seeing all of life in focus isn't something we can do right now.  For now only God can see the whole picture and understand how it’s all working together.  We need to trust him for our future.  As we do, we will be focusing on Jesus and the end of the race.  And someday the mystery will be fully revealed to us and we will no longer see as through a dark glass.  It will all come into focus for us.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3