Friday, November 30, 2012

Adding another country to my "been-to" list

Last weekend John and I visited a neighboring country.  The people groups in West Africa often spill over from one country to another, since borders have been artificially drawn.  The people group we work with can be found in four countries.  So we wanted to see how close this group's language is to the language we know.  Specifically, John wanted to observe their music in local churches and to interview some Christians.

Enjoying a break before the bad section of road
I have no idea how this happened!
The first half of the trip is fine, but the 2nd half is on terrible, terrible roads. Just before we hit the really bad part we stopped for a picnic.  They are re-paving the road, but in the meantime it is pretty crazy. We finally got to the border and went through customs on both sides.  One of the officials was so slow in writing down our information and seemed to be new on the job.  There were also literally hundreds of used cars that are shipped into that country from Europe and then driven up here to be sold in the used car market (that's how we bought our car which came from Switzerland and which has snow tires on it!).  We tried to call the missionary we were visiting, but couldn't get through.  Meanwhile he was getting really worried, but couldn't get through to us, either.  We finally arrived a little later than we had expected, but without any problems.

Our little guest house
There are two missionary families living on the compound and a dry season Bible school with about 16 students on the same compound.  We ate supper with one of the families and then headed to bed.  They don't have electricity, though there is power in the town.  In fact the power line comes right up to the edge of the mission station, but I don't think they're in a hurry to connect since the houses are hooked up with solar power.  They also run a generator from 6:30 to 9:30 each evening.  The little guest house didn't have solar power, so we just had the generator. Friday night, when we arrived, I went to sleep the minute the generator went off and slept until almost 8 a.m.  I haven't slept that much in ages!  Thankfully it was cool enough at night that we didn't miss not having a fan too much.

Jack the jackal
The monkey and the dog playing together.  I can't say I'm a big fan of monkeys!
I told John he can get me a duiker for Christmas
On Saturday it was great to just be able to spend a little extra time with the Lord, read my book, and take a nap (napping wasn't so great though as it was a bit hot in the afternoon without any fan).  John did some interviews with some guys.  We had lunch with one of the missionary families and later I explored the compound a bit.  I loved their menagerie of animals....two duikers, a jackal, a monkey (who loved playing with one of the dogs), a parrot and a parakeet, a cat, two dogs, two tortoises, a baby crocodile, and a civet cat.  I totally want a duiker for a pet!  They are a small antelope. This one was so tame it liked to be petted and would follow us all over, even into the house.  They are a quiet pet and so beautiful. 

The village
 Later in the afternoon I went for a walk in the village.  The houses look quite different from the houses here, I think mainly because they have pitched roofs whereas our houses have flat roofs.  Also here people in towns have mud brick walls around their compounds, but there, while some had mud walls, many had grass mat walls or no walls at all. It just felt more open somehow.  I was also very surprised to see pigs running around and to be served pork and to find out that the people of this group actually eat pork!  While here we have chosen to not eat pork because it is so offensive to the people we work with.  There were also a lot more really tall trees than what we have here.

That evening we ate again with one of the families and then played a game with them.  Some of their children were not feeling well at all, one with an asthma attack which brought back a lot of memories of getting the nebulizer set up for Suzanne and trying to prevent an attack from turning into a full-blown crisis.   Again, the lights were out by 9:30.  We read until 10:00 by a battery lantern, but I got about nine hours of sleep that night.  I think I slept so well because I knew there wasn't anything I had to get up to do.

A village church
On Sunday we went to a village with a church.    We were surprised to find this sister-language group with a really vibrant church in the village we visited and several church plants in other villages.  Of course, in comparison to how many are NOT Christians, it is still a largely unreached group.  But compared to this country, it was pretty amazing.  We worked 16 years among this people group.  Other missionaries before us worked with them.  While we were in the town where we used to live, other churches tried starting church plants.  Today there are maybe five or six believers who meet for worship.  And all along the road there is village after village with no gospel witness. So to see any churches at all was encouraging!

The church we visited had about 45 adults in attendance and was packed.  They have a pastor and their choir did a great job.  Of all the churches we have visited, this was the only church that did everything in the mother, prayer, message.  (Of course I am comparing capital city churches with a village church.  Here in the capital it seems every church has quite a bit of French mixed in.  I also know that the Hausa churches seem to be more one-language churches.) I was also surprised at how many women had Bibles and were able to read them. 

We could understand most of what people said and I think they could understand us.  I asked some kids where their house was and they stared at me blankly.  So I asked the question another way and still got blank stares.  I framed it a third way and they all started talking at once!  I told a little girl to blow her nose and she did so I think she understood that!  John understood a lot and was able to start figuring out the patterns to which pronunciations are different.  He's amazing that way!  

Sunday night we again ate with one of the missionary families (they were both so hospitable!).  Again, lights out by 10, but then we got up pretty early in the morning to head home.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention that I did wake up early every morning with the call to prayer and reading of the Holy Book.  The prayer place was nearby and they had a good loud speaker and we had no fan to block it out!  Thankfully I was able to go to sleep as that was probably some time between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m.

The road hadn't improved at all on the way back.  The only improvement was that we were moving across the border early in the day so we didn't have all the car import traffic to deal with.  We spent half an hour in a large town looking for a church there.  We finally found one church, but we're not sure if it's the one we were looking for or not as there was no sign on it.  It was siesta, so the pastor wasn't around.

It was great to visit another country, but even better to come home again!  Unfortunately, on Tuesday John woke up with a terrible cold.  He hasn't been this sick for a long time.  He still sounds terrible, but isn't as bad as he was on Tuesday.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Stress or Joy? You Choose

Internet at our house has been almost non-existent for the past three weeks.  We did get the telephone connection back, but still no internet.  Here at the office it isn't great, either.  My blogging has really taken a nose-dive!

On this Thanksgiving Day (for my American friends) I just wanted to sit and write out some things I've been thinking about concerning stress and joy.  Three books I've been reading came together all at one time to challenge me on the same thing.  When that happens, I'm pretty sure it's God talking.

The first was the Bible, specifically Psalm 100.  These phrases stood out to me:
  • Shout for joy
  • Worship the Lord with gladness
  • Come before Him with joyful songs
  • Know the the LORD is God
  • Enter His gates with thanksgiving
  • Enter His courts with praise
  • Give thanks to Him
  • Praise His name
I think God, through the writing, the joy, the exuberance of David wants me to get the point!  The point is SHOUT FOR JOY!!!

Then I've been reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  I know this quote is a bit long, but believe me, it's worth reading:
     "But then there's that perplexing command: 'Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!' (Phil. 4:4)  You'll notice that it doesn't end with '.....unless you're doing something extremely important.'  No, it's a command for all of us, and it follows with the charge, 'Do not be anxious about anything' (v. 6).
     "That came as a pretty staggering realization.  But what I realized next was even more staggering.
     " When I am consumed by my problems -- stressed out about my life, my family, and my job -- I actually convey the belief that I think the circumstances are more important than God's command to always rejoice.  In other words, that I have a 'right' to disobey God because of the magnitude of my responsibilities.
     "Worry implies that we don't quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what's happening in our lives.
     "Stress says that things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace towards others, or our tight grip of control.
     "Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it's okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional.  Both worry and stress reek of arrogance.  They declare our tendency to forget that we've been forgiven, that our lives here are brief, that we are headed to a place where we won't be lonely, afraid, or hurt ever again, and that in the context of God's strength, our problems are small indeed.
     "Why are we so quick to forget God?  Who do we think we are?"

Ouch!  That hurt!  Oh yes, the truth hurts....."I think the circumstances are more important than God's command to always rejoice."  "It's okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional."

And back to Psalm 100.  WHY should I rejoice always?  Because:
  • the LORD is good
  • His love endures forever
  • His faithfulness continues through all generations
When I focus on those things my response can only be to rejoice.  When I focus on my circumstances, on my to-do list, on my problems, my response can only be to get stressed.  

(Mind you, I do believe during stressful times it might be time to take a look at my life, eliminate a few things, get some exercise,  say "no" when necessary, ask somebody to help with tasks, etc.  Stress can also be caused by fatigue so what do I need to do to get enough sleep, to spend time with my family, to have time with God, etc.)

The third book I've been reading is Chuck Swindoll's devotional book, Living Beyond the Daily Grind.  This particular chapter focused on Psalm 100.  The author, as an exercise, asks us to "Define gratitude".  My definition was, "Acknowledging that the good things in my life are from God and thanking Him for them.  Acknowledging that the difficult things in my life are allowed by God for my good and my growth and thanking Him for them even when I don't understand them."

Swindoll also challenges the reader to write a blessing list and this is what I came up with.  I didn't spend a lot of time on this, so I know it could be a lot longer!

Blessings at home:
1.  A faithful husband who is always good to me and who loves the Lord more than anything.
2.  Children and their spouses who are walking with the Lord.
3.  That aforesaid children have jobs.
4.  A quiet house with all the "stuff" that we need (and probably more than enough!)
5.  A car that runs well and gets us there.
6.  Plenty of food and no worries about where we will get food tomorrow.

Blessings at church:
1.  Freedom to worship in a mostly M*sl*m country
2.  A place to meet after the flood, even if it is only a tent
3.  People from so many different countries coming together to worship every Sunday
4.  Having a Bible study at our house

Personal blessings:
1.  Good health
2.  That God has given me an even temperament to handle some of the stuff I've had to do since August
3.  Parents who have given me a godly heritage

Hard things I need to praise God in:
1.  Separation from our kids.....especially hard on days like Thanksgiving
2.  No internet....affects the communication, John working on his research, etc.
3.  So much work.  It really seems like a lot some days.

So those are some of my thoughts on this Thanksgiving Day.  This is how God has been challenging me the past two weeks. Am I focusing on Him and His goodness or am I so focused on my tasks that I'm stressed, upset, and worried?

No pictures this time because of the lousy internet!  Oh wait, I'm complaining again!!! 

Friday, November 09, 2012

A New Version of the Old Cassette Tapes

Remember cassette tapes?  It wasn't so long ago that groups of kids would come to our house.  They had nothing to do, so I'd pull out the tape recorder, cassette tapes, and the illustrated Bible story book that went with the tapes.  The kids could spend hours sitting around listening to the stories.

One boy (not pictured here) in particular, who we will just call H., loved the stories.  In fact, he had them memorized and would annoy the other kids as he quoted the stories along with the tape.

When we left our home of 16 years, we left the cassette recorder and tapes with him.  Four years later, the machine and the tapes have long since met their demise.  Last time we visited he asked for something to listen to.

A fabulous replacement for cassette tapes has come on the market. It is a radio with an SD slot and a USB slot. This one even has a flashlight with it!  It can be run on electric power or on battery and can be charged to run for a limited length of time on its own, like a cell phone.  

So we filled an 8 GB SD card with Bible stories, preaching, music, etc. in the language he understands the best and presented it to him when we visited last week.

He was delighted and said that now he and his friends would have something to do in the evenings. We plan on giving one of these radios with an SD card already filled to our guard for Christmas.  He spends hours each night sitting with other guards on the street, so hopefully they will listen to it with him.  We'd also like to give some to others who we know.    

Friday, November 02, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Roots

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Roots... Roots?? Do I have any roots?  I'm one of those people who when people ask me where I'm from I really have no idea.

I have lived in Nigeria, Niger, Canada, and in the US in Ohio, Indiana, New York, Colorado, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.  Some of those places I lived not more than a year.
Our house in Cedarville, Ohio when I was in 1st grade.  We had the downstairs apartment.
Each place holds fond memories for me....but do I have roots in any of those places?  Not really.  I'm a true home-body, preferring to be in my house than anywhere else.  But I don't really care where my house is.  Put your finger on the map, choose a country or a town, move me there and, presuming I can speak the language, I could probably be content.
Our house in Osceola, Indiana where we lived when I was in 6th and 7th grade.  The front upstairs window was my room.
No, I really don't have roots.  

But I have memories.  Aside from my earliest years, I remember every house we lived in.  We were a close family, so the memories associated with the house, the town, the country, are fond.

We lived in this house in Tera for 16 years (minus home assignments).  Our kids were mostly raised in this one house.  You'll notice on my Facebook I claim Tera as my home town.
And I have a heritage.  What my parents, grand-parents, aunts and uncles (including missionary "aunties" and "uncles") have passed down to me is priceless.

We have stayed in this house every home assignment except one.  Our kids have been blessed to have had two houses where they have grown up event though they are also global nomads.
I feel that I have a certain adaptability since I've lived in so many places among people of so many different cultures.  I think I may be more patient with differing ideas, religions, etc. than many of my North American peers just because I've been in close contact with so many who aren't just like me.

And yes, I feel that this has also resulted in a reticence to make good friends, friends who I will leave or who will leave me.  I'm so thankful for the way they have enriched my life and how I have friends on every continent.....  But they aren't friends I've known all my life and whose roots are intertwined with mine....

A happy and varied life?  Yes.  Roots? I don't think so.