Sunday, January 19, 2014

Exciting News

On Thanksgiving our kids said they wanted to skype with us.  They were all in Florida visiting their grandparents (my mom and dad).  Suzanne said she was also sending us an email but to not open the email.  

The Skype connection was terrible.  Yep, that's what skype looks like on our end!  Kind of like an impressionistic painting.  Not only could we barely see anything recognizable as a human face, their voices sounded like aliens speaking through a tube.  We seemed to be hearing something about "baby", but who could be sure?  Then Suz said to open the message from her and there we found this picture.
 (OK, this is just weird.  This picture is right side up in my album but comes up sideways on blogger.  I don't get it!)
Anyway, the point was pretty clear in this picture.  It's a baby!

But then they told us we couldn't tell anybody for awhile yet.  Finally the 2nd week of January we told a few people that we wanted to hear it directly from us and then they went public with it.

I'm enjoying Suz's weekly "bump" pictures.  You can also follow along here.

So, yeah, we're pretty excited about being grandparents! I just wish we were closer but am thankful for the way they are keeping us updated.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Highlights of 2013

Suzanne did a post on the Highlights of 2013, so I thought I'd do the same....before we get too much further into 2014.

January 2013.....The highlight of January is almost always our Spiritual Life Conference in which all the SIM missionaries in our country of service come together for four days of spiritual feeding, fellowship, and fun together.  It's like a big family reunion.  Last year we couldn't meet at our usual location since it had been flooded so we met in three different adjoining campuses owned by sister missions.
 I was involved in planning conference and John organized the music.

February 2013....We traveled to a location in the center of the country and had a two-day orientation with new missionaries.

March 2013....John went to Oxford, England for his annual six-week doctoral studies visit but I couldn't go along.  Flood clean-up got under way with the first of numerous teams coming to work hard to restore our two campuses.

April 2013...My turn to travel.  I went on to the USA, staying first with Daniel and Kelly in Virginia.  We got to visit Arlington Cemetery together.

 Then I drove to Ohio to be with Suz and Theo.  I helped Suz and Theo move house and was present when they joined their church.

May 2013...John arrived from England just in time to attend Suz's graduation with high honors from Cedarville University.
She worked hard and finished well.

June 2013...Our three months in the US were home assignment, so almost every Sunday found John in the pulpit of one of our supporting churches and/or teaching a Sunday school class.
I believe we spoke 12 out of 15 Sundays.  That also represented a lot of miles on the road.  I also got to fly to Florida to visit my parents and we spent time with John's mom in Connecticut.

July 2013...We returned to Africa.  We're so glad our kids are married to wonderful people and that makes the good-byes a little easier.  But it's still hard to leave.  We drove from Pennsylvania, where we had spent most of the summer, to Ohio, where we returned our leased car and said good-bye to Suz and Theo.

Then we rented a car and drove down to Washington DC and said good-bye to Daniel and Kelly before boarding a Turkish Air flight bound for Africa.

August 2013...I'm so thankful for Crystal and Sandy who covered for me.  July and August are our busiest months for new arrivals and I was so glad they did most of the work!  Here is some of the paperwork from a group of new arrivals who came soon after our return.  The first thing to do is to give them a brief orientation and make sure their paperwork is in order.

September 2013...John, Eliane, and I led a workshop for mentors.
We are trying to make sure each new arrival has a mentor to help them through the adjustment.

October 2013...And it's time for another orientation, this time held in Niamey.  This may have been our largest orientation group ever.
This picture shows missionaries from Canada, USA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Switzerland, France, Australia, Malaysia, Liberia, and Nigeria.  I love the international-ness of our mission!
Also in October we got to go to a Mamar Kassey concert.  
Mamar Kassey is a group that combines traditional instruments with modern ones for a unique sound.

November 2013...The highlight for November has to be that I got to go to Kenya for a personnel consultation.  What a beautiful country!  I can see why when people think of Africa, they think of Kenya.

I didn't actually see much other than our conference center, which was, in and of itself a beautiful place, but we did walk out one day through the tea plantation.  The hills and the greenness were amazing.

The other highlight of November was finding out we are going to be grandparents, but that deserves its own blog post (coming soon!).

December 2013...of course the highlight is the celebration of our Lord's birth.  We spent most of Christmas Day at church and then opened our gifts on the 26th.
 How do you like this creche set that John got me?  It's made locally out of soapstone.  I think it's beautiful.  But I also feel like something (or someone) is missing.  What do you think?

And that was 2013.  Happy New Year and may God do a mighty work in 2014.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

My Top 10 Books from 2013

I enjoy reading and do quite a bit of it since there isn't really any TV here and not many other diversions.  This past year I worked my way through 35 books.  I'll let you know my top 10 and why I enjoyed or was challenged by them and then just list the others.

1.  One Thousand Gifts by Anne Voskamp.
 This book was the book that was most influential in my spiritual life this year. I'm not terribly fond of Mrs. Voskamp's writing style.  It's very poetic and overly descriptive, but, I don't know, it kind of grew on me.  The message she gave was so important for me.  She challenges us to make eucharisteo, a Greek word meaning thankful, part of our lives.  I took on her challenge of keeping a gratitude list and aiming to, in a year, write down 1000 things I am thankful for.  By writing three a day you easily come up with more than 1,000 by the end of the year.  I can't guarantee that I didn't repeat things, but that's ok because we often forget to be thankful for the every day and the ordinary.  This year I am going to continue with the gratitude list, this time using the prompts on her website.  

2.  Quiet:  the Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Quit Talking by Susan Cain was the book this year that had the biggest impact on my personal life.
 I've known for a long time that I'm an introvert, but I've spent so much of my life trying to be something other than that because we're told so much, "Don't be shy." "Don't you like people?", etc.  This book was helpful because she shows the strengths of introverted people and how they can use those strengths. She also spends some time describing how introverts and extroverts can use each other's strengths rather than spending so much time trying to make others what they aren't.

3.  The book that has had the biggest impact on my professional life is The Mentor's Guide:  Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships by Lois J. Zachary.  Mentoring is something I'm trying to learn more about as we strive to help new personnel successfully adjust to living in a place so unlike anything they've ever known before.

4.  As for learning more about the Bible itself, the book Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O'Brien was great.
 They took a closer look at several passages that we tend to interpret in a certain way, but it is really our western viewpoint that makes us look at the passage that way.  Living here in Africa has also opened my eyes to understanding a world that is much closer to what it would have been like in biblical days.

5.  A Child Called "It" by Dave Pelzer was a hard-to-read auto-biography about the abuse Dave Pelzer suffered at the hands of his mother.  
This was a book I just randomly picked up, but I happened to read it just as we were beginning to work on our Child Protection Policy.  This book should be required reading for anybody who works with children, especially since it shows how to be aware of abuse, but it also shows how a child who has been abused can be healed and lead a productive life.

6. Where Is God When it Hurts? by Philip Yancey is another excellent book dealing with the question we have probably all asked when going through hard times:  "God, where are you?"  I think this book would be helpful to both people who are suffering and to those who love them.

7.  A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans.
 There is a lot Rachel Held Evans says that I don't agree with.  But one thing for sure, she'll always give you plenty to think about. I found myself agreeing with most of what she had to say in this book and gained some new insights into traditional "womanhood passages" such as Proverbs 31.  Evans has an enjoyable and engaging writing style.  If you are very traditional in your views and men's and women's roles you might not like this book, but I would still encourage you to give it a try.

8.  Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  
I wish I could say I read it in French, but even in English it was pretty long and I have to admit I skipped parts that seemed to have absolutely nothing to do with the story.  But I loved the book and was glad I stuck out all 900-some pages!  

And, least you think I don't do any light reading, two other favorites,were lighter fare, though they also had some pretty heavy things to think about.

9.  Exposed by Ashley Weis is about a wife who finds out her husband is into pornography.  In a truthful but sensitive way
Ms. Weis shows the impact of this on the husband, the wife, and even on the porn stars.  This was an unforgettable book that will leave you with more compassion for those involved in or impacted by pornography.  

10.  Nicky and Zora: A Novel in Black and White by Claudia Mair Burney.  A cross-racial love story....well-written, a bit intense in places, but with plenty to think about.

And, just in case you're wondering, the other books I read, first, those that I enjoyed:
11. Missionary: An Unexpected Journey of Following God's Call to the Other Side of the World by Christopher Marco
12. Ready or Not by Chautonia Havig
13. Geese Mate for Life by Lillian Duncan
14. Breaking the Chains: Overcoming the Spiritual Abuse of a False Gospel by Shari Howerton
15. Fools Rush In by Janice Thompson
16. Delirious: My Journey with the Band, a Growing Family and an Army of History Makers by Martin Smith
17. Lady in the Mist by Laurie Alice Eakes
18. The Amish of Lancaster County by Donald Kraybill
19. Far Horizons by Kate Hewitt
20. The Hoodlum Preacher by Burton Barr
21. Wednesday's Child by Clare Revell
22. Becoming Fearless: My Ongoing Journey of Learning to Trust God by Michelle Aguilar
23. The Four Seasons of Marriage: Secrets to a Lasting Marriage by Gary Chapman
24. Solitary by Travis Thrasher
25. All the Way Home by Ann Tatlock
26. Turning Points: The Life of  WWII Milne Bay Gunner by Vicky Kaseorg
27. Jesus in the Present Tense by Warren Wiersbe
28. Widow of Larkspur Inn by Lawana Blackwell
29. Forgiving the Dead Man Walking by Debbie Morris
30. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
31. The Big Blue Soldier by Grace Livingston Hill

and those not worth your time:
32. Living Still by Abby Lewis
33. God's Grace Apart from Law by Mick Mooney
34. She Never Knew by C.J. Simpson
35. Barefoot Christianity by Ricky Maye