Saturday, March 26, 2016

Book Review: China, Medieval, and the Ardennes Forest -- Anything in Common?

No!  That's not the title of a book!  Since January I have read three novels that are actually very different from each other:  one takes place in China, one takes place in England in the medieval ages, and one takes place in the Ardennes Forest during World War II.  So, what, you may ask, is the connection between the three books?  There isn't really any connection, just that each one was really quite different from most novels I've read.

The first was called City of Tranquil Light, written by Bo Caldwell.  The book is loosely based on the story of Ms. Caldwell's grandparents who were missionaries in China.  Ms. Caldwell does a great job of showing the struggles missionaries face.  Will and Katherine Klein deal with starting a new ministry, the death of a child, being captured by a drug lord, experiencing a war, and eventually having to leave the country because of Katherine's poor health.  This was an excellent book, but it felt a little hurried at the end.  Overall the book does a great job at not painting missionaries as super heroes, but as normal people who have weaknesses, failings, and struggles just like everybody else, but who go on each day in the strength God gives them.  I would highly recommend this book. 

The second book was called Afton of Margate Castle, written by Angela Elwell Hunt.  I'm not sure I liked this book that much.  There are some things that seem odd, like a nine-year old girl with romantic feelings.  I know people grew up faster back then, but nine seems a bit young to know who you want to marry or to be able to reason out your feelings.  There are places where the book is difficult to read as it goes into quite a lot of detail about domestic violence.   This book is well-written and I like books that don't just easily work out for the characters.  It does seem a bit long in places.  I also learned some things about the Crusades that I didn't know.  I enjoyed the book, but I don't think enough to bother buying the rest in the series.  

The final book was called Dear Enemy by Jack Cavanaugh.  This book takes place in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium during the closing days of World War II.  An American nurse is captured by a Nazi soldier.  This is an amazing story of prejudice, friendship, and forgiveness.  The book had some pretty intense moments, the characters were well portrayed, especially Karl, and the book was realistic for its setting.  Not only was it well-written, but it showed how your enemy isn't always who you think they are.  I did wonder, though, how with all the traipsing around in the snow, there was only one mention of being worried about somebody noticing their tracks.  And I DID NOT like the ending!  Why?  Why that ending?

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Show and Tell Tuesday -- Hometown Edition

This is the question that can make me, or any TCK, cry.  "Where are you from?"  I don't know!  What year are you talking about?  Do you want to know what my passport says or where I've spent most of my life?  Should I give you the short version or do you really want the full un-edited version?

So, here goes, I'm going to give you the long version....

My parents were missionaries in Jos, Nigeria and that's where I was born....under the British flag.  A year and a few months later, Nigeria gained independence from Great Britain.  And in case you're wondering, in spite of being born in Nigeria under the British flag, I was born of American citizens, so I am American by nationality.  Confused yet?

By the time I was two, we had lived in two different places in a house and one an apartment.  I have no idea which one we lived in first since I was only two!


Years later when I went to Jos on a short term mission trip, I stayed in this same apartment building.

From there we went on home assignment and we lived in a farm house that we rented from the farmer.  The only recollection I have of this house is that I fell and cracked my head open on a toy and had to get stitches, but I don't remember the house itself.  I also got my tonsils out during that home assignment, which I remember.

When we no longer lived in this house, every time we'd arrive in Cedarville we drove past and my dad would yell out the window, "Get outta my house!"  So it became kind of a tradition that as we rolled by we'd all yell, "Get outta my house!"  Sadly the house was abandoned a number of years ago and is a total wreck now.  There's nobody there any more to yell at!

From there we went back to Nigeria and we lived in Igbaja.  I don't have any pictures of the outside of our house, but it was a great place to grow up.  I absolutely loved it there.  This is a picture of our family with some of the Bible school students.  I'm the little blonde one.

On our next home assignment, we lived in Cedarville, Ohio again.  First we lived in this house in town.  It had been divided into two apartments.  It had high ceilings and carved door frames and must have been gorgeous in its day. 

Then we lived in a rented farm house outside town.  Both of these pictures were actually taken years later.  I don't remember much about the big house, but I do remember the farm house pretty well.  I loved it there.

Then it was back to Igbaja in Nigeria.  Here is what Igbaja looked like from the air back then.  I think our house was somewhere up there in the upper part of the picture.  Like I said before, I loved growing up in Igbaja.  We lived in three different houses there.

In 1970, we went back to the USA and this time we lived in Osceola, Indiana.  First we lived in a really small house while my parents looked for a house to buy.  This is the beauty they got....15 rooms if I remember correctly

Somebody had made the upstairs into an apartment, but we just used it as bedrooms.  We had lots and lots of room for guests! My dad took this picture years later when somebody else was living there and had made some nice improvements to it. I was in 6th grade that year and it was a pretty tough year, partly just because it was 6th grade, but also because I wanted to be living in Igbaja and I was going through some pretty serious culture shock.  But I adapted and made it through.

Then in 8th grade we moved to Syracuse, NY.  My dad was working on a degree from Syracuse University and we got an apartment in married students' housing.  It was VERY small and it worked only because my brother also left for college that year.  When he was home, he had to sleep on the couch in the living room.  You can see the apartments behind us in this picture.  That's me with the plaid coat with the hood up.  My mom, sister, aunt, uncle, and cousins are also in the picture.  Even though we were only there a year, I really liked our school.  It was the first or second year of a new Christian school and it was really small, so it was easy to get to know the other kids.  Because it was a new school, they hadn't all grown up together, so we were all new together.

By now you are probably wishing I'd gone with the short version of the story!

Our next move was to Arvada, CO and we lived there for five years and I went to the same high school all four years.  I think that was the longest I ever attended one school.  It was a small Christian school, too, and I had some pretty good friends there especially as some of them were also in our church youth group.  I don't seem to have a very good picture of the outside of that 
house.  It was a light brown brick, ranch style, with brown trim.  We finished off the basement and then we all had our own bedroom.  My brother switched colleges and lived at home while he finished school.

After four years of living there, I went back to Cedarville, Ohio to attend what was then Cedarville College, but is now Cedarville University.  I won't show you all my dorms.  I also lived with my wonderful Great Aunt Jeanette the first two years I was in college.  

Meanwhile my parents moved to South Carolina, so that was home when I was on school breaks.  And then when I graduated from college, I got my first teaching job in Morganton, NC.  I shared an apartment that was above a garage and both of us taught at the same school.  Our landlords were the best and both worked for one of the factories that makes really nice furniture (Drexel Heritage, I think), and they had furnished the apartment with "seconds" which looked pretty good to me!  But, sorry, folks, no pictures!  It was definitely a stretching year as it was truly a cross-cultural experience for me.  It was good training for the mission field which is where I went next.

My next stop was four years in Miango, Nigeria, where I taught 4th grade at Kent Academy.  Again, I seem to have no pictures of my apartment, but here's one of my backyard.  I really enjoyed living in Miango, but wouldn't you know it, the man of my dreams came along and he was working in Niger.

So, in 1986 we got married.  My grandpa had just gone into a nursing home, so he let us live in his house in Susquehanna, PA.  By then my parents and sister were living in Binghamton, New York, so they weren't far away.  We only lived there four months.  

Then we moved to Quebec, Canada so I could study French.  I have pictures somewhere, but not on this computer.  We subleased a three-bedroom apartment and had no furniture.  Well, we had two living room chairs, a kitchen table and chairs and appliances, a bed, and a desk.  I don't remember if we had a dresser or not.  But we were living on love, so we didn't care.

And then we were off to Niger.  We spent our first three years in Niamey.  Again, I know we have pictures of the house, but I can't come up with any. Daniel was born while we lived there and here's a picture of him and John playing outside.  That's our Peugeot 504 in the background.

And then back to the USA.  Since the kids were born, we've spent every home assignment at Missionary Retreat Fellowship.  It's the perfect place for missionaries and we consider that to be our American "home" as much as anywhere now.  Our first home assignment there Suzanne was born and we lived in this house you can see in the background.

Now, as you can see, in the story of a TCK's life, it goes on and on with "and then we moved to".  Sorry-o!

And then we moved back to Niamey, but only for a year.  We lived in this house which you can just see in the background.  This is one of my favorite pictures of all time, by the way.

From there we moved to the village that we called home for the next 16 years.  16 years!!!  That's a record!!!!

And every time we went on home assignment we stayed in this house at Missionary Retreat Fellowship.  I think we stayed in this house four different times for a year each time.

In January 2008 we moved back to Niamey and have lived in the same house ever since.  

Well, we did take two years in the USA; one of them we was at the house above in Pennsylvania and one of them we lived in this apartment on the campus of Washington Bible College in Lanham, MD.  Our apartment was the bottom right.  There were four apartments on this end and then multiple studio apartments in the rest of the building which you can't see in this photo.  It was a nice apartment, but John had TERRIBLE allergies there.

So now you know why questions like "Where are you from?" and "Tell us about your hometown" is enough to make me cry!  I guess home is where the suitcase is.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

God's Hand of Protection

I can imagine that each day there are ways that God protects us and cares for us that happen in unseen realms and of which we aren't really aware.  But every now and then, in the midst of the routine of our daily lives, we become very aware of His hand of protection and His care for us.  But first, let me tell you about our routine week (if there's any such thing as "routine"!).

This week was much like any other.  Perhaps a little busier in that I had three long meetings to attend, which is more than normal.  Our administrative team, which includes both John and me, always meets on Monday, so that was a routine meeting.  On Tuesday all of the Directorate Team, which includes John and me, met together to review our security/contingency plans.  This was a routine review, keeping in mind that it's best to "be prepared for the worst and hope for the best".  

Then on Wednesday, I met with some other ladies on a committee starting to look at some stuff regarding the school's re-accreditation process.  If you've ever been involved in a school accreditation process, you'll know that I'm not exaggerating when I say it's a lot of work.  We had so many papers, documents, files on the computer, and ideas in our heads that it all became very confusing sometimes.  We worked from 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. with only short breaks, so we were exhausted at the end of the day....speaking for myself any way.

In spite of the extra meetings, I managed to keep up on my emails.  I'm so thankful that I now have Crystal who handles everything to do with short-termers or the week may have been overwhelming to me as we also had two brand new arrivals as well as two long-term returnees this week.

Saturday afternoon there was a wedding we attended.  This was quite a to-do as, between the bride and groom's families, five churches (four denominations) were involved as well as the groom's co-workers from a Christian organization.  We knew that seating would be at a premium, so we showed up on time....which turned out to be early!  The bride and groom were fashionably late. 

Our choir got new outfits for the occasion.  

There were three women's groups and the youth choir from the groom's church that also sang.  The moderateur (what is that in English?!) told the groups that had special numbers, "One song each and I mean one song only."  But it seemed like some just combined their songs without a breath so it sounded like one song. But I could be wrong! :)

The best man came in with the groom. The groom is on the right in the photo. 

Then the wedding party came in and the guys stood on one side of the aisle and the girls on the other.  Each of the guys then presented the girls with a white rose ( real roses like that here!).  

Then came in more bridesmaids dressed in white with blue hats. 

Behind them were the flower girls.  I think they were throwing confetti everywhere. Then the bride with her "adopted" father.  

And behind her were more bridesmaids in cream colored dresses.  As the bride was coming down the aisle they were spraying perfume and throwing confetti and some kind of cottony stuff.  In this picture you can see everybody ducking their heads to get away from it.

There was a message and then the exchanging of the vows.  I didn't take any pictures as I was not in a good position to do so.  As an aside, I just want to say that the three men across the aisle in the hats were quite entertaining. 

The bride and groom signed the marriage license, a Bible was presented to the bride and groom, there was more singing and then the wedding was over. It lasted 3.5 hours, if you start counting when the wedding was supposed to have started.  That's how long we were in the church, anyway.

Oh, I should tell you that before the bride and groom did their vows, the two representatives of the family are asked to stand up.  The pastor asks if the groom's family paid the full dowry and then the bride's family is asked if they received the full dowry.  The two who stand up are usually uncles, not direct parents.  (Only here, they are considered parents.....culture can be confusing, eh?)  

They had the reception outside.  

Nobody much paid attention to cutting the cake (which was beautifully made by one of our missionary colleagues and her cake-decorating team) or what was happening at the main table.  I guess we were too thirsty and hungry while we waited for our food and drink to come.  It was worth waiting for, anyway.  The bridesmaids and groomsmen served.  Can you see the two girls in white serving food in the picture below?

Today we drove north to visit a church.  

They did a lot in Songhai with both music and translating the message.  We had a good visit there.  The usher (probably also a deacon) brought us each a bottle of water and then later a box of juice.  We had brought water along, but it was nice to be able to save that for the trip home.

That was really thoughtful of him as the church was pretty warm as the sun beat down (it was 104 degrees today).  They had an extra section to the service with an offering and testimonies to thank God for the way He blessed in 2015, so the service was pretty long, but we enjoyed it.

We drove around town to have a look around because I hadn't been there since 1990!  Of course, I couldn't really remember what it looked like then, but it was interesting to see the town.  As we were driving out of town, our tire started making a funny noise.  We were sure it was flat, so we pulled down onto a dirt road running beside the paved road.  We couldn't see anything and the tire was definitely not flat.  I told John to go as fast as he could on that dirt road and to drive past me and I'd see if I could hear or see anything.  He did and I couldn't, so we got back on the paved road.  As soon as he started getting back up to speed, we heard it again.  So we were trying to figure out what it could be when a gendarme came up next to us on a motorcycle and signaled us to pull over.  He said something was definitely wrong with the tire.  So he and John started to change it, only he wouldn't let John do any of the work.  Then a second gendarme with a young lady came up on a motorcycle (I found out talking to her that she is also a gendarme, but was off duty so not in uniform).  The two guys changed the the blazing hot sun.  Remember, it was 104 in the shade.  When they pulled the tire off we discovered that the edge of the tire that was on the inside where we couldn't see was all shredded.  If we had kept going on that it would doubtless have blown, which could have resulted in big trouble for us!

Do you see what I mean about how sometimes God's hand of protection and care is so obvious?  He allowed a piece of the tire to come loose enough to flap around to make noise on the pavement to alert us to a problem.  He made sure we were still in town, not out in the middle of nowhere.  He protected us from allowing it to happen before we got on the open road going 100 km/hour.  AND just because He cares, He sent two gendarmes to change the tire for us.  When we offered them $1.00 each to go buy a cold Coke, they all refused.  And so we end a busy, but pretty routine week, thanking God for His protection and care and glad that we live in Niger where people, even of a religion not the same as ours, are so quick to offer help.  

Thursday, March 03, 2016

How my House REALLY Looks

It's time to link up with The Glorious Mundane for Outside the Frame.  This time we are showing our they REALLY look.  Now, I have to say, I don't have small children, and I don't like clutter, so you'll probably think it doesn't what you would see.

This is our living room.  We ran out of gas for our stove, so the bottle is in the living room near the door to remind me to take it with me next time I go shopping.  I also have a basket of clean folded laundry sitting in the living room waiting to be put away.  

The most horrifying thing in the entire house is the towel that covers the chair where the cat sleeps.  Ewww.  She has a habit of going outside and rolling in the dirt and then coming in the house.  So we do a pretty good job of confining her to one or two chairs that are covered with something that can be easily washed.  When we know guests are coming, we snatch it off the chair real quick.

Next is our dining room.  John is working on his doctorate and is at the stage where he really needs to be able to spread out his research, so parts of that are often on the dining room table.  I really don't mind as long as we still have a space to eat.  If you look closely you can see the dust on the table.  Around here, missionary moms don't tell their kids, "Get your elbows off the table", but "Stop writing your name in the dust on the table."

So, moving on to John's study.....he is so well organized, but he really does have lots of cards and papers everywhere.  I usually avoid the room just because I'm afraid that if I mess something up it will throw off the writing of his dissertation!  Honestly, the chaos of it all drives him crazy sometimes, too.

The kitchen today is fairly clean.  I did a big bunch of dishes and just left them in the basket.  Dinner is in the crock pot.

This is my desk. A bit cluttered, but not so bad that I can't work.  I've been known to have to clean up my work space before I can actually work.

And finally, our bedroom. We ALWAYS make our bed.  Our "rule" is that the last person up makes the bed.  Which works for me because that way I only have to make the bed on Saturday and Sunday. :) Sometimes the bed has folded laundry on it, but our bedroom is pretty tidy.  We don't have room in there for any activities other than being in bed, so it's not a dumping grounds.  By the way, those curtains aren't purple...I think it's the florescent lighting making them look that way in the center.

I didn't show you the bathrooms, both of which are also pretty tidy.  Or the store room.  It's just kind of boring.

If I showed up at your door right now, how would your house look?  Link up with Outside the Frame here or here to share your pictures!