Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's Kind of Like Swimming...

Mission work is no vacation. Just in my limited missions experience, I've gone for weeks without showers, traveled to foreign countries where no one speaks my language, lived with people I've never met before, eaten things I won't even mention here, not been able to call home for months, been tracked by the government, had my room ransacked by "maids" who turned out to be spies, had things that looked like they were from a science-fiction movie crawl out of my shower drain, and have had to speak in code, lest be deported. (Wow- at this point I sound so much cooler than I really am.)

But the thing I most dread about mission work is "support raising." This is pretty much a euphemism for begging in the name of God. To be sure, it is a necessary part of mission work, as we don't want to be a burden on those we are serving, but raising support is most definitely a humbling and challenging experience.

The first challenge is explaining to those around you how you know you are called to serve the Lord in a distant land. Why can't you just serve Him right here? We certainly have need in America. For a look at how the need compares, view East Africa Statistics or Cultural Disparity). Are you sure you aren't projecting your own desires onto something you term "God's Will?" If it were about my desires, we'd be talking about a beach in Hawaii, not a disease-ridden, snake-infested, poverty-stricken region. How do you know for sure you are called? Well, it follows Scripture, we have had many confirmations through people and events, and we have a sense of peace. Beyond that, how do really explain God's calling to another person? As far as I am concerned, it's kind of like swimming: you can read books, get advice, watch people swim, wonder about it, try it, but until you actually are able to do it, you don't know.

A second challenge is explaining to people we are not mentally insane, just obsessed with serving the Lord. Yes, we are aware of the recent political instability of the area. Honestly, I don't think it has ever been stable, and it won't be in the near future- so no time like the present, right?! Yes, there is disease, poverty, wild game, pickpockets, crime, pollution, bad sounds like some parts of Minneapolis to me.

The most challenging, and humbling, part of raising support isn't sending out hundreds of support letters or taking meeting after meeting with churches. Rather, it is adequately reaching another person's heart with the vision God has set in front of you. We have come up against roadblocks in the past, as with a couple who told Josh that they thought it was time he "did this on his own." Can you imagine if everyone had that attitude? There would be no missionaries, because it is completely unrealistic. Thankfully, many people are willing to support missionaries with either financial assistance or prayer, both vitally important to missions. Josh and I are passionate about the work we will be doing, as well as where and with whom we'll be working. As it wasn't even on our radar 1 year ago, we know it is from the Lord. We will do what it takes to be obedient- sacrifice our own plans, time, comfort...and even ask other people to catch the vision.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mukaa, Kenya

We have an assignment!!!!!!!!!! Yesterday morning we officially accepted an assignment in Mukaa, Kenya. This is a small village located about an hour from Nairobi. We will be at a children's home that houses around 90 orphaned, abandoned, or mistreated children, and is expanding. Josh will be able to do electrical and construction work, and I will be working with the kids. Additionally, we may be working in a recently-discovered village where little to no ministry has been done. We will be able to live on site, and there may be one other person coming to work with us. Right now, we don't know many details, but we will post them as we know them.

We also started a blog that will simply have our prayer lists. If you'd like to take a gander, visit

Friday, August 22, 2008

Possible Assignment

Today we got a call from AIM saying that they have found a possible assignment for us. It would mean a short turnaround time, so we would have to raise support quickly. But, if it is God's will, we are confident He will take care of it. So, right now, we need prayer. We are and will be praying over the weekend to see if God gives us peace about taking this assignment. We are excited to serve, we just want to be sure it's where HE sends us...

Monday, August 18, 2008

East Africa Statistics

Since I began this season of my life knowing very little about the region Josh and I are about to move to, and I am guessing my lack of knowledge isn't unusual, here are some of the many interesting facts I have discovered while researching East Africa:
  • East Africa is comprised of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Sometimes the Sudan and Madagascar are included in this region. [Clicking on any of the links will take you to that country's entry in the CIA World Factbook.]
  • East Africa tends to have particularly high concentrations of the "big five"- elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, and black rhinoceros
  • E.A. is home to Mounts Kilimanjaro (pictured at right) and Kenya (the two tallest peaks in Africa), Lake Victoria (the world's second-largest freshwater lake- Victoria Falls is pictured above), and Lake Tanganyika (the world's second-deepest lake).
  • Although E.A. is on the equator, the climate is rather temperate. Although different sources give varying answers, it seems as though the average minimum temperature is somewhere between 60-70 degrees, and the average maximum is somewhere around 85 degrees. It also tends to be very dry.
  • Political history is far to complex to relay here, but it is important to note "ownership" and political power have changed often, and political instability isn't unusual.
  • Some common agricultural crops are plantains, cassava (tapioca), sweet potatoes, millet, sorghum, corn, beans, groundnuts, coffee, coconuts, pineapples, cashews, cotton, tea, tobacco, and sugar. Farmers also raise cattle, sheep, and goats.
  • Other industries are fishing, forestry, plastics, cork, beer, and soft drinks.
  • Other exports: gold, electrical products, iron, steel, limestone, and salt.
  • Droughts cause severe power outages, and 12-hour blackouts are not uncommon.
  • Like the rest of Africa, AIDS continues to be an epidemic, with no cure in sight. The following is a note from the CIA factbook page for Uganda:
    • "Population:31,367,972 note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2008 est.)"
  • Risk of disease is very high- bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, chikungunya, malaria, plague, African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), schistosomiasis. I don't know what most of these are, but none of them sound good.
  • If you know any interesting facts about East Africa, please leave a comment!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cultural Disparity

Although we have not yet received our assignment (We are still waiting. Patiently :P), we do know some things about the area we will likely be serving in. There are snakes. Not garter snakes, but the snakes of your nightmares-Vipers, Cobras, and Pythons (yeah, can't wait). Ebola isn't some exotic disease- it kills your relative, your neighbor. There is no running water, no electricity, no air conditioning (it's on the equator), no antibiotics. AIDs orphan roam the streets, and 12-year-olds are heads of households because an entire generation has been decimated by the disease. Malaria, polio, and other diseases that have long been cured kill people, because they can't afford vaccines or medicine. Life expectancy is 49 years for men and 51 years for women, compared to 75 years for ment and 80 years for women here in the U.S. There are violent rebel groups, sex slavery, and child soldiers. People literally die every day from malnutrition.

It is a world Americans can scarcely comprehend. Even America's poorest citizens seem wealthy when compared to East Africa's average citizen. People here earn an average of approximately $900 per year- that's about $17/week, or $2.50/day. Could you live on that? Could you raise a family on that? Some of the most basic needs, like dental hygiene (and by that I mean toothbrush and toothpaste), are unheard of. If you make $17 a week, buying toothbrushes for your family of 5 most likely isn't your priority. A friend of mine began The Muunoo Smile Project to educate about and perform dental hygiene in Africa; it's a fascinating operation, and if you would like to know more, you can visit her website at

Our goal will be to live as much as possible as the native citizens.

This blog will hopefully serve not only to update our family, friends, and supporters on how our work is going, but also to illuminate the East African culture.

Happy Birthday

My husband missed my birthday (gasp!) Before you nominate him for the Worst Husband of the Year Award, let me explain- I encouraged him to. He was on an annual camping trip with 8 other guys (probably not helping him much yet...). I think all-guy time is important for men. They can talk freely about bodily functions, sports, life, manhood, fish, God, and get all the masculine behavior society has wrested from them out of their systems. I'm guessing there is also a lot of "bonding" that goes on just by being silent. He comes back refreshed, rejuvenated, and missing me more than ever (absence really does make the heart grow fonder).
But that's not the point. To make up for missing my birthday, he went above and beyond, and I just wanted to brag about him in public. He took me to a hotel (our room had a jacuzzi- bonus point for him) and out to eat. The fact that we are currently addicted to the Olympics (and chose to watch it for an hour) should in no way denigrate the thought and effort Josh put in to planning this celebration. While many husbands in this same situation would have said something akin to "Happy birthday, honey- have a cupcake," Josh went out of his way to make me feel special and important (just to reiterate- he's taken).
"Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men."
- Song of Solomon 2:3
Josh, here's to you. I am so blessed to share my life with you. Every time God's creation leaves me in awe, I want to share it with you. Just thinking about you now makes me smile. You are everything I'm not, and together we are so much stronger than we are as individuals. Even in difficult times, I am humbled and grateful that He has chosen to bring us together. I love you.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Although we are not yet certain of our assignment, there is plenty to learn about the organization we will be serving with- Africa Inland Missions ( When we began to look for organizations we could possibly serve with, we found many that met most of our criteria- committed to presenting the Gospel, service, love, compassion, cross-cultural understanding, etc. AIM set itself apart by an emphasis on serving others while preserving their dignity. If you would like to know more, please take the time to visit their website.

Incidentally, as I begin to unlock the many mysteries of the blogging world (bet some of you didn't even know it existed) (oh, yeah- me, neither), I've been adding elements to the page/site/home/whatever-you-call-it. As you can see, we now have prayer requests and a slide show of some pictures. (I think it makes this whole operation look more official ;)
[If you find the Sudan (large yellow country in East Africa), you can see the two countries we are most likely to be assigned to. Directly below the Sudan, in pink, lies Uganda. Just east of Uganda is Kenya, in orange.]

Friday, August 15, 2008

Humble Ramblings

Day 2 of my foray into blogging, and I have to say I am a smidgen proud of my self. Confession: I am technologically challenged. No, really. Sure, I can surf the net, photoshop (from my work in a photo studio), and I am addicted to email, but a blog?! Inwardly I feel like a computer geek- and I like it.

Since Josh and I continue to wait for our assignment, there is little yet to say about the details of our trip. I know there has been so much that God has done up to this point, even some things that I am aware of, but I think they'll just tumble out spontaneously amidst my humble ramblings. Besides, the life of a future missionary is filled with more than just missions; therefore, I implore to to humor me and I'll try not to bore you.

Last night I was blessed to be able to hang out with some of my favorite kids in the world. You have to understand that "babysitting" to me is really code for "get paid to play with kids who hug and cuddle and think you're amazing because you can fix their toy." We'll keep that between us, though, or I'll have to start getting real jobs. I have nannied all through my college career, and after my second family moved away this spring, I was without a position for the first time in 4 years. I love, relish, cherish times like last night. Josh and I had 12 kids in our wedding party- yep, you read that right. In spite of the fact that we both have huge families, we weren't related to a single one. They were simply children who have leeched on to our hearts to the extent that if they weren't an integral part of our wedding, it just wouldn't be right.

We have been praying since the first day we really felt called to Africa that we will be able to leave the kids at the end. I would adopt them all, but having several million children would be frowned upon, and how could I choose between them? To be perfectly honest, I don't really understand my deep love of children. I am passionate about caring for and serving them, but it doesn't seem logical.

Take, for example, the Lovewells. There children are Sweetpea (age 7), Buddy (age 4 1/2) and Little One (7 months). I have babysat the kids since Sweetpea was 2 and Buddy was 6 months. In that time I have changed countless diapers, been puked on at least once by all of the kids, given time-outs, dealt with screaming, crying, and bickering, and have often driven 3 hours round trip just to see this family. But it's all worth it- slobbery kisses, hand-colored projects, "I love you," our overnight parties, bedtime stories, and seeing (and hearing) their excitement when walking through the front door are priceless.

Sometimes I fear becoming a mother someday. Don't get me wrong: I believe parenthood is the highest calling, and I can't wait to have kids. But sometimes I wonder, since I love these kids so much, and think they're brilliant, talented, beautiful, polite, kind, and fabulous, how will my children ever measure up? How can I possibly love other children as much as these? Their parents are so kind, always saying how my husband and I are godsends and like family (which I of course love to hear :)). What they really don't understand is what a blessing they've all been to us. When I was at my first college, it was one of the most stressful and depressing times of my life. Then, out of the blue, God brought us together. Every week, I would drive home just to see them. I found peace and comfort in their presence (not to mention in my marathon talks with their mom), only to realize children bring me closer into God's presence.

When Josh and I move to Africa, I anticipate a great sense of grief from being away from family and friends. The longest I have ever been away from home is 3 months, and I would be perfectly satisfied with that. However, I know even now that the people I will miss the most are "my kids." They grow so fast; after a year Sweetpea will have written a book, Princess will be in post-secondary education, Buddy will be training for the Olympics, and Little One will run the UN (maybe she can whip it into shape). I guess my greatest fear, deep down, is that they will forget me. I pray the love I've shown them will sustain itself until we return, because they are indelibly imprinted on my heart

I Know Nothing

I guess you could say it all started with the quarter-life crisis now so ubiquitous on college campuses- "I've gotten this far, ready to take the world by storm, but precisely how do I fit into God's plan?" I went into college thinking I would graduate from the same school I started at in four years, go on to medical school, and not so much as date until I was officially an M.D. Instead, I transferred schools (which meant graduating in five years), switched majors twice, am planning on graduate school for psychology, and was married before my senior year of college.

Check out the lantern in this picture, one of the hundreds donated by the class of 1958. Every member of the class of 2008 received one, and we all lit them simultaneously- so cool!

Incidentally, I would like to state for the record that those requisite graduation caps do nobody any favors. It seems like a ploy in which school administrations have one last chance to manipulate students into doing something ridiculous- "They look like fools, and they paid for it- mwa ha ha ha (maniacal laugh)".

The Call

Frankly, I think it's preposterous that one is expected to decide one's entire future by the age of 22. Many 22-year-olds I know shouldn't be allowed to decide what to do with a weekend, let alone a lifetime. After much time spent in prayer, I felt I should apply to graduate school. I waded through the dense web of standardized tests, transcripts, references, and essays. I did the interviews. I waited, worried, and prayed. But before I had so much as heard from many of the schools, God made it clear this was not His timing. I was less than thrilled to make this discovery.

It started out with a speaker to our church in the cities who was also the founder of a missions organization. As soon as I read the snippet about the message in the bulletin, my anxiety skyrocketed. For several years, I knew God would eventually call me to Africa to work with children; it was always on the back burner, an adventure always set in the distant future. I really hoped God wasn't going to mess up my plans...I know it sounds ridiculous, but you know you've thought it, too.

He started to talk about his background. Although he knew our pastor from time in Arizona, he actually grew up within an hour of our hometown. His first "real" missions experience was taking Bibles into China and serving there (as was mine), and his daughter was finishing up her doctorate in Psychology (my eventual academic goal). These, among many other similarities, forced both Josh and I to take notice. Long story short, we told him we would keep in touch about serving with his organization in the distant future. Later, I came to find out that my parents also knew him from working with him in the 1980's- it was a little surreal.

When Josh and I both came to realize God's plan was for us to serve in Africa much sooner than ours, we asked for confirmation. We prayed with our pastor's wife, who felt the Holy Spirit lead her to ask for not one, but three, confirmations. This was at the beginning of our church service, and by the time we left, we had all three.

Since then we decided to switch organizations, moved out of our apartment, put most of our worldly possessions in storage, and are preparing to leave behind everything we know. This is in large part based on faith. We have no details about an official assignment (who, what, when, where), we haven't been able to raise support yet, and we aren't really even sure how long we are going for (most likely somewhere around one year). For the hyper-organized, compulsively scheduled control-freak that I am, this just doesn't sit well. I thrive on details, and right now, I pretty much know nothing.

What I do know is this: when God asks me if I am willing to go, I will say yes. I am perfectly aware of the rebels, of AIDS, of poverty, of living situations; we are called to look beyond that, above it. As a missionary I recently met said, the most dangerous place to be is anywhere but in God's will. I know that there are people who need the love of Christ, and the assurance and peace of the message of the Gospel. As I said to Princess (the little girl my family has taken care of on the weekends for the last 5 years), we are going to help and take care of kids who have no mommies and daddies.

We won't forget the ones we love here; we will learn to love better by God breaking our hearts for the lost and underprivileged. Finally, I know that, although Africa can be a dangerous place, I would rather go, serve, and die there, than spend the rest of my life knowing I was disobedient, that I had given up the opportunity to be used to change even one life in the name of Christ.