Monday, December 21, 2009

What I Did on My Thanksgiving Vacation, Part 6

On Saturday, we visited a snake park. It was interesting and educational, but there was always a part of me just waiting for one to jump out at me. They even have a Black Mamba, one of the deadliest snakes in the world (yay!). It was creepy. But, you know, I am up for trying almost anything once.

One of my favorite parts was the sign that said “We only have 3 Puff Adders, and they are very important to us. Please watch your step.” We found out later they only have 2, but they like to see people’s reactions. Hee hee : )

This is a type of poisonous tree snake. It was behind glass (they all were), but it freaked me out because it seemed like its eyes followed you all over the room.

Don’t look at this next one if you are squeamish. It is a _______ snake (no idea what the name is- I was distracted), feeding on a rat. I am no fan of rats, but I even felt a little bad for it. The snake kills its prey by squeezing it to death. I have video, but I think it’s too graphic for this blog. By the way, he swallowed it whole. Yum.

This is a black Mamba, eating a rat. Sorry for the reflection, but I didn’t trust the glass enough to be any closer. I think he looks evil. These guys are super-scary and hyper-aggressive. Sometimes people say they can fly, because they will jump from tree to tree to chase after you. My goal is to never encounter one in real life, because I think I would just wet my pants.

This is a Boomslang (or something like that). It is a poisonous tree snake, but I think its coloring is rather beautiful. Can’t say that for most of these specimens.

The highlight? We held a boa constrictor. For real. And of course I caught it on film, because I need to have visual proof to show people. It actually wasn’t that bad, but once is probably enough for me.  I am smiling on the outside, but the camera caught how I really felt for a second:



My husband, the snake handler:

I think I am really more a giraffe and zebra kind of girl.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What I Did on My Thanksgiving Vacation, Part 5

When the place that you live in is so hot it melts candle wax (yes, our taper candle is now laying perpendicular to its holder (formerly a tuna can), beaches become…beautiful havens of God’s grace. Swakopmund is about the only place to escape the heat here, and even just looking at these pictures brings relief.

Swakop is the only place that I have seen overcast or cloudy in Namibia. I love the sunshine, but even I enjoy a break every once in a while.

On Friday night, Josh and I did some exploring at the beach. I have discovered a new love for tide pools- they are so cool! I love finding the little surprises in each one.

This sunset was particularly stunning, and I felt privileged just to witness it. This is all God, completely unedited.

I love how He sends us reminders of how amazing and powerful He is. I am so quick to forget.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What I Did on My Thanksgiving Vacation, Part 4

Did you know that Namibia has flamingoes? I really had no idea, but after we were done on the sand dunes, we were half way to Walvis Bay, where they congregate, so we took a little drive and a few photos.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What I Did on My Thanksgiving Vacation, Part 3

While we were getting ready to come to Africa, we spent a lot of time in prayer- A LOT. We thought and prayed about our service, the meaning of sacrifice, our team, our families and friends we were temporarily leaving behind, our marriage…it would impact every facet of our lives. It was very intense, and very serious, and very necessary, as it prepared us for what we would need to do here. In addition, we took a bit of time to think of some fun goals we had for our time here, things we wanted to learn or experience in another culture. My three were to see a giraffe, try African drumming, and go sand surfing (called sand boarding here). Check, check, check. Sort of.

On Friday of our Swakop adventure, we went sand boarding on one of the dunes found outside town. It’s so amazing- you are standing on a mountain of tiny grains, and yet you don’t sink in (I just can’t comprehend that!) You can see the Atlantic ocean literally across the road from the dune.

As we got there, we saw some parachutes landing (look closely)

Although Josh, Kitty, and I knew we wanted to sandboard, we thought we would need to go with a tour company (which is a bit expensive). While in a store on Thursday, we saw they were selling kits for sand boarding for really cheap, which meant we could avoid tour fees. We bought one kit, and split it three ways, so that was perfect. The only problem is that you have to use these sitting down, because you have to lift the front of the board up as you go. That’s probably okay though, as sand boarding while standing up is a lot more dangerous than snowboarding (have you ever heard of snow burn?  I didn't think so).

Here is a picture of Josh’s first attempt…



…and the resulting battle wound:

In spite of the hazards, there was a line of people ready to give it a try. What can I say? We live in Africa; we have adventurous spirits : ) Love these people!

Since the hardest part of the whole undertaking was walking back up the dunes, Jessa and I decided to take rides together, 2 for the effort of 1. Oh yeah, and it was REALLY windy.


Making memories with my best friend.

Love this

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What I Did on My Thanksgiving Vacation, Part 2

Africa is just…so different. I am pretty sure I can’t even describe it to someone who has never been here. Everything is bigger, and with less pretense. It is very raw; it can be beautiful, painful, challenging, and incredible all at once.
But without a doubt, Africa’s visual crowning glory is her sunsets. They are so…without description. Film doesn’t even do them justice. At the end of the day, they are the reward for withstanding another arid, brutally hot day.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What I Did on My Thanksgiving Vacation, Part 1

You know how teachers always want you to write “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” on the first day of school? I thought, being that it’s actually summer here, I would tell you about what we did on our Thanksgiving vacation (although they say “holiday” here). To say the least, it was unorthodox.

On Tuesday that week, we arrived to stay with some friends in Arandis. Our travel plans were a bit complicated, because the national presidential elections were taking place on Friday and Saturday. It had the potential to be a challenging situation, so our unit director did not want us traveling for a few days before or after. In the end, praise God, everything was fine.

Our first “main event” was traveling to Swakopmund (about half an hour away) to stay in the Finnish Guesthouse, a really cheap, nice place that gives discounts to missionaries (YAY!!!). Together, under Karrie’s leadership, everyone was able to prepare a dinner very closely resembling those from home. Our one downfall? Cranberries- there didn’t seem to be even one in Namibia. Shame. Here are a few pics from our day:

The beautiful turkey. I have know idea where they found it, as it is not common here.

Josh carving the turkey. He did a terrific job.

A candid, timed shot of our dinner. Other friends came over from Arandis for the meal itself, and it was a full house.

Traditional? No. But, we were still able to celebrate God’s graciousness, even from a continent away. He is good, all the time.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Public Service Announcement

A while back, I wasn’t feeling right. I didn’t feel sick, per se, but just…off. I attributed it to the heat, and left it at that.

Then one night, I couldn’t sleep at all. Not a wink. I felt very dizzy, almost as if I had vertigo. We decided I must be really dehydrated. We looked it up and, sure enough, insomnia can be a symptom of dehydration. The fact that we live in the desert supported our conclusion.

I made a concerted effort to drink more. A lot more. I had my water bottle with me everywhere I went. It worked for a few days, and then I felt sick again.

Being that doctor’s visits are costly, Josh convinced me to get a scan that we had seen advertised. Although I was less than convinced of its accuracy (and still am), I agreed. We trekked to Windhoek, only to find it looked like there were no clear answers.

It wasn’t until we were almost ready to go that the technician asked why I had answered that I drink 15 or so glasses of water per day. (Umm, hello? This is Namibia). I told her it was to stay hydrated. She looked at my chart again, and said that was the problem. Apparently, you can be too hydrated (hyper-hydrated?), and all the minerals in food are washed right out of your system. I just needed to take a second multi-vitamin each day.

Easy answer? I am so not used to those! I got over that really fast though.

Consider yourself warned ;)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What's Your Score?

Recently, I wrote a curriculum to use with foster parents. The subject was stress, and I included a little test that I had taken in college. It’s certainly not comprehensive, but it gives you an idea of where you are at. Try it yourself; for each life change that has happened in your life in the past year, circle the number to the left. If you aren’t sure if it applies, use your best judgment. When finished, go back and add up the numbers.

100 Death of spouse
73 Divorce
65 Marital separation
63 Jail
63 Death of a close family member
53 Major injury or illness
50 Marriage
47 Fired from work
45 Marital reconciliation
45 Retirement
44 Major change in health or behavior of a family member
40 Pregnancy
39 Sexual difficulties
39 New family member (birth, adoption, someone moving in)
39 Major business readjustment (reorganization, bancruptcy, etc)
38 Major change in financial status
37 Death of a close friend or more distant family member
36 Change to a different line of work
35 Major change in number of arguments with spouse
31 Taking out a mortgage or loan for a major purpose
30 Forclosure of mortgage or loan
29 Major change in responsibilities at work (promotion, demotion, transfer)
29 Son or daughter leaving home (marriage, attending college)
29 Trouble with in-laws
28 Outstanding personal achievement
26 Spouse starting or ending work
26 Starting or ending schooling (long-term)
25 Major change in living conditions (moving, remodeling, building new home)
24 Change in personal habits (dressing, manners)
23 Trouble with your boss
20 Major change in working hours or conditions
20 Change of residence (new town, new state)
20 Change in schools
19 Major change in usual type or amount of recreation
19 Major change in church activities (a lot more or less than usual)
18 Major change in social activities (a lot more or less than usual)
17 Taking out a loan for a smaller purchase (such as car, TV, freezer)
16 Major change in sleeping habits (a lot more or less than usual, change in
part of day when you sleep)
15 Major change in family get-togethers (a lot more or less than usual)
15 Major change in eating habits (a lot more or less than usual, different meal
hours or surroundings)
13 Vacation
12 Christmas/holiday season
11 Minor violations of the law (traffic tickets)

Do you have your score?

Below 150-Low stress: Only 30% of people with scores below 150 will probably encounter a significant health problem soon.
151-299 Moderate stress: 50% of people with scores between 150-300 will probably encounter a significant health problem soon.
Above 300 High stress: 80% of people with scores above 300 will probably encounter a significant health problem soon.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that if you have high stress you will get sick. To me, it is just a heads up that you have to be careful, and remember to do lots of things that relieve stress.

I scored 591. So, that’s relatively high. Quite frankly, that only includes one of our 4 moves this year, but that is not the point. [I don't say this to be one of those people who always takes pride about how busy they are. Do you notice how that has become part of American culture? It's like if you aren't overcommitted, you aren't doing anything. Ugh.] What I take away from this is not that I am on my deathbed or something, quite the contrary. I know that God is protecting us. I know that He is faithful, and that gives me so much peace.

At times, I have felt like a hypocrite when teaching about stress. I have a lot of answers and suggestions, but I fail to use them myself. I am working on it. There is a good chance that I will have a moderate to high amount of stress for most of my life, so I am learning to manage it.

The other helpful thing? It’s nice to know you’re not crazy. From now on, when I feel the stress is overwhelming me, I think I might just say “591” over and over. It’s like permission to feel overwhelmed, to just accept it. Stress is a part of life, and that’s okay.

Monday, December 7, 2009

‘Tis the Season, Part II

I am a traditionalist. I like repetition, continuity, knowing what to expect. I won’t have that this year. But the reality is that, even if Namibians celebrated Christmas exactly as we do at home, it wouldn’t be the same. But draw back, look at the big picture. It is not the traditions alone that are special, it is time spent with family and friends that makes the holiday season fun and exciting. Most people stop there, with reminding themselves that Christmas is not about gifts and decorations and parties, and that people are more important. That’s a step in the right direction, just not far enough. Even time spent with loved ones can distract us from the real reason for our celebration.
I know you know the story, but we can never hear it enough. The Son of God humbled Himself to become a part of our world. He was born a tiny baby, precious, helpless, and dependent. He lived life on earth, knew humanity, our struggles, joys, and pain. Jesus Christ became a servant to others. He saw firsthand how sinful and flawed we are, but He still chose to die for us. He chose; nobody forced Him, He did it out of love greater than we can imagine. He took our punishment, in order that we might be saved from our consequences and be able to have an eternal relationship with Him. He would have done it for any one of us.

It all started with a baby, born on this day.

If someone who didn’t know what Christmas was looked at your life during the holidays- how you spend your time, what you say, your behavior- what would they see? I am ashamed to say that I am usually stressed about buying the right gifts and fitting the celebrations into our schedule and food and decorations… I could go on. I get so caught up in celebrating Christ’s birth that I forget I am to reflect Him.
Being away from home for the holidays is so hard. I miss my family and friends more, and I know they miss us. It is not lost on us that we are blessed to be able to say that; many people can’t. But, being away from everything we are accustomed to has challenged me (Josh, too, but I won’t speak for him here). I want to celebrate Jesus without being distracted by things that really aren’t important. I want to be a light, to reflect Him to others. I want to laugh and cry with joy and praise for a Creator that loves me so much that He saved me from my sins. On Christmas, our Savior was born, and that’s more than enough to celebrate.

Friday, December 4, 2009

'Tis the Season, Part I

As I may have mentioned before, one of the [many] missionary mottos is “It’s not bad, it’s just different.” Sometimes this phrase goes through my head a dozen or more times per day. It reminds me to stop being egocentric and ethnocentric. It reminds me there is often more than one right answer.
Lately I have had the opportunity to think this phrase even more than usual. Why? Christmas. It is completely and totally different here. Obviously, there is the weather to consider. It is difficult to feel in the “holiday spirit” when it’s at least 100 degrees outside. We work up a sweat doing nothing. I have little desire for hot cider and candles and Christmas lights; it seems somehow counterintuitive. Of course, to those around us, this is completely normal.
At the end of October, Josh and I went geocaching with a friend in Windhoek. It was so hot that we had to stop every once in a while to sit in the shade [Random fact: When there is not 100% humidity, there is a difference in temperature between sunlight and shade. Somebody should let Minnesota know.]. We went into a store to get some water, and the employees were wearing velvet Santa hats. I could barely stand having my own hair on my head.
We haven’t seen decorations on any homes, but towns do put up shaped lights on light poles. However, when we were recently in Swakopmund, the shapes included seashells, starfish, seals, and a surfer. That just doesn’t say “festive yuletide spirit” to me. Stores have silver, red, and gold garland, and we even saw hanging snowflakes in the local grocery store (ironic since it never snows here). Additionally, it’s interesting to note that “Christmas trees” here are all artificial pine trees, which is interesting since they don’t grow here.

Check back soon for a post on how these differences have made me view this season differently.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Better than the Zoo

If you can withstand my lack of cinematic skill, please take a few seconds to check out this video. No, literally- a few seconds. This is blink-and-you-miss-it, people.
video

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wildlife

Every once in a while, someone asks us what animals we've seen, and until recently, that included only baboons, warthogs, reptiles, and insects. But, a couple of weeks ago we decided to go hiking at Oanob Dam, and saw more of the wildlife that Africa is famous for. Oanob Dam is located something like 7km from our house, but it was only the second time we had been there. The dam is super-important to us, as it is the reason we are able to drink the water here. If I am not mistaken, we have one of only 2 or 3 dams in Namibia, and we praise God for the blessing of clean water!

Our first close-up, real-life view of a giraffe! The a beautiful, giant, and majestic...

Zebra: there were probably 12-15 of these guys about 20 yards from where we were standing. We just walked right up, and they didn't seem to mind at all.

There were actually 5 in the same area at 1 time, but because of their size I could only get 4 in the frame.

How many giraffes do you see in this picture? Scroll down for answer...

If you said 4, you're right!

Check back tomorrow for a short, but super-cool, video.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This week I want to share some of the many pictures I have taken recently, and the stories that go along with them. Here’s a start, with some photos from the preschool: Here's a look at how the kids and I spend much of our time at the preschool- tickling and teasing Josh. And don't think for one second that he doesn't love every minute of it :) We don't usually know what the kids are saying, because they speak Khoekhoe (the Nama language), but these girls remind me of the old ladies that sit at the salon, reading magazines and sharing the local gossip news. Among his many talents, Joshua is also an excellent jungle gym, which is helpful and popular when the school has no equipment. Yep, this is how we stay in shape. The kids grow, so you just naturally lift more weight over time. I think personal trainers would approve. Some of the kids and us, photographed by our lovely and talented teammate, Kitty.
videoI thought I would leave you with a short clip of chase ("tag"), which in this situation just means "run around after Josh." Yeah, preschool here is a little different.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Little Voices Raised in Song

This is from way back when we did our clown ministry tour. After our performance, these kids wanted to sing to us as a thank you. SO precious.
video

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quench Our Thirst

Lord, I want more of you
Living water rain down on me
Lord I need more of you
Living Breath of Life, come fill me up

Sometimes my soul feels as parched here as the Kalahari. We both feel it; it’s as if there is some sort of screen between us and God. But, we pray and hope and wait, because we know God will never leave us. Sometimes, it is only this knowledge that gets us through the day. I often feel spiritually flat, despite far more time spent with God than ever before.

However, I am not the least bit surprised. We are in a battle of the most important kind.

God, we need your help, guidance, strength, wisdom, and leadership.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Word Picture of Rehoboth

If I were an artist, I would paint you a picture to show you this place. But, knowing my painting abilities, it would just be a lot of brown (which actually isn't that far off). Instead, I thought I'd write you a word picture of Rehoboth. Please click on the links of the words you don't know to find more information.

Africa Time. Afrikaans. Alcohol. Aloe. Alone. Animosity. Apartheid. B1 Highway. Barbed Wire. Bars on the Windows. Basters. Battle. Bible Study. Bitterness. Block E. Braai. Bottle Stores. Broken Glass. Bricks. Brown. Builders. Cactus. Chickens. Children. China Shop. Church. Clothesline. Coloured. Combis. Desert. Dignity. Dirt. Discipleship. Disparity. Dogs. Dry. Dusty. Elections. Elevation. Friendly. Gravel. Grime. Grit. Growth. HIV/AIDS. Harsh. Hope’s Promise. Hiking. Hostels. Hot. Hunger. Hurt. Interested. Lost. Loud. Love. Meat. Mountains. Music. Nama. Namibia. Neglect. Oanob Dam. Outreach. Pain. Potjiekos. Poverty. Prayer walks. Preschool. Proud. Racism. Rehobothan. Relationships. Religion. Sand. School. Spar. Struggle. Sunburn. Sunshine. Talent. Temporary Home. Tin Roofs. Tin Shacks. Violence. Walking. Wind. Youth.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Random Thoughts That Float Around In My Brain

So I hope you take the descriptor “random” literally…just wait- these are the observations I have made so far. There are few people who think like this, and if you’re one of them, you should call me up. Maybe we can get a support group or group counseling going or something...

***You know how it’s a big deal in the U.S. to speak a second language? Here you’d be considered a slacker. Because of there being so many tribal languages in a close vicinity, it is not unusual for people to know 5 or 6 languages, and not unheard of to know 9 or 10.

***We have no heating or air conditioning.

***The other day, I was at a local store something like a very small Pamida, and I was looking at a pair of jeans. I realized the button said “Abercrombie.” Thinking this curious, I looked at the label, and sure enough, the store had just slapped their store sticker on the label, and there was an Abercrombie tag. Now, they were selling these for about the equivalent of four dollars (on sale). They were originally about eight. Even though they didn’t have my size, I was tempted…

***There are these obnoxious little thorns everywhere. Teeny-tiny. And everywhere. Walking home from the church one day, I started getting a pain in my lower back, and I didn’t know what it was. Somehow, and I have no idea how, one was lodged in the waistband of my underwear. Like I said, they’re everywhere.

***It is really common for families to be spread out age-wise. For example, the difference between the oldest and youngest child in a family may be such that an aunt and her niece are in the same class at school.

***If you want to stimulate motivation to read Scripture, buy a brand new Bible. It has given me a renewed fervor to examine passages, to highlight, to write notes. Not being able to rely on what I have highlighted or written before has challenged me in new ways.

***Jelly shoes and American music are ubiquitous here. Of course, the music is usually somewhere between 10 and 20 years behind. The other day, we went into a drug store and everyone and their brother was singing along to “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

***The phrase heard everywhere is “Ai Mon” (or something like that). It sounds like “eye mon” (rhyming with don or con). This is what people here say when they are frustrated, like when we would say “shoot” or something similar.

***Josh likes to keep several books going at once, so that he can choose his reading material based on his moods. He will mention how great a book is, and I might begin reading it simultaneously (which works fine since we usually read at different times of the day. Since I can’t stand bookmarks, and since he despises when I dog-ear the pages, I came up with a solution- paper clips- they don’t fall out, they don’t bend, and they don’t get in the way.

***When they write the date here, it’s day first, month second, year third. For example, October 4 is 4/10/09. This can be very confusing. Also, when quoting numbers, the period and comma are switched (ex. Four-thousand three-hundred four dollars and twenty-three cents looks like 4.304,23. Again, rather confusing.)

***The phones here are wonderful. Not that they are cheap, or their reception is any good, or any of the typical concerns. Rather, they have flashlights on them! And screensavers! And you can compose your own ringtones (my personal fave)! Josh is enamored.

***When we first got to London, we were walking the escalator to the Underground (yes, the double-high escalator was out of service), and I kept thinking how rude British people were! Here we are, trying to politely bear right in a crowded venue, when at least half the people don’t seem to care at all. Then it dawns on me: since they drive on the left side, they also bear left while passing each other. Oh my word, I felt like the biggest imbecile on the planet. Makes Matthew 7:3 all the more pertinent, huh? I am just glad I did this in London, because nobody there knows me.

***Interesting trend/habit/cultural tradition (I am not really sure which)- it is common to see women and girls in public with their hair in bright orange or green rollers. Like, really common. Not sure why.

***Another hair trend: braids (I know you’re shocked). Most people don’t go to a salon, they just braid each other’s hair (even little kids know how). The interesting part stems from the fact that people usually add extensions into the braids to give them length, and they sell them everywhere! No joke, I saw them at the grocery store!

***Namibia has year-round school. The school year follows the calendar year. Students are supposed to go until at least grade 10, and then if they meet certain qualifications they may complete grades 11 and 12. They call grade 12 “matriculation,” and have a big party (like prom) in the middle of the year. Although school is public, there is a yearly fee that must be paid for every child to attend school. Computer and physical education classes cost extra. There is no “kindergarten” school level.

***Women carry everything on their heads here. I’ve seen mothers with a basket on their head, a baby on their back, a child on one hip, and holding another child’s hand on the other side. That is talent. Josh and I watched a movie once in which a girl was learning to balance a book on her head. The next day, we saw a woman walking down the street carrying this very large, oddly-shaped vase on top of her head. No contest.

***In the U.S. (in spite of all the skin cancer research) most people enjoy having a tan. Many people pay big money to at least fake having one. In contrast, people here (who have much darker skin) tend to walk everywhere with an umbrella to protect them from the sun. I guess they had to find something to do with umbrellas, since it hardly ever rains…

***People go all-out for 21st birthday parties here (sort of like a quincinera in Latin culture). For those who can afford it, large parties are thrown, and all the attendees dress up and toast the honoree. Kids in the youth group keep asking what I did for my 21st birthday, and are often disappointed when they find out I ate dinner with my family and had French Silk pie.

***The other day, we were in Windhoek and I saw a vintage aqua-colored VW Bug. It made my day.

***The sun here is far more intense than at home. Even when it is not super hot out, you can still feel immense heat in direct sunlight. The sun is also far brighter; Josh and I can’t step outside without sunglasses. The ironic part? Locals NEVER wear sunglasses here!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire

Anytime one is willing to take something on in the name of Jesus, satan seems to turn up the heat on attacks. It’s almost as if we are not doing our part if we are not being attacked.

“Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God Himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him.” -Philippians 1:28-29
We expected this, but at times he has been…creative, deceptive, manipulative, devious, conniving, underhanded, and all the other things he is used to being. While we aren‘t surprised, it is nonetheless difficult to stand guard against. As the father of lies, he’s had some practice, and he is very convincing.

“He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. “ -John 8:44
Lately, he seems to have a special favor for attacking us through books (seriously- like to the extent we burned one of them). He has even been trying to distort Scripture lately- we didn’t see that coming. We are constantly playing defense against his attacks. He has attacked us in so many ways we never even considered, and it will never stop, because we won’t stop being a threat.

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad- for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to the world.”- 1 Peter 4:12-13
I am going to just trust Paul that this is a good thing in the long run, because it is not really a favorable condition. “Don’t be surprised?” Okay. “Be very glad?” Still working on that. And I probably will be for the rest of my life.

We need prayer for protection from the enemy, for discernment, and for courage. I will be honest and say it can be terrifying. We are in a battle, but we are guaranteed victory in Jesus Christ.

"Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen!” -2 Timothy 4:18
Please do battle with us.

“This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.” -1 Timothy 4:10

Monday, November 9, 2009

Go

Most people are not called to foreign missions, but all followers of Christ are called to be missionaries.

“Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am, send me.”- Isaiah 6:8

Go where? Send me where? How about to a school, park, hospital, or prison? Maybe down the street to your neighbor’s house. Your first step might be to reach out to your own family. Tell your child he can take a break from the video games, and spend time with him! Missions, or sharing the Gospel, begins with modeling love in relationships. We have all been sent to where we are right now.

Do you know that other countries are sending their own citizens to do missions in the United States? In fact, just the other day we went to a church in which one of the young ladies had done some mission word somewhere in the Southeastern U.S.

Matthew 28:19 says, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

I am pretty sure that includes our own.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A New Meaning for Transparent

A lot of believers talk about "being transparent." For those of you who don't know, the term basically means being honest and real, and not holding back parts of yourself in order to present a certain image. Which is fine and good, don't get me wrong.

But I want something different, something more. I want to be so invisible, so transparent, that people can see God's love.

I am sick of them seeing me. I am empty, just a vessel through which the Holy Spirit can work.

But I don't want to be a vessel, I want to be a tunnel. Think of looking through a tunnel; you don't focus on the tunnel itself, but rather the shape of the tunnel directs your vision to the end of the tunnel.

Oh, how I desperately want to direct them to Christ.

Unfortunately, I am afraid I get in the way of that view sometimes. I have my own ideas, which is so preposterous because it's not like I'm going to improve on what God has planned. I am human, I am what is right in front of them.

God, I need your guidance. Show me how to move to the side, so I can still touch them, but not block their view of you. Show me how to do this not in theory but in reality.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Heaven

I’ve got 2 questions for you:

1. Would you want to be in heaven if Jesus wasn’t there?
2. “Even if there were no Heaven and no hell, would you still follow Jesus? Would you follow Him for the life, joy, and fulfillment he gives you right now?” -Tony Campolo

For some reason, people think that when you become a missionary you are bestowed with great theological knowledge (I have no idea why). All this does is reinforce how little you know, because they seem to always be asking you questions you don’t know the answers to (the best strategy I’ve found is to have people who are theologians on your email list).

I don’t really know that much about heaven. I don’t think anyone really does; it’s mostly speculation. We know what the Bible says, but it leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

We get a lot of questions about heaven. Why? I think it has to do with the fact that most people, when sharing why someone should become a follower of Christ, use heaven as the main selling point. Don’t get me wrong, heaven is definitely a benefit of salvation. Even though I am not sure on the details, we know it is good because the Bible, the very Word of God, says so. However, there is so much more to being a Christian. That kind of attitude disregards the fact that God can honor and glorify Himself through our life here on earth.

I have learned a bit about heaven here. When you witness to someone, it is vital to be culturally sensitive, not only to avoid offending someone, but also to draw on their frame of reference. For example, it has been brought to our attention that most kids here don’t even know what gold and pearls are, so to talk about streets of gold and pearly gates doesn’t have the same effect as in the States. I have had to rethink how I can explain the concept, and have had to expand and define my view of what heaven is.

What I am certain of is this: heaven is wherever God is. The relationship and communion we will have with Him is what makes it heaven, not what materials it is constructed from. There is no sin to separate us from God. There are colors and sounds and flavors and smells that our senses have never experienced. I am certain I want to go there, in part because the alternative is the agony of eternal separation from God. I am certain I want no one to experience that. I am certain I don’t want to waste God’s gift of salvation on myself, but to share the opportunity with others. Paul said it better than I ever could:

"For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live." -Philippians 1:20-24

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Eternity

I think that, in order to truly understand our relationship with God and our place in His plan for the universe, we need to try to understand eternity. I actually believe it’s impossible to truly wrap one’s mind around it, but we can try to understand it to the best of our limited human ability.

“For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours.”- Psalm 90:4
What does time look like to God? God is not bound by the confines of time, and yet things often happen in a very delicate and specific order. And, of course, God created time, so He has at least some sort of relationship to it. If He’s not bound by time, why did He want us to be? Maybe it’s so that we can have at least some sort of structure to grasp hold of. We know God is omnipresent (or everywhere); is He at multiple times at once?

Just thinking about all this makes my head hurt.

I once heard eternity described like this: If God had a dove bring Him one grain of sand from earth every 1,000 years, when all the sand was gone the time would just be the beginning of eternity.

Now, imagine that as separation from or communion with God. It gives a whole new weight to the question of salvation.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sojourner

Think of the longest time you’ve ever been away from home (with no visits). How did you feel? We are going on 8 months, and although we love it here, there have definitely been challenges. I know some people thrive on change and new environments; I’m just not one of them.

God has been merciful and protected us from major attacks, but there have definitely been bouts of homesickness. I want to stay up late talking with my mom, to hug my dad, to hang out with our siblings and friends. I want to sit on the corn burner and talk wrestling with Josh’s dad, and sewing with his mom. I miss hugs and blown kisses from “our” kids. I miss having a car, and having our friends over, speaking the local language, and being able to understand everything that’s said around me. I miss the familiar, the comfortable- people, church, food, environment, culture, weather, money, communication. I miss the security of “home.” No matter how much I grow to love Rehoboth and its people (which is already a lot), there will always be something missing.

One day I was talking with God about homesickness, and asking Him to keep it from interfering with our ministry, when it hit me: this feeling was not new, just intensified. A part of me has felt it my whole life.

I am homesick for heaven.

I don’t claim to know that much about heaven- the Bible leaves a lot of room for interpretation and discussion- but I do know this: it is our true home, one of complete fellowship, communion, and companionship with God. Yes, we can have this to an extent while on this earth, but this will be so much more, and for all eternity. No matter how much I love people around me and life on earth, there will always be something missing.

With this in mind, I’d like to take the next few days to share what I have been learning about eternity, heaven, and our place on earth.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Like a Finger in a Light Socket

Please read this entire post before you click on a link.

Recently, while Josh and I were in Windhoek, I was paging through a back issue of National Geographic about Africa when I saw this.

At first I just thought it was sad; it certainly isn't the first time that I've seen pictures of bodies ravaged by AIDS. But then I looked at the shadow in the background.

I was shocked. Shocked. As in I had a physical reaction, a combination of heartbreak, simpathy, fear, disgust, anger...I felt sick to my stomach, and as if I couldn't breathe correctly.

Now, if you'd like to look, go ahead. But be prepared.

If your heart doesn't break from compassion and sadness at this, I don't know what will move you.

Not all people who have HIV/AIDS look like they do- many of them are in good physical condition and look healthy. I think I have been working so hard at training myself to remember that, that I forgot the horror of this disease.

This young girl's name was Nomfumaneko Yako, and she was 15 years old when she died of AIDS.

Don't judge her, or anyone with AIDS. You don't know how they got it. Was she born with it? Was she raped? Was she forced into prostitution by extreme poverty? I have no idea, and it doesn't really matter, because the bottom line is that she is still gone.

This is why we are in Africa. Not AIDS or even poverty, but compassion. Nominal Christianity is an epidemic here; our desperate desire is to show people Christ's love in reality. As I write this, I feel almost frantic...death is so common here, and who has really shown them the love of Christ? Sure, they may have heard the gospel, but have they ever experienced even the tiniest portion of God's love, sacrifice, security through another human being?

It is something so big, I can't even truly understand it. I am often intimidated by the tragic need. I beg God to use us to open their eyes to Him.

I feel so angry at the injustice here, useless, helpless to change it.

God, we cry out to you. Hear our prayers. Here their prayers. Use us for your glory, because we have nothing of our own to give. We have absolutely nothing to offer anyone.

But, as I sit here and write this, God tells me that when we are empty is when there is the most room for the Holy Spirit to fill us up and overflow.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Radical God

Here’s a quick video of one of our favorite songs to do with kids of all ages (brought to us by the amazing Brittany!). This video was taken during our first mini-camp at the youth center. Enjoy! Radical God Lyrics: Chorus: Ooga-chaka, ooga-chaka (clap, clap) Woo! (Repeat) Don’t you know He’s a radical God (clap, clap) Woo! (Repeat) His name is Peace His name is Love And He left His heaven above [spoken]: Raise the roof! In case you haven’t heard the word (HUH!) He’s a radical God Call and Response: Let me tell, let me tell, let me tell you why (repeat) He’s a radical God, He’s a radical guy (repeat) He made the earth and the seas and the stars and the sky (repeat) He came to be a man and He came to die (repeat) But He didn’t stay dead (repeat) Because He couldn’t stay dead (repeat) He rose from the grave (repeat) And He came to save (repeat) And that’s why, that’s why (repeat) He’s a radical God (repeat) That’s why, that’s why (repeat) He’s a radical God (repeat) Repeat Chorus
video

Friday, October 30, 2009

Women's Night

This is really old. Really. But better late than never, right?

Women’s Night (4/18/09)

On Saturday, we had our “Women’s Night,” which we had been planning for a few weeks. It was for the high school girls in our Rehoboth High School (RHS) Bible study group, as well as for the girls on the worship team at the church. I have included some pictures of the girls playing ice-breakers, specifically human tic-tac-toe. In fact, their enthusiasm was so incredible that I decided only video could accurately depict the atmosphere, so enjoy their excitement!
video
While 15-17 year old girls would rarely be this excited (after the 20th turn) about such a simple game, our girls are different. RHS girls live in a hostel at the school (basically boarding school), because they grew up on rural farms and come to Rehoboth for a better education. They don’t get a chance to do much in the way of entertainment, and they were SO EXCITED to come to women’s night. The fact that we watched High School Musical 3 and had brownies and ice cream and popcorn was icing on the cake.

Sidenotes:

*I had never seen anything in the HSM series. It is from the Disney channel, and therefore is cute, clean, and sugary-sweet. Apparently they want you to watch them in order, because watching the 3rd without the first two left many holes. Go figure…

*Brownies are not a common dessert here. Come to think of it, it doesn’t seem dessert is all that common in general (it‘s something I am oh-so-excited to share). And ice cream? Well, it’s… different. I know, I know; it’s a foreign country, so what did I expect? But it’s just different in a way I am not sure how to communicate. I have considered making homemade ice cream, like in a zip-loc or coffee can…if you have a good recipe, please pass it on. *Josh and Lantz (our host brother) helped me make and bag the popcorn for 45 people. Then, Stephen came over and they had a “boys night”- they ate junk food like bacon-flavored crackers (gag!) and watched guy movies. Luckily, Josh and I sleep on 2 twin beds shoved together (that can be separated), or Josh was worried he’d end up cuddling Stephen : )

*Incidentally, we were recently reminded that popcorn is a whole grain. A whole grain! In a world of meat, white pasta, and white rice, this is exciting news. It will now compose a large part of our diet.







Back to Women’s Night…
The purpose of our night was not snacks or games or even High School Musical; it was about discussing purity and relationships and godly femininity. Britt gave a brief but wonderful message on purity, and then we had a question and answer session in which Britt, Kristin, Mackenzie, and I were panelists. The girls put anonymous questions in a bucket, and we ended up with far more than we could answer. Thankfully, most of the girls are from RHS Bible study, so I kept the unanswered questions and will be addressing them at future meetings. You’re prayers would be greatly appreciated in this, as it can be difficult to maintain appropriate cultural sensitivity, while still speaking truth.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Battle Cry

Spiritual battle is intense and relentless here. You have to constantly fight against lies and tricks from the enemy, and it can be incredibly draining. Don’t get me wrong; I know we have a spiritual battle at home, but it is an entirely different kind. Sometimes it seems satan is trying to block our communication with God; during those times, we rely on God’s word more than anything. We read about the armor of God, and rely on it often.

The other day, I saw Josh was doing something with craft sticks, so I asked him what it was. He explained that he was making a cross to display in order to remind satan he isn’t welcome here. We went back to our respective activities, and after a few seconds, he said, “If the devil doesn’t like it, he can sit on a tack.”

Just like that, I was back in Sunday school

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Love Like Crazy

We were asked to do a video for one of our supporting churches, and in order to get the most mileage out of the effort, we thought we could share it right here.
video

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Neighbors of the Animal Kingdom

One day we were getting a ride home when we passed what someone called a “baby alligator.”

What? I don’t think they even have alligators in Africa. Don’t they just have crocodiles? Mean, vicious, hungry crocs…

We walked the 100 or so yards from our house to the mystery monster, and here is what we saw:



Words fail me…

Just for scale purposes, here is Josh in its vicinity:



[By the way, he’s carrying my Bible Study bag, but next time you talk to him, you might mention his “green man purse” J ]

FYI, it was about a meter or so long (we use the metric system here).

Not that bad, you say? Check this out:


Yeah, you have fun with those. Try a little handshake or something.

This thing had been hit by a car, but I will spare you the pictures of the other, bloodier side. You’re welcome.

At least I’m pretty sure it was dead- I wasn’t about to go check.

Here is the crazy part: if this is lying dead in the middle of the road, it was once alive enough to walk there. Eww. And it probably has relatives that are still alive. Perish the thought…

As we were walking back, we were greeted by this sight:



The ledge he’s balancing on is just below my shoulder.

When we were preparing to come to Africa, I thought we’d need to watch out for snakes, scorpions, and animals like the reptile above. Instead, I should have feared the behemoth dogs.

Friday, October 23, 2009

My Constant Companion

I am a worrier. There, I’ve said it.

After Kelly’s post a while ago, I wrote the following in my journal:

[On anxiety]
God has given me the opportunity for great growth in this area as of late: moving 4 times in 6 months, the uncertainty of not having visas, being cut off from the life we are used to and the comforts of home. And yet, I still struggle- I want to trust and have peace.

When I think of the time and energy I have sacrificed in worry, it’s…embarrassing. I believe in the One Who Controls All,, who created the entire universe with the flick of His little finger, and I have wasted so much of my life caught up in the “what-ifs.” Years of my life.

The craziest realization? Anxiety and chasing down all the possible outcomes of a situation is usually so much more draining than what actually happens (usually). I see that it is foolish, and I should just stop worrying.

Problem solved!

Or not, because letting go is so much easier said than done. True anxiety becomes a lifestyle, one that is always tinged with skepticism, doubt, fear, and the need for control. Anxiety is the noose with which satan has tried to strangle my spirit.

Until this point, I have accepted it as a part of who I am, but that’s a lie. Anxiety is a condition forced upon us by the enemy, and one we don’t have to accept. Kelly’s post reminded me of that. We are not captive to our circumstances or inclinations; we have freedom in Christ. He has already won the struggle for us.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Week 31

It's been forever awhile since I last did a weekly update, and somehow it's already week 31! Time flies (or crawls, depending on the day and attitude).

Monday was fine, without much to report, until that night. I. Couldn't. Sleep. A. Wink. Not at all. This had never happened to me before, and I laid in the dark, and read, and wrote, and stared. Eight hours is a really long time to be by oneself. Anyway, we figured out the next day that I was severely dehydrated, and that was the cause. It made Tuesday interesting.

We went to the preschool on Tuesday morning, and I can't really remember that much about it (I wonder why?) I know that they practiced Christmas songs for the Christmas program they are having in November (before summer break), and it is easy to figure out who learns phonetically :)

Wednesday's highlight was the youth program, where we read the stories of the lost sheep and the prodigal son. The kids decorated hearts that said "God always loves me." Forgiveness and grace may not always be emphasized, and we want to make sure that the kids know they cannot earn their way to eternal life, but that they must receive it as a gift of grace.

Thursday we had the mommies meeting, and it was a great time. They are learning so much, and are grateful for the chance to learn, which makes leading a pleasure.

Friday brought about the highlight of the week: a sleepover with 2 of our youth group girls. These girls are so precious and full of potential, not to mention fun! We watched movies after youth group, and then spent the next morning making and distributing PB&J sandwiches to kids in Block E. It was simultaneously beautiful and heartbreaking; heartbreaking to see them exposed to so much poverty, but beautiful to see them showing Christ's love.



On Sunday we had another special event: a missionary family came down from Windhoek to accompany some students from the Namibian Evangelical Theological Seminary (NETS). One of their students, who is from Rehoboth, preached at a local church we had never been to, and we went to support him. Unfortunately his message was in Afrikaans, but we got the gist of it, and he did very well (it was about racism versus unity in the body of believers). Afterwards we had the chance to have lunch with his family and spend time with the Windhoek group.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ministry Update

I realized it has been quite a while since we have given an update on our specific ministries, so here they are:

Preschool
We are still involved with the preschool in Block, which serves children aged 2-7. Recently a short-term team that came to Rehoboth donated money for land for a new school, and the land has been purchased. We are working on building plans and fundraising. We are also planning a Christmas party/”graduation” ceremony for mid-November.

Youth Center
Although we are still involved in the youth center, it is no longer the project that consumes the majority of our time. The building is now up to usable standards, and we are no longer working on construction. Sadly, one of the windows we replaced has already been broken. It is located near a couple of bottle stores, so we regularly have broken glass bottles left in front of the center. A group of community members has been meeting periodically to discuss the center; it is great to see local citizens taking ownership. We continue to lead the youth program with Kitty, and regularly have anywhere from 15-50 kids (with only the 3 of us to keep order). We hope to expand soon to include another day of the program each week. One need we are still praying about is local volunteers.

Hope’s Promise
Although my primary focus is counseling, we have tried to help out in other ways, too. Josh and I have been working together to construct a sign for the bead shop the organization maintains as a fundraiser. Although they already have a store, there is no sign, and it’s easy to miss. Also, we had the opportunity to work at a craft market for a couple of days, also for fundraising. As far as counseling, things are going great. I am doing group counseling with the kids on Saturdays, and that’s going really well. Unfortunately, I can’t see all of the kids on an individual basis, but this way I maintain relationships with them. Additionally, I hold weekly meetings with the foster mommies, and am developing a curriculum for this from scratch. I am actually really enjoying this part of my job, and it seems to be going well.

House Ministries
One of the unexpected pleasures of moving to the house is that we are able to serve more. On Fridays, a group of teenage boys comes from Block E to hang out for the afternoon. We feed them, play games, read stories, do crafts, and just spend time with them. Also, we have had the opportunity to house some visiting missionaries, and it has been so fun to get to know them. Lastly, we have also found ministry on our doorstep. We often have children come to the door begging for food. We ask them to do simple jobs, like water the flowers, and then pay them with food. They want to work, and they don’t want to be dependent. It’s great to see the pride they take in their work, if only given the opportunity.

Girl’s Bible Study
I have continued my study with high school girls living at a local hostel. We are currently learning about spiritual disciplines, and how to have a relationship with Jesus. I hope to do a sleepover and a volunteer day with them in the new year. They will begin exams soon, and I will not see them until January- I will miss them terribly.

Prayer Walks
Josh has recently begun doing prayer walks around Rehoboth, something that is SO crucial. There is a spiritual oppression here unlike any we have ever experienced. It is truly a battle for souls, and I am so proud of him for taking this on.

Youth Group
We continue to be involved with the same youth group we have been with since the beginning of our time here. They are currently undergoing a change in leadership, as the youth pastor is stepping down and a member of the youth board is taking over. As far as new events, we will be working a camp with for them for a week in December. We see so much potential in many of these kids, and hope to nurture that in some small way. Last weekend I had a sleepover with 2 of the girls, and the next day we took them to do outreach in Block E. One of them had been there only once before, despite having lived here her whole life. This generation can be the change in Rehoboth.

Block E Outreach
We have been doing Block E outreaches more often, in which we give kids apples or sandwiches or something else to eat. It is such a difficult situation. On the one hand, we don’t want to create a dependency, but on the other, we cannot sit by and watch them starve. After praying about it, God recently brought me to this verse, which is what I would like to leave you with:

“Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God…As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.”- 2 Corinthians 9:11,13


God, may it be so.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I'm Gonna Soak Up the Sun

We get a lot of questions from people at home about the weather here.

A lot.

I can't really blame them. Not only is Africa a mystery in so many ways, they are fascinated by legends of temperatures so hot that you could fry an egg on the sidewalk, that aerosol cans will explode, that mercury thermometers won't register, etc.

Maybe that's an exageration. Maybe not.

The forecast for the temperature today is around 93 degrees. Now, I know that isn't that impressive, but we also have to consider the fact that summer doesn't really start until December. For you northern-hemisphere folks, it would be like you having 93 degree temperatures in April, and just getting hotter from there.

An AIM missionary that we know has a T-shirt that describes the exact type of heat found in each region of the country. Examples include "sweaty hot," "muggy hot," and "burning hot." What was Rehoboth? "Hellish hot."

The other weather issue here is the humidity. Well, the lack thereof. It is dry, dry, dry all the time. So dry my skin flakes off if I scratch it. So dry I have to put vaseline inside my nose every night because otherwise it spontaneously bleeds. So dry that we try to water our flowers when the sun goes down because otherwise the water just evaporates- within a few minutes. So dry that Visine has become our new best friend. So dry that you don't sweat- actually, you sweat all the time, it just evaporates immediately. The telltale sign? Salt residue on your skin.

In all reality though, the fact that the sun shines nearly all the time here makes it all worth it (we'll see if I still say that in 2 months). I am so much more productive and energetic with sunshine, and it just makes me smile. My mom calls it "solar power."

I was inspired to write this post after hearing they got 2 inches of snow last week in our hometown. I don't really mind snow, but when you have it for 7 or 8 months straight, it loses it's splendor. The cold that comes with it doesn't win my favor, either.

But now? I am pretty sure it is something I might just dream of at times.

Luckily, God gave me the foresight to take a few pictures during a quiet time last year, and now I can make myself feel cold just by staring at them :)