Friday, June 26, 2009

My Beloved

As of today, I am married to an older man.

Today is Josh's birthday; for those of you who don't know him, I hope you have a chance to meet him someday. For those of you who do know him...well, you lucky ducks :-)

"My chief among 10,000. This is my beloved, and this is my friend." -Song of Songs 5:10

Everyday spent with Josh is an adventure. He inspires me to be a better person, and he is more committed to glorifying God than anyone I know. He is a giant among men.

Even though we, like everyone, have experienced challenges, God has blessed me through Josh every day I have known him. I don't know how long God has ordained for us to be together this side of Heaven, but I plan on cherishing every moment.

Joshua, I pray that this will be the best year so far in your young life, filled with joy, adventure, love, laughter, peace, and continued growth in Christ.

To my Knight in Shining Armour, Happy Birthday.

"Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons."- Song of Songs 2:3

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dogs and Chickens

Recently, as I was looking at my blogger history, I came upon this post that I don’t think I ever posted. It was written right after we arrived in Rehoboth, and it is essentially an amalgam of my initial observations about the town.

Rehoboth is the name of the town we are staying in. It sounds like RAY-ha-bahth (the last syllable rhymes with “moth”). Actually, everyone seems to kind of pronounce it their own way, but this is what I have heard the most.

We have heard that there are as many as 70-90 churches that serve this community.

Rehoboth is an odd mix of rural and urban. It has between 40,000 and 50,000 people, but that includes a good deal of area around us. There is some farming in the outlying areas, and you often see wagons being pulled through town by horses or donkeys. Although the area has 3 times as many people as our hometown, there are very few amenities- no restaurants, 2 grocery stores, and one clothing store.

Most families own at least one dog, and at night it has been very difficult to sleep because of all the barking. The cacophony seems to build as the sun goes down, and can last for hours. That can be a good thing, though, because it keeps out intruders and unwanted animals. In the morning we are greeted by roosters crowing, so that’s no different from home. The problem is that there are so many of them here, and they can’t seem to decide on a synchronized crowing time.

There are two paved roads, and one intersection with stoplights (called "robots").

Rehoboth is composed primarily of the Baster people, which are a specific group of the Coloured population. Due to Apartheid and Southern African history, race relations take on a whole new importance and intensity here.

Like the rest of Namibia, the main language spoken here is Afrikaans, although some of the children speak a little English. The second most common language is that spoken by the Nama/ Damara people

“Pancakes” are more like crepes, and “jelly” is jello.

We have recently been introduced to Simba chips, with flavors like tomato sauce (ketchup), chutney (sort of like barbeque), and salt-and-vinegar.

You cannot get chocolate chips in Africa, so they are prized possessions to American missionaries. You can’t get a ton of other stuff we eat, either, but chocolate chips seem to hurt the most : )

It is very sandy here, which makes it a little more difficult to get around. Imagine walking and driving on a beach all the time- that’s a pretty close approximation to our roads here.

There is a lot of poverty in Rehoboth. Everyday we see many kids on the street asking for food, and sometimes digging in the garbage. Even though we can’t always feed them, we are starting to develop relationships with them, and hope to find some stable sources of food to direct them to.

Safety is a big issue here. You ALWAYS make sure any doors are locked before yoou leave, and all windows have bars on them, even in the houses. Alcoholism is a big problem, and it seems to contribute to many of the security issues. There aren’t streetlights and people don’t have yard lights, so we stay inside after sunset, or only go out if we are riding from one place to another in a vehicle. On Friday and Saturday nights, everyone goes to the bars, and it gets pretty crazy. We are helping with a great youth group that meets on Friday nights, so that keeps us occupied, but Saturday night we just stay in. In Namibia, everyone gets paid the last Friday of the month, so that weekend tends to be especially wild.

There is very little here in terms of activities for youth, emphasizing the importance of the youth center we are working on. Ironically, we heard when we got here that the pastor in charge is thinking of calling the youth center “The Rock,” which is what our hometown’s Youth for Christ program is called.


Here is a post written last winter but not yet shared. Incidentally, I was recently watching a video from Francis Chan that had pictures of stars and such, and from a great distance, it looks like outer-space is filled with glitter. I knew God made glitter too!

My newest vein of contemplation on the life of a missionary:

By no stretch of the imagination would I be considered a super girly-girl. I have a "uniform" that I wear 90% of the time consisting of jeans, hiking boots, and a sweatshirt. My getting ready routine consists of showering, getting dressed, brushing my teeth, deodorant, and [sometimes] brushing my hair (and to tell you the truth, sometimes I feel I'm doing the world a favor with that).

However, there are definitely times I love to get dressed up. When you've just had one of those long, draining weeks, it's fun to escape the mundane routine. I think sparkles, glitter, and shimmer are three of God's greatest blessings. They just make me feel...happy. I have to smile. I always tell Josh that someday we should have a truck, and that I don't care what color he picks, I just want it to have that glitter finish that speedboats often have. He either rolls his eyes or says something about it being hick-ish. Hello? You married a woman who grew up on a game refuge and has familial roots in Kentucky. It wasn't like I was trying to hide it. Anyway, I digress...

We are only allowed to take approximately 6 pieces of luggage (2 of them carry-on) for everything we need for a year- 6 pieces! Now, I have done Royal Servants and can pack luggage with the best of them, but I must reiterate- 6 pieces! As in less than 7 and more than 5 (crazy, huh?). We must include (for both of us) clothes, medicine, shoes, toiletries, books, pictures and tokens from home, linens, etc. If you think this is easy, consider all the things you use in a year- could you pack them in 6 bags (oh, and they have to weigh less than 50 lbs each). If we want it, we have to pack it. We will dress VERY casually in Namibia for two reasons- first, since our clothing will be limited, it must wear well; second, we don't want to make people with very little feel worse by flashing fancy possessions. Our equivalent to dressing up will probably be wearing shoes (that's not quite true; since there are scorpions, I will be positively vigilant about wearing shoes, but you get the idea).

It is only when it is taken away that I a grateful for the freedom I have to wear dresses or high heels or nail polish. I mean, I can probably stick an eyeliner or bottle of nail polish in the bag, but platform sandals are definitely out. Besides, when you are changing diapers or wiping noses or playing in the dirt with kids all day, a manicure seems a bit superfluous.

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider

One night this week, Josh and I were getting ready for bed when I saw this on the wall of our room:

At first, I didn’t know what it was, but when Josh told me it was a spider I was…concerned (to put it mildly). Usually spiders don’t bother me too much, at least the ones at home (Daddy Long Legs? Puh-leeze). But have you looked at this thing? It is big (maybe a little under 2 inches), hairy, creepy, disgusting, and…spidery. Eew.

Lest you think I’m being overly dramatic, consider the fact that it was about two feet from our bed. Two feet! That’s basically one jump! What if it had been in our bed? Now I will probably have to change the bedding, just to make sure. But spiders are solitary animals, right?

But before I let Josh kill it, I wanted to take a picture. For your educational purposes, of course. When he hit it with the flyswatter, it jumped (reflex?) off the wall and into the air. We didn’t know where it was, and I began to run out of the room. He found it on my glasses case (guess I probably can’t use those anymore), and set it on the desk so I could take another picture. I asked him to stand there with me, just in case it was not really dead and began to move. I was about to move it with a marker when:

Josh: “Wait! Don’t touch it!”
Nicole: “Why? Didn’t you kill it already?”
Josh: “Yes, but it might be dangerous…”
Nicole: “What? Why? It’s dead, honey”
Josh: “ But we don’t know what might be in it, like venom...”
Nicole: “Right…gross”

And that, dear readers, was more than I could bear. I appreciate you and want to bring African life to you, but a line had to be drawn.

Fully Rely On God

It is hard to believe I am writing about our 13th week in Africa! That means we have served more that one-quarter of our time here (50 weeks). I think I can hear our parents shouting with joy all the way across the ocean… It’s nice to know you haven’t replaced us or anything ; )

Friday evening, Josh had the opportunity to share with the RCM youth group. He shared the “Fruitcake and Ice Cream” DVD. Although there were only maybe a dozen youth there, it went very well (each of the local high schools was holding a sort of pageant, like “Mr. and Miss Rehoboth High School,” and many students were involved in that). The students enjoyed it so much that they asked him to come back when there are more students. He also had the opportunity to speak with a few of the young men regarding the Bible study, and they seemed very interested.

Saturday morning, Josh and Steve once again led their Bible study. Although only one young man showed up, they had a really deep time of fellowship, and they felt it was a successful session. Most of the weekend was pretty low-key, as I was still sick, but Sunday night we were able to talk to my dad’s side of the family when my parents and siblings attended a graduation open house. It was extra-special, because our cousins were visiting from Idaho, and we haven’t seen them since Josh and I got married. We are very sorry to have missed their visit; missing out on spending time with people at home has probably been the most difficult sacrifice for me to make thus far. We know it is necessary, and we do so willingly, but I won’t pretend it’s not excruciating at times. I especially miss the kids that are so special to Josh and I (moms, please hug and kiss them for us!).

The sunset and moon were especially beautiful Sunday night:

No idea why it is turned on it's side. This is Africa, and it even extends to the computers.

By Monday morning, the combi that takes the teachers to Kwakwas (which has been out of service) was repaired, so our ride was a little more luxurious than what it had been last week:

You must remember that 1) since this is the desert, it is quite chilly in the early morning, and 2) we travel on maybe 15 miles of gravel each way to get there.

When I got to my room, I found two of my (freezing!) students curled up in a corner, trying to get warm:

We made pinwheels and cut out paper chains for art, and the kids had a great time. I think they were even more excited, though, to have their picture taken:

How cute are they?

One of the materials for the pinwheels is a pencil, so each of them got their own; they were thrilled. Yes, about a pencil. They continued to play with their toys throughout the day:

This girl is precious.

The kids are spinning in circles, trying to get their pinwheels to twirl

Pure Joy- they are so grateful for so little

We visited the internet café on Monday afternoon, and within 2 minutes of me finishing my post for week 12, we found out we are having visa issues. This is immediately after I wrote:

God is teaching me- both through Josh's example and through circumstances I don't feel comfortable in- how inconsequential pretty much anything in this life is. Yes, even ministry. I am learning that the things I hold to be most important- relationships, conversation, pleasing others, encouraging those around me, achievement, purity, morality, perseverance, actively serving God, spirituality- none of those are so important as growing closer to Him and being in His will. Of course, many times the important objectives may entail the less important factors, but they are not paramount. When something is turning my direction from God, in however minor a fashion, I don't want it anymore. I don't want what is good...I want only The Best.

On Monday, 2 men from NETS (Namibian Evangelical Theological Seminary) traveled from Windhoek to Rehoboth to fulfill a service requirement for their degree. They were a great help to Steven and Josh at the youth center, and on Tuesday night we were blessed to be able to have dinner with them as a team.

School on Tuesday was challenging. The students were very disobedient. I have been considerate of the fact that we do not speak the same language, and been somewhat lenient in terms of them following the rules (many of them just don’t understand), but this was excessive- stabbing each other with pencils, hitting, kicking, choking…I called in the principal, and she disciplined four of the children, which was difficult for me to see (they still use corporal punishment in Namibia). This is such a challenge for me, because it is definitely not what I am used to, but it truly seems to be the only thing that really sends a strong message to the students. I think one reason may be that physical punishment seems to be very common here when it comes to disciplining children. It also seems that, once physical punishment is introduced to the equation, other forms of discipline no longer compare, and are not taken as seriously.

My mission here is not to disrespect a culture, overturn tradition, or act superior towards others; my mission is to share the message of Jesus Christ, to do His will, and to love His children. Generally speaking, when it comes to cultural values I disagree with here, I just try to remind myself that I am an outsider looking in, and that members of this society may have grave concerns about the culture I am from. It is a quandary that I don’t have the answer for…I am just relying on the Holy Spirit for guidance every step of the way.

Another challenge on Tuesday was that I had to deal with my first contact with blood. Approximately 1 in 4 people in Namibia is HIV positive, so one must always assume any blood you are exposed to is infected (learn more from my post on HIV/AIDS in Namibia). On of my students fell while she was running, and cut her knee. I was a tiny cut, but she must have nicked a blood vessel, because it bled profusely. I (carefully) picked her up to carry her to the room with the first aid kit, where I found that there was only one rubber glove, no medical tape, and only small band-aids. I put the glove on my right hand, and my left hand behind my back, and only used it to hold a water jug. It is difficult to bandage someone with one hand. Not only must you avoid blood, you must also avoid anything that may have contacted blood, as well as anything that may have contacted anything that has contacted blood. This is especially challenging with children, because you want to make them feel comforted and nurtured, not despised and dirty. We made it, and Tuesday night I put my own gloves in my backpack.

Josh accompanied Steve to the pre-school on Tuesday, where a little girl apparently has a tremendous crush on him. I can’t wait to meet her; she clearly has good taste : ) Tuesday was also the first day of my Rehoboth High School (RHS) Bible study. You may remember that this is the same group of girls that used to be led by Kristen and Mackenzie. I am so excited to be able to journey with them in their faith!

Thursday was also a bit of a rough day. We had to go to the hospital for an injection after I got hit with a sudden, and very severe, migraine. We were so thankful that this was even an option- that we had access to a hospital, and that they had the medical knowledge and supplies to be able to treat me. Some of the other places we had considered going would likely have not had medical care as advanced, and it was just one more way we have seen God provide for us. He has been so faithful, and we are learning to trust Him more every day.

Prayer Requests:

1) Work visas and permits
2) Health and energy
3) For our Bible studies
4) Our trip to Rundu next week
5) Victory over the enemy’s attacks
6) Friends and family
7) To be salt and light
8) Guidance and wisdom in ministry

Monday, June 8, 2009

Peace in Spite of Ambiguity: It's a Learning Process

We miss all of you at home SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much! If you have written to us and haven't heard back, please be patient!

Once again, Rehoboth has kept us super-busy this week!

Friday morning I spent more than an hour cutting Steve’s hair- using a tiny scissors from a first aid kit. It took forever…oh, well, you‘ve got to use what you‘ve got! I had a horrible hand cramp the next day, but the difference was worth it.

In the afternoon, Steve and Josh went to the youth center, and I worked on my talk for youth group (mentioned in last week’s post). However, I never actually got to give it. When we arrived at youth group, we found out it was going to start an hour late…but very few of us had been informed. Due to the miscommunication, as well as some general disorganization, the talk never happened. We were disappointed, but consoled by the fact that we will be able to meet with the Rehoboth Covenant Ministries (our host family’s church) youth group this Friday (6/5) and will have a chance to speak with them. Hopefully there will be an exciting report next week!

Saturday began with the second meeting of the guy’s Bible study Steve and Josh are leading. As you may recall, nobody came to the first one, but 2 guys came this time! They seemed to be very excited about the topic of godly masculinity, and we are all hopeful that membership and enthusiasm will continue to grow. Steve and Josh have decided to open the study up to all young men of the community between the ages of 16 and 25, and have received much positive feed back about that decision. We wait with anticipation to see what God will do through this ministry.

Rugby is the favorite athletic pastime here, which means Saturdays are practically national holidays, with people gathering at each others homes to cheer on their favorite teams. We had our first opportunity to partake in this tradition, and had a wonderful time hanging out with our host family and learning the intricacies of the game. They are voracious fans of the All Blacks (a team from New Zealand), whom we’ve yet to see play.

On Sunday, we attended church services at RCM (I may have previously referred to it as the “tent” church). Afterwards, we hiked a large hill/ small mountain not far from town (from now on to be known as “Rehoboth Mountain”). We have had difficulty finding activities through which we can spend time together here, especially given the fact we can’t go out after dark. There are no real restaurants, no theaters, parks, bowling alley, hiking trails, or any other of the typical “date places,” so we were excited when a friend told us about hiking Rehoboth Mountain. On Friday, we asked a friend from the community how long it would take to walk from our house (he lives near us) to the hill. He said around 20 minutes to half an hour, so we planned accordingly- fallacy! It took closer to twice that amount of time to get to the base of RM, and we tired of looking for the service road that most people use as a trail (there is some sort of communication tower on top), so we decided to just hike up the side, creating our own trail.

The entire hillside was covered in boulders like these, which made the hike a bit of a workout. There were also all sorts of smaller rocks covering the ground, many of which were unstable, which also complicated the situation.

If you look closely, you can see that there was a significant incline to the land. Once we were about 2/3 of the way up, we spotted the road! By then, though, we were having too much fun to switch. That is Rehoboth that you see in the background.

The view on the way up through some tree branches.

Some photographs from the top of Rehoboth Mountain:

On Monday, I didn’t begin teaching at Kwakwas as planned because the combi that takes the teachers to the school was still out of order. It turned out to be okay, because it gave me some much-needed time to work on lesson plans and pray about this new ministry opportunity. I also found out that I would be teaching the 2nd grade class, not the 4th grade as originally planned. This has created some special challenges, because it is the largest grade in the school (23 kids versus 15-26), they have had less than half as much time studying English, and they have never had an English-speaking teacher.

When Josh and I came to our kitchen Tuesday morning, this is what we found:

If you look closely, it says that it was packaged in Minneapolis, meaning that it basically followed us here (or we followed it, I’m not sure). Apparently if you support Feed My Starving Children, the money is put to good use. Since Kwakwas is not a government- sponsored school (even though it’s been around for more than 50 years), they receive only a bit of maize meal (corn meal) to feed the kids with. This means that they rely heavily on private donations to feed the students and to purchase educational materials.

When I arrived at Kwakwas, I learned that I actually have 26 students instead of 23. That doesn’t sound so crazy until you realized that NONE of them speak English! Only seven of my students are girls, so this is a loud, boisterous, testosterone-dominated class. As Namibian law states that no child can begin grade 1 until he or she is 6 years old, the youngest is 7, but I have several students who are around 14 years old (though they don’t look it). Last year, officials at Kwakwas heard about a few families at a local farm who had children that had never attended school. The sad fact is that many of these students have a high aptitude for learning, but have not yet been presented with the opportunity to gain much knowledge. Many of the children in the class are from very poor backgrounds, and over half of the students at Kwakwas live in a hostel (sort of like a boarding school) and are therefore separated from their families, both of which are significant emotional challenges for these children.

This is the school building at Kwakwas. The door to my classroom is underneath the green awning-type structure, and the windows are open.

The school day begins at 7am, which means we must leave by 6am to be arrive on time. The kids are usually running around outside, many of them playing soccer. The day commences with ringing an old-fashioned hand bell, and the students go to their classrooms and take their seats. When I arrive, I say “Good morning, students” and they say (in unison), “Good morning teacher, good morning friends.” Although there is a subject schedule they usually follow, I am allowed to teach my subjects (math, English, art, music, environmental studies, and physical education) in any order I choose since they are a little different from what is usually taught. At 9am, the students say a prayer in unison, and there is a short break during which students are given a bowl of porridge, which they eat with their hands.

This is a picture of the tin-covered area where the students go to get their porridge each day.

After break, class resumes until 12:40, at which point they are fed lunch, and those children who do not live at the hostel return home.

My first day of teaching was definitely a challenge. The kids were very energetic and noisy, and I couldn’t communicate with them. Although I know that some of them know a few words of English, I wasn’t sure which words they knew. I couldn’t explain games or instructions for assignments. I was given no information as to where they left off in there subjects, and of course they couldn’t tell me. They kept yelling out “teacher” repeatedly to get my attention; inevitably they wanted to go to the bathroom or tattle on the kid next to them. They hit, kicked, stole, pinched, and bit, and I was pretty frustrated by the end of the day. It was only after class that I was informed this was normal behavior for them.

Josh and Steve went to the pre-school on Tuesday, something Steve and Britt have done for quite a while, but that Josh is just starting now. It serves around 30 children ages 2-6, and survives on essentially no money. According to Josh and Steve, they became “human jungle gyms.” By the end of the day, they were exhausted, but they love it. Although Steve and Britt went to the pre-school twice a week, our plan right now is that we will just be going once per week, because that is all the time that our other ministry commitments allow. Choosing where we spend our time is really a challenge; there are so many areas of need, and we want to help them all. On the one hand, we want to impact as many people for Christ as is possible. On the other hand, we want to impact people significantly, and we know that impact is not measured only in quantity but also in quality.

Wednesday went much better at Kwakwas; I knew what to expect and how to prepare. We did a lot of math and I read them several stories. Even though the books were in English, they were captivated by the pictures, rhyming, and the different voices of the characters. We did some crafts- they love coloring- and sang a lot of songs. I think songs may be crucial to my success with this class- they immediately stop whatever they are doing to sing and dance.

More Kwakwas Pictures:

If you look closely, you can see laundry hung out to dry on a chain-link fence

A weird but cool-looking tree

The blackboard: multiplication tables, Alphabet (English and Afrikaans), a simple English prayer (we are working on them memorizing this so they can say it before their breaks), a stoplight (behavior monitor- green is good, yellow is warning, and red is very poor), and transportation words.

Wednesday afternoon we had the second day of our youth program, and this time we added a craft to the games. This seemed to go a bit better, because 2 hours straight of games proved excessive for some. It was another step towards building our program, and I think we will maintain it with just games and crafts for a while. To solve the problem of not having any money to replenish craft supplies, we are going to charge “Craft Fees,” in which youth can bring certain items to “pay” for their craft supplies. For example, they can bring 2 glass bottles, 7 newspapers, or 5 toilet paper rolls. There is a lot of litter in Rehoboth, and this way they can feel they are earning their project in addition to helping their community. Most of the craft ideas I brought were specifically created to use items/ trash readily available in Rehoboth, so this will help keep our supply up. Josh and Steve continued to lead the games, and the kids just love them. It is so important for children to have positive male role models, and they are often lacking in the lives of the youth here. They are doing an incredible job fulfilling a crucial role.

Thursday morning went pretty well, but by the end of the school day, I began to feel very sick. I was in the middle of reading a story when I got intense stomach pains. This lasted throughout the rest of the day, and I wasn’t able to go to school the next day. I was so frustrated, because I know this was a blatant attack from the enemy, but there was really nothing to be done. Friday afternoon I had begun to feel better, but by that time, the school day was over.

It seems like our lives are full of constant change here. Just in case you've never met me, I hate change. I know "hate" is a strong word, but I feel it may just be appropriate to the context. Change literally makes me feel ill. Even little things. I have had to limit myself to checking email and facebook once per month because I would feel such anxiety every time we went to the internet cafe that I couldn't properly focus! I know it sounds extreme, but imagine being on the other side of the world and only having contact with around 1% of the people you usually associate with at home. You have no idea what's going on...I just tend to fear the worst.

This is a huge period of growth for me, in terms of learning to be at peace even when my circumstances are not ordered. This past year has been full of circumstances lacking in peace, and it has been a huge burden. There have been situations that I have rushed to "remedy" (because I can't handle things not being settled) that were not given necessary time to resolve of there own volition. There have been toxic relationships that were continued because of a need for everyone to get along...healing was hurried, which basically means we have covered gaping wounds with band-aids. I have obsessed over decision-making, because I worry about all the different possibilities. It is wholly distracting, and keeps me from keeping my focus on God.

It is fear, and it is from the enemy.

Of course, Josh is pretty much the opposite, in many ways. He doesn't really mind change, and sees it as a means of keeping life from getting boring. Ambiguity and uncertainty don't bother him (crazy, I know!). He doesn't need to know what's going on, or to be able to plan for the future...he has complete peace. He is my role model, in this and so many other ways.

God is teaching me- both through Josh's example and through circumstances I don't feel comfortable in- how inconsequential pretty much anything in this life is. Yes, even ministry. I am learning that the things I hold to be most important- relationships, conversation, pleasing others, encouraging those around me, achievement, purity, morality, perserverance, actively serving God, spirituality- none of those are so important as growing closer to Him and being in His will. Of course, many times the important objectives may entail the less important factors, but they are not paramount.

When something is turning my direction from God, in however minor a fashion, I don't want it anymore. I don't want what is good...I want only The Best.

Prayer Requests:

1. That our visas would be approved.
2. Guidance in how to use our time
3. Blessings on our Bible studies.
4. Good health and energy.
5. Grace and protection for family and friends at home
6. Protection from the attacks of the enemy
7. For peace

Frogs and Snails and Puppy-Dog Tails

fFor a while now, Josh and Steve have been talking about starting a guys Bible study/ accountability group. There is not really anything out there that is just for young men, and it is a huge void in this community. A huge portion of children do not grow up knowing their fathers here, and are in desperate need of male role models. For those who do have strong role models and knowledge of what godly masculinity looks like, there are often few avenues in which to be honest and vulnerable about their struggles. On Saturday, they decided to have their first meeting, and unfortunately nobody showed up. Some had completely valid reasons, but we think a significant factor may have been scheduling it on Saturday mornings. At 7 am. For teenaged and young adult men. We are hoping that a time change might improve the outcome.

This past weekend (Wednesday-Monday), a group of youth and their pastor were here from Walvis Bay (when locals say it, it sounds like Wall-fuss By- here “v” is pronounced like “f,” and “w” is pronounced like “v”) to do a “crusade.” They came to our host family’s church (our host dad is a pastor), which takes place in a tent and has super-loud worship music (more about that in a future post). It’s a little more charismatic than most, probably more so than anyone reading this is used to. Josh and I grew up E-Free and Baptist, respectively, so we aren’t exactly Amish, but we aren’t what you’d likely call Pentecostal, either. However, we think it is a good thing to be stretched and challenged; we never want to grow complacent in how we worship or learn about God. Also, this church whole-heartedly believes Jesus is the only way to eternal life, and that’s what really matters, right?

Anyway, although there had been services at the church on Thursday and Friday nights, we weren’t able to go until Saturday. It was an experience unlike any we’ve ever had. The pastor who spoke had many interesting things to say, some of which we agreed with, and some of which we didn’t. One comment I found thought-provoking had to do with the role vision plays within the church. He said that having a vision leads to unity, unity leads to relationships, relationships lead to communication, communication leads to commitment, commitment leads to creativity, creativity leads to excellence, and excellence leads to influence. There are a lot of things I could mention, but I will just cut straight to what stretched me. Around 10pm or so (the service began at 7pm), the pastor who spoke ( who happens to be a senior pastor at the age of 24), began to pray for anyone who wanted to come to the front of the tent, and almost everyone fell down on the floor. This is not something we have ever experienced before, and it took Josh and I by surprise. We have see it happen to a few people before, but this was maybe 140 out of 150 prayed for. It was very dramatic. It was difficult to discern exactly what was happening. Although I refuse to judge other people’s spiritual experiences (because I have no idea!), I have to wonder if there might have been people who felt pressured to prove how “spiritual” they are.

As we are now part of the family of the senior pastor of that church, we sat front row center, so this was all happening pretty much in our laps. The whole time, I kept thinking to myself that I would not go up there unless the pastor specifically gestured to me (he gestured to a lot of people). Later, I found out that Josh had prayed the same thing. I could tell this might backfire when pretty much everyone in the room had gone up or been called up except Josh or I, and we probably weren’t going to escape it. Additionally, I knew I stuck out like a sore thumb- I was the whitest, blondest person in there sitting front row center. Additionally, since I was a child, I have begun to weep quietly out of compassion for others’ pain, and I sensed a lot of pain there that night. I was pretty sure it was only a matter of time before he signaled to us, so I just did my best to avoid eye contact. Imagine my relief when everyone had gone to sat down and he returned to the pulpit.

He then asked our host dad to come up and answer a question or something. Imagine my surprise when he called me up front by name! There aren’t any other “Nicky”s here, so I knew he wasn’t talking to anyone else. By this time, it was 11pm, I had been praying and crying and singing my heart out for hours, and I was exhausted- I didn’t know what to do. I kind of figured I didn’t have a choice, so I went to the front. By myself (well, Josh and my host mom came up with me). In front of everyone (some had gone home by then, but probably around 100 or so strangers remained). He whispered a few things to me, that were fairly general, but also applicable. He also whispered a few things to Josh, possibly a bit more specific, but still fairly general. The whole while I told God that if He wanted me to fall to the ground, that was fine, but He was going to have to push me. I didn’t fall, but I cried after. I am not sure, but I think it may have been a combination of Holy Spirit, exhaustion, and relief.

Afterwards, we went back to the house and had some tea time with our host parents (until 12am!). They were wonderful- they knew that we weren’t used to this sort of thing, and they allowed us to ask questions and took time to answer them. It was so helpful towards understanding what had taken place.

On Sunday night, we had our team meeting, in which we typically talk about anything unusual that happened during our week. Of course, we mentioned the service the night before. I wasn’t really sure what to think about what had been said to us, but one of our teammates had great advice. Her dad has the gift of prophecy, so she is familiar with it, and she said that when it is fairly general, it can be considered an encouragement, but you shouldn’t dramatically alter your life as a result of it. I am not sure if I am articulating that very well here, but it made sense at the time. We had a an excellent team meeting (we watched “Fruitcake and ice cream”), even though we are down to only 5 members now!

After the meeting, Josh, Steve, and I went back to the “tent church” for another service. We came in a bit late, but this is Africa, so nobody batted an eye. The service was fine, and nothing out of the ordinary really happened. However, when it got to be about 9:30, we decided we should go home (we went to Windhoek the next morning), and as we were getting up, the pastor said something about people and pastors not feeling pressure to be American. I am not sure exactly (accents obstruct communication), but it was along those lines. The three of us felt pretty awkward, being the only Americans in the room and choosing that time to leave! : )

On Monday we went to Windhoek to take some documents to our country director for our applications with Home Affairs. Home Affairs is something like the Namibian equivalent of the INS, and sometimes it can be difficult to get permission to stay in the country. Our first application was denied (quite common), so we must re-apply. Even though it always seems to work out eventually, it is a bit stressful. Although there are other countries we could possibly go to for a while, we really feel our place is here. It is an opportunity to exercise our trust in the Lord’s timing and provision.

Monday night I learned I will officially have a chance to try my hand at teaching! I have only ever taught at the university level, so this will be a brand-new experience. It’s something I have always thought would be fun to try, but that I don’t really have a desire to dedicate my life to, so this is an ideal opportunity. Our host mom is the principal at a local farm school, Kwakwas, where there is a teacher out for a few weeks who I will substitute for. I was nervous at first about my lack of experience, but then I found out the kids will just sit with no teacher for 3 weeks if I don’t come; I am confident I can do better than that! The extra-special part is that I will be teaching the same class Kristen taught while she was here! Pictures 2-4 in the clown ministry post were taken at Kwakwas.

When I start next Monday (6/1/09), I will mainly be responsible for teaching “maths” (math) and English, as well as some art, physical education, etc.- I think : ) The details so far are very sketchy, but I am trusting God to prepare me with what I need. Grade four (my class) is the first year in which the students are instructed in English, and since their school year begins in January, they have only had around four months of this system (they’ve had a month of “holiday,” or school break). I fully expect language barriers to pose a significant challenge in this endeavor. Although Josh and I have begun Afrikaans lessons, most of the students have been brought up speaking Namatal, and just started learning Afrikaans in grade 1, so I am not sure the lessons will help much. I am praying that the students will be understanding and respectful, and will have good attitudes.

On Tuesday, Steve, Josh, and I were just walking out the door to go to the pre-school in Block E when Steve got an sms (text message) that there was no school (Africa = flexibility). It was quite alright with me, as I had a massive migraine that ended up lasting the whole day, and 30 wild children probably wouldn’t have helped. Nonetheless, I can’t wait until the next time I get to see them! Steve and Josh ended up going to the youth center, and got a lot of work done- always a special blessing for an unplanned day of work. As it was the first day back to class for most kids, several came by the center to hang out and play games on their way home from school.

Here are some pictures that I took of Josh and our little host sister with the puppy at our house. He is around 6 weeks old now, and Josh says he looks like a snowball.

Wednesday was [kind of] the first day of our youth program. Last week, we decided that, even though we aren’t ready to start an official youth program yet, there is no reason that we can’t play games with kids for a couple of hours during what will eventually be our youth program time. This way, the kids will grow used to coming on Wednesdays from 2-4. About 20 kids showed up, which was pretty good considering we didn’t advertise it.

It has been another wonderful, challenging, busy week in Africa. We are grateful for your prayers, and forever indebted to The One Who Answers them.

Prayer Requests:

1. For language barriers to be broken in teaching, counseling, Bible studies, and in the community.
2. Our Bible studies (Josh’s on Saturday mornings, mine on Tuesday afternoons)
3. Guidance in arranging my schedule to accommodate teaching
4. Health and energy
5. Cooperation of Home Affairs in granting our work visas
6. Binding of the enemy
7. Unity
8. Family and Friends at home.

On Tour

So actually, I wrote this post at the end of April, but...there are supposed to be a couple of videos accompanying it, and I have stubbornly held onto until, waiting to upload it until I can load the videos. Then it hit me: this is Africa! It's a good day when I can get a picture to load! Video? What was I thinking. I'm hoping maybe I can send the videos home and they can be uploaded from there. You should wait in anticipation-they're priceless.
This past Tuesday we became [short-lived] celebrities when we took our clown ministry on the road.

Clown ministry, you say. What is that?

We didn’t know, either. We were asked to do it for a pre-school and thought, heck, if we make fools of ourselves, who cares?

Then, we were asked to do it for 3 farm schools. Yep, ALL the kids at each school. It was an adventure. But well worth it. Most of these kids don’t get to see special presentations or entertainment, and most of them are very, very poor. Their excitement was more than enough reason to do it.

We had some difficulty getting there. This flat tire happened about 15 minutes into the drive. For the first school. And, just in case you can’t tell, it was flat. And this was not the only transportation…challenge. We had to go on “D” roads to reach our destinations. In Namibia, a “B” road is paved (though not necessarily smooth), a “C” road is gravel (a rougher version of what we have at home), and then there are “D” roads, which are basically farm trails, an at-your-own-risk affair.
Believe it or not, we got there relatively intact (although possibly traumatized). We got to work.

In the Clown Salon

Without saying any words or making any sound [not really a huge deal, since we can‘t speak the language anyway], we told the story of Jesus dying to save us from our sins. It was simplified, of course, and somewhat allegorical, but the message was all there. Telling you is great, of course, but I think it would be better to show you…

While we played with bubbles, balloons, and toys (we shared : )…

…they sat riveted.

Then in came the “sin clown” who tempted everyone with sin balloons.

Once we took them, we were frozen and could focus on nothing else.

After the “Jesus clown” died, we popped our sin balloons on the cross.

Even the “sin clown.” YAY!

This is us at the end of the day, in front of our tour bus. It gives new meaning to the word “clown car.”