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.