Wednesday, July 25, 2012

iowa adventures

I interrupt these weepy (for me) posts to bring you some only in Iowa adventures.  Because while I am longing for an island far away I am also exceedingly grateful for being with family, reconnecting with folks, and meeting new friends (bonus that they speak English!!). We are soaking it all in and this weekend is cousin reunion!
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celebrating a dear cousin's Bday
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check out what we saw? The free ski show in Cedar Rapids...made even more awesome by our accomplices Bibi, Babu, and cousins...
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snuggle time
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and then there was the farmer's market down town that pretty much rocks
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it is crazy big!
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picking out tomatoes with Bibi....
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but it was not all hard work....
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there were sweet snacks and lots of dog petting...
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we stopped and smelled the flowers...
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more adventures in Iowa to come,
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

these young ladies

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Carina and Lisa (or if you ask Evy "rina and seesa") came to our island and spent almost a year serving and loving on our kids, the skuli kids and their families, and our family.  They invested time and learned about the local culture and even when it meant wearing different clothes and adjusting their lives to show respect and communicate love they did it with joy.  They babysat when I went to visit a friend's sick baby in the hospital or a wedding, they played endless games and practised counting with skuli kids with an abundance of  patience, they helped make costumes for Anni's school play, and were always grateful for a ride home even when it meant 20 other skuli kids crammed in with them in our back seat. When they first arrived we all met and prayed for their time and they asked what they could do that would really help our families.  I knew Carina had a dance background and asked if they could lead a "dance class" of sorts because Anni just loves dancing.  I never doubted that although they were missing out of some American things the experience they had in Africa was so rich and amazing.  I only wished she could dance and twirl and be girly and get the rush of performing with other girls.  Last week I read that they made it back to Germany safely and I know they are changed by their time just as they impacted us and many others.
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singing happy bday to Carina....my girls were a bit excited for pink cupcakes!
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final dance performance...a boom box (they still exist!) some scarves and adorable practiced up little girls
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the girls were glowing!
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I am continually grateful for the awesome, diverse people God has allowed our family to bump up against in this world and Lisa and Carina are a reminder that devoting time to serve others is well used time in God's economy.  Annikah just snuggled up to me and saw these pictures and said in her best pathetic voice "OH!! I want to see them again. When can they come here?" Sniff. Praying shocking awesome things in the years ahead for these young ladies who loved my kids and served our family in huge ways.
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Sunday, July 22, 2012

reflections and why I feel like sobbing daily

My blog might head back to becoming all nostalgic, sappy, and reflection-y for a bit, so be forewarned.  After speaking with some friends on our island I just spent an entire Evy nap time (and that is precious time people) looking through pictures of our last weeks there and wishing I was back with everyone; to mourn, to laugh, to eat, to chat, just to be.  We also went to see an African Children's choir perform yesterday and while holding my groovin' girl Evy on my lap and watching Annikah light up when the kids all "looked like my friends from school and they sing in Kiswahili" I had to stare at the wood beamed ceiling of the church to avoid sobbing.  Because some moments in some days I so badly want to jump on a plane and head back it makes my heart ache. I question everything in those moments.  These feelings are made more complicated since I spent an awesome day with family here today that I would be desperately missing if we were "there."  All this is messing with my head (don't worry the sob fest/major issues are sure to surface in counselling) and I am struggling with being neither here nor there. Really.  

I came across these pictures of our last day of Skuli ya Imani and started to think about our time with these kids and families.  When we first came to Africa I thoroughly underestimated the shock to the core of your being language and culture would be.  It rocked my world.  We easily take for granted being understood and understanding and when that is taken away from you it is painful.  But it is also an awesome opportunity to see the world is bigger than you ever could conceive of.  The education system on our island was dominated by rote memorization and creative "nifundishe" (teach me) methods of helping each other that resemble plain ol' cheatin' if you ask me.  Children and adults are; for the most part, never eager to answer a question unless they are certain they know the answer (and there in only one right answer).  They feel shame in being wrong more than they value taking a risk and standing out.  In a communal culture innovation and standing out from the crowd is not sought after.  In the West we value leading the pack, doing it yourself, and figuring things out yourself.  My students valued conformity, community, being in it together, and coming to consensus. There are no individual problems on our island.  They are shared and it is the role of the community to respond and everyone's identity is tied to the family, neighborhood, and community networks they are a part of.  There are great things about here and there. And as time went one I gained new appreciation for their ways of doing life.

For us self sufficiency idol worshippers this whole community thing rocked us to our core.  I learned my way is rarely the best way and even if I have something to bring to the table the process of listening and learning is what changes you.  For the better.  I watched as my students (motivated by a field rip) studied so hard for their tests and cared for each other.  Even after they passed one by one they would return to my door to find out who had not passed yet and make their way to those kid's homes and study with the until they knew all the info too.  They really helped each other like it was their responsibility because I think it is, sometimes sitting on our porch until 9:30pm at night until every last student passed their tests.  I think about how my life would have to change if I really wanted for others what i want for myself.  What would our culture look like if we valued other's success as much as we value our own.  If we really took Jesus seriously when he said "love your neighbor as yourself."

I thought about all the difficulties they faced together; death of friends and family members, debilitating sickness, high food prices making eating everyday not guaranteed, siblings not being able to continue their education.  They were accustomed to hardship in ways I have never experienced.  I had a front seat to see this community function and in small ways was invited into it even when it meant endless noise at our home, bandaging wounds at all hours, and praying and sharing and just being invited to be there.  My students begged to "help" us at home; to do a quick errand, bring food to a neighbor, send a message, or play with our girls.  They hung around constantly it was exhausting most days.  And now I miss it so much I can't finish this sentence without crying.

I thought about the ways I saw them grow, gain confidence, and try even when it meant risk.  I thought about the smile that would break out across Nassir's face when he realized he could answer 20 questions in English.  I thought about the way Ali hugged my neck even though that is "not cool" for a 12 year old boy because he was so thankful for a second chance.  I thought about Munzir finally learning to count to ten grasping worn bottle caps in his dirty little hand and placing them one by one in a plastic jar.  And I thought about how Rashidi cheered him on and laughed whenever he got one wrong.  I thought about Rukia retelling stories she learned and beaming when it earned her a "nipe tano" (high five). I thought about how Asya can write her name all by herself now and how when I helped her mother complete a form for a micro-loan I realized she would now be the first generation in her family to posses that skill. I thought about the helpers that loved learning new ways to teach and are now leaders in their community and school.  Yeah, God did some amazing things and I feel so grateful He saw fit to find a small place to use my limited gifts for His glory.  It was not monumental, huge in scope, or impressive by most standards but it was beyond humbling to have a front row seat for it all.

And although I suspect most of my students still think "Hello, How are you?" is one word they did learn a lot. Not because I had a great plan (or any plan really) but because they came, we tried and fumbled through together, and with God's help we grew.  Yes, they learned a little but I think I got the best deal of all.  I learned things I could never have begun to discover without trusting God that when He calls you He will provide and equip beyond what you can ask or imagine. He showed Himself and His love to our little school and I am grateful and in awe and teary..

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clapping for God and thanking Him for allowing us to learn together on our last day
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sharing story books
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singing together
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the water balloon toss was a major hit!
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all children smile in the same language.
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the ever popular "parachuti"
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they loved duck-duck-goose or in our case kuku-kuku-jugo (chicken, chicken, rooster)
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and the German gals even brought balloons for balloon animals!
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shiny, happy people
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these watoto of Skuli ya Imani will always be wanafunzi wangu (my students) and have a special place in our family's story of learning just how amazing the God of love we serve is!
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Friday, July 20, 2012

msiba. again.

tragedy.  calamity. disaster.
We awoke to news of one here in America and we scoured the web and read emails from friends for news of another far away but dear to our hearts.  A senseless and violent shooting and another ferry sank on our island.  Again.  Last year an overloaded boat with what was at least 2 thousand people sank to the depths of the ocean.  The reported numbers in no way reflect how many souls were lost that day and we are sure there will be more revealed in the coming days about this accident as well.  I wish I was there to be with my neighbors and grieve with them.  We are again reminded a pain free life is not promised.  Sin permeates and our fallen world is painful and cruel. We so often rush through life and forget to be grateful for each breath.  Lord, come back and reveal your glory!  An acquaintance on our island lost her mother in law and her aunt and many children and others passed away.  Today is the first day of Ramadan and we joined our many friends around the world in fasting and praying.  Because today it seemed necessary to humble ourselves before God and remember His goodness and healing and sacrifice so that all can know God's amazing love and live in His peace in this world and the next.
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I re posted this picture because it grabs my heart and twists it until I need to pray, to beg for mercy for our broken and hurting world.  We all feel it more today but this world is not permanent, it is passing, and it is never guaranteed.  I wrote this today to a friend.....inasikitisha sana...lakini tumjua Mungu Mkubwa na tunawaombea wote sasa. Mungu atawafaraja waliofiwa. moyo wangu ni huko.  (This causes us to hurt, it is deplorable but we know God is Big and we pray for everyone right now.  God will comfort all those who mourn and who lost someone.  My heart is there.)

"Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted."  The Message puts it like this.... ."You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you." Matt 5:4.

Praying for everyone, everywhere that is suffering and experiencing loss today.  Jesus is closer than we know and God promises comfort.  Feel free to cry with me and let's all stand with those who suffer where ever they are,
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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Iowa-ns

We made it to Iowa and without AC in our new car (more soon!) it was a bit of a harrowing journey!  But we are here, soaking up family and cousin time and there are even rumors of Iowa sweet corn for dinner tomorrow night! Holla!

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documenting our road trips....the people of Iowa were kind enough to welcome us (see sign) and anyone who makes a comment about my wind-blown ratted locks or my sausage toes gets it.....
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cousins reunited and lovin' every minute. For reals, they make me tired just watching! More Iowa adventures soon,
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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

road trips...Midwestern style.

We are still nomads and moving around a lot in the Midwest means driving past a lot of corn which is all new to these little watoto. Annikah is full of questions about the fields she sees everywhere so we made a detour, hoped out of the car shoe-less, and checked it out for ourselves.
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 It was as cool as she thought.
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sister snuggle time (in between moments of smack downs)
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We head off again today for Iowa and I already made the girls promises of lots more corn to behold...
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more tidbits of summer so far

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family worship time: girls groovin' with babies tied to their backs
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Anni was definitely not as pumped about the turmeric soaked tofu as I was
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making new friends in VBS in the city
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hanging out and reconnecting with friends...think parks and sprinklers
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visiting Great Grandma
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why is this little girl smiling so big?.... because she had a front row seat for this...
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Jesse White Tumblers at the Gordy's beach Bash (Bibi and Babu have all the hook ups!)
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last minute road trip with college roomies to see Annalea before her big move. Talking over each other, laughing, eating Mexican food, and sharing about all God has been doing in our lives and breathing in deep His goodness.
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fresh cut grass, chipped toe nail polish on tiny toes, and wet feet. summer perfection.
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