Friday, September 14, 2012

School pictures are here!

Trying to keep it serious with our wonderful teacher Katie.

Here are a few 'outtakes' of this year's school pictures. With Anna in Kindergarten, we have three full-time students!

Having a stellar 4th grade year so far,
our almost 10-year-old James looking dapper
(and growing up too fast for Mom's taste!).
I have the same teeth in my old 4th grade picture...


Last year was the year of no teeth for Joel, but this year they are coming in! Joel has recently taken up reading chapter books for fun, is the best coloring kid in the house and loves learning multiplication (believe it or not):

 Anna is really enjoying Kindergarten, but speeding ahead in math. She must have some math genes from Grandma... :)

There's our winning lineup for the year!
It will be an interesting school year chopped in half by an ocean and travels far and wide. Katie's help last spring and this fall are such a fun help for us all! The kids are all working on their French - we'll see how far they get before we visit! 
I'm so cliche, I admit it - they grow up too fast!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Heavy Load

I tread slippery bumps up the muddy hill.
Dogding piles of washed up garbage
Discarded bags
A broken shoe.
The road is messy, muddy and slick.
It's hard work.
I feel ready to fall at any moment.
But I enjoy the crisp morning air and bright sunshine.

A woman ahead of me struggles under a heavy load.
Many gallons of water for her family weigh her down.
She bears them on her back.
And cloth wrapped around her forehead to hold it.
She grunts, bent over under the heavy load.
I pass her easily, without that burden.

Time freezes for an instant.
The gospel illustrated before my eyes.

We walk a broken road.
Under a heavy load.
He takes the burden upon his own back.
He grunts and groans under the strain.
The Mender of brokenness carries our load.
While we walk freely.
Our path is not easy.
Still full of garbage, bumps and slick with mud.
But the burden is light.
We are free.
We can walk easily.

I tread the slippery bumps up a muddy hill.
I am free.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Day In the Life

It's been a couple years since I chronicled an average day. This was yesterday:

3:32am  Wake up coughing (between dust and charcoal smoke this isn't uncommon).

3:45am  Almost back to sleep when 2 shots ring out on main street a few blocks away. Probably the police keeping order.

4:02am Dive bombed by a stealthy mosquito who snuck into our net somehow. I zap him with my bug racket and try to go back to sleep. Again.

4:28am  Our mosque next door calls everyone to wake up at top volume. I think he has new speakers. At least he only takes about 2 minutes (unlike the patterns of last month!)

4:44am  He shouts it out again. I'm beginning to give up on the idea of any more sleep.

5:00am Finally back to sleep for one last hour before the day begins.

6:30am Dressed, up, meeting with employees. They want to work early today and leave early to fight long lines of parents trying to sign their kids up for school by next week.

7:30am Fried eggs and papaya made for breakfast. Headscarf donned to head out to my choir rehearsal (which 'starts' at 7:30, but I usually go around 8).

8:30am Walking and greeting my way down slick muddy streets stepping over the discarded plastics of the world. Finally get to church to find that no one is rehearsing today. I surmise it is not rained out, but probably they are traveling to sing for some event somewhere.

9:00am Back home to see that the kids get their schoolwork started. Katie, the wonder teacher arrives to help. Anna needs to finish a subject or two before leaving for her art class. Joel and James dig into school at home. James learns to cross-multiply fractions while Joel takes 30 minutes coloring elaborate pictures on his Greek mythology assignment.

9:30am Anna and I head over the muddy roads in our car. It's about a mile away, but roads aren't safe over 15 mph. The parking lot is small and full, so we pull into the weeds right outside the gate. We arrive just in time for art class.

11:00am Anna enjoys a magazine-collage decorated box project, which doubles as a game she can play with her brothers. She loves the sandbox at recess and the little toy horses she brought along for the occasion. Next to 3 preschoolers, she looks pretty big these days.

12:30pm We drive home for lunch, hear about the boys' day, and enjoy homemade bread and soup before a busy afternoon.

2:00pm The boys head next door to deliver invitations to their friends to come to a last weekend of summer party tomorrow. They stay and play with friends, building shapes and toys out of local clay.

2:30pm Anna and her bff Brooke learn cool French ballet terms in the living room with their fabulous weekly ballet lesson by Jennings.

3:30pm A colleague and friend, Maryanne, arrives to help us print, copy and collate 22 books that are 200-pages long! James has fun calculating how many pages we will need. The power has been off for 2 days and isn't likely to return. Given that Kent's class starts Monday, we need to use our own generator and printer to get the books ready in time. We think we can do it in about an hour.

4:30pm What were we thinking? Piles of paper are strewn all over our living and dining room. Four of us are working non-stop and an hour later we have barely finished 25% of the book!

6:30pm That big pot of beans is perfect to feed extra workers tonight! We all dish up a bowl of beans and top it with sauerkraut, cheese and yogurt while we keep working on the books. The table is too full, so we let the kids have a 'picnic' on the floor.

7:30pm No power also means no hot water. So between sorting papers, I heat water for the kids' bucket baths and they finish chores in time to read some Dr. Suess and Narnia before bedtime. After they are all tucked in and asleep, Kent drives our friends home. It's rainy and muddy for walking and not very safe to be out alone at night.

8:00pm While he's out, I dish up the food and tea for our night guards and feed the dogs their dinner. One last glance at Email adds two more urgent requests to the morning's work. But that's tomorrow.

8:30pm Our generator has now been running for 12 straight hours (on ONE tank of diesel). It is fabulous. We finally let it rest and turn off electronics and extras overnight, leaving only the fridge and security lights for the batteries to manage all night. Kent and I debrief the day and watch a few minutes of Downton Abbey Season 1. I'm so tired I barely hear the mice outside our bedroom window.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Celebrating Joel

Joel has always loved that his birthday usually coincides with summer vacation! He spent his 1st, 2nd and 5th birthdays at the Kenyan coast, and was thrilled to get to spend his 8th there too! After all, 1+2+5 = 8.

The day started quietly. Our family tradition is that on their 8th birthday each kid gets a full-sized Bible of their own. Here Joel reads the dedication Kent wrote to him in the front:

The morning was spent at a sort of Vacation Bible School with lots of friends. Perfect birthday for our social Joel, or what? :) He planned out his travel wardrobe to save the blue Lego Star Wars shirt for the big day!

The hotel surprised us with a small cake at teatime. We ordered a large one at lunch to share with his friends, specially made without flour or sugar, so it was disappointing to have a surprise cake we couldn't eat. But he took it all in stride, and didn't mind having more people sing to him!

 At lunchtime we ordered up a big pile of 'hedgehogs' (what we always called at home 'criss-cross mangoes'), which is Joel's favorite fruit. We flew in a few small boxes of 100% juice and added that to the blue-colored club soda to make a 'Blue Splash soda' without the Sprite (corn syrup) - more about foods later!
He ate to his heart's content:


Then the singing, clanging began and the floral chair and special-order cake arrived! It was gorgeous chocolate banana-peanut honey cake covered in honey-vanilla whipped cream and decorated with 8 sticks of mango chunks and Enjoy Life GF Mega chunks. The best part is the huge grin on his face:

As a bonus, it was the best cake I had eaten at this hotel in several years. They are not famous for desserts... So many people asked for the recipe and wanted a bite! The hotel felt bad about our food restrictions and only charged us about $8, half what you pay for the smaller, less tasty cakes! Here's the inside view:

No kids seemed to mind a less-sweet cake. And it might have been the first birthday party where no one left with a sugar high!
His friends lined up with plates right away! :)

We brought out the presents after the cake and singing. This one had been carried across the world to Congo and then back across Uganda and Kenya in the suitcases of two other MAF friends just to be there for him on his special day. Transformers!


This is one of several presents smuggled into the suitcases of colleagues all the way from Grandma and Grandpa's house. The most anticipated was his Star Wars Lego set of Ewoks, but I didn't get any stellar shots of that...

Super Joel, we love you and
had so much fun celebrating your first 8 years!

Friday, July 27, 2012

GAPS Diet Anniversary

We spent our GAPS-Diet anniversary on vacation at the beach. Somehow it is hard to believe we have been grain-free for a whole year! The following is an abridged version of our one-year overview. Go here to the 'Our Diet' tab for the whole enchilada. Or if you have lots of time to read, go here for all our GAPS-SCD links.

We originally started GAPS for the health of James and I, but the other three have seen benefits too. Kent, Joel and Anna were never feeling sick, but they are healthier and stronger now for having gone through GAPS. In June, the three of them added potatoes back in without any trouble, so they are officially coming off GAPS gradually. Next will be sweet potatoes, fermented millet porridge, sourdough and eventually rice and sprouted grains (maybe by Christmas?!).

In the past 6 months, I have been able to discontinue blood pressure medication and daily antihistamines. For the past 20 years I have taken daily antihistamines to control my running nose. These are no longer necessary.

As a primary schoolteacher with a weak immune system, I was prone to getting colds and developing secondary infections every time. If only I had a dollar for everytime I was diagnosed with sinusitis or bronchitis (or both)! My second year teaching I think I took 12 different courses of antibiotics. I was on antibiotics more than half of that year! Ten years later, our GAPS journey has changed all that completely!

During our 2nd month on GAPS, I got a cold I couldn't kick. As usual, it turned into bronchitis, and I took antibiotics as usual. The 5th month on GAPS, I got a cold and was able to fight it off a few days later without getting infected! (This had probably happened twice in my living memory.) The 9th month on GAPS I got a cold, but fought it off within 48 hrs. The 11th month on GAPS we traveled internationally (gets me every time!) and as expected, I got bronchitis a few days later. I doused myself in bone broth and slept lots. I upped my doses of probiotics and FCLO (fermented cod liver oil - in capsules!). And 8-10 days later it was gone! Finally I don't have to be envious of people with an immune system!

The biggest gains in James' healing happened in the first 4 mos. on GAPS. But the more subtle changes we see a year later are just as significant. He has very few Asperger's meltdowns - maybe 1-2/mo. where they were daily or more often than that a year ago. He regained all his auditory processing in the first 2 mos. His allergies seem gone. He hasn't needed antibiotics of any kind in 14 months. His sensory processing troubles with tactile under-responsiveness are gone, fading gradually over the past year. They have left in their wake a few gross motor issues we can now address (basically re-learning to keep your balance when you've been mostly numb for 4-5 yrs or longer). The last pieces of tactile numbness have faded in the past month or two.

This week we're preparing for another homeschool year. I found myself taking down the labels on his workboxes. I made them in desperation, searching for answers, 3 years ago. We haven't needed that familiar structure and routine for months. A wave of nostalgia hit me like I was putting away the last of the baby's pacifiers. My baby (10-yr-old baby) has outgrown his Asperger's supports. Whether we technically still qualify for a diagnosis is really not important. James is feeling and doing great! The bulk of the work we have left to do is in social skills and organizational skills, but I can't think of too many 10-yr-old boys who have mastered both of those already...

We are so thankful for the healing protocol of the GAPS Diet (and for SCD too!). They have served us well. I am a bit nervous about re-introducing starches and sugars, but we'll get there as they say in Swahili: "pole-pole" (step by step, or slowly, carefully).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Home Again, Home Again

Well, we made it home sweet home to Congo!
There were only two times that I thought we must be on Candid Camera or in a bad movie - maybe Home Alone Strikes Back? But we made it home.

Thanks to all who were praying for a safe, productive, restful holiday.

It was all of those!

And more.

God blessed us around every corner.

I'll leave it at that for now.

With a picture that seems to sum it all up:

Saturday, June 30, 2012

At the end of a hectic week of appointments in the big city, it is probably good to take a moment to reflect before heading off on vacation next week.
Yesterday I had some time to reflect, as I spent an hour and a half driving 12 km to pay a debt and pick up a few things we needed before the weekend. I did some calculations after I got home:
12km/1.5h = 8kmph (and 8kmph/1.6km/mi = 5mph)
So I drove an average speed of a slow parking lot, or maybe a fast walk, through traffic for an hour and a half.  Welcome to Nairobi.
But there were some consolations, like being able to listen to Car Talk podcasts I'd downloaded - one and a half of them. And another was being able to reflect a bit more casually than I normaly do, about the life going on around here. I got to see a lot of people walking (and faster than I was driving, to be sure), and I got to read more of the signs.
We had many appointments booked with various doctors and therapists, and it is somewhat amazing to see that we got it all done. But there are a couple doctors we didn't get to see, who advertise along my route of yesterday, and I was driving slow enough (did I mention that?) to take pictures:
But even if you don't wood to make a sign for a telephone pole, or color ink, or a website, you can still advertise (this is an A4 sheet of paper taped to a tree stump):

I particularly like the breadth of competence Dr. Karim has. He isn't limited to helping you with your marriage/sex/relationship problems, like Dr. Khalif.  Dr. Karim can also help you with politics, and with 'lost items'. I wonder if he can help me find that hour and a half...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Snapshot 10: 4 x 4

In case you missed it, the Snapshot series began here.

We will be taking a break from blogging in July to have a family vacation and get ready for another school year. Don't worry, we'll be back to posting updates in August! And you'd rather be picking luscious berries, hiking mountain trails or just enjoying sun anyway, right?

Now we are at the tenth, and last (for now) Snapshot. I hope it has helped give you word images to better understand our daily life in Congo.

Snapshot 10: 4 x 4

    Man & Machine v. Road & Elements

Background information of note:
There is no pavement where we live in Congo.
Not even a little bit.
I hear there used to be...

The contest: 
Driver and vehicle travel as fast as possible while the road and the elements of the natural world struggle against all travel.

Bodily injury or harm of pedestrians or passengers

Main street, driveways, highways in Congo

Who will win? 

The contestants:

Road & Elements
Rock, paper and scissors are nothing to water.
When it rains, it pours.
If water wins over rock, then it certainly conquers dirt.
Water picks up dirt and carries it away in victory
To create unexpected new potholes, new drainage ruts.
For any opponent who dare try to travel.

Man & Machine
Armed with the most ingenuity and perseverance in the known world,
the Congolese driver knows his machine well and pushes it
to it's outer limits.
This unstoppable pair overcomes constant obstacles
with ease and agility, prepared to fix almost anything
with only a plastic bag.

And everday the contest begins!
The obstacles have moved.
Riding with some drivers is slow and bumpy like a horseback ride.
Riding with others makes your insides feel like hamburger.
It can take constant effort to hold your organs in their right places.
The shocks take the brunt of it and call it quits.
You don't play music in the car.
You wouldn't hear it.
Each rock or bump sounds like a crash.
The driver must focus on the contest.
For the stakes are high.

Man & Machine give it their all.
Many times they fall by the wayside, tip over or breakdown.
In the absence of industrial-sized road graders,
'Road & Elements' wins every time!

We are Dr. Seuss fans. Just in case you've ever read Hop on Pop... We usually drive our bumpy. lumpy roads shouting:

Bump, Bump, Bump!
Did you ever ride a Wump?
We have a Wump with just one hump!
We know a man named Mr. Gump.
Mr. Gump has a seven-hump-wump.
If you like to go Bump! Bump!
Just jump on the hump of the Wump of Gump!

Maybe you can try it when you go over speed bumps and think of us. ;0)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Snapshot 9: Hospitality

I don't know that American English deserves to have this word in our language: Hospitality. I have known Americans who practice hospitality, some more than others. I am positive I have not usually been among them.

I don't think we know half what it means.

Congolese Hospitality (and African Hospitality in general), on the other hand, is rich with depth.
(All these things I have seen or experienced recently.)

Congolese Hospitality welcomes you to eat at the table any time, any day. No reservations desired.

Congolese Hospitality sees that you may have cold feet and lends you slippers so you can go to the cold tiled floor of the toilet without getting too cold.

Congolese Hospitality lends you matching clothes, so you will look good at that choir performance.

Congolese Hospitality takes in that widowed cousin with her two fatherless children to make sure they belong to a family, have a roof over their heads and can pay for a decent education. They may stay 1 year, they may stay 10. They are family.

Congolese Hospitality loves it when you arrive unannounced at the back door.

Congolese Hospitality is not offended when you need a favor.

Congolese Hospitality walks you halfway home.

Oh that we would learn the depth, the breadth, the importance of
'Consider others better than yourself"

Make room for those in your midst.

Seek to meet needs.

(Self-sufficiency is a lie.)

Share life,

not just the pretty parts.

True Hospitality.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bye Bye Baby Tooth

The moment we've all been waiting for for weeks, 
finally arrived last night.

My baby girl lost her first tooth. 

It would really not be possible for her to be more excited about this step in growing up.

Sheer bliss of the long-awaited

James had seen it hanging by a thread and threatened to pull it out yesterday evening. They were watching Rapunzel (again?!), but decided to watch it in Spanish. [And no, they don't really speak Spanish. They just have the movie memorized. Anna was surprised to see that Rapunzel does know Spanish, and since her Mama also knows Spanish, she decided to try learning a few words.]

She just pulled it out herself somewhere when Rapunzel and her novio were singing about Las luces. =)

She kept marveling that she lost her first tooth on vacation and that it was in the same place she was born (Kenya). People here told her she is Kenyan, so now when we pass the Kenyan flag, she says 'There is my flag!" 

And in case you were wondering, the tooth fairy does make it all the way to Kenya, but prefers to do business in US Dollars...

Absolutely thrilled to be growing up!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Snapshot 8: Fruit is for kids!

Walking along our muddy street last week,
I noticed a few kids throwing rocks at my house.
Band of ruffians doing harm?

You see, we have mango trees.
It's mango season.
Any fruit falling over the edge of a wall is fair game.
It's practically a law.
But sometimes the mangoes need convincing.
They chuck rocks up into the air trying to knock down a snack on their way home from school.
You see, fruit is for kids!

Remember those commercials for Trix cereal?
The rabbit always wants to taste it
and the kids always stick it to him:
"No Silly Rabbit! Trix are for kids!"

One sweltering day on which we happened to have huge luscious papayas,
I decided dinner would be fruit.
And I was the rabbit.
No Silly Rabbit! Fruit is for kids!
Guavas, papayas, passion fruit, mangoes.
Not considered dignified 'food' for adult consumption.
Trees brimming with packaged snack foods.
Free for the taking.
Perfect for hungry kids between meals.
Just climb up and pick.
Stick them with a pole.
Hit them with a rock.
They don't even have to be ripe.

You say you like mango?
No Silly Rabbit! Fruit is for kids!

Friday, June 22, 2012


Just in case you haven't followed updates on facebook...

Anna did continue to improve and healed completely just in time for our long journey across Congo, Uganda and Kenya. She did amazingly well in the taxis and buses. The night before we left she downed a double serving of her dinner and topped it off with 3 small bowls of potatoes! She made up for lost time after keeping nothing in for days.

So all's well.

And none of us ever did get this flu, though we all thought about it several times and wondered... I'm fighting off a sinus infection. But what else is new?

Thanks so much for your prayers and encouragement!

As I began to worry about whether this trip (much like this one!) could or should really happen given the sickness and logistical hiccups, several of my sisters from choir came over to pray for our trip. They read from Exodus where Moses heads out and God promises, "I will go with you."

This particular verse is the one that I clung to when moving to Congo. And here it was again.

As we skimmed the choppy waters of Lake Albert, a beautiful white wagtail raced us in front of the wooden motor boat (and he won). And this verse rang in my ears... "I will go with you."

As we arrived at a tough, rural immigration office and found 2 helpful strangers willing to fight for us.... "I will go with you."

As we thumped along bumpy roads in a small game park in Western Uganda, we were surrounded by gorgeous herds of gazelle... "I will go with you."

I could list tiny moments for 10 pages and not get them all. 
Sunsets, kind officials, potty stops just when we needed them, crisp apples for sale on the roadside, patient kids enduring a 14-hr bus ride without movies... 
taxis waiting for you on arrival
entertaining the kids with the reverse-cam in their car.

Overflowing grace.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Guessing game

Thanks for everyone's prayers for Anna's health.
It's always a guessing game as to what is really going on.
All you can see is cookies tossed, lethargy, fever and total lack of appetite. Which could add up to about 30 different diagnoses. Food poisoning? Flu? Brucellosis? Hepatitis? Giardia? or Deadly malaria?

Not that easy to tell, at least in the beginning. And if we treat for one thing, we may mask the symptoms of the real thing. So the stakes are high. I've been studying faith and trust in God's provision for us. Job says, "How can we accept good things from God and refuse trouble?"

It's so much harder to reach this 'accept' when your baby is so sick.

So we take things one hour at a time.
Keeping our records,
looking for patterns in fever readings,
trusting that the answer will be obvious soon.

Then this morning she woke up
and ate breakfast like nothing ever happened.
Like she didn't spend the past two days
groaning and puking on the couch.
We hum
and play
and look well this morning.
But morning is usually best for her.
Malaria can come in cycles.

Is this the eye of the storm?

 Or is this recovery?

It's anybody's guess.

It's hard not to remember the hundreds of kids fighting for their lives right now in overcrowded bush hospitals.
An epidemic of deadly malaria.

For now, I'm thoroughly enjoying her 5-year-old jokes!
And keeping the thermometer and treatment meds in my back pocket.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Snapshot 7: Beauty Parlor

In case you missed it, the Snapshot series began here.

My Mom used to tell me stories about her mother.
The grandmother I never knew.
She would go every few days to the local Beauty Parlor.
To have her hair set.
It became an idyllic 50's scene in my head.

Ladies sitting under driers in curlers.
Tiled floors, chrome and bright vinyl.
In front of huge mirrors.
Laughing about the latest news.
Heads full of curlers.
Local community sharing the mundane.
Doing hair.

I just never in a million years expected to find the same thing in Congo.

We were preparing for a big university women's event.
We had planned to dress up over at her house before arriving.
Could I just follow her to the hairdresser's for a few minutes?

Unexpectedly, I was transported to that idyllic 50's Beauty Parlor
in Congolese veneer.

Three women in shiny chairs.
Heads full of curlers,
(one under a drier!)
Discussing women's issues.
Local gossip.
Should women really be allowed certain freedoms?
Real questions were argued.
Laughter over the latest news.
In front of huge mirrors with a few cracks.
Plastic chairs, peeling linoleum, wooden shack on a dirt road with a generator and extension cord coming in through the boards in the wall to make things work.
Local community sharing the mundane.
Doing hair.

The decade, the country and the language may be different. 
But I'm sure it was the same Beauty Parlor.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Snapshot 6: Honor

In case you missed it, the Snapshot series began here.

Over tear-streaked cheeks, wails of sorrow ring out.
Our family attends the funeral of an employee.
The crowds mourn a beloved provider.
In his late sixties, Obedi had the national life expectancy rate beat by 17 years.
But his Mom is still around to mourn him at almost 90.

As the rich foreigners, his employers, we are viewed as Guests of Honor.
Fancy wooden chairs are placed in the dust.
Tied up tarps provide some shade in the heat.
For us.
Other mourners file in around us on benches.

The wooden casket is carried out with a wake of wailing women.
His mother.
His sisters.
His wife.
His daughters.
They sit in the dirt.
Reminds me of those who mourn in Israel in dust and ashes.

But there is also not much room anywhere.
How could his wife be in the dirt, while I am on a fancy chair?
Ancient truths ring in my ears:

"Whoever wants to be first must take last place
and be the servant of everyone else."
Mark 9:35 (NLT)

Honor can be difficult.
It was painful to me to stay in that seat.
It was wrong to sit in the dirt - the family section.
But it felt wrong to stay in the chair.

Last week a friend gave me a string of beads. 
They were important to her.
I didn't need them.

But I took this Gift of Honor,

because it honors her.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Snapshot 5: Storm

I wake to the rolling and rumbling in the distance.
Wondering if (hoping?) it was just something on the roof.
But no, the rumbles grow.
A thunderstorm approaches.
The counting begins.

Sheer force of the King of Nature.
Silhouettes of the barred window panes flash bright light across the dark house.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8-one-thousand
Wind rushes through like a squire
He announces loud and clear,Arise! His Omnipotent Lord of the Storm is here!!”

Then the pounding begins.
Jamie says the heavens try to 'drown you in a vertical river'.
She's right.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6-one-thousand
The beating of hundreds of drums.
Gallons of water. 
Pounding on the tin roof overhead.
In a loud steady beat.
So loud you cannot hear your own voice.
I try not to remember the colleague's roof ripped off by this Wind.

Another blinding flash.
The shape of our papaya tree outside is etched on the insides of my eyelids.
1, 2, 3 – one-thousand
That's my cue.
Once it is less than 5 miles away, we manually disconnect our house from the city's electrical chaos. 
Storms can move fast, and we've lost several appliances to neighborhood lightning.
(In the mountainous region to the south of us, they boast the highest number of lightning strikes
 per mile in the world. Here in town several people have been killed by lightning.)

Then the water creeps in.
That window I didn't latch.
The floor floods, seeping into the small rug.
This time it's not toys left unattended.
Or books.

When the full force covers us,
I can't help but recognize my place.
I stand by the back door, in awe.
At 2:30AM.
I am confronted with a terrible Force, Power, Strength.
I can only try to keep my books dry. 
I feel so finite, infantile, tiny, powerless.
I am tired, but could never sleep through this.
I don't want to miss it.
As I watch the flashing, beating, pounding, blowing
I worship.

The only song that seems to fit...
My God is so big
                                     so strong
                                            so mighty!
                            There's nothing my God cannot do!” 
Eventually, wind blows over, pounding turns into dripping, and water is mopped up.
I reconnect our power system and head back to bed.
And the question lingers in my sleepy head:
         If this is God's power in an everyday thunderstorm,
                                                     what must his wrath be like?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Snapshot 4: Fame

News spreads like wildfire here even without social media.
There are only a handful of foreign families in residence.
Wherever we go, people stare.
White people! Mzungu!
                                   Look! It's his wife! 
              And children!
They check out our shoes.
They critique our clothes.
The children touch our skin cautiously.
Once, someone I've never met or seen called me by name on the street.
This must be how Paris Hilton feels.
For someone who loves to sit in the back row and 
work behind the scenes, it gets old.

During a big ceremony, we were seated with the guests of honor.
We didn't flinch at the many cameras and camcorders in our faces.

Par for the course.

The shock came 2 days later.
A stranger in the market shouted, 
                “Hey! Aren't you that guy I saw on TV last night?!”
Guess so.
We had our television debut, and didn't even know about it. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Snapshot 3: Mainstreet

Main street never rests in the daylight hours.
It is a constant bustle of activity.
Traffic can stop you.
But not like any traffic you've ever seen.

Women carry heavy loads of firewood on their heads 8 feet long.
Young ladies chat in groups about the latest fashion, crossing the road ever so slowly.
Porters try to keep control of heavy carts loaded with stones or re-bar.
Couches line up in fancy velvet advertising themselves.
Vendors use cement steps to display their wares.
Pedestrians gather around shops with TV or music videos blasting into the street.

Motorcycle taxis zoom past at dangerous speeds.
They make things happen affordably here.
You might see them carry a pile of plastic chairs to a party.
Goat squealing his way to slaughter.
A basket of chickens to market.
10 foam mattresses for a friend hosting relatives.
A family of 5 to a wedding.
Businessmen in suits running late for an important meeting.
Middle-class housewives shopping for dinner.
A subwoofer needed 30 minutes ago in a church service.
All of these fit on a motorcycle.

The stray dog runs across your path.
And that woman learning to drive for the first time can't seem to let you pass.
Kids running home from school play frogger in groups,
their blue and white uniforms getting brown in the clouds of dust.
The wealthy new cars are mostly foreign organizations who ignore their shocks and drive over potholes at twice the posted speed limit.

There is no pavement.
Just clouds of dust.
The potholes change with each rain.
There are no crosswalks or traffic signals.
You're lucky if drivers stay on the correct side of the road.
You're driving English-system cars on French-system roads.
And socially, it's important to stop and shake hands with people you know.
And yet I like it.
You are never alone here.
I begin to take on the African fear of solitude.

It's been said, "People drive here like they're riding a horse in the Wild West."
I wouldn't know.
But maybe.
Maybe that helps explain this bustling chaos.
Daytime quiet?
Not here!

Just another day on [Congolese] Mainstreet.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

mortis nocturne

Two of the hours I normally would have spent sleeping last night were instead spent confirming myself as a bona fide Congo resident (or so I hear), as well as confirming a few things I've learned recently about rodents:
  1. They will stay where they are hidden until at least 90% of their cover is blown (which is usually about the time you start to conclude that maybe they aren't there after all).
  2. They aren't particularly smart (given that #1 may make their whereabouts clear, even if they think they are hidden).
  3. They are quite quick enough to make up for #2, and are almost impossible to hit when they are running.
This makes the third time in the last couple weeks that I have spent 1-2 hrs clearing out an area with an alleged rodent, and I hope the end of the Rodent Wars saga. If you haven't done this yourself, Episode I went like this:
  1. Find evidence of rodentry where it shouldn't be, e.g., droppings in your (outside) pantry.
  2. Decide to "do this right" and clear out everything from the porch which provides access to the pantry.
  3. Start removing items from the pantry piece by piece, checking for anything living, and sorting as trashed, to clean, or ready to restock.
  4. Continue until the pantry is almost empty.
  5. Sweep out the pantry.
  6. Notice, while sweeping out the pantry, that there is actually a bit of garbage in the corner that has lots of chewed buts of stuff it in.
  7. Start dissecting the pile, and sweeping bits away.
  8. About half-way through the pile, see an actual rodent, who just afterwards sees you, and runs.
  9. Chase it around the pantry with something you grabbed, alternately stabbing and slashing at it.
  10. Realize that what you grabbed was an old umbrella that, in place of a handle, has sharp edges -- and that you're bleeding profusely.
  11. Close the pantry door, and go into the house and bandage your right hand with your left hand.
  12. With the bleeding stopped, and an impressively large bandage on your hand, return to the pantry.
  13. Finally chase the big rodent out of the pantry, into the one part of the porch you didn't clear (the far side).
  14. poke through the nest and set scurrying two younger specimens.
  15. Watch your children spasm through the motions of trapping them under a couple canisters, then refuse to kill or remove them.
  16. Decide on a compromise of feeding them to the neighborhood cat.
  17. Finish cleaning out the depot and securing a number of possible entry points, all while wondering what happened to that one that got away...
Episode II was basically the same story, only it was the woodpile outside, instead of the depot. A week or so after the conclusion of Episode I, we continued to see rodent sign, and heard occasional scurrying around some wood we bought some time ago and stacked to dry (since it is sold pretty green around here). We moved 10+ madriers (8cm x 25cm x 5m) and three planks (3cm x 30cm x 5m) --none of which were light, of course-- and again just as I was giving up on there being any rodents in the vicinity, we moved the last madrier, and out they ran. This was probably where the other ones had come from, since this group had four adults, as well as a few younger ones, and they had been tunneling (I forgot to mention that there is somehow a hole tunneled up through the cement floor of our pantry...). So, after a bit of ditching for cover, chasing, beating and flushing out, only one adult got away --but into our house and through the first door on the right, into the kitchen.
I took some rather long implements and a flashlight to poke/look around behind the range and fridge, as well as the cabinets that I cobbled together, but no further activity. Given the 90% rule that I was formulating, this made sense, so we asked everyone to keep an ear out, left the back door open, and hoped that it would just leave.
But it didn't...
It had been a couple weeks since the tenuous conclusion to Episode II (in which no one lost a hand), and I was feeling rather satisfied that the rodent had decided that it had had enough, and had simply left our house for greener pastures. We heard nothing anywhere, and saw no droppings. Until last night.
Episode III took place in our bedroom, where evidently this pest had found it's way (I'll thankfully say that even afterwards we found no droppings, so I still don't know where he had been the last two weeks). It made some noises around 2am, at which point the half of us that is more skeptical of night noises was awoken. I poked around where the noise was thought to come from, but didn't find anything, so skepticism and the hour took over. But few minutes after returning to bed (reminiscent of the weeks following childbirth now), I heard the noise myself.
So the entire room was cleared and picked through (we have some crafty and camping things there, as well as the usual clothes). Again at the last minute, this guy jumped out of no cover, to hide behind a bag in an otherwise empty nook of a cabinet.  If I had had my wits about me (it was 2:40 by now?) I'd have just considered the bag a loss, and pierced it through with some (sensibly) sharp object. But no, I grabbed a bucket to trap it, and removed the bag.
That one mistake gained me the "quite quick" insight above, but lost me over an hour off chasing it around our bedroom and bathroom. I eventually gave up on the 2 ft. length of pipe I keep handy for security purposes, and went for what I now call "Goliath's Spear", a somewhat ornate but thick (and 5ft long) piece of wood we had removed from the foot of our bed.
He and I were in and out of the bathroom twice, and around the bed (skirting, but never actually entering the mosquito net!) about five times. Once it was hiding behind Kim's cookbooks, and it's last best hiding spot (where I hit the 90% rule again) was under some tile we hope to lay in our bathroom some day... Needless to say, on about 4am, the thing was finally no longer moving, and it was removed from the house to our back porch.
Where I left it, because I didn't want our dogs eating it (someone else's cat is another thing...), and I didn't want to go out into the rain (praise God, after weeks with almost no water!) to throw it in the trash pile. I could easily wait to deal with it in the morning.

Only, in the morning, it wasn't there...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Snapshot 2: Evil v. Good

We hired our gardener Beleke* because of his story.
(Well, we needed one too.)
Tropical weeds grow fast. 

Last year, just as Beleke was beginning his seminary studies,
his sending church was attacked in a far away village by the LRA.
I do not know the extent of the evil inflicted there.
I'm not sure I could stomach it.
Suddenly, his scholarship/support disappeared into thin air.
His six children had to drop their studies.
He eventually had to drop his studies.
His passion became to work enough odd jobs to save up enough that they could all attend school again next year.
He has a pastor's heart for his people.
And they suffer.
Far away.

Here he tends and hoes and hums a happy tune.
Weeds and tills with a smile.
He gently brings forth life out of our sticky red clay.
We have an abundant garden full of produce and spices in his care.
Sometimes he works a night shift across town and then comes over to water seeds in the morning hours.
He deftly uses these garden tools to bring life.

In a village far away others use them to bring death.

And a verse runs through my mind...
"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
Romans 12:21 (ESV)

*Name has been changed.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Snapshot 1: Power

For more than three years we have lived in this fascinating place. And so many times a camera just doesn't capture it all. I will often treasure significant moments in my heart, but not have a way to 'keep' them outside of memory itself. So I hope to 'keep' them here as 'Snapshots'. Words to describe meaningful bits of our experiences here in Congo.

So Snapshot 1: Power -

I join 40 Congolese women in a mud hut behind our church to pray.
Their colorful clothes shine in the glimmers of morning sunlight streaming in through the eaves.
Their prayers are full of conviction and thanksgiving.
These women have carried heavy loads.
The burden of trying to survive war.
Trying to keep a large family safe, healthy and fed. In war.
They balance all this gracefully like a huge clay pot on their heads.
They cry out to their Lord for mercy and strength.
With thanksgiving.

Then a deafening noise overhead.

A huge UN Peacekeeping helicopter flies directly over our hut.
It is 500 ft above us, temporarily drowning out the words.
A white behemoth cutting through blue sky to keep 'peace'.
In a show of the strength and control man can have.
It is big enough to carry a dump truck.
It swallows up thousands of gallons of fuel. And dollars.
It can carry very heavy loads.

And the question occurs to me:
Who has more power here?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

GAPS Intro. Round Two

We are quickly approaching our One-year mark for beginning the GAPS diet. More details of that history are above on the 'Our Diet' tab. For months we have felt healthy, strong and stable. There have been minor skin things here and there (we DO live in Congo), but no illness per say.

I have mapped out our next steps or the 'GAPS Exit Strategy' as I call it. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride suggests maintaining the diet until you have been feeling good, normal, strong, etc. for at least 6 months. I feel we hit that mark about 6 mos. ago and are nearly at the end of the benefits we can get from GAPS. We worked our way up to high doses of probiotics. And have already worked our way to a normal maintenance dose recently.

So, per her recommendations, we will begin slowly re-incorporating into our menus boiled new potatoes. Then soaked, sprouted, sourdoughs of gluten-free grains. Typically quinoa, buckwheat and millet are good places to start. Sadly, millet is the least tasty and the only one locally available. No buckwheat-farmers in East Africa...

We already eat all vegetables and fruits, meats, nuts and eggs without trouble. James tolerates butter and homemade yogurt well. We have not ventured as far as cheese quite yet. His progress may be different than the rest of us, but I hope our paths don't need to diverge too much.

I have had some mild tree nut reactions (tingling - no longer the anaphylaxis/run-to-the-hospital) with cashews, but no issues with peanuts or almonds. Cashews and hazelnuts remain on my allergy list, but 5-6 others are OFF! James has had a strange tingling with avocado, so it looks like that one will remain a 'very occasional' food. This is more complicated here in Congo where we have 5 trees dropping huge, luscious avocados twice a year. In the US, avoiding avocado will not be difficult for him. Last year he tested positive to some 30 foods. We have yet to challenge all of those, especially the three biggest: wheat, corn, soy.

So the rest of the family is moving forward full speed ahead toward gluten-free sprouted sourdough and potatoes, while James and I still have a few residual things that could use healing. For this reason, I decided it would be beneficial to have the two of us go through GAPS Intro again. There aren't any major symptoms to clear, we just want a deeper cleanse of our system. So last week I boiled up and froze gallons of bone broth. Monday we hit it hard with soup, soup, soup and tea, tea, tea. We also had wonderful steamed pumpkin. Did I really eat half a small pumpkin?

I am hypothyroid, and have been concerned this time through Intro. that we not go anywhere near ketosis and super low-carb. I have had raw honey in my tea whenever I feel like it and plenty of pumpkin. After only 3 days I'm feeling great! So we're continuing pretty quickly through the Intro. stages and not really obeying all the rules (like instead of 1 nut butter pancake today, we ate as many as we wanted topped with ghee and raw honey). Maybe I will just declare a soup fast one day of every month. It feels good!

By the end of the week, we will likely be through the Intro. stages and then join the others in trying out potatoes. James will need to try cheese first. Though a couple spots of eczema showed up when we added yogurt. I can't tell if that is because the yogurt we can make is from nasty dried milk powder or because he really does have issues with dairy. That decision will have to wait until we are back in the US in 6 mos.

James has always had HORRIBLE eczema in Africa. The allergist in the US tested him for all sorts of tropical grasses and the scores were off the charts. Unfortunately, grass in the tropical sun all day pollenates all year round and is airborne. No matter what I plant in the backyard, he would still be constantly reacting. As soon as we return to the US it disappears. The only thing doctors have to look at is all the scar tissue (from the skin on his arms and legs, you'd think he had the chicken pox about 20 times over). But GAPS completely removed his eczema - In. Africa. It just left around Month 3. He got those couple spots back again, but they are now gone too! No amount of cream, aloe, gel, bath salt or anything could solve that itching skin. But changing how he eats did. It allowed his body room to process the airborne allergies without being overloaded by un-digestible foods.

We are keeping the supplements that we've seen working, which for James is: magnesium citrate, ProOmega EFAs, 5HTP, fermented cod liver oil (FLCO) and Primal Defense probiotics. If any of those are missed for more than a few days, he feels (and we see) the difference! The rest of us take FCLO and Probiotics - it has made a huge difference in our immune system and overall health. After we get back to the US, we will transition from Probiotics to eating lots of fermented foods. We plan to continue the FLCO and add elderberry for cold/flu season.

There's where we are for now. Very happy with our progress and hoping the Exit Strategy works out well for everyone. Gonna go make some yummy applesauce!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Why? becomes What?

A wise friend advised me that when Anna turned 3, she would begin the 'Why?' stage. Why do you cut carrots? Why do we use forks? Why do I have to wear that? Why do we eat vegetables? Why? Why? Why?! I really tried not to resort to 'Because I said so.' Thankfully the 'Why?' stage was scattered with cute hilarious toddler quotes that kept us laughing, as they tried to conceptualize a complex world.

It occured to me this week that we have switched gears. We are no longer asked 'Why?' about everything (and sadly most of the mixed up kid quotes are past as well). We are in the 'What does it mean?' stage now...
This past week I can remember:

What does 'outrageous' mean?

Mom, what does 'sacrifice' mean?

What does 'defraud' mean?

What does 'monopoly' mean?

At this rate, we won't have to do much cramming for SAT words! 

On second thought, James recently said, "Do I know lots of words?"

Yes, son. You know lots of words.

J:  Do you know more words than me?

Yes, son.

J:  Really? Like what?

Do you know 'copious'? 'luminous'? or 'amiable'?

J:  [with hunger to learn]: What do those mean?!

I rest my case.
The 'What does it mean' stage.

Friday, May 25, 2012

smiles and milestones

Everyone together after church
Now you've had all the best ones from Sunday. I'll need to dig out some other good ones! In other news, today Anna officially finishes preschool, Joel finishes Second Grade, and James finishes Third Grade.

Part of me feels next year with a 4th grader will be the beginning of 'real academics'. It will also be the first year James has a long-distance 'real teacher' and 'real transcript'. Bring it on! We're ready. That is, if we can keep our brains from melting over the summer...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Bouncy Ones

Sam and Joel, brothers in bounciness =)

Gotta love those shining blue eyes! 
Thanks Grandma!

(photo courtesy of Katie Majorins, homeschool teacher extraordinaire)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Boy and His Dog

Nella and James (with water bottle and Bible after church)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pics of the Month

I have been remiss in posting kid pictures for the grandparents. 
Back to that glorious tradition! 

First up is Anna goofing off in her favorite nightgown 

(made by Mom for Christmas, fabric courtesy of Debbie Morey)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rats & Bats & ZZZs

Okay, according to wikipedia bats aren't rodents. But rats and bats sure seem to be in the same family to me. We'll climb the family tree and call them all mammals.

Bats live in our attic, correction, bats live in almost every attic here. They scamper about the midnight skies eating delicious mosquitoes all night. This would work well if it weren't for two facts:

1) The mosquitoes ate us first at dusk.
2) They can be clumsy getting out of bed (and therefore flop all over my ceilings).

There have only been 2-3 times where they got into the house, (WALKED ACROSS THE FLOOR! - I really didn't want to know they could walk in a sneaky little rodentia way), and other than noise we have coexisted quite happily for over 3 years.

Then there's rats.
Rats are worse because they don't eat bugs, they eat your food.
And the labels on your canned goods.
And the tinfoil you were saving for art projects.
And the dog food.
And your clean clothes.
And the Diet Coke.
And the fruit juice you thought was in fool proof containers.
And the wire screens covering your windows.
And the bars of laundry soap for next week.
And the Tupperware you thought was rat-proof.
Insert just about anything....
Those big little teeth?
They can chew it!

We have been trying to evict Famille Rat from our back porch this week. My bed is next door. Did you know that rats can screech? I didn't. Well they can. I imagine the rats from Ratatouille whistling the signal to their 200 cousins to rush to a new food source. Maybe it's code.

In the middle of the night the mosquitoes hum in my ear (after sneaking under the net somehow), while the bats flap on the ceiling overhead, while the rat screeches out directions to the best snack on the porch. Add a mosque next door, overnight worship service down the street, and the occasional thunder and lightning, and you have  yourself a hellish midnight orchestra. All these noises align every 50 nights or so to prevent rest of any kind.

No ZZZs for me!
Thankfully, the other 49 nights keep me going.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Nostalgia & Pain - Part II

After finishing this last week with tears, and after further reflection, I realized there was something more.

More to say.

More to chew on.

When my Maasai friend hadn't seen someone in months, he 'greets' for a LONG time. He 'chews the news'. So join me in chewing on some thoughts...

Yes, I dread moving again. Ironic for a missionary. I lost track after 15 moves... It's pure selfishness. Moving takes so much work. Not just physical lifting of boxes. It's the months of goodbyes and hellos, the emotional work of moving that exhausts me.

I used to think it would get easier.

But it doesn't.
Talk to any veteran missionary who has lived in tens of countries.
They will confirm that moving doesn't get easier.
That's not part of the deal.
Stability and familiarity are sacrificed.

Amy Charmichael often writes on themes of sacrifice. [Check out her life if you haven't already.] Her poem 'Hast Thou No Scar?' hit me like a ton of bricks, especially this line:
 "pierced are the feet that follow Me."

Last week as I 'chewed' on sacrifice, this post came to my mailbox. Impeccable timing really. Hard things are good. Good for us like medicine.

Ann writes:
The surrendered accept that pain is always but growing pains.
And growth is always a gift —  even when trials are the tutor.

Wait! Doesn't that mean that pain is essentially a gift?
I could spend a decade trying to wrap my mind around James 1:2

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you
face trials of many kinds..."

Pure joy? Trials?!
It's the paradoxes, the puzzles, in Scripture that make me fascinated, curiously digging for how that WORKS. Then falling on my face in awe, because I will never fully uncover the whole of it. God's ways are so much higher than I can grasp.

During a dark season in my life this song was produced by Indelible Grace, using the words of John Newton from 1779. It is not fast, but the words require reflection. Note: The end is the best, but it won't make much sense if you don't go through each verse in order.

Those were dark days for me, but God used them greatly and I wouldn't trade them to go back to where I started out. I needed to go through them to get to today, and I am truly thankful for the difficult things (at least in retrospect).

So how are trials a cause for pure joy? Knowing they grow us should be cause for joy. But even when I can't see or even imagine ahead to the good, I can remember that I follow in the footsteps of wounded feet.

The scars and sacrifices are gifts of devotion. When something hurts. When my kids bear the wounds of moving away from friend after friend. When my wedding momentos are lost by the airline. When we get tropical illnesses that may never heal. When we can't attend a family funeral. Life hurts.

I imagine boxing up all this pain. The pain of what is missing. I box it up carefully tucking it in, put a pretty ribbon on top, and lay it at my Savior's feet. Lord this hurts, but I have given it up for You. Please accept this gift. Gifts worth giving have to cost you something, right?

Honestly, I recognize the grief and grit of moving across the world over and over are not among the most painful things on earth. It's not cancer or violence. My gift looks small compared to others.

But you don't have to have the biggest gift at the party to give one. 

Whatever little sacrifices you are making?

They are beautiful gifts too.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Nostalgia & Pain - Part I

That old familiar friend stopped by this afternoon.

Nostalgia visits often, but particularly around landmark events.

Next week is the end of this school year. Ah, how much we have all learned.

The end of this school year marks the end of me teaching a preschooler (I always dreaded the preschool years - I so enjoy the thinking of ages 8, 9 and 10. So after more than 6 years of preschoolers around, what will I miss ?) Ah, these years were so much more fun than I feared.

It also marks the end of our last full school year in one place for a while. Next year is another 'on the road' year. Ah, this peace has been good.

So many milestones. The inches gained. The words written, rehearsed and practiced again. And sometimes still misspelled. Oh how it's hard to watch them struggle. Oh, what a joy when they succeed.

As the home manager, it will take me months to emotionally and physically move out of this house by the end of this year. We will have lived here almost 4 consecutive years! This is the longest we have ever lived anywhere. And it feels more our home than any place we have ever lived. And I don't mean 'our home' only because we did all the ceilings, wiring, plumbing and tiling ourselves. . .

Our home rich in memories. Our home with tropical bugs flying through, dust piling up everywhere, visitors chatting on the porch, a gorgeous garden, swing in the tree, socks lost under the couch and children growing up. Their height scrawled on the hallway corner: Mom, how tall am I now? Their favorite nooks and crannies for curling up with a book. These things don't pack well.

But Time, he doesn't wait around. There is always some end or beginning around the corner. And I don't want to spend today on tomorrow.

Anyway, Nostalgia and I aren't quite ready to treasure up all these fabulous memories and move on. The pain is fresh.

But then we don't have to.

Not just yet.

--- shared on Velvet Ashes link up ---

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Trauma Healing

Click here if the youtube window doesn't load.
{DISCLAIMER: This video does involve graphic content not suitable
for young children.}

Much of this footage is from our hometown here - if you want a peek. Our group is involved in translating, checking, publishing and training local church leaders with tools they can use to address the severe wounds of trauma. It is a privilege to play a tiny part in equipping others to work toward healing.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Extra jog

It was going to be a lazy Friday afternoon of leisurely sewing and listening to the boys play outside with their favorite friend. Until the extra jog.

I had just finished a 3-mile workout with our wonderful homeschool helper Katie, we did our 3-miles and were cooling down for the final stretch (in both senses of the word) when I heard panicked screams from the backyard.

Visions of broken limbs ran through my head and I ran out to investigate, only to find that the situation was potentially worse than that. You see, we have versed the kids in the dangers of rabies. It is alive and well here, remember this? The last time a stray dog got under our fence we locked the kids in the house while Kent went out in boots, coats and forced it to leave with rocks and sticks. Now, in the middle of the afternoon with 4 kids outside in shorts we had another stray in our yard.

So I ran for a long-sleeved coat and ran back outside to get the kids to safety and the dog away from our other dogs. Even those who are vaccinated can eventually die of rabies if badly bitten. The vaccine only slows down the virus. I finally spotted the dog, it was a young mangy little thing that wiggled under the front gate, who was thankfully scared off at the first rock. No signs of rabies, but good adrenaline boost anyway.

We got a little extra jog after our 3-miles. A few minutes later the kids are back to playing and all is assuredly well. A little extra jogging never hurt. I love so many things about life here in Congo, but I will admit that it involves more adrenaline than life in other places.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I have begun this post several times, and no words feel sufficient enough to convey the wonder of the privilege I've had the past 3 months to be in our local church choir. To put things into words feels like it will minimize a wondrous reality. I fear giving you anything less than reverence for these sisters. Their friendship is so much sweeter than candy and more precious than gold. I have been torn between wanting to post tons of videos and pictures and wanting to tuck it all safely away to savor for myself. I will attempt to find middle ground. We could learn a lot from them.

One of the first reasons I loved Africa was for her music. The rich harmonies, rhythms melt my heart on the coldest of days. The youth and Sunday school choirs usually sing in the French service we attend, but last Christmas the Mama's choir, La Lumiere ('the light'), came to sing in the French service for a change. They did so well and looked like they were having so much fun, I felt compelled to beg them to let me sing along - even just once.

They welcomed me, so I began attending rehearsals every other morning bright and early, feverishly scribbling down words I didn't fully understand. It took about 2 weeks before I felt ready to try dancing along and another one before I performed with them. Anna tells me often how 'good we sing' and loves to watch.

Here is a screenshot from the video of my 'debut':

No more  shoes with heels for me!

(Sylvie had to give me serious scarf-tying assistance. 
My slippery hair kept rebelling.)

Several performances later in various churches around town, I can understand a WHOLE lot more of what is going on. This is the best language practice ever!  Every time I enter the grounds for a rehearsal I feel keenly that I am on holy ground. Here we practice a tough song about the futility of worldly ways (I'm not laughing at the song, only at my own foibles):

These women are some of my favorite people on the planet.
The community they share is phenomenal to me.
A sisterhood like none I have ever imagined.
They visit the sick.
They give to those in need.
They share.
And share some more.
They serve others.
They laugh.
They dance.
They sing.
They truly are a Light in this dark place.
I know they have been a Light to me, even a clumsy mouse in the corner.

Guess I can't call myself a 'mouse'... giraffe?