Thursday, April 14, 2016

First Quarter Highlights

I thought that I would have all of this time to catch up on my blogging while I was in the States where photos upload quickly and I wouldn't have the responsibilities of feeding and corralling kids all the live-long day.  But alas, here I sit, in the Paris airport, headed home, without that having happened.  I was too busy shopping and filling up 7 suitcases, spending time with my dad, and lunching with good friends who make time for me when I am in the country.   I am so thankful to have ladies that I call friend on both sides of the ocean.

Anyway, I thought I'd take this little layover window and do a quick catch-up on some of the events of the first quarter of 2016.  Nothing epic, just a chance to chronicle some highlights.

January brought Lily's 12th birthday.  She has 9 of the sweetest girls in her grade at school.  Seriously, they are just precious, which isn't necessarily a word you typically use for sixth grade girls.  I had the privilege of teaching their Bible class at school first semester and I fell in love with them.  When it came time for Lily to have her birthday party, we couldn't pick just 4 or 5 to invite.  So, we invited them all and to our delight, they all came.  We did an art themed party and it was so much fun!
 The girls played a silly game that involved painting this picture, using only their feet.

 We had lots of colorful foods
Lily and I had planned to do a canvas painting, using a how-to video we found online.  It seemed to work fine when we previewed it, but when party day came, there was no way the internet was going to accommodate a video.  We made a last minute change of plans and had the girls paint little chalkboard instead.  It was a real blessing, the way it worked out.  I had canvases made by a man who sells little paintings outside of a grocery story I often shop at.  Ryan had found chalkboard paint at the market and bought it, just because, why not?  When we hit a roadblock with the video, I was so thankful that he'd grabbed it.  Let's just say that I am very thankful it worked out that way, because this project proved to be complicated enough!

Abby participated in an outreach trip with school.  They drove about 8 hours out of our city to work alongside some other folks for about 4-5 days.  She had a great time, but came back pretty exhausted.



In February, the kids participated in the annual field day for their school, which was held at the National Stadium.  Everyone in our family was dreading it, except who always has boundless energy!  We imagined all day in the heat and sun, doing a myriad of events would be a bit of a pain, but we were wrong.  The kids had so much fun, as did we, cheering them on.  It was great.




February also brought the school banquet, which is the school's equivalent to prom.  Only the oldest two decided to go, but we hosted 12 girls at our house before hand to get ready.  That proved to be quite exciting with a few dramatic moments, but in the end, all of the girls left looking beautiful and ready for a night of fun!




We had some other highlights, of which I don't have photos on this computer.  We hosted the dorm kids for the salad portion of a progressive dinner, that was fun!  Isaac celebrated his 14th birthday with swimming, a giant cookie, and the Pan movie.  We also hosted 40+ people for Easter.  Ryan made a trip out east to look for a house for one of the families that we work with who is finishing up their language study and is ready to move closer to their people group.  

Of course then there is the everyday fun...language class, homeschooling the two middle schoolers, the logistic work which is technically our "job," and I have been blessed to start working with a literacy ministry one day each week.  We are staying busy and seeking the Lord on how to best use our time. We are slowly gaining skills in language and culture as well as building relationships.  We are thankful for all that the Lord is doing and had done in our lives during this first year in our new city!



Thursday, March 31, 2016

Just Because

When I was a kid, the majority of my Sundays were spent visiting my Grandma McCane in her home, about an hour from ours.  She lived in Bracken County, KY, on the 85 acre farm where my dad had been born and raised.  Grandma wasn't a complicated woman.  She was a survivor of the depression and wore that truth well.  By the time my memories of my grandmother began, she was retired from a long teaching career, but she was still an educator to the core of her being.  She wasn't a particularly warm and fuzzy woman, in fact, she could be pretty harsh.  She had opinions on nearly everything and she wasn't afraid to share them, even when it was hurtful.  But, for all of her tough exterior, I never doubted that she loved me and wanted the very best for me.  She certainly didn't demonstrate it in the way that my children have experienced with their grandparents, but she was integral in shaping me into the person I am today.  

One of my favorite childhood possessions to this day is a version of a tic, tac, toe game that she created which combined trivia questions that she wrote with ordinary tic, tac, toe.  Grandma McCane believed that everything came with hard work, and so even with tic, tac, toe, you had to answer the question before you could get the opportunity to place an X or O on the board.  The questions were basic things that she believed every child should know,  literary and Bible references,  basic science and history principles, that sort of thing.  It's because of her that I can finish nearly any nursery rhyme with the correct words, figure out sale percentages with ease, and have a love for reading.  She invested in my life, one Sunday afternoon at a time.

Because my Grandmother could be a little harsh with her words, my mom did not usually accompany us for our Sunday visits.  It was sort of best for everyone if their relationship was contained to graduations and a very occasional major holiday.  It's likely not ideal, but it worked well for our family.  My mom used her Sunday afternoon to sew and garden while my dad spent Sunday after Sunday visiting his mama.  It was their best attempt at a win/win.  

In many ways, I suppose our Sunday visits were pretty mundane.  My dad usually spent some time doing chores that my grandmother needed help with, much of that time was in the garden.  After my grandfather died of a heart attack in my preschool years, they began to lease out much of the acreage for livestock and tobacco.  However, they still kept a large vegetable garden behind the house, far more than my grandmother and her family could eat.  I think it was what they knew and loved and it just made sense.  It was something they shared.  Every Sunday during the growing season we would leave with an enormous bundle of produce, which we would eat on all week long, until we would return to gather another.  To this day, I can't picture her house without being able to taste the buttery, sweet corn in my mouth.  

At the end of our visits, we generally shared a meal.  My grandmother was a terrible cook.  Well, maybe not terrible, but definitely not gifted.  That didn't stop us from gathering around her table and eating the fruit of her labor, much of it from the garden.  Then we would drive the hour home to face another week of routine.

I could go on and on with memories of my grandmother...her delicious homemade grape juice, my annual summer visits which stretched from one Sunday to the next, the smell of the tobacco barn, the sunset visits on her porch swing, and Little Bit, the chicken chasing farm dog that graced her front porch.  But, in all of those memories, I have very few distinct memories of specific events.  Twice, I remember my dad taking my grandmother off of the farm to do something together. Once we went to the big city of Maysville to buy a new blue Ford tractor.  Another time I remember us heading off to the annual Germantown fair.  Other than that, it was Sunday after ordinary Sunday, all of which bleed together in one beautiful picture of family and duty and routine.  

So today, in the pattern that my daddy modeled for me, I've come to the USA for an ordinary little visit.  I write this from the extra bedroom of my parent's home, where I'll be spending the next two weeks.  After lots of prayer and prompting by the Holy Spirit, Ryan and I made the decision that we would spend a little money and rearrange our personal family rhythms long enough for me to pay a visit to my daddy...just because.  He's not sick or in failing health.  He's not in trouble.  His not on the verge of some major life change.  He didn't beg me to come.  In fact, he was rather surprised when I asked him if he was up for a visitor.  But, I honestly have no ulterior motive other than just to pay my daddy a visit.

We don't have anything spectacular planned for my time here.  Last night we ate grilled cheese together while watching Wheel of Fortune.  Today, we're planning to go through his coupon stockpile stash and I'll pick out what I want to carry back with me when I leave in a couple of weeks. Then I'll make a list of what's left to buy.  After that, he'll insist I go through his coupons and see which ones I can use.  This weekend, we'll cheer for the best of what's left in the Final Four.  Nothing extraordinary, just some ordinary moments spent together.

My daddy's pretty old-school.  There are lots of things about how we see the world that vary greatly.  We don't always find a ton of common topics to dialogue about and our passions and pursuits are vastly different, but we still enjoy visiting.  I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that he loves me and he has always been faithful to demonstrate that in his own way.  He is 77 now, and he is as active and healthy as I could hope for him to be.  I believe he could live another decade or two and  I would love that.  But, there are no guarantees and I want to have no regrets about the choices I have made concerning my dad and our relationship.  Two years is a long time to go without a visit...especially with a man who refuses to enter the electronic age, despite my best efforts to tutor him in e-mail and Skype!  Without my mom here to be another set of eyes and ears in his world, I simply wanted to come and tarry for a bit.  This is simply because I understand that relationships aren't always built on extraordinary events.  Often they come one ordinary moment at a time.  That's why I'm here... just because.



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Pa and his Campbell grands




Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Unexpected


Today didn’t go like I’d expected.  Let’s be honest, they rarely do.  I awoke this morning after a restless night.  Our youngest came home yesterday complaining of a headache.  He was weepy and increasingly lethargic as the evening wore on.   I was headed to a Bible study I attend, so I gave him a bit of children’s Tylenol from our dwindling supply and headed next door.  Ryan and I made a game plan that he would push the fluids and put him to bed an hour early.  When I arrived home two hours later, Ryan reported that he’d gone to bed without a fight and all was well.

I visited with my older kids for a bit and was headed to bed when I had an urgency in my spirit that I needed to check on my little guy.  As soon as I placed my hand on his body, I knew he was feverish.  The thermometer quickly confirmed my suspicions with a reading of 103.1.  Realizing we weren’t at the four hour mark for Tylenol and knowing I had used the last of the Children’ Ibuprofen last week, I decided to wait a bit and see what happened.  Forty-five minutes later, I checked again and the thermometer immediately shot up to 104.4.  We made an apologetic 10PM phone call to some colleagues who agreed to let us use a bottle of Children’s ibuprofen so that we could begin to rotate the two.  When I woke Abe for the medicine, he begged me to let him sleep, telling me his head hurt too bad to wake up.  I tried not to panic, but immediately, I began to wonder if we might be dealing with malaria...the serious kind.  

We washed him in cool water and made the decision to start malaria treatment, even though we didn’t have a positive test. I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do, but I do know that high fever and severe headache in a country where people regularly die from cerebral malaria, is something I don’t want to mess with.  I’ve heard again and again that early treatment is the key to beating it, and so we treated. After moving his mattress into our room and setting alarms on our phones for the next doses of meds, we decided to try to sleep.  I was up and down checking on him until finally, around midnight, after getting his temp down to 101.7, I drifted off to sleep.  Two hours later, we were up and down as he battled tummy troubles.  It was a rough night.

Of course, the morning came early, but even so, I couldn’t help but be thankful for the gifts it brought.  I had the realization that I had some way to access every medicine my boy needed, as soon as he got sick.  I didn’t have to go and beg for money from my neighbors to buy a single tablet.  We have a vehicle to go to multiple pharmacies to find the remaining treatment that we need.   I have the education to read the pamphlet in the anti-malarial insert.  I have a scale on which to weigh my son for proper dosing and I have abundant food options for him to choose from when his appetite comes back.  When my eyes couldn’t stay open any longer, I was able to put a DVD in my TV and allow my son to watch a video while I slept to the strains of Baloo the Bear singing, “I’ve Wanna Be Like You.”  This happened in my home with my ceiling fan and my soft mattress.  These blessings are so very apparent to me.

Especially today.  Because today, in between moments of caring for my son, I experienced another of my “firsts” in Africa.  This wasn’t a wedding or a baby naming ceremony or a new holiday.  Today was a burial.  It was a small ceremony, held on the corner of the property where I live.  The attendants were just Ryan, 3 of our colleagues, and I, alongside the two gardeners who dug the hole.  The grave was tiny, made for a little bitty baby who was born just a few hours earlier.  There was no casket and no headstone, just a tiny baby girl wrapped in a length of colorful African cloth, laid to rest on the African soil.

Her mother couldn’t be there. She was back in the hospital, having barely escaped with her life.  We pray that she will gain strength and overcome the challenges still ahead regarding her healing.  One of our colleagues had been advocating for her to have much needed pre-natal care since November.  It had become apparent at that time that the baby was not formed in a way that she would be able to survive in this world, but maybe, maybe with the proper care the mama would.  I won’t go into all the details, but let’s just say the stories of medical care here, and especially of this mama make me angry and discouraged and disgusted, all at the same time.  But at this moment, beside this tiny grave, that was irrelevant.  

There were a few things that struck me in that moment.  First of all, the sorrow of the whole story...a sick mama with empty arms, a baby girl who will never know life this side of heaven, the unfairness of the lack of medical care in this place.  Secondly, I was struck by the commitment and dedication of my colleagues.  One woman who has invested 30ish years of her life showing the love of Christ in West Africa through her medical wisdom and had asked Ryan and I to join them as they gathered to lay this little one to rest.  She’s seen countless babies born and helped bury far too many of those, she’s advocated for those who need care, she’s showed compassion and care in village after village, and she has consistently done what she could to help others.  I stood beside her as she and the other couple decided on a name for this special baby girl, in a language they have spent decades learning and living in.  I learned from them as they navigated the nuances of the moment and I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever have the depth of language, culture, and relationships that they have.   I shed tears alongside them and I was privileged to stand among them and offer up my prayers for this precious family.  

So, on what should have been an average Wednesday, I found my schedule adjusted to care for a sick boy and to celebrate the life of one extraordinary baby girl.  

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Difficult Decision

Because our children attend a school where some of the students board from other cities and countries, the Christmas break is quite lengthy.  We really needed and enjoyed it.  However, after nearly 4 weeks off, we were all ready for a return to routine.  Just a couple of weeks before the break, we made the decision to bring our two middle schoolers back home for the majority of the school day.  We really, really wrestled with the decision, but now that we are two weeks into our new routine, I am thoroughly convinced it was the right choice for our family.

I know there are lots of different "takes" on school.  When Ryan and I worked in children's ministry,   each year, beginning about December, moms of the upcoming kinders would come with questions about what might be the best choice for their family.  We lived in an area of the States where there were many great options...public, charter, private, and a myriad of homeschool support options.  Of course, we couldn't tell any family what was the best choice for them and we simply encouraged them to pray, examine their options in light of the needs of their children and family, and then be willing to follow where the Lord directed.  There were families who we respected very much and whose children we loved using every conceivable option for educating their children.  We did not believe there was a right way to educate children.

However, we knew that homeschooling was the right choice for our children, and I loved it.  It became my hobby and I loved exploring new curriculums, methods, and ways to meet the needs of my children.  It was how we did life.  So, when we made the decision to send our kids to school this year, I really, really mourned the change.  

I knew that my oldest two were ready and I felt strongly that the right option for them, in light of our life here, was school.  For my youngest, I also knew that it was the right choice for him.  He NEEDS structure.  He NEEDS people.  He is thriving in many, many ways.  But our middle schoolers...I had my doubts.  The doubts stemmed largely from the fact that they are middle schoolers, which is the time when I feel the benefits of traditional school are least likely to outweigh the cons.  It's a hard age for anyone (raise your hand if you would like to do middle school again....no hands right?!?) I had other concerns, knowing the individual strengths, needs, and personalities of my children.  But, they wanted to try, I knew I needed time to learn French, and I knew that they would be very isolated if we didn't try it.  So, with much fear and trembling...I sent them into middle school.

And, let's just say... all of my fears were confirmed.  It was not a good fit in many, many ways.  A combination of the personalities of my children, the schedule/program/philosophies of the middle school department, and my ideals of what should happen during the middle school years weren't meshing very successfully.  But, each night, after helping them with their 3-4 hours of homework, I would talk myself off the ledge, remind myself of the benefits I did see, and I'd convince myself we could make it another day.

There were lots of tears involved.  Mine and theirs.  It was no fun.  But then, life isn't always about fun, is it?  So we kept on for the entire semester, dreading Mondays and embracing Fridays.  I continued to have significant concerns about the needs of my individual children and how well this schooling choice was or was not meeting their needs.   I just kept telling myself that this was the only choice we had for this season.

Then one day, about 3 weeks before Christmas break a series of things happened that made me realize that we didn't really have to finish out the year in the same fashion and that maybe it wasn't even the right thing to do.  But then I realized that we would be oddballs if we didn't.  We function in a very tight community that centers largely around the school and I knew that a decision to pull them home would make us all strange, and that's no fun.  Not to mention, it would make my schedule really tight.  It would complicate everything.  And it might create waves or insult people or..._______________(fill in the blank with a dozen other reasons.)

Ryan and I decided that we needed to pray and honestly seek the Lord's direction.  As uncomfortable as I was with making a change, I was also very certain it would be the right choice for our kids.  So, I made some phone calls and appointments to get it all approved.  We talked to the kids, who were far more willing to make the change than I thought they would be.  I spent much of Christmas break planning and setting goals, desiring to use this season back at home as strategically as possible.

In the end, we decided the kids would stay at school for French, PE, and their elective.  So, I take them in the AM and I exercise and have French class at the school while they do their classes.  Then we come home and tackle the rest of their content before the others come home.  It has been a very positive change.  Our evenings are so much more peaceful.  They feel so much more successful.  I feel like I am seeing the happy side of my children again.  Not to mention, we have more time to focus on the character building that is so key during the middle school years, while still focusing on their individual academic needs.  

I have no idea what next year will bring.  Isaac, who will move into the high school department next year, will likely go back for the bulk of his classes.  Lily and I may just be school buddies until she moves into the high school years, or beyond.  There is uncertainty, but I just know that I am thankful for this unexpected season, even if it is just a few months, that we have to focus on a few goals.   I don't want to raise quitters, but I do want to raise children who are introspective and not afraid to do what is most effective and best positions them to grow and serve well.    It is my hope and prayer that this little decision will help to teach them that.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Celebrating with Friends


Earlier this month, we got to experience another African first.  Ryan’s assistant had his first baby boy, a very handsome fellow.  As is the custom in this part of the world, they hosted a baby naming ceremony, which we were happy to attend.  We began by attending his church, one Sunday about 2 weeks after the baby was born.  A portion of the Sunday service was set aside to allow he and his wife to share, sing, and announce the baby’s name.  For many folks, this is the first time they share the name with anyone.  


Our friends are actually transplants from Nigeria, which is obvious from their outfits in this photo.



After the service we went back to the family’s house, where they had a big meal prepared to share.  Our friends had at least 70 guests.  We were invited to sit inside the house to eat, but most folks sat just outside the house under a giant tent.  I didn’t mind sitting inside for a little while because that meant I got to hold that beautiful baby while the family was busy greeting guests and making sure everyone was getting food and drink.  


Isn't he the cutest?



The inside of the house was a bit small for the crowd that was weaving in and out, so the kids quickly made their way outside.  Our hosts had invited drummers who were kind enough to drum us from the car to the door of the house with great eagerness.  After the kids piled back outside, they found the drummers quite entertaining.



It was a pleasure to spend a few hours helping our friends celebrate the birth of their first baby boy and it was fun getting to experience a different aspect of the culture here.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Spirit

This year, we celebrate our first Christmas in Niger.  It is our 5th Christmas in a row celebrating in  different country.  Five years, five countries... that's a lot of change.  Canada, Nigeria, Ghana, America, and Niger...each year has definitely had distinct memories, with specific highlights.  We are hopeful that this Christmas will be the first of many in this place and that we'll begin a series of Christmases that could actually run together with "what year was that?" kinds of similarities.  We shall see!


We have had a really great Christmas.  One of the things we really like about this place is that we can enjoy the simplicity of Christmas in Africa, while still having a great community.  Of course, we really miss our family and friends in the States as well as the hope of snow and all of the lights and glitter.  However, we are thankful for lots of new friends and a mission family that we have been able to share lots of new traditions and fellowship with this year.

We have enjoyed Christmas music concerts at the school, caroling by candlelight in worship, hosting a movie night with 20ish high school girls and teachers, caroling around our neighborhood with other friends and then gathering for cookies and cocoa back at our house, a cookie exchange at the US Ambassador's house, a Christmas Bazaar, a Christmas festival, a party for members of our mission.  We've baked and shared 40+ dozen cookies and candies over the last 4 weeks, and had the pleasure of sharing rice and beans with some of the less fortunate folks we have met around our city.  We've had lots of fun, gotten to know many folks, and had just enough activity to keep ourselves busy, but without the frenzied pace that sometimes comes with this time of year.  It's really been a lovely holiday season.

We shared Christmas Eve with a few friends and then we have had a quiet Christmas Day at home...just us.  We are thankful for such a sweet celebration of our Savior's birth.  Here are a few pictures from this Christmas season.





Lily helped with a silly skit in the Christmas Assembly at school.  She was a lamb and she's sitting beside her friend, Rudolph, waiting for their turn on stage.
Abe enjoyed decorating cookies...especially with sprinkles.


Lots of reading and relaxing going on over Christmas Break!

The girls enjoyed getting dressed up for a Christmas tea with friends.

Abby made 25 bottles of rice and beans to deliver with a friend to folks around town.  Here they are on delivery day.



Getting ready to go to a Christmas Eve gathering.

The whole family sharing Christmas Eve fun with friends.
Excited about Christmas morning goodies.








Friday, November 27, 2015

Grateful


Every year, I watch the 30 days of thankfulness posts on Facebook and think about how I would like to participate too.  However, I know myself well enough to know that I would likely make it to about day 4 and then I would lose steam.  So, this year I decided that I would record some of my thankful thoughts in one swoop, on my blog, on Thanksgiving Day.  Except that I was so exhausted when our 50ish guests left last night, that I crawled into the bed at 9:15, without recording my thankfulness.  The good news is, I am awake early this AM and still have a heart full of gratitude.  Since Black Friday shopping isn’t an option, I can use this time to share my thoughts.  Here are some of the things I am most thankful for in this current season of life...

  • An incredible husband who loves me so very much and shows me in lots of little ways that aren’t bouquets of roses or fancy date nights, but that suit me so much better.  Heavens, I love that man.  Marriage takes WORK, no matter how delightful your mate, but I think we are as “made for each other” as two sinners saved by grace can possibly be.
  • I am thankful for 5 of the greatest kids on the planet.  I have been so, so proud of them these last 6 months as we’ve transitioned to a new place and a new school routine.  They have hit some bumps, but I have consistently seen them respond in ways that make me smile or at least to be willing to learn from the times they didn’t.  They make me laugh and they bless me in too many ways to count.
  • My extended family.  My mama was one of 11 and I was blessed to grow up in a family chock full of cousins and aunts and uncles.  I don’t complain about having to sit at the kid’s table on Thanksgiving when I was growing up because I didn’t stop long enough to sit down.  There was so much fun to be had, I just grabbed a roll on the run.  I married into an extended family that was just as big as mine. Between the ones I share blood with and the ones I married into, there are some pretty amazing individuals that I call family! 
  • Technology!  Doing what I do is so much easier because of Skype, Facebook, and e-mail.  I fully acknowledge that I am living overseas at a time when these advantages make staying connected so much easier.
  • School, and the fact that we have choices about how to educate our children.  I’m thankful for the resources offered to us and the fact that I have options to meet each child’s needs as they come.  I know that many parents around the world would give their all to have that luxury.
  • Africa, and the fact that I am learning to appreciate it more and more as time goes by.  One day this week, I was stopped by a friendly police officer.  I really think he wanted to practice English more than anything.  We made a brief smile-filled exchange, partly in French, partly in English.  He didn’t ask to see my license or my papers...just asked where I was going and why.  After wishing each other the best, I pulled away and thought, “Two years ago, that exchange would have made me want to hop a plane home.  Now, I am laughing about it and thinking about how I have a good dinner table story to tell tonight.”  And as I was thinking that, I glanced out the window and noticed that I was passing a trader with a camel and a woman in a burka and then I thought, “Thank you Lord for this really cool life I lead!  What a privilege to be in this place a this time!”
  • My slowly growing French.  Progress, little by little, in French.  I’m thankful for it.  Not so much because I want to learn French, but for the opportunities it gives me.  Like Wednesday afternoon, on the way home from school, this orphan boy that I sometimes buy fruit from, flags me down as I’m sitting in traffic and asks me if I want to buy some bananas today.  Knowing I’m about to move, I decline.  Then he says, in French, “You will come next time and tell me another story?”  And I smile and say, “Yes, I will come again soon and tell you another story!”  And then I think about how this means that I now have to kick it into high gear and get my next Bible story down better because the Demon-Possessed Man is the only one I know well enough to tell to others yet.  
  • My American passport and all that it represents.  The fact that I have the opportunity for education, a career, to choose a loving spouse, to worship freely as I desire, to travel, to have 5 children, to pursue financial gain, and a host of other things, is not lost to me.  When you live in a country where women marry as teenagers, live behind a veil, and often have to accept their role as wife number 2, 3, or 4, you can’t help but be thankful for the rights that come with American birth.  I don’t know why God had me be born to a family living in a split level in suburban USA instead of a mud hut in West Africa.  Or why I was given the opportunity to become an educator rather than selling handmade soap off a tray that I carry on my head.  I just hope and pray that I will use the opportunities I’ve been given in a way that honors Christ and not to take for granted the responsibility that comes with those rights.
  • Churches in the States who give generously to allow us the privilege of serving here without having to worry about if there will be enough money this month.  I am also thankful for the ones who love us individually in little ways like packages or an entire suitcase of goodies that they send with volunteers for us to use for game prizes at Thanksgiving.  It was a lot of fun to get to give out chocolate chips, candy canes, and pepperoni to our colleagues because a church wanted to bless them!
  • The assurance that I have that when I die, I will spend eternity in heaven.  That means more to me now that my mama is gone than it ever did before.  I have no fear when it comes to facing eternity, only longing for a time when there will be no more striving, no more tears, and I will cast off the cares of this old world.  Last Sunday in church, a man here sang a song in English.  The church has very few English speakers, and he is not one of the few they have.  He obviously had learned this song in English just well enough to share it.  It was an old gospel song about heaven.  If I hadn’t heard the song before, I would have struggled to understand much of what he was saying.  But, knowing the chorus, I followed along and thoroughly enjoyed his efforts, singing along on the parts that I could.  When he got to the lines that say “I have a precious mother up in Glory Land, I don’t expect to stop until I clasp her hand, for me she’s waiting now at heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore,”  I nearly ugly cried.  In African church.  Where I was the only white woman and no one else even understood what the man was saying.  Yes, I am thankful for my eternal future in Glory Land!
I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there.  I imagine that in 5 years, when I go back and read this post from a very different season of life...3 out of high school and 1 more nearly there, I will smile and appreciate the place I was in at this time.