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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy New Year!

I am going to take a mini blog vacation in order to plow through some of my sorely neglected paperwork. 


You will all be missed. I may sneak away from time to time to come see you but I will save all my exciting adventures and thoughts and start the New Year off with a bang.


Have a really great week and I'll see you on the other side.

Until then, may God bless and keep you on your own personal adventures.

                       

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas From Zambia






Merry Christmas from Zambia

This is our area's version of the poinsettia.

Have a blessed day with all your families and friends.
May God's love shower you richly with joy. 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

One of My Many Inspirations

My dad has taught me so much over the years about living a life of faith. Through many experiences, good and bad, my dad has shown me a true persevering spirit.

He has showed me that to be a friend you should show yourself friendly. My dad never found himself alone without someone to talk to. He could chat with anyone at anytime about anything and often did. I didn't appreciate this as much as a child when we were left in the car while he 'dashed into a store for bread and milk' and a couple hours later would emerge with a story about the very nice person he met inside. Now I am thankful for the gift of gab that he passed on to me. 

My dad has been a missionary for over 30 years [Update: that should say over 40 years] after God took him from a life of drugs to a Christ focused life. I'm really proud of him. I look forward to the blog telling his story.

There are many things we don't see eye to eye about--which father/daughter combo doesn't have one or two of those--but we have recently begun to reconnect (thanks, Facebook) and I'm learning there are many more things that we have in common.


Today my dad celebrates his birthday. He will be spending it reaching out to others and sharing the true message of Christmas with them.


Happy Birthday, Dad!









 Missionary, father to 11 children (bio and step), grandpa to 13 (and counting), and all around nice guy.



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Our staff


Our staff holding the loot from their Christmas grab bags.


It was almost as difficult to take this picture as it was to take the kids' Christmas shot.

Hope your last preparation days are going well. 
Just two sleeps to go. :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Reason for the Season

For as long as I can remember my family has always been very active in visiting people, singing, volunteering and doing whatever we could do during the Christmas season. 

 One of my earliest memories is as a child of about 3 years old taking homemade dough ornaments to a nursing home. One of the old ladies tried to eat the little cookie-shaped ornament which horrified me. 

I find it interesting that I have only two memories of receiving gifts over the years of my childhood and hundreds of memories of reaching out to others. And I think that is how it should be.

Once I had grown and had my own children we continued the tradition by making Christmas cards and going around with Meals for Wheels or performing carols at hospitals and nursing homes.

Every year, since my birthday falls just one week before Christmas, we were nearly always doing a show or outreach program or volunteer project on my birthday. I loved it because it felt so much better than indulging myself. Plus it was always fairly easy to work the fact that it was my birthday into conversation at some point. Well wishes and birthday cheer would then be heaped on me. Being a dedicated extrovert this was A-ok with me. 

 Now that we are focusing on different charitable activities we have few extra activities at Christmas aside from teaching the kids about Christ's birth and giving our staff a little something special. I miss the other forms of outreach at times  but know that God has His time for everything.

 Below is something my dad wrote last year remembering our Christmas fun while living in India.

December 24, 2008

Mumbai Christmas Memories

Following the news of the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, my mind was flooded with memories of walking those very streets and entering the train station and hotels pictured in the news.

This same flood of memories happened to me some months ago, when a separate series of bombing racked that city-- for we once sang at one of the bombed hotels. Although it has been over twenty years since the five years I spent in India with my family, the memory of a particular Christmas Eve has never left me.

Several of my own children, plus a couple others, had finished the second of two thirty-minute sets of Christmas songs in the lobby of an international hotel. We asked the children, "Well, should we go?"

"No, please, one more time.”

The faces of international airline crews checking into the hotel may have had something to do with their wanting to stay. The crews looked tired and uninspired as they entered– forced to spend Christmas day away from home and loved ones as there were almost no flights out on December 25. However, their expressions quickly passed to surprise, warm relief and brightness as they stopped and even sang along.

The interaction between the performers and the audience created an electric, energy-filled atmosphere that seemed to sustain us-- fuel poured on our motivation to keep going-- spreading the oft ignored true meaning of Christmas. 'One more time' repeated itself throughout the evening-- just as it had every day for a week or more. The children would seem to come to the end of their strength, but would suggest, “Can we just drink another lemon-water* and go one more time?"

(*Highly carbonated bitter-tasting bottled mineral water was usually the only safe drink available-- but a pinch of salt took out some of the carbonation and some lemon and a spoon of sugar made it palatable.)

Another special memory of that evening occurred when we noticed that a businessman seated across the lobby was
gently sobbing. An member of our team who approached him heard him saying, "They're so good; and I'm so bad." He explained that he was moved by the pure love that he could see in the children's performance and then prayed with our co-worker to receive God's Christmas gift-- Jesus-- into his heart.

Our personal remembrances, fun and enjoyment are also important and have their place as we celebrate Christmas, but by focusing on opportunities to share God's precious gift of love to the world-- our own joy is multiplied. As in Saint Francis' prayer-- it is in giving that we truly receive.

I pray that you have a wonderfully happy Christmas dear friends --

With love, Bruce

(Photos circa 1987 of my children: Ruth, Phil, Priya, Brant, Chloe and Amy)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My TaTas are Tired!

We just got back from our long trip to Lusaka. I'll write more about ours and Chola's experiences tomorrow.


The road down has some stretches that are just covered with potholes. There are parts where you can't even swerve to avoid them but have to go through them. Sometimes we would misjudge the depth of a hole and ka-blam! Even approaching slowly meant a pretty good jolt.



Then there is a stretch where the road is good but every 50-100 kms (30-60 miles) there were villages where the government put 10 small speed bumps at either end of each village. Even slowing down, the car still went bumpity bump bump bump.

On this particular trip up and down I was suffering from the effects of that time of month which is to women worldwide as the full moon is to werewolves.


A particularly nasty side effect is extreme tenderness in a certain portion of my anatomy. Combine this with much less than smooth roads and I have just one thing to say:


ouchouchouchouchouchouch!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Fab Friday Foto--Volume VI


 Beautiful Mango Trees


Melanie, this one is for you.

You can download this photo here.


The Christmas card is available for download here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!



In honor of my special day I'm going to post this story I wrote two years ago:

December 20, 2007

I had a great birthday. I wasn't looking forward to it at first but then I was invited to go with some friends to see two of the amazing waterfalls in our area. And the following day two Peace Corps girls came over and cooked me an Indian dinner and my kids baked me a chocolate cake with orange butter frosting.

The waterfalls are about 2 1/2 hours away from us and the last hour is a dirt road. At one point we hit some wet mud and slid out of control for a bit before the driver was able to pull us out of it. Very scary! We also hit some large potholes and since I was in the back of the four-wheel drive I hit the roof a couple times. Definitely a new experience since I am so short, my head rarely hits anything.


The falls were absolutely breathtaking. It really puts life and its problems in perspective. Like I said, I hadn't been looking forward to this birthday, not because of a number or anything--I think it was more that I was just worn out and needed some time to myself and my brain latched on my birthday. When I thought there was nothing to do for it I got a bit depressed but then the falls trip opened up. Standing there looking at the vastness of the waterfall, being drenched by the mist, it was all so awe inspiring and reminded me that the same One who made these incredible sights was the One who was looking after every detail of my life. Who was I to grumble, worry, or get worked up?


I am amazed that more people don't visit the falls up here but the roads aren't paved for the last hour and there really aren't facilities around it to make staying here a possibility. Such a shame. On the other hand, it was so nice looking at a marvel of nature not surrounded by tourists and signs absolving whomever of any liability, no gift shops, etc. I wish the whole world knew about these falls and at the same time I wish I could keep them all to myself.


There are two falls close to each other. We went to the first one and after looking at it from the top we climbed down the gully to the bottom of the falls so we could swim. I hadn't brought a swimming suit since I rarely go swimming--prefering to read at the water's edge. But since this was a big day for me I decided to go for it all the way and swam in some of my clothes. My kids were horrified when I got home. First of all, they were disappointed that they missed out on seeing me in the water because they are always begging me to swim and secondly horrified, because they couldn't believe I swam in anything but a regulation swim suit.



After swimming for a few minutes we drove down to the second water fall. In order to see this one we had to follow an overgrown path. I use the word 'path' in the loosest of terms. We had to push our way between tall grass and thorny vines, climb over and under fallen tree trunks, and navigate slippery slopes. A couple of times we couldn't tell where the path was and had to guess. Then, all of a sudden the path opened up and we were standing on this bluff looking at this amazing waterfall. The mist was blowing over us and the water was rushing down. It felt like perhaps we were the first ones ever to see this sight.


I got quite the workout that day climbing down and back up the first gully and then navigating the second path. As I was working my way back to the vehicle I was thinking how the memories of this day would last me a lifetime and my muscles would remember it for at least a week.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why Wait for the New Year?

Every New Year it's the same thing: I make resolutions to finally lose that weight, finally get in shape, finally do whatever.

This year I decided to start now. Before the holiday season. Radical, right?








The thing with me is that I hate to do things alone. I love to team up with people to do things. 


The internet, thankfully,  is a great place to get support. 

A couple years ago I joined Spark People. This is a FREE website that offers everything from meal plans to online food journaling to exercise videos and demos. They have a wealth of health information that you can read.
 
One of the greatest things (in my opinion) about this site is that you earn points for each thing you do. Every minute of cardio exercise is a POINT. Log your food--More points. Drink your 8 cups of water--5 points! As you get points you earn medals. Mine is there on the right. 


You can join up with teams of people and set specific goals for that team. I've joined different teams since joining in 2008 and this year I've signed up for a Boot Camp. I look forward to the challenges and having an exercise plan.

Another source of inspiration for me are those women out in blog land who are working on the same goals as I am. People like Carmen who lost 80 pounds and knows the importance of remaining vigilant.  She inspires me.

  I found 2 groups of women who formed websites with each of them contributing blogs each day. 



 The Skinny Chics have a delightfully, irreverent way of looking at the mountain of weight loss we all face and transforming it into little bitty molehills that we just know we can climb--one at a time.

The ladies at Five Full Plates have well researched and honest articles that make me want to do and eat better.


Chubby Chick has a big goal in front of her and she cheerfully documents it so we can learn and journey with her. I love the comics she has sprinkled throughout. Right now she's having a nice giveaway on her blog.



Keeping your goal in front of you all the time is a really helpful way to stay on target. It sounds simplistic but really when you only have the deprivation keeping you company or the exhaustion that is a guarantee when you start up a new exercise regime then you can lose motivation.
  
  Always reminding yourself of the end goal keeps you looking forward and not just at the moment. When I log on first thing in the morning to my Spark account or read blogs of other women in the same boat as I, I stay on track the whole day. Try it out--it might work for you too.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Mini Update




 I'll be traveling these next few days so I'll be auto posting a couple things. I apologize that I won't be able to reply to your comments right away.

We'll be picking up some Christmas treats and also taking Chola to the doctor for a swelling on his groin.

Pray for our safety on the road. Poor Tom will be doing all the driving (12 hours each way) because he wants to protect me. Isn't that just like a man? (Name that book). 

I am grateful for a man who loves and takes care of me.



In the meantime, may God bless and keep you on your own personal adventures.

                   Amy

The Accidental Missionary

On my trip to Lusaka for Thanksgiving supplies I hired a taxi for the day to run me around town visiting all the shops. My phone battery was running low because of being on the bus all day and night and then being on the go the following day as well. Since I was about to get back on the bus for another overnight ride I asked the taxi driver if he had a car charger. He did and I handed him my phone.

He plugged it in and I leaned back into the seat in the rear of the taxi.

  Two seconds later I began to panic--I felt my pockets, searched my purse, looked in all the pockets, moved my parcels and bags around desperately looking for.....

my phone!

I was in a complete panic and began saying, "my phone, my phone". The taxi driver couldn't hear me well but asked if I wanted to use my phone and began to hand it to me.

Yes, I, in the space of less than 30 seconds, had forgotten where I had put my phone!

I sat back in my seat and chuckled to myself: Lord, you chose me??

For the record I don't really mean the title of this post. I know that God has a plan for me and I didn't 'fall' into this life by mistake but sometimes when people compliment me and call me an angel or say they couldn't do what I do, I get all itchy. 

I am so grateful for compliments--it's my secondary love language after all--but I think people ought to know that if it weren't for God I would not be able to do this at all.

In 2003, we had been in Africa over a year and I headed to the States for some fundraising engagments. I stayed for a bit with my brother-in-law and his family. One day as I was visiting with them my little 3 year old niece came running up to me calling, "Aunty Amy, Aunty Amy! I have somethin' for you!" I absentmindedly put out my hand to receive her little gift. Just as it dropped into my outstretched hand it registered what it was--a little roly poly pill bug.

I screamed and threw it back at her without a second thought. Immediately I felt bad and scooped up the little wide-eyed darling for kisses and cuddles but her dad turned to me and said dryly, "And you live in Africa?"

Yes, folks, I hate bugs and live in a land where I'm surrounded by them.

Here are the top 8 reasons (in no particular order) I make a terrible choice for a missionary:


1. I cannot handle bugs well. Even a small insignificant one has been known to make me screech and scream and get a toe tingle.

2. Snakes scare me half to death (did I mention my husband keeps poisonous snakes?).

4. I am claustrophobic in a country where people have no concept of 'personal space'. I have had to do breathing exercises and concentrate on a postage stamp sized view of the sky on bus trips at times.

5. I'm not an adventurous eater. I'm a great cook and I love to try new things but not if they include caterpillars, unusual fish, or things I haven't seen prepared myself.

6. I'm logical and orderly. Most developing nations don't operate on logic (at least not as we define it) and it can drive you batty in a heartbeat.


7. I hate crowds. I didn't even participate in big shopping days in the States because I can't handle crowded stores. Zambia loves crowds. Especially in a village--the smallest happening will draw a crowd very quickly.

8. I'm a control freak of the highest order and if there is anywhere you discover quickly that you are not in control of anything at all it is on the mission field.

God has really worked in my life to make me fit for his service and all my problems make me lean on Him even more.


I do have one thing going for me though.......


I am not what you'd call small and delicate. I'm a little more sturdily built and I have nice 'womanly curves'. 


Did you know that snakes can't see or hear well but they 'see' with their tongues and by feeling vibrations on the ground?


Yes, my size keeps me safe from snakes. They can feel me coming from way across the yard! 


I don't know what I'm going to do if this diet works........

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Janet

Janet

Our Kids--Volume V

After taking in our first two orphans in October, 2007, we thought we had won the support of the community but a month and then two went by with no new children. A volunteer from the U.S joined our team and since she had come out specifically to help care for babies we felt we were letting her down. Our 10 cribs in the cheerful nursery seemed to mock us.

Then, Christmas Eve arrived and with it a man  whose wife had just passed away the day before after a month long illness. He had his 5 month old baby , Janet, with him. He had been trying to feed her with a bottle but as a poor fisherman he had no way to continue to buy formula for her.




This was the first time I had come face to face with such raw grief. It hurt to look at him. Because Janet was starting to show signs of dehydration I told her dad we would look after her for a week and he could come back to us with a decision about what he wanted to do.


For the kids in our care we become their guardians until they are 18 years old. The family is required to sign paperwork to that effect so that the kids don't have to be moved around at the whim of family members. Some orphanages have had trouble where a child will be dropped off but as soon as it is old enough to beg or work in the fields they want the child back with them. If a relative has a hard time making ends meet they might want to give the child up again. This is all very confusing for the poor children. 

We ask the family to carefully consider and then sign guardianship over to us. They are encouraged to come visit every Saturday so that the kids can learn about their family.



Grandma Connie, our wonderful volunteer, took care of Janet from the beginning.

Janet had a funny habit of blowing bubbles that caused spit to go over everything. We had a bib for her that said 'automatic sprinkler'. It fit her to a T.




Laundry baskets were the easiest way to hold small babies. The sides helped keep them upright so they could learn to sit up and there was plenty of room for toys.




Janet loved Grandma Connie and was sorry to see her go when her three months were up. Jasmine took over her care and Janet was very attached to Jasmine from that day forward.



The pool feels so good on hot summer's day




Janet is one of those kids that seems to have such an old soul. When she looks at you sometimes you wanna ask, "What do you see, darling?"





I'm really excited about watching Janet grow up and develop into a young woman. She has changed so much since we took her into our home nearly 2 years ago. Who knows what God has in store for her?

More stories about our kids:
Jennifer
Chola
Beauty
Peter
Queenie
Moriah

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Super Story--Part Two


In last week's episode we left off as a family of eight left their campground home in Mexico and headed north....


My parents believed in Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:9-12 when he sent out his disciples and told them not to take money or even bags or extra clothes. He told them to find someone worthy to stay with in each town. My parents operated this way completely by faith. I really do admire them for that. For all that I've been able to do in my life I often feel that I haven't even come close to what my parents did.


When we left Mexico we drove north to Texas and ended up in McAllen on New Year’s Eve. My parents stood in a phone booth calling number after number trying to find us a place to stay. Most places were closed because of the holiday and we didn’t have the money to stay in a hotel. Finally someone recommended a certain address and we drove there. The owners of the house were not at home, so we parked in the driveway and went to sleep. We woke in the morning to faces looking through our windows wondering why there was a van filled with sleeping people in their driveway. it turned out that this house was a halfway home for recovering, former drug addicts and alcoholics. The couple that ran this ministry became our very good friends. To help support the house and ministry they had a concession stand that would go to auctions. I still dream of their sausages and white flour tortillas. Oh yum!
 
I’m not sure if my parents helped at all with this ministry while we were there but they would have done well with it. My dad had been a drug addict before finding Jesus at the age of 19. God completely changed his life and he committed his life to helping others from that day forward.

We lived in a tent in the backyard of the house and this is where my love affair with libraries began in earnest. We lived catty-corner to a public library and my mom took us there every day. If it was hot outside, the library was delightfully chilly; if it was cold, it was cozily warm. Because we all enjoyed reading my mom could easily teach us and keep us occupied.
  My love for books came much earlier than this. Since my parents moved so often they couldn’t carry many books. When I was a toddler, they had a book of children’s poetry that they read to me again and again. Before long I had memorized the poems and would ‘read’ the words by myself. Next thing my parents knew I could read. I was not quite three years old. I have been in love with words ever since.
 I remember reading a bunch of Young Adult nurse/doctor romances. I was 8 years old--Mom, what were you thinking? LOL! I fell in love (no pun intended) with the medical field and was sure I would be a nurse when I grew up.



My parents were taking some time to pray about what their next mission would be. I didn’t know this at the time but a new adventure was right around the corner.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Loving Arms of Jesus

I want to thank all of you for your prayers and thoughts and messages over the last few days.

This post is going to be a bit long but one of the reasons I started this blog was that it is a way for me to journal the things we go through here--not having a woman near by on whose shoulder I could cry is hard but this outlet has made it a bit easier. I pray that this particular post will point you to my God and that His goodness will ultimately be glorified.


I had such hopes that Matete would pull through but on Sunday night she took a turn for the worse and we traveled up to the hospital for a new IV line. Her hand and arm had swelled terribly from the first line (which was also leaking) so we removed it. It was difficult to get a line in because her veins were so small and dehydrated. I was quite upset by how bad she looked. Tom kept telling me that Jennifer had been much worse off and I tried to keep the faith. 
  We finally got the IV in her scalp and took her home. She also got an injection to stop her vomiting and I took a vial home to inject her with again if she continued having trouble. At home I added more dextrose to her IV line and adjusted her IV. She slept and seemed ok. I dozed through the night always rising often to check on her. As the morning drew near her lungs began to rattle and I could tell the end was near. I held her on my chest and we just cuddled.


When we first opened our orphanage we decided that we didn't want to take in babies or toddlers with HIV because we didn't feel up to the task of dealing with all their medical needs. Tom especially didn't want to have to deal with the death. He's so tenderhearted. While we were still building we had a chance encounter (ha ha--no such thing with God) with a missionary who has been helping raise orphans for over 20 years. She told us how she had lost 6 babies in the previous year but that we couldn't let our lives be led by fear. That life and death is in God's hands. This really resonated with Tom and we decided together to just let go and let God.
  One thing that helped move us even further in this direction is that we can't always tell if a baby has HIV when they are tiny. The simple test is only accurate once a child is 18 months old. The more precise test takes 2 weeks (at least) and usually a child needs our help right away. Once we've taken them in we can't see tossing them out again just because they need more long term care.



Last year while I was on a trip to the States we had our first baby death. Tom handled it so well but it did leave its mark on him. By a miracle of the Lord's timing I happened to be on the phone with Tom when it all happened and we prayed and communicated a lot over the next few days.



Then between April and June of this year we lost 3 babies. It was the first time I'd had to deal with death up close and personal. Tom was here for the first one but not the next two. The first one came to us so sick that it wasn't really a surprise--although still very sad--that she passed away. It was my first experience with death and I found it hard to get used to. The next baby was a bit of a surprise because he came to us as a brand new born baby but he never ate and just shriveled away to nothing. I took this one hard because I had worked tirelessly to get him to eat or grow but he just didn't. In a different place he may have had a bevy of tests done and we could have found out what was wrong. But this is not a different place and we have to trust God for where he has placed us and each of His precious children.


In June we lost our (then) youngest baby to a bout of pneumonia. It came on fast and within a day she was dead. I really had a hard time with this one because it was so unexpected. I also felt I had failed because I had been looking after her all day--walking the floor with her, patting her on the back to relieve the congestion and making sure she got all her medicine. Finally at 1:30 AM I lay down next to her. I asked the Lord to wake me if she needed anything and fell asleep. 
  When I woke up at 5 my first thought was for her. I turned over and saw her sleeping peacefully. There was a split second of relief and then awareness. I fell apart for a while--had a scream and cry. I did blame God, I'm ashamed to say, because I had asked him to wake me and I felt he had failed. Later on, after prayer and some encouragement from friends, I realized that He had answered my prayer--there was nothing I could do for her and he spared me from watching her last moments.

  Because of this experience though, I was determined not to leave little Matete at all. I was so grateful that she would feel loving arms around her as Jesus welcomed her into His. I kissed her little head and stroked her hair as she drew her last breath.
  God has really worked in my life over this past year. I know that His will is perfect. While I don't believe that I will ever be ok with the suffering, God has given me so much more peace.


  As I was reading blogs a couple days ago I came across the blog of Katie, a young woman serving the Lord with children in Uganda. She is such a good example of someone who gives their all to Him. This blog she wrote spoke to me so much. It really echoed my thoughts. I was grateful for the Lord reminding me that I'm not alone. To find this post just when I needed it reminded me yet again of the Lord's love.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Close up bug action



Troy found this cute moth. Look at those bunny ears. They look like leaves.
Isn't God amazing to make animals perfectly suited to their environment?

But every once in a while we see a bug that has no purpose as far as we can tell.




This little beetle (ok, not so little) lives in our house. 

It doesn't seem to do anything at all. 

It just wanders round and round our living room, office and bedroom. 



We'll be watching TV and there it is crossing the living room.


Later it is near the front door still aimlessly meandering.


When I get out of bed at night it is there in my office or bedroom.


Surprisingly, with my bug/animal/creepy crawly phobia this one doesn't bother me.


It never seems to reach a destination--always just walking and wandering.


I call this bug the Dude, Where's My Car Bug.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Christmas card for SITmas



Have a really great season of joy and cheer!

This is a special post for everyone at SITS who is participating in the party today.


I have to give props to my husband who made this card and to my son who took the photo while the rest of us jumped around with a stuffed monkey and chocolate bars. Have you ever tried to get 14 kids below 4 years looking in the same direction and not crying at the same time?

I'm putting this up on picasa for downloading. I'll share the link in a future post.

  

Heaven has a new baby

Baby Matete passed away yesterday morning. I can't really write about it right now. Just know that while sad, I am also happy that her suffering is over. Thank you for all your prayers and thoughts.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Life experiences

The other day we were watching a documentary channel and a documentary about the Falklands War came on. We found it extra interesting because Tom lived in Argentina during this war (1982) and actually had his family's missionary work cut short because of anti-foreigner sentiment and their support also dried up due to mail not getting through as usual. This of course was way before ATM machines were available worldwide.


Tom with a friend in Argentina

Last night while watching BBC a news report about the 25 year anniversary of the Bhopal gas leak tragedy in India. This was something I lived through with my family. Due to God's protection and the fact that we lived across a lake from the area where the refinery was, our family was safe despite 8000 people dying over 3 days time.

My parents tried to keep the worst from us children by keeping us home away from the scenes of dead bodies lying in the streets but I saw the pictures in the newspaper. It was a sobering time for a 10 year old child who already had a bleeding heart. My dad would come home from working and volunteering and doing what he could with stories of people begging him to do more and asking if he were a doctor. I can't even imagine what that might have been like for him.

This was a big learning experience for me--most of the people that died were the poor working class that lived in slums and so while there was a lot of public outcry, today, 25 years on, not much has been done to help the survivors who still live with the effects of that tragedy. It makes you wonder if things would have been handled differently if it were in a different part of town or world.

My sister and I (I'm on the left). 
I'm wearing a punjabi top--a traditional Indian outfit.

I'm grateful that I've been able to learn so much about the world through real-life experiences. It has made me who I am and gives me the drive to do what I can to make a difference.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Super Story--Part One


How to begin a story that really never began?  Do I start the story off when I was all grown up? Or do I go way back to when I was a baby?—That is really when my adventures started. 

Both Tom and I were raised in missionary families. Tom’s heritage of missionary work goes way back for six generations. Over the generations they have been missionaries all over; from Brazil to circuit riding in California to running an orphanage in Alaska. Tom grew up mostly in South America while I grew up in Mexico and India. We met in Japan—romantic, yes, but you’ll have to wait for that story.


 I'm the one on the right


My parents were missionaries in Mexico when I was born (I was born in California during one of their breaks) and I spoke Spanish before English. After my younger sister was born my parents took a break and my dad went back to school and taught at Head Start for a while.


 My lovely parents way back when


Later, when I was eight years old we lived in Mexico again while my dad taught English in Queretaro. We lived in a campground—in a tent--for six months. Let me just say here that my mom is my hero. My older brother was born with severe cerebral palsy and by the time we were living in Mexico my parents had six kids and I was the ‘oldest’ at only seven years old. My mom hand washed laundry (including cloth diaper for at least two kids) for all of us.
  We lived way outside the city and often when my dad came home from work he would bring milk but it would be sour—Mom turned it into a curdled milk desert. I love that about her; she always was positive and made the best of situations.

Other memories from that time: My sister and I learned to sing a traditional Neapolitan Christmas song (there was a community in Mexico from Naples, Italy) but then we were dressed in the traditional costume which included a tall hat with little eye slits. We had no dress rehearsal so the first time we put on the costumes was before we were put out on a stage with thousands/hundreds/maybe dozens of people. All I know is that I looked out of these tiny eyeholes and saw all these people watching me and promptly forgot the words to the song. My sister and I just stood there and stared. Later we got a doll from under the Christmas tree on the stage. I wish I had pictures of that event.

The campground filled up at winter with Snow Birds (those retired persons who head south for the winter). That was a fun time for us children because it was like having a bunch of grandparents around. Once I was stung by a wasp and I guess my cries drew a crowd and everyone had a remedy to try. Ice, honey, vinegar, etc. Finally one couple brought out a tube of black salve that really did the trick. They gave my dad the tube and it traveled with us around the world—it was miracle stuff. I wish I knew the name so I could buy some for my first aid kit.


 Isn't it funny how you can tell nearly exactly how old a child is by their teeth?


While living there we survived a double hurricane that hit both coasts of Mexico at the same time with the crosswinds hitting us. It’s not a fantastic idea to ride out a huge storm in a tent. Especially not one with a flat roof. My dad stood in the center of the tent with a bucket holding a soccer ball balanced on his head to create a peak and let the rainwater run off. Soon the wind got strong enough to lift the whole tent filled with a family of eight and all their possessions right off the ground to come smashing down and snap all the poles. We took refuge in a friend’s travel trailer after that. Our lovely parachute that provided shade over our living area was ripped to shreds.

While living at this campground my dad converted our van into a nice little camper. The back had a big platform bed with storage underneath and then the middle had benches around a table that went down to form another bed with the benches. We spent a lot of time in that van. While building the benches and table my dad nearly cut his leg off with a circular saw.  This van would play a big part in our lives in the months to come.

Part two: We move to Texas.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Saturday Evening Blog Post--December Edition

I had high hopes to put up the first episode of my Super Story today but we had an 18 hour power cut and I couldn't get my photos off Tom's computer. I'll go ahead and post that tomorrow.



In the meantime, Elizabeth Esther hosts a blog post round up the first Saturday of every month. My contribution this month is Tom's adventure with the witch doctors.

Baby Matete is doing ok--not great and not better--but still hanging in there. Please pray with me that she makes some progress or that we find a way to help her. It breaks my heart so to see her suffering.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Crazy African Life

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.


We've been collecting Christmas cards for over 10 years now and love putting them up on the wall and incorporating them into our decorating scheme. This year Timmy and Jasmine put them up in a shape which is so cool looking. T.J wants to use the rest to do a Christmas tree on the rest of the wall.

Troy was complaining yesterday that he didn't have the Christmas feel. It's because we don't have our tree decorated yet. After our first year in Africa, where we had to use a house plant for a Christmas tree that could only support tiny paper ornaments, we bought an artificial tree. Normally we decorate it right after Thanksgiving dinner but we are short a strand of lights (or two) so we have to wait until after the weekly trip to the city. No dashes to WalMart here.



Anyway, to help take Troy's mind off the bare tree I had him bake the first Christmas cookies of the year. These gingerbread cookies were also the first cookies that Troy had ever made completely on his own.

A favorite pastime in our house is putting together jigsaw puzzles. My mom sent two Christmas puzzles. Yay!



Now for an odd change of subject. Today we went to the hospital to check on the records for the new baby. We also wanted to put in an IV to help her get her fluids. As we looked for the records the nurses told us that there had been no maternal deaths recently. We were confused as to where the baby had come from. The grandmother had clearly said that the mom had died at this hospital.

Matete with our rigged up IV line.

Questions went round and round until finally a patient's family member wandered into the office and said that her sister was upset because she heard there was a baby in the hospital and thought it might be hers. A few questions later and we had the whole story:

Apparently little Matete is nearly 6 weeks old--not 12 days. Her mom gave birth to her (6 weeks premature) and went back home but then got sick and wound up in the hospital again. Her sister took the baby to the grandmother's house but after trying for a few weeks to feed the baby (and failing) she decided to bring the baby to us.

Matete's mom is very sick with HIV/AIDS and the nurses aren't sure how to tell her that the baby is also sick because they are afraid she will take a turn for the worse from the depression.

We had to drive out to the village where the baby comes from and confront the grandmother. She explained that she thought if she'd told the truth we wouldn't have taken the baby.

As it stands now we will continue to care for the baby since the hospital doesn't have enough nurses and we'll see if the mom recovers. We'll take it one day at a time.

And now for another subject change:
I really enjoy reading blogs because it gives me a peek into life in other places and spaces. One that I like to read is The Provident Woman. She and her husband raise bees and sell the honey and other related products. She is hosting a giveaway on her site right now. She's giving away a cookbook by another of my favorite bloggers: The Pioneer Woman. This cookbook is near the top of my Christmas wishlist.

There you have it--my crazy life in Africa: a sick baby with a mystery, Christmas preparations , and a blog giveaway. Just my average day.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Baby Peter is doing so well now. He is cheerful and the noisiest little rascal we've ever had. He babbles and squeals to make sure everyone in the room is paying attention to him. Since he is healthy Tom asked me to move him down to the nursery. There were plenty of tears (mine--Peter is doing just fine, the little rascal) but the transition went well.

He still comes up to the main house in the evening because we are short staffed then but also because we just love playing with him.



With Peter down in the nursery I was able to sleep through the night and get caught up on some of the sleep I missed out on while I was nursing him back to health. I also resumed my morning walks. I prefer to do them early before there are many people out on the road. This cuts down on my audience.



Well, as you may have seen from my post title--things couldn't stay this way for long.



Last night we received a little baby girl. This reminds me of when my kids were little. I would wean the baby, get back to my pre-pregnancy weight and within a couple months if not weeks--I'd be pregnant!



But back to now. Without further ado,


meet Matete (which means grass by the river). Her name may get a western addition--we'll see.

Matete's mother died a week ago, four days after Matete's birth. She apparently died of yellow fever but we are going to be checking with the hospital and getting the records. Matete's very elderly grandmother brought her to us yesterday. The father is a fisherman working on a river far away from here. If I understand correctly, this is the first child which means that the father will probably just forget about this family and start a new one.


Since then, and perhaps even after birth, Matete only received sugar water. We don't understand why the hospital didn't provide formula. Poor little baby girl is skinny skinny. Thankfully she is not dehydrated but her stomach is unaccustomed to milk and so she has some tummy issues. We're watching her closely to make sure she doesn't get dehydrated.

Please pray with us that her tummy adapts to the formula and that she can retain the fluids she needs. Pray for me when you're at it, would you? This process is always really challenging for me--especially since losing 3 babies in the first half of the year. I find myself feeling pretty anxious.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

No One Told Me

I wanted to be a mom from as far back as I can remember. My sister and I played house when we were little and we took it to the next level by planning our kids' names, the weekly menus, the chore lists. Basically all our house play was done on paper.

We also listed our future husband's names and included a boyfriend for the side as well. Somehow we believed that husbands were necessary but boyfriends were fun. Why not have both?

I was so excited to be pregnant after only 3 months of marriage and delighted to give birth to twin girls. This was totally in my plan. Ok, not the twin part--that was a surprise but I wanted to have eight children and have a girl first because oldest girls are big helps. I should know!

Being pregnant and giving birth were delightful. Even with premature deliveries, emergency breech births (delivered naturally--ouch!) I would so totally go back and do it again.

Watching over the little ones and teaching them how to read and seeing them learn new skills was a ton of work but still so enjoyable.

But.....

no one told me.....

how much fun teenagers could be.

Seeing my kids change from children into young adults is the most rewarding experience.

This spring I took my oldest girls back to the States so they could go to college and we had a blast traveling together and getting them settled in the States. Watching them learn all about this brand new culture and teaching them how to take care of their finances and get jobs was challenging but exhilarating.

One of my biggest Thanksgivings for this year was that the girls have settled in so well. They are nearly done with their first semester in college and are doing really well. Jennifer has decided to be a teacher and Jessica is considering becoming a counselor.

T.J is my oldest son and is a delight to me. He takes life so seriously. He would like to go into politics and may join the military first. I think he would make a great History professor as well.

One of the things I enjoy about having teenagers around is that for once there is someone in the house more melodramatic than me. Real conversation with one of my sons:

He: Mom, I'm really sad.



Me: Really? Why?



He: Remember that James Bond movie we just watched? (note: the one that came out in 1997)
Well, that was the last time that Q was in it. They changed the actor. It just won't be the same.



Me: Oh. I'm sorry.


And because I'm a good mom I didn't snicker until I was in private. Well, and then here too but this is pretty private, right?

This is Timothy. He entertains us with his antics and crazy ideas. He hates normal and loves to shock the world.

In the midst of his craziness he is a really good teacher. Timmy runs the preschool circle time and takes really good care of the kids. He is kind to them but a good disciplinarian as well.He has said that he wants to be a teacher but thinks his older sister 'stole his idea' and so he isn't sure anymore.




This is Jasmine. My youngest daughter and right hand man (sorry, woman) right now. She is the perfect assistant. Once when we ran into a snag with the meal plans for the kids I suggested a solution and then (as is typical for me) completely forgot about it. Late that night Jasmine came and got the exact instructions for putting the plan into effect.

The next morning I told her that she would make a great personal assistant and she replied, "why not the boss?" That's my girl!


She's considered doing some modeling as well. It will be interesting to see how her life choices shape up.

Troy is my youngest son and at 12 is on the brink of becoming a teenager. He works hard to take care of our chickens and the other animals also. When the chicks were tiny he had to put a charcoal brazier (stove) in their pen each night.

Troy's real passion though is computer work and inventions. He makes animated movies and loads them onto YouTube. He has built a couple robots as well and just like a good youngest child he loves to sing, dance and act.

His favorite time is when we have young volunteer visitors (especially those from the Peace Corps) because he gets the proper respect from them--he can't count on his older brothers for that, of course.

I absolutely love how kids grow up and develop their own personalities. It's amazing how even though they've been taught right here in my home they still surprise me with things they've learned and know.

My mom always said that kids should be an improvement on the stock. I really see that in my kids. We plant seeds in their lives and watch as they grow into something amazing. God has been so good in giving us kids who are willing to serve Him alongside us.
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