Saturday, October 26, 2013

Our Sensory World

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RVA is a unique place.  Our students call Africa home (Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and Mozambique commonly – but also countries farther north or farther south or farther west).  They call nations all over the world their passport country (USA, Canada, South Korea, the UK, Australia, and many more).    And each year RVA celebrates this unique diversity during Multi-Cultural Day.

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This year’s theme was Our Sensory World.  Split up into three “continents” (the Americas, Africa/Australia, and Euro-Asia), students had the opportunity to taste, touch, see, smell, and hear things from each continent.  They spent an hour at each continent participating in various activities pertaining to that culture.  They had artwork to make, music to play, dances to learn, costumes to wear, and food to try. 

DSC_0017 (3)Students learned a tribal dance with the Maasai

DSC_0091They put together a giant puzzle of the world (made by none other than Mr. Schmidt) and competed in teams for the best time

DSC_0102They observed multi-cultural artwork in a gallery and voted best in class

DSC_0108And they dressed up in costume and posed for pictures

DSC_0119Titchie girls performed a Korean fan dance

We feasted together outside for lunch and then moved into Centennial for the much anticipated Ceremony of the Flags.  This tradition is one of the best RVA has to offer.  A small glimpse of Heaven. Students sang praises to the Lord in Korean, Swedish, Portuguese and Swahili.  For one song, we sang the verses in English and the chorus altogether in our heart languages. 






Twenty-Five flags were represented by students who hail from those countries. Each country’s anthem plays as they process to loud cheers from the crowd.  One can’t help but be all teary as over 500 students and staff erupt into applause for each nation or as those same 500 people sing praises together in many languages.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice: 

“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb… Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever.  Amen!” 

Revelation 7:9-10, 12

Until the Whole World Hears,

 (we will leave you with some photos from the day)

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DSC_0028 (3)preschoolers for the US

DSC_0032 (2)drinking chai and eating maandazis while representing the red white & blue

DSC_0112and Evie is always good for a game of Ring-around-the-Rosy :)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Don’t Judge a Book by its Title (#1)

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately.  I read one book over mid-term break and a second one since then (post on that one forthcoming), both of which have bold, controversial titles that make you want to know more. 

The first book I picked up on Kindle a few weeks ago is called The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken 

As David Platt says in the foreword - Suffering is one of God’s ordained means for the growth of His church.  He brought salvation to the world through Christ, our suffering Savior, and he now spreads salvation in the world through Christians as suffering saints. In the words of Paul “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Clearly, there is a sense in which the danger of our lives increases in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ.  

Nik shares his “pilgrimage through persecution” that began with his involvement with relief work in Somalia just after the civil war in the early 1990’s.  Nik experienced the horrors of a post-war Somalia, and though he aided in feeding 50,000 starving people daily, he came away from his time in the horn of Africa feeling defeated and discouraged.  He had witnessed “the insanity of evil, the inhumanity of people, and the pain of failure.”


It was then that God used heartbreak and suffering in his own life to take Nik down a different path, on a journey all over the world to listen and learn from believers who have lived through intense persecution and had seen the church persevere and even thrive as a result. 

Nik shares story after story from the underground church in a number of different countries.  The gravity of the nature of their (in some cases ongoing) persecution is evident in each story.  All of the names and many of the locations have been protected, in fact, his own name has been protected.  He mentions at one point in the book that he does not want these believers to experience more suffering on his account.  Persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ is one thing; persecution because of any carelessness on his part is unacceptable.

Ultimately Nik sees evidence of Jesus and His resurrection power in places that even today are very much closed to the Gospel.    

”Before we can grasp the full meaning of the resurrection, we first have to witness the crucifixion.  If we spend our lives so afraid of suffering, so averse to sacrifice, that we avoid even the risk of persecution, then we might never discover the true wonder, joy and power of a resurrection faith. Ironically, avoiding suffering could be the very thing that prevents us from partnering deeply with the risen Jesus.”  (p. 308)

I like books (and sermons) that knock me around a little, that make me take a hard look inward at my own faith in Christ and what I’m willing to be obedient unto.  I do think the danger here is to romanticize persecution and set these believers on a spiritual pedestal, as if every believer should be striving for this, and I think he flirts with that line.  Overall, though, I very much appreciated reading the true stories of God’s ongoing work among the nations. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Loquats and the Monkeys that eat them



[loh-kwot, -kwat] noun

1.a small evergreen tree, Eriobotrya japonica, native to China and Japan, cultivated as an ornamental and for its yellow, plumlike fruit.

2.the fruit itself.


Exhibit A:  Ethan-van Spidermanus


The not-so-rare sighting of an Ethan in the loquat tree is often accompanied by the distinctive calls of “my crock is stuck again!” or “Nate just stepped on my hand!” One of the more avid tree climbers in his family line, when the branches of a fruit-laden tree are shaking, you can assume he is nearby. Once he has “mastered” a tree, there’s no telling the number of juicy, ripe loquats he’ll consume in one sitting.  Also of note is the high velocity by which the discarded loquat seeds themselves can be hurled from whatever perch he may be occupying; close proximity monkey-watchers beware!



Exhibit B:  Nater-gator Crawlanywhereus

DSC_0028 (2)You’ll know this guy is close simply by being aware of the decibel level that your ears are experiencing.  Seemingly not at all concerned by revealing his location, this one climbs to heights otherwise not seen by his relatives.  His extremely low body weight to agility ratio enables perching on the smallest of branches at the topmost reaches of the tree, as well as easily stretching across large, gaping expanses to procure the most coveted clusters of loquats in hard to reach places.  The only concern with this species is its refusal to let several falls from 10 to 12 feet up to deter him from climbing even higher and more dangerously the next time.  One wonders how this will effect the survival of the fittest rule in his future family line. 


Exhibit C:  Evie-Mae Landdwellerus


Easily the most beautiful and graceful of the species we’re studying today, Evie has a propensity towards the sweet juice found in the loquat fruit.  Upon observation, you’ll notice her most consistent method is to simply tear into and suck out all the juice, discarding the rest with a level of disdain only matched by her insistence on getting to her next victim.  Not yet taken to climbing the heights, she will occasionally be seen in the low-lying branches, but is most often found directly beneath the trees.  By doing so, she masterfully takes advantage of the carelessness of the other two specimens, exhibiting a scavenger quality that reveals the genius of her minimum-effort-for-maximum-gain approach to feeding.  Oddly enough, she can often be seen with a pink and yellow cloth-like item which she continually refers to as “blankie”;  it rarely leaves her side.


On a promising and exciting note, there have been several cases of domestication and training for each of the above species.  Much more study and observation much take place, but the future looks bright.  Just recently, one brave soul was able to enlist the assistance of all three to procure several buckets worth of the delectable fruit. 


As a result, and after hours of peeling, pitting, and preparation, the aforementioned individual was able to enter and utilize one of the most rare and safely guarded sanctuaries know to modern man – the kitchen of Courtney Lynn Stayoutoftheonlyplaceicanbealoneus


Advancing with much care and trepidation, this courageous researcher has seen success in the creation of two loquat pies (one has already been devoured by the inhabitants of this savage land).

Reporting from the field,

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

New School Year, New Responsibilities

I realize we’re just about to mid-term of this first term of the 2013-2014 school year, but we haven’t yet shared with you how our roles and responsibilities have changed this year.  (Did I mention we were computer-less for 5 weeks?)


Dan continues to teach several sections of Algebra I to 8th and 9th graders, which is just such a great fit for him as he has a passion for seeing Algebra suddenly click with kids who are convinced they’re not good at math.  In addition, he’s teaching an AP statistics class and overseeing an online consumer math class for upperclassmen. 


IMG_3749Dan’s Algebra classroom – CB2

Outside of the school day, he meets with two junior boys one-on-one in a mentoring relationship.  He also covers Nyati Dorm every Monday night, giving our friends (the dorm parents there) the evening off, and hanging out with senior boys over a huge bowl of popcorn. 

Dan is also helping this term to coach the 7th & 8th grade boys football (soccer) teams.  Last year he ran the program, filling in for a staff member on home assignment. This year he’s able to just help out, which has been a huge relief on our schedule!  He’s also looking forward to coaching JV boys basketball second term.  


Perhaps one of the biggest differences in our roles this year is my work in the guidance department.  I took a job in the guidance office, assisting the HS guidance director and the college guidance counselor.  I am working three mornings a week for about 2 1/2 hours each morning.  It’s the ideal amount of time to be away from my duties at home and I’m able to interact much more with students than I did last year.  So far its been a really positive experience for me, and I’m happy to be helping out.  

DSC_0436 (2)My new workspace in the Guidance Dept.

I am also teaching our pre-k co-op with another mom every Friday morning.  We have 8 kids in our class: 5 boys and 3 girls.  Teaching at this level is exhausting and fun all at the same time.  We’re following the God’s Little Explorer’s curriculum and it’s been a good fit for our kiddos so far.

1263019_10200874651923480_81010866_o6 of our pre-k kids making rectangles with their bodies

Our work with the SOPHOMORES -

Another new responsibility, Dan and I are sponsoring the sophomore class together this year.  Sponsoring is a really unique role here at RVA.  Grades 7-12 have activities and events that they plan and do together as individual classes.  Several staff members sponsor each class and help in guiding, directing, and shepherding the class.  It really has been our pleasure to invest in this year’s 70 sophomores.

Additionally, we have a sophomore caring community group, so we get to host 7 fabulous students in our home several times throughout the year just for fun!  We had them over Saturday night and had a riot playing “four on a couch”.

Another chance to interact on a deeper, more meaningful level, I am teaching Sunday School this year to 8 sophomore girls.  We meet every RVA Sunday and are going through Francis Chan and David Platt’s Multiply discipleship curriculum. This year our sophomores are all going through this curriculum for Sunday School.  What a joy and a blessing to walk alongside these 8 girls as we delve into this material.  

We are wrapping up our 6th week of school and heading into mid-term break this weekend, and boy are we ready for a few days of un-scheduled time.  The students will all leave Friday afternoon and return on Tuesday for the remaining 7 weeks of first term. 

Again, as always, thank you for your prayers, your support, and your encouragement!  We give thanks regularly for the support system that the Lord so graciously provides for us back in the states.  

Your generous giving and your heartfelt prayers for us as staff at RVA are keeping missionaries on the field, reaching the least reached of Africa.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

On blogs & books

I read a lot of blogs.  Some of my very favorite ones are listed on the right hand side of this blog.  I’m constantly recommending Kevin DeYoung & Tim Challies; I’m smitten with Ann Voskamp and Kristen Welch; and I can frequently be seen reading many of the contributors to Desiring God, the Resurgence and the Gospel Coalition

I read fewer books, but I have been able to dig into several these past few months and some that I would highly recommend.  I purchased probably 5 books for my family to bring out with them in July, and now that Amazon offers their Whispernet, I can download books here in Kenya for the Kindle app on the iPad.  Needless to say, I’ve been doing a bit more reading lately.  I’d like to do a bit more blogging on what I’ve been reading lately. 

One book that I recently purchased and read in about 24 hours was Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior by Kim Wagner.

I could not put this one down.  Not your run-of-the-mill book on marriage, Kim outlines the characteristics of a beautifully fierce woman and those of a destructively fierce woman.  “Often marriages are caught in a destructive relationship dynamic that I call the Fierce Woman/Fearful Man cycle.  In this cycle, a wife’s strengths can intimidate her husband… But a strong woman doesn’t need to take on a wimpy persona or undergo a personality transplant in order to be the ideal wife.”  She goes on to affirm that strong women are part of God’s design and that their creativity, passion, and perseverance can either be an asset or a detriment to their marriages. 

“The truly beautiful fierce woman has an otherworldly strength derived from a source beyond herself. She’s plunged in fully to the forgiveness and love of Christ, and He holds her heart so completely that she’s reached true contentment.” p. 19

Kim tells the story of years of struggle in her own marriage and the means God used to redeem it.  She says “I spent years in marital misery before I recognized my own ugliness and how it affected our relationship.”  In chapter 5 and again in chapter 12, she details her story of being brought low and God graciously revealing the sin and destructive patterns in her marriage in order to begin to restore it.  She says “I finally got it.  My treatment of my husband is directly linked to bringing God glory. My world was rocked.”

I particularly liked chapter 11, as she unpacks the Biblical reasons for marriage and describes marriage as a parable for God’s hesed love for his people.  I also liked that each chapter includes “for the heart” questions for reflection.

Overall, I was completely convicted by this one.  I resonated with one too many traits in the destructive list and could use a lot of help in affirming and appreciating my husband.  I’m definitely recommending this one. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why I love my job…

A quick look at the type of emails we get as staff at RVA:
“By the way, did I say thanks and how much we appreciate your service to our children?- we certainly could not be here in Rwanda doing what we are doing without you and others like you!”
Following the link above is well worth it – “crazy awesome” is the phrase I’d use when describing the work many of the missionaries RVA supports are involved in across the continent.  But it’s probably better to hear it from them :)
May all our work be for God’s glory and the advancement of His kingdom!! 
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