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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Parenting from Afar

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“This choice isn’t me failing at parenthood, it isn’t me handing off the responsibility and gift of my children to someone else, it isn’t separate from my role as a mother. This choice of sending our children to boarding school is part of our parenting, it is what being responsible for the gift of these teenagers in our context…looks like.  It is me being the best possible mother I know how to be.  And because it breaks my heart and leaves me crying against doorframes and into pillows and at stop signs, it feels like failure.”

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The Things Teenagers Leave Behind  - Hands down the best article I’ve ever read regarding the tension that lies with many missionary parents who parent from afarRead it

“But just because something hurts doesn’t mean it is bad, wrong, or failed. This is, perhaps, one of the biggest things my teenagers leave behind. And I hope it is something they also take with. The realization that life won’t be easy, comfortable, or pain-free and the confidence that this is okay.”

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Pray for the parents of the kids we teach and coach and mentor.  I guarantee that for most, their decision to pursue RVA for junior high and/or high school was not an easy one. 

Brave fathers and mothers across this continent express gratefulness for the opportunities that RVA provides all the while grieving an empty chair at the dinner table.   Because, as I’m sure, they still picture their seventeen-year-old young man or woman like this:

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We still feel strongly called to stand in the gap, not to take their place {certainly not!}, but to come alongside them for this season, to help disciple and raise up a generation of Kingdom Builders, like their parents. 

Come serve these missionary families and be a part of what God is doing in Africa.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My Rights: a daily surrender to Christ

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As I walk this path that is the Christian life for going on 16 years now, I realize more and more that it truly is a daily surrender.  A daily surrender of my will and my rights and a daily yielding to the God of the universe to meet my needs.

I didn’t learn of this truth until four years into my marriage.  Marriage and parenting have a way of bringing out the wretchedness of our flesh and exposing us to our need for Christ, don’t they?  It was in 2008, a particularly dark season of our marriage, through dear friends of ours, counselors to our marriage and mentors to our faith, that God hit me upside the head with this truth.  I needed to surrender my rights. 

I needed to surrender my right to be angry and my right to hold onto offenses against me.  I needed to give up my right to be happy.  I needed to instead entrust those rights to the Lord and let Him take care of me.   Now I can gratefully report, through God’s grace alone, our marriage six years later is stronger than ever before. 

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But those same truths of surrender still stand.  In fact, those rights don’t just surface in marriage, they come up in the workplace, in parenting, in America and in Africa.  God is still calling me regularly to surrender my rights, sometimes even more so here in Kenya.  The right to my own time?  The right to a free weekend?  Surrender. 

When we went to candidate week with Africa Inland Mission in June of 2011, we were given a paper that explained this very thing and we were asked to sign it, effectively stating that we were willing to entrust our provision to the Lord.  I pulled it out the other day, as I felt God leading me to read it and remember that my service at RVA isn’t about my rights.  It’s about surrender.  

We live in a world that is full of rights. Our particular culture is one where we take pride in our rights. As a matter of fact, the rights of individuals are constitutional, but as we see the demanding of individual rights increase, we see much of the moral fiber of our society decrease. Our Lord Jesus Christ laid down His rights to the heavens and all His glory to become a man and to serve, not to be served. (Philippians 2:5-8 and Mark 10:45)

We ask you to consider laying down your rights to serve Christ in Africa. Not to lay them down for better or worse, but to entrust them to the Lord or to transfer the responsibility of them to a place of safe keeping. These rights may seem reasonable but on the mission field can cause dissention and steal from your effectiveness as a witness for Jesus.  Would you take time to search your heart and willingness to surrender your rights to the Lord?

I give up my right to:

a comfortable bed, dressing fashionably, control of myself, control of others, control of my circumstances, having pleasant circumstances, taking offense, being successful, being understood, being heard, being right.

I entrust to God:

my strength and endurance, my health and my strength, my likes and dislikes, my security in Him, my circumstances to His purposes, his workmanship in others, His sovereign hand on my life, my deepest needs, my security in His love, my reputation, my need for recognition, the privilege of suffering for His sake.

I give God permission to do anything He wishes to me, with me, in me, or through me that will glorify Him. 

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“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Phil 2:5-8

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What is this Gospel you say you believe? That’s the question I had to wrestle with in 2008 and the question I still find myself wrestling with today. 

Not my will, O Lord, but yours.  Yours alone.  To You and You alone be all the Glory. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Our Home {a photo tour}

Karibu Sana!  Welcome to our humble little white house in Kijabe.   We’re so glad to have you.  We’ve been here in this home a little more than 17 months now and the decorator in me wanted to share with you our lovely little dwelling place. 

We’ve added our touches here and there, handmade and homemade and on the cheap, as per the usual with us.  So again, welcome! 

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Isn’t it a lovely driveway? Endless child hours are spent running and chasing and riding and playing here. 

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I’m keeping it real here.  So you’ll notice backpacks thrown on chairs and half-filled cups out on display.  I didn’t clean too much to take these shots. 

Shall we go inside? 

We have no entryway – our front door opens right into the main open floor plan.  Our house boasts high vaulted ceilings that tower up 11 or 12 feet.  Its my favorite feature and unique to this house on campus.  The house was built right into the hillside so it’s somewhat of a split level, with our hallway and bedrooms five steps up from our ground floor. 

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Besides the high ceilings, I enjoy my kitchen.  It’s large and open and looks out into our yard where the kids play.  And with the number of students that we host regularly, I’m thankful to have a big hearty kitchen to prepare in. 

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Looking down on our main rooms from the hallway, you can see how it’s one big space. 

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Our Master Bedroom & tinsy winsy master bath.  Simple.  Yet kind of elegant I like to think….

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with a touch of whimsy … Etta James’ At Last painted right on our wall. 

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Our bathroom might be tiny, but the shower is pure hot water falling from a high shower head.  heaven.   (Not to mention it doesn’t smell of urine like the bathroom belonging to two little boys)

The kids bedroom – We recently moved all three kids into one bedroom.  Why on earth did we do this?  So we could use our third bedroom as a playroom, of course.  This is really working for us!

I did my best to tie together the boy colors and the girlie colors, keeping the bright pink curtains but painting two walls blue.  Their comforters share a common orange color.  I was going for a gender neutral room.  How did I do?

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We kept Evelyn’s large wall decal on her wall, tucked inside her four-poster bed.  The boys big dresser nestled right into the large built-in like it was made to be in there and Evelyn’s clothes stayed put in her drawers and the open hanging space. 

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The playroom.  Again I was going with gender-neutral.  I found this cute bunting at a ministry table during the AIM Eastern Region Conference – it’s made by Tanzanian women with disabilities. 

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My three can not get enough of drawing.  We’ve created a whole art gallery in here!

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Situated in between the playroom and the kids bedroom is their smelly bathroom.  I didn’t clean the mirror.  I’m not about to pretend that the mirror is ever clean for longer than 10 minutes at a time. 

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Back out in our main area - Moving toward my backdoor from the kitchen.  I share my kitchen space with my laundry space.  It’s a tad inconvenient, but it does force me to keep my laundry area clean.  No piles of clothes here! 

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This little nook leads out the back door.  We have a small chest freezer tucked in here and shoes and boots and coats.  It’s the only space that remains untouched by my crazy painting and strange d├ęcor ways. 

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If you were to pop in the back door and peak around the corner, you come into my kitchen again.  Get it?  

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Most of the additions to our home have been with paint and/or free lumber or furniture. It turns out that becoming missionaries in Kenya doesn’t take the cheap dumpster diving spirit out of us; we’re still turning trash into treasure here, making this house a home. 

One last space we have here, our guest cottage, just makes me happy.  It’s quaint, but it’s cozy.  It sits just past our laundry line, about a 10 meter walk from our back door. 

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The bedroom is just large enough to house a double bed and dresser. A half bath accompanies the bedroom.  We’ve had missionary couples stay with us often - Some whom we know and some just visiting their high schoolers here at RVA.  It’s been a blessing to offer housing for folks coming through.  Perhaps I should start a guestbook?

We’ve come to the end of our tour.  I’m thankful for our home. It’s suits us well. One of the older houses on the campus, it has hidden charms and features that make it unique.  I feel like Dan and I might have chosen it ourselves, if given a choice.  We’re drawn to the older homes that need a little love, after all. 

I’ll leave you with a few close-ups of the crafty free or nearly free treasures on our walls (and tables and floors). 

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Well thanks for stopping by.  If ever you find yourself in East Africa, we’re only an hour from Nairobi, and we would love to host you! 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Message delivered [received]: HOPE

“Hello John, how are you?  I was hoping to visit your church down in the IDP Camp tomorrow.  Would tomorrow be a good day to come?”


“Oh yes, Daniel.  That would be very good.  And you can preach too.”


That is pretty much how the conversation went.  Much of this December break for our family has focused on getting outside the fences of RVA, experiencing a little more of Africa in it’s non-Westernized context.  I had yet to visit the IDP camp despite John’s numerous invitations.

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After some last minute prep on a sermon about the HOPE we have in Christ, I picked up John and made the drive down into the valley – about a 30 minute trip depending on how much damage you want to do to the undercarriage of your vehicle.


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Attending worship there was truly a blessing.  I am continually amazed at how little the language a service is performed in matters – the Spirit was there and God’s children were praising Him from their hearts.  That much was obvious.

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The first thing that stood out to me was that everyone in this community is involved in the worship experience.  Forget the American ideal of hiding in the crowd of faces and following along in your Bible if you happened to bring one.  Here you will be part of the ceremony – everyone performed, everyone got up front, everyone played a role in lifting His name together.


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This unique aspect is achieved in the “presentations” portion of the order of worship.  Common in many African settings, I’ve been in congregations where this consists of one, two or possibly three groups, offering a song, dance, or performance of some kind.  Not here.  I think I counted eleven. 


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First it was the children’s group.  The kids stood up front, 4 or 5 rows deep, belting their song of praise.  Then a soloist shared.  Next, all the women in attendance got up front to offer a song and dance combo.  The men followed, and guests weren’t exempt.  We picked up a first-time visitor on our way down the hill; he was up front singing with the rest!  Aren’t new-comers supposed to slip in and out of the back row unnoticed?


Following the men, the teens had a song to share, then a solo piece was delivered by Pastor John.  The presentations continued;  a short drama of the Christmas story from the youth, a few kids performed a rap, the Battalion presented (kind of like a Boy Scouts group), a quartet sang, and finally the mixed choir. 

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At the tail end, they called the other first-time visitor to the front, this time to deliver the sermon.  Clearly the only white person in the building, I stood with John as my Kikuyu translator and I looked out at the 70 or so smiling faces.  Every one of them had already presented; now it was my turn.  They all seemed genuinely interested to hear what the mzungu had to say on the Sunday before Christmas. 


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Knowing only bits and pieces of the story of this place, I thought hope might be a good topic to share.  Simeon, from Luke chapter 2 – he knew how to hope.  His faith rested in the promises of God, and his confidence in the coming Messiah was rewarded as he held the Christ-child in his arms. 

My goal was to connect the hope Simeon had in the promise of a Messiah to the hope we should have in light of His imminent return.

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Funny how I could presume to have something to share with these people whose lives I know almost nothing about.


Funny how I assumed they would benefit from hearing about hope, how they must be depressed in their present circumstances, feeling privileged to hear from someone on the outside who could give them some good word, some piece of advice, some wisdom… some hope.


Quite the opposite took place. 

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Witnessing group after group come to the front, presenting their testimony of Christ’s faithfulness, His love, His unmerited blessings to undeserving sinners, I realized they were the teachers and I the humble student.  I need the hope they have. I wasn’t going to open any of their eyes to some new and profound glimpse of the assurance we can experience in Jesus – they are already there.  They live it out every day, more aware and well-versed in the hope of Christ than I may ever be this side of heaven. 


I should’ve seen this coming.  God has pulled the this-is-something-you-should-share-with-others-but-you-need-to-hear-it-more bit with me many times before.

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We were preparing to leave when a few of the teens asked us to stay for juice.  Although we were about an hour past when we said we’d be back, we decided to stay for a quick refreshment.  It turns out the youth of the church had gathered a few hundred shillings to buy some loaves of bread and some juice concentrate. 


They wanted to celebrate Christmas with us.

 
These are some of the same kids that John prays for every week, hoping he’ll have food to share with them each Sunday morning.  And here they were, out of the generosity of their hearts, providing a Christmas dinner for us.
Considering their meager circumstances, this was an enormous gift – certainly one I won’t soon forget.


“For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.  Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.”  2 Corinthians 8:3-4


Truly, I have much more to learn from them than they do from me.


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