Saturday, June 29, 2013

language learning

One of the things that we conversed about with the Massos as we met last week was language learning.  There are a few languages in Mundri - the two main ones being Moru and Juba Arabic.  There is obviously not a Rosetta Stone for either of these languages (Juba Arabic is quite different form the more formal Arabic), and so one of the trainings that we will be going to is a language learning training.  Honestly, I don't even know what that means.  All I know is that we will learn skills that help us pick up language by being immersed in it.  

There came the question - how do you immerse yourself into a community enough to learn the language?  The singles on the team have all done home stays with friends in the community.  These can be as short as a few days or as long as a few weeks.  It is ideal, because it not only surrounds you the language, but the culture.  You are cooking, cleaning, living among people the way they live.  That's all fine and dandy for one person - but 6?  Hello - we would take over! 

So Michael and Karen suggested that we get a tent big enough for our family to sleep in and we take it with us to put up on the trips we take as a family.  I'm not much of a tent camper, but this could be adventurous - and certainly a good way to be in the middle of community life.  (By the way, just to clarify - these would be short term camping trips - not our permanent living situation!)  

This idea took me back to the times that we went to the bush in Malawi.  We would pull up the flat bed truck that the ministry owned, fill it with foam mattresses, park it under a tree, and hang mosquito nets.  That would be our bedroom for the next several days.  It was messy, crazy, and breathtaking.  If you have never slept under an African sky, I suggest putting it on your bucket list.  We would go to bed with the smell of campfires, the beat of drums from a funeral somewhere, and the howls of hyenas in background.  Then, when the sun started to rise, we would wake up to several little faces peering at us over the side of the truck - laughing at the "Muzunga Wamisala" (Crazy white people) sleeping!  At least a tent would afford a tiny bit of privacy, right?  

So we have added "buy tent" to our list of things to do before we leave.  Any suggestions of affordable, easy to put up tents big enough for our family are welcomed.  

Someone asked how the kids will like this.  Let me tell you - in Malawi the kids adjusted much better than we did!  There is also the fact that they were willing to be watched, touched, etc in the village, because they knew that we would be home in the safety and privacy of our our home eventually.  It will be the same for us in Mundri - we will have a home built on the compound and we will be around the team.  Having this security is what will allow us to forge ahead into the unfamiliar world of new languages, new cultures, new people who point and stare, and being the stand out minority.  

If you want a good peek at life in Mundri right now with only 4 single women on the compound, read Heidi's blog off to the side of this one.  It's called "Four women and a compound - the series"  :)  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

philly fun

Woke up this morning feeling a little sad.  We had an amazing day with some of our team members that are here in the States right now.  We spent the entire day on Monday with the Masso family, mostly hanging out at Aunt Linda and Uncle Fred's house as the kids swam in the creek and the adults (and RJ) sat in the shade and talked about everything.  There was also some baseball time and, of course, some swordplay for the boys.  ;)
(The boys had a great time doing boy things all night - especially with the walkie talkies!)

Then Tuesday we went to the Sending Center (WHM headquarters in Jenkintown) and said hi to some people there while they were in the middle of a week of A& O.  The exciting thing about this is that there are two new members of the team getting ready to go to South Sudan from this!  Yay!  It's a married couple, and we look forward to getting there and getting to know "Aunt" Theresa and "Uncle" Will better.  We also had the chance to finally meet our super patient and ever encouraging support raising coach, Jennifer.  After a year and a half of talking to someone almost weekly, it's nice to put a face to the voice!  Then we headed over to where the Massos will be staying as they are here and met Karen's family.  That evening the Massos, the McCloys, the Wallaces, the Reeds, and John Sender devoured pizzas, talked about team life, played a couple rousing games of Signs and Mafia, and just enjoyed each other.  It was a nice glimpse into the team side of things in South Sudan.

(Anna and Liana - hanging out)

So today feels like a bit of a letdown, as we drive away from the area and from so many people who understand where we are going, what we are going to be doing, how hard support raising is, and what it means to move to Africa.  (Many of those people understand much better than we do!)  It felt like we were a part of something again this week - like it was something we were walking towards instead of saying goodbye to.

And yet, even in the midst of it, there were some things that we had to let go of.  The Massos are leaving South Sudan in the summer of 2014.  They will still be a part of things happening there, as their desire at this point is to come to South Sudan on breaks.  (The school system is three months on, one month off there.)  Michael will be teaching Community Development at a seminary in Kenya, but still feels like he has some work to do in Mundri.  There is no real plan of action for how this will all work yet - flexibility is key again!  This was, of course, news that really affected us as a family.  The idea of moving to Mundri with another family that had kids our own children's ages was such a huge draw for us.  And the fact that we have so quickly developed wonderful friendships with them was just the icing on the cake about going back to Africa.  We have had to process through and mourn this loss of everyday relationship with them.  I am thankful that they have talked through all this with us and given us the chance to do this over time - and had the chance to do it themselves.  When we were first thinking about this, we wanted to pull away - we are all experiencing enough loss right now so why bother to invest in more friendships?  But God made it clear that was not the right thing, and I am so thankful that we have this wonderful family in our lives.  By the Massos being in Kenya during the school terms, it makes it more of a possibility that Anna could go to RVA if she desires, and that we would have a place to stay when we visit her there.  These things are all working in ways we would not have predicted, but I can still see his hand in it.

(John Sender showing love to John and Andrew.)

Soooooooo....this makes our goal of getting to South Sudan by the end of this year even bigger in our minds.  We really would love to have a few months with the Massos there.  We want to continue to cement some of these friendships and have another family there to help us navigate through life as a family in Mundri.  (The very scary thought just occurred to me that we will be that family for other families that come in!)  So I am asking you to pray for a few things:

1.  For our support to come in miraculously.  We would need huge bunches of it to come in the next couple months to get to trainings when they are offered.  Even as early as next month!  I don't know how God will do that, but I know he can!

2.  For the Massos - as they travel and talk about things with people here.  For relaxing, amazing time with family stateside.  For Acacia, as she is still at RVA and will have to travel here alone at the end of the summer.

3.  For the team in Mundri!  Bethany is acting as fill in team leader, and when she goes to RVA for a term, Larissa will fill-in for the fill-in!  Lots of transition.  There is also the fact that many of the team have terms that end around the same time.  Please pray for them and for new recruits.  (Know anyone???)

Lastly, I wanted to touch on the fact that South Sudan has been in the news again recently because of some abducted pastors and things happening in the Jonglei State.  Thank you for your prayers for South Sudan and the people there.  Thank you for staying up-to-date on what is happening.  That is not the state we will be in, so there is no need for you to worry about us or our team in this situation.  As we talked last night with the Massos, there has been no time of them being there (even in the middle of when it was becoming it's own country) that they felt unsafe.  I just wanted to put some minds at rest!  :)

Thanks for your prayers.  I know this is more informative and a lot longer than usual.  I just wanted to continue to communicate to you - our friends and family - on the things that are happening!  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Acting like an orphan

"A believer is living as an 'orphan' when he or she has in some way or other lost touch with the grace of God. In isolation from the promises, the orphan has developed a small view of Christ and a small view of the gospel. In contrast, a believer is living as a son or daughter when he or she is walking in faith, and living according to God’s promises. Sons and daughters have a large Christ and a large gospel." The Sonship Course, WHM

 We have been traveling a lot again recently - different beds every night. This usually means that I leave behind stuff, or discover that I have forgotten something. (The most recent thing I forgot was our prayer cards - kind of an important thing when you are raising support!) sigh...

 As I got in the van yesterday I was on the verge of tears. "I forgot my shampoo and conditioner, so I will have to buy yet another bottle! I'm tired of this! I'm ready to give up!" Haha - even as I write that, I realize how childish it sounds - I'm not usually a woman who is undone by shampoo! Shawn looked at me and said, (as he has several times recently - I'm a slow learner, or a very stubborn person)- "This is not about shampoo or raising support or traveling or even our feelings. This is about learning to remember who we are in Christ. That He is for us. That he loves us. When we choose to believe the lies and live like orphans, we are choosing to sin. We know better. It's time to grow up." sigh (again)...

 One of the things that we are so thankful for about the fact that God brought us to World Harvest Mission is the Sonship course. We have learned and continue to learn so much from this course. As we have spent the last 3 years trying to regurgitate what we have learned to the churches we were ministering to, I think sometimes they thought we were insane. But even if nothing ever came from our meeting up with WHM other than this course, it would be worth it. I have realized and understood that I live my life as an orphan so often, that sometimes it seems like the norm to me. But the problem with that is that God is NOT a small God. And his gospel is NOT a small gospel! It is the life and truth and hope and purpose and breath of who we are! It is saving and life-giving and life-changing. And He, oh he is complete, whole, holy, just, loving, living, pure, perfect, and so beyond my comprehension.

 And I know these things in my head - but my heart is so fickel and my feelings are so wavering. However, Shawn is right. It is time to grow up.

 It's time to take these ideals and ideas and make them real. Believe them. Live as though I believe them. Surrender. Hope. Trust. Accept. Even when I don't feel like it or can't see it. This morning as we wake up in house number 3 in the last 3 days (and we are thankful, we really are!) and prepare to go to church number 3,605,204,917 that we don't know, and meet people when I feel out of steam and out of sorts, I will trust. Trust that we are here for a reason and purpose. Trust that God is for me and he loves me as well as the people of this church. That he has a plan for each of us and somehow those plans connect today. That he is a much bigger God with an infinitely bigger grace than I give him credit for. And I will soak in his word, his love, his presence so I am not isolated from the truth of Him.

 Thank you, Dad.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

in Dad's footsteps

Yesterday Shawn, his dad, RJ, and I went for a walk in the woods behind my in-law's house.  Shawn was reminiscing about life there growing up, and even commented, "This is where my love of adventure started."  RJ came along because his other option was jumping on the trampoline with his siblings, and he hates that.  So he decided to trudge along with us.  He was quite a trooper, and ended up enjoying the walk.  We saw a pond full of beavers and their dams, raccoon and deer tracks, turkey feathers that quickly became a treasure and even a brand new baby deer bedded down in the field outside the woods.  It was a wonderful walk through nature!

At one point we were walking through a path that was filled with pricker bushes.  I got stuck on a few and Shawn helped me out, then RJ was feeling intimidated to walk by them.  Shawn started tromping down the path in front of him and told RJ to follow his path.  Whenever he was nervous he would look back at me, and I would simply remind him to follow his dad's footsteps and he would stay safe and pricker free!  When we got to the clearing and saw that the field was higher than RJ's height, Shawn put him on his shoulders so that he could see easily and feel  safe again.

It's an obvious parallel, but when I saw it played out in real life with RJ and his dad I was reminded again of how much my Dad loves me.  How sometimes he allows me to wander off and explore and figure things out, but he is nearby watching.  Other times he is tromping down the path in front, and as long as I am careful those prickers won't get me - or at least not to the point of destruction.  Then there are those times (often) when I am in over my head and he carries me so I can see clearly and feel safe.  I am thankful for this relationship.  And I am thankful for a God who takes the simple, beautiful things in life to remind me of the things that should be obvious.