Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Responding to the Dark

There is a lot of darkness in this world. We see it around us all over the world. There is pain and suffering. There is lying and corruption. There are people that act selfishly and intentionally hurt others. No matter what country you live in, these things surround us.
Our son with Dati's little one

We were in the middle of a team meeting, but when Dati arrived, she pulled up a chair and started to tell us the latest update in her painful saga with her husband. We have mentioned it before in previous posts. It was an arranged marriage (not unusual here), but her mom didn’t do enough research about the guy. In short, he is not a good guy. He showed Dati no love or affection, got her pregnant right away, but quickly stopped providing for her (which is the father’s responsibility especially during pregnancy and until the child is weaned). Instead he left her, stripped the house of anything he paid for, has offered no food or money and to add insult to injury, he has publicly questioned whether she was a virgin before they married- seriously shaming her in Island culture. Dati is a sweet woman. She is not hot tempered. She is a hard worker. She wants to trust in God as her island faith tells her to.

When all this started to happen, she was naturally upset. But she told us that she would keep looking to God and she would seek justice for herself and her baby. She started by going through mediators. She didn’t see her husband but talked to his relatives. A few times during the pregnancy she got money for food this way. Then she gave birth but even with the mediators she wasn’t able to get any help for the birth or for baby supplies. The mediators started avoiding her.

But she was confident that it was her right to be provided for, so she went to the courts. They went back and forth, until it seemed like the courts had agreed that her husband must pay. The only remaining question had been how much. They were supposed to do some research into what a reasonable amount would be. She seemed content with the outcome but it was obvious that she was holding a lot of bitterness for her now ex-husband. He was like an animal to her. She assured me that God would deal with him in the last days. I warned her to watch her heart. I told her that anger can ruin your heart. She assured me that she wouldn’t lose her temper or start fights. Before I could clarify what I meant we were interrupted and she had to leave.

So here Dati was with a chair pulled up to our group. I was expecting her to say that an amount had been decided and that it was finally over. Instead she told me that her case had been handed to a new judge who hadn’t been given any paperwork or explanations of the previous meetings, instead he just ruled against her, throwing out her case.  Another typical example of the island justice system.

She was completely disheartened. She said she wasn’t going to appeal or go back to the courts. She was going to just trust in God. We shared our sadness at her news, at the darkness in the world and in our own confidence that God could provide for her. But then her face hardened as she told us, “Yes, all the students and the religious leader at the neighborhood religious school are going to pray down a curse on him.” These curses are supposed to be very powerful, causing the person to die or go insane. She said this with satisfaction and seemed to think that we would be happy with this course of action. She knew that we trusted in God, isn’t that what she is doing?

Megan home from surgery
But we surprised her. We shook our heads and told her that we weren’t pleased to hear this. Curses and hate are darkness too. You don’t fight darkness with more darkness. You fight darkness with light. God is light! Tom ended up explaining a lot that morning about the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light.  At the end she prayed. I’m still not sure if she understands how our world-views are different, but it is a start. The darkness is all around us but it is also within us. If our response to darkness is to succumb ourselves to hate, bitterness and revenge then we lose the battle. We admitted to her that forgiveness and love is not easy in these situations. Thank goodness we don’t have to do it on our own.

Though it got off to a late start yesterday, Megan’s surgery went smoothly.  She got out the same day, but was feeling pretty groggy on the way home.  Friends in Kenya and even new friends we have just met have been of great assistance to us, watching kids, giving us meals, helping us out with rides and internet.  We have been greatly blessed.  Our island coworker’s surgery went well too and he is back on his feet and back to the islands.  The orientation course is going well.  Our other teammate got her new passport and our kids are enjoying their time in Kenya.

Pray that during this week Megan can take it easy and get back to full health.  An American organization on the islands lost one of their members to illness this past week.  It was sudden and completely unexpected.  Pray for the family, friends and members of that organization.  Pray for a short termer who will be joining us in February.  She is both excited and nervous.  Pray that all her preparations will go well and that her time with us will be blessed. We have a printing project that we trying to get done while off the islands, pray that the logistics would come together for it. Pray for Dati that her heart would be filled with light even in these dark circumstances.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Becoming A Bride

Bride and all her friends/cousins at early wedding event
Marriage is a big deal on the islands. Not only are the weddings important to their culture, but islanders believe it is their religious obligation to get married. We’ve had islanders explain to us that to not get married is a sin. We have one religiously-minded student and for some reason I was having to explain what a “monk” was. As I explained that monks took religion seriously and wanted to please God, our student was nodding happily- to him, monks were sounding like good guys. But then I mentioned that monks didn’t get married and he stopped smiling, “Oh, that is bad. They are not good men then.”

So marriage is important to islanders. Adultery, polygamy and divorce are rampant and even expected parts of marriage, but the idea of being married (versus remaining single) is an important expectation.

Bride hidden inside during men's wedding event
Marriage is a life changer no matter what culture you are in, but this week we were particularly struck by the difference it makes for a young bride. Many of our students are young people and so we have seen the transformation from unmarried woman to married woman several times. Many times the transformation is remarkable.

An unmarried woman is supposed to be modest and demure- not attracting a lot of attention. Most keep their head covered and they are aren’t supposed to be wearing make-up and much jewelry. A new bride on the other hand is an attention grabber. Her lips are bright red with lipstick. Her head is often uncovered. She is often wearing new sparkly clothes and wearing a bunch of the shiny gold jewelry from her wedding all over her neck, ears and hands. People that don’t even know her will be able to tell you that she is married and may even call out in greeting, “How the bride doing?” A bride attracts attention.

We have seen young women who we would have called shy, exude a new confidence once they were married, engaging us in conversation in new ways, maybe with the feeling that they are now our equals?

Bride & groom for the climatic wedding event
A few months ago, we got the news that Ma Riziki was marrying off her youngest daughter, whose name sounds like Queen. This was a little bit of a surprise, since she is still a teenager, she’s still in school, and she has an older sister who isn’t married. Forgive us, but our first thought was, “Is she pregnant?” Still not sure that answer to that question. Queen has never been one of the demure, modest girls. You didn’t have to talk to her long to catch her attitude and self-confidence or to see the slightly mischievous, rebellious glint in her eyes. She has never been very soft-spoken, deferential or even polite to us as people older than her. She often was sent to our house as a messenger for her mom and most of the time she just walked right in (without the customary asking permission) and didn’t even bother with greetings unless I forced her to. So how would getting married change her?

This whole past week has been packed with wedding obligations. Ma Riziki honors us by asking us to be very involved and grouping us with the family. Our daughter was included in the group of young women and girls and I was grouped with Ma Riziki’s close friends and relatives. Remember on the islands there can be a whole week full of wedding events, but the initial ceremony is actually the simplest, the legal wedding part. So when I dropped by the next day to talk to Ma Riziki about the next day’s event, she ushered me instead to pay my respects to the bride and groom. So suddenly I was sitting down in the home of a married woman. Queen kind of giggled and looked shy and embarrassed as I greeted them, unused to having an adult conversation with me. She is still just a teenager but at some point some of the responsibilities of a hostess kicked in and she offered me something to eat and asked after Tom and the kids. As I left I smiled to myself, marriage is going to change Queen too.

Then as for any island bride, the wait begins for the next culturally and religiously mandated change— from bride to mother…

We were able to fly safely from our island to the big island in time to catch our flight to mainland Africa! (It was a close call because heavy winds and rain were interrupting interisland travel for a couple days beforehand.) The travels went well and we are very thankful for the house we get to stay in while in Kenya and for the support of friends and colleagues in the area. .  

We met the surgeon today and redid some tests. Megan is now scheduled to have laparoscopic surgery to remove an ovarian cyst on Monday, January 15th. Please pray for a simple surgery with no complications. The hope is that she can be discharged the same day. Pray for our time in Kenya as we will try to get some things done here that we can’t do on the islands (medical, dental, educational evaluations for kids, printing projects). One of our island coworkers is in the hospital here after having emergency surgery— pray for quick healing for him.  Tom had a good final time of study with the guys he’s been meeting with.  Now it is up to them to decide what to do with all that they have learned.  One of our teammates had her cell phone stolen while on vacation— pray for her in all the complications and hassle that causes. Three of our teammates are going to be involved in a 3 week orientation course for new overseas workers— pray for a blessed time of learning and connecting with other workers. They began today!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Reviewing the Year

One final holiday activity- decorating cookies!
Happy New Year!  This time last year we were still in the States, just preparing for our return to the islands.  Much has happened in the last twelve months that we can be thankful for.  Sometimes it’s nice to get some perspective on things to help see the progress that’s been made.  On our team we talk about dividing our time into 5 areas: language, service, team, relationships and prayer.  We thought it might be nice to see the progress we’ve made in these areas.

We’ve made a great deal of progress in language, both individually and corporately.  It has been exciting and encouraging to see our three new teammates from this year take on the task of language learning and succeeding.  Megan and I have also seen advances in our language, whether it’s leading study groups or times of prayer in the local language, we see our understanding continue to grow.  We can share more deeply then we used to and can speak with friends on deeper subjects.  Maybe one of the greatest parts of language learning has been learning to tell the story of the 2 Kingdoms in the island language.  This has been a great joy!  But even more widely, we have seen translation work move forward in leaps and bounds this year.  It’s been a lot of hard work, but the work is paying off as we are starting to see more materials and even songs come into use in the local language.

Our daughter at wedding event
What an exciting year this has been for English teaching!  Our own team of available English teachers was greatly reduced in size, but we have seen islanders take up the reins and English programs spread greatly.  It has been exciting for us to share our teaching in more advisory and training roles.  This even included a teachers’ workshop organized by islanders to encourage change within the school system!  What a wonderful thing to be a part of.  We have continued to work hard on improving our English curriculum, we’ve opened an office for people to come and learn about our group, and we help out with lots of English classes, including two English Clubs that are very well attended and give opportunities for great relationships and discussions.

Have we ever told you how blessed we are to have such a great team around us?  We started as three.  Tom, Megan and our old teammate.  We were soon joined by another woman who has brought so much laughter and joy as well as a strong work ethic to our little team.  We waited many months, but since November we have been enjoying the energy, vitality and faithful service of our two newest members, two young women from the States.  We have fun together.  We pray together and we work together.  Our team days are a wonderful mix of learning, encouragement, challenge and fun.  We’re looking forward to a short termer with us next month from Madagascar!

Some of our old neighbor kid friends!
One thing that doesn’t seem to be lacking here is relationships. We know so many people. Sometimes relationships can be tricky.  We’ve had our fair share (and often told you about it in our blog) of dealing with money issues, kids on our porch, going to wedding after wedding, helping neighbors give birth on the living room floor, and generally trying to figure out what people expect of us and how to be seen as generous, loving, wise, hospitable people in this culture.  But there’s another challenge we face: going deeper.  It’s a tricky business because you often don’t realize your friendship has moved to a new level until one day you realize, as your friend shares their troubles with you, that they’ve let you in.  It’s only then you realize that the previous weddings, hard interactions, or “conversations about nothing” have led to this moment.  We’ve been blessed to see many relationships go deeper and to share the hope that we have with people who are hurting.  In this past year we’ve participated in gatherings of the truth.  We’ve seen teammates share the story of the 2 kingdoms with a bus full of people.  We’ve seen women gather in fellowship and people pass through the waters into the light.  We’ve had opportunities to join in holiday celebrations and share the reasons for our celebrations as well.  We have much to be thankful for.

As you know, we always end our blog with Prayers Answered and Prayers Requested.  We have seen so many prayers answered!  We are thankful for good health, generally.  The children have not been sick much and we have been spared from most illnesses.  Though Megan cut herself with a sharp knife, and a teammate had an aerosol can blow up in her face while burning trash, both are fine.  Megan’s back, though still an issue, has been manageable and we hope to resolve this problem of cysts in the new year.  Throughout all our travels (even returning to Africa in a snow storm) and the travels and arrival of new teammates, and visitors, it all has gone surprisingly smoothly.  We have asked you to pray for our team and we have seen our team grow from 3 to 6. The unity, mutual respect and multiplication of our work has been wonderful.  We asked you to pray for our kids at school this year, and they have done far better than we expected.  We are especially thankful that our 7 year old son asked for the kingdom of light to come into his heart.  We asked for prayer about getting visas and visas have come through.  We have 4 colleagues engaged to be married and dedicated to work on the islands.  Finally, we have asked you to pray for Tom’s friend Sterehi who has been separated from his wife all year.  In speaking with him this week, Tom learned that they are getting back together.  There is power in prayer!

Our two teammates made it safely to mainland Africa for vacation and the one got her passport renewal paperwork turned in at the embassy. They seem to be having a good time. We made it through a crazy week of wedding celebrations! We feel like we were there when we needed to be and that we were good friends. We had a disagreement with some colleagues that had to be sorted out over email (not a great medium)— we are thankful that we have found unity and resolution together despite the limitations. Sterehi is back with his wife— this is a big answer to prayer!

We are traveling on Sunday to the big island and then on to mainland Africa on Monday so Megan can seek medical treatment for her ovarian cysts. She has an initial appointment and probably redo tests previously done in October, but the current expectation is that she will have surgery to remove the cysts. Tom had a final study time with the group of men he has been meeting with— multiple of them are thinking through some difficult questions. Tom will go back on Thursday to encourage them one more time before we travel— pray for good interactions, good reflections and that these men would find clarity and truth in their reflections. We are making preparations to have a short-termer from Madagascar join us in February— we are very excited to have her! Some of the details and logistics have been complicated, pray for good direction for all involved as decisions are made and plane tickets are bought. Our newest teammates travel with us to mainland Africa for a 3 week orientation for new workers. They are anxious about leaving the islands right after having formed good contacts and started good routines— pray for a great time for them and that they will come back to the islands refreshed and encouraged and ready to jump right back in!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Hope, Peace, Joy & Love

The four themes of advent
For those of you that don’t usually celebrate Advent— it is marked by the four Sundays preceding Christmas. Each Sunday has a different theme- Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. In our family we usually celebrate advent by reading different stories each night from creation through to the story of a baby born in a stable in Bethlehem. But each Sunday we highlight for the kids how these different stories and the story of Christmas is about God bringing hope, peace, joy and love to humanity.

Hope, the promise of a bright future even when the current realities are hard.

Peace, the calming of fears even in times of uncertainty.

Joy, the inner triumph and soul contentment that cannot be shaken by anything of this world.

Love, the embrace of one who has given everything freely and lovingly to make us his own.

Our English Club gathering!
We had our annual English Club Christmas party on Wednesday and we always get lots of questions. Islanders generally haven’t been exposed to Christmas much (except for scenes in movies and stories from islanders who have visited other countries).  As they look around our house decorated for the holiday, we naturally get lots of questions like, “What is that called?” “Why do you have that?” So we end up explaining stockings and ornaments, snowmen and reindeer. But ultimately these are not the most important things for them to understand. It is the more abstract ideas of hope, peace, joy and love. They can’t be fully encapsulated in a few words, but on Wednesday we told stories, we sang songs and tried to explain the ways that one simple birth made these abstract concepts reality.

The next day we had a very different gathering. It was the same room with the same decorations. But instead of the mix of English students, it was a group of women dedicated to understanding the real reason for this holiday. We studied the story in the local language. We all shared our observations and input. We marveled at the command of “do not fear” from the angel and then marveled again at the peace and joy that descended on those who received the good news. We thought about what it would be like to be a woman in this culture, pregnant before marriage and what the message of “do not fear” would mean to her. Then we questioned why the baby would be born in a stable of all places. Until one woman rejoiced at the idea that in his love, he had become accessible to all, even to the lowest of us. At the end, earnest prayers were lifted up in a mix of languages and we went away with a firmer grasp of that hope, peace, joy and love available to us.

Acting out the story: Mary on the donkey
They were both Christmas gatherings. Both included singing and discussion. Both gatherings ended with some snacks and socializing. And we had a good time at both. But the first was a group of people primarily interested in the English language and the culture of English-speaking countries. Most were students who came because we have knowledge they desire. The second group wasn’t there for us or anything we could give. They were there to celebrate and discover knowledge available to all, but only found by some, the promise and richness of hope, peace, joy and love. 

May we all find these amazing gifts this Christmas season.

We had a wonderful Christmas day yesterday celebrating as a family and with our team. Our kids finished their exams at the local school and are already enjoying the break from classes. We finally had the women’s gathering that had been postponed for several weeks— it went well and was an encouraging time. Our English Club Christmas party went well and was well-attended. After much suspense and drama, our teammates’ visas came through!  Our downstairs neighbors are feeling better. We have an appointment with a doctor in Kenya and a place to stay. 

This past week was exhausting and we’re feeling tired. Pray that we can have some restful days while still getting the things done that we need to do. One of our old neighbors is marrying off her daughter next week and wants us to be involved. The problem is that she isn’t a great communicator and isn’t clear in her expectations. Help us to be good friends to her and know when we need to be where. Two of our teammates are traveling today to mainland Africa for vacation— pray for safe travels and a relaxing trip. One of them needs to renew her passport while she is there, pray that the logistics for that go smoothly. Tom wasn’t able to do the final study with the small group of men, so he will do it this Thursday. Pray for a good meeting and that they would continue to gather on their own even after this initial series is finished.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Season Confusion

Kids showing their snowflakes
We’re confused. December is always a confusing month on the islands. The house is decorated for Christmas. We are listening to songs that talk about cuddling up against the cold and venturing out into the snow. There is a snowman on our window and the kids made snowflakes to decorate the table.  But it is HOT and HUMID! We drink a cup of water and our bodies thank us by quickly delivering glistening layer of fresh sweat. We’re melting, but that is what December is like on the islands— not the weather that we associate with Christmas when growing up in the US.

But we’re confused for another reason too. We always thought (after several years on the islands) that December and January were supposed to be the horribly hot and humid months that are waiting for the torrential rains of February and March to break the humidity and bring some relief to the stifling heat.

But this December has been full of torrential downpours! There is no waiting until February this year— we’re already in the middle of full-on rainy season weather!

The seasons on the islands have never been very clear to us and we ask islanders about “normal weather” for any given month we always get a different answer. The islands have basically two seasons: rainy season (known in the local language as Kashkazi) and dry season (known in the local language as Kusi).

The clouds come to us from over the hills
I like the sound of the word Kashkazi. It sounds chaotic and kind of crazy which helps you remember that it is the season of periodic cyclone winds and storms, dumping water on the islands. The problem is asking when it is— some say February/March, others say November, other December. The real answer seems to be that Kashkazi is all the way from November through at least March. It is all Kashkazi and like its crazy name suggests you can only expect it to be unpredictable. You can have long periods of heat and humidity with just occasional rains and afternoon showers and then you can be hit by a solid week of water pouring from the skies.

I must say that the rains have helped us get into the Christmas season more. The winds whip through the house in anticipation of the downpour soon to follow. Sometimes it almost feels “cool” and while it is a long way from “let it snow” weather, at least we can have a fun afternoon inside playing with the kids and singing, “let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.”

The rest of the language workshop went well and thankfully everyone at the workshop was feeling better and they were able to get through the material they wanted to. Our new teammate is feeling better after her tummy bug. Our new teammates have been blessed by 4-6 of language helpers each! This is a huge blessing and encouragement as they learn language (people usually struggle to find one good language helper).  Thanks for your prayers about kids coming over to pray.  The situation has gotten a lot easier lately.

Continue to pray as we try to figure out the details of our trip to Kenya— we had a hiccup this week when the doctor we were figuring things out with realized she can’t do the surgery  because of scheduling problems. Pray that housing and appointments come together for that time.  The women’s gathering is finally going to happen this week— pray that it is a good time and that many women come to study and encourage one another. Lots of people on the islands are sick—we got to pray for our sick downstairs neighbors yesterday— pray with us for quick healing. One of the people sick is the man who is supposed to process our teammates’ visas— pray he can get back to work so that our teammates can get their passports back (one is supposed to travel the day after Christmas). Tom has been meeting twice a week with a group of men to study the Kingdom of Light.  The sessions have been going very well.  They will finish the sessions this week and then take a break, but pray that it is only the beginning.  This Wednesday is our English Club Christmas Party.  Pray that this would be a time to deepen relationships and share about the true meaning of Christmas— pray for similar gatherings around the islands.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Kittens on the Porch

Mommy cat & kittens on claimed corner of porch
Our island has a very large cat population. They aren’t pets. No one feeds them when they are hungry. No one takes them to the vet when they are sick. (Are there even vets here?)  Many cats don’t make it to adulthood. Those that do tend to be thin and battle-scarred. The nights are full of the noises of cat fights  and because no one spays or neuters the cats, there are always kittens around.

You may think us heartless, but more than once we have found small bedraggled kittens by our house. We could easily have adopted them, but we’ve always resisted the urge. Cats are tolerated for their rodent catching abilities, and maybe even for good luck, but islanders don’t treat them as pets. We’ve had several teammates and colleagues who have taken cats on as pets.  islanders seem to find this very amusing, but don’t seem upset by it, but many have also seen cats die (from fights or disease) or have been burdened with kittens that they can’t find homes for.

For us, we don’t mistreat cats, but we’re not going to adopt any. In our opinion, it is better if they learn to take care of themselves and if they make it, they make it.

We’ve had a lot of rain this week. After the first few storms, we noticed a young mother cat and two kittens by our gate. By the end of the week, they had settled onto the ratty old mat that sat under a table in the corner of our porch. We’re curious how long they might stick around, but for the moment they’re making life kind of interesting.  We’d be hard pressed to kick them out (they would most likely just come back anyways) and we have to admit, the kittens are cute. One is mostly black, the other is calico (which we’ve been told repeatedly by the kids means it is a girl—apparently only female cats are calico…)

The kittens
Aside from enjoying the normal sort of kittens antic that you might expect, we’ve had a few interactions that are worth mentioning.  It began the night after they arrived on our porch.  The mother cat would leave the kittens on the porch to look for food and they would of course meow for her return when they got hungry. Late into the night we heard one of the kittens meowing and meowing.  It was like an alarm.  Finally Tom got up to see what the problem was.  Wow, that kitten was loud.  It almost sounded like it was in the house.  But Tom looked around and didn’t see anything.  The meowing had stopped as soon as he entered our daughter’s room (whose room opens onto the porch near the cats).  Tom returned to bed and the meowing started again just as loud. Next Megan went in and she saw it, a tiny and scared kitten inside the house near the window.   It immediately ducked for cover behind furniture. It took waking up our daughter, getting a broom and fishing it out from under a bed with it hissing and swiping at us before Tom literally pushed it out the door, back onto the porch and back to its mama. Finally it was quiet and we went back to bed.

After that incident, however, the kittens seemed to decide that we weren’t so threatening. They stopped hissing as much and even let us pick them up.  We’ve had to pick them up a lot this week because although we don’t mind them taking shelter on our porch, we don’t want them peeing on the cushions out there. So we’ve been regularly taking them off of our porch furniture and putting them back on the ratty old mat in the corner.  Since we moved in, we’ve always propped the porch cushions up at night so stray cats won’t pee and poo on them (which happened our first weeks here).  So the other night, I grabbed one of the cushions to put it up and remarked— “Did this cushion get wet? It’s so heavy.” It wasn’t wet, it was full of kittens.  They had wiggled their way inside a hole in the cushion cover.  I’m not sure if they could have gotten out without us.  We had to reach in and put them back on the mat. 

We decorated for Christmas!
Well if we’ve suffered some inconvenience from this new arrangement, they have also suffered some. Our youngest loves animals and we’ve caught him unintentionally terrorizing the kittens a few times. I came out on the porch to see my 5 year old with a  bucket, picking up a kitten by the tail and unsuccessfully trying to get him into the bucket. I quickly told him to put the poor kitten down. He did and it ran for its life. Then I looked down and saw the other kitten crouched in the bottom of the bucket. We’ve told our son to stop tormenting the poor kittens.

So all and all, it is almost like we have cats right now. No, we haven’t adopted them. No, we’re not feeding them.  No, we’re not welcoming them into the house. But they are welcome to the safety and refuge of our porch. We’ll see how long the kids resist naming them.

Ma Imani’s mom is feeling much better. The package from our family arrived!! It was sent in September— so it took its time but it got here before Christmas! Thanks for praying. This is one of the hottest months of the year, but we’ve had a lot of rain which has made it feel cooler than normal. The consultants for the language workshop arrived safely and they were able to cover a lot in the first week of teaching.

A lot of people are sick right now. There have been several people involved in the language workshop that have been sick or distracted by sick family members— pray for health and freedom from distractions during this second week of the workshopOne of new teammates was hit by a bad tummy bug—pray that she won’t be discouraged and will regain her strength quickly. Also there is a bad flu going around hitting lots of people. Pray for health and healing all around! Pray for us and our new teammates as we work on getting their longterm visas and try to track down their landlord to fix some problems in their house. We’re working to finalize our plans to go to mainland Africa in January (where Megan will most likely have surgery)- pray as we work out logistics and schedule with doctors there.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Open Homes

Tom with some kids at an event
We want to have an open home. It is even one of our team values that our lives and homes will be open to islanders. By open home, we mean available, we mean accessible, we mean welcoming. Islanders can already be intimidated to visit a foreigner so we want to make it as easy as possible.

Part of having an open home is very literal. We literally keep our door open. An open front door in island culture tells your neighbors that you are home and that people can visit. A closed door means either you are gone or don’t want to be disturbed. Sometimes a very close friend will knock on a closed door, but often times islanders will just see the closed door and leave. Since visits aren’t usually announced ahead of time, we keep our door open from breakfast until we go to bed at night. And people come— some to say hello, some to ask questions, some to ask for help, some to hang out, some to use our library, and then there are the kids that come to play.

Most island kids don’t have many toys, so kids will come to play on our porch. We’ve encouraged it. We want kids to feel welcome at our house. But it isn’t always easy. Island kids aren’t always easy to love.  Some of the lessons have been hard. When our kids were babies, it was hard to welcome the kids with runny noses and covered in dirt. At our last house, it was hard to welcome the kids because they always came in huge disruptive packs.
Kids coming onto our porch

Now we’re learning some new lessons. It started with some little kids from our street. They don’t listen. We tell them it is time to go home and they don’t go. Or they leave for 2 minutes and then sneak back up when they think we’re not looking. These kids are mostly little, 5 and under, and very cute. They usually scurry away quickly when we catch them. Eventually they seemed to learn that when we asked them to leave, they couldn’t come back, but another problem began. Without us knowing it, as they left they would close our door behind them. We would go whole afternoons without visitors only to find that our front gate was closed! We caught the kids at it and told them not to, but that didn’t stop them from doing it again. Finally we found some wire to stop them from closing it.

Then there came a kid we’ll call Nunyi. We had seen him around before. One look and you can tell that he isn’t like other kids. He is usually unkempt and dirty and will yell and grab at people. If he was an adult we would assume he was mentally ill, but he is just a kid (maybe 7 years old) and neighbors have confirmed that he was born that way. No attempts are made to educate him. Few attempts are made to control where he goes or what he does. One day Nunyi showed up on our porch and we let him play. Our kids were scared of him but we quickly learned that we didn’t need to be scared of him.  As he played on our porch we saw a big smile on his face.  He was loving it! Nunyi acts like a toddler.  Most of the time his words are unintelligable, but his desires are simple and clear— he wants to play, he wants to eat, he wants someone to watch him ride the scooter! 

The problem is when we have to ask him to leave. Nunyi won’t leave. He flat our refuses. The other kids scurry away but Nunyi digs in his heels. Most of the time we have to physically drag him off our porch— not a fun experience. We know the island solution— they would beat him. We can almost see it in his eyes.  He smirks and waits for a raised hand or switch before he’ll respond. We refuse to hit him. One of our friends threatened to get Nunyi’s uncle because Nunyi is afraid of him (probably because he beats him). Another neighbor saw Nunyi playing on our porch and immediately told him that she was going to call the police and that they were going to come with their guns to get him. Islanders wouldn’t let strange kids play at their house, especially not a kid like Nunyi. So that is why we want to let him play o our porch, we want to show him love, but it is hard when it always ends with us having to physically force him to leave. Some islanders have stepped in and helped take him away, but their solution to us is always the same— “close your door!”  But we don’t want to close our door!
Kids playing before an event

We want to have an open home… so instead we begin the difficult task of trying to set boundaries for kids who have never had boundaries, getting kids to listen to instructions who have only ever listened to a raised switch, trying to show love to kids that seem bent on pushing the limits. God grant us patience and may we see them with His eyes.

Our new teammates had a great week staying with an island family in a village— the family was kind and welcoming, the weather was cooler up there and they had a lot of cultural experiences. They continued to have great attitudes. Our visitors from Asia have come and gone. It was nice to get to share with them about life and work on the islands— now people in Asia will be praying for us!

Ma Imani will have to stay on the big island until January— in the meantime she caught Dengue fever (which is going around the big island right now). She has recovered but continue to pray for her and her daughters. Also pray for her mother here on Clove Island who has been very sick. A big two-week long workshop has started on our island for the language project. It is long days. Pray for perseverance and good concentration for the participants and that they would get through all the material that the outside consultants wanted to share. We are possibly going to have a short-termer from a neighboring African country join our team— our organization has never had someone from this country work with us—pray for wisdom as the organization considers what the process will look like to have her join us. The next few weeks will be busy! Pray for good rest and endurance for us.  Also, a little thing, family sent a Christmas package to us a couple months ago— pray that it arrives for Christmas! (Mail on the islands is not reliable, some times packages make it in a few weeks, sometimes it takes months, sometimes they don’t make it.)