Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Sick House.

Yep that is where I am living these days. This sick house. I know I am alive because I can feel my heart beating in my head, I know I have sinuses because they are full, I know that my body is doing what it is supposed to do because my glands are swollen, mucous is everywhere and I have had a fever on and off.

And it gets better. The general consensus is that two of the interns feel the same way. Jack says he doesn't but he sure sounds like it. The other two interns felt this way all last week. Ugh.

Pray for healing. Pray that we would sleep well and wake up refreshed, because honestly, we try to pack so much into their 2 months here, we don't leave time for any of us to be sick. We are at the halfway point, and the month of July is jam-packed.

Not so frustrated.

There are so many stories to go with this picture, but honestly I am not feeling well and really should go to bed! Suffice it to say that God is an awesome encourager, and we had a blast tonight sharing a meal at Tedi and Fredi's home. They are such a joy!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Frustrated

That describes me lately. I am frustrated for many reasons, too many to list. I didn't realize how frustrated I was until I drove into town today. I didn't realize how much I had let this mood simmer in my pit, and how it was affecting me. No wonder I am so tired.

I am frustrated with myself. I feel like I could be doing more, I want to do more, I want to know more and I want to understand more. I want to be better at loving my God and I want to be better at communicating that love to others. When I am frustrated I get tired and grumpy too, which makes me worse at loving others than normal which makes me more frustrated.

I am frustrated with the people I am here to serve. I am so frustrated with the one view they have of me. They don't see me as someone who can help them, unless help translates into giving someone money. I can't walk through Unga for more than 15 minutes and not get asked for money. When I explain to them that I am not here to give them money and that I am here to teach so they can earn money and provide for themselves without having to rely on white people to give them money, they get frustrated and snuff me off. Katie and I usually laugh it off, but today I am not laughing.

I am frustrated with the difficulty of life. No Joke. I left my house 3 hours ago. The items that needed accomplished: Bank. Diesel for the car. Gas for the stove. Drop off a tire that needs reparied. Grocery. Four hours later, I got all but the grocery done. 3 HOURS PEOPLE! Should I mention that I only live about 2 miles from the center of town, and that three of those items were accomplished at the same place! No hurry in Africa.

I am frustrated for the fact that it is yet again payday for our workers and I am yet again trying to find all the little notes of advances this past month, and I am frustrated because my workers ask for advances and frustrated because I give them, cause really, they need the money. I am frustrated because even though I have a system, and place for all those little notes, it seems that the system I have designed isn't working and every month I sit down at my desk to pay the staff and can't find those silly note cards. Ironically, even though it doesn't appear to be the case, on any personality test or spiritual gift inventory...I score HIGH on administration. It usually is in the top 3. I always eventually find the receipts, today it just seems to be taking longer.

I am frustrated with myself. Thats really what it comes down to. I don't like being frustrated, I don't like being so hard on myself, but lets face it, sometimes I need to be, as it is the only way to get my tail moving sometimes. But I am realizing, that living in this frustration isn't really helping me at all. It isn't moving me, it is doing quite the opposite, it is making it easier to convince myself that I really can't do what I am here to do. I know that I can. I know that God has called and has given me a vision, but honestly folks, today I feel completely inadequate, and that...that is frustrating.

Thankfully I serve a God who understands this feeling, who has given me all that I need to do the job and won't let me forget it. I just hope he keeps telling me so throughout the day as I can't use my avoidance tactic of taking a nap...my bed is covered with piles of stuff I searched through to find those silly notes... I gotta find the notes.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

It happens all the time...



But it never gets any easier! People come and go and live among us, bless us, encourage us and make us love them deep down in our hearts...and then they leave. I remember saying goodbye to folks in March 2006 and being relieved because that meant that I was done...boy was I wrong! I was far from done. It has been a year of continuous hellos and goodbyes.

Katie will be mad at me for saying this, but I think this is the hardest one by far. She has been an instrumental help for me in Unga. She has helped me lay the groundwork, the foundation for future ministry. She has laughed with me in the mud, and been frustrated with me when yet another person saw us as just a source for a handout. She has used her sarcasm on me in countless ways and kept us laughing, my cheeks and abs are almost always sore when she is around. She is a treasure.


Today we took our last walk in Unga. It was such a hard walk for me. The last 6 months of prayer walking included Katie in almost every one, many times she was the only one who could go with me. We walked extra long and extra far today, and I could tell both of us weren't really ready for it to end, except our legs, feet, clocks and stomachs were saying it was time.


Pray for us as a team, as we let this gem of a gal head home. Pray for Katie as she travels back to the USA tomorrow. Pray for safety in her journey, but also pray for her heart, as returning to the USA after a trip like this can be a heartbreaking experience. The transition is tough for everyone, Katie isn't an exception. Beg of God to reveal the next steps for her in life (our team is selfishly praying that He would bring her right back to us.) Pray that He would be near to her, so near to her that she could not deny His presence, and pray that He would bless her 100 fold for her time here.


Friday, June 22, 2007

The Lousy Italian

I LOVE to cook. I especially enjoy cooking for others, and to be honest and a little prideful, I like to think I'm a good cook. Most often people stuff themselves at my table and it brings me great joy.

Several months ago, Jack, Gary and Judy's son spent the weekend with me. The kid praised me up and down, and even went home telling Gary and Judy that Pam makes really good spaghetti sauce and salsa. The night we had spaghetti, I had to tell him NOT to lick the plate but rather put more on the plate and use a fork and spoon. You gotta love this kid.

Anyhow, Jack is visiting and staying with me for a month while Gary and Judy are in the US. (the adoption has not yet gone through so I have a little brother around for a month). Last night I pull out the sauce, and yes, Jack gets excited, and says, "did you make it?" I answer yes, and he says, "good, you make really good sauce." I am encouraged.

We sit down at the table, and this is where the lousy Italian part begins. Pasta has wheat. Pam can't eat the pasta, but what am I to do? I LOVE spaghetti, and honestly, my favorite part is the sauce, but you can't really eat the sauce without noodles can you? It seemed sinful to even consider it. So I pulled a few experiments, which seem to be a regular occurrence at mealtimes trying to substitute common meals with uncommon ingredients.

A few examples. Instead of sloppy joes on a bun, I eat the meat on lettuce. Not half bad. Kinda like a taco salad, just sloppy. Instead of pbj on bread, pbj on a rice cake. Not so bad. But what do you do with spaghetti sauce?

I tried three things. None of them worked to well, and I thought, if there was an Italian at my table they would be disgusted. Rice cakes and sauce are not recommended. Nor do I recommend rice and sauce. The lettuce and sauce wasn't too bad, but still not the same as those lovely noodles and sauce. I would be a lousy Italian, so its a good thing I'm of Irish heritage, however I am not good at that either, I detest corn beef and cabbage.

The wheat adventure continues. I am praying that the idea of reintroducing wheat slowly after a period of not consuming wheat at all comes to fruition, as I like to think I could eat lasagna, spaghetti, ravioli and so many other things again.

On patience and frustration.

You know we come here, hoping to change the world. We all have a vision and a plan and hopes and dreams. And seeing as I am an American I get impatient, not that all Americans are impatient, but we are pretty good at getting what we want when we want it.

I arrived here, 15 months ago. I knew my first year would be slow, I had expectations placed upon me. The first, to learn the language. The second, to learn the culture. The third, to finish the training courses that CMF set up for me to do when I got here. I had things to do, tasks to complete, a proficiency to reach, so I stayed busy. Add that to taking over the office duties when all team members had to leave last fall, I stayed very busy.

I January, 3 months earlier than we anticipated, I was released. I was told I could start working "officially." But that I had research to complete, and remember, do not rush, as to establish a good program takes time. I was cautioned, research will take longer than you think. Don't get impatient. Walk and pray, talk and pray, walk again and pray again, talk again and pray again. These are great things, but there is this part of me on the inside that screams, "I just want to DO something!" I came here with vision. I came here with plans. I want to get it started.

Katie and I have continued prayer walking, which I know IS doing something, but I really want to get down to establishing a CHE program, I want to start teaching and equipping Tanzanians to transform their own impoverished communities. The other day we were in completely new territory. It shocks me, that this area is so big. It amazes me that we can walk for hours and hours and find a new part of the slum. A girl started walking along side us, and eventually asked what we were doing, and invited us to her home to meet her family. Katie and I get offers all the time, sometimes we accept, sometimes we defer to another day. Today we felt like accepting. It was going well. We met her dad on the road, he seemed glad to meet us. We met grandma and grandpa and really it was a very typical living situation. We get inside and she starts in. So, I need you to give me money for school. I explain to her that my role here isn't to pay for her to go to school. She asks what I do, I explain and she says, you should talk to my mom, she is part of a group of women who want to work together to better our life. (SWEET!)

We set up a time to come back. She then sets in again. So, I don't have food for lunch (mind you I noticed the garden with ripe veggies and fruits and the staples of the tanzanian diet outside.) I tell her I didn't bring any money, which I did so in essence I lied to her which was difficult. But I didn't have money for her. I had about $10 but I had already committed to using it on another family that we would see. She looked at me in disbelief...almost disgust. We confirm our plans for today, to meet her and her mom and talk about CHE. Again, on the way out she says so how much money are you going to bring us on Friday? I wanted to scream, I am not a walking dollar sign, but I explained again, that I am not in the habit of handing out money. I had on the inside though resolved to do what is appropriate for home visits on friday. On the way back to the main road as she walked with us, she laid in again. I had about had it. I get asked all the time, but not so persisitently. It grieved my heart, that this girl thinks the only thing I can offer is money. Because really, I like to think I have more to offer than financial gain.

So today, Katie and I, begrugingly (because we were so annoyed from wednesday) head out to our appointment. We ask for God's grace, and beg of His mercy in whatever form it might be. We finally confess that on the inside we are hoping that we will get stood up. I feel like a jerk. Either way we will continue to walk and pray. So it happens, we get stood up, and we leave the car and start walking and yet again, discover new territory, and make new friends and talk and share.

Today was a different experience. We met some mama's and shared some time talking about life with them. They didn't ask a thing. They were thankful just for the relationship. We met some kids and exchanged some swahili slang and laughed as they giggled behind our backs. We found a new church and talked to a worker there and made plans to come back and meet the pastor. Again, they were like most, they were about the relationship. We met mamas with babies on their backs. We met kids playing with a deflated ball in the alley. We caught a greater glimpse of the vision and also caught a more definate view of an area God probably wants to bless. We found a hill in the middle of it all. We have been on this hill a few times in the last few weeks, each time we made it to the hill, it was by a different route, but we seem to keep ending up there, and each time we think, wow, we should come back there again.

As we walked up from this new path we were on, it dawned on me, A city on a hill cannot be hidden. And I mentioned it to Katie, and we both thought the same thing, and smiled. This is it. This is where we narrow our focus. This is part of the grand vision we have received, God has spoken to us both in the last several months on all of our walks. And today we felt him say, this is where I am leading you.

So I started this blog very frustrated. Very annoyed, but yet again, God speaks and encourages and motivates us to press on.

As for us pressing on. Katie leaves a week from today. She heads back to Colorado Springs after spending several months with us. She has been a HUGE help and blessing to me. She is an encourager, a friend, a sister in many ways, and her void will be HUGE! Pray that God will provide another who will so eager and willing to grasp the vision, so willing to walk in mud-guck, so patient and also so able to crack a joke. She will be dearly missed. I feel like she has been a partner in this adventure, almost every prayer walk I have been on, she has been there, and most times, she was the only one, and if she had not been there, I would not have been able to go. She has been a joy. Did I say she will be missed? Pray for her. Pray for us. Pray for Unga. Pray that I wouldn't get so frustrated and impatient as I wait on the Lord's leading.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Weather Report

For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere who think it is always hot in Africa. Think again.

Yesterday morning it was 47 degrees.
Today it started at 50.

We don't have central heating. So you should praise me for getting out of bed.

Enjoy the heat.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Rice Cakes Anyone?

Its been two weeks, wheat free, kinda of, last night I cheated. And I haven't been sick, except this morning, but that was cause I caved last night and ate the chocolate chip cookie. A chocolate chip cookie. It makes me sad to think that I could get sick eating a cookie, a homemade chocolate chip cookie.

I talked with a friend this week. She had the same problem last year and so I was commiserating with her. But then found out, that she actually returned home for a few months to recover, which is how she found out what was wrong. Her Dr. said that it all came about because of a severe case of Food Poisoning. And my picture became clear.

I had a rather severe case of something, which we suspected to be food poisoning, the week this all started. So I guess I am following in her shoes. That's what this two week experiment seems to show.

I have handled it rather well, even though pasta and bread and so many other things used to play such a large part of my daily life. I have adjusted, and actually, tried a few new recipes because of it.

I will say it is still difficult, I like cookies. I like cereal. I LOVE spaghetti and lasagna, and ravioli, and bread, fresh baked bread! Did I mention brownies? Macaroni and Cheese? Toast. (yes I know that is bread, but eggs without toast aren't the same!) English muffins. Muffins. Lo mien noodles. Naan. Chapati. Andazi. Spring rolls. The list my friends, goes on and on. I never realized how many foods had wheat in them, until I stopped eating it. It is insane.

What is even more insane, I got a little too excited when I saw PLAIN rice cakes at the store today. Plain Rice cakes! Who gets excited over plain rice cakes? People who aren't eating wheat that's who!

So thanks for the prayers. I am healthy again, in a manner of speaking. And due to this not so fun experience I am learning to cook a lot of different things, without wheat! I will let you know how the spaghetti with rice noodles turns out. My expectations aren't too high, but I will say that my pizza on a dough made of corn flour wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. Thankfully I got over the fear I had as a child of trying new foods!

If only we were like zebras.

Katie and I talked about Unity today. She brought it up, and she was saying things similar to what I posted this morning and so I shared with her what I could remember reading and writing. She then asked if I knew why zebra's had stripes. I gave a negative answer wondering what sly joke she was going to bring forth.

She then told me how when she was on safari with a team a few weeks ago, the safari driving told them that zebras need the stripes to defeat the lion. He said that when they are running in a herd their stripes confuse the lion, and thus he cannot attack one. They blend in together.

And so I was wondering, what if we wore Love like zebras wore stripes. I think it would confuse the enemy and he could never win.

Liver

It's a word I didn't yet know in swahili, but sure enough it is at the top of my list of words to learn.

Katie and I went to our favorite local dive today for some good ol' Tanzanian food! We ordered our favorite, Wali Rosti, which is basically meat and rice, but it so so much better than it sounds.

A few minutes later the waiter comes to the table and says there is only enough wali rosti for one person and offers us something different, I didn't recognise it and explained I didn't understand what he said. He said, I will bring it to show you, but its meat, just different.

So he brings out a dish of the meat and Katie and I both look at it and say, ok, looks alright.

Well, it wasn't alright. it was liver, cleverly disquised as meat, and it tasted like liver and smelled like liver and yes it had that liver texture.

We manged to share both, and swallow down as much as possible. We then came home to look up the word for liver in the dictionary so we don't ever get duped again!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Unity

I am turning over a new leaf, or trying to anyhow. It all started with a very late Skype call sunday night, which left me thinking, I have either got to become a morning person and have these talks in the morning, or I have got to be better on functioning with less sleep.

So in my exhaustion last night, I thought, hey lets try the first. I went to bed at 9:30. I was ready at 8:30 which admittedly is a little early, but I did have to debrief interns so that helped keep me awake. So what happens when you go to bed at 9:30? First, you wake up at 4 thinking wow, that was a great nights sleep, but you notice, it is really dark and force yourself to stay in bed. Then again at 5:30, and it seems pointless to even try to go back to sleep, but it is freezing in Africa so you get your bible, a book and a journal crawl back under the covers and think, there's nothing I can do in this moment, so lets read!

So I read, and amazingly, probably for the first time ever, my brain clicked on before 10am. I know, that is a shocker for many of you, especially those of you who go to work at 6:30 am, but I have always been a night person. In college, the best, most productive, most remembered studying was after 10PM and no sooner than 8pm. I did better in night classes, except the running class I took one semester at 6:30am...wow that was crazy. Anyhow, my brain has started thinking and it is odd, because it is 7:15 and I already have so much to say. Maybe being a morning person isn't so bad, and maybe it really is possible for this long self-acclaimed night owl.

Apparently I babble and ramble in the morning too. This post was supposed to be about unity, not my random happenings this morning, but those led up to the thoughts on unity.

I was reading in Ephesians. It has been my book lately. And it has been showing me quite a bit of really cool stuff. This morning though, as I read from beginning again, I had a different idea come to mind. What if the whole thing is about how the Church needs to be unified. This is where I delve into dangerous waters, at the risk of offending some, but I really feel like it needs to be said.

What if, Christ's church was unified? What if, we all, (in we all, I am thinking the we's being different denominations) looked at Chapter 1 and remembered the blessing we have in walking with Him, and remembered that it is because of Him that we have been made new and because of Him that we have life and remembered that in Him we were chosen and remembered to be thankful. What if we remembered it was His church and not ours. Ouch.

What if we, all of us denominations, remembered that we were all dead in our transgressions as it says in chapter 2. What if we remembered that we all used to follow the ways of the world and because of God's great love for us we were saved by grace through faith, as a gift from him, not by anything we have done. What if we remembered how he viewed us, as a workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, and sought out the work he has prepared in advance for us to do?

What if we remembered that previously, before Christ, we were separated too. What if we remembered that we were once far off but now we are near because of the blood of Christ?

What if we remembered that we are no longer foreigners, but are citizens and members of God's household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. What if we remembered who God is, and who we are.

What if we were an answer to Paul's prayer in Chapter 3. What if we were strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and the love of Christ dwelled in our hearts through our faith and if we, being rooted and established in that love had the power to grasp how wide, how long, high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge (we'll come back to that) that we would be filled with the measure of all the fullness of God?

Half way point summary:
What if we remembered who we were, who God is, and took in our hearts the faith and the Love that made all of these possible. What if we didn't cast knowledge aside, but put more emphasis on loving and the Love that is found within us?

Would we reach chapter 4? Could we be unified and live a life worthy of the calling set before us? What if we were humble, and gentle, patient, and bearing withone another in love? What if we made EVERY EFFORT to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. And then the verse that started this all, "There is one body, one Spirit...one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." (Ch 4:4)

Chapter 4 talks about living as the children of light and how to live in the Light. And I am thinking, what if all of these ideas, and thoughts and wars that brought about all of these segments of the church and denominations were really a scheme of the enemy to cause confusion, dis-unity, and quarreling among us. Becuase, when there is confusion, disunity and quarreling, to be honest folks it is hard to live as light, it is hard to let that light shine bright like the lights of a city on a hill. It is hard to attract people to the church as well.

It is hard to live out Love. (enter Chapter 5). The reminder, since we have already remembered who we are and who God is, and that he wants us to be unified. He says this, "Be imitators of God, as dearly loved Children." He then paints a picture of the church using a description of the marriage relationship. Of Christ being the head and his bride being in submission to him. And reminds us yet again of how Christ loved us.

And I must say, I wonder, what would happen if we lived out Love instead of living out what we (all us denominations) thought to be right. What if we, were more concerned about loving each other in our differences instead of condemning each other our differences. What if we were unified and even though we had slightly different doctrine, made every effort to life as children of the light. What would that be like?

I think it would be a threat. I think that is why Paul ends with Chapter 6. Put on the armor of God. Because really, I think (because I really can only say that everything written so far, are just my thoughts, and it is 7 in the morning so I do plead for mercy) but I think if we lived in Unity as a Church, walking in the light as dearly loved children and maybe laid down our differences, We would be an army that the enemy would want to compete with, and we would win, because when we put on our armor, nothing could penetrate us, and people, because it really is about God and His people, people would be drawn to join this army, people would want to know what it is like to walk in such unity, people would want to live as children dearly loved by God.

Wow. That is a mouthful. That is what I am thinking this morning. This morning person stuff is dangerous.

Baraka

His name translates to mean Blessing. And when you look at this little infant living in the orphanage where we spend our Monday afternoons, you would see that he lives up to his name. He is a smiley, happy, engaging little boy, and he just warms your heart.

Today, Baraka needed a blessing of his own. This poor little guy had a cold last week when we were there, but it was a mere cold, and they said he was on the upswing. Today, he was sick. So sick that it took everything within me to not scoop him up and against direction take him to a hospital. He has already been. Mama Upendo who runs the orphanage said he went several times last week and even yesterday again. Baraka has pneumonia. Baraka is a very sick infant.

As I watched him lie in the arms of one of the interns and choke as he coughed and as I winced when I heard him try to choke up all the crud in this tiny lungs I tried to pray for Baraka. My heart struggled to pray though. I had a hard time figuring out, what would be a greater blessing for Baraka, to pray that his body would slowly heal, or to pray that God would bring complete healing and take him HOME so he wouldn't have to suffer any longer.

Baraka needs a blessing. God bless little Baraka. God heal little Baraka in whatever way He seems fit to be best for little Baraka. God help us to know how to be a blessing to Baraka and those other kiddos.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

When the words don't make sense...

You know in movies where people are in a crisis or stressful situation and all they can mutter is 2 or 3 word phrases or syllables and they really don't make sense? I am not in crisis, rather I am doing really well, but God is teaching me so much and challenging me in new ways and if you asked for more than a "fine" from me you would get a body language answer. An answer where I would make a noise emphasizing my being being overwhelmed, and my hands shaking somewhere around my mid section but also moving upward because I am trying to express the overflow, the outpouring and then i would try to talk but the words would come out incoherently...

I...It's good...Life...good...God...amazing...love...shocking...His love... shocking... overflowing...stilling...mind boggling...wow....I just can't get it out...mmph... huh... well... it's like... I really can't say... good. its good... yeah...that's it... its good... trust... hope... perseverance... yeah... crazy... not... making... sense... whoa!... nuts... random... I don't have words.

Literally this is the cycle that has come out of my mouth the last several weeks as I prayed and talked to God, I have been more and more thankful that in His word he reminds us that His Holy Spirit intercedes for us.

Then yesterday. There were words. His words.

Ephesians 3:14-21
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints to grasp how wide, and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed. I get consumed. I am so in shock of what is going on around me, that I can't speak. There is so much going on in me, and in my heart, and I am asking God, "what in the world are you doing?" "what are you thinking?" "are you for sure?" and His response was simple.

Pam, I am able to do immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine, because my spirit is within my people, and within you. To my glory I will act and you will be shocked. I am the Father of all in heaven and earth, and out of my glorious riches I will strengthen you in the inner being with my Spirit. Christ will dwell in your heart through faith and you, being rooted and established in love will be able to grasp how wide, long, high and deep is Christs love, and you will know this love that surpasses all knowledge or logic, you will be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

A friend of mine came up to me at church this morning and said, I really feel like God wants me to encourage you. Yesterday I really felt he wanted me to say, "Pam, I know what I am doing, I am doing amazing things and I know your heart and your plans and your passions and your desires, and I am able to do more than you could ever imagine. These things you are feeling and experiencing are from me, don't run, don't hide, don't resist, just trust me."

So I am still groaning a few syllables, but at the same time, I am finding extreme comfort in my God knowing exactly what is in my future, and for once, I am not worried about it, I know he has it under control and I don't want to take it back. I am cool with not knowing, with trusting, and taking today today, and leaving tomorrow for tomorrow. In fact, there is more than comfort...there is a peace...that incomprehensible peace.

I love having a God who is involved in our lives. Makes life much easier doesn't it?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Table Talk

***Disclaimer: My mom did teach me good manners...even though this post has little evidence of her hard work. Sorry mom.

So lets just get right down to it. When on the mission field, you learn to talk about just about anything. You talk about bugs, snakes, funny language stories and poop. Yes you talk about poop. You share bad toilet experiences one for laughter and also because you are also hoping for an answer for your misery.

Tonight the interns, Katie and I sat down to our garlic and rosemary chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and carrots and prayed. I don't know where the table talk went downhill. Two interns are moving to Scott and Annelle's on saturday and we can just say they aren't looking forward to it, mostly because the first two weeks they will stay in our student housing. The student housing has a choo, or long drop, or pit for a toilet. This led to a hysterical evening at the dinner table. I shared about my first long drop (hole in the ground) toilet experience. Katie shared hers. The interns eyes were wide with wonder. Then we all started talking about how for girls especially there is technique involved to make sure you don't get your skirt or your feet, or expose yourself, especially if the long drop is out in the open. This led to a statement that peeing outdoors seemed so unnatural, to which Katie and I both said, that makes little sense, it is actually "quite natural." And so on.

My words fail me. There were so many one-liners, so many funny things said, especially with Elsa's spanish accent. We laughed so hard, especially when I finally got out of my seat and showed them with my being, a good squatty potty posture. I am embarrassed and proud of myself. I don't remember the last time dinner was so fun!

So what do you talk about at your dinner table?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Looking for a professional opinion...

Its about the rat poison. I have decided that I don't want to live with rats. I didn't mind co-existing as long as I didn't see them...but if there are several, I think something needs to be done.

Here is the deal, I like my dogs. (I know Lisa, I am prepared for your teasing.) I really like them. And I don't want to poison them.

So, if anyone in the grand USA has a vet for a friend or is a vet and wants to answer the following question I would greatly appreciate it.

If I should put out D-con for mice and rats and the rat eats it and then leaves the house and my dogs come upon it, attack it, play with it, toss it in the air a few times, and yes potentially chew on it or eat it...am I gonna poison my dogs?

Actually there were more than 7.

Katie moved in today! I consider myself fortunate to have 5 girls staying in my house! It definately feeds that part of me that loves to cook.

I was talking with Tedi this morning about the panya (rat). When I told her how big the girls told me it was, she got a look of surprise on her face. She then told me, "Pamela, you have a mama rat." Translation: There is most likely more than 1 rat, she probably has babies somewhere.

Ahhh. The dilemma about poison continues. I don't want rats, but I don't want dead dogs either!

And Then there were six

It was quite a sight really. I couldn't help but laugh. Even thinking about it now brings a smirk to my face and a chuckle on my insides.

Picture this. Four college girls standing on chairs in my kitchen. Screaming and laughing at each other all at the same time. Then add to it, the night guard running to the door asking "Pamela, what's wrong? Is there a thief?"

I am standing in the doorway clueless. I had been given my dogs some loving on the porch reminding them that they work mostly at night and should stay awake tonight.

Why were there girls standing on my kitchen chairs? And why were they screaming? They saw the rat, that I have managed to not catch or even see for the last month. I have been trying to figure out how to catch him, but I don't want to poison him for fear of my dogs. Cause really, they will eat anything, I wouldn't put a rat beyond their list of fun creatures to play with in the yard.

A friend of mine brought me a trap and we set it up. Put his favorite food in there, bananas. He always eats my bananas. And then I did what any responsible host would do. I went to bed.

I woke up this morning to, "Pam, did we wake you up last night?" I sleep through just about everything, so of coures they didn't. I consider my sleeping ability a spiritual gift. I am really quite good at it.

I asked what happened, they spotted the rat again, in the fruit bowl, eating the apples. Not the apples! Apples are the most expensive fruit in town! Nonetheless my rat friend has good taste. He likes my brownies, my cookies, and my fruit. I have decided that his sticking around is a compliment to the chef.

Now there are six. Four interns. Me. and the rat with good taste in food. I am praying the grocery bill doesn't grow much more than it already has.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Thriving on Love

I first met Elizabeth about four months ago. She was the size of a premie infant, all skin and bones and sitting in the only bed that is out in the open in the orphanage...the bed where they are able to keep a close eye on you. Two weeks earlier she had been one of those like we so often hear about...left on the stoop for someone to find. She was emaciated. She was abandoned. But she could still smile. Oh how that smiled caught my attention.

I have been to the orphange many times since then, and each time I go, I look for Elizabeth. She is such a trooper! This afternoon was no exception. She is thriving. Even though she is in a facility that most of us would consider inadequate, even though she competes with 26 other children for attention, even though she was left, so tiny and so frail, she is thriving. Her face is round, her cheeks are huge, and I just can't get over it. But then again, this is how most of the kids are in this orphanage. There aren't leapfrogs, or developmental toys, heck there aren't really any toys, but these kids, when you walk in, they smile, the laugh, they attack you with all fours. Yet, they are growing, strong and learning, and becoming little people with personalities and concern for each other, they are a family. I think there is one explanation: Love. Mama Upendo loves those kids, with all of her being, and the rest of her staff do as well. This orphanage is different from the world they left behind, it is safe. It is secure. It is a sanctuary. There is Love in each corner.

And I was thinking, isn't that how we are with God sometimes? We feel abandoned. We feel left behind or broken or unworthy. But even in our sometimes emaciated spiritual state, he enables us to thrive. Even in our physical worst, he restores us. All with His love. His unconditional, unchangeable, sometimes hard to understand Love.

There are no questions asked when these kids arrive. They would like to know about their history, but often there isn't anyone to ask. God doesn't ask questions either. He is just so excited about us showing up he can't help to swoop us up into His arms, swing us around, take a look at us with those eyes of adoration and then give us a hug so strong and big that you know that He has been waiting for this moment for a very long time. But He doesn't stop there. He doesn't stop with taking a look. He notices the wounds and carefully dresses them. He goes to work on healing those scars and bruises with such tenderness, much like the tenderness that is so evident in Mama Upendo's posture as she lays a fragile infant in their cradle.

I am often caught off guard by the depth of God's love for me. How it is interwoven through each part of my being, through each part of my living. I am shocked when I can see how His love has brought me to this very moment, every time I think of the idea I am amazed at how His love has kept me going, how His love has enabled me to trust, how His love helps me to show compassion on the poor, how His love helps me to Love. I don't want to be a resounding Gong, or clanging symbol. I don't want to just move mountains for the sake of moving them. Instead, I want to do them with Love. I want what I do to be patient, to be kind, to protect, trust, hope and persevere. I want my actions so seasoned with the Love of God that I won't be the one remembered for doing them years down the road, but instead people will say, God came here. God healed me. God helped me to trust. God spoke tenderly to me. God LOVED me.

Because the reality of the fact is that, God Loves me. He swoops me up and looks at me with adoration. He dresses my wounds, those I asked and deserved and those that weren't. He speaks tenderly to me and He heals me. He Loves me. Better than anyone I know.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

528

if its yellow let it mellow, if its brown...flush it down.

Sorry if that is too much information for you folks! Sadly I had to teach the interns about getting the most out of our water the other day. Yep. You guessed it, the interns are getting a wonderful welcome to Arusha. First, it was a broken down safari car. Now it is a water pump. The pump that pumps water to the tank that feeds water into the house broke on friday. All I knew before it broke as that we had filled the 1000 ltr. tank on thursday. Who knows how long it will last.

The good news is, my new landlord is very much with the program. He had a repairman and a new pump at the house on saturday. The bad news is, when replacing the pump other problems were discovered, and, well we are still in extreme water rationing mode... saturday we completely ran out but managed to fill the above tank about 1/2 full. So how long do you think a house of 5 girls can last on 500 liters of water??? I don't know but I think if the problem isn't fixed by tomorrow we might have a problem.

500 liters = 132 gallons = 2112 cups

5 girls.

Each girl gets 528 cups. To bathe, to brush teeth, to do dishes, to cook, to clean, to consume.

I have to laugh, because moving to this house was an effort to be closer to the main road and also not have water problems! HA! The good news, is that if we get desperate we can go back to little house on the prairie and pull it out of the underground tank by the bucket! I still have water, which is an improvement from the last place. Just can't seem to get it in the house.

It then dawned on me, of how in the US, I never thought of water consumption. I turned the faucet on, and there is was. And not only was it there, I didn't have to think about it, I drank it, washed my hands in it, brushed my teeth with it...you know the deal. Here, water is thought about all day most days, and honestly, i am a little tired of being consumed by worries of water.

Friday, June 08, 2007

2 days.

So I figure in any scientific experiment you should allow for significant time to make any observations and conclusions, but I do want to say the odds are good for the wheat. It has been 2 days of no wheat. I have also had 2 days symptom free. I ate ice cream today to test it out. Ice cream passed. YIPPEEE! We will give it another week or two to be sure. Self diagnosis sure is fun!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

This is Africa

There is a saying that was coined way before the movie Blood Diamond came to the big screen.

"This is Africa."

It is used when things aren't going right, when things are unexpected, when things don't go as planned. I use it several times a day. Tonight, was a record.

The interns were set to arrive at 8pm Tanzania time. My car is not big enough to transport 4 girls and 8 bags, so as in the past, I hired a safari company to drive me to the airport, and bring us all back. No big deal right? They do it all the time!

The trip to the airport takes about 1 hour. He arrived early...6:45PM. But I noticed one thing. The car was too small! I told the girl when I arranged the vehicle how many people and how many bags, but....this is Africa...and something went wrong.

We stop and get another vehicle. And we are on our way, on time. Thanks to his showing up early.

We get about 1/2 hour out of town and he pulls over. We had been chatting in swahili so he said to me, I am sorry, but there is a problem. The car won't go. (This is Africa).

He keeps trying. To no avail. Calls his boss. His boss says keep trying. This is Africa. Apparently if you keep trying it will eventually do what you want it to do.

I tell him politely in swahili, to call his boss and tell him I want him to send another vehicle. Now. These are four young college gals who have never beent o Africa, some of them have never left the USA and I don't want them to deal with the harassment they will no doubt receive when they are standing there in the airport without a ride.

He does. And then says, you drive, I am going to push. This is Africa.

I should mention at this point, that we had just managed to get the point where there is absolutely nothing around. Nothing. We are in the vast spanse of land between Meru and Kilimanjaro...oh...and it is night. Safety is a concern. This is Africa.

Some guys come from out of nowhere. Honestly at first my sometimes fear driven self gets nervouse...I am quite vulnerable at the moment. This is Africa.

They help push. This is Africa.

I try to call a friend of mine who lives by the airport. Network Busy. This is Africa.

I try again...no one answers. I eventually get through, but she doesn't answer. She is known for leaving her room and her phone so I try to get other ways to reach her. Network is busy again. Again. I manage to get through to our mutual friend is South Africa after several attempts and the network being busy. I am hoping she has the number of someone else on the compound to get a hold of our friend. She doesn't answer. I keep trying anyone I know and get through to someone once for about every 9 tries. Oh this is Africa and I want a decent cellular provider to move to Arusha. Can you hear me now?

It is a beautiful starry sky, and due to the plain I can see the KLM airplane on the horizon coming in for landing. We are still pushing. This is Africa.

My phone rings! It is the interns. Um. Pam. We can't find you what do we do.
I explain to them, This is Africa, I am coming. They should wait on the curb.

I want to vomit not because I am not feeling well, I am feeling much better actually, but because I have a heart to welcome my guests and I know that they are sitting on the curb in the middle of nowhere. This is Africa.

We push the car into a lone petrol station. Put Diesel in and the car starts and goes! This is Africa.

I asked the driver, what the problem was. He says, the car has been sitting a while and needed new diesel. This is a joke. This is Africa.

He drives so fast I think I am gonna die. This is Africa.

We pass a safari vehicle from the same company. The one sent to pick me up on the side of the road and take me the rest of the way to the airport. He didn't bother to stop and get me. This is Africa.

We beat him to the interns. YEAH! They are on the curb looking like they traveled the last 24 hours. This is Africa.

I greet them. "Welcome to Africa. I am sorry I am an hour late to get you...but...This is Africa." They did tell you about flexibility at PDO right? They laugh, say they are just glad I am there. We load the car. The second safari car is encourged to caravan with us back to Arusha but we load all the people and luggage into the first.

The second, well running safari car leaves. This is Africa.

We get about 1/2 hour down the road. Our car dies again. This is Africa.
I groan. This is Africa
I get frustrated. This is Africa.
I verbally express my displeasure to the driver in swahili and call his boss myself. It is nearing midnight and we are driving in the middle of nowhere, except wait, we aren't driving...cause we are broken down again! This is Africa. I am amazed at my ability to stand my ground and express my displeasure in Swahili.

We coast into a petrol station. We get diesel again. The car starts going again. This is so Africa.

We speed back to Arusha, and arrive at my house, 2 hours later than we should have. This is Africa.

I give the girls cookies and drinks and we talk about the essentials to get them settled in until orientation tomorrow. We debrief. Talk hi's and low's. (hi and low points of the day.) I am relieved no one says their low point was their pick-up at the airport and the car repeatedly dying!

This is how the evening should have gone:
7Pm leave in appropriate vehicle to pick up interns.
8pm arrive at airport.
8:30 depart from airport.
9:30 arrive at Pam's house and have fun talking about all the adventures they had on their flight and what they are looking forward to most.

It didn't go at all as planned. This is Africa. And we get to do it all again tomorrow.

On a different note, I took a picture of the girls at the airport so their folks could see they arrived in one piece...but I can't get it to load. This too is Africa.

Bye bye pasta

I love them. I love when I happen to bump into a visiting Doctor. I love that God knows my needs and meets them.

So it has been 2 months since my Annie symptoms started. No I didn't go to a clinic for a formal diagnosis, I don't have faith in their lab. I know they don't disinfect well and well, I just question the reliability of the results. So Annelle (team leader and nurse) and I talked about my bowels and what was going on with my insides, we deduced that it was either an Amoeba or a flu bug. Again without any testing. But there was some uncertainty I will admit. Characteristically with an Amoeba the symptoms occur after every meal. Mine didn't. I didn't have the flu, cause it has been 2 months.

I had options with Annie. Drugs or ride it out. The drugs were intense, 3 pills 3 times a day, and well, I just thought, if I can ride it out that would be better. So I have been riding it out for about 2 months. Yesterday I was sick of Annie and sick of riding it out and sick of my insides churning so I caved and prepared myself for drugs and went to the pharmacy. And who should be in that pharmacy but a visiting Dr! From AMERICA! The Land of the Free and as many of us call, the promised land!

So I talked to him. And pretty much put it all out there and explained to him everything there is to know about my bowels, my insides, my pain and suffering. The conversation:

Dr: Hmmm. I don't think it is an amoeba. especially since it isn't after each meal.
Me: Then what could it be? I just have got to get rid of this feeling.
Dr: I have two immediate suspicions. Wheat. Dairy.
Me: Confused. What? But ice cream and pasta are two of my favorite food groups!
Dr: He laughed and seemed comforted by my ability to joke at such a juncture. Pam, I suggest you look over the last week and if you can remember, what days you were sick and what you ate, try and narrow it down. Then cut one of these out for a few days to a week and see what happens.
Pam: hmm. I think I liked the idea of drugs for an amoeba better! But I will try it.

So starting today, I am gonna eliminate wheat, which will prove to be a challenge but I am up to it. I love ice cream way too much, and well, i was violently ill all night and into this morning and I didn't have dairy yesterday.

But I really like the pasta part of my day! What a dilemma!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Leavin' on a jet plane...

Not me silly!

Pray for the four lovely college students who leave Indianapolis this afternoon to come to spend their summer with us in Arusha Tanzania! Pray for them as they become a team and as they travel!

Cultural Frustrations

I am so incredibly frustrated with the culture this morning. Tanzanian culture says a woman is not a woman until she marries and then she is only partly woman until she gives birth.

Tedi is my house girl. But she is SO much more than that. She is a friend. Yeah she cleans my house, but really, she is a part of my family.

Tedi has been married 3 years and hasn't had a child, so not only is she herself brokenhearted, but she is somewhat ridiculed and mocked because she has not done her duty as a wife. Her husband Fredi is amazing. Uncharacteristic of most men, he doesn't care. He loves his wife and instead of punishing her for her failure to produce an heir, he weeps with her as she yet goes through another miscarriage. She has had three, and as with most women each one becomes harder to endure and breaks your soul.

Today when I welcomed Tedi and asked how she was doing. She was incredibly honest. Usually Tanzanians respond immediately with. I am good. But she said, Oh Dada Pamela, I am not feeling well. I almost called you last night to pray but I was afraid. Yesterday when I left I was feeling fine but in the night time I had a terrible war. (interesting choice of words I might add) and I was throwing up, in terrible pain and I didn't know if I would survive the day. She continued to say, but I am OK today. Fredi and I prayed and prayed and God helped us. I didn't sleep much because of the pain, but I am OK this morning. Just a little pain. She goes on to say she was gonna call me so I could be praying to but she was afraid to do so because of the hour. I quickly reminded her, Tedi, I rarely go to bed before midnight, you know this!!! After the slight reprimand for not calling, I was torn. My heart immediately went to the thought that most likely she already knows it and she is probably having another miscarriage.

All I wanted to do was be an American who would wrap both arms around her dear friend and just hold her and cry with her. Tedi wept tears as I probed. What kind of pain. Where? and then the hardest question...Tedi I know the burdens of your heart, and I hate to ask this, but is there any chance you are pregnant? She doesn't know. There is a possibility, but God knows and will take care of her...and her tears start to fall. In this culture, it is inappropriate for me to embrace her. Her tiny little frame could easily be swallowed up in my embrace and I so desperately want to just wrap her in my arms as I know our God would. So I stand frustrated. The most I could do appropriately was lay hands on her, and pray for her, which I am reminded is quite a bit and probably what she needed most.

So my frustration I guess lies in the fact that I can't comfort people the way I am used to doing so, cause it isn't appropriate in this culture. I just want to hug Tedi, wipe away her tears and bless her, cause in my mind blessing her would be by hugging and wiping away her tears. But probably, in her mind, the greatest blessing was my taking time to pray for her, because she is a woman of such faith the prayer meant more to her than I could ever conceive.

The other American part of me wants to sweep her up and take her straight to the doctor, but then again, it isn't my choice is it. I offered, she hesitated, and said, lets wait until tomorrow. Probably because her heart isn't ready to know if she is or isn't. I wanted to go today. She wants to go Thursday. We met in the middle. Wednesday am.

Monday, June 04, 2007

A new milestone

Those of you who know me really well know that I love to be witty, but I am usually 5 seconds too late...

Well today I was right on time and it was in Swahili! I have a new found confidence in my language ability. It felt good.

In English it isn't nearly as funny, the moment has passed, so I won't bother translating, lets just suffice it to say that a guy at the market hollered something at me, and I hollered back, and the whole market laughed! The ladies were giving the eyebrow nod that is our version of the high five and it was good. ch-ching.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

You can only be loved to the extent that you are known.
~John Ortberg
So long as we imagine it is we who have to look for God, we must often lose heart. But it is the other way about -- He is looking for us.
~Simon Tugwell
The most important belief we possess is true knowledge of who God is...the second most important belief is who we are as children of God.
~Neil Anderson

Let's Go to the movies! Lets go see the Stars!

Looking back I recall the scene where little orphan Annie goes into the theater for the first time with Daddy Warbucks. It was as if the five of us girls were recreating a scene for a reproduction of little orphan annie. The theater exceeded our expectations. They went all out, top notch! Popcorn. Slushies. Sodas. Carmel Popcorn. Air Conditioning. Theater seating. Cup holders. Surround Sound! It was amazing. So amazing that when Mr Bean started getting predictable and boring...none of us complained and instead we took joy in the fact that we were sitting in a real movie theater.

Friday, June 01, 2007

To follow Jesus does not just mean putting your faith in Him, it means accepting the faith that He has in you.
~ Steve Daughterty

"heaviness"

Is that a word? I am not sure. But I would say it is a feeling.

Today was a particularly difficult day in Unga. I woke up dreading it. I went anyhow, thinking that usually when I dread something and go anyhow I am glad I went.

We arrived at the church where I usually park my car and we were greeted by the pastors wife Mary and the coordinator of the local Compassion International project...and all the kiddos in preschool there. That is the only time I don't cringe at the word mzungu. Those precious kiddos hollaring "Shikamoo Mzungu" in unison always brings joy to my heart. I always enjoy the surprise on their faces and the look in their eyes when I respond in swahili, "Maraba. Habariquenu?" They are so shocked that I reponded to them in their language that they respond with a silent stare! These kids are the poorest of poor, and when you look in their eyes, you can see, they still have hope, unlike when you look into the eyes of their parents, as their eyes are dark and empty, yet somehow filled with pain.

We took off, in the mud of course, cause every night this week it poured. It rained so hard last night I was convinced that a pipe had burst somewhere and it was raining inside! In actuality no pipes had burst, just it was raining so heavily my gutters couldn't keep up. The mud was thick. The mud was slippery and I was convinced I was gonna fall on my backside at any moment.

Then it started. We noticed that it wasn't just dark cause of the cloud cover, but it felt dark? Can you feel "dark"? Before coming to Africa I didn't think it was possible, but you could feel it. I remarked to Katie at one point, "do you feel that? that heaviness?" We kept walking. It got heavier and heavier. At some points it was even difficult to walk, not necessarily because our shoes were getting stuck in the muck, but because it was so "heavy." We tried for the longest time to figure out what made it heavy. We debated several options (the weather, the rain, the poverty, the lack of resources, the division in the community) but came to the conclusion, that this feeling, it must be the feeling of oppression. Only because we have felt the others before, and this seemed like the combination of many. And it makes no wonder to me that people who live in oppressive situations don't move forward. I don't live there, and it was literally difficult to put one foot in front of the other. If it weren't for the jeers and taunts of men on the street I probably would have stopped and rested, but thanks to those men and their jeers, I had to keep moving.

I then realized that this morning, I had a choice, and I can leave, but these people. They live here. Their life, their schools, their food, all of it is there. They don't have another option. Therefore, for me, it really shouldn't be an option as to whether or not I go there.

On a different note, I am growing accustomed to my gum boots. We explored new territory today, on accident of course! I love getting lost in order to find myself! In that new territory I think we may have found the ickiest, dirtiest, trashiest part of unga yet. Katie and I also remarked that the more it rains, the more it smells in Unga...of you know what. Due to the smell, I was thankful for my gumboots, regardless of how tacky they are.

I invite you to pray for the plight of the residents of Unga. Particularly a subset of Unga, Sokoine I. In talking to neighbors I am surprised by the struggles they face in mass quantity. AIDS is hitting this community in horrific numbers. Typhoid is rampant. Education is poor. Trash is everywhere. Joblessness contributes to the lack of resources. The number of single parent homes due to death, men leaving or various other reasons is horrendous. Life is hard for these people and they worship other gods who they think will provide for them, only to find no hope. I can see glimpses of areas where CHE can have an impact. Pray for hearts to be refreshed and encouraged. Pray for the Holy Spirit to move through Unga, that the "heaviness" would have to disappear and never return.