Thursday, March 31, 2011

Africa - Post 3

March 31

I woke up with the sun today, which was definitely the jet lag talking and not my natural pattern. :) But, I was so grateful that I got a full 8 hours of sleep. It was just what I needed and today I felt totally adjusted.

Since I was up and there was a gorgeous sunrise over the ocean coming through the window, I just had to get out there. I mean, I had almost been in Dar for 15 hours and I hadn’t set foot on the beach yet! So, the girls and I got up and set out for the beach. But first, we grabbed some coffee. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but once we were outside, we realized that it was already 85 degrees and drinking hot coffee was kind of like asking your body to sweat profusely.

We walked for a while and I even dipped my toes in the Indian Ocean. It was so warm and I can’t wait to suit up and go for a swim!

Then, we started prepping for the conference. We had lots of goody bags to assemble, lots of planning meetings, and just a lot of little touches to get ready. You know, one of my favorite things about Young Life is that things are really done with excellence. We try and show the extravagance and abundance of God’s love by offering the very best to people. It’s no different here in Africa. We are hoping to give these women a weekend full of extravagant encouragement and love, just like they give the kids they work with. What a privilege it is to do that!

Shortly after lunch, THE WOMEN STARTED ARRIVING! Some of the ladies, ones that are on the Senior African Leadership Team (SALT) came in early to help us get everything ready. So, today I met Ubdi(from Somolia), Jokebed, Deborah and her adorable 9 mo. old son Fillibert(from Mali), Esther and Matilda (from Kenya), and Mwamini and her hubby, Benga, who’s helping with worship, from Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are just getting to know each other. But, just seeing them made me teary. I can hardly believe they are here! In a lot of cases, many obstacles had to be overcome just to get them here. But they are here and so excited!

We had a wonderful dinner all together and I had this moment where it felt like God said, “remember this.” So I took a little snapshot in my mind…since it would’ve been weird to pull out my camera at that point. :)

I’m missing my family pretty good at this point. Just missing sharing all of this with them and missing their tangible presence. I’m gonna need some serious hugs and kisses when I get back. But, I am absolutely where I am supposed to be. No doubt about it. And I know how special it is to have a husband and friends who said, “Go.” And to know without question that they are praying and loving my kids well. So, I can miss them, but I know I don’t have to worry. What a gift!

Keep praying! The Summit starts tomorrow and we are trying to figure out the balance of serving in a behind the scenes way that sets the women up to receive encouragement from each other first and therefore builds community. We are the hands and feet, the means by which this conference is happening...the African women are the face. It's THEIR conference. Make sense? Oh they need this so much...this time of fellowship with each other. This gathering of women leaders, women who follow Christ into dark places. Pray that it is all He desires it to be.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Africa Pictures

Here are just a FEW pictures from our trip so far.

Me and Amanda (Kolman and Corley, we are called) on the plane to Dar. Corley was responsible for all the logistics of our trip and she did an amazing job. I would have been in the fetal position somewhere if I had to do all that!

On the beach this morning! So warm, so beautiful!
The view from the veranda. The garden, the gates, and if you look closely beyond that, the ocean. Yep! It's amazing!
More of the veranda. This was the sangria that awaited us before dinner, and the hanging bed that I am determined to take a nap in later.
My bunk when we arrives. Dyan had put these beautiful flowers in the towels, given us a book called Mama Dar with a little note in it, and some gorgeous textiles. Can't wait to show those off!

Africa - Post 2

March 30

I got to see a little more of Ethiopa this morning before we had to leave for the airport. First of all, coffee with hot milk in the hotel cafĂ©….seriously delicious. Then, on our trip back to the airport I got to really see downtown Addis Ababa. Shelley tells me that it is against the law in Ethiopia to be in debt. So, there are a LOT of buildings downtown that are in various stages of completeness. Like, maybe half. She says that the people get some money and start building and then run out of money and have to stop until they can get more. And there are just people everywhere. It is a bustling city.

Our flight went smoothly to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and we got our visas with no problem. Steve Larmey (vice president of Young Life Africa) picked us up at the airport and about 10 minutes outside his home, had a little surprise for us. He stopped the car and told us that he had arranged for tuktuks (a local mode of transportation…think a golf cart meets a jeep) to take us the rest of the way. We jumped in and bumped our way to his AMAZING home.

He and his wife Dyan (and their 4 kids Tasfye, Zoe, Caleb, and Epiphany) live in what they call “The Conference Center.” Basically, when they moved here, they tried to find a place big enough to live in as well as host trainings, conferences, YL staff, etc. year round). It’s a big place, right on the ocean, and that, coupled with their generosity and big open hearts, make it a haven for staff all over Africa. Dyan greeted us with hibiscus juice (yum!) and we all chatted it up for a couple of hours. At that point, my brain went a little fuzzy and I knew I needed a nap before dinner. I guess that’s jet lag, right?

Sangria on the veranda, and a toast at sunset, before a lovely dinner tonight and now we are unpacking the 12 (!) extra bags of goodies we brought.

Here are some of my thoughts today. First, I used to imagine Africa as all rural. Villages, farms, tribal, etc. Then, when I read up on Dar es Salaam, where we are, I thought it would be more city-like. The funny thing is, it isn’t really one or the other. It is BOTH at the same time, all smooshed together. We drove in bumper to bumper traffic today and waited as a herd of goats crossed the highway. There are high end wedding dress shops, next to produce stands. Huts and “lean-to” type homes, next to colonial mansions. Traditional African dressed people, next to people in stilettos and skinny jeans. All of it…together. And there’s something I really like about that.

Secondly, the heat. Think Houston in the middle of summer minus the breeze. Wow! Seriously hot. But, I’m already adjusting and getting used to it. Lots of water, loose clothing, flip flops. I’m soaking up the sun and it is making me extra excited to jump in the ocean at the first chance I get.

Third, as we’ve talked to Dyan today about her hopes and dreams for this Women’s Summit, I’m struck by how huge this feels for her. On this continent, where women are not appreciated, where they are paid for when they marry, where they are often looked at as liabilities rather than leaders, to have a place where their leadership in ministry is acknowledged, celebrated, and encouraged has the potential to be a serious gift. And our coming and giving them ministry advice, or trinkets, or a high five for the work they do is NOT the gift. The gift is for them to be amongst other African women, and to share their stories, and to connect in ways that have the potential to break down the walls that divide them so that authentic friendships can develop. Friendships that will have a far greater impact in the long run, than the 4 days they spend with the 5 of us Americans.

Pray, pray, pray for these women during this time. There are walls of division among peoples and tribes here, even among these Christian women, and it is a hindrance to them developing the kind of community that will further the work they do so faithfully. Pray they will be open to receive what the Lord has, and open to receive each other in authentic community.

I feel like, right now, I am still taking it all in. There is too much to remember, too much to hold in my heart, and I’m not certain what to do with it all right now. So, I’m just trying to stay alert to what God has for me here. And that’s a lot of work…a lot of stimulation for a tired lady. But, His presence is palpable. So tonight, I’m resting in that. And in a peace that passes all understanding.

Africa - Post 1

March 29

We are finally settling in for a few hours sleep at a hotel near the airport in Ethiopia before heading out in the morning for Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. The flights were really not bad at all. It was a loooooong day of travel. But, good company, good movies (Secratariat, Morning Glory, and The King’s Speech), lots of great talks, and here we are.

I must have been running on adrenaline most of the flight over because I seriously could not sleep…even when I knew it was 3 in the morning “our time.” I hear that’s good though. It’s good to go into your first night really tired, so that you sleep really well. That’s what I’m hoping, anyway.

Not gonna lie…I got a little teary when we crossed over into Africa. Out my window on the plane, I saw the exact moment that we entered this vast dessert. Gorgeous and sandy and as far as the eye could see. And then, a surprise to me, tropical Ethiopia. It is beautiful and lush here. The people we’ve met are so friendly, and so beautiful! Seriously gorgeous…ALL OF THEM!

I’m struggling a little with their eagerness to serve me, though. I know I don’t really deserve that. And certainly not just because I’m American. But, being an American in Ethiopia is a big deal. Don’t tell homeland security, but I kind of hate that. The really sweet guy who stamped my passport asked if I was American. When I said yes, he put his hand on his heart and told me that it was his dream, to someday go and live there. What I wanted to say was, “Eh…it’s not all that great. We’ve got serious problems.” And tell him that he had a beautiful country, which I know also has it’s problems. But, instead I just said, “Well, come on. We’d love to have you.” He doesn’t need to hear my diatribe on the false gods of America.

I love it here already. I’ve barely set foot on African soil, (mostly thanks to a wait in the Ethopian airport of 3 (!) hours trying to get a simple transit visa in order to drive 5 miles to our hotel, check in for 7 hours and then leave) but I am totally giddy. And tired…so tired….

….headed to bed.

Monday, March 21, 2011


A little guest post on mama:monk today on why I'm headed to Africa in a week. Pop on over and check it out.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jesus Talk

This morning, in devotions, this bit of chatter occurred amongst our family:

Loren: (reading out of Matthew) "Then, Jesus was led out into the desert to be tempted."

Bella: Did you say "tooting" giggle giggle

Loren: no...tempted

Bella: Oh....giggle giggle giggle...tooting

Hope: giggle giggle giggle

Then later tonight:

Hope: Mom, do you think Jesus really tooted?

Me: Yes, of course. Everyone does, right?

Hope: (hesitantly) I guess.............that's weird to think about.

Me: kind of is, isn't it? giggle giggle giggle

We are sooooooo spiritual. :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why I celebrate Lent

An excerpt from Reliving the Passion: Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark by Walter Wangerin Jr. :

"[For the disciples] death reigned everywhere.

Death alone.

But in the economy of God, what seems the end is but a preparation. For it is, now, to that attitude and into that experience that the dear Lord Jesus Christ appears--not only an astonishment, gladness and affirmation, but joy indeed!

It is the experience of genuine grief that prepares for joy.

You see? The disciples approached the Resurrection from their bereavement. For them the death was first, and the death was all. Easter, then, was an explosion of Newness, a marvelous splitting of heaven indeed. But for us, who return backward into the past, the Resurrection comes first, and through it we view a death which is, therefore, less consuming, less horrible, even less real. We miss the disciples' terrible, wonderful preparation.

Unless, as now, we attend to the suffering first, to the cross with sincerest pity and vigilant love, to the dying with most faithful care--and thus prepare for joy."