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Doubt Faith Missionary Perspective Thankful Travel Why

I Had To See Over The Trees

Earlier this year, in July to be more precise, I learned that some jewelry I had left in the USA with my son had been stolen (we live in Burundi, Africa). Together with the help of the local detective, my son located the items at a local pawn shop. After speaking with the owner and proving that the items were indeed mine and stolen, a hold was placed on them pending resolution of the case. In the meanwhile, I wrote a personal statement and sent it in to the investigating detective and waited to travel Stateside for our usual bi-yearly itineration. We were set to arrive in September and would work on collecting the jewelry at that time.

When we finally arrived in town and managed to talk to the detective face-to-face, we learned that retrieving our property would be a bit more complicated than we had originally imagined. The owner of the shop had offered to “give” us our property if we paid him $500.00. We felt such a sum was unfair and followed the detective’s advice to file papers at the courthouse to get the property returned to us. The shop owner was resolute and would not return the stolen property; we were given a date to appear before a judge just last week (October 24).

I found myself standing last Thursday morning at a podium next to the pawn shop owner before a judge. The whole process for me was nerve wracking. My husband (Jamie), who had pushed for us to get the items returned in the first place, has the emotional strength of an army. His mantra throughout the process was, “It’s not their jewelry! We are going to get it back!” I followed his lead, all the while feeling wobbly and anxious about what the actual outcome would be.

I am an Enneagram 2w1 personality for those who might be interested, it may shed light on my reaction!

Yes, the necklace and bracelet were mine, yes they were stolen and yes I wanted them back. However, I also knew that things don’t always turn out as we hope or plan and my negativity took over “helping” me to prepare for disappointment. I went so far as saying, “Let them keep it!” when the shop owner refused to return in voluntarily. Jamie would not hear of it and off we went to see the judge last Thursday.

Since the jewelry was mine, I was the one called to stand at the podium. I knew Jamie would most likely have done a better job than me in explaining the whole situation but I did my best when my account of events was called for. I kept things truthful, simple and to-the-point. There was no need for anything more or less, I reckoned, as a little part of me hoped that the right thing would happen.

When it was time for the shop owner to speak, his words were loud, coarse and shaded. The judge, while she had pity on him that he had paid $1,100.00 for the items and had lost money, had no pity on him when it came to her reminding him of the law. He had to return the jewelry to me without pay – they were mine and it was wrong, against the law, for him to keep them.

An order was written on the spot and handed to both parties ordering the shop to return the items to me free of any charge. About an hour later, I found myself wearing the necklace and bracelet, a bit embarrassed at my pessimism throughout the process.

Why did I doubt You, Lord?

Luke 19:3 NASB “Zacchaeus was trying to see who Jesus was…”

I was trying hard to see Jesus but I was just too short to see above the tree line. I thought my problem was not of any consequence; a necklace and bracelet have no value in light of the lives of the children we feed in Burundi and Malawi or the schools that we are opening. It seemed so trivial, but I hoped that somehow those unnecessary items would silently make their way home without any fuss. So, like Zacchaeus, I had to climb up just a bit higher to see Him and recognize what He was doing and just like He did for Zacchaeus, Jesus came home on Thursday to eat with me at our table – and He brought the necklace and bracelet home to me.

 

Categories
Church planting Destiny Dreams Endurance Goals Missions Travel What Did You Do

What Did You Do Today?

Today I went to the bank.

Is that all you did? Couldn’t you just deposit your money from your bank app on your phone, go by the ATM and withdraw whatever cash you need? Couldn’t you just have done an online bill pay or money transfer? What is it that you do out there in Africa, waste your time?

I’m a missionary in Africa (currently Burundi) and have been serving in missions since 1987. I’m supposed to “produce”results (at least this is the unspoken rule), tangible results, that I can then write in glowing reports to justify my service overseas. Living in an exotic location such as ours does have its amazing perks: we have wonderful coffee every day for pennies (no drive-thru here), we see/hear hippos regularly because we live near Lake Tanganyika, and we get to enjoy the rich culture of the people we serve. The scenery is breathtaking, the food we eat, I cook everything from scratch, is good for us (not sure how good it tastes but…that’s another blog…), and the simplicity of life away from the distractions we find in the West allows us to focus on the work we’ve been sent to do.

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Often, I’m asked something like the following: “When are you going to _________?”Those asking such questions are referring to whatever outreach/project we’ve discussed in a newsletter or other form of communication. We might have discussed it months or even years ago – but nothing has happened and why not?

The answer to this question is seen in something as simple as going to the bank. While life has changed here, dramatically, since we first arrived in 1987, the time that is consumed to get something done has not. Having access to cash from our accounts in our home countries is not as simple as it is back home. Years ago, to get money, we would have to write checks and if the bank cashing the check wasn’t willing to give value to our checks right away, we would have to wait to get the money until the check cleared our account in the USA. That process took 6 weeks and even longer; thankfully, we usually found favor with the bank and they would cash them for us almost immediately. The other obstacle we found back in those days was not only having access to the money but making sure that before we wrote a check that there would be enough money in the account to cover any check we had to write. We didn’t have internet, cell phones, or email in those days. In fact, if you had access to a fax machine back then you were considered to be living on the cutting edge.

Today, thankfully with the advent of cell phones and internet service here, we are able to see what is in our accounts, provided the internet server isn’t down or the power isn’t off. Once we have been able to see what we have in our account, we can electronically wire funds to our account here. Thankfully we already went through the process of opening an account which is material for another blog. *Note to self: please read past blogs to get reminders of all those subjects I’ve said that are worthy of their own blog.*

Once we have sent the wire, providing the codes given to us by the banks are correct, money should appear in our accounts relatively quickly, as in a day or two. Once we get news that the funds have arrived, we can go down to the bank, write a check and withdraw the dollars from our account, go and change the dollars into local currency. Often, however, that simple process doesn’t work as intended. There are delays of the bank’s network being down and unable to process our transaction so we have to return in the afternoon or the next day (turning the 1-day process into a 2-day process). There are also delays of work hours. The banks in the country follow strange working hours and there are no ATMs that we can use to withdraw money during off hours.

The other issue we face, the gorilla in the room, is funding. Fund raising is difficult and often void of result – therefore projects get done at a slower pace than we hope. Because we trust God for all of it, we know He will provide in His timing and we rest in that fact. To travel back to our countries of origin to raise support itself costs money in plane tickets, hotels, food, and other necessary costs that coincide with that kind of trip. Not only are the costs of travel an issue but the work itself we leave behind must be considered as well – who will care for things in our absence? Especially in the situation we find ourselves in now where the church we have come to serve and its outreaches are in need of much attention; better leave the thoughts of travel to the side for a bit.

It can tempt me to bow my head in discouragement but where would that lead? What would that solve? Those beautiful souls we are here for are worth every bit of frustration and delay.

So today, if you’re wondering what I did, I went to the bank.

1 Corinthians 7:7-11 NKJ But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

 

 

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Change Choices Church planting Destiny Endurance Father Missions Obedience Purpose Travel

Again

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I couldn’t find scissors to help me open the tightly sealed box. I tried, in vain, to force it open with my hands as sweat began to run down the sides of my face. “Why did I pack this so well?” Finally, I found a kitchen knife and began slicing the packing tape open around the edges of the cardboard; the unpacking of our lives had begun. Again.

The boxes I was unpacking had gone overland from Malawi, where we had moved from, to Burundi. They were brought to us by two of our Malawian pastors who had taken on the assignment of bringing these boxes by bus. It was a 4-day ordeal just one-way for them to undertake but they passed through all the borders practically without incident to Burundi. As we said our goodbyes the same day that they had arrived, it was as if a movie of all of the work that had been done in Malawi over the years was played as a movie in my mind. The churches that had been planted, the children that had been fed, the leaders that had been trained, all passed before me as I looked into the faces of these dear ones who were about to leave. I couldn’t hold back the tears as I remembered what we had been allowed to take part in – and then it was time for them to go.

Then we were left alone to start again.

The box was dusty, but intact, and as I started the process of unloading everything the magnitude of what we had done (again) struck me. Time after time I have found myself in this same situation of starting over and trusting God for the next step. However, knowing we have done this many times before doesn’t make any new step I take easier. In fact, I have learned with each new step comes new challenges and without faith, I could easily be scared out of it! What has kept me going, this time as in every time before, is knowing we had heard His Word spoken to us to go to Burundi and He wasn’t about to let go of us.

Isaiah 8:11 ERB “The Lord spoke to me, like a firm grasp of the hand.”

This move has been a challenge (they all are in their own way) but we have seen God walk with us daily and address everything that has come our way from acquiring resident visas to finding a house to finding the best market in town. Without hearing His voice and knowing His hand is tightly holding onto ours, we would never have been able to see Him at work over all these years.

I’m so glad we chose to listen, I’m so glad He’s holding our hands.

 

 

Categories
Endurance Inconvenience Journey Joy Missions Perspective Travel

I Didn’t Walk Through Business Class

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I just checked.

We are flying at 37,000 feet our way back home to Blantyre, Malawi. Our flight, that I’m watching on the conveniently located flight map on the seat in front of me, has so far been uneventful (save for a few bumps of minor to moderate turbulence). Our overall progress, however, seems to be advancing so very slowly! The outside speed is 561 mph (903 kmph) but the trail indicating distance traveled is moving at what appears to be a turtle’s pace. This may or may not be due to the distance we are flying, by my calculations, about 10,000 miles (approximately 14,000 kilometers), give or take some few hundred miles/kilometers.

Since I’m well aware of things not appearing as they seem, I am not worried. Traveling for the past 30+ years in the developing world accustoms one to the regular odd happening such as the travel map not reading the correct destination. I mean, I am supposed to land in Africa, not Dublin, Ireland as indicated on the map.

Or, should I be worried? Is the map showing anything correct at all?

Nah, I’m now hours into the flight and it’s too late to turn around. Things will work themselves out, they always do – but I wonder a little bit about the map and will do so until the end of the flight.

My daughter, who is sitting between us in our ever-shrinking economy class seats, is playing every game that the airplane system has to offer, my husband is alternating between nodding off to sleep and watching movies. While I sit here on a 13+ hour long flight failing to do little more than watch the odd movie and play a few games of Scrabble on my iPad.

Slowly the “food trolleys” pass by with plastic wrapped sandwiches that everyone, in this nearly full flight, devours with great gusto. This may sound strange as most of you probably haven’t had the delightful experience of landing at our next stop before finally landing in Blantyre: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Addis, as we who travel through there affectionately call it, is an interesting airport.

Let me explain.

Upon landing in Addis, the level of noise in the airport is amazing; there are people everywhere. I’ve learned that it’s becoming a major African air travel hub that is now struggling to keep up with the increasing volume of people passing through on their way to various destinations on the continent. The noise, combined with the movement of so many people to their various gates, creates a fascinating environment. It’s easy to decipher who is patient and who is not.

Not only is it noisy in Addis, but there’s no “easy seating.” What do I mean when saying there’s no “easy seating?” This is a term I have conjured up myself to describe the near panic that grips your heart when you realize there’s nowhere to sit for the next several hours while you wait for your connecting flight. Every available seat is jealously guarded by the fortunate one who managed to get it before anyone else.

Even the most frugal person would, at this point, try to pay to get into the airport lounge. Once the lounge is found, entrance is denied if you aren’t a member with the airline. Tears sting at the backs of your eyes as you are forced to return to the swirling masses of humanity in the concourse where you find yourself resorting to some kind of instinctual behavior as you scout out possible seating.

Still, we keep making these trips over and over!

The remaining part of our journey, once we leave the busy Addis airport, is where the plot thickens even further. We will fly to Lilongwe, Malawi (about 3+ hours from Addis), and be on the ground for about an hour dropping off and receiving passengers. Finally, after departing from Lilongwe, after a very short flight of less than an hour, we will land in Blantyre where the lines are long and slow and luggage carts are broken.

The chaos that ensues upon landing is a mixture of joy for the journey’s ending, jet lag, and struggling to get through customs and immigration. The heat this time of year is suffocating, but my eyes long to see the dusty roads of Africa.

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Home for me has never been wrapped in the comfort of my natural citizenship. I have longed, painfully at times, for family and friends but have learned to accept the longing of my soul for the people of Africa. To fight against it would be tantamount to fighting against my very breath.

So, I embrace this discomfort: economy class and all simply that I might see Him someday and pronounced faithful to His call (see Phil. 3:10).

I am thankful that at least this time I didn’t have to walk through business class to get to my seat.