Family Happenings

Yes, we’re still here…just haven’t made time to blog. And I find that once I’ve been away from this space for a while, it’s hard to know how to get back into it. So I’ll just jump in with a few things by way of update.

We’ve been busy on the mission front, as usual, and hope to begin  updating the Kingdom Driven Ministries blog more regularly. If you hop on over there, you’ll see that we recently hosted a regional women’s meeting that was a real blessing, and we separated our overly-large home fellowship into three smaller congregations. (Exciting!)

We’ve leased a property a few kilometers from our current home, which is eventually going to house some livestock (cows, chickens, rabbits) as well as  additional crops (bananas, maize, and I don’t know what else). Milk and eggs are often hard to come by and a little more meat in our diet is not a bad thing. The property will also be used in various ways to benefit the brothers in our local fellowships.  We were  able to enjoy a little more family time than usual at year’s end, which was very nice, so Marc and the boys built some nest boxes and a rabbit hutch for use at the new place.

My intermittent frustrations with homeschooling here in Kenya are no big secret, though things have gotten somewhat better this academic year. I still haven’t seemed to consistently find time for Circle Time, especially for my Littles…and there are definitely things I want to work on in terms of both spiritual instruction and practical training.

2015-01-21 11.37.35For a number of reasons, during this week I asked my oldest daughter, Rebekah (who will be 12 on Friday), if she wanted to take the week off of school and be my “Mother’s Helper.” On Monday she helped me move around the furniture in our sitting room/dining area in order to better accommodate another missionary family (the Nafzigers) who will be moving in with us as of next week. Yesterday, I asked Rebekah to do a short Circle Time with the Little ones, and she did such a good job that we talked about making it a more permanent daily arrangement. We have the rest of the week to see how she (and they) like it. Meanwhile, having a consistent second hand to assist with home management and homeschooling has been a real blessing to me…maybe that’s why I have finally found time to sit down and blog. 🙂

 

 

 

“I shined the light, and the man fell down”

david and violetThis is David, along with his wife, Violet, and four of their six children. David is a pretty big guy. Our two oldest boys were testing his strength this morning, and they found it amusing that he could pick up 13 year-old Jonah with one arm and hold him in a seated position on his bicep.

I’m not sure how long David has been a part of our fellowship…maybe six months? He and Isaiah somehow became fast friends when Isaiah was overseeing a bunch of guys (including David) as they dug a local fish pond. In fact, the effort to communicate with David (who speaks very little English) was what made Isaiah functionally fluent in Swahili.

David had been living somewhat far away when he responded to the message of the Kingdom and was baptized. That, combined with the fact that he struggles with reading (as far as we know), made for a slow process of discipleship. At one point, the church elders had to address a significant issue with him, but he showed sincere repentance and one of the next steps was a willing move to a location closer to the fellowship so that he could grow stronger spiritually. He lived right across the path from us for a while, was forced to move, and then found another place across the main road. There are several brothers who live near each other there, so it’s a great way for them all to mutually encourage one another. The accountability has also been good for David.

One thing we’ve all noticed about David is that he’s a really good Dad. His children obviously love and respect him and he’s cared for them well as his wife has recently struggled with illness. However, Isaiah (who spends a lot of time at David’s house) did report that David has a bit of a temper when the children misbehave.

Sunday at our communion meal, a large group of about 20 adults ate together and then were encouraged by our brother Sam to examine ourselves in preparation for sharing in the body and blood of Christ. This is always a quiet and introspective time and although public confessions are encouraged, they are somewhat rare. Such a thing is just not a part of African culture. This week, however, was an exception. Many stood to confess and share their struggles and ask for prayer. David was one of them–the first time he’s publicly shared during our fellowship meal.

The night before, he had been sleeping at his home farm some distance away. He still has a house there, which has a sleeping mat and a few other things in it because he stays there when it’s time to plant or harvest beans or maize. Although a vacant house is usually an invitation for robbery or vandalism, David’s brothers live close by so there have thus far been no problems. However, on this particular Saturday night as David was sleeping, he reported that he was awakened by some unusual noises outside the house. He went out with his spotlight and found nothing, so returned to bed.

Some time later, he was abruptly awakened by some more noises. Though nothing obvious, he knew it meant trouble. He said that he got out of bed and stood by the window. (His house is a mud-and-stick construction with one window and one door, which is typical in our area.) Soon, water began to seep in around the window and he guessed that there were three men outside trying to break through the wall and enter the house. He simply waited quietly in the dark with a fimbo (a straight club with a large round ball on one end, which can easily finish someone) and a flashlight in his hands.

Eventually, one of the men worked his way in, leaving his two friends outside. David reported that he struggled internally; his strong reaction was to beat the man and cause the robbers to leave. (You must understand that here, robbers don’t just come to steal and then quietly leave. In the face of any opposition, they typically have and use machetes or knives to defend themselves. It’s kill-or-be-killed, since any robbers caught in the act are typically subject to vigilante justice, often having petrol poured on them and a match lit.)

However, David said, he had “another voice” telling him not to follow his natural reaction. Instead, he quickly positioned himself in front of the broken-through wall and shined his spotlight in the face of the intruder. In his own words, he “shined his light, and the man fell down!” He told the man, “You will not get out of here!” and tied his hands together. He then called his brothers, and the men all stood watch until morning, when it was determined that the man was a neighbor and should be freed without repercussions. His friends had already fled.

I wondered, if David had not sinned against the man, why was he standing to confess? And then he admitted that he felt that his feelings of anger were sin and he was asking for forgiveness and prayer.

After the Communion meal, we talked as a family. Marc wondered aloud if, when David said, “he shined his light and the man fell down!,” that was an African way of confessing that he had turned on his flashlight and then beamed the guy in the head with the club. (This is not a big stretch if you understand the differences between our Western-style of communication and their Eastern style.) So he sent Isaiah to David’s house to “confirm.” As it turned out, David did, indeed, refrain from doing harm to the man, choosing instead to “love his enemies” and “not resist an evildoer,” as Jesus had commanded. The intruder, expecting to break through the wall into an empty house, was probably just greatly surprised to find that he was not alone. Given David’s size, I can understand his reaction.

With the struggles we sometimes face in the lengthy and difficult process of discipleship, David’s testimony of this weekend stands as a great encouragement not only to us, but to our entire fellowship. It demonstrates the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of Jesus’ teachings and God’s upside-down Kingdom, and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us walk in that truth, even when our flesh would prompt us to do otherwise. Join me in praising God and in praying for David and others in our fellowship here who are striving to enter the narrow gate and follow the path that leads to eternal life.

Meet Silas…

We met Silas pretty much on day one when we moved to the village here in Kenya. He owns a shop just across the street from our house, where he lives and works with his wife, daughter, and newborn baby son.

Though we didn’t know it from the moment we met, Silas was eventually identified as that “man of peace” that would be instrumental in expanding the Kingdom of God in our community.

2014-06-24 17.24.31Recently, we helped Silas to purchase a piki piki (motorbike), in hopes that a fledgling business as a boda boda (driver) would help provide more comfortably for their family so that Silas would be more free to invest his time “on the mission.” Most recently, he coordinated many of the brothers (under the direction of Charlton Sweazy) to construct a home for a widow in our fellowship. He also regularly shares the Gospel of the Kingdom with visitors to his little shop, runs patients to the local clinic under Wanda’s direction, and visits satellite fellowships that are still in need of teaching and discipleship. If there’s anything to be done, not only do we trust Silas to do it, but he is always willing.

If Silas has a fault, it’s his memory. Rumor has it he suffered a head injury as a youth and was never the same (though we’ve never confirmed that to be true). In any case, he often confuses the English words “remember” and “forget” and he’s always “remembering” something–which is really “forgetting.” So when you call him to pick you up on his piki piki, he sometimes gets distracted and then “forgets to remember,” or “remembers to forget.” In other words, multiple phone calls by way of reminder are often necessary. And sometimes he shows up at the door and, after greeting and small talk, when asked if he needs something, he may stand there with a dazed look for several minutes before, with a shake of his head, he says, “Oh, yes!” and then proceeds with the reason for his visit.

We love Silas!

Riding on the piki today behind Silas, on my way to a women’s meeting, reminded me just why someone like Silas is such a gem. For starters, let me compare him with many other drivers at the boda boda “stage” in town (the place where you can hire a driver from a sea of motorbikes). Many of them are drunkards (not necessarily abstaining in order to pursue a living as a driver). Some are just plain rude and crude. Then there are those who lack not only a desire for safety but common sense as well. Couple that with dirt roads where potholes are the rule rather than the exception, impromptu speed bumps pop up unexpectedly, and pikis share the road with animals, pedestrians, bicycles, the occasional car, and other unsafe pikis often driving at high speeds, and a ride into town (or even a couple kilometers to a women’s meeting) can be downright scary.

I meditated on this as I rode peacefully on the back of Silas’s motorbike this morning. Needless to say, Silas is as straight-laced as they come. He drives at a moderate speed and even slows down for speed bumps so I don’t fly up off the seat. I smiled when we came upon a little girl, maybe a year old, sitting in a little pothole in the dirt path we were driving on. I wondered what Silas was doing as he stopped and beeped his horn, since the house we were at wasn’t our final destination. Turns out he just wanted to get the attention of the girl’s mother, who was busy doing her wash in the courtyard.  They had a short conversation, and then Silas said to me, “Yeah, many drivers they go too fast and they might not see her.” True enough!

I called him to come pick me up as I thought our meeting was wrapping up, since for him it was about a 15-minute ride and I didn’t really want to wait around. However, as it turns out, our closing prayer time went on longer than I thought it would and, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Silas pull up on the path outside before we finished. He ended up sitting there for about 10 minutes and I wondered what was going on when I saw him turn around and disappear down the path the same way he had come. To my amusement, when I exited the house I found him giving one of the neighborhood little tykes (about 2 years old, maybe) a spin on his piki, safely situated on the gas tank in front of him. Needless to say, the boy was smiling from ear to ear.

I apologized for making him wait and said,”Those Mamas prayed long today!” To which he simply laughed and said, “Yeah, it’s like that.” (That’s one of Silas’s favorite phrases, which he uses liberally and sometimes in a way totally unrelated to the conversation.)

To my surprise, one of the Mamas from the meeting begged a ride home, since it was on our way. Without missing a beat, I got squashed between her and Silas like a mzungu sandwich. Ordinarily, having a piki driver practically in my lap would make me uncomfortable, but knowing that it also  made Silas uncomfortable actually made me feel better. I noticed that he scooted up on the gas tank as far as he possibly could to create more space for me. 😉

So now you’ve met Silas and gone with me a  morning errand on the back of his piki. …”It’s like that.”

The Ugly Consequences of Sin

Our twelve year-old has always loved animals. Every time I upload photos from the camera, I laugh at how many pictures like this unexpectedly show up:

014

It means that Jonah has snuck the camera away to photograph one of his latest “finds.” I’ve been surprised by chameleons, snakes, box turtles, butterflies, snails, and more at various times over the past few years.

When we moved to Africa, one of hardest things for Jonah was giving up his beloved hamster. He’s wanted a pet and the family cats don’t count because they belong to everyone. He wanted something cute and cuddly all his own, and though chameleons abound here and they’re fun to play with, they’re not exactly what he was looking for.

Then, just the other day, our neighbor’s boy showed up with something unexpected: a wild rabbit he’d caught. Somehow he knew that the wazungu house was the right place to try for a sale. I summoned Jonah to the door.

He wanted 250 shillings (about $3). We’d paid only 100 shillings each for our domestic rabbits and I whispered to Jonah that he really should negotiate aggressively on the price. But he was already in love, and I think our neighbor knew it. Jonah tried to offer 200, and he was refused. Back to his room he went to get the money.

Since it was evening, we made sleeping arrangements for the new bunny, quickly named “Sungura” (which means rabbit in Swahili, since Jonah didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl). By morning, it hadn’t eaten any of the greens that Jo had collected for him, so Jonah fed him baby formula from a syringe every couple of hours and the rabbit never left his side–even while he was doing his school work. Jonah was tickled that the rabbit continually licked his face and neck, and when Jonah would move away from the rabbit on the couch, it would quickly move over and snuggle to his side. Finally, the perfect pet! Just what he’d always wanted.

That evening, Jonah typed out an email to family in America and of course, told them about Sungura. We had just finished supper, so I told the kids they could go outside to play. I glanced over the email, clicked “send,” and looked at my inbox. Suddenly I heard loud voices outside and so I got up to see what was the matter. Before I got to the door, Jonah was inside. He had composed himself while in the yard, but as soon as he made it to the privacy of the living room, he erupted in sobs.

Through his tears, the story came out: he’d brought Sungura out to play in the great outdoors. Of course, all his siblings were excited to see the rabbit run around. One (who shall remain nameless), started chasing the tiny rabbit. Jonah yelled, “Stop! Don’t do that!,” knowing that his sibling might inadvertently step on the creature. His sibling didn’t listen, despite several warnings. Suddenly, a foot met the unfortunate rabbit’s neck. Blood immediately spurted from its nose. I ran outside to see what could be done, but it was, of course, too late and too serious.

The sibling was disciplined, and we all cried. It was an “accident”…but it wasn’t. This particular child has struggled to respect the word of older brothers and sisters lately. When corrected by them, this child has been obstinate about NOT listening and NOT following their direction. The rebellion has been obvious to everyone. It has been corrected by parents and siblings alike, and we’ve also tried to teach through the Word of God the importance of listening to wise counsel, obeying older siblings in the absence of Mom and Dad, and so on. To no avail.

If it had been an unfortunate accident, there would have been no punishment. But it wasn’t. It was sin. And this time, there were consequences. Unfortunately, it was not to the child only but to a beloved brother.

It was  a quiet and sad evening in the Carrier home. But we had some good conversation as a result. The brother forgave and his sibling repented. I know it is for God’s glory and our good.

But the boy still misses his bunny. He’s still a little sad. And things are still a little quiet as we all process the sadness of this circumstance and meditate upon the ugly consequences of sin.

 

“Idleness Teaches Much Evil”

I’ve often heard the expression, “Idle hands are the devil’s work,” and wondered where it came from. I hear it quoted like it’s Scripture (similar to phrases like, “the Lord helps those who help themselves“), but I never knew the origin. So I was intrigued when we started reading the Wisdom of Sirach (from the Septuagint) and we stumbled upon this: “Put him to work that he may  not be idle, for idleness teaches much evil” (Wisdom of Sirach 33:28-29). I’ve often seen this to be true, and the Scripture I usually remind our children of when they start having “too much fun” is Proverbs 29:15 (ESV): “a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” That’s usually followed by a request for help with some chore or another.

Case in point: our almost 14 year-old son. He’s had some difficult moments…okay, maybe days…in the transition to Africa. He has a sharp mind and has always needed a project to work on. When he’s left idle, he complains of boredom and here, where good “project materials” are in short supply, that boredom has often turned into a general bad attitude. I understand it and have made many suggestions for profitable things he can do, but mostly I’ve just prayed that God would bring a solution.

He’s taken his own dirtbike completely apart and done quite a few repairs. Other times, it’s been another motor bike in need of repair–along with a driver that lacked the money to pay for parts or service. Most recently, it’s this:

Marc decided that the time has come to get our family a vehicle. We didn’t think we would; we’ve made do quite well with public transport and Marc’s motorbike. However, since his accident he’s needed to hire a car more than once, and when he takes a large team (4-6 people, who lead the Luke 10-style eveangelism teams) out for KDM missions, transport gets expensive. So it seemed that the time had come to get a car–now one of two in our little village!

However, it’s in need of some TLC and, as we’ve discovered, mechanics here leave much to be desired. Marc grew up working on cars with his Dad and has taught Isaiah quite a bit but they’ve never been able to get their hands dirty together very much–until now. They spent Monday and Tuesday at work over the car, and yesterday when Marc left for a training meeting, Isaiah spent the day solo doing some more repairs. He was in his element, and pretty much only took a 20-minute break for lunch. Oh, well, he wasn’t exactly solo–he had a frequent little helper:

Grabbing tools

"Helping"

As parents we are often limited and can’t always give our children what they need. But God can. My son has a heart for God, but he also has an analytical mind and a need to do something productive. Though our opportunities here have been limited, we’ve grown in grace as we’ve weathered all the bumps in the road and the Lord has been faithful. I’m thankful.

“What you can’t do, God can”

She wakes up early and comes to snuggle under my blanket while I read my Bible on the Kindle.

I lay down in her bed and tickle her; she giggles and tells me, “Mom, you’re my best girl!”

 

Now that so many of my children are getting older, I miss these times with them. I wish that connecting with them was still this easy. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with maintaining relationships with all eight of them, and I wonder if what I’m doing is enough. Life is so busy, our house so loud, and private times with each one so hard to come by.

I suppose all of us mothers feel this way from time to time, regardless of how many children we have or what our life’s circumstances are. I keep reminding myself of a word of encouragement that I received at a church service one Sunday evening. I think we had five children at the time and I had bundled them all up and taken them to this special service (I don’t remember where Marc was at the time, but I think he was traveling for work). I was hesitant, as I wasn’t sure they would all behave–especially as the evening got into bed time. I did end up having to leave early, just as the prayer time was beginning. I tried to be unobtrusive as I made my way to the door, but I remember (to my embarrassment) that the speaker stopped in the middle of whatever he was saying to address me before I made my hasty exit. He blessed my family and spoke some words that I don’t remember, but here’s what stuck with me:

“You’re not Super Woman.

You’re not a super wife.

You’re not a super mother.

But what you can’t do, God can.”

And I trust in that…every day. I strive to please and glorify God, but I know that I fail in more ways than I realize. Maybe I’m not in “sin,” but I know I could do better…invest more…be less self-focused, sometimes. This is especially true in the important area of relationships. I wish there was more of me to go around. But I pray that as I do my part, God would do His. That He would fill in the gaps and do something more with my sometimes inadequate attempts at mothering.

Yesterday, I was reading First Timothy and pondered the qualifications for widows (1 Timothy 5:9-11). She must have a “reputation for good works,” the first among those being “if she has brought up children.” This work we are doing…it is a good work, and done faithfully, it brings great reward. So let us press on, even when we cannot do so with perfection. Let us trust in God that He will be faithful to bring our efforts to completion.

The Power of Sympathy

Historically, we haven’t been perfect at encouraging our children. We talk about that in our book, The Values-Driven Family:

We both grew up in homes where we knew we were loved; our parents did their very best in every way to bring us to adulthood successfully. Yet we both also would say that we grew up in an environment that leaned toward the critical. Whether reality or simply our own perception of things, we constantly felt like we had to “measure up,” and if we failed we felt a certain condemnation. This somewhat negative overtone to our family lives, however, didn’t really become obvious until we prayerfully considered our own shortcomings as parents. It was then that we saw that we were perpetuating this learned pattern of parenting, and propagating a spirit of discouragement rather than encouragement. As a result, our best efforts in training, discipline, and even relationship-building were falling short.

(p. 18)

We talk about a few ways that we’ve tried to overcome this deficiency, the least of which was to implement the use of the Core Value Chart (more about that and a free copy here). Developing healthy and loving relationships with each of our children has also been important–but I won’t deny that we’ve had our struggles there, too.

Personally, I’ve become convicted over time that not only is encouragement necessary in relationships, but so is sympathy. Not the artificial kind that comes across as being condescending, but a true desire to connect and understand. I reflected on this yet again this morning as I read from the book of Hebrews in my quiet time:

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

True sympathy can mean giving a hug at just the right time. Perhaps, like the friends of Job, we sit in silence when words will get in the way. I find that I often express sympathy by sharing my own similar struggles or stories from my past–and I end by simply saying, “I understand.” This is my favorite way to express sympathy, because then I get to take the next step and share how the Lord has strengthened me or helped me to overcome, or I can express how I’ve experienced His comforting presence during difficult times. This is not only good for our family relationships, but it is also an excellent discipleship opportunity as we strive to help our children grow closer to the Lord.

I need the Lord to give me gentle reminders in this area quite often, because it’s easy to lose sight of sympathy in the everyday hustle-and-bustle of life. Think on these things today, and don’t forget to extend mercy to your children and give grace to help them in their time of need.

Our Day, as of 1:35 PM

I usually get up early for my morning Quiet Time (the baby normally helps with that) but today it was, quite unusually, raining a bit in the early hours and I wanted to stay in bed. I got up at 6:10 when the baby cried, which is when all the bigger kids also started rolling out of bed. I fed the baby and handed him over to Deborah, who was the first girl up with hair brushed and ready to go for the day. She entertained Enoch in the living room while I got dressed.

I sent Isaiah next door to collect our two liters of milk and began setting the table for breakfast (cups for tea, a peanut butter coffee cake made the night before, and some bananas). Pastor David arrived from Nairobi at about 6:40 AM, having taken Easy Coach through the night. (He’s joining Marc and Tonny on a training mission…somewhere…for the next few days. Tonny had stayed overnight and surprisingly, even with all our noise, wasn’t up yet.) By now all the children were up and gathered in the living room, either having Bible time or chatting with their Dad and Pastor David. Thankfully Enoch, who had started the day rather cranky, was now pleasantly entertained by Pastor David’s charming smile and soothing manner.

By 7:10 Isaiah arrived with milk, which I boiled in preparation for making tea. Tonny finally got up and everyone washed their hands while I finished getting breakfast on the table. I emptied out the pan of coffee cake and everyone probably would have had more if there had been any. Afterwards, Marc left on his motorbike with our 11 year-old to pick up the battery he had left at the charging station over night. Isaiah chatted with the guys outside while Hannah cleared the table, Rebekah started dishes, and Deborah began the task of washing clothes. Our neighbor, Jane, had arrived to complete the task of transplanting some onions in our garden, which she had voluntarily begun the previous afternoon. Micah (4) and Jubilee (3) went out to “help.” I sat at the table and checked my email and Facebook while feeding Enoch. Then I sat on the couch (still with Enoch) and turned on the Kindle for some Bible reading (Psalm 31).

I swept out the kitchen, especially all the mud that had accumulated by the back door with just a few early morning trips to the out house. Tonny interrupted my task to ask if I could help him prepare a bath. I put on a big pot of water to boil, had Deborah take a break from laundry so I could borrow one of the big wash basins, and gathered all the supplies Tonny would need in the bathroom. Meanwhile, Baby Enoch entertained himself by playing with the piles of dirt that Hannah was sweeping from under the table. When moved, he would find his Dad’s Bible on the coffee table. When moved again, he meandered into the kitchen and discovered the electrical wires left disconnected when we had removed the battery the previous day. Then back again into the sitting room to find more trouble…

After setting Tonny up to bathe, I got the bin of clean laundry that had been taken in the previous afternoon but not yet put away, and I sorted it into piles. By now Hannah (after a few gentle reminders to stay focused on her work) had finished cleaning up from breakfast and I asked her to put away the folded and sorted clothes. Isaiah, temporarily distracted by a low-flying agricultural plane, was now reigned in to empty the indoor “pee bucket” that we keep in one of the stalls of our bathroom. (Now that the mosquitoes are out when the sun goes down, we use the emergency bucket as needed!) I also instructed him to roll up and shake out the throw rug in the sitting room and prepare for floor washing (which involves putting coffee and end tables up onto the couch and moving the toy box, shoe bin, and carpet out onto the veranda, then doing a thorough sweep of the concrete floor.) By now Jonah and Marc had returned, so I sent Jonah out to burn the garbage.

Marc, Pastor David, and Tonny left at about 9:00. Not much later, Jane came in from the garden and asked if I needed eggs. She scored really big last week in finding a place where we can get eggs in quantity–we got FIVE DOZEN and wasted little time in consuming them. We’re down to eating meat about once every 2-3 weeks, so eggs are a preferred source of protein. We normally can only get 3-4 eggs every few days, though. Anyway, I was happy to give her some money for another  four dozen, and the two older girls begged to go with her, so I agreed. First I had to scrounge a 5-gallon bucket from the veranda and clean it out for egg transport.

Meanwhile, Micah and Jubilee had begun playing but their diversion was neither messy nor loud, so I let them continue. Isaiah had finished clearing out the sitting room, so I put him on the mission of entertaining Enoch while I prepared to wash the floor (a task I had intended for Rebekah, who was now gone. But both girls had at least gotten through the laundry and dishes!) I set Jonah to cleaning his room and Hannah to washing about four pairs of very dirty flip-flops (necessary for using the outhouse, but not so nice to use when they leave your feet muddy.)

With everyone occupied, I was able to wash the sitting room floor and decided to do the bathroom and hallway as well. I started cleaning carrots, tomatoes, and peppers in preparation for supper, which will be vegetables and ugali. Realizing that lunch time was rapidly approaching, I put Jonah on prep duty, skinning unripe “cooking bananas,” which would be mashed and added to  rice for our meal. I asked Hannah if she could pick skuma (collards) to add to my veges for dinner. I confirmed that she knew how to do it, recalling that she had done so before with her sisters. Meanwhile, Jane arrived with the big girls and the eggs. Rebekah said that Auntie Jane’s “not too far” walk turned to to be pretty far, indeed, but…she wasn’t really tired. In a moment of distraction, Micah asked if he could go help Hannah cut skuma, and I agreed. Jane bounced Enoch and Jubilee in her lap while I put the eggs away, freeing Isaiah up to look for a recipe online, at my request. Today is one of our two weekly dessert nights, and I was unusually enticed by a recipe for Kentucky Butter Cake that I had seen on Facebook earlier.

Jane said her goodbyes and I began cleaning the skuma that Hannah and Micah had now brought in. I asked Rebekah to set the table, gave Isaiah permission to do some work on the computer in Excel, and gave Jonah direction on completing lunch preparation. Deborah entertained Enoch, who was now apparently complaining about Jane’s abrupt departure. A few minutes later, Jane returned, and in broken English explained that evidently Micah had gotten a little over-zealous in his skuma-cutting and  stripped about a dozen plants of all their leaves. I thanked her for the information and went inside, rather ungraciously reminding Hannah of her responsibility to supervise and direct her little brother, and Micah to slow down and (for the thousandth time?) please wait for directions instead of just jumping in to do the work!

I finished cleaning the skuma and then collected Micah and Hannah for hugs and kisses and an apology (will I ever learn?). Then, finally, we were ready for lunch–a rather late 1:20. And I sat down to blog, wondering if anyone would be interested in the minutiae of our day and realizing that schooling hadn’t been a thought in anyone’s mind…but, praise God, we’ve almost finished our 180 days anyway…

3:00 is 4:30

The other day, Marc and our neighbor, Henry, went door-to-door in the village sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom. The reception was very positive and there is some follow up that needs to be done as a result–because the idea is to make disciples, not just converts. Many of the people Marc spoke with were women, so if they expressed interest in knowing more or in further follow up, he referred them to me and asked them to drop in for a visit.

One of the ladies said she would come and meet with me the following day at 3:00 in the afternoon. I thought, what an ideal time! The littlest three would all be napping at that time, I already had supper started, and the day’s work was, by-and-large, completed. No children’s chores to oversee until about 4:30, and the big kids would either be finishing school work or enjoying some free time (likely outside). Perfect!

Unfortunately, 3:00 came and went. Suddenly,at 4:30, she appeared at the door–just moments after all the littles had woken up, needed help in the potty, and wanted water and a snack. The big kids now needed me to dump their heavy water containers into the water tank, as their afternoon job involved several trips to the spring. I was also going to need to get food re-heating on the stove and get things going for supper. But…I had to drop everything (as much as possible) and follow up with this woman who was so very eager to meet me and learn more about following Jesus. So that is what I did.

I recall reading in the Kenya “Culture” book that time is a very Western concept, and that Americans coming to Africa often struggle to throw off the shackles of the clock. How true it is! This is just one example; Marc has had experience with this as well. Often he’ll have a training scheduled to begin at 9:00, and folks don’t start drifting in until noon. One Kenyan laughingly told him that if people actually show up on the same day as the event, that’s pretty good.

One more thing we need to adjust to. Need to keep on remembering why we’re here and what’s important, so we can truly make the most of every opportunity–whether it shows up at 3:00 or 4:30. Here’s a reminder for all of us–we need to focus on the eternal, not the temporal; and God’s timing is usually not the same as ours. Be prepared, whether you’re needed at 3:00 when it’s convenient, or 4:30…when it’s not.

 

Slowing Down

One thing we’ve realized is that things move much slower in Africa. Without many of the conveniences that we’ve been used to, daily tasks are much more time-consuming. Even a “quick trip” into town never turns out to be “quick.” Internet is painfully slow at times. There is no convenience food–the closest thing to fast food is fruit and popcorn for a meal (which may not be a bad thing!).

We’ve always known that life in America is lived at a faster pace–both internally and externally. We have often felt pressured to work faster and do better, and by default it’s sometimes been hard to maintain spiritual growth and capture God’s peace. When the world whirls around you at a breakneck pace, it can be difficult to take a step back and focus on the One who is at the center of it all. However, here in Africa, it seems that everyone is in one accord with the slower pace. It’s not uncommon to see families congregating under a shade tree in the middle of a hot afternoon. When someone stops by for tea, they typically stay a while. If your neighbor sees you out sweeping your veranda, it’s a good opportunity for them to come over and chat for a few minutes. In the evening, after the house starts to darken, families often wander outside where it is still light and you can hear conversation, laughter, and games.

While this slower pace has been occasionally frustrating to our American flesh, there are benefits. We’re here to share the Gospel of the Kingdom and engage in discipleship–and those relationships only flourish where time can be invested. It’s also been a blessing to our family, as the children have each individually gone on town trips with their Dad and enjoyed the extended one-on-one time. The girls and I are work together on laundry and food preparation and are trying to take the opportunity to really enjoy the moments we spend together serving one another and talking as we work.

Even if things around you move quickly, try to slow down and find the quiet presence of God in your everyday moments. Seize hold of what He wants to accomplish in His time, and don’t be distracted by all the “doings.”

 

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