Monday, August 24, 2009

So Many Firsts!

Last week I reflected at the end of the week how many things we had done that were new experiences...really amazing new experiences that made for a full week! You might enjoy the list:

1. Saturday morning when we went jogging at 6:30am, we decided to try a new trail at the Hahamongna Watershed park. It is always nice to have some new scenery while jogging, and we pushed ourselves a few extra minutes since it was a longer trail than we were used to.

2. Saturday evening we went to hear the California Philharmonic Orchestra at the LA Arboretum. What a fabulous combination! This was on our list of 'things to do before we leave LA'. It was beautiful weather to enjoy a picnic on the lawn in one of our favorite spots in LA. I was enjoying the wonderful music and scenery, and the thought occurred to me, "This is the life! This feels so good...why are we moving to Congo??". I was glad that it was just a fleeting thought...and glad that we have more significant reasons for going to Congo than good music or food! :)
3. Sunday afternoon we had our first 'Tshiluba lesson'. We recently met a man who spent some of his childhood in the region we will be in, and speaks Tshiluba, so he offerred to give us an introduction to pronounciation. It was fun to learn a few phrases, and realize what a challenge the language learning process will be!

4. On Wednesday of that week, we organized a spontaneous star-gazing outing with a few friends. We got to see the Perseid meteor shower for the first time (that I'm aware of). We hiked up a trail in the dark, spread out a blanket on the dirt, and watched the meteors streak across the sky. It was amazing! I'm so glad that we risked the late night to admire the events in the heavens. Here's a picture of our crew in action:
5. Friday morning of that week, we took a short bike ride at 6am, with the goal of ensuring that our bike muscles were present enough to take a longer bike ride the following week with some friends (which happened yesterday). Since the bike ride last week was not nearly as interesting as the bikeride along the beach yesterday, I'll give you a picture from yesterday.
6. Saturday night, we had dinner with some friends, and when they asked if there was anything we wanted to do afterward, I half-jokingly said that there was a Michael Jackson tribute concert happening a few blocks from where we were, and perhaps we could stop by. They were very enthusiastic, so we walked over to the park where the concert was, wondering how we would kill time since we were a little early. We were amazed to see a completely full lawn, with what turned out to be a record of 4600 people at the park. I knew almost none of the songs, but fortunately Bob and our friends knew most of them and we all had fun grooving to the music and reminiscing. I almost had to pinch myself--"I'm at a Michael Jackson tribute concert??!" Despite my personal shock, we thoroughly enjoyed it.

7. Sunday afternoon, we visited a church whose members are largely from Congo or with strong connections to Congo. We found out about the church when I met someone from Congo while jogging at the Rose Bowl (definitely a divine connection; very random!). We loved the African feel to the worship and hearing the mix of English, French, and Lingala in the service. The people were very friendly and happy to hear that we are moving to Congo. Amazing--we had no idea this church existed, and it is only 1 block from our house! (they meet in the building of another church, which explains why we had not seen any signs)

I think that is enough firsts for one week! I was a little overwhelmed at the end of the is hard to take it all in when these amazing experiences keep happening!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bob in Rwanda

In July Bob went to Rwanda to do interviews for his final research project. He worked hard while he was there, but he also thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect with his friends there. God answered our prayers for 'divine appointments', and he had some great interviews with a broad range of leaders in the Anglican Church. He was very grateful to his friends there who helped arrange interviews, drove him around, introduced him to people, and really helped smooth the process!
With Phineas, friend and colleague from AEE.

The drama team at Agape church.

Bob with Antoine and his family

Bob with Augustin and Claudine in Gisenyi

Dancing with Jean on his last day in Rwanda

AEE staff together in the cafeteria

Monday, August 3, 2009

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty the King of Creation!

We just returned from an amazing weekend of camping in the Angeles National Forest. I want to share a few pictures and stories of our fabulous weekend!

We left home Friday, so excited to get out of town and be outdoors for the weekend. I was trying not to get my excitement get carried away, afraid that we would be disappointed if we didn't get a campsite at the campground we were hoping for. When we were almost there, Bob said, "Well, I do hope that the campground is not full. But I also hope that we're not the only ones there!". Fortunately, we snagged one of the last remaining campsites in a great location, and neither fear came true.
The table at our campsite. We are obviously car-camping, NOT back-packing! :)

I was so proud of myself for finding small bottles and containers to put all of our food and supplies in. Unfortunately, when I realized that I had accidentally used oil instead of dish soap, I learned that I should label the bottles!

On Saturday we hiked up to Mt. Waterman. It was the best kind of hike--a mix of sun and shade, with great views of the mountains on the way up the valley, and then views of the high desert on the other side from the top of the mountain. Here are a few pics from the hike:

Views of the mountains on the way up to Mt. Waterman.
Hiding out "in the cleft of the rock" at the top of the mountain after we enjoyed our lunch!

We were rather sore and tired when we reached the bottom, but very happy for a great day of wandering in the forest and the mountains. Unfortunately, there was no shower and no lake to jump into, so we had to be content with putting on flip flops and relaxing in the shade for the rest of the day.

Sunday morning we had our own 'church', reading, praying, and meditating on God's beauty near a dry creek-bed near our campsite. Doesn't this look idyllic?
At one point while we were reading, Bob heard some rustling in the grass, and looked up to see a snake a few feet away coming towards us. He jumped up and told me to move. I ran back up towards our campsite, then stood on some rocks trying to see where the snake was. When I saw it, I was amazed--probably the largest snake I have ever seen in the wild--more than 1m long! It was a rattlesnake, so we were very glad that Bob saw it in time to move out of its way. We watched it slither back into the bushes, and waited to see where it would go. We finally went to check the other side of the our dismay he had come up near our picnic table! I tried to get a picture, but just caught the tail end:
We decided then to pack up our stuff so that we wouldn't have to worry about watching out for the snake. We were so grateful that we didn't see him until the end, so that we didn't spend the weekend paranoid about stepping on a rattlesnake!

Given our excitement about being outdoors and some of the glorious sites that we saw, here is the song that was running through my head throughout the weekend:

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
The King of creation
O my soul, praise Him
For He is thy health and salvation
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near
Praise Him in glad adoration