Sunday, February 19, 2017

Celebrating and transitions

February 19th is the seventh anniversary of when we left the U.S. to move to DR Congo. In 2010, we landed in Kananga, a place we had never been, where we did not yet know anyone, and where we did not speak any of the local language. It took awhile, but Kananga became home, a place with friends, colleagues, our work, our routines, and where we finally felt comfortable with the language. Just this week we learned that we will not be able to return to Kananga to live and work. We grieve over this unexpected change of plans, but are at peace because it has become clear that it is the right decision. Before we look forward to whatever God wants to take us next, we celebrate some of our favorite thing about life in Kananga (in random order).

1. Eagerness and excitement evident on people’s faces when they could buy their own Bible.

2. Immediate, generous hospitality that we received again and again in people’s homes, whether our arrival was anticipated or not.

3. The faith and talent of our drivers on long trips, who would navigate through deep mud or precipitous holes, where I was sure the vehicle would tip over or get stuck.

4. Exuberance and pure joy on the faces of the children in the Ditekemena program, feeling loved and safe and valued.

Dancing at Ditekemena

5. Sunsets with rich colors and the outlines of palm trees.

6. Some of our friends who would show up at our door at random times, and say something like “I haven’t seen you for a few days. I had to come see how you were doing!”

7. Mangoes coming into season in November, and using them as many ways as we could – mango jam, mango cobbler, mangoes chutney, mangoes.

8. The palpable sense of God’s presence during the cross workshop portion of the healing and reconciliation seminar as people gave their pain to Christ and found freedom and forgiveness through the cross.

Mweka seminar - woman nailing to cross2

9. Making pancakes over the charcoal fire on our balcony on Saturday mornings. True comfort food!

10. Navigating the steep narrow paths down into the valleys where some of the poorest people live, often for a cell group meeting or to visit someone – lush vegetation but also plenty of mosquitos there!

11. Seeing the women in the savings groups showing the discipline to bring their savings and work together to make decisions, support each other, and resolve issues.

12. The satisfaction on people’s faces and sense of connection when a stranger learned that we lived in Kananga and spoke Tshiluba, and immediately started quizzing us on which local foods we eat “Do you eat bidia? And matamba? And buse? What did you eat yesterday?”

I could keep going – there are so many things we are grateful for during our time in Kananga. Of course, as with any place, there are also things we will NOT miss, but for now we celebrate the positives.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Simple Living

Some will know that Kristi and I have been in a “holding pattern” for several weeks, waiting word regarding our future and whether we can return to our home and ministry in Congo.  Deciding that we wanted to flee the cold of central Illinois and go somewhere warmer for a spell, we decided to come out to California.   

Last Thursday I arrived in Pasadena.  Kristi follows, arriving tomorrow after a week with friends in Orlando.  During our time in CA we will not have a car.  We are also doing the Daniel Fast for the month of February, eating only vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and only drinking water and herbal tea.  I have found both measures tiresome and labor-intensive, but also enjoyable and opening me up to God in new ways.  Our goal during this fast is to seek God’s direction for our lives since things feel somewhat uncertain at the moment.  Going shopping at Ralph’s last week was a surreal experience.  I had my list of brown rice, black beans, peppers, celery, oranges and apples and bananas and a few other odds and ends.  Walking down the aisles with all the other food items screaming for my attention made me realize the gravity of our choice.  Over the last week I have been able to eat nutritious and tasty meals.  It has been a soulful experience, and I do see and feel God speaking to me and ministering His comfort to me. 

Not having a car has been a blessing also.  The first day in Pasadena I walked to find somewhere to eat dinner and do some initial shopping.  On my way, I met Jinoshia, or Jino for short.  I met him atop the Metro stop above the 210 freeway.  He was reading a book which looked like the Bible.  I asked him what he was reading.  Slowly peering up at me, he showed me the cover.  “The Koran?”  I asked. He nodded.  “Being a Muslim is a good thing,” he told me.  I responded by telling him that I was a Christian.  He asked me what it meant to be a Christian.  I told him that being a Christian means following Jesus.  Sensing his trepidation, I assured him that I had no intention to argue, but to listen and understand.  We had a nice conversation about our need for God’s help and grace in our lives.  I met Jino two other times last week in the same place.  Our faith conversations continued.  At one point during one of our conversations he looked at me and said, “Now I know what it means to be a Christian.”  Looking into Jino’s eyes, I see love and humility.  I see a man who is gentle and kind.  I am thankful for my new friend, and hope to see him again.   

I am thankful to God for this season of living simply, no car, no meat, no unhealthy foods, no caffeine, no beer or wine.  It is a season of consecrating ourselves to God in a specific way for a specific purpose.  Pray with us that we will see God’s image in others in a deeper and more profound way, and that we will hear God’s voice in the simple moments of everyday living.  Living in an age and culture of decadence and self-gratification and rampant consumerism, I find it so refreshing to live simply and to forsake the many things we often clamor for.