Saturday, June 24, 2017

Finding company in great books

We have been in Nairobi for nearly 4 weeks now, addressing Bob’s sickness and doing everything we can to promote his return to health. We finally got a positive diagnosis this week--Bob tested positive for the Epstein-Barr virus (aka Mono). During this month of being ‘sidelined’ for sickness, what is a good introvert thing to do? Read, of course! Bob hasn’t had much physical or mental energy, but reading a book together provided a good low-key distraction. Either together or separately we’ve been reading an eclectic mix of interesting books this month, some that have felt particularly relevant to our situation. So I thought I would share what some of them are.

1. A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park.
This based-on-a-true-story narrative describes the lives of two children in South Sudan, in two different decades. It is really written for older children (middle school?), but adults would enjoy it too! It is a great description of the every-day challenge of life for a refugee or people in a situation like South Sudan, and the perseverance and resourcefulness it takes to survive. A powerful and poignant story!

2. Into the Niger Bend, by Jules Verne.
We stumbled on this novel in the library of the guest house here in Nairobi. We wanted something light to read aloud, and Jules Verne’s humorous dialog and eccentric characters made us laugh when life felt otherwise rather discouraging. Unfortunately, this book is just the first section of a larger novel, so it left the characters stranded and under attack in the middle of the Sahara dessert, and we are not able to access the next book in the series. And because it is one of Jules Verne’s lesser-known works, there does not seem to be a kindle version. If anyone can find one, please let us know!

3. A Concise History of South Sudan, Edited by Anders Breidlid, et al.
The authorized history of South Sudan, used as a textbook in high schools within the country. We found it in a bookstore in Juba, and I thought it would be a good historical introduction to our new host country. We appreciate that it starts the history as far back as archeological evidence allows, thousands of years ago, and describes the origins and movements of peoples in the region, including the illustrious history of several kingdoms and ‘black pharoahs’. When the Bible refers to Cush (e.g. Isaiah 18), it is probably referring to modern-day Sudan. I also enjoy reading about the distinctions and origins of the many tribes of South Sudan, although it gets to be more detail than I can take in as a newcomer!

3. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
Another book I stumbled on in the guest house library. I don’t consider myself a ‘writer’, but this book of advice about writing was helpful and humorous. As a reader, I often fall into the perception that the book or article I am reading was produced as the words just spilled effortlessly onto the page as fast as the author could type them. The book is a good reminder of how much difficult mental work goes into writing, and of the importance of editing and revising (which I don’t do nearly enough of).

4. Extreme Prayer, by Greg Pruett
As we were praying for Bob’s recovery and asking for prayer from others, I remembered this book, recommended to me a few months ago. I found a Kindle version (e-books are incredible for those of us living internationally!), and started reading about Greg Pruett’s testimony of life and mylinistry in West Africa. I appreciate that much of his growth in faith and his commitment to pray came out of humbling experiences. Isn’t that the way with all of us? This book is a wonderful inspiration to consider God’s vision for His Kingdom and how He wants us to join him.

5. The Road from Coorain, by Jill Ker Conway
I found an online book club that is reading this book, and decided to join in the discussion. In this memoir of her early life, Conway describes growing up on a sheep farm in the Australian Outback in the 1930s and 40’s. She gives vivid descriptions of the bleak landscape, the challenges of raising sheep in the arid climate, and the unique cultures that her family mixes in. Her father dies early in life, and her family pushes on through that tragedy, drought, and the depression of the 1930’s.

6. Hinds Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard
After we finished Into the Niger Bend, we stumbled on this classic, again in the guest house library, and it felt like a good one to read together. In this season of struggling with sickness and having to surrender our plans and control, this book feels so applicable and encouraging. The analogy and imagery of this story are incredible, and it is evident that this is written out of much life experience and encounters with God. One quote that stands out is when the Shepherd chides Much-Afraid after an encounter with her enemies, “When you wear the weed of impatience in your heart instead of the flower Acceptance-with-Joy, you will always find your enemies get an advantage over you.”

Reading Hinds Feet on High Places at the guest house in Nairobi

We are so grateful for the company of these books that have inspired us, spoken truth, or provided an escape from the drudgery of being sick. Any other books you want to recommend to us?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Surrender

“Father…not my will, but yours, be done.” 
Luke 22: 42


On Wednesday morning of this week Kristi went for a bird watching jaunt with the Nature Kenya group.  I stayed at the guesthouse and took some time to rest and do some therapeutic, meditative coloring.  While I was tempted to color in the page with the theme of “Healing,” I was drawn in my spirit to color in the dramatic “S” for “Surrender.” 


Surrender feels like the greater, all encompassing theme of our lives, while of course we are earnestly seeking and praying for healing.  We came to Nairobi three weeks ago from Juba regarding a couple of health issues which were badgering me.  First was a fish bone I swallowed in Kinshasa which left my throat perpetually disturbed.  Second was an inexplicable tiredness and lethargy that still won’t let me go.  Over the last three weeks we have been to see the doctor four times and had two multitudinous rounds of tests performed. 

Last September we surrendered to God our desire to have children.  Right now we feel like we are having to surrender something we too often take for granted, our health.  During these weeks of convalescence we have to take things day by day, depending on how I feel and how much energy I have.  We have also had to surrender our plans to the Lord.  Our plan was to begin language learning three weeks ago and jump in with both feet our new life and ministry in Juba.  Instead, we find ourselves exiled by choice in another country, shuttling back and forth across busy Nairobi to see doctors, also resting and rejuvenating ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

Bob under his favorite tree at the Amani Gardens Inn 


The peace and tranquility of Amani Gardens
has been a 
salve to the soul


While we fully anticipate and hope/plan to return to Juba, we have even had to surrender our sense of call.  Indeed, we feel called to serve in South Sudan, but when one’s physical well being gets pummeled, you begin to ponder your call.  It has felt like everything is up in the air until the ever elusive signs of improvement in health and well being reveal themselves.  As our days prolong here in Kenya, it feels like we also need to surrender our reputation, not knowing whether or not we are able physically to fulfill the call set before us. 

For me personally, I have also had to re-surrender my life to God during this time.  Last week on Wednesday night Kristi had just sent out a prayer email to friends and family when I was suddenly hit with a terrible case of the chills, complemented with a fever which seemed on the verge of spiking.  As I haven’t had a fever in years and am not well acquainted with having chills in such a deleterious manner, I felt in my heart that maybe God was now calling me home to Him; I had to surrender my desire to live and be at peace with the possibility of my days on earth ending here and now.  Thankfully, by God’s grace, my fever turned after a few hours in the night.  I rejoiced the following morning, feeling that my life was restored.  On that note, it has felt like a spiritual battle with forces set against us and against the good future God has for us.  Yet, we are confident that in the strong, all powerful Name of Jesus we will prevail! God has even spoken to me reassuringly in a dream about His guiding Hand of protection.       

Our hope and prayer is that this time in Nairobi will prove to be a time to recover physically from these ailments, to recover emotionally from the last few months of huge transitions related to our call, and to regain our spiritual bearings before re-engaging our new role in South Sudan.  Our time here in Nairobi has proven to be a soul searching time, as we have had to surrender our health, our plans, our sense of call, our reputation and even our mortal lives to the Lord.  Our firm desire and resolve remains to get well and return to Juba.  Pray with us for God’s healing and that it would come very soon!  Most importantly, please pray with us that our will aligns with God’s will as we embark upon this new season of life and ministry.  “Asante sana!” (Thank you so much!)   


“S” for Surrender

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Detour

We felt like we were starting to know our way around Juba --finding things in the market, taking rickshaws, and practicing new phrases in Juba Arabic. We were reviewing our language learning books and preparing to start lessons this week with a tutor. And then a few physical/medical issues stopped us in our tracks and forced us to change our plans.

On our last evening in Congo three weeks ago, we celebrated with a nice dinner of fish. Bob ate his with bidia, which camoflauged a fish bone in his mouth until he felt it poking his throat on the way down. We hoped that the bone had not gotten stuck in his throat, but when he still felt like something was caught there two days later, it was hard to be sure. We saw a doctor as we passed through Ethiopia en-route to Juba, who said that there was no bone in Bob’s throat, but that there was some inflammation where perhaps the bone had poked him. He gave Bob some antibiotics and sent us on our way. Good news! Except that, two weeks later, Bob’s throat still periodically felt sore or clogged, and it was disconerting that it did not seem to be healing.

Just as we were wrestling with these thoughts of Bob’s throat, he started feeling very weak, achy, and tired. We went to the doctor in Juba, thinking perhaps he had malaria. The malaria test was negative, but the doctor prescribed the treatment for malaria anyway, given that it could be in the early stages.   He also examined Bob’s throat with a flashlight, but did not have any equipment beyond that to asses what was irritating his throat. After a couple more days of resting, praying for healing, and seeking guidance but not feeling any better, we decided to come to Nairobi to see a doctor and get more tests.

We arrived in Nairobi on Monday of this week, and saw a doctor and had a battery of tests on Tuesday. We are very grateful for the encouragement to come and get treated, for the reassurance of ruling things out or knowing what is going on physically, and also for the time and space to rest and recover. It is humbling to be forced to change plans and accept physical limitations. We had only been in Juba two weeks before suddenly leaving again for Nairobi. But sometimes being humbled and forced to change our timetable is exactly what we need to ensure that we depend on God and the people around us rather than just on ourselves. So we are waiting and trusting God to restore health and energy so that we return to Juba and to language learning. And in the mean-time we enjoy some ice cream, cool weather, and bird watching while we pass the time in the big city of Nairobi.

Amani Gardens Bob reading

Relaxing in the shade at the guest house in Nairobi

IMG_3891

We appreciate the lush trees and flowers at the Amani Gardens Guest House