Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I'm finally going back and filling in all the blogs that didn't get posted nearly a year ago in Africa.
Starting at the beginning...

Feb 3, 2010
It was hard to tell whether we were rising to meet the sun, or the sun was rising to meet us.
I’m back on a plane home right now. One more night in my own bed.
Oregon is beautiful. I don’t realize how ugly Saint Louis is until I go somewhere wrapped in the splendor of natural beauty. No human made those mountains like a mural against the sky, or trees that stay green in the winter. Living near these things must spark a different state of mind. Being aware that we are a part of this earth upon which we were created more than a system of walls and concrete, services and technology. The American machine. Some people must be inspired by this, because it has continued to grow, and for many it makes sense to them that this is what they wrap their lives around. But I don’t find freedom in that entanglement. In our culture, we learn to live for the goals of our comfort and security, and that is what many work hard their whole lives for. I speak only for myself, but if this is all I live for on this earth, then I have lived in vain. God tells us to protect ourselves from being corrupted by the mindset and the ways of our world. Instead of telling us to lead safe, secluded lives, he tells us to spread His message of hope and redemption to those in messy situations, whether physically or mentally. Instead of telling us to care for ourselves, he tells is to care for those who are sick. Those who have lost husband or wife. Orphans. Instead of telling us to make sure we always have food for ourselves, he tells us to feed the hungry and provide for anyone in need. Any suffering from injustice in an EXTREMELY imbalanced world. God created us here on this earth to live in community with Him. His creation, and those around us. As humanity has fallen away from this purpose, He has continually, throughout history been calling us back to himself, then sending His people into the broken places of this world.
There have ALWAYS been suffering people just as there has ALWAYS been disease, war, unjust rulers and laws, hunger, orphans, widows.. And we have always been called into these areas. Like I said, I speak only for myself, but I don’t want to trade this for a life of security.
As for my time in Portland..
The people at Lahash are really wonderful and welcoming. They are well organized and have a clear vision and exemplary mission. Before last summer, their office only consisted of a small room in the basement of a church, but they have been given a huge, 100 year old house from which they are now operating. Much of the house is in pretty bad condition though, so they are in the process of renovating. During training, I watched some DVDs about serious issues facing sub Saharan Africa, such as crime and corruption, HIV/Aids, and also about daily life there. I was able to eat a couple East African style meals, which I think I will grow to like, and was able to learn a lot more about the history and mission of Lahash international in East Africa.
On Tuesday night, I was really, really excited to be able to see Joo Ai!  (For those of you who don't know, Joo Ae is my good friend from Korea. She just moved from StL to Portland to attend school there.) I visited her apartment and met several of her Korean friends, and her room mate from Houston. We ate Korean food and had a really great time! For those of you who have been worried or missing Joo Ae, she is doing really well and she is very happy in her new home!
I'm trying not to think too much about my departure on Thursday.. I have been trying not to think about it too much. For me it might be better that way. Save it for when the time comes :)
Feb 5 2010
This part of the journey is going to be tough for my spirit, isn’t it. Knowing that I am up in this big airplane over the Atlantic Sea and there is now way that I can turn around. I’m alone. I’m not going to meet a familiar face. I can’t even really call home once we land. And I question whether I chose to be gone for too long. Six weeks was nothing in Kansas City, but I had already settled in , could visit home, call text, facebook, email. At ANY time.
Then I think, that’s not like me, being so attached to home. I’m not like that.
But I’ve never flown to the other side of the world for a month and a half by myself before. I know You have a lot to teach me. I know there is comfort in the familiar and I decided to step away from that. I guess I’m just  feeling lonely.
Our plane is stopping to refuel in Rome, but it will be dark. That really stinks.
I need to want to be there more than I want to be at home. I’ve been wrestling with that a bit.
I think I’m flying over Italy right now. It’s dark outside and all I see is patches of light down there. I’ll see Rome at night in about an hour. I’ve tried to sleep a little bit, but I haven’t been as tired as I expected after staying up all night. I’ve been on this plane for about 7 hours now and haven’t really read much at all.. It’s been alright. I was super lucky to get 2 seats to myself so I can lay down.
Wow.. So we passed a stretch of cities, all lit up. The earth looked golden. Then black. They all ended at once.
I’m in Rome
Still on an airplane though.
As we were descending
A giant cloud burst into lightning
Over a million little lights and golden roads. I’ve never seen so many roads.
Feb 6, 2010
IF I have plenty of room, and IF there is a clear sky, and IF I can see out the window,
Then I can honestly say that flying on airplanes is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world.
I’ve had a great flight, despite the loneliness. I’ve been on this thing 13 ½ hours so far, and I’m really not in a big rush to get off.
I was able to sleep a lot. I got plenty to eat, and was startled with one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen.
Flying over the Sudan and everything was still black. No light yet. So I’m reading something and I glance up and had to gasp. A bright red stripe sliced though the black. It gradually began to expand into blue, amber and gold.
I felt like I was in the Lion King.
Light slowly stretched out across miles of sand, revealing the Nile River, stretching to the horizon. The Sahel. Then a fiery red ball rose above the edge of the desert.
This is how God greets Africa good morning. Even though few live on that stretch of desert. Today I got to see it.
This is why I love flying on airplanes. Now I feel like I could sleep some more… 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Christmas

Today is monumental because.... 
I am happily leaving the community college where I have studied for the past 4 years. Four years because I was dually enrolled there starting at age 16, took a semester off early this year to go to Africa, then came back to finish with a semester more than I actually needed. 
Anyways, I'm glad to be moving on :)
University of Missouri-St. Louis and Pierre Laclede Honors college is where I'm heading next.

With finals over, I can sit back and finally enjoy Christmas. How nice!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Today is Turned Red..

Today is world AIDS day. Please take time to pray for those beautiful people infected or affected.. Some other things you can do:

>>> Go to and see how God's grace is moving in East Africa through some of His amazing people.

>>>Go to / - the proceeds from 4 pieces of my art go directly to support those living with HIV.

>>>Join Mocha Club. For the price of two starbucks coffees per month, $7, you can provide life saving antiretrovirals to a person with HIV.

PS.. Look at their beautiful smiles.. :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Back To Ethiopia and Beyond!

I’m amazed by life
and it’s amazed by me
It’s a long, hard road
With a good, good end.
It’s a long, hard road
With a good, good end
In a way, I will miss washing my underwear and hanging them on my
bedpost to dry.. because sometimes I wrestle with living
conventionally. Walking the dirt path, trying to make conversation
with the sweetest rasta who only speaks a little English.. Never
knowing whether the power or water will be on; whether I’ll be sitting
in the dark all evening or actually be able to brush my teeth..
Looking up at night and actually being able to see the billions and
billions of stars, not just scattered across but crowding each other
in the sky, wishing that they could get closer; jealous of the sun,
their brother, who floods our eyes, warms our skin, and brings color
to our world..
I’ll miss the children who smile at me when I watch them dancing,
because they know how beautiful I think they are. This world has
limited their chances, withheld food from their stomachs, robbed them
of their parents with a terrible disease.. yet it cannot rob them of
their joy; they will not let this world steal away their joy. They
will not stop singing and they will dance – they will dance in this
world full of inequalities and unnecessary injustices. I will fly back
to a land that claims to be free, and still they will be the ones who
sing. They will be the ones who dance.
I will miss the people who came to be my friends; African people who
don’t have to live at the poverty level, yet they do because they care
so much about helping people who are hurting. Their hearts are so
rich. Their hearts are so blessed. The bishop and his family don’t
have to eat rice and beans for almost every meal, but they do because
they care more about people than the food on their plate. I have seen
the love of Jesus in these people.
There are two girls who live in the same neighborhood. They both were
a part of the program but didn’t have sponsors. I visited both of
their homes one afternoon last week.
The first was the home of eleven year old Shida. Her name means
problem in Swahili. When I came, she was in school, but her mother
welcomed us into the little one-room house where the two of them live.
Shida’s mother, Lucy is an HIV positive widow, one of sooo many hard
working Mamas, who want nothing more than to provide for their
children. I asked her how she earns money, and she explained that in
the market, they will pay her fifty cents per five gallon bucket to
shell peas, but she is often too sick to get out of bed, so on those
days she and Shida have no food to eat. Sometimes they will go two or
3 days a week without food. She is worried because she often doesn’t
have enough to cover the five dollars a month that she has to pay for
rent. When I talked to her she just seemed weary.. discouraged.. I
can’t imagine. I can’t imagine if my husband had died.. I’d feel so
very alone, raising a little girl, HIV stealing my ability to provide
for her, wondering who would care for her if and when I’m taken from
her too.. Watching her go to school hungry..
Shida is a sweet girl.. she loves her friends and she is a strong
student. She knows that a good education will help her to have a
hopeful future. She is hope. Her name means problem, but she is hope.
As we were walking back from Shida’s house, a girl hopped up from the
side of one of the neighboring houses and ran to us. I had only met
Sauda once before and didn’t know much about her, so we took the
opportunity to visit her home and find out why she wasn’t in school. I
would find that Sauda, at thirteen years old, is much stronger than I
could ever claim to be.
 Both of her parents were HIV positive, and she has the virus as well.
When her mother died, her father’s health started failing as well. He
has given up on living much longer and has moved with her younger
sister back to their family’s village so that when he dies, they won’t
have to pay for transportation to the burial grounds. Sauda alone has
been left in charge of the one small room the family had been renting.
She lives off of the small bags of flour and beans that the church
provides her with, and has no money for school fees. I asked her what
she does during the day, and she said that she just does nothing. She
lives alone in this small room of a larger house where other people
have rented rooms as well.. Including some untrustworthy older guys..
Thirteen years old, HIV positive, and living all alone.
She wants to go back to school, she wants to grow up to be a police
officer.. but when her father dies she is going to be faced with
providing for both herself and her younger sister.
I was able to get in contact with some friends who want to invest
directly in the lives of these girls, and now they both have sponsors.
Shida will get to eat. Sauda will go back to school. Thank you friends
I’m in Ethiopia now, and it’s nice to be in a bit of a familiar place.
It’s amazing how different it is from Tanzania, even though the two
countries are only separated by Kenya. I’m staying at a guest house,
and it’s a little lonely.. but I’ll be back in a week and a half ;) .
While I’m here, I’m just spending time between AHOPE Ethiopia’s three
facilities. They have an older children’s compound, a younger
children’s compound, and a community-based care center. More on that
later though.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Small Things

This is my last week in Dodoma. Not too much has gone on in the last couple days, so this post is just going to be about a few random bits and pieces.

 A lot of my time here is spent just doing life.. People here aren’t constantly racing time like we do at home. Rather they move along with time. They ask me what I find to be the biggest difference between Africans and Americans, and I usually say that people at home are often very stressed, very busy, and they want everything as quickly as possible. But here, people ALWAYS have time to stop and greet one another, find out how they are doing… quick to offer tea and conversation. People are used to things coming slowly, or not coming at all.  I think I’ve grown to appreciate it, especially because of how ruthlessly I have strangled myself with time and schedule over the past couple semesters. If you want to kill your spirit, I know well how to do it. I’m only now learning how to recover..
My Grandma Ellaine told me a few months ago that I’ll have years and years to be grown up, but only a short time to be young, so I need to relax and have more fun. I’d say that’s wise advice J I guess I’m a pretty self motivated person, but I’ve just been pushing too hard. It’s not worth it. (I’m talking about life at home, with work and school.. not here obviously lol.)

Something interesting about this church I’ve been working with… It was once a disco-slash-brothel, so I have been told. What is now their sanctuary was once a place people would come to dance, and what are now offices were once bedrooms where people could go after dancing to do certain OTHER activities… Yeah, I’m posting this blog from one of them. Lol.

A couple mornings a week, I have been teaching a class of about 30 preschoolers. It pretty much involves holding up pictures, and having the kids yell their numbers and letters while trying to keep them from throwing punches at each other. I don’t know how effective it is, but at least they are participating.
On Saturday we are going to spend the weekend in a town called Morogoro with a pastor who wants to start a ministry like this there. After that, I'm heading to Dar Es Salaam and on  to Addis Ababa!

I have heard a lot from people who are concerned about Victoria and I just want to say thank you for your prayers. She does have tuberculosis, but it's going to be ensured that she is on treatment and getting good nutrition, so hopefully there will be improvement.

I have a few more stories about kids, and hopefully I can get them up in the next couple of days :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Her Names Means Victory

Hello my friends and family..
I am beginning my third week here in Dodoma. I’ve spent the past 4 or 5 days with the family of one of the social workers here, Mariam, in an area called Kinsasa. It’s been a little different! Going to work each day is quite a journey. We have to walk down a long dirt path, maybe twenty minutes, until we reach the main road. There, we wait for a dala dala (a taxi-van into which as many people as possible are crammed) or just hitch a ride with some random person, or in the back of a police truck.. for the 15 minute ride into town. There, we still have to walk to the church which is maybe another 20 minutes. Mariam does this every day. She is quite the woman.

Yesterday, I tried to help the girls here cook dinner. I must tell you, we take so many things for granted with our pre-packaged food.. instant microwave meals.. even the stoves we cook with! In order to cook rice, plain white rice, you have to sort through all the grains with your fingers to pick out all the little pebbles that get mixed in. Then, you have to rinse out the pieces of chaff (which takes a while). Only then are the grains actually ready to be cooked. They’re put in a pot of water over glowing charcoal. Then you wait. Everything is cooked over charcoal. It takes way more work than just switching on a burner. Even to get water to drink, it must be boiled first.

You can hear about how people live a thousand times, but you don’t really understand it until you’re living it too.

I have to tell you a story about a little girl. Her name is Victoria.

It was my first time meeting the Lahash kids, about two weeks ago. They’re a really great group of about 70 kids who get to take a break from bleak situations at home and spend each Friday afternoon at the program. As I was introduced to them, I looked from face to face, trying to get to know them.
I stopped at the wide eyes of a tiny little girl, sitting in the front row. Her eyes were the biggest thing about her. Her cheeks were sunken in, and two veins bulged on her forehead. Her limbs, just… skeletal. I had an instinctive idea about what was claiming this little girl’s health. Later, I found out that sadly, I was right.
If you look at a picture of Victoria from just a year ago, you see a big smile, showcasing baby teeth, bright eyes, glowing skin. A healthy child. Now, at 9 years old, I would have guessed that she was 6. As the rest of the children devoured their rice and beans, she passed hers off to another child. I tried to get her to smile and she barely parted her lips.
Victoria’s mother died from an opportunistic infection due to AIDs when she was 2 years old. During birth or breastfeeding, the virus was passed from mother to child, and now Victoria carries the virus that took her mother from her.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It attacks the immune system, invading the cells that protect our bodies from disease, and turning them into replication centers, creating thousands of new viruses that do the same thing. So while our bodies can try to fight HIV by creating more immune cells, the virus replicates much faster and cannot be stopped. This makes the body extremely vulnerable to sicknesses it would normally be able to fight off easily. Once the CD4 (Immune system) cell count gets low enough, and there are certain diseases present that the body can no longer ward off, a person then has AIDs, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
All we knew was that Victoria was HIV positive, and being cared for by her aunt – an educated, somewhat well off woman. However, when we visited her house last Thursday, we found out that like way too many of these types of situations, the aunt is focusing on her own children, leaving her sick little niece to care for herself. Often, HIV positive children (or people in general) who are living with relatives are completely neglected because the in the family’s mind, they’re dying anyways.
Victoria oh-so quietly told Mariam that she can’t eat because her stomach hurts. Her head hurts too. Her nose is running and she has a congested cough. She hasn’t been to school for an entire month. She says she is responsible for taking her own medicine. By that, I hope she means antiretrovirals, which she should have access to through the programs. Antiretrovirals almost halt the replication of HIV, so although they cannot destroy the virus, they can suppress it, giving the immune system a chance to function properly. If Victoria is taking ARVs regularly though, she shouldn’t be in this condition. What worries me is that if the pills aren’t taken in a regular manner – if dosage is interrupted or stopped, then the virus may become resistant to them, and the medicine would no longer have any effect. Also, if the person is not eating well and living in unsanitary conditions, which is the case with Victoria, this compromises the immune system as well.
Today we went back to see Victoria. She had been throwing up and was too weak to change her clothes. Her cough shook her body. We took her to a clinic to see if we could find out what can be done to help her. People with HIV are supposed to go get a CD4 cell count done every month, and if the count too low to sustain their health, they are put on antiretrovirals. We found out that Victoria’s aunt has not been taking her in for these visits, and plagiarizing the doctor’s signature on the card that is supposed to verify her visits. They told us that we needed to take her to the hospital to have her chest x-rayed for tuberculosis, a disease which people who have HIV are particularly susceptible to.
For those of you who know my baby girl Hannah, she’s 4 years old and tiny. I could carry her for hours without getting tired. Victoria is twice Hannah’s age, and just as easy to carry. She sunk into your lap like a baby, too weak to hold her head up for long. Her x-ray came out with cloudiness in her lungs, a probable sign of TB. We’ll find out more about this and her CD4 count tomorrow.
Her name means Victory, yet her body is battling a virus which it will never defeat.
In a way, this story is heavier than others I have told you. It wouldn’t be so hard for her aunt to take her to the doctor, get her medicine, and feed her at the VERY least. When I carried her back to her aunt I would have rather kept her with me..
Ah. I don't know much else to say right now.
Look for pictures on Facebook, I'm having my mom post them for me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

At long last..

Hi everybody

I know I promised blog posts, and I really have been trying! Internet access is extremely limited – I’ve only been able to get one once since I’ve been here, and it takes a looooooong time.

I’ve been in Tanzania for about a week and a half now, and it seems impossible to be able to tell you everything that I have intended to, but I will begin with what life is like, and then I will tell you the stories of some very special people.


Where am I right now?

I am in Dodoma, Tanzania, a SMALL city in the middle of the country. It consists of a small business district surrounded by rural areas, and “neighborhoods” ranging from extremely poor to (African) middle class.There are soo many people, but it is peaceful, and they’re very welcoming and polite.

Who am I staying with?

I’m staying with the Muhagachi family – Mama and Baba Askofe. Baba was just ordained as the bishop of Central Tanzania last year, a very honorable position. He is a very influential man. He likes to talk and educate me about African history, Tanzanian politics, the church ministry, and just about annyythinng. He’s very wise. And reminds me a bit of Bill Cosby.
Mama is the backbone of the ministry here. She is always working so hard caring for people in the community. On top of that, she makes sure I'm taken care of, along with all her other children -
Boke and Victor are 16 and 13 and in boarding school. Grace and Peace are my younger sisters, 12 and 7. Three cousins are staying in the care of Mama and Baba as well. Justini is 9, and Shangwe and Kibiro are my age, and so sweet :)

What are the "Living Conditions?"

I'm living in an African house with many people, quite like I do at home. There's electricity most of the time, although we have had to use the lantern almost every night lately. They have a squat toilet, and showers and laundry I do with a bucket in the same room.. which is my least favorite part of being here :P lol.
I have my own room sometimes, although there are almost always guests staying with us. I sleep with a mosquito net, but it doesn't prevent me from having 50 bites all over my body. Malaria is bad here, and I'm thankful that I am taking preventative medicine. People get sick with it ALL the time.

What am I eating?

Food is simple here. We have tea at 10 AM, Rice and beans at 3 PM, and Ugali (Corn Meal) and beans at 9 PM. Every day.
Food doesn't just sit around in pantries waiting to be eaten, so every meal is a gift that keeps you alive. And the days that something like peas are served... it's fantastic :)

What am I doing?

The work Lahash does with Iringa Road church here in Dodoma is mainly child sponsorship and home based care. Many days we walk from house to house across town, checking to make sure that people in the program have what they need to stay alive. Many people who have HIV, orphans being raised by grandparents, families in desperate situations...
There is SO MUCH need here. Being experienced by REAL people who have good hearts. Who feel love, joy, fear and pain all alike.
You know those videos that organizations play.. of dirty kids in tattered clothes.. they play emotional music in the background, hoping to tug at your heart.. But we often dismiss it as being too far aways to be real or urgent..
I drive down the street and it could be that video clip playing through my window. I really want you, my friends and family, to understand that everything that you have heard about places like this is no exaggeration. I visit houses of familier - cement shacks that on the inside look and feel like a cave. A family of 5 or 7 stay in this dark, stuffy 8x10 room, with a dirt floor, often no bed, often no food. Maybe a bowl of dried sardines and a bag of rice in the corner.
Please understand- I'm not jsut telling you the worst scenario I have seen. This is EVERY family I have visited.
I want to tell you their stories. I want you to know the names of those children in the tattered clothes. I want you to know what makes them smile and what they hope for.
I want you to hear about hard working Mommas.
THEY want YOU to hear.
And to know that this place is not far away. I'm here now.
They want you to know that Africans are intelligent, resourceful, loving and joyful. THEY want you to know this. They ask me to tell you this. They ask me to invite you to come here :)
The children in the sponsorship program recieve holistic care - spiritual, nutritional, mental, physical, educaational. Most have lost parents to AIDS, some are HIV positive themselves. It is ensured that they are going to school, being fed, and are in good health.
Each child has a story, deeply saddening, yet hopeful.
Let me begin.

A week ago I went with Pastor Manaseh, Mama Mariam, Leah, and our Kenyan friend Jeff walking for hours and hours. We visited two homes.

The first was the home of one of the kids in the program, his name is Charles. They had noticed a sudden change in his disposition just before he stopped coming to the program last month, so they wanted to find out what was behind this.

When we came, he was home alone, although he should have been in school. Charles is 17 and was just able to begin attending school I believe when he joined the program. He was able to skip ahead to the 5th grade, but we found out that he hasn’t been in school since last month.

When he came out of the tiny cement house he shares with his mother and little sisters, he looked so sick. His eyes were half open and glazed over and his face was sweaty. We all sat down in front of the house and Mariam tried to get him to talk about what was going on, although he didn’t want to. He stared at the ground and spoke quietly, but unearthed what was really going on.

His father is employed but has another wife and another family. Whatever he makes goes to feed them, not Charles and his younger sisters. His mother tries to make money by digging in the dump for bones which can be ground into chicken feed. Whatever money she makes from this, she will often spend on “home brew,” home-made beer, which could potentially kill someone if they got ahold of the wrong batch. Charles admitted that he had been using and selling marijuana for the past two years, but does not use it anymore, which probably would explain the poor condition he was in – malnutrition and withdrawal. We looked inside the house, which basically consisted of blankets and a few buckets on the floor, and the only food we could find was two rotten pieces of bread. That was all the food they had. The reason that Charles hadn’t been in school was that his uniform was torn and much too small. His shoes were split in half. Children who are not in proper uniform will get sent home from school. Just the other day a child was sent home for not wearing socks. Also, I believe that the house they are living in doesn’t belong to them. If the owners come back at any time, they could be evicted.

The good news is that we took Charles with us to the market and got him new shoes and brought his family some food. He was smiling when we left. Hopefully it does the children good, because parents will often sell the food or clothes their family is given, and just go buy home brew. It’s desperation.
The other good news is that I was able to sponsor Charles' little sister, Mariam. She is one of the most solemn little 10 year olds I have ever seen. And now even when I go home, I will have a permanent connection with them, ensuring she gets what she needs to grow up strong, despite situations like this.

The second home we visited is a family that they have been working a lot with for the past couple weeks. Leah and Leisha (The girls from the US) had told me a lot about them.
Mama Sedam is paralyzed on one half of her upper body, I was told, because of domestic abuse. She is literally single handedly caring for her 24 year old son, Chimanga, who is completely blind, and her little son, Sedam. They had been living in a tiny 8X8 room attached to her mother’s house, until she kicked them out sometime last week. Leah and Leisha had arrived just in time to find them trying to move their belongings down the street, many of which were not worth saving, and helped them move into a new place. When we visited, Chimanga was sitting outside of the house, very cheerful. They say he likes to look his best, and won’t go to church unless his clothes are clean and he has shaved. He is also very good at singing and repairing shoes. This family is in desperate need of better living conditions. They are currently in a maybe 10x8 mud house, with no food. They have so few resources – The mother can only use one arm and the son cannot see! How can they make money to eat? So the some of the church staff are working to try to find a better place for them to live, and to help them start a micro-business, selling charcoal or fixing shoes… The problem is that there is so little extra money. There is only so much that they can do. They also understand that it is so much more than just trying to use money to fix a problem, or always buying food for a family when they need it. That would put the family in an even worse spot than before when the assistance stops. They work on sustainable living, which is where the micro-business comes in. They want to work to help families be self-sustaining, not dependant on a program, which is so good.

Another big problem right now is Malaria.. Two of the children in my new “adopted family” have had to go to the hospital for Malaria treatment in the past 3 days. Here it’s just a fact of life. Everyone gets it, and hopefully recovers. Shomary, the driver for the church is the sweetest guy. He has kind eyes. His daughter died of Malaria last month. 4 years old.

The really great news about things like this is that it opens up so many opportunities for you and me. This program operates on very little money, but a LITTLE can change everything.
It can help Mama Saddam set up a small business, it can ensure that Charles and Mariam have more than just moldy bread to eat..

So please, let these people matter to you. Theyre not just a character in a story, because I have taken their hands, stood in their houses, held their children.. They have so many lessons to teach is about resiliance and grace and sincerity. So please see them. Please love them... As much as you love me, or more. :)

(I hope everything in this blog makes sense.. it is assembled from random things I have written throughout the week.. I miss you all, I'm doing well. Peace :) )

Friday, February 5, 2010

All Night Long in Washington

I'm here in the Washington Dulles airport now, for my12 hour layover. It's 12:15 PM.
The only place open is Guava & Java, so I've been sitting here in a nice little area, right by a plasma tv that has been playing the same history channel documentary about the White House overrrr and overrr and overrr again. I'm beginning to memorize it.
I've been keeping company with a few people who have either missed their flights or disturbingly lost their place on their flight even though it was confirmed..
Anyways, so far so good.

Three or so hours later....

Oh my.
I was doing really well until 1:00 or so. Things died down and people started falling asleep.. But I'm a small girl by myself, so I can't let myself do that. Waking up to missing luggage is something I would not prefer...
So I just keep ordering coffee. Ah.
3 AM is a time of night I rarely see. I stay up this late probably only 4 or 5 times a year, and only when I have to. I love my bed around 11 :) Yesssss.
Coffee in the middle of the night does strange things. It speeds up my heart rate and my blood, but my mind and muscles are way out of sync.
Right now I don't feel adventurous in the least.
We were watching the movie Unaccompanied Minors right before we left.. It's about these kids who are flying to their dad's house, but get snowed in at the airport where they have a layover, and they go on all these wild adventures in the airport while being chased by security guards. I thought that might be what tonight would be like, but it hasn't. Sadly. (Just kidddinggg)
Six more hours.
After this, I think I would like a bed. Or somebody familiar. But actually I get to look forward to 17 hours on a plane! Yeah yeah! The weird thing about being as short as I am is that if I sit in a plane seat correctly, my legs stick straight out. I wish I actually fit in chairs correctly, so my rear wouldn't get so sore.
17 hours on a plane. 17 + 6 = I don't know.. 23.
23 hours till I arrive in Tanzania.
Then 8 hours on a bus to Dodoma = 31
31 more hours of transportation.
I've been gone 9 hrs so far = 40 hrs.
This is the longest journey.. I'll just try to take it bit by bit for now.

5 AM:
I don't really know when I'll be able to get on the internet again. I'm leaving the country in a few hours, yikes..
So here are some pictures of where I have been, for your viewing pleasure:
< That's my happy smile for ya. After I tried showering in a bathroom sink.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

From One of Many Airplanes: February 3

It was hard to tell whether we were rising to meet the sun, or the sun was rising to meet us.

As I write this, I'm on a plane home from Portland. One more night in my own bed.
Oregon is beautiful. In Saint Louis, every defining feature was made by the hands of a man, save for the rivers. But in Portland.. No human made those mountain like a mural against the sky, or treen that stay green although it is winter.
Living near these things must spark a different state of mind. Being aware that we are a part of this earth upon which we were created. More than just a system of walls and concrete, services and technology. There is freedom beyond that.

The people at Lahash are really wonderful and welcoming. They are well organized and have a clear mission and exemplary vision. Before last summer, their office only consisted of a small room in the basement of a church, but they have been given a huge, 100 year old house from which they are now operating. Much of the house is in pretty bad condition though, so they are in the process of renovating.
During training, I watched some DVDs about serious issues facing sub Saharan Africa, such as crime, corruption, HIV/AIDs and also about daily life there. I was able to eat a couple of East African style meals, which I think I will grow to enjoy,  and was able to learn a lot more about the history and mission of Lahash international in East Africa.
On Tuesday night, I was really, really excited to be able to see Joo Ae!  (For those of you who don't know, Joo Ae is my good friend from Korea. She just moved from StL to Portland to attend school there.) I visited her apartment and met several of her Korean friends, and her room mate from Houston. We ate Korean food and had a really great time! For those of you who have been worried or missing Joo Ae, she is doing really well and she is very happy in her new home!
I'm trying not to think too much about my departure on Thursday.. I have been trying not to think about it too much. For me it might be better that way. Save it for when the time comes :)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thoughts from a Coffee Shop

For months, since I came home from a wonderful summer, I've struggled and fought against the mundane.. The feeling of being pressed down while the breath in my lungs keeps lifting me upward... It was a rough semester, but that was my fault. The funny thing about college is that you also have to work a lot to pay for it, and that leaves no time for anything else. I guess I'm pretty self motivated because I went at it hard, wanting to accomplish something, and it seemed to make sense. If I'm not working hard at something, I feel like I'm wasting the days I have here on this earth.. But now as my 20th birthday is less than two weeks away, I realize that with all my ambition, wanting to push forward, forward, forward every day, I've neglected my spirit, and time that should have been spent enjoying life and enjoying people. I want to slow down and laugh more, like I was able to do last summer :)
On Monday I'm leaving for Portland, where I will be meeting the people at Lahash International and going through a bit of training before I board a plane for Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania on Thursday. These days I'm clinging to the mundane things that have plagued me.. That doesn't make sense, but it is familiar and it is safe. That's the baby in me.. 
But it's a choice we have, I think.. to make our lives comfortable and familiar, or to step out and allow yourself to be carried by the will of God.. As William Shedd said..  "A Ship is safe in the harbor, but that's not what ships are for." I know the things he has put in my heart, that's why I'm going to Africa. I always knew I would.
I'm going so that I can learn. Because I can read thousands of books and learn every fact, but nothing will ever teach me as much as stepping into the lives of people who live there, and doing life alongside them. You'll never know as much about how a program is run until you learn from the people who run it. If this is the direction of my future, then the things I learn on this trip are so very important. I'm going with questions that can be answered best on that side of the world.
I'm going that I may use my time, my hands, and my heart for the purposes God has for me and His world. I won't go off rambling about the history of Africa and why things are the way they are in so many parts of the world, (maybe some other time) but I will say this - it's an immense injustice and I feel a great, passionate responsibility in this area. We cannot see and then turn our hearts away just because it is too overwhelming. I've been overwhelmed by Africa for years, and that's a burden I am willing and responsible to carry. God will never give our hearts more than they can handle. If you know me well, you know that it is a big part of who I am.
So.. if I can use my smiles and laughter to make a child who has lost everything happy, even for a few hours.. If I can come alongside someone who has become sick because of forces they can't control.. If I can do anything to help those who are working hard for these people, then that is why I'm going.
Is it scary? Yeah. I've been putting it out of my mind lately, because this is probably the most scary thing I've ever done. I like to find encouragement in other peoples words. Dan Haseltine, front man in Jars of Clay, whose Blood:Water Mission works to bring clean water to communities in Africa said this:

"I was quickly reminded that it is both a matter of choice, and a
matter of where God has placed me in the history of the world.   It
will always be tempting to slide away from the pressing stories of
injustice, suffering and devastation that crowd our minds, and seize
our hearts.   For those of us who have been given the curse of choice
in this area,  it will always be a hard decision...the one to press
inward, even as we sense that we just can not take anymore of the
We simply can't do that.   We can not shrug our
shoulders,  not walk away.  There is no where to go that frees
us from the turns and developments in our own story.   And there will
never be a peace if we pull a Jonah, and run the other way.   To run,
is to lie to ourselves about what we know to be true.   Our story is
not our own.   Just as Mother Theresa so wonderfully illuminated, "
IF we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong
to each other."  We can try to usher in a willful forgetfulness, as a means to
breathe a little more easily,  but it will not end in peace.
This is why I choose to keep moving inward, this is why we all walk
closer to the flame. As we consider this week, this next year, the
next decade... we are hopeful that God is orchestrating something
brilliant.... find hope, and
courage to walk with shoulders left un-shrugged and crisis kept
unabandoned.  Peace to you.
- Dan Haseltine

Friday, January 22, 2010

Announcing.. The New CD!

Over the past month or so, David and I have taken the time to finally put together and record a cd! The motivation behind it was to raise support for this trip, so I guess it's kind of important to get it out there before I go.

This is something I wrote for the insert:
"This cd was pieced together in the free moments of day-to-day life. In the midst of school semesters, holidays, new jobs, and preparation for a trip to Africa. It was home-made, and just as flawed as our human attempts to bring love and beauty, hope and peace to a broken world. There is only One who is able to bring about perfect restoration and justice, and it is to Him first and foremost that this work is dedicated to. These songs don't belong to us. We borrowed words and melodies that we hoped would inspire movement in your hearts and lives. We have a tremendous opportunity to bring hope to our world. Don't let it pass you by."

It doesn't have a name yet, but here's what it looks like..

If you'd like one, please let me, David, or Michael know via Facebook, Email, Phone, in person, orrrr just leave a comment on here ;)


Friday, January 15, 2010

Don't Put it out of Your Mind

If you're reading this, you're probably interested in finding out how things are going as I am going about day-to-day preparing for this trip. Honestly, if I were to write about that, right now, it would be about how frustrated I am about having to put forth so much money for something only intended for good.. I do feel a little frustrated right now. I do want to tell you about my intentions and motivations for going.. about my hopes for the future, but that will come later. Right now, I want to call your attention not to my life, not even to Africa, but to a little island country, south of Florida.

Many of you are probably aware that this past Tuesday, January 12, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the small country of Haiti, completely leveling most of Port Au Prince, and many surrounding cities. The death toll is enormous for a country if its size - up to hundreds of thousands. Those who have survived are coming out of shock to realize that anything they once had is now completely. Gone.  Many are injured, have lost family members and friends, their homes are now turned to rubble, and now have no access to food or clean water.
The relief teams who are beginning to arrive are finding unrest as these people are desperate for the basic means of survival. Eighty percent of Haiti's population already lived below the poverty line before this catastrophe, and it is unimaginable how it will be able to recover.
A few minutes ago, I heard a reporter on the radio give an update about the situation, and after a brief mention of the peoples' situation, she focused on a group of 8 college students from Florida who were in Haiti to study at the time, but were completely unaffected by the quake. Please always be reminded that the lives of Americans are no more previous than any other human on this earth.
There have been television preachers who have already proclaimed that this tragedy is God's judgement on this country. This saddens me.. God didn't call His people to judge, but to love mercy and act justly, to provide for a brother or sister in need.
The world is hearing about this great tragedy in Haiti, and not only asking questions about what is being done to help, but also WHO is doing it. As followers of Jesus, we are the hands and feet He uses in this world to do His work, to show mercy, love, and justice through our lives.

Psalm 113:7: 
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.
I will admit that every time I see the images of the wreckage in a headline, it makes my stomach turn, so I try to put it out of my head. But this type of attitude is not acceptable. We all have something to give. Our lives are so full.

So, if you're planning on going to the movies this weekend, consider renting from RedBox instead, and using the money to provide emergency relief.
Use a blog or facebook to share your thoughts and encourage friends to love, pray, and provide emergency aid.
Also, importantly, pray for the situation. Pray for individuals, pray for the government of Haiti, pray that Christians will stand up and be the Hands and Feet in the midst of disaster.
If you'd like to send money, here are some of the organizations who are on the ground right now:

Why does our response matter to God? To name a few..

Joshua 1:14-15
... You are to help your brothers until the LORD gives them rest, as he has done for you ....

1 Samuel 2:7-8
The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.

Psalm 72:12-14
For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.  He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.

Psalm 82:3-4
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 140:12
I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.

Psalm 145:14-18
The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

Psalm 146:7-9
He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked

Proverbs 31:8-9
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Isaiah 1:17
Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 58:6-11
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
"Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 
"The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."

Micah 6:8
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Zechariah 7:9-10
"This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.'"

However you choose to respond, don't put it out of your mind. Don't turn your back. Our lives are so full. Pour some out on a world that is broken and let it fill your heart.