Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Church

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The Church, with a capital C, is the Body of Christ. It is the sum of all the churches, all the Christians around the world. In 1 Corinthians 12, the Bible compares the Church to a human body. Each person in the Church has a role just as each part of our human bodies has a specific, God-given function and purpose.

If you are a Christ-follower, you have a place not only in your local congregation but also in the global Church. As a missionary, I have a place in my local church in PA and a role in my community church here at Tenwek and a purpose for the global Church. Last week I was able to witness all these elements come together in several beautiful ways.

It was a crazy week from the beginning. As many of you know from our facebook updates, we were contacted by the Weavers, a missionary family from PA who are serving in Kisumu, Kenya. They started following our blogs when they were preparing for their big move. They were intending to find packing tips, etc. Instead, they found our story of valley walking. Darla, the wife and mother of the family, even commented on one of my posts. She was expecting their ninth child. I won’t reprint their entire story because they have a wonderful blog that tells the events in their own words. I’ll just say that they contacted us for Christian medical advice after finding out their unborn daughter had anencephaly, a terminal diagnosis. After speaking with us, they decided to return to Tenwek to induce labor and deliver their baby at our home.

Weavers and Kelleys

When we all prayed together and decided on the plan, we anticipated a 2-3 day journey together. God, however, had much different plans. The Weavers lived at Tenwek for a full week. And the Tenwek community became the Church to them. From cooking meals to providing entertainment, each person on the compound rallied around this family and the friends from Kisumu who came to support them. Perhaps the most beautiful display of God’s love came from the children. The Tenwek kids made extra efforts to play with the visitors, to make them feel welcome and to share with them. Noah, after hearing that baby Hadassah had died, wanted to know if he could talk to his friends about Hannah. I was thankful to be a part of this Tenwek community.

a lot of boys!

Many of you participated in this journey too. Many of you became prayer warriors for both the Weavers and us. Because you could not be the hands and feet of Christ, you became the mouth. You got down on your knees and spoke prayers on our behalf. I was thankful and honored to be a part of this much larger community.

Hadassah Faith Weaver

After a fun Kenyan lunch with our guests on their last full day at Tenwek, we headed up to the Kipagenga for another celebration. This time, we were honoring the guards of our neighborhood. We enjoyed chai, mandazi, and bread. We gave out gifts and certificates of appreciation and congratulated the men and women for their years of service. It was a great time to say THANK YOU to these men and women who serve God by keeping us missionaries safe. I was proud to be a partner with these Kenyans in God’s work here at Tenwek.

Guards

The Weavers got up and left Saturday morning. It was a bittersweet good-bye. I think most of us (and them) wished we could be neighbors much longer. We promised to visited them in Kisumu, and we invited them back to Tenwek under happier terms. We prayed (and continue to pray) that their transition back to life as normal will be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Shortly after they left, I attended a graduation. There is a local sewing ministry for single women. The ‘momma’ of the ministry teaches the women how to knit and/or sew, counsels them (she’s a trained counselor), and teaches them about the Bible. Last Saturday, they graduated! It was a big celebration complete with graduation gowns, speeches (one by me!), singing and dancing and a sermon. I was proud to be honored despite my tiny part in this ministry. (My speech was very impromptu and short…It took me quite off guard…Rookie mistake!) I am proud to support this important ministry to women, and I look forward to seeing how God uses it to further His kingdom.

Sewing Ministry Graduation

I couldn’t stay for the entire celebration though, because we were hosting the interns for a pizza party to celebrate their upcoming graduation. I made and decorated my first cake since my little cake decorating class. I baked 6 pizzas. We served chips and soda. It was a simple, fun little party. The interns were so appreciative and seemed to really like my cake! I am delighted to be a part of Tenwek Hospital and the way it is training up new generations of Bible-believing Kenyan health professionals.

Interns

The Church sometimes is accused of being hypocritical. I wish I could say that accusation wasn’t true, but I can’t. The truth is that the Church is made up of sinners, people redeemed by God’s grace and the blood of Christ, but imperfect people bent toward selfishness and judgmental attitudes. I hope my little summary of last week proves that the Church is still beautiful despite its faults. Christians, when they are humble and obedient before the Lord, are capable of great things. They can make a grieving family feel loved. They can celebrate the servants who often go unnoticed. They can save at-risk people from themselves, destruction and hell. They can disciple the next generation of Christ-followers. Indeed, I am proud to be one member of the Body of Christ!

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for His great provision. We praise God that He provided for us and the Weavers throughout the week. We praise God for Kristen (the OB who stayed to care for Darla and the baby), for endless supplies of food, for endurance, for househelpers and friends.

2. Praise God for days of rest! Boy, did we need a lazy day with no plans! And we took it Sunday. We’re so thankful that God ordained one day of the week for rest.

3. Praise God for my sweet children. I was so impressed by their sympathy and compassion toward the Weaver children. God is working in their little hearts, and it’s precious to witness.

4. Please continue to pray for the Weavers as they walk through this valley of grief.

5. Pray for the people who serve at Tenwek. From the guards to the doctors, we all need to keep our eyes on the Father and the work He has given us here. Pray for unity among us. Pray that we see the common vision and that we are committed to being the part of the Body God has given us.

6. Pray for the graduates of the sewing ministry and the graduating interns. Pray that God will direct them as they anticipate the next step God has for them.

7. Pray for the many people who are suffering loss. We’ve heard of miscarriages, sudden deaths of children, loss of jobs, etc. this week. We are overwhelmed but God is working in it all. To HIM be the praise and honor!

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NLT

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8 Months

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Where are you, God? Have you forgotten me? Am I not worthy? 

The list of questions that have been filling my mind this last month could go on and on. This uphill climb out of the valley has become a battle of the mind. Who do I believe? Who do I trust?

Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in horses and some in chariots but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” If I penned this psalm, my words would be “Some trust in themselves and some believe lies, but I trust in the name of the LORD my God.” That is the battle raging within my head. Doubts, fears, guilt and lies flood my mind, but then the Holy Spirit overpowers them all.

Let’s be honest. We all have those moments when we feel forgotten by God. The Bible assures us that He never leaves us nor forsakes us, that He loves us with an everlasting love, that He is always looking out for our good. However, it just doesn’t always FEEL like those things are true. There are times when I’d rather throw a pity party than believe the Truth of Scripture.

I had a couple of particularly hard days this past month. Days when I literally cried out to God, “Where are You?? Have you forgotten me and the promises you’ve made me? Am I no longer worthy of those promises? Have you changed your mind?” The answer to each of those questions is a big “NO!” God has not forgotten me. He is the Keeper of promises. He hasn’t changed His mind, because his plan is always perfect. He isn’t going to keep MY schedule though. And why should He? I’m a finite person with a very limited perspective on my life. He is an omniscience, omnipotent, holy, awesome God! Sometimes I just need to be reminded of who HE is and who I’m not. Rest assured, the Holy Spirit is right there to set me straight, and He does so in such a tender way.

He reminds me to renew my mind with Scripture so that the lies are easily dismissed (Romans 12:2). He tells me that I’m chosen, holy and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12). He sends signs that He remembers His promises to me (there are many verses in the Bible that state “God remember His covenant with…”). He prompts some of you to mail me notes of encouragement (Philemon 1:7). He speaks to me through His Word, through other people and books, through music. It’s simply amazing. And then, I’m overwhelmed by love instead of frustration, fear or grief.

The Truth is that God doesn’t owe me anything. If He never gives me another blessing for the remainder of my life, He still outdid Himself.  The Bible tells us that sin is punishable by death (Romans 6:23), and I’m a sinner. Therefore, all I deserve is death. In light of this truth, I am spoiled beyond measure. And that’s what He longs to do for His children. In fact, He often does immeasurably more than we ask or imagine! (Ephesians 3:20)

Just this morning, my morning devotions spoke straight to my heart. Laura Story wrote, “Why did God withhold healing from Paul? Was it because God couldn’t? I certainly doubt that the Almighty God, the One who parted the Red Sea and delivered Jesus from the grave, would have had any trouble removing Paul’s thorn. But, just because God can do all things, doesn’t mean He is obligated to. The only things restraining God’s actions are His own character and His own goodness, and His divine purpose.” She also quotes Matthew Henry, “Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces. Sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotions.”

That’s the God we serve. He is with me as I climb, slowly but surely, out of the valley of the shadow of death. I am determined to fear no evil. I am proclaiming that my cups runs over. Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Oh, what a glorious day that will be!

What a glorious day that will be when all His promises have been fulfilled! How beautiful it will be to see Jesus face-to-face! How amazing it will feel to be perfect and complete! How sweet it will be to be reunited (for eternity!) with Hannah and all the others who have been called home before us! Oh, glorious day!!

Hannah, 4 months old

 

I just re-discovered this picture. Hannah is 4 months old…and Noah is being crazy in the background. I miss that crazy life! I miss having my 4 kiddos running all over the place! I miss that sweet face! I miss the pink and the accessories and the tenderness she brought out in my boys!

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Praises and Prayer Requests: 

1. Praise God that the rat is dead! Actually, he was trapped shortly after I posted my last list of prayer requests! Just try to tell me prayer doesn’t work!!

2. Praise God for 2 whole days without rain! Again, God can answer prayer. While I know we need rain, I’m so thankful that the boys could play outside again!

3. Praise God for care packages and notes of encouragement! We feel so loved. Thank you for taking the time to keep in touch with us. May you be rewarded for your part in our mission!!

4. Please continue to pray for my dad. Pray that the radiation will cure him completely!

5. Pray for my husband’s side of the family as they buried and said their last good-byes to Grammy Walker.

6. Pray for our hearts, that they would be filled with Truth and always submissive and humble before the Lord.

My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV

Rainy Season

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November is ‘short rains’ season in Kenya. That means it rains nearly every day for hours a day. It also means my laundry doesn’t have a chance to dry outside and is subsequently hung throughout my house. It means the boys are cooped up inside all afternoon. They’re either asking for screen time or fighting. Either one is super annoying! It means we have to walk to classes in the rain and cancel gym class. I am thankful for the rain gear we brought! While all my Pennsylvania friends and family are enjoying fall, wearing sweaters and boots and visiting pumpkin patches, I’m enduring rainy season. Ugh!

I’ve been so cranky that I think I’m suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder for the first time. Either that or I’m just missing fall. Regardless, I’m proving my disclaimer (the one denying maturity) that I made in my last post. I’m moody, easily frustrated and the boys are driving me crazy! Plus, we have a rat in the kitchen that will not die…

To keep myself from going crazy or becoming depressed, I’ve been scheduling some fun (and one not-so-fun) things. Yesterday, some of the ladies got together for a little cake decorating lesson. I learned to make roses, baskets and other designs. I’m anxious to see what Noah and I can create for his birthday in January! This is a picture of my masterpiece minus one slice…I got too excited about eating it and then remembered that I needed a picture.

Cake Decorating Class

I’ve started a new Bible study. It’s one of Beth Moore’s early studies called To Live is Christ, and it’s a study on Paul. I’m still plugging away at the other books, memorization, etc. I’m exploring pinterest and the internet in general to find some ideas on making homemade Christmas decorations and/or gifts. I’m rotating toys so that the boys will be more content to play inside without a screen. And I’m educating the boys on ‘things.’ That’s the not-so-fun thing…

As we were walking to a friend’s house last week, Jacob started asking how cows have babies (because we passed a momma and baby cow). I tried to answer vaguely but accurately, knowing that my walk was coming to an end, but his questions were unceasing and increasingly in-depth. I finally told him that we had a book that we could read together to answer his questions, which seemed to appease him. When we got home later, Levi was asking the names of body parts. Then, later that night, Noah asked a question about his body. (I’ll spare you his exact question in hopes of sparing his dignity.) The need for ‘the talk’ was pretty evident, so I got out the books that night. After they were in bed, I read through them, for I wanted to preview the content in an effort to prepare myself for their questions.

The next evening after dinner, I read the first book in the series. We’re using God’s Design for Sex series. The first book, The Story of Me, is written for kids ages 3 to 5. I figured I’d start there, reading the book to all 3 boys, and then assess the situation before diving into the second book. Levi had to pee half way through the book, so I’m guessing he wasn’t too interested in the story. Jacob didn’t say much about the content, but he did comment that the book was long. Noah’s reaction was the best. At the acknowledgment that babies come out…NOT through the belly button…he said, “That’s weird!” 

The Story of Me

After we dismissed them to get ready for bed, I could tell they were processing the information a little more. Noah and Jacob asked a few more questions. They wanted to know if I had to have my belly cut open for any of them to be born. (Maybe they were hoping I’d say yes!) They wanted to make sure they could pronounce all the names of the body parts correctly. (I guess they forgot all the new words they learned after Hannah was born!)

Overall, it was a smooth process. They haven’t asked anymore questions…Maybe they learned the lesson of keeping mouths quiet about such topics! Just kidding. I’m planning to read book 2, Before I Was Born, to Noah and Jacob in the very near future. I’m a little apprehensive about it, but I know they’re both ready for the real truth…Oh, please pray for me! (Praying that Aaron volunteers to read the second book would be REALLY nice!)

Before I Was Born

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God! Amen! In Kenyan churches, the person speaking to the congregation says, “Praise God.” The congregation responds, “Amen.” Although it took several weeks to get used to this custom, it is now an endearing, normal part of Sunday service. I’m so thankful for our church here at Tenwek.

2. Praise God that my dad’s prognosis is good. He will start radiation in a couple of weeks. Thank you for your ongoing prayers. I will try to keep you updated.

3. Praise God for a relaxing weekend, good friends, and a neighbor with a dryer!

4. Please pray that the rat will be dead by morning.

5. Please pray that God will give us good ideas for making the holidays special for the boys as we come face-to-face with the reality that Hannah isn’t enjoying them with us.

6. Please pray for the boys’ hearts. We finally told them about my dad’s cancer. When I asked Noah to respond to the news, he said, “I think Pappy is gonna die.” It broke my heart. We talked at length about the prognosis and the possibilities and heaven. Pray that God will grant them peace about their Pappy, that they won’t worry, that they will talk to God (and us) about their feelings and fears.

“May the peace of God that transcends all understanding guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

Valley Walking

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It’s truly amazing how the God of the entire universe cares about all the little details of my life. And even more, He orchestrates all these seemingly trivial things to teach me, comfort me, convict me and sing over me. Let me share how He’s using my daily life to help my valley walking.

I’ve been reading a children’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress to the boys at night. Noah is really into it. Jacob tries to listen. Levi…well, he does acrobats to try to survive the 15-20 minutes of Old English. This book is painting such a great picture of life as a follower of Christ, and it’s reminding me that I am a pilgrim here on earth (and in Kenya).

I’ve been reading Laura Story’s devotional book, What if Blessings Come Through Raindrops?, as my morning devotional. On a morning that I was really struggling with a specific unanswered prayer, one quote really caught my attention. C.S. Lewis says, “Prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted. And if an infinitely wise being listens to the requests of finite and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them.” And that’s the way the God of the universe speaks to me most frequently. Although He has been using this method of communication with me for years and years, I’m still in awe of it. Over and over, He proves that He loves me and cares for me and every detail of my life.

I’ve completed a study on a small portion of David’s life called Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed. It was challenging and difficult at times. It took me way longer than 6 weeks to complete. It convicted me that I must keep moving forward. I must be intentional about seeking God, receiving blessings, looking for the blessings amidst the sorrow, and finding joy in the valley.

Therefore, I’ve started to memorize the book of I Peter. I conquered James, so I figured I’d just keep going. It’s incredibly helpful to have such focused Bible reading. I’m all for reading through the entire Bible, but I’ve loved the challenge and the meditation that memorizing a chapter of the Bible brings.

I’ve been listening to JJ Heller, Steven Curtis Chapman and Shane & Shane. I love their heart-felt songs about grief, suffering, and praising God. Sometimes I feel like they wrote the lyrics after spending time in my brain or heart. So many of their songs have fresh, new depth that I never recognized or related to before Hannah’s homegoing. It’s a blessing to have a vast and varied music library. (I guess that means I’m thankful for my husband’s music addiction!)

I’ve been reading Unglued, a book by Lysa TerKeurst, with some of the women on the compound. It’s an incredibly practical book that is speaking volumes to me. Although the book seems to focus on outbursts caused by anger, the Holy Spirit has been using it to convict me of another kind of ‘unglued.’ And this is where I find myself having the most difficulty right now.

Before ushering Hannah into heaven, I was a normal mom of 4 young kids. I’d have those over-tired, really-stressful days that I’d yell at my kids or snap at my husband or do something in public that brought dishonor to God. I became unglued and acted ugly. Now, though, I’m forever changed. Anger hasn’t been as big of an issue. Sure, I do act out in anger toward people on occasion, but it isn’t as frequent as before. Maybe it’s because my kids are entertained by friends all afternoon, the weather is almost always nice here, and my husband and househelpers make being a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom SO much easier and enjoyable. (I’m not claiming maturity here.) Maybe it’s because I’m so close to becoming unglued in a much different way.

I used to pride myself on being a strong, independent woman. That’s what American women are supposed to be, right? Well, ever since adulthood, the Holy Spirit started revealing the lies and self-righteousness and pride that is wrapped up in that kind of worldly thinking. So, over the past 10-15 years, God has been humbling me and transforming my view of myself. In the past, prior to Hannah’s illness, He typically taught me a little at a time. Well, the 24 hour whirlwind that resulted in good-byes to our princess wasn’t as gentle or as incremental as before. It was more like God took my (hard) heart and crushed it in a way that can never be fully fixed (at least not this side of heaven).

That’s where the unglued part comes in. Over the past almost 8 months, I have lived my life on the verge of being emotionally unglued. That’s new for me. I’m usually hard to make cry. I’m typically very realistic and level-headed and not driven by emotions. I’m not one of those girls who cries at movies, and I liked being ‘strong.’ Now, though, I can cry at the drop of a hat. If we had TV, I’m sure I could cry at any given commercial at any given time for no apparent reason. This makes me so uncomfortable.

Essentially, it makes me uneasy because it means I’m vulnerable. And who likes to be vulnerable? I mean, it’s fine when you’re in the company of close friends and family, but it’s quite different when it’s all the time. For example, while at Brackenhurst, this young family with a little blonde-headed little girl walked into the dining hall. They seemed to be there alone, so I really wanted to sit with them and chat. However, I resisted. Every time I caught a glance of that little girl, I thought of Hannah and I started to tear up. I didn’t want to start crying as I introduced myself and my family. I didn’t want to be reminded of what I lost. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. I didn’t want to see what I was missing.

So that’s the hardest part of this phase of valley walking. It’s still an uphill climb. Most days are good, but the bad days are quite bad. As I’m learning how to live with this new and softer heart, my pride is being tested and stripped away. It’s a good thing. I know that God is making me more like Him, and I’m grateful for that…It’s doesn’t make it any easier or more enjoyable though.

Psalm 51:17 “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

Isaiah 57:15 “For this is what the high and exalted One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite…'”

Praises and Prayer Requests: 

1. Praise God for good reading material!

2. Praise God for a blessed life, my children, my husband and extended family and family of believers.

3. Please pray for wisdom as we plan and try to prepare for November 14 (8 months since Hannah went to heaven), Thanksgiving, December 14 and Christmas. We want our boys to enjoy the holidays, and yet we want to grieve (and allow them to grieve) appropriately.

4. Pray for our mentor family as they serve in South Sudan over the next week.

5. Pray that Levi will stay in his bed all night. When we travel, he tends to wake up and crawl into bed with us. Now, that we’re back home, we’ll need to get him (and all of us) back to restful sleeps…that means, he needs to stay in his own bed! Pray for all of us to recover quickly. The week away was fun but exhausting for all of us. School starts in the morning! Let’s hope for an easy transition, with no melt downs.

6. Pray for my husband’s sanity. We came home to a house covered in rat poop. As I was writing this post, he was rat hunting. Aaron did spot the rodent, so we’re asking that the rat will meet the trap and that the trap will cause immediate death of Frank (yes, Aaron named the rat).

A Little Time Away

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October ended and November began with yet another adventure!

Wednesday started like any other school day with homework and co-op. Noah did his Bible and spelling lesson, read a book and did math. I taught pre-Algebra. Jacob went to kindergarten.  Levi did whatever he does while we’re all doing school. Then, around noon, we loaded our luggage and ourselves into a van to head to Brackenhurst. An hour later, we were approaching lunch time and the little town of Narok. We stopped for a nice lunch and potty break and then it was back into the van for the remainder of the drive.

Brackenhurst is a beautiful conference center outside of Nairobi. It would be the location of our Samaritan’s Purse training session for the next several days.

Boys at Brackenhurst

Thursday and Friday were two intense days of safety training. Guys from Fort Sherman Academy taught us how to survive various dangerous situations. While Aaron and I were in class from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Noah, Jacob and Levi played and played and played. They had a blast…and I’m pretty sure they wore their babysitters out!

Boys with Uncle Ed

Saturday evening through Monday morning were reserved for spiritual care time. That left Saturday mid-morning until mid-afternoon open for fun adventures in Nairobi. I had plans to visit ToyMarket, an outdoor used clothing market, while Aaron and the boys would check out Nairobi’s Wild Life Conservatory. Unfortunately, Levi woke out in the middle of the night with diarrhea. That meant I stayed home with him while Aaron took the older two boys on the ‘walking safari,’ which apparently is what Kenyans call a zoo. Nonetheless, we all had a good day that ended with more playtime for the boys and a little Bible lesson for the adults.

Cheetah

Sunday started and ended with the second and third installments of spiritual care. In between, we rested and played and ate nachos from the cafe at Brackenhurst! (Too bad we didn’t get a picture…there wasn’t time. The five of us cleaned the plate in about 30 seconds.)

Seesaw time with Daddy

Our little SP retreat ended Monday morning with the forth Bible lesson and then we were off to Nairobi. We took the boys to Junction, where we ate at Subway, intended to see a movie (but there weren’t any kid-friendly choices), and indulged in Planet Yogurt. I did a little shopping at Nakumatt and then we headed back to the Methodist Guest House for dinner and an early bedtime.

Noah and Subway

Tuesday morning will start with a quick stop for cold groceries and then we’ll be on our way back to Tenwek!

Praises and Prayer Requests: 

1. Praise God for a wonderful time of learning, refreshing and reuniting with some of our SP Post-Resident classmates.

2. Praise God for a fantastic support system!

3. Please pray that we will arrive home to Tenwek safely.

4. Please pray for us as we quickly transition back to live as usual. We’ll be jumping right back into school and meetings and all Wednesday morning!

5. Please continue to pray for my dad as he anticipates treatment and endures periods of waiting.