Friday, June 19, 2015

Photos from the top of Africa

Sunrise from the "Rooftop of Africa"
John summited Kilimanjaro for the third time this past February--his second time to lead the trip--fundraising for our EMI East Africa office's Build Africa Together campaign. 
The biggest highlight this year was, unquestionably, the presence of his dad on the trip, who also made it to the top at 19,341 feet. This was especially memorable as he and his dad have so many exhilarating memories from mountaineering together in John's teens and early 20's--and despite his dad retiring upon his return home, he's obviously still got it. 

The Build Africa Together campaign's vast vision for discipling and training East Africa is nearly completed--as is the more tangible jointly shared office building with Mission Aviation Fellowship that will stand as a hub of missions support. The move is scheduled for mid-August! See photos for that below, too. 
All photos except building photos are copyright John Breitenstein.
The porters are incredibly helpful, friendly, and fast, climbing Kilimanjaro more than once a month, and often in running shoes.

Many species are completely unique to Kilimanjaro. These trees (not sure what their name is, so not sure they're unique) remind John of something from Super Mario World.

Together at the summit!

And for the photos of the current construction progress on the new building...pretty exciting stuff!


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Photo update

Some of our best. Gifts. EVER.

And it only took, what, nine tries to get a photo.
 We're getting so excited about the progress of EMI East Africa's new joint facility with Mission Aviation Fellowship! Check out the pics. (My kids are so stoked that it's on an airfield!)

We heart EMI!

P.S. Thank you for praying for us! Please ask God
  • for discipleship opportunities and our maximization of them here in EMI;
  • that God would show us the “good works He has prepared in advance for us to do” as we address copious needs with limited staff; and
  • to continue to raise up local East Africans to train and disciple in our disciplines.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

EMI in Nepal

Some of you have compassionately asked about EMI's response to the tragedies we've recently witnessed in Nepal.

EMI reports, "So far, there have been three EMI people deployed to Nepal while several others have been assisting from afar.  It is quite likely that EMI will have another small team in Nepal in early June.  On top of that, we are in discussions with other potential client ministries for projects that would happen in Term 3 [September to December] that would focus more on long-term goals rather than immediate needs even though these goals were brought on by the earthquake." Check out EMI's disaster response page (and an opportunity to donate) for Nepal here!

From the page: "Over the last few weeks the EMI DR team has been moving around the Kathmandu Valley [see a map on the page] meeting with partners, assessing structural integrity of buildings, evaluating damaged water systems, and offering recommendations all along the way."

One woman voiced, “Since the day you came to our house we have slept in peace."
Jesse, an intern in our India office, authored a helpful blog post--with lovely photos--about his recent visit in Kathmandu. Our hearts are with yours for the people Nepal--and for the healing work God continues to perform there.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Going for it: A new blog

(Deep breath.) Well, I'm doing it--launching a new blog (ack!) on practical spirituality: A Generous Grace.

Would you be willing to check it out, and even share it/like its Facebook page/subscribe if you like it? And, while you're at it, pray that God would make Himself known through it. Thanks, friends.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The accident

Life before we left for our home assignment was a bit complicated.

I've been wondering how to write about this for some time. Even now, whatever I write seems either melodramatic or flat, or simply one-dimensional.

When traveling home ("Uganda" home) from the airport around midnight after a surprise visit to the U.S. for my (Janel's) dad’s birthday, something very difficult happened. A driver picked me up from the airport—a Ugandan friend we know. Running on about three hours of sleep from my 24-hour travels, I was still excited to see my family. The windows were down, allowing the temperate breeze to refresh my skin, which seemed coated in that thin film of mysterious traveling gunk (my son has recently coined the phrase "feeling airplany").

But about twenty minutes into the trip, we saw a taxi minibus swerving in front of us. There was a presumably drunk man who was trying to cross the road. Considering we were probably traveling at least 45 mph, we couldn’t swerve out of the way. The pedestrian turned directly in front of our car. His head hit the windshield above my lap, leaving a basketball-shaped indention in the spidered glass.

He was killed.

After reeling silent prayers and considerable pleading on my part with the driver, we stopped about a kilometer later. But I think my driver was primarily concerned with getting out of there, and returned to his seat after checking the windshield.  (Mob justice is a legitimate concern in Uganda.) He didn’t want to stop at the police station, but finally caved to my wide-eyed pleas.

We stopped, and spent about three and a half hours at the police station, kind of a concrete bunker equipped with a corrugated tin roof, what appeared to be a filing room of tilting stacks of paper, a desk, a bench, and a clock as lethargic as the policemen. (I arrived home at about 4:30 AM.) Another police station found the body. I saw no one actually concerned about the man, another passenger after already another one or two deaths on the road that evening. My time at the station, aside from the ten minutes to take my statement, were largely me declining subtle attempts to bribe and trying to figure out how, in the confusing and, to my Western mind, illogical system of Ugandan justice (would quotations around that word appear cynical?), to keep my driver out of jail. The driver was also trying to convince me to give him $500, ostensibly for the same reason. After all, I had made him stop.

The driver returned bright and early a day later trying to convince me to pay a bribe. This was, I eventually gathered, so that the police station at which we spent those lovely midnight hours wouldn’t contact the station who found the body: "You said you would help me!" I’ve had many conversations with both Ugandans and missionaries to navigate how to actually achieve justice in a system where justice is rarely found. As you can imagine, this situation is extremely complicated.

I was quite shaken. Flashbacks were superseded by a general--but only temporary--feeling of insecurity and unease, though I believe I am past that now (the latter, not the former). Unfortunately, the accident occurred on the busy main road by our new home, which we must take to travel anywhere. God has given wisdom, strength, and compassionate relationships to handle this tragic, baffling situation carefully and with peace.

Still--it took awhile to come to grips with the fact that a man died. That people saw it as an opportunity to make money. And that God still had a wise and loving reason for this situation in which a man's life ended before my eyes--a more common experience for an African, but less so for me--in the vehicle He knew I'd take.

These circumstances, along with moving in the span of a week, John climbing Kilimanjaro, preparing to leave the country and the office for two and a half months, and a number of frustrations with our new home (e.g. dangerous electrical wiring, poor construction and unreliable repairmen, swarms of mosquitoes making it difficult to sleep) found us arriving in the U.S. weary, at my lowest cultural point. This speaks loudly to me, since I hope you can tell how alive I typically feel here. I've been thankful for a couple of months to step away, have a few long chats and no few tears with friends and family, and now to return yesterday--my husband calmly handling the wheel on our drive home--
to the firm embrace and animated chatter of both Westerners and Ugandans.

The ensuing questions I've grappled with around all this, along with their mysteries or consolations, are perhaps a post for another day. I will say that God is unquestionably a healer, and my trustworthy Holder of Answers (whether I know them or not). But thank you, friends, for your prayers.

A preflight conversation

Between my son and I:
W (despondently): I don't want to go.
J (tiring a little of this continued line of conversation, opting for humor): What are you going to do, lay down on the tarmac in protest?
W: Yeah. But if they ran over me, they'd probably just say, There goes another...STEALTH. MASTER.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A form of "welaba" (goodbye)

It's the end of an era of sorts.

This August, our EMI office plans a landmark move to a joint facility with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF--remember Jim Elliot?). It's a move that carries tremendous implications for eMi's scope of ministry here in East Africa. It's why my husband is leading eMi's third fundraising climb up Kilimanjaro two weeks from now! (Woot!) And it does mean that we'll save a bundle in housing costs moving an hour outside of Kampala.

In light of us heading to the States for two and a half months of home assignment and our lease coming due, we've decided to move (Ugandans say "shift") early. It will be, in the manner it seems we are so fond of, notably nuts. I returned on the morning of January 30th. We move on February 6-7th, and John's dad arrives to climb Kili with John (!) on the 9th. They return on the 22nd, and we fly to the States on the 26th. Anyone else doing the math here? It's never been my best subject.

But more than the insanity hitting us is actually the good-byes.

The kids completed their last library story time at the Giving Tree, after which they were even given certificates of volunteering and vinyl posters of their time with the kids!

It's goodbye to the kids in our neighborhood who come over to ride the bikes or jump on our loaner trampoline.

No longer will all of our eMi staff live within five minutes of each other. Some will remain in Kampala for their kids to go to school. The new area is more remote, so we'll live spread among the corridor of rolling hills lining the road to Entebbe. This means our community will change significantly.

And I hope to be commuting to the refugee center once a week. For as much as I loathe Kampala traffic, I my heartbeat has been at the center this past year! (Unless God shows me something else I should be investing in more locally.) This means that someone else will be following up with students from my class who showed so much interest in Jesus last term.

All in all,more is "shifting" than our boxes. Just as our last return from the U.S. marked a tangible chapter--a blooming of sorts--into such a fullness of ministry here, God's good plans following our next return remain to be seen. It's time to step out of the boat again.

And much as my heart is grieving the richness from which we are stepping away...He has yet to disappoint us. Bring. It. On.