Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Praying for Friday

It was the end of my last official Bible class of the year at the refugee center. I'd taught about the "I am" statements of Christ; this Friday, for the two-hour exam period, I hope to bring everything full circle in the biggest lesson of the year: His death and resurrection. But for this class period, I ended with the account of Jesus' question: Who do you say that I am?

The question, suspended by PowerPoint, hung there on the whiteboard in the rectangle of the projector. Students began gathering their books and pencils in the shuffle and conversation that mark the end of any class period around the world. A student of mine, whom I'll call Ahmad (you may have read about him here), raised his hand. Ahmad has this gentle-giant quality about him, and always speaks with a gentle, halting voice. "I am shifting"--that's the Ugandan word for moving--"back to [my home country] over the holiday." He hopes to get a job; to find a wife.

My eyebrows pulled upwards. What? I asked a few questions to clarify. It was true, and of course good news for him, that he was leaving the center over the holiday. Just like any good counselor, I'm thinking a good refugee center hopes to work itself out of a job; to send you home healthier, richly nurtured despite a stormy season of life.

Then, he asked his next question: "Who was Jesus Christ?" I inquired further, head cocked, thinking, I've been teaching about that for the last four weeks--and comprehended (I think) that he wanted to find out what the words "Jesus" and "Christ" actually meant.

But I must admit my heart sunk like a stone, stirring up waves in my chest. Classmates were milling around, the question still there, like a man with a sandwich board that people walk by in intent conversation on a crowded street. Did Ahmad know enough about Jesus to make an informed decision about him? To move back to his (aggressively non-Christian) nation, and remain resolute in what he knew about the person of Jesus Christ?

I swallowed, and expressed my joy for Ahmad's...wonderful news. He asked if he could take a Bible with him. I lent him my easy-read version from the center, with instructions to a) read the book of John, b) return the Bible to me at exams, and c) come back with his questions and thoughts.

"And we'll have a..." he paused. "Con-ver-sa-tion."

Yes, Ahmad. We'll have a conversation about the most important thing we could ever talk about.

Our interaction stayed with me as I walked home in the warm, late-afternoon sun, as I sautéed dinner, even the next morning as I sang with EMI's Friday morning worship: Break my heart for what breaks yours... It was then that I felt hot embarrassment at the tears leaving telltale streaks on my cheeks in front of all my coworkers. Yes, I know that salvation belongs to our God, and certainly not to me or my most valiant efforts. But something feels appropriately crucial about what my students hear, and decide, about this subject.

Since then, I've secured a Bible for Ahmad and a Jesus film in his own language. And Monday night found me up late, pasting images and text in the PowerPoint for Friday. When I finally snapped shut my laptop, my jaw ached from the tension of seeking to communicate clearly and with the engaging presence deserved by the Greatest Story Ever Told.

I feel like the lesson--at least as it's planned--is comprehensive and direct, hopefully easy to understand. I've planned dramas and a movie clip to liven it up a bit (steered carefully away from a the more gory images; would refugees have distracting flashbacks?). My primary concern now is that I'll be able to maintain their attention for the whole two hours, so they don't lose anything.

But my heart feels magnetized by Friday, by the question at the end of the handout: If you would like to learn more about Jesus, circle YES. Even as I write, I swallow the thick concern that feels like it's formed in my throat as much as my eyes.

I'd love your prayer for Ahmad--and for Friday.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The feast

I have no deer or rabbits to wrestle with in my garden. But for the love--that  monkey just helped himself to my biggest eggplant.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

She's here!

She's here--our new niece/cousin!

Meet Aliza Lee, our newest reason to dearly miss family and wildly celebrate them. This sweet little girl was born on Tuesday, the fourth of my sister Keri and her husband Steven. (This means she is one blessed little girl.)

Can't wait to hold you, Aliza Lee.

Life could be a dream...

It was only ten days--but we squeezed out every drop of these ten days of the year on the same continent with my (Janel's) parents! It's always a great reason to explore a little more of this fascinating country. Wanted to share with you some highlights in photo of these dreamy days, together at last.

If you only knew how much this photo captures this little guy. Watch out, world.


Oh, yes it is: Twister. (...Not sure Grandpa won this one.)

One of our highlights together was seeing the Ndere Dance Troupe in action. This group is incredibly talented, performing with tribal costumes, dances, instruments, and music. My kids were actually fixated for the whole three and a half hour performance, which was an awe-inspiring showcase of East African culture and talent.

Grandma captivated the kids with her "surprise of the day". They couldn't wait for her to get up in the morning. Get this: She even brought tie-dye to create!

Lots and lots of board games were played; I do believe Grandpa played at least three rounds of Monopoly with my kids. Now that, my friends, is love.

John was home for three days between travels, but certainly made the most of them. My parents brought over Axis and Allies, which Grandpa, Dad, and the boys had to break in.

During this time, after over a year of engagement, our dear friend Monica got married! She and some of her family came over to get made up before the ceremony. A huge congratulations, Fred and Monica!

Checking out the site for eMi's joint office with Mission Aviation Fellowship! The new office should open next year, tremendously expanding eMi's opportunities for ministry.

One of the unexpected highlights was on the bittersweet last day of my parents' trip: an afternoon at the zoo in Entebbe.

This was truly the most incredible zoo I've been to. As my mom observed, instead of trying to recreate an animal's habitat, they pretty much just put up fencing in these animals' natural habitat so we can get close to them. In fact, this little guy regularly comes to visit his own kind of monkeys who live in the cage.


These are safari ants--and if you see them, well, run. They travel in thick lines and have such powerful strength in their jaws in the in the bush, they are used as makeshift surgical staples for gaping wounds.

Got to pet one of these as it ate...incredible! Also got to feed giraffes huge branches of leaves. Loved having a hands-on experience in these animals' natural habitat--almost as cool as a safari.

These guys captivated us for at least twenty minutes--tumbling down hills, playing around (a whole like lot my kids, actually), and generally goofing off. The guy pictured below loved to flip and swing, clapping his feet.




The Latest Family Life in Photo

Close MK friends of ours!

Book readin' with Dad.

We heart care packages! (Thank you again, Rebecca!)

Staff retreat this year was refreshing and fun for all of us. We serve with so many incredible staff families!

We finally found all of the ingredients for Rice Krispie Treats! So naturally, we snapped a photo.

Ronald came into our lives recently to recover our living room cushions...and every time he comes, he plays with the kids for about an hour, and sometimes stays for dinner. This is one of the things we love about life in Africa.

Hope, who is now John's Human Resources assistant, has a big heart, a sharp mind, and a great friendship with all of us.

First day of soccer! We are so thankful for all of the extracurricular activities available in our neighborhood.