Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dinner with Monica

This post originally appeared on my new blog, A Generous Grace.

Months ago now, my family and I were invited to my friend Monica’s home—an experienced nothing short of delightful for all of us. We guffawed at each others’ comments, scooped steaming heaps of food on plastic plates, relaxed. But what struck me was the nature of my friend’s entertaining.

Monica is a local Ugandan friend. We drove to her home on roads with so many potholes our heads nearly hit the roof, save the seatbelt. She and her five relatives resided in a single concrete room with a barred window.

With her characteristic wide smile and giddy chatter, she dished the food in a small area partitioned off from the shared bunk beds by hanging bedsheets. Perhaps two of the worn plastic plates matched, but it didn’t really matter as we sat outside on fraying, hand-woven mats and plastic chairs, chuckling over stories about the waggling ducks and chicks that poked for food nearby. The food was local fare: not American, but more than adequate, and a clear display of her exuberance to have us there.

Together we washed the forks with soap from a plastic jug of water tipped over the dirt, then divvied out the sliced fresh mangoes and watermelon to share.

By the time we bounced out in our minivan, windows rolled down, she was waving with her entire body and already asking us back.

I realized what made my friend’s hospitality sparkle: It wasn’t her serving dishes, her perfectly-tuned recipe, or the (absent) centerpiece that made our time quality. It was simply her desire to honor us, to give generously, to connect with us and enjoy a relationship.

Now, my own artistic nature is energized creating that kind of atmosphere. The next night, in fact, I spread jars and bottles of flowers from my beds on the table, spent the afternoon chopping and simmering for a horde of guests.

But there are times when my stress and preoccupation from hosting—or, let’s be frank, my concern with my image—actually corrodes my original purpose of true fellowship, of deepened relationship. I’m not unlike my old friend from Luke 10, Martha, all concerned with preparations, and missing out on the privilege of my guest, the richness of his or her company.

Courtney Reissig puts it this way:
The purpose of the home is to be a place of refuge, grace, and productivity—not a platform for me to prove what a great homemaker I am.
I’m grateful to my friend for pulling out her best for us, but allowing the centerpiece to be her love for us and our friendship in Jesus. I’m thankful she allowed loose ends to fall where they may, and embraced my husband and I and our crazy kids without embarrassment or pressure.
I’ll sign up for that kind of hospitality any day.

For more thoughts on heart-healthy hospitality, click here.

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is… Proverbs 15:17

Friday, July 17, 2015

28 Signs I Might Be Living Overseas

      1.      I set a goal for Myself while jogging: If I can only make it to that goat.

2.      Everyone speaks more languages than I do.

3.      I have partaken of creatures I would normally not consume by choice, e.g. fish eyes, grasshoppers, and the like.

4.      People dispose of trash by simply throwing it out the window.

5.      A healthy percentage of my most delightful friends were born a hemisphere away from where I was.

6.      I avoid unfiltered water like the Plague. Because I’m pretty sure I've seen the Plague in there.

7.      My pothole-per-mile ratio exceeds 136:1.

8.      The concept of "home" feels bewildering.

9.      I answer to a wide variety of names that sound entirely different than the one I've answered to for the majority of my adult life.

10.  Fruit and other materials labeled "exotic" in my home country are available at that little wooden stand down the street.

11.  My children asked for a raise in their allowance based on the increasing value of the dollar.

12.  My electrical company is perpetually listed in my phone's recent contacts.

13.  Sometimes home feels like camping.

14.  Despite the lack of familiarity, there is something about the place I live that makes I feel so...alive.

15.  I adopt an accent when speaking, say, at the supermarket.

16.  My suitcase is filled with odd items, like 6 of the same deodorant, 18 months of underwear for six people, eight pounds of chocolate chips, and 12 jars of B vitamins. My carry-on is where I stash the Hot Tamales and six packs of Slim Jims.

17.  People attempt to compliment me by calling me “fat”, or in regards to my status, a “big woman.” …Yeah. Thanks.

18.  Ants in my home don't even capture my attention anymore unless in vast quantities or floating in my drink.

19.  The last trip to the States found me saying, "What in the world is 'Apple TV'?"

20.  I are content with my "dumb" phone, because pretty much everyone else has one, and if it falls in the toilet (or pit latrine) I can afford to replace it.

21.  Cops stop me because I are more likely to be a source of cash.

22.  "I'll Be Home for Christmas" gets me all sniffy.

23.  My bed is shrouded in netting, but somehow my arms and legs still have telltale welts of those little (literal) suckers.

24.  I keep toilet paper in my glove box. Because public toilets, when I can find them, are BYO TP.

25.  I give up asking for decaffeinated coffee, because people don't really know what that is (or why you would drink it), nor do they have it.

26.  I can pronounce all of the ingredients in my food.

27.  I am feeling a whole lot more deft with the metric system lately.

28.  My employer contemplates sending out regular deworming reminders via e-mail.
Time for some help with my list! If you've been overseas, what would you add?


Monday, July 13, 2015

Life in Photo, Summer 2015

We know so many strong, lovely Ugandan women! Pictured here left to right is H., who stays with some EMI staff; Hope, John's Human Resources Assistant, and Oliver the Great.
Marriage can be remarkably difficult in Uganda in light of the expense to honor family and tradition (and to express status)--as in, as much as an American wedding. We've also heard that only one quarter of pastors are authorized to perform marriages by the government. Most Ugandans "marry" by cohabiting. So EMI was very proud of construction foreman Richard Tatyabala for formalizing his vows in marriage to his wife, Lydia!

Ugandans don't mess around when it comes to weddings! Pictured here is the wife and daughter of our finance manager, Semei.
A good number of our EMI construction workers turned out for the wedding, all spiffed up! They're pictured here with one of our construction managers, Jay.
L-R: Brittany, our highly talented office manager; S., one of our kids' close friends; and her dad, Steve, who pioneered our construction management program.
Making pottery at a local pottery studio that trains Africans in this art. You can read about my thoughts on this deeply rewarding experience here.
You might be living overseas if...your son has a preference for termites over grasshoppers as a snack.
Intriguingly, we'd shake them up...and then they would all travel in a circle in the same direction as before. Weird.
Though I did eat fried termites, and they were good!--I didn't try this. (I have standards.)
...So our guard, Yokanah, collected them. They're fried like grasshoppers, with onions and/or garlic; they have enough fat content that you don't even need oil! TED Talks actually says insects could be the next frontier of nutrition, since it's a such a sustainable source of protein!
While John was climbing Kilimanjaro, we had mountains of our own: of wings. This pile was in the corner of our sidewalk. Once a year, the termites perform their aerial nuptial dance, then those alates shed their wings.  
Hanging with a mzungu friend this weekend
So you may have seen the last posts' "John and Jamal" Cokes. Well, in Luganda, I've been named "Sanyu", meaning joy or great happiness. I like this. (C. is called "Mukisa," or blessing.) Finally got my Coke! Which my husband obligingly consumed.

I love how everyone in the States asked me about Oliver, aka Oliver the Great and one of my favorite all-time people. This woman saves my life on, like, a weekly basis.

Father's Day 2015: W. wrote "An Ode to My Dad." This included lines like, When you play with me, it feels like sunshine.


Dad and paparazzi

...And then she turned 8. As in, one more year until our time with her in our home is half done! Sniff. This one's lovely inside and out!

Look who's armed and 11?

Is anyone else's living room constantly reshuffled into forts in various forms?

This cutie, pictured here climbing trees with J., is one of our EMI staff kids.

Our East Africa office is full of BOYS! Here, we celebrate the 4th of July with friends.


You're always welcome here!


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!