Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year!

I was running errands with my dad yesterday here in Longmont, Colorado, and it is really nice to run errands in this town because a lot of stores are actually within walking distance. What a treat...no driving! So Dad and I took a long walk to the hardware store yesterday.

Our walk was really nice, but it was SO windy....kind of like the Santa Ana winds in southern CA, only since it's mid-winter in Colorado, these are not warm winds! This didn't affect us so much on the way TO the hardware store, because the wind was at our back. But on the way back? Whew. It was a battle. We put our chins down and pressed hard into the wind.

At one point, I made some sort of exclamation about the cold hard wind, and then Dad did something really touching. "Tell you what," he said. "Why don't you walk right behind me, and let me shield you from the wind a little bit?"

I took him up on it, and sure enough, the strength and bitterness of the headwind was significantly reduced. I still felt an awful lot of wind, but it wasn't nearly the way it had been.

And we walked this way for a while, all the way home in fact, the wind whipping around both of us, practically deafening. A lot of the way, I was thinking what a great dad I have.

And then I was thinking about God, suddenly, and what a good Father He is to us, too. Why am I sharing this? I am anticipating the new year....there happen to be a lot of personally exciting things coming up in 2009 for me. But I have some sorrows too, and I also realize that this year promises to be a challenging one for many people. Economic woes, increased global poverty, other circumstances...maybe it's not going to be the easiest year for many of us. But through it all, we have a Father Who says, "Tell you what. Why don't you walk right behind Me, and let Me shield you from the wind a little bit?"

May your new year be blessed and better than you ever could have imagined -- even if it's a little bit windy. We've got such a great Father, and He's asking us all the time, I think, if we'd like to step behind Him, follow Him home, and experience a little shielding from the winds.

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And just a quick update: I plan to get back out to CA by the end of next week. Bear and I will be driving my car out from CO, and he arrives today here in CO. I am so so sorry if I haven't returned your emails lately -- it's been a busy time with family here. I so look forward to connecting with you once again when I am out in CA. Thank you for all you've done for me this year -- it is so hard to believe it's over!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

crazy antelope

Becca e-mailed this to me from Kigali a few days back....I am cleaning out my in-box and thought you might enjoy. It totally made me laugh....

video

Vive l'Afrique....

side note about passports....

To be filed in the "in case you're interested" file, as I exited South Africa last night I inquired about the passport issue that delayed me for two days in Nairobi -- see two posts below.

The customs official I spoke with last night looked at my passport and said that the US Embassy had actually sent their customs desk a letter, a couple of months ago, that authorized the S. African customs officials to put visas on blank endorsement pages. Endorsement pages are at the back of your passport....different than visa pages; I didn't know this, and never paid much attention, and it turned out to be the reason I wasn't allowed to board the flight to S. Africa. I was told there that endorsement pages could not be used for visas, and therefore I had to stay behind in Nairobi and get blank VISA pages inserted in my passport before I could go. Mind you, I had SPACE for visas in my passport....just no completely blank visa pages left. I did have two blank endorsement pages.

The customs agent last night said that they don't talk to the airlines to inform them of this type of update, and most airlines still think that those endorsement pages can't be used for visas. Yes, I told her, I had experienced that first hand! She said eventually the airlines will realize. Great. And in the meantime? :)

The funny thing in all of this -- or maybe the normal thing, depending on how you look at it -- is that I was prompted several times to simply thank God for the circumstances and leave it at that. Admittedly I didn't FEEL very thankful. I was so disappointed to be left behind! But I did stop and thank Him. it's weird in circumstances like this -- I automatically think I did something wrong, or haven't been listening to God or obeying Him like I should, and so God was trying to punish me. And that's so NOT like God, to dole out random punishment and expect us to figure out where we're not quite hitting the mark. It's also SO like me, to fall into this pattern of thinking that God is some celestial Scorekeeper and I didn't quite meet His expectations, so He needed to give me a nice little 'shape-up-or-else' wrist slap in the form of a missed airplane. Now, THERE's something to be very thankful for, that God IS NOT like that -- I have to (sometimes continually) remind myself that it's not so much about circumstances themselves as it is knowing God's presence (or at least, believing God's presence) in the midst of the circumstances. Anyhow, I'm rambling now. I mentioned below that when I was telling Bear this story, he was really great; after very kindly empathizing with me he suggested maybe this is just preparation for a possible future of international travel. And then he said, "At least you got to visit JP & Clementine!" Which is true - I missed visiting them on my way into Rwanda last year b/c of the post-election violence, and I do wish to point out one more time that they totally rescued me in Nairobi. This was wonderful of them, and all went smoothly, and I am so so thankful to them for their kindness. (Thank you both again, for your hospitality....!)) I am here in Nairobi all day today, but they are in Rwanda, so I would have missed them completely had it not been for the passport problem.

I read an advent devotional the other day, about the cost of worship -- what it cost Jesus to worship (obey) His Father by coming to earth to die, and what it may cost us to worship, too. Worship is sometimes painful, the author pointed out. Maybe someday I will be a little quicker to worship in whatever circumstances I find myself in. And in the meantime, I am very grateful today that God is a whole lot bigger and better than I often remember.

Merry Christmas everyone! I can't WAIT to see you....

Monday, December 15, 2008

anyone got a donkey? or a goat will do....

Since I have time here in the Nairobi airport, I am catching up on emails, and this made me smile.

A little background: I am included on a big email list of ex-pats in Rwanda, and a variety of requests, announcements, prayer requests, etc., come through on a fairly regular basis. I hope I can stay on the list even though I have departed, because it will keep me connected to the happenings there for a little while longer.

Anyhow, here's the email -- and Kay is totally serious:

Hi everyone,
I wanted to send out a request about a donkey.

My Sunday school class is planning a drama for the end of March or early April and we are in need of a donkey to use as a prop for just a few minutes at the beginning of the play. Does anyone have a tame donkey we could use? Or do you know someone.

The biggest problem is the owner would need to get the donkey to the church on time and then have someone to take care of it and take it home, so I know this is a BIG request, but I think it would make it nice for my kids in my class.

If not a donkey, then I guess we could use a goat. Did they travel with goats during the periods of the Judges????? This will be a play about Ruth and linked to Easter as Jesus is our Kinsman-Redeemer.

Last, I am attaching the Bible memory verses as two people have asked for them. They are a Word document.
Thank you again,

Sincerely,
Kay


There were probably very few people in Rwanda who received this email who thought it was odd -- in fact, probably no one thought twice about it. And Kay will probably find someone who's willing to loan their donkey for her play.

I am going to miss Africa!

travel woes!

I am supposed to be in Zambia right now with my dad!

Unfortunately, on Saturday night, the same day we left Rwanda, I got stopped at our gate here in Nairobi as we were boarding our plane to South Africa because apparently I didn't have enough blank pages in my passport.

I was aware of the fact that I needed at least one or two blank pages in my passport to get into South Africa, the airport we had to fly through to get to Zambia (which we also had to exit, because our flight arrived late at night and our connecting flight left the next day, so we were spending the night in S. Africa). The last time I'd checked, I had had three blank pages (I thought) but two were Amendment/Endorsement pages, which apparently aren't accepted as blank pages. Wow, I wish I had known....!

Oh, it was a horrible moment. The plane was boarding, and the flight attendants wouldn't let me get on the plane until I got more passport pages. It was Saturday night, and I of course couldn't get to the US Embassy till Monday (today), and then there was no guarantee I'd get extra pages right away, and then there was no guarantee I would get back on a plane to Jo'Burg on Monday night...... In the meantime, my dad had arranged this great trip together....just horrible.

The worst part is, right now you don't actually need a visa to get in or out of South Africa (at least not as an American). So there is no reason why functionally I needed more pages in my passport; it's just a general rule for visitors to S. Africa. Argh!

Anyhow, I told Dad to go on ahead, enjoy the trip to Zambia (sniff!) and I would figure it out and catch up with him. I have amazingly wonderful friends in Nairobi, thankfully, and (although I wasn't so sure how I could contact them, and I hated to bother them) I assured Dad of this and told him I'd be okay. He hesitated and then went on, particularly when the flight attendant told him he'd incur stiff penalties for re-booking his flights. He's actually having a good time there (we've been in touch by email), which makes me happy.

Honestly, God has taken great care of me here -- my friends in Nairobi were leaving on Sunday to go to Rwanda, but they blessedly and generously rescued me on Saturday night, gave me the keys to their house, hooked me up with a friend of theirs so I could even go to church on Sunday (Nairobi Chapel is GREAT!), and then hooked me up with a driver so that I had someone reliable and trustworthy to take me to the Embassy this morning and then back here to the airport. Thank you SO much, my dear friends, if you are reading this - JP & Clementine, you are the best, and I hope I can return the favor one day!! I don't know what I would have done without you....

I was able to successfully get visa pages this morning and am now booked onto the flight tonight. Lord willing, I will meet up with Dad tomorrow. I am now in de-adrenal mode and am getting very tired waiting for my flight!

What a crazy experience. I haven't handled it all that well! I sat down and cried after Dad boarded the plane and I was waiting for the ticket agent to direct me toward the appropriate customs agent. You know, I would like to say that after this time overseas, I would have a little perspective -- after all, far worse things can happen, and are happening, to people all over the world -- but self-absorption really runs deep, I'm afraid!! Bear was really sweet when I told him what happened, and after some email empathizing (he's still in central Asia right now) said that maybe this is just training for overseas work. :) If that's the case.....please pray for me! Ha, I have a long way to go.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas is coming!

This video caught my attention (thanks, Laura J!). Have you seen it?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVqqj1v-ZBU

After being over here for a year, this video makes my heart break.

My dad arrived in Kigali three days ago (tangent below). After our travels together in Rwanda over the past few days, he remarked that what struck him the most was how things that seem so important back home suddenly seem so unimportant.

We went off the beaten path a bit, out into the rural areas and villages, and I had forgotten how uncomfortable it can be, how unsettling....Dad was great, smiling and waving, conversing with locals when we stopped the car, speaking some new Kinyarwandan words and trying out his French (which, charmingly, he has been studying for the past few months in preparation for this trip). But he still expressed that he was a little apprehensive to be so far from paved roads, and familiarity, and anything resembling the structures and systems of safety and security from back home. He mentioned how he couldn't imagine living ten miles from the nearest paved road, like the countless villagers we were bouncing past, over the dirt roads.

And then there were other things that were surprising, too. While we were out on the back roads, we stopped to verify directions. Nobody speaks English out there, so I just said "Musanze?" (our destination) and the villagers crowded around the car and pointed in the right direction (thankfully there's only one way to go, out there). Before we took off again, we offered a lift to a woman with three children, one of them an infant ("Lifty?" is the word I used to ask her if she wanted a ride, in case you wondered). What startled Dad was that, a ways down the road, when the woman indicated to me that it was time to drop her off, I stopped the car but she didn't know how to open the car door. She started hitting the inside of the door with the palm of her hand. I had to lean over the seat and lift the handle so she could get out.

I am curious what you think of the video....

(tangent, from above: Yay!!! It's Dad's first time ever to Africa! He actually got delayed for over 12 hours in Nairobi, and as a result got upgraded to first class for his flight into Kigali. To top it off, he sat two rows in front of Mia Farrow, whom he recognized but didn't harass too much, he says. She asked him what he was doing in Rwanda and he told her he was coming to visit me....but to the frustration of everyone in Kigali to whom he related this story, he didn't have a chance to find out what she was doing in Rwanda because he was in the way of other passengers, being in the aisle and all. Anyhow. End of tangent.)

PS: I am writing this post from the Nairobi airport, and I'm hoping to post more in the coming days. Dad and I are traveling a little bit together through different parts of Africa before we return home to Colorado right before Christmas. Thanks so much for your prayers. And also, thank you for your prayers for help to wrap things up well here in Kigali! It was so sad to leave today, and it also didn't quite seem real....I'll have to write more about that later, though, as our flight is about to take off. I can't wait to see many of you really soon!!

Crazy (blonde?) antelope / travel update

Dad and I met up just fine in Johannesburg last week, and had a wonderful time together traveling! I am back in Nairobi airport now, on my way home (yes, this is beginning to feel like my second home...especially because I am here for 16+ hours today!!). But no complaints...at least I am booked on a flight, got through passport control okay, etc., etc. I am missing Rwanda but so looking forward to being home with my family for Christmas (Lord willing, if weather permits. I hear there are bad storms in the northern/central US....). We'll see!! Nothing I can do about it, so I am determined to enjoy the journey at this point.

I'll try to post some photos from our trip on Facebook, as soon as I can free up enough space on my hard drive to download my photos from my camera (!). In the meantime, in the spirit of African safari, here's a short video that Becca forwarded me from Kigali about a week ago. I laughed out loud when I saw it -- I think I watched it here in the airport, actually:

video

It means even more now, because Dad and I saw lions, and giraffe, and impala (kind of like African antelope) over the past few days....we even saw a snarling lion pride fight one another as they tore into a fresh kill (a water buck). Wow, what a show. But we didn't see any blonde antelope. Maybe next time. :)