Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The "Wait-a-Minute Bush"

As we walk the rural paths through Kenya, sometimes we get our clothing caught on a thorny bush that lines the fields, and it makes you have to stop and get untangled, often requiring someone else to come to your aid.  The controversial comedian, Mike Warnke, talked about a bush like this in Viet Nam, which he called “ The Wait-a-Minute bush.”

Jill caught in a thorny hedge to a field.
God caught us up in a "Wait-a Minute Bush" over the past few months, and we are grateful for those who came  alongside us to help us through it.

“It looks like carcinoma,” were the words from Linda’s radiologist on June 18 after a mammogram and an ultrasound. We had come to the US for two and a half weeks to speak at a conference, and visit our parents.  We hadn’t planned for this.  But God knew, and He went before us, having caring and capable health providers smooth the path before us to come to the right diagnosis and treatment decisions, after finding breast cancer at an early stage.
In a courtyard at Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph, MI - not where we had expected to be!
God infused us with his peace in the midst of  changes of plans. The morning of my first surgery, John and I shared Psalm 33:20-22 together, and it was the first thing on my mind coming out of anesthesia.  “We wait in hope for the Lord, he is our help and our shield.  In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.  May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.”

The plans of our family for the summer were turned topsy-turvy, but we eventually ended up on the same continent and shared two weeks together in between my two surgeries.

We were on the road a lot, but with three young eager drivers, no one grew weary of driving.

Besides visiting family, we got away for a few days together in the Smokies in Tennessee.

The list of those who helped us through this time is extensive: our three children, supportive family members and friends who brought meals, kept us in their homes, sent flowers and cards, called and  visited; doctors and health care workers who  cared well for us, prayed with us, and urged us on in the healing process; praying friends from the farms in Nebraska to the hillsides of western Kenya; caring WGM colleagues and mission leaders; all those who covered our responsibilities at Tenwek during our absence... We felt very loved and supported through this time and are so grateful to be part of God’s world-wide family.

Dr. Ron Baker, a colleague from Southwestern Medical Clinic in Michigan, was one of several doctors who came to help during Tenwek's very busy months.
John and Joel returned to Kenya in August, and I came back September 22 being accompanied by my two sisters, Jill and Sue.  That was just one of many bonuses the Lord gave us during this journey. While we were sharing our life and friends in Kenya with them, I was continuing to regain strength, and am thankful to be “back to normal” now.  God is so good.

Sue, Jill and Linda at a village Sunday service where a cow was dedicated
Besides a warm welcome back our first day, and many individuals coming to visit, each week the groups of Kenyan friends keep coming, to sit with me and join in praising God for his faithfulness and His healing.  Each visit helps reinforce the deep sense of gratefulness in God’s work of grace and healing.  And hopefully deepens all of our faith as we face the unknowns ahead.

The top Tabitha Bible study leaders were among the first to visit to praise God with us.

As we have returned to our lives and ministry at Tenwek,  our desire is to put into practice the truths God is still teaching us through this detour:

  • None of our ministries is more important than our relationship with God Himself.  Waiting on Him for guidance, rejoicing and trusting in Him – this is His desire for us.
  • The work in which we are involved is God’s work, and He can accomplish it without us.
  • When crises come, God is enough.
  • Above all, God is faithful.

Evaline, a Kenyan friend, made this and had it hanging in our home on our arrival.  So true!!!

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Ministry of Love and Encouragement

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself...encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.    II Thessalonians 2:16,17

Encouragement and strengthening in the Lord Jesus Christ - that was the ministry of this team of five farmers and their wives, a pastor and his daughter, a seasoned WGM team leader, and Linda's sister, Leanne. Entering into our lives for two weeks in February, they were a huge blessing to us and the Kenyans they worked alongside.  We are grateful to Linda's home church, Monroe Evangelical Free Church, and another supporting church with close ties, also in Nebraska, Holcomb Evangelical Free Church for sending them to us.  To have family and friends from home who know us, and have loved and prayed well over the years, come and visit was an indescribable joy!

One of their first stops was the Africa Gospel Church Baby Center, where abandoned babies are cared for until adoptive parents can be found.  They brought donations from their churches to furnish enough baby formula for a month!

Worshiping with Kenyan brothers and sisters was a highlight.

They had helped prepare hundreds of Bibles for distribution, and had the joy of helping to present them to the women who had earned them through Scripture memory.

Next stop - helping  a family of orphans with whom we have been involved for years, mud their first family home, fence their property, and build some furniture for them.

The local church had helped build the framework, Tabitha Ministry had furnished the roofing, and now we worked together to do the mudding.

Mud between the toes, mixed to just the right consistency...

and then packed into the framework.

Chai makes everything go better!

Michaela found kids to share Christ's love with wherever she went.

The fencing crew...

Then for a week the team moved to the Kaboson Pastor's Training College where Principal Rev. Ngeno and his wife, and the other faculty members, hosted the team in their homes.

There were many facility improvements made throughout the week, but none more dramatic than this humble entrance of the college....

...transformed to this, with the funds and assistance of the team.

The ladies sewed up a storm, working some with the female students.

Faculty offices and the dining hall sport bright new curtains now.

Classrooms and offices were painted, with the help of students handling paint brushes and rollers for the first time.  They were released from their classes for three of the days, to help the team.

The team had raised money for four computers, which were installed, to the joy of faculty and students.

Even the health center next door received some remodeling help.

The best part of the week was working together  and enjoying fellowship with the student body and faculty each day.

The students and team celebrated together at the end of their week.

In one final project, the team joined a community team of men to fence the property of another orphan, Pius, in the foreground.  He was thrilled.

The time to say good-bye came too soon.  It was some comfort to know that Linda's sister (in the black top) and the Carlsons and Goertzens from Monroe, could take greetings and hugs directly back to Linda's dad.   We parted ways, all of us  encouraged and strengthened in the roles God has given us in his worldwide ministry.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Spreading Good Cheer!

We spent our first December separated from our girls, which was a bummer.  But we choose to look at it as our family spreading good cheer a little farther than we could have if we were together.  Here are few highlights from our month, which included many meaningful celebrations of Christ with us, Immanuel!

Joel got home for his month’s break from school in time to help us decorate the tree, with his unique way of unwinding the lights and checking them out at the same time.

Decorating has its traditions that go with it– like eggnog and ginger cookies.

Even at Wheaton, this tradition lived on as Rebecca decorated her dorm room.

Julia got off school early and got to spend a week with John’s parents, spreading her cheer with them.

The WGM Kenya family combined business and a Christmas celebration in early December

Joel was the Innkeeper in “The Innkeeper’s Dilemma”, and the youth did a great job.

I love our Christmas worship together in a quaint chapel.

Once Rebecca completed her finals she joined Julia at John’s parents.

The girls were thrilled to attend their first Chicago Symphony concert in Chicago to kick off their Christmas.

John, Joel and Linda retreated for a few days to Rondo for reflection, rest and together time.  We love this place for hiking, games, puzzles and bird watching.  We missed the girls but even they sent in their 2014 reflections.

Back at Tenwek, December is planting season, and Tabitha Ministry, working through the local Bible studies, helped over four hundred families plant sorghum on about a quarter of an acre.  We purchased it in a nearby store.

This year we were able to take our three co-workers, Peris, Robert and Cecelia, and their families on a day safari for our Christmas celebration together. 

We were awed together at God’s amazing creation.

Meanwhile our girls took their first ever road trip together, to Nebraska to stay with Linda’s father.

They got to see the Hobbit with cousins,

Stay for a week with Grandpa Gene,

And celebrate Christmas with many relatives over the week, here with Uncle Andy and Aunt Celeste.

Julia kept up our family tradition of making tea rings for Christmas, and Rebecca made lots of cookies.

Back in Kenya, we had our 8th annual Christmas party for a dear family.  We were encouraged by glimpses of God at work in at least three of the family members.

The wisemen offering gifts – Evaline, a Kenyan missionary to the nomadic remote Pokot people; Betty, one of the family members who is intent on following Jesus, and Caren, who is still running from Christ.

Over thirty needy families came to our home and we were able to help them with food for their Christmas dinner – rice, flour and shortening to make chapatis, and sugar for their tea.  This would be added to their usual fare of ugali, beans and greens and make their meal special.

Several friends came with gifts of their own for us, as the wrap I am wearing that this mama brought to say thank you for help throughout the year.

While Julia and Rebecca saw over forty relatives, we had a good time with close friends, Burton and Sandy and their daughter Aly, who visited for four days over Christmas.

We enjoyed caroling at the hospital with missionary friends and visitors, in three languages!

Joel and Aly spent Christmas Eve making gingerbread houses.

John worked most of Christmas week, and leading a patient to faith in Christ highlighted the whole meaning of Christmas, Jesus coming into the world to give us new life in Him.

We thank God for his Presence with us on both sides of the ocean, and trust Him for all that is ahead in 2015.

We will end with these reflections by our girls:
“For me, Julia, 2014 has been a great year. It has been filled with challenges, uncertainties, joys, laughter, tears, memories, trust and peace. One of my goals has been to make the most of every moment with friends and family. I don’t want to live with regret of not doing something with someone when I had the opportunity to just because I wasn’t completely present where I was. It says in the lyrics from “Without you” ‘just a moment of peace/ I don't want to live without you/ I'm not ready to live without you/ So let's dance a little/ Laugh a little/ Hope a little more/ Cause I don't want to live without you, without you. ‘”
Julia is looking forward in 2015 to start the Nursing school this semester at IWU and starting clinicals. She is so excited and says she finally can start to see her dream become a reality!

Rebecca says her year has also been full. From the busy freshman year, to a family and work filled summer, to a school heavy sophomore year, it has been full. “I love participating in family, whether that is my immediate family, my extended family, my friends at school or my friends in Michigan. As I progress into my major of Chemistry Education, I am taking tough science classes and getting into the classroom a bit. I loved teacher-observing in a local middle school this past semester. I was in a classroom for an hour, three times a week. While I am hoping for high school chemistry, I learned that I could do middle school if need be. I look forward to seeing where God will take me in 2015.”