Monday, July 30, 2012

Roadside Attraction

Yesterday on our way home from church we came across this series of signs spaced several yards apart along the side of the road. If boy gets girl back it won't be because of his fine spelling, but I'd say he ought to win points for his vulnerability.

Friday, July 27, 2012

♫ I Left My Tablet at Heathrow Airport ♫

Photo Credit
I was headed from London to Houston, trapped between the window of the plane, a large, sleeping man in the next seat and the passenger in front of me reclining into my personal space. That's when I realized that I was missing my new Toshiba tablet. I reached down and found my elephant bag (what a great find that was in the Bujumbura airport, a huge lightweight bag that can carry almost anything, and lots of it!) and began blindly fishing for the tablet, but I couldn't find it. While I was still at Heathrow I should have noticed that the bag felt lighter, but I'd missed that clue in my travel stupor.

When I could manage it, I pulled the elephant bag up onto my lap where I could see inside and started digging through it. No tablet.

Thinking back about my morning -- running through Heathrow, wandering through Heathrow, passing through multiple security checks at Heathrow -- I realized I had left it in the security check bin at Terminal 4. I had taken it out of the elephant bag, set it in the bin, and put the bag in the same bin. I must have picked up the bag and forgotten the tablet.

Even though we had limited access to internet while we were gone I had been able to get lots of video footage on the tablet. I was anxious to get it back.

When I got home I went to the Heathrow website. There I found that they record all the lost items they find on their MissingX list. Whenever something is found they record the category (clothing, computer, etc), the name (hat, shirt, toy), the model number, the office where it was processed and the date. Perusing their list, it looks like they record about 200 items a day. My tablet was not on the list.

So I looked around till I found a place where I could report the tablet missing. It was a thorough report and asked for very specific details, like songs on the tablet. I filled it out and, if they found the tablet, it would be obvious that it was mine. I waited. I continued to check their MissingX page. I received an email response to the report I had filed. No tablet. And then, a few days later, the tablet is on the list!

Just a few more e-mails and the tablet is on its way to me! Of course there is a charge for administrative costs and for mailing. Generally I'd balk at the cost -- $83.83! But it's worth the money to have my tablet back, and to see a system work so smoothly.

* * * * * * * * *

Here's a fun report from WAMU 88.5 radio called Rummaging in the Lost and Found Bin and talks about the lost and found items at airports and train stations. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Somewhere in Africa

Somewhere in Africa... the button for my black dress.'ll find 300 smiling children wrapped in beautiful quilts as they lie down to sleep tonight.

...there are resourceful people who use their limited resources to accomplish great good.
Making BUSOMA -- more on that in another blog post. a hospital that continued to operate through years of horrific bloodshed.

...generous people who share what they have.
These eggs, plus two live chickens, were gifts from five widows we visited one day.

...are believers in Christ who are standing strong in the face of great difficulty. a young pastor who can now play Solitaire, and another friend who is now proficient in Sudoku!

...there are perhaps more cell phones than there are people!
A popular billboard in Burundi.

...are children who love to have their picture taken. a cook who can make fine cinnamon rolls.

...there is a path that is level and smooth, but I did not find it.

...the basic needs of hundreds of widows are being met through sponsorship and skills training for self-sufficiency.

...widows all over the country are moving into their very own homes.

...are widows who come to a retreat with an offering -- a bag of beans they have grown and dried themselves -- to share with the "poor."
Part of the widows' "thank offering"

...I have new friends, both African and American, who have imprinted my life deeply.

...our brothers and sisters in Christ are praying for the church in America.

Somewhere in Africa is a large chunk of my heart.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hymn of the Month - It Is Well With My Soul

A couple of years ago I used this hymn as my Hymn of the Month. In the video was a brief re-telling of the story of Horatio and Anna Spafford and the circumstances that led to the writing of this song. It is well worth watching and the song, with the lyrics included, is very well done.

But today, with the Colorado tragedy so much on people's minds, I thought Phil Wickham's version of this favorite hymn would be an encouragement. We live in a broken world, but there is peace available through Christ. This isn't the world's peace, Jesus told us, but His peace. As we keep our minds fixed on Him, He gives us His peace. That peace is not just so that we can survive this world's troubles; it's so that we can offer His peace to the world around us.

Whether it is the weight of the world's woes or the brokenness of your own heart that you carry today, may you look to Jesus and find His peace.

If you'd like to read the story of Horatio and Anna Spafford, I recommend the historic novel, Finding Anna, by Christine Schaub.

As for scripture that talks about the peace that comes from trusting in the Lord, here are three passages you should know:
Isaiah 26:3 -- You will keep in perfect peace him mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
John 14:27 -- Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Acts 16:16-40 -- Remember when Paul and Silas were in jail and the doors of the jail were opened in an earthquake, the chains fell from the prisoners, and Paul and Silas remained in prison, singing? Well, they had Christ's peace, and it allowed them to be a testimony to others around them of this peace of God, which transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Church in Burundi

Susan sneaking in the side door of the church
Know this. You cannot sneak quietly into a church in Burundi and sit down, unnoticed, to listen to the music for a while then discretely leave. Don't even bother trying!

Last Sunday I thought I'd stop in at the church service that was just getting started in the center next door, the same place the wedding had been the night before. I had asked at the hotel desk and learned that the service was from 9:30 till noon, and figured to take a peek and then go have breakfast.

I was greeted at the door of the church by a lovely woman, the pastor's wife, who escorted me to the front row and asked if I spoke English or French. English, I told her, and she said she'd find someone to help me with the service. Soon a young man named Severin was introducing himself to me and settling in to the seat beside me. I noticed that he carried an English language Bible. He interpreted throughout the morning.

It didn't take long at all to get caught up in the service. The worship band consisted of ten beautiful young adults, one on the keyboard, singing songs that were unfamiliar to me but very well known to the group. From time to time Severn would tell me, "They are singing about God's power to do anything," or "This is about giving our whole selves to the Lord." Their harmony was close and the lead singer, a young man, radiated the love of Christ.

Severun (right) with two of the pastors of the church
Part-way through the service it occurred to me that I might be invited to greet the congregation. That had happened the week before; when our whole group attended church together, we were asked if we'd like to give a greeting. The people were glad for any word from their brothers and sisters who joined them in worship. It occurred to me that this was likely a custom and I should be ready if I were called upon to share.

Joyful in hope
So I turned in my Bible to Romans 12:12, the same verse I shared the week before. "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." This sums up the church in Burundi, as far as I can tell. They are filled with joy. In a world where hope might seem to be difficult to muster, I saw in my brothers and sisters great hope. They know Jesus, and they know that He is King over all, and He is worthy, and He is trustworthy. They are full of joy and hope.

Patient in affliction
It is easy to become lethargic in our world where inconveniences seem to us to be affliction. But for most of the people I met, daily life is a struggle. The widows with so little resources and so little esteem deal with affliction every day of their lives. So do the Sister Connection staff, lovely, educated people who have chosen to serve the needy rather than serve themselves. Across the board I saw their patience, their grace lived out.

Faithful in prayer
And faithful in prayer? We hardly know how to pray compared to these children of God who cast themselves on His mercies. You know, while we were at the widows retreat we got word that the Free Methodist bishop of Congo had been kidnapped. When the women heard about it, they went to prayer. They covered the front of the sanctuary with mats, knelt down before God, and stormed the gates of Heaven for the safety of this man of God. Within hours we heard of his release. They would pray the same way when one of the teachings spoke to their hearts. Joy, the Burundian director of Sister Connection, called out specific sins and asked if the women were dealing with any of them. When she called for a time of repentance after the message there was earnest prayer from the women. After I challenged the women to trust the Lord with their children the room was alive with their prayers.

So on both Sundays I told the people that when I returned to the US I would report what I had found in Burundi. I would let you know that the church in Burundi is a church that is "joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and fateful in prayer," just like we are called to be in Romans.

Pray for the leadership of the church in Burundi. Pray for the church members. Pray that the young people will commit themselves to the Lord and will stand firm in Him. Just like here, there are temptations galore and young and old alike need to be steadfast. Especially in the next few days as the youth camps will be taking place, pray for the Lord to do a mighty work among the campers and the staff. The Sister Connection team needs God's strength and would benefit greatly from your prayers. Thank you.

Our team with three Sister Connection staff

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Music and Motherhood

I am home from Africa, mostly in one piece with a few things strewn around the world -- my new tablet, which I may or may not ever see again, left in a bin at security in Hethrow; my friend and traveling partner Susan, from whom I was split up and put on separate flights in London; her bags (including my souvenirs) stranded in Chicago. I trust that in time we will all get back together again. I'm contacting the Heathrow airport for my tablet, which has several hours of video that I'd love to see again.

For the next couple of days I plan to sleep off the jet lag and the cold I came home with. I may upload my 1500 photos and select some to post. (Did I scare you last time when I said that I have 1500 pictures? Did you think I was going to make you look at them all??)

My friend Christina Bentley is the mother of four lovely boys and shared a blog post today on Facebook called Legacy, about singing hymns to her kids. She gave me permission to use it today. Come back on Friday for more details (and photos) of the trip to Burundi and the beautiful people I met along the way.

P.S. If you see Lula, tell her that the only Olympians that we could identify were boxers from Australia. The same guys kept popping up everywhere I looked!

Monday, July 16, 2012


Hello from the Sheraton Hotel in Brussels! I never dreamed that a four hour layover would turn into an overnight stay.

It wasn't a good day for United. Their system went down, the plane was ready to leave and they realized that there were 70 bags that still had not been loaded, and, upon take-off, something hit the left engine (one person said a sharp metal object, another said it was a bird), leaving us with only one engine. So we turned around, dumped fuel, and landed back at Brussels. The flight was cancelled and we were given rooms and meals at the Sheraton and the promise that we'd be rescheduled.

Susan and I went to ticketing and spent a few hours waiting for our new reservations. We were at the end of the line, so we got to talk to some of our fellow strandees. (I just made that up. Do you like it?)

We talked to Hannah (European) and her husband Trevor (American). They met studying philosophy in grad school in Brussels and now teach in Chicago. They were so compassionate, taking on the cares of the others around them. By the time they were finished with their reservations, they were scheduled to go home the long way -- through Europe and Washington DC.

I had dinner with some of my new friends and learned a bit more about them. Lula, whose parents are from Eritrea, grew up in the US. She's returning from a conference of humanitarian aid workers in NE African countries, exploring ways to work more efficiently. Her new friend Alex, whom she just met on the plane today, is a recent college graduate in marriage and family counseling. Francis, from Chicago, grew up in Cameroon and went back in 2006 to start a hospital for HIV patients. Alexis, the daughter of Kenyan Jane, adopted Francis today while standing in line! Anita, whose family is Liberian, was a refugee during her country's civil war. She's now a graduate student in Arizona and, besides finishing her MPA, is working toward starting a school back home.

Did you ever sit on a plane and wonder about the people around you? Did you ever go to the mall and wonder what everybody is doing there? Did you ever cross paths with someone from another culture and wonder how you both got to the same place at the same time, and what you might learn from one another if you just opened up your mouth, asked a question, shared an experience, really reached out to one another. It shouldn't take a cancelled flight to find out, but, I'll admit, it does help!

* * * * * * * * *

P.S. I do hope to be home tomorrow. I've got over 1500 photos to sort through so you can expect some updates on the recent posts to include a few pictures, and a few more stories about this amazing trip. See you soon!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

This is Africa!

We are standing on the veranda of our hotel where we are spending our last night in Africa,four of us hanging out while our fifth team member is catching some much needed zzzzs. We're in luck -- the entertainment for the evening was scheduled for us without our knowledge. It's a wedding! We've seen members of the wedding party arrive, have watched many of the guests appear, and have had the traditional Burundian drummers pose for us.

Everyone looks so beautiful and the arch outside the conference center where the wedding is being held is ready for the bride and groom to pass through. We think we have identified the groom but, alas, there is no bride in sight. I see little lights shining in peoples' hands and wonder why they are smoking at this no-smoking facility, then I realize they are holding cell phones. Almost two weeks in Africa; I shouldn't be surprised by the ever-present cell phones!

No one seems as anxious about the missing bride as the 14-year old boy who's with us, He's wishing we would get an invitation to the reception. (They only had one Coke to give him at dinner and he's wishing for more!)

On your feet, everyone! They've opened both the gates and a car has just pulled up! It's a convertable and the drums are pounding!!!!
Little lights are flashing while, right under our veranda, the bride and the little girls prepare to climb out of the car. Oh, she looks beautiful in her strapless white dress, headpiece and boquet! Her handsome groom steps from the car that has pulled up behind the bride's, and they begin their walk toward the arch.

A shout from the drummers and a chant begins. Drums on their heads, they beat them as they march toward the arch, escorting the couple and the guests into the hall. Now the drummers are gathered in a semi-circle in the yard pounding, dancing and chanting while women at a nearby table franticly prepare to serve the guests a drink. Sorry, Alex, but it looks like you've had all the Coke you're going to get tonight!

I had expected a rather quiet evening of our team figuring out how to pack the piles of souvenirs that we purchased today and a enjoying a cup of tea and a few rounds of Killer Solitaire before a restful sleep. But that seems unlikely now. I wonder how far into the night Burundian weddings last anyway?

When I crawl into bed tonight, I expect it will be with a joyful heart and a smile on my face, even if my head is buried under the pillow.  What else could I do? After all, this is Africa!

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Little Glimpse

I have so much to tell you -- about the wonderful new friends I have made on this trip, including four teens, two recent college grads, two-month newleyweds, and three other moms, two of whom grew up here; the amazing places we've been, including a hotel in the city, a university and a hospital, and a guest house in the mountains; of the things we've done including visiting the homes of nine different widows, attending a vibrant church service, touring a project that makes a highly nutritious cereal that a missionary friend invented over 20 years ago, and hold on for dear life as our bus has navigated the wild, go-fo-it streets of the city and the windy mountain roads!

It may take till I get home next Monday night and I can sit down at the computer, download my 700+ (so far) photos before I can send you much detail, but we will be at this hotel with internet for three days so I may be able to do more later.

(Remember to guess what I'm trying to say if it doesn't make much sense as my keybord is very unforgiving when it comes to making corrections. Sorry about that.)

As you read this post today (8:57 a.m.) we will be meeting the 500 widows and their 300 young children (ages 6-12) who have been traveling from all across the country today -- by taxi-van, bicycle, on foot, and a few by car -- so that they can attend the retreats the national Sister Connection team has been putting together. Remember us in prayer if you would. More to come...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Greetings from Africa

We made it to BURUNDI, after about 30 hours, and have just spent our first full day here! My only real problem has been getting on the internet to check mail and Facebook and to post on the blog. I'd love to post some photos, but tonight (bedtime) I got a connection
and don't want to press my luck.

There's so much I'd love to say, but can't tonight. We did go to Hope Africa University today met some folks related to Sister Connection, seen life on the streets of Burundi, and gotten to know y teammates a bit. Tomorrow we get to visit a few of the widows in their homes. Retreat starts on Monday evening. That's also the  ight we give the kids their quilts.

We,re 9hours ahead of the West Coast so now, at 10:00 p.m., it' 1:00 there, just so you know.

(My typos aren't related to the lack of internet connection but to adjusting to a new tablet. Whe  in doubt about what I'm trying ti say, just guess!)

Time for me to go to bed and for you to get back to work! I do hopd to write again soon.

Thanks for your love and prayers. Wat a privilege it is to be here!

Monday, July 2, 2012


She'd been bleeding for 12 years, this woman whose story we read in the Gospels. She'd spent all her money on doctors but no one could cure her. In fact, she'd only gotten worse. By now she is anemic and very weak. How much longer can she survive in this condition?

What kind of life could this woman have had? In her culture, a woman was considered "unclean" during her regular monthly cycle. According to Levitical law, she was unclean for seven days. Whoever touched her bed or anything she sat upon was instructed to wash their clothes and bathe, and that person would be considered unclean until evening. Twelve years of this condition would surly have driven away the people in her life. She could not have cooked for them, have cared for children, or been involved in the life of the community. Like a leper, she was unclean.

Sick, poor, isolated, despised. This was her life.

Then she hears that Jesus has come to town. She has just one thing on her mind -- to get to Jesus. She has heard that he is a healer; she believes that just to touch his clothes will bring her healing.

What courage it took for this woman to go out in public, to mingle with the masses seeking Jesus. Did people back off and make room for her, this woman they did not want to touch, or were they all so intent on seeing Jesus that they didn't even notice her?

She comes up behind Jesus and touches the hem of his cloak, and immediately she is healed. "Who touched my clothes?" he asks. In a crowd so large that it nearly crushes him, what a crazy question! The disciples try to tell him so, but he is determined to find the one for whom he has felt power go out from him.

"Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet" (Luke 8:47). After her many years of suffering, she likely expected to be chastised for exposing so many people to her own uncleanness. She told him her whole story, in front of everybody, and about her healing. Then Jesus did one of the most remarkable things I have read in the entire Bible.

He called her Daughter.

There is another daughter in this story as well. She is the 12-year-old child of Jairus, a leader in the synagogue, his only child, a well-loved girl in a respectable family. Her father seeks out Jesus as she lay dying. (Matthew tells us that she has just died.) He pleads with Jesus to come and put his hand on the girl so she will live. And it is on the way to Jairus' house that Jesus is interrupted by our unclean woman of courage.

We're tempted to tell the woman to go away, like the people said to the blind beggar who called out to Jesus or the disciples did to the mothers who brought their children to him. Don't bother Jesus; he has more important people to care for. Go away now! Shoo! Shoo!

But nobody sees her coming or realizes that she thinks she has the right to touch him. And before you know it, an unworthy has entered their presence, making a scene and exposing them to something they don't want to deal with.

Did Jesus love the little girl from the good home more than he loved this outcast? Was Jairus' cry for help more convincing than this woman's? Is he obligated to act according to our time table -- come quickly, she's dying! -- no interruptions allowed?

Here we see Jesus, compassionate, life-giving Jesus, healing the heart as well as the body of a woman drained of life. We see Jesus in tune with the needs around him. We see Jesus making the calls, not letting other people dictate how he should work. We see Jesus, demonstrating his power and putting things to rights.

This is the same Jesus who loves the widows of Burundi.  And Jesus calls them Daughter!

(Matthew 18-34; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56)