Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Furlough Highlights

Our second furlough from Uganda is over. We arrived safely back in Africa late Tuesday night. We are so happy to be back and excited to get up to Ikland and see our friends, though we know we will face many challenges. 

This furlough really was wonderful, and we want to publicly thank all of you who loved and took care of us in so many ways! Below is a list of some (not all!) of the things and people we enjoyed over the last five months:

-Biking in Mobile, Alabama (and on Dauphin Island) with Terrill’s family
-Weekly lunches in Tallahassee, Florida with Amber’s parents
-Half-price Mondays at Goodwill
-More leisure time to read for pleasure and edification
-Favorite foods: Mexican, BBQ, Lebanese, Mennonite...the list goes on!
-Work hours at the ‘office’ (Panera Bread Co. with free refills and wireless internet)
-Roads trips around the eastern US
-Good sermons at several churches
-Long walks in numerous towns and cities
-Breakfasts at the Amish restaurant Boyd & Wurthmann in Berlin, Ohio
-Lehman’s Amish hardware store
-Prison ministry fund-raising banquet where Amber’s dad gave his testimony
-Having Ik road signs made at an Amish flea market
-Going to a good ol’ high school football game with Amber’s cousins
-Swiss Festival in Sugar Creek, Ohio
-Driving through West Virginia and Virginia while the autumn leaves were changing
-Fossil hunting with friends in Jamestown, Virginia
-Meeting little people: nephews, cousins, etc.
-Watching the presidential debates (at least at first...)
-Controversial conversations on politics, gun control, evolution, hell, to name a few
-Concerts: John Schmidt, Redemption Row, Switchfoot, and Gatorbone Band
-Browsing antique shops with Terrill’s sister in Oxford, Mississippi
-Walking the gorgeous canopied streets of Oxford, MS
-Memphis, Tennessee, Beal Street, and Aunt Polly’s fried chicken and waffles
-Walking along the mighty Mississippi with friends at sunset
-Meeting the parent’s of friends who live with us in Karamoja
-Memphis Zoo with Terrill’s sister
-Driving part of the beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi
-Giving guest lectures at Covenant College in Lookout Mtn, Georgia
-Walking around downtown Chattanooga with Terrill’s brother’s family
-White-water rafting on the Ocoee River, Tennessee with new friends
-The Apple Festival in Cleveland, TN with Terrill’s brother’s family
-Glorious sunsets when entering Mobile, Alabama to be with Terrill’s family
-Wrestling with the intricacies of Ik grammar
-Eating seafood at Felix’s over Mobile Bay with Terrill’s parents
-Visiting old school haunts: Jefferson Davis and South Alabama
-Exploring Ikland in a flight simulator on Google Earth
-Greek Festival at the Holy Mother of God church in Tallahassee, FL
-Getting involved in a home group at Four Oaks church in Tallahassee
-Bidding for stuff at the Gospel Express Ministries annual Amish goods auction
-Playing corn-hole with both our families
-Reminiscing with friends who have been to Ikland
-House-warming party at Chad & Tiffany Northington’s home on the ‘south side’
-Kayaking on the Wakulla River with Chad Northington
-Spending Thanksgiving at a beach-house with Terrill’s family
-Spending time with all four of our grandmothers (and one grandfather!)
-Reading SEAL of God and starting to work-out after many years
-Weekly breakfasts or coffees with friends
-Riding bike in southeast Tallahassee
-Visiting Atmore, Alabama, and Holmes Co., Ohio: our birthplaces
-Going to the cinema to see movies like Lincoln, The Hobbit, and The Bourne Legacy
-Contra dancing with friends and complete strangers
-Celebrating Christmas with both families
-Attending a Graber reunion (Amber’s dad’s family) in Sarasota
-Playing softball in the rain
-Frisbee golf at Tom Brown park
-Perusing the aisles of Walmart, Target and Home Depot for hours
-Table games with family: Library, Wizard, Hand and Foot, dominoes, etc.
-Strolling through idyllic Winter Park, Florida with friends
-Catching up with friends in Dallas, Texas
-Ali Baba’s and Back Country BBQ in Dallas (need I say more?)
-Working with Amber’s brother on home improvement projects
-Reliving good memories in the old Schrock upholstery shop in Blountstown, FL
-Attending cousins’ basketball game in Blountstown
-Last-week dinners with close friends in Tallahassee
-“An Evening in Africa” at Four Oaks church in Tallahassee

The list could go on, but hopefully you get the idea! Sometimes when we give up the things we love and hold onto, God gives them back for a time. All we can do is be thankful.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Cultural transformation

The overarching reason we are in Uganda doing what we do is to make Jesus Christ well known. We are working to translate the New Testament into the Ik language so the Ik can read or listen to the primary sources on the life of Christ. We don't want to destroy Ik culture; we want it to be preserved yet beneficially transformed. Justin Martyr, one of the early Christian leaders or 'fathers', had this to say about how Jesus changed the lives of the pagan Romans:

“Those who formerly delighted in fornication now embrace chastity alone; those who formerly made use of magical arts have dedicated themselves to the good and unbegotten God; we who once valued above everything the gaining of wealth and possessions now bring what we have into a common stock, and share with everyone in need; we who hated and destroyed one another, and would not share the same hearth with people of a different tribe on account of their different customs, now since the coming of Christ, live familiarly with them, and pray for our enemies, and try to persuade those who unjustly hate us to live according to the good advice of Christ, to the end that they may share with us the same joyful hope of a reward from God the Master of all.”

And that's what we want and are working for: that the Ik will share our joyful hope in God.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Looking behind and ahead

It's a new year, and our furlough is drawing to a close. We've had a wonderful few months here in the United States. We've spent holidays with family. We've spent quality time with friends. We've rested and enjoyed things we don't have in Uganda, like Goodwill half-price Mondays, Chik-Fil-A, unlimited internet, smooth roads and organized traffic, berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries), Panera Bread Co. (basically our office), Animal Planet and Nat Geo, anonymity in public, and the changing of the seasons. There have also been difficult things, like waiting at red light after red light, traveling out of town most weekends, the overwhelming focus on food (eating and dieting), the bombardment of advertising, the craze of personal electronics and social media, the political hype before the elections, the impersonal neighborhoods, the immodesty of current fashions, and the expectations of being a 'returned missionary'. So there have been ups and downs, but overall it's been a much-needed, much-appreciated change of pace and scenery.

As we head back to Uganda, we want to make relationships more of a priority: relationships with the Ik and relationships with other expatriates. We want to renew our efforts to learn to speak Ik fluently and to regularly visit Ik villages in the evenings. We want to invest more in relationships with other Christians so we can encourage and challenge each other. On the work front, Terrill wants to get the three Ik translators (Philip, Daniel, Sylvester) going on translating more Scripture. He also wants to finish writing the grammar of Ik and print a dictionary. He wants to start an exhibit of Ik cultural items in the language office and spend more time with Ik to know what their lives are really like. On Amber's side of things, she wants to teach health education lessons to the kids in elementary school. She wants to expand her ministry of visiting patients in outlying villages. She also looks forward to distributing the many clothing items donated for the Ik (especially children).

All these plans and dreams, though, will amount to little if not done in the spirit of Christ. More than anything else, for 2013 and beyond, we want our life and work among the Ik to be less and less about us and more and more about Jesus. The temptation for us to build our own little kingdoms is great, especially since we have to be self-sufficient in many ways. So our hope and prayer for 2013 is that God will continue to humble and minimize us so His great loving faithfulness can shine through. And that this great loving faithfulness will capture the hearts of the Ik and make them new.