Monday, April 28, 2014

Into the Darkness

Many years after Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in India, she reflected on the suffering she had experienced and shared it with some of her 'Sisters' in the following words:

"My dear children---without our suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption. Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death. All that He has taken upon Himself, and has carried it in the darkest night. Only by being one with us, He has redeemed us. We are allowed to do the same: all the desolation of the poor people, not only their material poverty, but their spiritual destitution must be redeemed, and we must have our share in it. Pray thus when you find it hard---"I wish to live in this world which is so far from God, which has turned so much from the light of Jesus, to help them---to take upon me something of their suffering." Yes, my dear children---let us share in the sufferings of our poor---for only by being one with them---we can redeem them, that is, bringing God into their lives and bringing them to God."

Amber and I have yet to experience material poverty---for His own reasons, God has kept us well supplied financially in this season. Who knows if one day we'll get to experience material poverty? Neither have we become 'one with the people' in the idealistic missionary sense. But we have tasted a good measure of the 'spiritual destitution' Mother Teresa speaks about, as well as a good many other types of deprivations. We followed Jesus into the darkness of Karamoja, the darkness of Ikland, and the darkness of Janet and Lemu's tender childhood. By now we should be learning to expect new opportunities to follow Jesus into the darkness.

What darkness is Jesus beckoning you to follow Him into? It could be a remote people like in our case. But more likely it is a darkness across town, across the street, or even in the next room. Don't keep your Light hidden for long.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

More moments...

On the heels of my last blog, I thought I'd share some more Timu moments. 

It's green right now. The rains started about a month ago and we see a heavy rain once a week. It's enough to turn the land this lush green (see below). 
 People are engaging in group work and traveling to different gardens every day. Whoever's garden they are currently digging in, that person provides the daily 'meal' of beer. The Ik seem to enjoy group work so much more than solitary digging, each man for himself. There is merit to it and it definitely promotes a feeling of community. Below is a garden directly down the hill from our house.
 Recently we've witnessed something for the first time: in Kamion subcounty (the area where we and the Ik live) animals and corrals have been moving onto our land. The Karamojong and Turkana are always searching for good pasture for their animals. When times get tough, they move the animals closer to us. The sad thing is that they cut down many trees in order to make a corral and then only stay in it temporarily. Such waste! It also speeds up the process of deforestation and brings it closer to Timu. Soon, the Ik subcounty will look just like the Karamojong and Turkana lands...devoid of trees and vegetation.

The pastoral life might have worked for these tribes in the past, when they were truly nomadic and roaming from grazing land to grazing land. But in recent years, they've settled down in one area. They have wells (a reliable water source), schools, healthcare, and free handouts from USAID. Why would they want to move on now? But their problem remains: the land cannot sustain them if they stay settled. The trees (and source of heat for cooking) will be gone. The lands will be overgrazed and their cows thin. They can still farm, but they will face the unpredictability of the weather patterns. And when it doesn't rain for an entire year (like last year), the people won't have food. They'll have to cry for help to NGOs and become dependent once again upon relief and aid. This is a chronic problem in Karamoja.

Yet, how do we break the cycle? How do we help the people to be independent and empowered to survive on their own? I don't have the answers, but I do know one thing. Both the recipients of aid and the aid workers themselves are benefiting from the chronic problems in Karamoja. If the problems went away, so would the hand-outs and the jobs of the aid workers. I suspect that all involved would not want to see that happen, even if it was for the best (true development) of the people. Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now. Just wanting to bring up some of the issues we struggle with in this impoverished place. I didn't even mention how marginalized the Ik are for being subjected to this kind of behavior. I'm referring to people moving onto their land and doing as they please. The Ik certainly aren't allowed to move into other subcounties, cut down their trees and 'use' the land as they see fit. Yet it's acceptable for the Karamojong to treat them this way? But marginalization is a topic for another blog.
 One of our girls' favorite toys is...sand. Below Terrill and Ngiriko are building them a more permanent sand box so the sand doesn't spread out so badly. Terrill's not a mason by trade, but he does what he can, and it is functional. I'm just thankful that he's willing to try new things. It's a trait needed for living overseas.
 A few days ago, we had friends from Kaabong come up for a visit. Andy & Connie (below) are from Ohio and know all about the Amish/Mennonite community where I grew up. What a small world! Besides Andy & Connie, numerous other baptist friends were there for the visit. We had 14 people around the table for lunch. I'm so thankful again for having a house to accommodate visitors, but also for the presence of dear friends near-by.
 On a normal day, we're usually hosting one or more Ik kids over lunchtime. A few of them know exactly when to come for a play date. ;-) Below Lokolikol is eating hummus and falafel with my girls.
 Last week we put up the tent to air it out...but also as a treat for the girls. For two days, they pretended it was their little house. Kids really do love tents!
 Sometimes during our preschool lesson, we have arts and crafts. Here the girls and their cousin are making a star wall hanging with glitter and cut out stars. Unfortunately, there was more glitter on the table and floor than on the stars themselves. But they had fun...and I suppose that is the point.
 Just this week, Janet discovered dominoes. And not only is it a fun game (toppling the dominoes), but it's turning out to be educational as she's forced to count the dots.
 We're also learning that Janet is a huge fan of insects. Here she has a walking stick on her head. She's a pretty brave girl and her influence is making Lemu more brave as well.
 As always, on the road trip home from Kaabong, this is how I find my girls. Can they get any cuter?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Moments big and small

Upon returning to Timu last month, Terrill immediately started an Ik orthography workshop. He wanted to implement the knowledge he had learned at the last orthography workshop before it started to fade. He also desperately needed to do community testing of the alphabet and get it approved by people who actually speak the language. We are three weeks into this new workshop and it is due to end on Saturday. Praise God: Terrill has learned much about the language and has made progress in describing it. 

So what are we gals doing while Terrill is away (the workshop is being held at our old compound)? Well, I'm still seeing a few patients every morning. I've narrowed my patient base down to children under 10 years old and wound care. The girls usually 'help out' in a number of ways and come alongside as I treat people. I hope it's teaching them about compassion and serving others.

When we're not seeing patients, the girls can often be found at their coloring table. Janet is on a rainbow kick and likes to make everything multi-colored. Lemu is still learning to sit at a table for longer than five minutes. We're trying to learn to focus on a project for a longer time period with her. 
They both love to help in the kitchen. Last week I let Lemu mix the guacamole up. It was half gone by the time I got it on the table. But I suppose avocado is healthier to lick up than cake or cookie batter. They are also good at helping to make hummus and making sure it is seasoned correctly. It takes a good number of licks to confirm it is just right. 
 One of their newly acquired skills is putting toothpaste on their toothbrushes. I never thought about the fine motor skills required to do this until having to teach someone else. They also like to dress up with whatever is in their toy box. We labeled this picture "Our little Isrealites".
 One little boy brought a beautiful purple bird (that he'd found in a nest in the garden) to our house to play with. The girls spent an entire morning carrying that bird around and trying to get responses from him. Sadly, the bird was young and didn't last long.
 We have a flower called a firelilly that grows on the hills around our house. The kids love to pick these flowers and wear them on their heads. One little girl came over to play and brought Lemu this gift flower to wear.
 Here is the flower growing outside our house. We like them so much that we've transplanted a number of them into our compound already. It's our effort at protecting them from children.
 Janet & Lemu are currently about five pounds different (Janet being the heavier one) but Janet persists on playing 'baby' with Lemu and carrying her around on her back. Lemu, having been carried for most of her first three years, loves the game. They call it 'kuku' in Ik.
 The rains started in Timu about a month ago. So this is the time to dig up the ground and get things planted. I have about four nursery beds that we're trying different vegetables in. So far, the green beans and carrots have done the best. I had other young plants that I had planted last November, but they got eaten by goats when we went to Kampala. Here in Uganda we don't worry about deer or rabbits, but goats. Not surprisingly, the girls like digging in the dirt too. They are helping out by planting some herbs in pots for me. The cilantro has already sprouted.
 Here we were enjoying one of our very last pizzas. Pizza in Timu? Yep, thanks to my folks! They sent over a box specially filled with pizza ingredients, including a big block of vacuum-sealed cheese. And the cheese lasted for over a month in the mail! After eight and a half years of marriage, I'm finally starting to make pizza. When it's the favorite food of my two little girls, I couldn't get around it.
Yesterday was actually a pretty special day for us...a day to celebrate. It's our year-long anniversary since we first got the girls. Can you believe it's been that long already? Our lives have changed so drastically. And it's not just our circumstances that have changed; it's our very cores. Friends have told me on numerous occasions that children have a way of showing us the worst in us. They were right. But if I can't see the worst, I won't so readily recognize my need for a Savior. And I need Him badly. I now realize that only through parenting can God do a special sanctifying work in our lives. He sanctifies in many ways, but parenting has been the most intense way for me. And don't I want to be intensely sanctified? So even though this road we're traveling is difficult and hard...I need to be on it. Today I'm thanking God for these children and for the ways God has used them to change me. May our next year of parenting be as fruitful as the past one has been.