Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas in Africa (Part I)

Christmas in July Africa

Last year, we were drinking hot chocolate, while driving through town looking at all the twinkling lights as they danced across the landscape. We were surrounded by friends and family as we attended one Christmas party after the next. Every time we stepped outside, we were met by the bitter cold. We joined the crowds and the traffic that the local malls brought. Despite the traffic, it was a great time! Our minds could only fathom the dramatic difference this Christmas would be. With every party came another goodbye. With every opened present, we stepped closer to leaving what was so familiar. 

It is amazing the dramatic changes just one year brought, as nothing has been left untouched. Our families hundreds of miles away continue to grow and change. The heat has stolen the comforts of, "Let it snow," playing in the background. We are experiencing what we could only imagine just last year. It still seems like such a blur. No lights wrapped around houses, no songs on the radio, no movies on TV, no family nearby, no winter jackets and no malls. But also, no distractions from the real Christmas. God has blessed us with a Christmas that truly centers around Him:

 We we are daily surrounded by donkeys, camels, goats and sheep. These animals remind us that He came humbly. We also can't help but imagine the sounds and smells that were in the manger that night. 

Little shepherds carefully herd their flocks by our gate everyday reminding us that it was to shepherds the good news was brought. 

A clear night's sky, untainted by city lights or any lights, shine in it's full brilliance. We might not have Christmas lights stapled to houses, but we have billions of stars pointing to our Creator.

Not having to buy gifts allows us to focus our time on Him. We miss our family, especially during this time, but what a blessing God has given to us. We get to experience Christmas in all it's splendor, and for the first time, get to focus 100% of our Christmas on Christ!

As we enjoy our first Christmas in Africa, we were able to add a little 'distraction' in our home. We found a baby papaya tree, cut it down, and found it to make a great Christmas tree.

We brought over one shoe box of Christmas decorations from America, and we sure are glad we did. 

Here's something that will make you say,"Aaawww." Each year we have been married, we have bought a new ornament that represents the theme that year. So yes, for this year we bought an ornament in the shape of Africa.

We bought this little tree at a market in Nairobi. It is make out of banana leaves and was a back up in case the live tree didnt work out. Who would have thought we would have 2 Christmas tress in Africa, when we sometimes didn't even put up 1 in America.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A few weeks ago, Jonathan had the opportunity to do a flyover of our territory. An AIM pilot took Jonathan and Shannon (our team leader) over the area that our people live. It is vast, covering more than 12,000 square miles. Shannon has split the territory in half, since we are the only two families (IMB) targeting this people group. 
As you can see, there is no Wal-Mart here.

Just miles and miles of grassy plains and mountains with villages scattered throughout.

Most villages in our area are on the other side of these swamps and rivers.

With no paved road or bridges this cuts them off during rainy season (1/2 the year).

You won't get claustrophobic here.

During the flight, they were able to find the location of the large pockets of villages, find the best way to access them, and plan a better strategy for bringing them the Gospel.

This is Loki, our home until we move up.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Loki Tour

Welcome to the official Lokichoggio (aka Loki) tour. We know that after the tour, y'all will be jumping in line to buy your plane tickets. Loki consist of one main paved road with two branching dirt roads. We honestly love this little Mayberry town. It used to be bustling and busy, as it was the main hub for NGO's when Sudan was in war. Now that the country has split, so have all the white people and business. It literally is a ghost town now, which is one main reason we love it. Here is the tour, starting at our home and circling the town. Now don't blink, or you might miss this little ol' town.

Our compound-See grandma, I do work...sometimes.

Our home sits on about 5 acres, just outside of town.

Just outside our compound you will find a gang of young boys who kill all the birds around the town using homemade slingshots. Thus we have dubbed them the 'slingshot boys.'

This is for all you green people out there...our internet is charged by the wind. No wind, no Facebook.

Once leaving our home, you come to our lovely round about.

Entering town and on your left, you will see that we have a decent airport.

Just around this curve is the start of the town.

Paved roads, yeah, almost there...

There it is! Here you can buy charcoal (made by the local women), oil, flour and basic cooking items.

This is Main street and where all the action takes place, can't you tell?

This is down one of the two side streets. It is here you see most of the closed stores and shops. 

Didn't we tell you? We have a Walmart! Express shopping-You point at random objects you want, they get them for you, and then tell you a total price.

This is the seasonal river that flows when it rains. This is the only road to S.Sudan, so when it is raining, you are stuck here.

After circling through town, this road is the back way home.

 It is also the route of all the herds and shepherds. Yes, these little boys are shepherds.

Thanks for spending a day with us in Loki, we hope you have enjoyed the tour. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

What a Surprise!

Over the past few months, we have been delightfully surprised to go to our PO Box and find letters, packages, and boxes. We cannot thank you enough! It never fails-when it has been one of those “Boy I miss home” days, there is an encouraging letter awaiting us. Trust me, this is not a guilt trip for those who haven’t been able to send one, since we would probably fall in that category if the roles were reversed. This is simply a public thank you for those who have pain stakenly hand written a note or packaged up a few goodies. I know you wish to be unnamed, so you know who you are! We have received drink mixes (really help the water go a long way), seasoning packets (helps the beef go down), colored pictures (which are hanging all over our walls), letters of encouragement (which are all over our fridge), summer sausage (Jonathan is saving for his birthday), mac and cheese (made our anniversary special), instant sides (great for those long days), and the list goes on. I never put out a ‘wish list’ and you knew exactly what we needed, so thank you. As for those who have not sent a letter or package, wipe the sweat from your forehead because there are no worries! We honestly know you still love and pray for us, and that is enough!

Yeah for fun wallpaper! It sure does brighten up our home!

We are thankful for the beef and goat we can get here, but the taste is not like we are use to. Thank you for helping the meat go down!

We have been able to spread this out and make it last. One Jolly Ranger a day can go a long way.

Jonathan is one happy man (thanks to his sister, cousin, aunt, uncle and parents).

6th year anniversary dinner complete with steaks and yummy sides.

Now that Loki has chicken, the possibilities are endless.

We have had many people ask, so here are the basic things we can buy here. 
Meat: Beef, goat and now chicken! Veggies: Tomatoes, onions, potatoes, collard greens (from our garden) and occasionally carrots, avacodos, and apples. Other: Tomatoe paste, romaine noodles, spag noodles, flour, sugar, coca, powdered/shelf milk, and other random stuff.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

We aren't the only ones living here

There is one question that never fails to pop up.  It is asked by the very young as well as the very old. Unfortuatley, we have to answer, "no, we have not seen a lion." Something about African's wildlife sparks people interest (including our own), so here is a glimpse of the "wildlife" in our back yard. It is not as exciting as a lion, but it will have to do for now.
Not the "wild animal" you were looking forward to seeing, but still scary enough for me.

European Roller-not sure what it is doing in Africa, but none the less it sure is purdy.

A small anakanak (monitor lizard)-they get pretty big but mostly stay hidden because they are a favorite of our killer dogs.
 We have a parrot couple living in our yard. They are pretty skittish, so this is the best picture I was able to get.

And skittish for a good reason. Our large yard offers a buffet for this guy.

And a wild cat-sorry folks, this little fellow became..ummm...well our dogs helped it go into a deep sleep.

For the honorably mentioned that we have seen in our yard, but did not have a camera, hyena, jackal, porcupine, mongoose, cobra and bushbaby.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Evils of Allergies

There we were celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary watching the sunset over Lake Turkana.  We had a wonderful day enjoying God's creation and now we were enjoying His grand finale, one of the most beautiful sunsets imaginable.  All of a sudden the wind changed directions and  something set Holly into one spectacular sneeze fest.  After each sneeze a local Turkana man would shout out Kape! really loud, which literally means GO AWAY!  We couldn't believe how rude he was, but to keep our testimony we pretended it wasn't happening. Finally after 4 or 5 times, I said why do you want her to go away?  It is just allergies; to which he then laughed as she sneezed again and said "Kape Ekipe" (Go Away Evil). You see, just a few hours earlier, we had a chance to talk to this man about Christ.  He had a basic understanding of God's Word and claimed to have a relationship with our Savior, yet here he was convinced that Holly's allergies were nothing less then a brutal attack from the devil himself.  I have always believed ragweed was wicked, but I think that might be taking it to the extreme.

Wow, what a reminder of the culture we are living in.  The enemy has such a grip on this people that they are kept in absolute fear.  Thank God we do not have to live a life of fear, our enemy has already been defeated, not by us, or even Benadryl, but by the wonderful and matchless grace of our Savior. One area of Spiritual Warfare we have seen inside the church here in Kenya, is how every believer feels like anytime something bad happens it is the work of the devil.  Often there is so much attention given to Satan and the powers of evil, that Christ and His grace are never mentioned.  Thank God, He loves us and cares for us.  Satan doesn't care how much trash talking we do, or what we call him, he is only focused on distracting us from the work of sharing the Gospel.  Will you please pray right now, that God, through His grace, will enable the Turkana and Toposa people to understand the battle has already been won. Our debts have all been paid in full on the cross of calvary and now love, hope and peace can replace that fear which so easily entangles and distracts all too often.  

Update: Water is back on

Last time we left you, we were hi and dry. There was a problem getting water to our compound, and we were having to be pretty creative to make simple, everyday tasks work.  Thank you all for your prayers and encouraging notes, we have had water consistently now for about a month so that is such an answer to prayer.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Conservative living

Don’t worry, Im not talking about the upcoming elections and Im not talking about the evils of dancing. Im talking about a new definition of clean. When we returned from Zambia in May, it felt good to be home, but little did we know, we had more training waiting before us. You see, the town’s generator that pumps water to our compound was broken. That was nothing new, since it would break about every week, but it was always fixed within a day or two. That is not the case this time, this time it is really broken. As the water in our tank got less and less, we knew we couldn’t just wait it out this time. So, we started to think of our options. There are many bore holes in Lokichoggio, and we would be more then happy to fetch our water there, but we need jerry cans to carry it in and they are impossible to get a hold of here. Before we had a chance to get stressed or to panic, God provided.  We found out they have delivery boys here, just like Dominoes! They load their bikes with four jerry cans (about 8 gallons) and deliver them around town. So, we have water brought to our house on a bike every other day. We are so thankful that God takes care of us, even in the little things. We have learned that 4 gallons a day can go a long way, and that there were many ways we used to waster water. I’ve learned to wash dishes, wash clothes, cook our food, cook the dogs food, clean and bathe with just a fraction of the water I used to. We just had to figure out a system and the ways to reuse water.  We are thankful for this new perspective, and seeing how it is barley a ‘hardship’ in light of the true hardships these nationals go through everyday, we have turned our complaining into praise.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Do's and Dont's

Just a few months ago, we were fully independent. Im not talking about the patriotic kind, but general independence. Since moving to Africa, we have had to become completely dependent on others. Dependent on the nationals, dependent on each other, and most of all dependent on God,  not just for each day, but for each moment. We feel like children wondering around this new world. Barley knowing the culture, the language, the people or even the 'dos' and 'donts'. We rely heavily on the nationals that have taken us under their wing. Grace, Morine, Paul, Francis, Jon and David are just to name a few. Please remember these great Kenyans in your prayers as they take care of us lost Americans. 

Some do's and don'ts we have learned:

Don't: think a simple 'hello' will do
Do: stop, & actually talk to the person-people are above tasks here (hard for this 'type A' to grasp)

Don't: wear them while walking on anything other then the dirt road. This place has to be near the garden of Eden, because it is the most cursed with thorns that I've ever seen.
Do: Watch your step and brace for impact
Don't: Expect to get everything on your list, it will be in next week (maybe)
Do: Greet the store workers first thing, it will take you far in life

Don't: have your expectations so low that you don't try things
Do: explore and have fun...mashed potatoes, steak and green beans are possible here!

Don't: go by it, throw it out the window
Do: When you hear the singing, it is time to start walking to church

Don't: expect high toxic insecticide to kill them...I think it just makes them stronger
Do: When all else fails, use the can

Restaurants (AKA Hotels here): 
Don't: ask for a menu, unless you are bored and want some reading material
Do: bet on beans & rice always being in abundance

Being Different
Dont: worry if children cry and run when they see you
Do: Get used to being different and stared at (notice the baby beside me in this picture)

African Culture
Dont: try to make sense of it
Do: Enjoy it! There is no place we would rather be, then with these people we love.

Things are different, but who said we were ever doing it right in the first place. We are just learning to be learners again.