Monday, December 18, 2017

The Many Expressions of Tiger and T

Our first morning with the puppy, all four of the kids were intrigued but scared as she has a strong puppy desire to lick, nip and chew.  It turns out our puppy could not be sweeter or more laid-back with kids, but also, really, really sick. There is a vet in town who has given her shots the last 3 days, we hope she is on the mend!

Anyhow, Jon turned the camera from the puppy to babies as these two sat chumming in their jimmies and while trying to get a smile, here are some of the shots captured.

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A bit confused about the smiling part.

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Starting to warm up for the camera

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I love this one, especially because it shows the elusive teeth I can hardly ever capture in a photo!

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And then the snuggle. These two melt me! 

Currently, we are without internet unless we can hit a working wifi spot in our nearby town. (Timing power and wifi network isn’t easy). We are safe but please pray with us for peace in the country and wisdom as we move forward. 

Also, this Saturday, friends from another city are coming to visit and to do a drama about the true meaning of Christmas. Pray for this with us and the hearers are open and receptive. Please pray for protection and a distraction free time. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tie-Dye Coloring

Western Christmas is quickly approaching (Ethiopian Christmas is January 7-it looks nothing like our Christmas). We love the kids in our pasture and have such a desire for them to know about the significance of the baby in a manger. Pray with us for open doors and opportunities and soft and understanding hearts. 

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A few girls came over to color. This is an easy way to bless and one many of you have contributed to by sending crayons and coloring books. The pictures that are colored are then used as wall coverings on the mud walls of their homes. 

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I was so impressed by little Bete and the way she caught on to try and stay within the lines, though she has maybe held a crayon twice in her life. 

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The coloring style usually is usually a bit of a tie-dye approach. I think there may be a lack of understanding of the object being colored (though this wolf could be identified as a hyena). It’s a bright addition to any wall. :)

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Crack me up. It seems Miss T’s face is saying, “Wait, I thought I wasn’t supposed to put these in my mouth?”.

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Because I Needed More Things To Keep Alive

As you can’t hear my spoken tone, let me just say the title is sarcastic. :) We’ve added three animals to the crew AND…

The girls are 8. 8. E.I.G.H.T.

How did this happen!?

We see in them a need for consistent friendships. They work on relationships here and have some sweet little “pasture friends”.

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We are all thankful for these relationships but also recognize that it doesn’t fill them up like a friend from a more similar background would. This has so many dynamics but I’ll leave it here for today.

Enter Jon’s idea of getting animals. These sheep actually are very low work for us and managed mainly by our guards. The guards love having sheep and say this makes us “rich”. It also provides the kids with creatures to love and care for. 

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Bitti and Benji and two shepherd girls. For the first week, afternoons involved a bit of this. Now I push them to get out and watch the sheep. They’ve decided it’s…boring because “the sheep don’t do anything!” We have had some good lessons on shepherding and empathizing with the neighbor kids who spend a whole day tending the flock in the pasture. 

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Speaking of friends, these four are buds. 

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This was a special day…dressed in their “gardening outfits” they planted flowers.

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The same week we added sheep, we also added…

A Puppy! I was overwhelmed as Wendu dropped off the shivering bundle of fur. I have enough children to focus on right now. We made the puppy promise to the girls the day our dear dog died. What parents will do to alleviate grief! ;)

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Tiger loves the sheep. Just not this close. 

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He cracks me up.

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He must feel this is a safe distance.

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Miss T on the other hand is a bit more like…”Why are you putting me beside this fluffy thing and how are you going to fix it?”

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These babies are reminding me of twins now!

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Here’s Miss T, so happy she climbed up the wall and Tiger claps for her. He legitimately celebrates her accomplishments.

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 He can’t quite handle the temptation of laying on her while she crawls by…it is like an open invitation to hug her.

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Miss T has been busy, in one day, saying three words in context! “Hewwoo” (hello) while putting something to her ears, in the above photo, calculators, “Up” and “Mama”.

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And there are those two teeth she had to fight for..

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And then sweet Tiger, watches a process one or two times before trying it himself! My current favorite phrase of Tiger’s is used when his hands emerge from his shirt sleeves and he greets his fingers with a “Hey guys!”

Thanks for your prayers, Asmarich is still sick but can walk on her own now!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Darkness Cannot Overcome It

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:5&9

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Preparing for Christmas in more than just decoration, lights and gifts, God has graciously been working in our hearts to take time and marvel at the miracle of Christmas. Peripherally, situations feel like the darknesses is darker than the light can penetrate. This season, my heart is raised upward in hope and awe when I think of God becoming flesh, baby Jesus, Light of the World, lying in a manger. (On a side note, it is also making me want another baby…this only last for about 3 seconds and then my thinking brain takes over my feeling brain. :) ).

The ache for our neighbors to have this hope is tangible. I think of Simeon again and again this year, yearning, waiting, spirit groaning to see the Messiah and his response upon seeing Him, becoming my prayer for the Awi “for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”  Luke 2:30-32

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I think of Asmarich lying in a tight ball in the corner of the dark hut, shaking and tiny as sickness overwhelms her body, Betelehem, her 5-year-old daughter, curled up beside her.

Meteku’s widow, two surviving children, two in the grave, trying to do the work of she and her husband, no man around in a culture where he’s necessary for life.

The 6 and 4 year-old girls, with no mama as she hasn’t returned home, the baby, who, praise God is growing on the formula, but doesn’t have his mother’s arms. I think of the woman, alone and unable to return to her right mind.

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Heavy situations around me are a list longer than I could write, BUT, there is GOD. There is the Light of the World. There is Hope. Will you continue to pray with us over these situations? 

We have hope! Because Light has come into this broken, crumbling world and He is healing us in our broken places.

We live in a pastoral community, where are neighbors are looked down on, they are “just farmers”. Countryside people, “just shepherds”. Shepherds who know what the cold of a long night watch feels like, shepherds who watch their flock as a way of life from early childhood. 

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And the angels shone in heavenly array to THEM, The lowliest, maybe the people who needed hope the most. 

Oh come let us adore Him! 

 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thanksgiving, Old Turkey and All

 Ah, finally, our dry season is in full swing. We are enjoying the sunny days (though the nights are COLD), the blooming of the Meskel flowers and our little corner of the earth. 

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Holidays bring us joy but American holidays bring mixed emotion as no one around us is celebrating and we scrape together the remnants we can find to truly celebrate. The girls are missing our families and church family so much as go into this year’s holiday season. 

On Thanksgiving this year, we were thankful for the abundance of food and relationships God has given us here. Friends like family. 

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We were hosted by Mark and Debbie and we graciously offered the small turkey breast that has been sitting in our freezer for over two years. The 11 months we were gone, power was regularly cut but, it was TURKEY and it was at the bottom of the deep freeze, so we sniffed it, inspected it and Mark cooked the turkey and the stuffing over the fire. The smell was delicious and we said an extra blessing over it before we dug in. 

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We all agreed we are extra thankful for a feast in Ethiopia because it’s not available everyday.

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These babies think Yeshi is pretty great…which fits well with us because we do too.

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We overlooked Mt Zerehee

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And sang songs praising our King. (Eliza is back! She arrived on Tuesday and is with us until mid-February.) She is a very talented violinist.

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And Little Miss T was waving on purpose for the picture. 

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Jon has a “joy journal” in which he writes 5 things he is thankful for from the day before every morning. I am challenged to start one as well as taking a moment to be thankful each morning changes my perspective for the day. Here is Tiger and his “cheese” face that he makes every time he sees the camera. 

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So thankful for Mark and Debbie, who God has given us to walk beside us in this season of our life.

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And our crew, messy and imperfect but beyond thankful for each member!

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 We wrapped up the day with an American football game in our front yard. 

May the beginning of your December be blessed!

 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Sheep Butcher and Right Versus Wrong

 Happy Thanksgiving! This is not a Thanksgiving post as it’s been written and sitting here for awhile. I’ve been waiting to get pictures from Jon’s phone…the pictures I have are incomplete but at night time, when I finally sit down to blog, my brain feels…umm…tired. See, I can’t even think of a more creative way to say it right now. This post also makes me so sad as we were with Meteku and now he is gone…This is still hard. 

Onto the old post from October 15th. :)

On Saturday, we were visited by Challie’s dad. He wanted to invite us for their house for lunch on Sunday. We were supposed to be there at 11:00 am. In Awi culture the more important the event, the more last minute the invitation. If we invite for something very early, it’s shows we have little value on the event itself. 

Our family was thankful for the invitation, thankful to praise God together for a successful surgery for Challie and that his leg is healing! We arrived around 11:20 because we hadn’t planned enough time for the long hike to get to their hut.

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(this whole hike was especially funny as Whitney forgot to change out of her slippers until it was too late and she wore little slippers the entire time.) Meteku is in the background here, in the maroon scarf.

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Miss T was hauled along by Jon and Zelalem. Tiger prefers to be in a carrier. 

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The end of the hike near Challie’s house.

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Warm greetings were shared and then a wonderful time with the entire family, including extended family. We were served injera (our staple bread) with cabbage stew, boiled potatoes and spicy seasoning. Then the coffee ceremony started, we were around 2 hours in and normally, this is when we farewell and hike home.

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Whitney had taken the kids out to pet the sheep outside near the barn and while they were out, the sheep was untied and then brought into the house.  It quickly dawned on me that the party was just getting started because that sheep was to be the main course. In Awi culture, meat is eaten around 3 holidays a year unless you are invited to a wedding or a momentous special occasion where it is also served.

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 If you have had the opportunity to have your meat butchered in front of you, you know that from the start of the butcher to the meat being served is several hours if everyone works quickly. Inside, I had this inner-conflict as I didn’t know how I would keep four kids going for several more hours and I definitely didn’t bring enough water (and had forgotten the toilet paper). I was fighting my Amy cultural value of efficiency. In my home, if guests come, I try to have everything as ready as possible before they arrive as to not make anyone wait. If I continued to keep on that lens, the sheep being killed in front of my eyes was extremely rude and I might even go so far as to say it was wrong.

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Meteku and Challie chop the meat into pieces.

I whisper-freaked-out to Jon and then thought about this phrase from pre-field training, “Different isn’t wrong. Different is different. Wrong is wrong”.  This phrase has been unparalleled as it has helped me through many different situations. We learned to take any “twangs” where we would label “weird” or “wrong” to the Bible. In God’s Scripture, that is the only place where we discern “right versus wrong”.

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Challie’s family, from their perspective, were giving us the highest honor they could bestow to thank us for our involvement in their lives and it was lavish and far outside what they can afford. Culturally, to sit for a day and be served dish after dish, share coffee, homemade beer and conversation while we do nothing but sit was thanking us.

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And it was beautiful…and hard. The kids rocked the whole scene (as did Whitney) and we were so proud of them. We made it back to our house, honored and filthy and stuffed and flea-bitten around 5 pm. We had to cancel a dinner we were supposed to host as well as friends who were driving by and were going to stop for tea. The change in plans were all okay.

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On Monday, as I reflected back on the whole day, God brought to mind how I would have missed the blessing of the whole event if I had not stopped to consider how another’s worldview, another’s life experience was different from mine but not rude, not wrong. As a human, my tendency is to devalue someone else’s experience as illegitimate if I don’t have a shelf to put it on or a similar experience with which I can compare it.