New Eyes

Its been nearly two weeks since our feet set back onto Canadian soil; Africa seems a bit like a jet lag induced dream sequence.

People keep asking me if the experience in Kenya was ‘life changing’. In all honesty I can answer no it wasn’t.

No. Life is the same. The dishes pile up. The children didn’t even last a week back to school before they were infected with the 7000th virus since September. There are bills to pay. The water pipes freeze. I’m dreadfully behind at work. The parking police finally caught up with me (I like to live on the edge).

Life is still life, replete with the daily grind and mediocrity that tends to overpower if we are not careful. If we allow our thinking to be ruled by only the immediacy of what is before us. If gratitude becomes less than our driving force when we are face down in front of gift giver. When worship becomes a Sunday activity as opposed to a way of life.

Despite all that, my eyes have changed. When my pipes freeze? I remember the 364 days of the year when the water is pumped from my very own well, into my hot water tank, and into my sink to run over my dirty dishes from making my kids too much food.

I am thankful not for the material though, more than ever I am convinced that it is often the material that blocks our God communion, our joy. Our experience with the extraordinary people we met through our trip with World Vision reminded us how little our bliss has to do with what is before us and how much it has to do with what is within us, what is beyond us. How setting my heart right, on the things unseen helps to make my eyes see clearer, truer. Makes Joy shine in the darkest of days, makes Hope rise in the most unexpected of places.

Thankful today for:

663) Treehouse picnics.

664) A story about Mangoes and Coconuts fighting aliens, falling in love, living on an island and having baby mango-nuts. By Owen and Emily Feddersen. The memories I hope to rock my chair to when I am old…

665) A beautiful read.

666) New journal day…delayed but always my delight.

667) “Big family snuggles”

668) A lovely ski yesterday. Thanks Suzy!

669) Lots of extra love from little people.

670) Girls night out

671) Too much work…but work that I love.

672) Beautiful, snowy days.

673) A long hot bath on a Sunday afternoon.

674) This man of mine…having spent our first month EVER completely together…How much I just plain LIKE him.

675) A first successful board game with both the kids

676) A slower week ahead…

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Things I Never I Thought I Would Do: Worshiping With Maasai Warriors

I expected it to break under the weight. I was fully prepared for my back to sway and distort with the whole mass of Africa firmly planted on that point between my shoulder blades where burdens tend to congregate.

Miriam- Community Health Worker

It didn’t happen though. How could I justify a break when the people here speak of their hope? The woman who leads this support group for HIV positive people opens the meeting by saying, “Thank you friends for being so brave to come and share today with our friends from Canada. They have come to hear us so that they can tell more people your stories. These are some of the people who helped to pay for our program”. And all the Maasai turn to us and nod like we are the heroes and I gasp at the thought for I have never been more inspired by someones heroism.

Here under the acacia tree Miriam begins her story. How she was left alone in her bed, dying from the infection and from the misery of being abandoned by her community when World Vision came to her. They assisted her with accessing anti-retroviral medications. They trained her to be a community health worker and to reach out to other HIV positive people in her community. She says “And now each day, because God gives me one more to live, I know that I have a purpose, that we will help more and more people in our community”. This community with twice the infection rate of the rest of Kenya; more than 13 %.

Here we sing songs of praise in the tongue of the Maasai to a God who would give them opportunity to live another day because HE HAD A PURPOSE FOR THEM. I tried to clap as we sang but the tears rolling down my face made it hard to keep a rhythm. The smile on my face impossible to hide. And they cried THANK YOU FOR TAKING CARE OF US GOD. JESUS WE NEED YOU.

The stories are of new families formed in this support group. Of orphans given homes, of new friends sharing all they have. The stories are rich in bravery and grace. I am covered in flies; we all are and still I can’t think of looking away, of leaving. This tree? It’s on fire with the presence of a God who finds the sick and the broken and weaves us all back together into something that matters, something beautiful.

And beneath that tree when the stories are all told, when the prayers are said, when the songs cease, we eat together. I sit with my new friend who I can communicate with only through touch and through spirit. She holds tight to my hand after we eat and soon her son comes up and he translates for us.
“The people in this community will not eat our food. They think it is cursed. She wants you to know she would have had me kill one of the goats for you if she thought you would eat with her. She is very honoured and blessed that you shared this meal with us”

Those goats are life and livelihood to these people. I sip deeply on my tin cup, enjoy my tea mixed with goat’s milk and ginger and I know that this has given life to my dry bones too.

Do you want to be a part of this story too? Join us!

Learn about the communities we are visiting here. We will visit Garba Tulla (a new project just a year into development) as well as Masharu (a village that is 12 years into its World Vision development cycle).

You can follow our Flickr photo stream here.

Or sponsor a child from Garba Tulla here!

We will do our best to update this blog frequently as well! See all World Vision related posts here.

What if the whole world changed?

Garba Tulla main street

Its hot today when we pull into the Garba Tulla region. The security was tight here on this road that leads to Somalia, here where guns were being smuggled. Here where the rain didn’t fall for three years. Here where life has been hard. The people here are pastoralists, they herd their flocks over 40 km sometimes to find water and over these years of no rain more than half the cattle has died.

Imagine you are a muslim, a single mother in the midst of this.

When the water stops flowing.

When the rain stops falling.

What would you do with three starving daughters?

Sponsored child Khartoom and her mother

The whole of your life you have been told that Christians have horns and tails, but the people who come to your door that call themselves World Vision don’t seem to have horns (though they could be hiding their tails). You are not the first of your community to be approached, and you know that these people will make no demands of you, they put no conditions on the help they are offering. It isn’t long before you accept the assistance.

They come to visit your child once every 90 days. They are kind and gentle and when food is short they bring some, when medical attention is needed they help figure out a plan. When your daughter misses school they notice and help you figure out how to overcome whatever barrier there is.

The trek to the fish farm

And it isn’t just that. They tell you of other opportunities for your future. They mention a women’s collective that is forming. Together you sit with this group of strong and brave women and you dream of a future together. World Vision comes to some of these meetings and they mention the idea of a Tilapia farm. The fisheries department of government comes too and they agree to train you and oversee your operation while World Vision will support the build and supplies.

So much of the livestock have died these last years and there is a need to diversify assets, to find other food to eat.

Suddenly you find, that your children are well fed, that there is something in you that feels like hope and things start to change.

Child sponsorship might not change the whole world. But to you? It feels like it has.

Won’t you consider being a world changer?

Learn about the communities we are visiting here. We will visit Garba Tulla (a new project just a year into development) as well as Masharu (a village that is 12 years into its World Vision development cycle).

You can follow our Flickr photo stream here.

Or sponsor a child from Garba Tulla here!

We will do our best to update this blog frequently as well! See all World Vision related posts here.

Planks

It was in the airport that it really got to me.

The people next to me in their matching mission trip t-shirts. Those that would come to this land cloaked with a pity that serves to only disenfranchise people further. Those that would come with simple solutions for the worlds most complex problems, those exactly like me.

Suddenly and without warning my whole body cringed. I wondered,

“What do you think you are doing here?”

Mercifully the paleness of my skin illuminated the plank in my eye.

So Kenya? I just wanted to tell you something. I know there is nothing about you that needs rescuing by a doofus like me. I am here hoping that the brokenness in you and the brokenness in me can come together to do something that looks like kingdom work. That Jesus can weave us into something beautiful. I’m dreaming that my time with you might just loosen the white knuckle grip that I hold to the material. Perhaps in that I will someday be able to climb through that needle hole.

I’m imagining my conversation with Emily someday when she is 14 and full of teenage self-righteousness, questioning my integrity in the face of famines past I will be able to say I stood beside you.

But today? I am just here to listen to what you have to teach me.

 

And just a note? We started reading “When Helping Hurts” by Corbett and Fikkert. It is an extraordinary read. Not just for the traveling in the majority world but for EVERYONE. SO good.

Learn about the communities we are visiting here. We will visit Garba Tulla (a new project just a year into development) as well as Masharu (a village that is 12 years into its World Vision development cycle).

You can follow our Flickr photo stream here.

Or sponsor a child from Garba Tulla here!

We will do our best to update this blog frequently as well! See all World Vision related posts here.

 

Peanut Butter on Toast

Giving is complicated. I know.

You hear about the abuse of funds, the bureaucracy, the way that charity sometimes does more harm than good (more on that tomorrow).

Its complicated.

Except when it’s not.

Pat and Kara made a friend here. M was living in Northern Uganda when the LRA was running rampant and full of terror.

She was a child bride at 13 married to an abusive man.

She was a mom at 14 and soon after that she was left single as well.

Somewhere a long the way, M came to work at the eMi office part-time where the Aylards came to love her. M had a dream to open a shop to sell peanut butter.

First batch of peanut butter M made

M had taken the initiative to rent a shop space and was getting her peanuts that she roasted ground by someone else. Pat thought he could find a better design for a grinder so he found something online and commissioned a local shop to make the machine.

Picking up the grinder from a metal shop

Pat contacted Joel to see if our youth ministry would partner on this to help fundraise to buy it.

We played a short video for the kids at our Christmas banquet. The kids came through with twice the amount needed to buy the machine. So yesterday we headed to Ms house for tea and roasted peanuts.

The children ran down the street to greet us and were intrigued by the mzungu who had come to visit. M showed us traditional dances from her tribe and we watched music videos.

Dance party in Ms house

Dance party in Ms house

Joel played soccer with the boys while I took pictures of the children who kept running by the door longing for me to ‘take a snap’ of them (they loved to look at themselves on my camera).

After our visit we headed up to Ms shop to have a look and unload the grinder. She was thrilled.

Our trek to Ms shop

Giving doesn’t have to be complicated. It is about loving the people around you and using the assets you’ve been blessed with the compliment those of another. It is about coming together in partnership to reach goals. None of us can go it alone.

The shop!

Through Pat and Karas mentorship and research.

Through some awesome Canadian youth who will go without a trip to the movies.

Through Ms determination and courage, progress towards a dream was made.

Sometimes giving is as simple as peanut butter on toast.

 

Learn about the communities we are visiting here. We will visit Garba Tulla (a new project just a year into development) as well as Masharu (a village that is 12 years into its World Vision development cycle).

You can follow our Flickr photo stream here.

Or sponsor a child from Garba Tulla here!

We will do our best to update this blog frequently as well! See all World Vision related posts here.

Preparations

“Thanks so much for breakfast mommy, that was so yummy”

I smirk, laugh a little. All I did today was throw some frozen blueberries in a bowl.

“Oh sorry. I don’t really know how to say that yet.”

He thinks I am laughing at him.

“Owen! No, I only laughed because it was so easy to make. That was the perfect thing to say. I’m sorry! Did I hurt your feelings?”

“No, its ok. I don’t mind if people laugh at me…”

And my heart breaks clean open in my chest.

It is just so easy to add to the broken parts of the world. To add onto heart aches.

This Christmas, we’ve been thinking a lot about how to build in this broken world. How to join in the great work of REDEEMING. Really believing that each and every moment is an opportunity to join in the act of building up, or to join in the activity of tearing down. A moment to heal or an opportunity to destroy. Jesus came to this place to restore…I want to join him in this…every opportunity I can. But no one knows better than I do that most moments I will not get it exactly right.

But that is ok.

We can only join in the work. We have never been called to do the whole of it.

It has been a strangle hold of meaning to prepare for our trip to Africa simultaneously as we prepare for Christmas and thinking about how to partner with the One who longs to use us for tiny acts of good. I have no illusions of grandeur when it comes to things like this. I can only, perhaps, find a friend far away who I can encourage in their work, find a way to help in tiny and small ways, to join in the bits of bringing redemption to the broken and the truth of it is that if I keep my heart right, I could do the very same thing here, in my own home.

But it is all messy this thing called life, the celebration of Christmas. It has never, ever been neat and tidy.

‘ – starting with Mary and Joseph. It doesn’t come with domestic tensions sorted, with worries filed neatly away, with sickness tamed, with grief healed, with pain relieved. But it does celebrate, not only a baby who came, but who grew to be the rescuer of humanity and the true model of what living looks like. He has come to our mess.
-Jeff Lucas (thanks Michelle!)

And how about you? Will you step into the mess this holiday too? Will you do everything you can to bring tiny bits of PEACE ON EARTH? In your home? Far away? Everywhere you can?

Our year is a little different and you can join us on our Kenyan adventure here:

Learn about the communities we are visiting here. We will visit Garba Tulla (a new project just a year into development) as well as Masharu (a village that is 12 years into its World Vision development cycle).

You can follow our Flickr photo stream here.

Or sponsor a child from Garba Tulla  here!

We will do our best to update this blog frequently as well! See all World Vision related posts here.

On Saying “Yes” to the things I can’t Un-see…

I’ve been hesitant.

These thoughts ravaging my brain?

The ones sneaking into my dreams, habituating my thought life, taking over my reading time?

I wondered, ‘what could happen to my heart if I saw them in thin flesh and only bone?’

Could I keep my head and heart together with the things I can’t unsee?

I’m still not sure.

But when a burden lands square and sure on the middle of your chest, you can only do one thing.

Say “YES”.

Yes to the things you can’t unsee, the ones which might very well turn your world upside down and inside out and rip your narcissism out at the seams. Yes to even these things.

I am learning to trust the things I can’t unsee to the one who is Unseen, because isn’t He big enough? I sure hope so.

We said yes to Africa today. And not just Africa, but yes to her Horn. To the land where the soil blows on the wind. To the place where the land is as thirsty as her people. We will be just hours from one of the largest refugee camps in the world today. We will be in the village  we’ve made it our dream to support.

We are going. I can hardly believe we are going.

Please join me on our journey with World Vision Canada as we seek to bear witness to the atrocity that is occurring. As we seek to use this burden so heavy on both of us, to bring awareness, hope and help to a hurting region. We leave January 2, 2012. Feel free to get your prayer on starting now…

Also…if you feel so inclined…