Friday, April 4, 2014

An Ode to Dust

Dust, dust everywhere!
Dust in my hair and on my chair
Dust even in the wrinkles of my ear

A quarter inch of dust on my table
I wipe it, but it seems to be stable.
Give it thirty minutes and it will return
It doesn’t get that its being spurned!

The wind daily blows
And the dust it goes
All through the house and air.
Anyone have a lung or voice to spare?

There is a mountain in here somewhere!

I’m so tired of the dust
That I think I really must
Pray for rain to pour down
And tamp this dust all around.

This is the non-dusty view

 Think not that I complain
Although I would not disdain
teaching without it in range
would be a nice change!

It is the time of lent
And I truly do repent
Will you not relent and
keep the dust within me pent?

my dust made self in the Jordan River

My rhyming might be poor
But, Lord, to you I do implore,
Please pour out the rain
So the dust can go down the drain
And end this horrid refrain!

I hope you liked my poem!  The dust continues, but has gotten a little less because we did get a little rain last week.  The one good thing about the dust is that we do get some very nice sunsets.  The same day I wrote this poem, I went to a Bible study and prayer time with some other missionaries.  The horrid dust of the past couple of months was a topic of discussion.  One of the other ladies said, "there is so much dust on my floor, I could almost plant flowers in it."  

So, for all of you tired of the snow and ice and ready for spring, just be glad you haven't been having dust storms :)  Have a great week!

Friday, March 21, 2014

A glimpse and some unexpected encouragement

Sometimes I do a lot of work and don’t really know if I am accomplishing much.  During the February Bible Training Institute class on the second half of Mark, I got a little glimpse from the Lord to show me that some of what I am doing is working.

Let me start at the beginning.  The picture below is a model of the Temple as it might have been during the days of Jesus.

It looks really nice, but it took me many hours to put it together.  I found it while I was in Israel and thought it would be really good to have to show students what the temple might have looked like during Jesus' lifetime.  I thought it would also help them visualize better the parts of the temple and who was allowed to go where.  So, I bought it and thought it would be fun to put together.  I have revised that thought!

 Did I mention that I am not very good with spatial directions?  This is what the directions looked like for putting this 3-D puzzle together.

There were three sheets of semi-cutout puzzle pieces that did not have any numbers on them.  I had to look at the “map” of the sheets that had the numbers on them and then look at the directions and try to figure out where and how to place each piece and do it in the correct order.  UGH!  It took me over five hours spread over two days to put it together. 

I then wanted to figure out the size of the platform that the temple sat on.  The temple was on the top of a mountain.  So, a platform was built up so there would be a flat area for the temple and all its porches and porticos to sit on.  I wanted to make the platform the right size in comparison to the temple that I had.  I’m pretty sure I got the dimensions incorrect.  I needed a mathematician to help, but there wasn’t one handy.  I did the best I could, but I still think it is off.  If anyone wants to help me with the challenge I’ll send you the information and maybe you can help me figure it out.  Then I can re-do the board and have it all ready for the next time the class is taught.  As you can see, I took my numbers and had a friend cut out a large piece of plywood to set my temple puzzle on to show the students.

That went fine, but I do think the platform was too large.  When the teacher got to the point in his teaching when he wanted to explain the temple he asked me to come to his class and show them.  I went and gave them my description of the temple.  I explained it all in Turkana so the students would understand.  I also had some coins I wanted to show the students when the story of the widow’s mite came up (Mark 11:41-44).
I promise, I haven’t forgotten how this story started.  This is where the glimpse comes in.  Remember I was teaching in my English class (in English) and being called out to teach a short bit to the TBTI class (which is taught in Turkana).  The teacher of the TBTI class that week happened to be one of my intermediate English students.  So, I finished my place in my English class and had my students do some in class practice while I went to the TBTI class to show them these really cool coins that are the same type of coins that the Widow would have put in the offering.

two widow's mites
I entered the classroom and took out my coins and started talking.  The teacher kind of laughed at me.  Have you ever been laughed at while teaching and you didn’t say anything funny?  It is a bit disconcerting!  I couldn’t quite figure out why he laughed until he started translating my English into Turkana so the students could understand what I was saying. 

Yay!!!!!!  My English student heard my English and was able to translate it to Turkana!!!  I kept speaking in English just to see how he did.  He only needed a little help from me on one or two words.  Granted, it was a subject he has studied and was teaching and he had seen these same coins in his English class when I showed them in January, but he did it!  That was really exciting and had me smiling for days.  I’m even smiling as I write this now, almost a month later.

Simon, the student in the multicolored shirt was the teacher
Mercy shown in a glimpse of what God is doing.  Many thanks go up from me to the Lord for letting me see in just a couple of minutes that my students really are learning even when I don’t think I see progress.  WAHOO!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Identity and Household items

I will be teaching my next round of ESL classes next week.  Before I do that, you need to know about last month’s classes.

four of the five students and teacher Shadrack closest to the whiteboard

My intermediate students met the week before my beginning students.  We needed to hold the ESL class early so one student could attend class and then teach the next week for the TBTI class on Mark 9-16.  We held the class at the other house in my compound since there were just a few students.  The number of students varies in this class, but I usually only have between four and eight, so it is easier to cook at my house than to set everything up to cook at the school.  This week I had five students and my teaching assistant, Shadrack.

now all of them matching words with pictures

The students were learning about Identity.  We played the “who am I?” game to help them identify the various characters in the story of Peter’s early time with Jesus as a review of previous lessons.  The story for the week was about Jesus asking the disciples who people say that he is and the story of the transfiguration.  These are found in Mark 8:27 – 9:10 if you want to refresh your memory.  It was a fun class and the students were able to identify several people through the course of the week.  At the end of the week they wrote a simple reference letter (from a form) to recommend Peter as a pastor at a local church.

The next week, I taught my beginning students about the things found in a house.  They had a lot of new words to learn.  We covered things found outside the house (on it and around it) as well as the things in the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living room.  As you can imagine their houses don’t look like a typical American house.  So, we got creative in naming the parts of their houses.  Their rooms are found outside the hut but inside their fence.  We drew the hut with the various "rooms" around it and they labeled what they had in each room.  

I took them on a field trip to my house and to the Morden’s house so they could see some of the things that they don’t have in their own houses.  I had written a short rhyming booklet about the things found in a house square or round.  The students had to take the booklet and read it to someone in town and then ask them several questions.  I think they enjoyed the exercise.  They got to take the booklet home and will come back next week ready to read it again in class for review.

They also had to learn about some prepositions.  I used two boxes and a ball to explain the meaning of the prepositions in, on, under, next two, between and above.  We did several fun exercises using these words to make sure that they understood the meaning.  Part of their homework is to look at the pages of their books from this week and write some sentences telling where to find different objects using these prepositions.

"Write 1000 above the circle and your name in it."

Is that next to or between???

In the midst of learning about things in the kitchen, one of my students asked the names of some kitchen implements that are common here in Turkana.  Here are the pictures of these two items.

this is used to form corn meal once it has boiled dry

this is placed around the lip of a pot to take it off the fire

It looks like this when you have it around the pot

I gave them a guess as to what I would call them and then turned to my facebook friends to see what they might name them.  It made for some very interesting comments.  What about you?  What name would you give to these two utensils?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Disappointment and hope

Disappointment filled her eyes.  Cindy Ikai had scored well on her eighth grade test.  She was so excited about her high score that she called me in Nairobi to make sure I knew.  She had been going back to her primary school every day to see if her high school calling letter had come.  We were expecting that she would get called to a national school.  These are the better schools, but they also tend to cost more money.

She was hoping to get called to the Turkana Girls' National School.  It was her dream!  It is the best girls' school in all of Turkana.  Instead she got called to a new school in Lodwar that did not have boarding facilities.  Most high schools in Kenya are boarding schools.  They provide structure, lights and three meals a day so that the students can learn better than they might at home.  I knew it was bad news as soon as I saw her walking into my gate.  Her head was down, her steps were slow and the disappointment was clearly visible in her eyes.

Cindy was the first student I sponsored to a local private elementary school.  I sponsored her to that school because I found the local schools had close to 100 children in a class and often a teacher that taught several classes at once.  Consequently two of her three older sisters were unable to read and they were already in the fifth and sixth grades.  At least at the private school there were only 40 - 60 students in a class and every class had a teacher.  When she entered first grade, I decided to see if I couldn't help her have a brighter future.

I was also very disappointing for Cindy.  It wasn't a school she chose, so we tried to see if other schools would take her instead.  They were all full.  We managed to get her on the waiting list for three girls' high schools in Turkana.  It meant that she had to wait until all the other students had reported and then find out if any did not show up so she could have their place.  We went and visited Turkana Girls' National School to try and get her on the top of the list.  There were a couple girls who had scored higher than her on the waiting list, but it was a good possibility.  There was hope she could still go to her dream school.  Even so, we wanted to make sure she got in somewhere, so her father visited two other schools to try to plead her case and get her on their waiting lists.

The week came for the other students to report.  We called Turkana Girls.  All the girls had reported so there were no openings for Cindy.  Another school was also full.  She was told to come to the third school, Katoboi Girls' High School.  Hope sparkled in the static of that telephone call.  In order to come, she had to bring a desk so that she would have a place to sit.  The headmaster at the school has a very kind heart and allowed her and a few other girls to come even though the school was really over capacity.  It took a bit of time to get all the requirements together.  Cindy would have to work hard to catch up with the other girls.  She had missed almost two weeks of classes.  She had a chance though and she had hope!

Katoboi Girls' High School

The school is off the main roads.  She had more than a trunk and mattress that needed to get to the school.  Transport was hard to find.  I ended up taking her and her parents to the school.  Paulina, her mom, wanted to see where she would be staying.  Cindy's older sister Willamina is a junior at this same school and Paulina had never seen the school.  So, she wanted to go if she could.  One Sunday afternoon we piled in my truck and made the two hour drive to the school.  The good news is that the school is close to Lake Turkana.  Williamina says the girls have some free time every Saturday and they can go swim in the lake.

When we got there, I spoke with the headmaster.  The school was really full.  He didn't want to turn a student with such a high score away from school.  Plus, he knew her older sister and she was a good student and a prefect.  He wanted to give Cindy a chance.  We found out that the dormitory is also very full.  There are not enough beds for all the new girls.  So, Cindy will sleep on her mattress on the floor in the same area where Willamina has her bed.  Even so, she is happy to have the chance to go to school!  The Headmaster is working on finding more bunk beds.

Happy Cindy at her High School
So, the story was closed and I was happy to have her in a good school!  The Lord had turned a disappointment into a hope.  Then, last night her Dad brought me a letter that he had just been given.  It was a calling letter from Turkana Girls' National High School for Cindy.  Someone had pled her case to a senator.  I don't know who it was, but the Senator got the school to send her a calling letter three weeks after they had told her there was no place for her.  At this point, she doesn't know about this letter.  It isn't easy to pull her from one school and send her to another.  School fees would not be refunded, uniforms would be different, the requirements would be different as well.  The Headmaster at her current school was so nice and wanted to give her a chance even though there wasn't really room.  And yet, a senator had spoken for her and gotten her a place, but it was late.

Could you pray for Cindy?  Pray for her to have wisdom in deciding what to do about this new letter.  Remember this was her dream school!  She may not know about it until the end of March when she comes home at the end of the first term.  She could switch schools at that time, although it would mean extra expenses to get new uniforms and other requirements.  It would mean having to make new friends and catch up again in classes.  We aren't sure if Turkana Girls' will let her come if she doesn't come right now.  That would have to be determined.  It is possible that she could finish this first year at Katoboi Girls and try to transfer to Turkana Girls' starting next year.  We don't know if they will allow that.  It is a hard choice and I don't know enough about the system here to give her advice.  So pray for her, for me and for those we might seek to give us advice!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pondering the heart of the Gospel on Day 2 in Israel

I hope you all are enjoying a wonderful Valentine's day.  I know this holiday can be difficult for many people.  I'd like to encourage you if you are sad today.  Just know that you are loved with an everlasting love by the one who made you and delights in you.

I think today is the appropriate day to share the next two places I visited in Israel on my second day.  Sorry for the length of this post, but I think you will enjoy it and agree with its appropriateness for this day at its end.  After the "Mt of Beatitudes" the group headed off in our bus for a place called Tabgha.  I know you might be scratching your head just like I did when I first heard we were going there.  I thought, "Where is that and why are we going there since I don't recall reading that name in the Bible?"

As a matter of fact, it isn't named that in the Bible.  It isn't too far from Capernaum, but a boat would have made getting there a little easier.  It is what some people think of as the "lonely place" that Jesus and the disciples went to after the disciples came back from a mission trip.  Check it out in Mark 6:30-46.  In that passage you will see that it didn't stay lonely for long.  The crowd followed them and Jesus had compassion on them and started teaching them.  But, it was a "lonely" place and there were no restaurants for the crowd to go to when they got hungry.  So, Jesus performed a miracle that we today call the "feeding of the 5000."

an olive press unearthed and sitting in the forecourt of the church
The name comes from the Greek word that means seven springs.  It was changed through the ages from Heptapegon to Et Tapega to Tabgha.  Don't ask me why, as I couldn't really tell you.  It is just the way languages work over the many long years.  This area of the Sea of Galilee has seven hot springs that feed the lake and draw fish to the warmer water.  So, it was a good fishing place too.  

the very famous loaves and fishes mosaic in front of "the rock" where Jesus is said to have laid the loaves and fished
During the first four centuries of the early church the Christians in the area kept alive the memory of Jesus performing this miracle in this place.  They even said he put the five loaves and two fish on one particular rock.  So, once Constantine became a Christian in the 300's, other Christians went to the Holy Land to find Holy sites on which to build churches.  Egeria, a Christian pilgrim in the late 300's, found a church already here with an altar built over a rock.  In 450 a larger Byzantine church was built on the foundations of the earlier church.  There were many mosaics put on the walls and floor of that church.  When it was destroyed by the Persians, many of those floor mosaics remained and were eventually buried only to be discovered again in the 1930's by an archeologist.  A new church was built to protect the mosaics and other artifacts - like the olive press seen above.

This Byzantine church had some of the most beautiful mosaics of the flora and fauna of the local area.  I have chosen just a few to show you here.

The next place we went was very close to the church of the Multiplication and is also in the area called Tabgha.  We walked to the Church of St. Peter's PrimacyIt also holds a long standing tradition from the early centuries of Christianity that this is the place on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection as found in John 21.

There were some stone steps outside this church leading down to the water.  I found several in the shape of a heart.  This is part of the reason why I think it is appropriate to tell you of this place on Valentine's Day.  

They say there were six foundations of double columns shaped like a heart that were used to build a church here during Byzantine times.  Just down from these stones and the church is the Sea of Galilee.  Here we read the story of Jesus and Peter at the end of John 21.  Remember, this was a place that had many fish because of the water coming into the lake from the springs.  There should have been lots of fish for the disciples to catch.  But, they didn't catch anything all night.  Early in the morning, they saw a man on the shore with a fire and fish over it.  The man asked them if they caught any fish and when they said "no" he told them to throw their nets to the other side of the boat.  They did and caught so many fish that they couldn't bring the net into the boat because of the weight of the fish.  They realized it was Jesus and Peter jumped in the water and swam to shore.

The other disciples came to the shore in the boat dragging the full net of fish.  Jesus told them to bring some of the fish they had caught for the fire and Peter went and dragged the net ashore.  It had 153 large fish in it.  Then they all had a breakfast party right there on the beach.  They had fresh caught fish and bread and the presence of the Lord to fill them up body and soul.  

When they had eaten, Jesus began to talk with Peter and He gave him a sort of commission.  He asked Peter if he truly loved Him more than his fishing buddies (the other disciples present).  Peter replied, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."  Jesus then told him to "Feed my lambs."  I'm sure you know the rest of the story - Jesus asked Peter three times variations of the question "Do you truly love me?"  and three times Peter answered "yes" with varying degrees of exasperation.  Jesus commands him to "Feed my lambs", "Take care of my sheep", and "Feed my sheep" after each affirmation from Peter that he does indeed love Jesus more than anything.

After reading this passage, we were given time to visit the church.  I joined others in walking to the shore and putting my hand in the water - just because I was there and could do it.  I decided to just sit a while and listen to the waves come to shore and to reflect on what Jesus was asking of Peter.  In a way, this was Peter's chance to wipe away his three denials of Jesus with three confessions of Jesus.  It is a picture of forgiveness and grace.  Not only did he deny Jesus, but Jesus is telling him to do the work of the church by telling him to Feed his sheep. 

It seems to me there is something of the heart of the Gospel in this story - not just for Peter, but for us.  What is the Gospel?  The good news that God has redeemed us for himself and no longer calls us "sinner" but "child."  What are we to do?  First and foremost, we are to truly love Jesus more than anyone or anything else.  We are disciples of Jesus if we know and love Jesus and are known and loved by Him - in other words, if we are His sheep.  Once we have our relationship to Him figured out or at least in process, then we can in turn feed others with the amazing good news of the Gospel.

Imagine yourself listening to the waves break on the shore.  Imagine being filled up body and soul with good food and the presence of Jesus.  Imagine Him asking you, "your name here, do you truly love me?"  How will you answer?  Is there anything or anyone that is standing in the way of you saying, "yes, Lord, I love you!"?  If you say, "yes", be prepared for Him to tell you to feed His lambs.  How will you do that?  What are some ways that you know you love Him and He loves you?  How can you tell those stories so that you are helping the Holy Spirit fill someone else up body and soul with the love that Jesus has for them?

What do you think of my idea that there is something of the heart of the Gospel in this story?  I just thought on the day we remember love it would be good to also think of the heart of love that God showed to us in Jesus.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Happy Birthday! January ESL

As soon as I returned from my vacation to Israel, I jumped into two ESL classes.  My beginning class was already started when I got to Lodwar.  The intermediate class was the next week.  Shadrack, my teaching helper, had started the beginning class and continued to do most of the teaching that week.  I  filled in with extra information to make the class more fun.

Fun!  "Fun?" you say.  Yes, fun.  This week of class my students were learning about birthday parties and some common feelings.  So, I got to make a birthday cake.  I forgot to take a picture, but it was lots of fun.  It was a vanilla cake with sprinkles added before baking.  I frosted it with chocolate icing and added some more colorful sprinkles.  I even found some birthday candles in Nairobi before heading to Turkana so I had five candles on the cake.  This was our fifth class since starting last July (August and December are off months for school here).  

Everyone in the class had been assigned a birthday during the first or second class.  Most Turkana people do not know exactly when they were born.  They guess at a year.  So, I took the year they guessed and assigned birth dates throughout the year for each student.  They know these birthdays are only for class, but it is still fun to have a date to call your own.  Anyway, the students learned the "Happy Birthday" song and learned about parties and blowing out candles.  They even learned the words for cut the cake.  I also got presents for each student and wrapped them in colorful paper.

The presents were helpful for their ongoing studies.  They included an exercise book, a pencil, pencil sharpener, eraser, two pens and a fun party toy.  They each made invitations and gave them to classmates to come to the party.  They also made a Birthday card for one of their classmates.  So all the students were invited and got to celebrate their birthdays at the same time.  We sang and wished happy birthday to the English class and then enjoyed some cake and juice.  The Students were very happy with their presents and played with the toys for quite a while.  We had colorful plastic discs flying all over the classroom from those toys.  All in all, it was a good class.

The Intermediate class began well, but didn't last long.  The class started on Tuesday and our numbers were down.  We had half of the class gone.  January is a hard month in Turkana.  It is drought season and people are hungry and looking for good grazing for their animals.  So it isn't unusual to have smaller classes.  This was the case with the beginning class too.  On Tuesday I brought in some teaching items that I bought in Israel.  It was so much fun sharing them with my students.  I also showed them many pictures.  We talked about what Galilee might have looked like to Jesus and the Disciples and then I showed them a little of what it looks like now.  They really enjoyed the pictures.

Tuesday was also the day that I woke up with a sore throat.  All day long as I taught I was slowly loosing my voice.  I called Shadrack and asked him to come help me teach the next day as I wasn't sure I would be able to.  We played "Who am I?" Tuesday afternoon so I didn't have to talk as much.  Each of the students was pretending to be some character from previous Bible stories that we have studied.  The rest had to guess who they were by asking yes or no questions.  It took some time for them to understand how to play, but eventually they got it.  It was fun, but it was clear by the end of the day that I did not have any voice left.

The next day one more student had to leave for a meeting.  So, we were down to three students and me with no voice.  Shadrack could have taught the lesson, but he wasn't really familiar with what needed to be taught.  So, I decided to just send the students home and save the lesson for February when more students might make it to class and hopefully I will have more of a voice.  That class will be next week and my voice is still iffy.  So, I'd appreciate your prayers!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Mt of Beatitudes - Israel Day 2

Israel Day 2 brought many sites and churches.  

It seems like Byzantine Christians (4th century and onwards) wanted to mark everyplace that might be related to Jesus with an elaborate church or shrine.  Kind of like when Peter wanted to build three tabernacles/ shrines on the mountain when he saw Jesus transfigured and talking with Moses and Elijah (Mark 9:5).  At any rate, when those churches were destroyed, they were rebuilt by the next group of Christians that came to the Holy Land.  Many of these original sites were traditionally the place where certain events took place and so that is why a church or shrine was built there.  Of course it was several hundred years after Jesus was walking around, so tradition could have it wrong.

Each day of this trip was full of places to visit.  I may have to divide the days up a bit so that my posts aren't too long.  The first official day we spent around the Sea of Galilee.  As we left on the bus, I snapped this picture of an early morning boat.  Fishing was banned in 2010 to try to replenish the aquatic life and it was unclear how long that ban will continue.  So, this boat at a distance helped me imagine the disciples fishing.

photo credit - images
This map will help you see some of the places we went on this day.  We started out going to the Mt. of Beatitudes.  If you look in your Bible, you won't find this place mentioned!  It is called this because this is where they think Jesus might have done some of his teaching - specifically the Sermon on the Mount.  (Mt 5-7, LK 6).  In Matthew it says that he saw the crowds and went up on the mountain and began to teach them.  In Luke it says he was up on the mountain and called the 12 apostles then he went down and taught them at a level place.  This could be the place where Jesus taught, but even if it isn't, it would be somewhere in the vicinity.  So we visited this place.


This is very close to Capernaum where Jesus seems to have been based during much of his time in Galilee.  It is also a natural amphitheater from the top.  So, Jesus could have taught here without raising his voice much and with a crowd below him or around him.  It has a wonderful view of the Sea of Galilee too!  The above pictures were taken below the Church that was put up here in the 1930's over an ancient church that was crumbling.  The next pictures are inside the church.

looking up into the dome - fish swimming around the water or in golden water
means - Praise You Christ!

The church also had some beautiful gardens around it where one could contemplate the words of Jesus and the beauty of the area.  As I think about the whole Sermon on the Mount as found in Matthew, it seems to me that Jesus is calling us to love as he loved.  He asks us to be humble, gentle, merciful, peaceful and to persevere under suffering.  He tells us to give up worry and to rely on him.  He calls us to live our lives so that even our enemies can see our love.  He tells us we will be known by the fruits we bear.  Are we growing and showing others the way to Jesus and thus producing good fruit or are we producing bad fruit by withering in his presence due to lack of abiding in him and showing the world that we can't rely on God?

This stone mosaic of the fish and bread reminded me of Jesus' words about a father giving his child a stone when the child has asked for bread.  Jesus goes on to say that our Father knows how to give good gifts to his children who ask him for something.  

Go back and read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7.  Imagine yourself in the crowd or sitting with the disciples listening to Jesus give this teaching on this hillside.  Be overwhelmed by how amazing this teaching is!  Jesus finishes by saying that the one who hears these words and does them (yes, not just hears but does!) is like a wise man who builds his house on solid rock rather than shifting sand.  Those people on that hillside went away from this teaching amazed.  Are you?  He taught like one who really knew what he was talking about, not like the teachers of that day or even of today.  He knows the Father and he knows how we should live.  I pray that we will all be like the wise home builder.