Sunday, December 30, 2012

Change of Plans

We were excited. We were going on a day trip with a group of friends to see the waterfalls and eat lunch.  It took us about an hour to just get out of Conakry.  We had to navigate our cars through a sea of crowded taxis and vans, animals wandering beside...and in the road, and people everywhere trying to sell something through our window.  
Slowly the crowd thinned, cars dispersed and we came upon forests and fields full of green vegetation. The paved road continued for about another hour and we would occasionally pass small communities.   Finally, we turned off the road onto a dirt path that weaved several miles through one small village after another until we arrived at the waterfalls.  The restaurant takes a while but they made great food. The kids frolicked and swan in the river and we all drove home exhausted and happy with our day.

....well, that was the plan, anyway.

Actually, we only made it to where we turned off the paved road.  At that point, some men sitting by the road began to motion to us.  We stopped and they warned us not to continue saying that the falls were closed. Confused, we got out of our vehicles to talk to them. Since several of my friends spoke the local tribal language, we scored big points.  They began to share that all the villages down the road had gotten together and decided that the owner of the restaurant should drill them a well for drinking water.  Until he did, they were blockading the road with trees and sticks and refusing to let anyone pass.  My Man and his buddy decided they wanted to check it out themselves. So, they left the rest of us with the villagers there and went to find adventure.  They told us to come for them if they were gone more than 40 minutes.  
I said if they were gone more than 40 minutes, we were leaving them.  

Since the Smith Kids make themselves at home everywhere, it only took a few minutes before they were off running through the village with all the local children, playing with a monkey, climbing in and out of a pit, digging in the dirt and having a ball.  
See for yourself.

At one point, Little Aggie was chasing some of the boys with a large stick threatening to...well,ok, actually, hitting them.  One of the locals who knows this particular tribe told me that the boys like to beat up on "foreigner" boys as sort of a test to see if they belong.  
He passed.

We were getting up on 40 minutes when our men came driving up in a cloud of dust. They had spoken with the village chief and elders and won their favor.  They decided to grant them permission to park in their village and walk to the waterfalls.  But he warned them that no cars must come through or the other villagers would likely kill them for allowing people in.  
That's where they lost me.  We're going home, I declared.  
My Man and his friend seemed a little surprised that I didn't want to partake of the spoils of their hard-fought victory. 
We loaded up and headed home for a last minute barbecue, swimming, game time and lots of laughter.  

So, it wasn't the day we'd planned but as I once again learned...

that is life with a wild Man.  (Both of them)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Now that I have seen...

...I am responsible

I have heard this song many times before...but I didn't hear it until today.  I was sitting at my desk working and all of a sudden as she sang the words "Now that I have seen, I am responsible", I understood.  

I think of Pastor Mike who saw the suffering of war-torn orphans and took responsibility to house, clothe and educate them.  

I think of Esther who saw mothers dying and their babies following along and took responsibility to feed them.  

I think of my closest friends, the DuPrees whose feet follow their eyes.  Wherever they see suffering, they run with JESUS toward it.  

I think of my parents who saw the city without foundations and took responsibility to engage in building matter the cost.  And it cost.  

We will walk through this world and see many many things.  If we are willing, there will be times that GOD will open our eyes and we will really see...a situation, a need...but always a person.  
When that happens, you are responsible.  I am responsible. 
GOD open our eyes. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Suffering is a teacher.

I have had a heavy week.  It's been a heavy year.  I know that the things that grieve my heart are small compared to what many people have been through and are going through.  Yet, pain is a personal thing, isn't it? When it enters our lives it knows just how to reach those deep places and when it does, it taps right into the center of our ability to receive a teaching.  
Suffering is a teacher.

Yesterday my Man, my kids and a few friends went to Call of Hope to deliver some CHRISTmas presents.  They knew we were coming. When we arrived, one of the teachers met us and said, "we've prepared a table for you" It was set up at the front of a dark, extremely crowded room.  They had placed their best tablecloth on the table and set up a fan to blow directly on those seated at it.  
The kids had all prepared something to perform for us.  The youngest little children sang a song, the older kids performed skits and danced tribal dances and many of the children quoted Scriptures from the CHRISTmas passages of the Bible.   Every part was precious. The children are taught from very young how to speak in front of people. There's no stage fright, no one too shy. On their turn, each child would come to the front and say "Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, Instructors, Colleagues and Students of this Honorable Institution"  (I loved the irony of such a grand statement in such an incredibly humble setting.)  Then they would continue with giving their name and what they intended to recite.  
Nothing compared to one sweet girl in a little brown dress. She was probably the age of CurlyGirl.  
When she walked up to recite her verse I noticed her eyes had tears.  She began to recite and as she said each word, more tears came. By the end of the Scripture, the last few words of the verse were spoken through her sobs.  She finished and walked off still crying loudly.  
She wasn't nervous.  She wasn't scared.  
She was crying because she understood the words she read: "Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men."
It made me wonder how I could have ever read that verse without crying as she did.  
It is probably because I hadn't read it as one so familiar with the kind of death that steals life from children every day.  
Suffering taught her the reality of GOD's Word. And it teaches me. 

Suffering creates communion.

For the first time this week, I felt like I was not a visitor in Guinea any more. I felt like I was one of them.  How could I even pretend to understand or think I am part of the life here if I don't suffer as they do?  When I drive down the streets, even their faces look different to me snow.  I feel a connection to them.
Suffering creates communion.
 This week I lay down on my bed and cried like a little child. I cried for the injustice and the suffering and the poverty that is like a plague among the people I love. When I looked up, my housekeeper was standing there....crying too.  
Suffering creates communion.
I grieve over Abu. It hurt me that he never belonged to anyone.  I shared that feeling with a wise friend. She corrected me, saying that exactly the opposite was true! He belonged to many, she said.  Everyone who knew him, loved him and felt invested in his life. In a way, he was all of ours.  I think she is right.  His suffering made us all feel connected to him. 
 Suffering creates communion.  

I don't like suffering. I don't want it.  But I know I need it.   It has a way of making life real, of driving out the unimportant and the wasteful. It makes you grasp the things that are right and real and true. 

So, that was my CHRISTmas gift this year:  suffering.
I didn't ask for it but I am so grateful.  
Without it, I wouldn't be so hungry for my other CHRISTmas gift:


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Abu died last night.
My friend called to tell me. I went home to tell my kids.
I arrived at my house to find that I had to deliver other bad news to the guard we love the most.  He put his hands on his head, bent down and began to wail.  
From my living room, I could still hear him crying...although I am not sure how I heard him over my own.
Then the phone rang with more bad news from one of our closest missionary friends here.


Now I know Africa.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I keep a file in my email inbox called, "Keepers".  It's for the emails that I never want to delete.  Like whenever my Man sends me a little note that shows me he is still completely mad for me.  Into the Keepers file it goes.
My heart is kind of like that this year.  It makes me think of Mary. At least twice in the Gospels we read that "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart".  I don't really understand all that that means, but I get this much: the moment stuck with her. In that breath, the reality reached the depths of who she was.  
The year is winding down, and as I look back over it, I have treasured up several keepers of my own. 

* Watching my man deal so straightforward and so tenderly with one of our employees who was in pain, that at the end of the talk, all he did was embrace My Man and sob.  Did that make my Bull-Riding, Wildhearted Texas Man pull back? Not a bit.

*  Walking with my kids and watching a man stand in front of his one room hovel, reach out with a piece of bread and offer it to my well-fed, healthy little boy.  

*  Being told by a local  colleague, "I really trust you."

*  Driving home one evening and seeing a boy the same age as Little Aggie asleep on the street cuddled beside his mother.  A normal sight here but it wasn't normal to me this time. This time, I saw my boy reflected in his ebony frame.

*  I once passed a fruit stand where I passed in time to see a nursing baby reach up to touch his mother's face while he ate. My babies did that. That's normal. Not just normal for Africa, normal for America...and Asia and everywhere. We're the same. We're sisters.

* Teaching a zoology lesson on hyenas followed up a couple hours later by a spontaneous discussion with a friend describing to us her first hand account of watching lions and hyenas in Kenya.  The lives people live!

To Be Continued... 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

And we did it again...

I remember once, many years ago, my Man and I decided to visit a "Mom and Pop" restaurant for breakfast. We had heard it was really good and were excited to finally find out for ourselves.  When we walked in, we knew the rumors about it must be true because even at that early hour it was already filled with people. We saw an available booth in the opposite corner and began weaving our way through the crowded tables to stake our claim.  We sat down but slowly grew frustrated when no one came to take our order. Finally, we were able to get the attention of a server but she seemed confused by our attempts to order food.  We started to think we were in the twilight zone. After several minutes of sitting there commenting to each other about the lack of service, a man stood up and in a loud voice, called the room to attention: "The meeting will now come to order."
A few moments into his welcome, we deduced that this was a political party gathering.  The speaker said he noticed there were some newcomers (that would be us) and he asked us to stand up and introduce ourselves to the group. My Man, ever unshakeable, rose to his feet and said, "Good morning, my name is A and this is my wife.  We're very supportive of this political party...but actually we just came here for breakfast."
By the time my Man was donating money in the hat they passed around and commenting on the subjects they discussed, I was laughing so hard I couldn't even speak.
We never got breakfast.

Last night was a little bit like that.  Really, I blame the language barrier.  A local friend invited us to a soiree she was helping put on.  I didn't know what that was, but it sounded fancy.  So, we got all dolled up, got a sitter and went out.  It was at the fanciest hotel in Conakry (a little perspective--they still don't have toilet seats.)
On the way there we inspected our tickets (all in French) for a clue of what exactly the event was that we were attending.  No clue.  We shrugged it off as probably just another party.
We were one of the first to arrive. Our friend was there to greet us as we entered. She directed us over to the area for cocktail hour before dinner.  My Man and I got our drink and positioned ourselves where I could sip my fruit soda and we could try to figure out some clues from the other guests who were streaming in.  No one spoke to us, they all seemed to know each other.  When a photographer came by and snapped our photo, we joked that we hoped this wasn't some type of radical meeting to overthrow the government or anything, now that there is evidence of our attendance.
Finally, a short man approached us and said "Esku vous Francais?"  (Are we French?)  The dumb looks on our face answered that before our mouths could.
 "You're American," he said.
Then he continued with, "What are you doing here? This is a meeting of the French Ex-Pat Association."
I responded, "We're here to foster good relations between the French and American communities in Guinea"
That bought us some street credit for the moment, but we quickly learned we needed some tie to France. Imagine how excited we were when we realized all we had to say was that we had parents in Paris. (Texas....but we could leave that part off)
 Three more Frenchmen walked up while were talking and  like a script, each of them said the same thing: "You're not French. What are you doing here?"
You know, in America that would actually be considered rude but we understood they were being...well, French.
Eventually, we won them over, and by the time we were directed into the "ball room"  for dinner they had saved us a the front.   We enjoyed a delicious meal, flown in from France, survived the storm of second-hand-smoke, danced like Frenchmen, and then slipped out before our babysitter abandoned our kids at home.

So the evening was a little awkward, at first, but our new French friends welcomed us in with an amazing measure of hospitality.  And somewhere in our evening, the memories of those two hungry, young twenty-somethings came back.  And with it, a flood of gratitude that three kids and three countries later, there I was with the same dark-haired stud....
still laughing.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Moving Me

I wonder how many words we hear in one day?  I bet it is a lot.   I know that about once a day I will ask my kids, "How do we listen?"  (This is more of prompting to make them listen than it is a question.)  They respond with, "Our eyes, our ears, our heart, our hands and our undivided attention."

Obviously that's our ideal, not always our reality.  However, I would guess that of the thousands of words we hear every day, there are at least a few of them that snap us into that type of listening.  I wonder what those things would be for you.  Blogging is fun, but it is terribly one-sided.  Today, in particular, I wish I could hear each of you tell me what things captured your ear. 

These things got my eyes, ears, heart, hands and undivided attention lately:

* My Man and I went to the orphanage to talk to Pastor Mike.  We had a great talk, and as usual I left feeling extremely humbled and so grateful that I get to know such people as these.  In our conversation we discussed the inconsistent electricity that is life in Guinea.  The schools here are coming up on exam time and he told us that around this time all the kids crowd at the airport in the evenings to sit under the lights in the parking lot. It's the only place with enough light to study.   

* Our missionary neighbor was rejoicing with us that he just put up some solar panels.  For the first time in 9 years they'll have a refrigerator and be able to freeze food!

*  Prayer request time on Fridays with my friends is one of those times that leaves me intrigued.  A few from this week include more than one request for friends with AIDS,  frustration with doctors here who won't even tell people they have it a lot of the time because the news is a death sentence so they think it's better if they just don't know,  another request for a friend who is in a situation here that is frighteningly similar to the one portrayed in the film "Not without My Daughter".  There were requests for multiple missionary families who have faced such hardship and sickness that they are weighted with discouragement, and some are returning to the States.

*  I was on a walk with my kids a few days ago and traffic was especially heavy.  I kept directing their path around the vehicles that would come from various directions.  In the middle of all that, I thought  how I want my kids to grow and learn to avoid danger without helplessly waiting for my direction. Then I heard something...well, maybe I didn't so much "hear" as I did sense the LORD was teaching me something.  I think that's what HE wants for us too.  We are HIS children and HE wants us to grow up! When we're little we need to be told to do everything.  As we mature into someone like our FATHER, though, we will start acting and responding like HIM without even stopping to ask, "What do I do here? and here? and here? and here?"  For me, the times I am doing that, fear is at the root of it.  I am afraid of messing up. It is easier for the LORD to just tell me what to do than it is to just walk confidently that HE has supplied me with HIS SPIRIT to do it!

May GOD give us all ears to hear! (and eyes and hands and hearts, too)
Keep listening Beautiful Ones!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Eye of the Beholder

This week I have been (not really) helping a colleague put on a fancy schmancy art exposition featuring local artists.  The opening night was a reception complete with cocktail dresses and wine.  If I am being honest, I find that whole aspect a little silly.  It's like dress-up.  It's not reality. Reality is the flip flops and brightly covered fabrics on the impoverished people in the trash covered streets just meters outside the walls.

Still, I went. I dressed up, I put on makeup and I smiled at the other people there pretending, believing, they are really important.  I let Curlygirl go with me. She was excited. She loves art.  For an entire 30 minutes she was intrigued by the paintings and sculptures.  She was ready to leave after that, but settled for serving drinks with her African friends who were running the bar.  Every now and then while I was in conversation with someone I would see her pass by with a tray of glasses destined for washing. She would smile sweetly at me and wrinkle up her nose---which meant she was really excited about getting to act all grown up working with the wait staff.

The paintings really were something of beauty.  Each artist had poured his and her heart and soul into these works. They had something to say and so they painted it.

Yet--not one of the pieces of art that were displayed could compare to the beauty of something I had witnessed earlier.
In preparation for the exposition, we had contacted carpenters to help us hang some of the pictures on the displays.  I had gotten busy with other things but as I passed one of the rows of displayed art, I came upon one of the carpenters, an old man whose posture reflects the time.  He wore his work uniform and clutched a hammer in one hand and a measuring tape in the other.  There, with his frame and frock a perfect contrast to the art he studied, he stood too busy to even notice I was watching him...I didn't mean to stare but I could not help it. He was lost in the painting he beheld.
It was beautiful. I wished I had my camera. I knew that nothing in the building was as beautiful as what I was seeing right then.  That's a gift, isn't it? To recognize a moment is "a moment" when it is actually happening.  Well in that moment, I knew I was seeing something special.

In a few hours I would be surrounded by wealthy people who would use intellectual terms to describe the art they appreciate.  They would speak of depth and technique. I knew, though, that it doesn't take intelligence or achievement or success or status to really understand and appreciate art.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Abu...The Rest of the Story

Buckle your seatbelts. This is going to get wild.

First--an update.  Abu was in the hospital for a few days after he left my house.  He is with Esther for now so she can care for him.  We thought he was better, but this morning he began wheezing and running high fevers again.  GOD help that sweet boy!  Pray for him now, even as you read this. we go.
Esther called me yesterday and told me she had news.  Esther and her local helper at Babies Without Milk  spoke with Abu's grandmother and reasoned with her to allow Abu to be given to a family who could care for him.  It had become obvious his grandmother couldn't/wouldn't care for him properly and had no money to feed him.  His grandfather is blind and so the grandmother spends most days leading him around to beg...with Abu on her back.
The grandmother absolutely refused.  So, they began to look for other members of his family who may be able to take him in and care for him.

That's when she found out...

that Abu's mother is alive.  After a bit of investigative work, D (Esther's helper) found out that the woman with Abu, the woman who claimed to be his grandmother, the woman who claimed to have lost a daughter, was nothing to him.
Here's what happened.  Abu's motheris in another village and has other children. While her husband was away for a long period of time, she got pregnant by another man.  In a desperate attempt to hide what she had done, she birthed Abu and then secretly took him to a nearby village and gave him to someone who would take him.  The woman who took him, his "grandmother" probably saw this as an opportunity to increase her begging income.  Babies like Abu really encourage generosity.  And skinny, sick looking babies, really tug at the heart and the pocketbook of people. I don't know if this is why she couldn't/wouldn't keep Abu well fed and healthy when she had him but she probably never intended for him to grow as ill as he did.  From the beginning, Esther had told me that something didn't seem right with the grandma. She couldn't understand why she never took the desperation of Abu's health more seriously, why she would laugh when she should cry.  She knew it was strange...but none of us saw this coming.

That's not the end. Now it gets really good.

Meet Jarah.  She and her husband are local African lovers of JESUS.  They have never had their own children but always longed for them.  When her brother gave her his two children to care for---as often happens here--she gladly did it. She raised them from infancy until the ages of 3 and 12. Over a period of time, the three year old died of illness and not long after, the twelve year old lost his life in a car accident.  Death. It's a huge part of daily life here.  I cannot grasp it.

Back to Abu.  With the truth out, Esther is now able to get the proper signatures for Abu to go to a family.  So, she made a phone Jarah.

Jarah and my friend Annie, another local missionary, were at an orphanage asking about a baby.  The orphanage was telling her they only had a baby girl.  "My husband was really hoping for a boy." Jarah replied...  *ring* *ring* went her phone. It was Esther.

I don't know how this story will end.  The whole thing sounds like it is from a movie.  It sounds exaggerated and made up...a lot of things here sound like that. Some of them are...some of them aren't.  So sweet little Abu's story was made up after all....but this one wasn't.  And ooooh it's just getting good....

"then you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free..."

What a world this is.  Stay tuned...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Just Two

A= Abu

Abu is sick. He went back to his grandmother a couple of weeks ago, but whether from neglect or ignorance...probably both...he isn't cared for. He could be healthy. He could be strong. 
Esther still checks every week to make sure he is gaining weight. Last week, Esther called me and told me that in their last check she found him very sick and almost completely unable to breath. Her helper didn't think they'd make it to the hospital.  They did and have returned daily to get treatments. I've seen him almost every day since then and it doesn't seem like it's working. He struggles to breathe and struggles to eat.  He sounds terrible.  My friend J, a missionary doctor, saw him on Friday at Bible study and said if this were the States, she'd put him in ICU right away.
But this isn't the States. It's Guinea. I find myself saying that a lot.
Esther's working off very little sleep and never leaves him.  She came over last night to spend the night so she could sleep while I took a shift. Two hours later I burst into the room where she was finally getting some rest, flipped on the lights and handed Abu to her---he was gasping for air and fighting for breaths.  I was scared.
My Man drove them to the hospital where our little buddy has been on some form of a ventilator through the night.
After they drove off in the dark, Little Aggie woke up and stumbled into the living room. Something had woken him.  I took him back to his bed and laid beside him. Next to my healthy, strong, little man, I pondered a world where a little baby like Abu struggles to live, and has no family who even seems to notice and at the same time, little American boys like Little Aggie don't know hunger or need.  He won't have a single hurt or sickness that doesn't immediately have the attention of medical professionals. He knows love and attention and so many people care.
The only ones whose hearts are entwined in the welfare of Little Abu are a small band of missionaries, and me... and you.

B= Boiro

I meet with two amazing women to pray over the KING's matters in Guinea.  I'm not in their league, but I am not going to miss any chance to be among them and learn.  Following the LORD, we have specifically taken up praying about the corruption in the government.  Since then, one thing after another has come--lice infestations, sicknesses, even deaths.   Then, a couple of nights ago as I was just crawling into bed, gunshots rang outside our house.  
I didn't know then that one of  two women I pray with had just lost her dear, long time friend and walking buddy. A woman who was a warrior for truth within the government = Aissato Boiro.  
Official: Guinea treasury chief assassinated, amid probe into misuse of state funds
By Associated Press, Updated: Saturday, November 10, 3:00 PM

CONAKRY, Guinea — A medical official says the head of Guinea’s treasury has been gunned down as she was driving home.

The forensic doctor who examined the body of Aissatou Boiro after she was brought to the morgue Friday night said she had two bullet wounds to the chest and died of internal bleeding. He requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the subject.

Her colleagues say that she had made enemies by launching an investigation into the 13 million francs ($1.8 million) that went missing from the state coffers.

“The national Treasury is a sensitive department.  We don’t name just anyone to lead it.  She was an honest woman who was against all forms of corruption.  But in Guinea all of the cases of large scale embezzlement happen at the treasury department.  She became inconvenient for certain predators who are in the government” said Idrissa Camara, a former official at the treasury.
Boiro was named to head the country's treasury eight months ago by President Alpha Conde. Guinea has a long history of allowing officials to pillage its treasury. During the last years of ex-President Lansana Conte's rule, employees of the treasury said they would routinely see the president's convoy drive up to their building and leave with bags of cash. Boiro had zero-tolerance for corruption and was intent on putting an end to the mismanagement of state funds, say two of her colleagues.
Aissatou Boiro worked tirelessly against corruption in our young democracy," said  President Conde, elected in 2010 on promises he would tackle endemic corruption in the world's top supplier of the aluminium ore bauxite.
"Even though she was taken from us in a terrible way, her work will not be in vain. Despite the difficulties, our fight against corruption will continue. Our country has come too far to turn back now," Conde said in a statement.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

JESUS loves me

Africa was in me before I was in Africa.  I could hardly contain the desire I had to sit in her dirt surrounded by beautiful little orphans, to hold her children and watch my fair skinned little blessings play with their African brothers and sisters.  GOD has richly satisfied this desire, even while HE increases it.

Let's have a little perspective before I get to the point.  Our time here is brief. I could look at how we live and what we give and think it's something special. But it isn't, really.  My friend, Li, proves this. 
Like us, Li is only in Africa for a brief period.
I try to make sure we send a plate of food down to our guards whenever we eat. I don't usually send it on our every day dishes. I send it on a plastic one that they can't break.   I've been at Li's house at mealtime.  She sends a plate out to her guard too....on a silver platter, with her best dishes. She sends coffee with cream in a pretty little cream bowl, sugar in a bowl with a spoon, a napkin and all the extras. It looks like she is serving royalty. 
That's how HE likes it.  

Whenever I go to the orphanage, I always make a big deal of it (because it is to me) but Li has gone to her favorite orphanage at least every week for months and months.  She has poured her life, her wallet and her efforts into them.  I have a lot to learn from her.  

And yet, I still love the story GOD is writing with me, too.  Last week, when I was at Call of Hope I sat in the only small area where the orphans at the school can play and I had more than 20 little 5-7 year-olds in a circle around me. I was teaching them some of the songs I've known since I was very young. You probably learned them too---JESUS loves me, If I were a butterfly, things like that.  Only, this time as I watched their sweet faces as they tried to learn the songs, the words came alive again.  Words that didn't hold the same value to me in my safe little home, in my safe country, with a mom and dad who adored me and followed JESUS.  Words like "Little ones to HIM belong"  and "YOU gave me JESUS and YOU made me YOUR child".  Words that, to an orphan, mean you have a family. Words that mean you are someone's child. Words that mean you belong. 
I taught them another very simple song that goes like this, "JESUS JESUS let me tell you how I feel. YOU have given me your SPIRIT. I love you so."  This was their favorite. They caught on pretty quick and kept practicing it.    
When it was time for me to leave, and they returned to their small concrete classroom, I heard their voices behind me as I walked away, still singing it.  
My kids and I went back yesterday to play and sing some more.  When we arrived, my kids immediately dispersed to go hunt down their playmates.  I walked toward the little classroom of the young ones. They poured out and got into a circle around me.  Then, very loudly they began to sing in beautiful unison, the song that, in one week, they had made their own. It was the "JESUS JESUS" song I had taught them, but it wasn't the same as when I taught them. They sang the words with their accent now, their volume, in their way.  
It was breathtaking.  

That right there? That's my JESUS. Making HIS NAME great (Guinean-style <3)

Saturday, October 27, 2012


My prayer buddy, a local missionary, recently visited the States and when she returned she brought me the new Passion CD, White Flag. I am totally hooked on the song "10,000 Reasons (Bless the LORD)"  I was worshipping to it on my IPod while I watched the kids swim around the pool this afternoon.  
Before we went back into the house, I stopped to talk to my guard. He is a lover of GOD and I knew he would really enjoy the song, too.  So, I passed him my headphones and told him I wanted him to hear a great song.  He was amazed by the IPod and so I spent a moment introducing him to the technology. (They still use tapes here...if you don't know what a tape is, I am not sure you're old enough to be using the internet unsupervised.)  
Eventually, he positioned the headphones on his head and I started the music.  I let him listen while I walked nearby and sat down on the front steps to wait.   It was only a minute or so into the song when he'd already caught onto the tune and was singing aloud, "Bless the LORD, Oh my soul. Ohhh my soul. Worship HIS HOLY NAME. Sing like never before. Oh my soul! Worship HIS HOLY NAME" 
I sang along quietly with tears stinging my eyes.  We've lived here 10 months and I still cannot believe I get to be with these beautiful people.  
When he finished the song, he brought it back to me and gushed, "That was really great!! Here, we do all our songs with just a keyboard and drums. But that song had all the instruments!!" He was overwhelmed.

There it is.

Immediately, my heart was again reminded of a truth that burns within me.  The body of JESUS is like an orchestra.  The whole orchestra isn't in one place, in one location.  My guard's church has the keyboard and drums, maybe mine has the violin.  Maybe yours has the flute.  Where we go wrong in this life called CHRISTianity is that we find what we like and what we believe and when we figure that out, figure out that we are a clarinet, well then we find other clarinets to worship with us and teach us and fellowship with us.  We cheer: Hooray for clarinets! We can start to think that clarinets are really the way GOD likes HIS music played. And HE does like it!  
Perhaps we can get to where we acknowledge that GOD uses other instruments like the violins down the street, or the weirdo holy rollin' tambourines across town. We can smile sweetly while we listen to the other instruments and we say things like, "Bless their hearts." We might even mean that. We might have fellowship with the other instruments but can we come to the realization that
 GOD wants us to actually play together?
Not just be able to acknowledge or hear other instruments, but to actually play along in harmony?  
What if we could accept that we are clarinets and not violins but that we need the violin to make HIS music correctly. To know that the clarinet won't sound as good without the violin and the oboe and the harp and the piano? We need each other to make the really great music that GOD wants the world, and us, to hear.  

Oh how beautiful it would sound!!  

Friday, October 19, 2012


I was right. Today was even better.

At prayer time today, one of the missionaries showed up with this little sugar.

This 6 pound bundle of sweetness is over 2 months old. Pregnant, his young mother left home with no word of where she was going.  Her mother claims to have searched for her daughter for months. Finally, a couple of months ago she received a phone call from a hospital: her daughter was there. She had delivered a baby boy and she was dying.  The mother,confused, tried to explain to them that her daughter was not even pregnant. Finally, they convinced her and she came down to the hospital in time to touch her daughter's unconscious face before she died.
Grieved, she took baby Abu and went home.  With no milk and no money to buy milk, she fed the baby tea for two months. When she saw Abu's skin sagging and the ridges of his bones protruding through his scalp, she consulted the Susu witch doctor for help.  He gave her "medicine" that began to destroy Abu's little liver.
About three weeks ago the grandmother brought the baby to my friend Esther.  The baby had never had milk and the dehydration was severe.  Esther asked if she could keep the baby with her and feed him milk until he was better.  The first week he gained a pound.  Now he has had milk to drink for three weeks. Those who saw him from the beginning say the change in his appearance is profound.
Esther and the other missionaries all pitch in to help take care of him, and I was beside myself when she offered to let me have my turn at caring for him for a couple of days.
He arrived dressed only in a diaper and a little shirt that his grandmother had made. It didn't fit and hung open in the front. His wrinkled little body couldn't stay in the pair of baby doll pants someone had tried to put on him.    I showed the baby to Curlygirl. She rummaged through her doll clothes and found one of Little Aggie's old onesies she uses to dress her baby dolls.  It fit Abu perfectly.
All the boy needs now is a little milk moustache and he can be the poster child for
"Milk, it does a body good."

Want to know the crazy thing? Abu is the 9th baby to show up in desperate arms to Esther this week. And he is #253 of all the babies she is currently feeding. Every one of them lost their mother. Every one of them without milk.  It's just overwhelming.  I want to help her feed every starving, orphaned baby in Africa. But, that's not really possible, is it?
Maybe not, but I CAN feed this one <3

Good Day

Yesterday was a good day.

A Muslim friend of mine stopped by to visit. I've known him since we first arrived in Guinea and could see that GOD was drawing him. He is hungry for truth, a GOD seeker.  And as we know--if you seek GOD, HE promises you'll find HIM.
He began to talk to me about the sacrifices of bulls and goats.
It was time.
 The LORD opened my mouth to tell him about a blood sacrifice that covers all sin once and for all.  Blood that, when it covers your heart, makes you right before GOD.  I told HIM about JESUS who stands in for us at the judgment, not just for the sinless life I needed, but also stands in for me for the perfect, right life that I couldn't achieve. I told him about Cain and Abel. (He knew about them.)  I told him about Abel who approached through blood and was accepted and about a blood that speaks better than the blood of Abel.  I told him that I can see he seeks truth and that if truth is what he really wants, GOD will give it.  "If you want HIM, HE will not refuse you". I assured him.
He answered, "I want HIM. I want HIM."
At those words, I choked up and managed to say "HE wants you!"
Even now, I can't stop the tears.  

Another good thing from my day. Curlygirl taught a darlin' little African girl to swing!  She's about 4 years old and never been on a swing.  It was great <3.

My Man fired one of our guards. I cried, the kids cried but to no avail. My Man was determined.  About 24 hours later, he told me he decided to show mercy and keep him.  That was good, but not the best part.  When I delivered the news, it wasn't just the guard who was grateful.  At some point in the day, our other employees came up to me and expressed their gratitude.  I don't mean that they just said "thanks". I mean, they responded as if they were the ones who were given the second chance.  It was so precious and so genuine. I was humbled by the way their lives were intertwined with their friend's.

This morning started with some hip hop worship and tears appreciating the GOD who loves to be worshipped in every style of music.

I think today is looking to be pretty good too...  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lost Cause

In a world of expedience and convenience and love of all things shiny and new, I am grateful these days for a GOD who is all about lost causes.  What a contrast HE is to all of us…to me, especially.  I remember in the States, I had no time for things that didn’t function properly.  When my toaster broke, I threw it away and bought another. Why invest in repair? That takes time and after all, it’s so easy to just get a new one.
GOD isn’t like that.  In fact, I think HE really enjoys the process of taking the lost cause and making something wonderful, valuable and useful. 
By now, there’s no hiding that I am hopelessly addicted to list making. So let’s just go with it…

My favorite lost causes as of late:
In a country where worshiping JESUS is restricted that a lot of people wouldn't even bother, my friend told me of a girl who introduces herself to people this way:  “Hi, I’m ____, I’m a CHRISTian”  She attends a “secret” church but isn’t all that secret about it.  She obviously wants others to know about JESUS.  HE really is a hard secret to keep after all.  All that hope and joy and forgiveness HE gives just make HIM irresistible. <3

There are many CHRISTian churches here in Guinea, but some of them fly under the radar. They are secret churches for Muslims who serve JESUS.  I have heard of one woman in particular who spends her days covered from head to toe—literally—in black veil.  At meeting time, she enters the church, removes her veils and worships JESUS.  Then before she leaves, she redresses, and returns to her Muslim family.  Every time I see a black cloaked figure in the market now I wonder---is that really a lover of JESUS behind that veil?

My missionary friend tells how her parents were shocked to learn she was getting married…at almost 40 years old. She said they’d given up thinking she’d ever tie the knot. She has two kids now! Woohoo! Lost causes rule!

Guinea.  Undoubtedly a lost cause to many. But GOD sees something of value here (and it isn't the bauxite).  I see HIM pouring out HIS love and concern for the people of this land.  I see it in the Mercy ship choosing Guinea of all places to come to. I see it in the missionaries who've given up lives of convenience, lives where the holidays are filled with family to lives poured out for the LORD and poured into the people of Guinea. I see it in the way HE is quick to answer the prayers we pray for it.  A couple weeks ago,  when a couple friends and I gathered for prayer, the LORD led us to pray for a work in the government, specifically that corrupt, tainted leaders would be removed.  Three days after we prayed the President, in a surprise move to clean house, dismissed 11 Ministers in his administration who were linked to corruption and the military junta.

And finally, my most favorite lost cause:
This girl.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Love List

Since The Republic of Guinea turned the big 4 yesterday, I decided to celebrate their National Holiday by thinking on all the things I love about this place!

*  They call robbers, "bandits".  I don't know why I think that is so cool.  Somehow it makes me feel better when my guard tells me the gunshots outside my house are "bandits" and not just plain old criminals.

* Watching women walk with heavy loads balanced on their heads and a cel phone up to their ear.  It's the meeting of the worlds.

*  Everything is a community event. Very commonly it is hair braiding.  The women sit outside for hours patiently weaving braids into each other's hair.
which brings me to the next thing I love...

* Guineans are pretty darn patient! I've never seen them get irritated because they've been kept waiting.  They think Americans are always in a rush and find it terribly rude that we jump into business talk...or any talk before going through the whole rigmarole of asking how they are, how their family is and how their children are doing. (Why do we rush that part, anyway? Isn't that stuff way more important than anything else we have to talk about?)

*  During heavy rain, there are entrepreneurial little boys who go to the flooded parts of the road and direct you around the pot holes.  They do it whether you pay them or not...but they're in it for the dough.  I am thrilled to reward those clever little chaps!

* I don't particularly like birds. But if I did, I'd love to be a birdwatcher here.  They have the most bizarre, wildly colored and interesting birds I've ever seen anywhere.

*  There are some crazy wonderful trees.  Trees that make it feel like you're in Narnia: Huge and twisted and magnificent.

* They call bragging, "bluffing".   Of course it is...

*  Hands down- favorite thing = Babies on backs

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Better Off Hungry

After a couple days of "civil unrest" (a euphemism for riots and tribal warfare) things in Conakry finally calmed...well, maybe not to a state of calm but at least to a state of retreating to regroup.  I was glad...and I wasn't. Because somehow, the break in the fighting doesn't feel like peace. It feels like halftime.

My friend Al is from the Susu tribe, who are the indigenous tribe to Guinea, and also the ones who have stayed out of the fight between Malinke and Peul.  I heard experts give their assessment,  but no one summed it up as well as him...and he barely speaks English.  "Malinke love power.  Susu love power."
Yep! That's about it.
Yesterday another local friend and I were talking and commenting on the brief calm we're in right now, he said, "They will fight until they get hungry. Then they stop. It is when they are not hungry, they make trouble."

Ouch.  This leads me to the other thing that has been weighing my mind lately.  Back home in the good ole' US,  some of the churches I adore are in hard times.  They may not realize they're in hard times, but they are.  They are attacking other parts of HIS body, parts of HIS body that truly love and serve the FATHER. It makes me angry. But my African friend hit the nail on the head. "When they aren't hungry, they make trouble."
and the American church is not hungry.  Not yet.
We're rich and fat and church is a club... because it can be. It costs nothing to be a devoted church member.
 So, with full stomachs and lack of need, we cause trouble. We complain and pick one another to death and  get mad when they won't dance to our flute. We have our precious law (our rules of the club) our doctrine, our denomination and we have made the KINGdom of GOD a matter of talk. And oh do we talk... But JESUS said that the KINGdom is a matter of power.

This sounds harsh, doesn't it?  Dang it.  That' not what I want. I don't feel harsh... I just feel sad.  I really wish I could sit and tell you this post face to face instead of as words on a screen.  I wish you could hear the love I feel for the body of JESUS in America and the sorrow I feel at our failing.  I want HIS church in America to get that being the church means that your life is JESUS.  And life in HIM is infinitely greater than a political party or a denomination or a religion.  I long for us to be hungry for JESUS, to be totally consumed with loving the brothers, to find our fellowship in the SON...just the SON...not in our preferences or personal convictions.

I long for us to stop devouring one another.
 It's ironic, isn't it?  That it usually takes persecution, need and hunger to make us stop eating one another.  
A hungry church won't spend their time nitpicking others in the body and tolerating personal sin.   They are too busy fighting the real enemy!  They are too hungry for REAL FOOD to waste time with the empty snacking on other believers...they want bread that satisfies---the UNLEAVENED BREAD.  The BREAD that brings fellowship and unity and brings us back to the simplicity and reality of life--JESUS. Beautiful, Satisfying, JESUS.

GOD make us hungry

Friday, September 21, 2012

If you read this blog...

and have grown to love Guinea as I do---pray for their peace right now. Conakry has erupted in tribal violence and it is spreading so quickly. Pray for HIS people to wear their boots of peace right now and cause it to cease. Ask GOD to protect HIS people and show HIMSELF great.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Mouths of Babes

These are wild days we are living in.  The Bible is reading like the front page of the newspaper. And in this generation where HE is so actively revealing HIMSELF, and the plans HE determined before the creation of the universe are playing out in real life, something else very marvelous is happening.
HE is showing up in our children. I am seeing GOD display HIS greatness through small children and the uneducated, simple, reliant lovers of GOD in Africa.  
In the GOSPEL of Luke, from an overwhelmed heart, JESUS' burst out with, "I thank YOU, FATHER, LORD of Heaven and Earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children!" 
That's how I feel lately!  HE is doing things in my kids that blow my mind! They know things, see things, experience things, understand things that GOD alone has revealed to them.   I love it!
 HE loves it!! 
HE gets all the attention when simple, humble people are the outlets of HIS glory. 
Isn't that so freeing?  We can study and chase after GOD for the simple joy of knowing HIM better--not to be more qualified.  HIS qualification is a humble heart!

There is nothing in my life I feel more urgent and passionate about, nothing I pray about more, nothing I talk about more, nothing I want more in all of life than this: for GOD to pour out HIS SPIRIT on and in my children.  
I ache for the people of Guinea to come to JESUS.  I ache for my friends and family members who are not under the LORDship of JESUS CHRIST to come to HIM.   I want to minister to those around me but I don't even want any of those things more than I want my own three little blessings to belong to and love JESUS with every fiber of their being.  It would break my heart to end my life having won many people to the LORD if it meant I ignored the three that GOD planted right in my own home. Sometimes I wonder if that's wrong.  
See, I told you I was passionate about this.   

I know that many of you recognize what GOD is doing, the urgency of HIS call on us to prepare our children, to train them, to be intentional, to raise up lovers of GOD (not church kids).  It is for you, that I share these verses, they are constantly part of my conversation with the FATHER for my own children.  
GOD is doing this thing, y'all!  HE is using little children---let's be part of what HE is doing and pray pray pray that our own children may be included! 

(Discovering them yourself is half the fun. Happy Hunting!)
Ephesians 1:17-19
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
Psalm 112:2
Joel 2:28
Isaiah 44:3
Isaiah 28:26
Jeremiah 1:5-9
1 Samuel 2:35
Deut 30:6
Isaiah 49:1-3
Isaiah 54:13
Psalm 8:2
Psalm 90:16
Isaiah 59:21
Isaiah 61:9
Gen 28:13-15
John 4:24
1 Cor 1:9-12
Eph 3:14-19
Philippians 1:9-11

Go on! Talk to GOD about your kids. HE has plenty to say... and then say it all back to HIM <3
May GOD be shown beautiful to the world and HIS body through our children!!!


Saturday, September 8, 2012

All Aboard

Thursday afternoon I stood in Starbucks and drank a caramel latte.

18 hours earlier:

We received a last minute email inviting us on a tour of the Mercy Ship.  It had arrived in Guinea the previous week and greeted the city by inviting its sick and wounded to be screened on September 3rd.  In something straight out of the GOSPELs, over 3000 diseased, deformed, crippled, tumored, burned and blind people descended on the People's Palace for their chance at healing.  
I wasn't able to be there, but many of my friends and colleagues were.  One of them had the task of escorting out the ones who couldn't be helped.  She said she cried disappointed tears with them the entire day.  Many of them would return to the end of the line and try again.   One mother brought her baby for help to my friend *Tammy who told me she could literally see the baby's exposed heart beating.  They couldn't help her. She left. 

The Mercy Ship is a floating hospital staffed completely by volunteers. Every sailor, crew member, nurse, surgeon, doctor and specialist pays to be on the ship, high profile surgeons even flying in to help for short periods.  Some of the crew have lived on ship for years with their families.  This particular Mercy Ship, the "Africa Mercy" is set up to perform plastic surgery on burn victims, orthopedic surgery on children with deformities, cataract surgery, hernia surgery, and tumor removal.   They have created an extremely organized system that allows them to reach and help thousands of people in West Africa.   

My Man and I walked aboard the ship the day after receiving the invitation.  We were immediately led to a cafe to visit with crew members.  And by "cafe" I mean a Starbucks. There, I talked with people from all over the world who live and work on the ship.  The chef of the ship told us how he had been a restaurant owner turned musician who toured the country living the party life...until JESUS captured his heart.  He worked in California at Teen Challenge and then ended up aboard the Mercy Ship.  
This wild JESUS lover full of humility and joy still looked a little like a rock star.  
(That's what HE likes, you know.  Loving HIM, worshiping HIM in our own weird, wonderful style. HE doesn't just like it---it is HIS way!)

We went to a meeting room where the Captain of the ship briefed some diplomats, the press and a few oddballs like me about the work of the ship. He showed us before and after photographs of people they had helped.   Blind people given their sight.  Crippled legs were straightened.  People who were so deformed with tumors and injuries that they looked inhuman, were given faces and smiles and restoration.  My heart was full--I thought of JESUS.  Believe me, I know HE heals miraculously.  HE does it every day.  But as I watched this, I also felt the joy of the LORD  when HE chooses to use people to heal others.  There is something so glorious about human beings being allowed into the healing work of GOD. 
The photos ended and the Captain spoke again.  It was then...there, with all those "important" people and swarm of media and oddballs that he said they had come to Guinea...
in the NAME of JESUS.

My eyes filled up.  Do you remember the scene in "Elf" where someone mentions Santa to Buddy and he screams with surprise and excitement?  I wanted to do that! I wanted to yell, "JEEEESUS!! I know HIM! I know HIM!!!"

I love this wild GOD. I love HIS wild followers. This is where making the KINGdom of GOD a matter of talk, a matter of doctrine and matter of theology prove to be so failing.  It's a matter of power! Following JESUS is a life. It is a reality--it's so much bigger than words.  It's life. It's the kind of life that takes you from  drugs and parties to cooking for people in West Africa.  It's the life that takes rich surgeons from lush homes to Conakry, Guinea to open blind eyes for people who have nothing. 

And I thought the latte would be the best part of the day...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Getting it

Something exciting is going on.
It isn't the large exchanges of gunfire that went on outside our gate yesterday.  Although that does have its own measure of excitement.
It isn't the return of football season and watching Texan's games at midnight...although there is about to be plenty of that as well.

No, this is even better!  I am finally figuring something out. Something that is setting me free and making me think that GOD may just be significantly cooler than I even thought.  (surprise surprise)

You know by now that I am a former "church girl". You know the type--good girls who always go to church, who know all the hymns, who don't say unpleasant things and who have the bible all figured out. They know exactly what GOD likes and what HE doesn't and they never miss a "quiet time" or they miss GOD's blessing for the day.  That was totally me!

Beth Moore says that the Word of GOD was not meant to make us scholars, it was meant to make us victors.  As a church girl, I knew the Scriptures.  But, if I have to be truthful, I wanted to know them to be smarter. I wanted to have a better grasp on my faith...not on my GOD.  I would approach the Bible firmly tied to my religion so that I knew exactly how to interpret everything I read.  I liked controlled, quiet, ordered services and would say it was because GOD is a GOD of order.  Really, it's because I was uncomfortable with what I felt was not a controlled setting.  I wasn't realizing that when GOD is controlling a setting it may look very different than what I am comfortable with.

A couple of weeks ago, GOD shined HIS purifying light on a couple of areas where a religious spirit was still hanging out.  At first, this freaked me out.  HE was starting to get into some hard and fast (so I thought) parts of my life in HIM. And one of them was a biggie----prayer.  
Since childhood I have been conversational with GOD--I talk HIS ear off throughout the day.  Why not? HE is my best friend! Unlike many others in my childhood, HE never told me I talked too much.  I like that.
But for years I have carried around a secret---I suck at prayer.  I do it...not always very successfully, but I do it. I have read many books about prayer--great and helpful books... but in the end, I am sitting back in my quiet time with my list and my routine. I would pray but I did it because I knew I was supposed to and I truly desired the things I was bringing before HIM and I know HE talks about prayer and its importance and I want to do what HE wants. And after all, this is prayer, right?  Right?

Recently, things got bad. I didn't want to pray that way at all. I didn't want to sit with my eyes closed for an hour going down a list. It was boring and unlike any other part of our life together.  I would talk to HIM the rest of the day, but in the morning, I stopped pulling out my list. I gave up. I was confused. How could I seemingly "get" HIM in so many things but fall flat here.
Then something happened.

About a week ago I confessed to HIM that I just don't like prayer. I don't get how to do it. I decided that this morning I wouldn't close my eyes, or get my list. I was just going to talk to HIM and listen for HIM to talk to me. Fear began to penetrate. What if I didn't hear HIM right? What if I failed?
I had to go for it anyway! And that's what I did. I just talked to HIM. HE even talked back (don't get scared, church girls! GOD does talk to HIS people!) HE told me things. Things about my kids, things about me. It was as if I was talking to a friend on the other end of my couch. It was a real conversation. I wasn't talking "at" HIM. I was talking with HIM.  At one point I started to plead with HIM to pour out HIS SPIRIT on my children...and just as I was saying those words, HE interrupted me and said, "This is prayer".  I was silent (shocking, I know).  This? This is prayer time? But this is fun!!
Then, a picture came in my mind. I believe it was from HIM.  It was the top of Mount Sinai. There was a raised ridge that once you climbed over you were in a small little area on the top. The ground was sandy. There was a rock and there was GOD sitting across from the rock.  The rock was for me! It was my seat facing HIM.  I could just picture myself sitting down there and talking to HIM. I sensed HIM say, "I AM always here to talk to you like this."

A few days later a friend came to see me---one of those friends who knows JESUS really well, a woman with grown kids who has walked the crazy wild life of loving JESUS.  I told her about my discovery and she laughed. She understood.  For some, the eyes closed, long list is how GOD does prayer time with them. HE is a FATHER. HE knows how to converse with each of HIS kids.  But that's not me.  I want to really talk to HIM. I want to pour out my heart. I want to pray HIS list.  I want HIM to decide what's on the agenda.  I want HIM to tell me what to pray so that I can pray it back to HIM.  HE is real! So why did I just talk at HIM like HE was a genie in the sky? Why did I enjoy a real PERSON the rest of the day and then treat HIM like a statue in the morning?

So here's the moral of the story, kids.  Let GOD rock your world.  These are important times in the KINGdom.  Let HIM strip away everything that was built up by religion and not by HIS TRUTH.  Don't be scared of what HE will do.  Learn, study, devour the Word and do it without an agenda.  Hear what HE has to say. Be ready to let HIM change your mind.
Not that life is all about fun, but life is really really fun. And where GOD is, there is life!! So, give HIM free reign to invade all the safe, religious areas of your life and fill them with HIS GOD life!

This is not a safe journey---but it is an exciting one! I want to walk this adventure with my LIVELY, UNTAMED LION of a GOD. Besides, walking with a PERSON is so much more fun than walking with my lifeless church girl checklist. And the conversation is significantly better...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Keepin It Real

Let me start with the disclaimer---I love Africa.  I ached to come for ages and I know GOD sent us here.  But lately, I feel weary of it.

I am tired of...

* everyone asking me for money.
* explaining and repeating and repeating...and repeating instructions and when the work is's still wrong.
* having nowhere to go for fun.  (That's not exaggerating.)  There aren't any parks, playgrounds, bike trails or even one single fast food restaurant in all of Conakry.
*  our family jumping from one illness to another.
*  trash.
*  rain
*  slow internet (i miss youtube)
* buying everything online
*  mice and lice
* did I mention trash
* crazy expensive prices (think 60 dollars for a pound of cheese)
*  being cheated at the market...or at least the attempt to.
*  my uncut, uncolored hair.
*  having no place to drive to when I am angry and just want to be alone.
*  not driving at all...having to rely on drivers to go anywhere

This is how I feel...but as I've been learning lately in Ephesians--the reality is that I am blessed with every spiritual blessing.  So even though these are frustrating parts of life in Africa, I can know that in the midst of them, I am lavished with blessing from my FATHER...not in spite of them but in them!
This is where it matters: Believing HIM, I mean.  It's easy to believe that I am blessed when I have scenic places to walk with my family, healthy kids, plenty of activity and our family all around us.  But if I believe it then and don't believe it now then obviously I equated blessing with my circumstance.
GOD is way too cool to let our blessing be circumstances!  Sometimes we see it in them, to be sure. But ultimately, GOD wants to bless us with permanent and lasting things---even if it means I can't actually see them right now.

So..I'm OK with weary and tired...and even with trash.  Because I am blessed with every spiritual blessing. I am seated with JESUS!
and from those seats...things look pretty good!

The Trumpet

Ramadan is over.
I know this because this morning trumpets, drums and other instruments I didn't know were even present in Guinea, shocked us out of a deep, comfortable sleep.  Once the surprise of being awoken by a brass band in a third world country subsided, it was incredibly exciting.  I went to my kids who were confusedly calling out for me and we all headed up to the top floor to see if we could spot the musicians through the dark.  We discovered they were playing outside the gate of our next door neighbor. It was meant to be a joyous alert that their month of fasting was complete.
I am not Muslim, but I still couldn't help but feel excited. The whole thing reminded me of something which is precious to JESUS lovers like myself.  One day we're going to hear a trumpet too!
Exciting, right?!
A time is coming when, like my friends and neighbors here, my fast will come to an end. Life is wonderful but if you love JESUS, this is a time and a place of fasting.  GOD's SPIRIT in us has made us hungry---really really hungry for things we can't see, for a place where we don't yet live.  We hunger and thirst after a PERSON that we long to be with all the time.  Truly, HE is present with us here. It is glorious! But I am really hungry. I am hungry to see HIS face and live in HIS KINGdom and walk and talk with HIM in person.  For now, while HE is bringing all things into order, it's our time to fast.  We eat the temporal food of this world, we endure ugliness and contempt for the NAME of JESUS.  WE are ridiculed, criticized and  marked as intolerant when the reality is that those who love GOD, love people.  But, when the last trumpet blasts, our fast will end and the feast will begin!

When I hear that trumpet, unlike this morning, I hope it doesn't catch me living my life all snuggled up in slumber. After all, trumpets are significantly more enjoyable when you are expecting them to play..

Friday, August 17, 2012

Meet Mrs. Anderson

My friend and I chatted and laughed over coffee yesterday.  She lives about 11 hours out of Conakry in a village.  Occasionally she makes it into the "big city" of Conakry.  I love it when she does.
As we sat and visited, I found myself enjoying her so much that I wished there was a way I could share her with all of you.

Imagine how excited I was when I found out she blogs!!!!

So, it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you my amazing friend, Mrs. Anderson...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Babies Without Milk

If you happen to pass by my gate on a Friday afternoon you should stop in.  On Fridays the Missionary women who live in Conakry and others who are in from the villages stop by for coffee on that day.  It's come to be known as the Morningstarbucks.  We rotate between bible study and prayer each week...but we have coffee every time.  I order special coffees and creams from the States and for a couple of hours, those beautiful hard-working women, sit in the air conditioning, sip coffee and enjoy JESUS.  For that brief time we all feel kind of normal like we're just doing what girlfriends in the States are doing. When I first arrived, I avoided missionaries.  I didn't want to get caught up in a mini American community here. I was in Africa, for crying out loud.  I didn't come here to make more white friends.
Now, though, as I think of their faces, I can't imagine not wanting to be part of them.  GOD had different plans.  HE wanted them spoiled rotten.  Really!  There are a lot of reasons we are in Guinea--some I can see, and some I can't.  This one, though, I am absolutely certain of.  HE wants to spoil these girls rotten and HE's tasked us with the job.  How fun is that?
Yesterday was Friday. I stood in my kitchen visiting with a few ladies before we began prayer time when a woman entered, a missionary I knew by reputation before I ever met her. She'd never been to the Morningstarbucks before and now here she my kitchen! I was honored and excited and it showed because I immediately put my foot in my mouth. Isn't that customary when one is star struck?  Prepare to get a little star struck yourselves.
She and her husband have been on the missionfield for a long time. In fact, her grown son now lives in another village with his wife and kids serving JESUS. I don't know how long she was here before she simply couldn't handle seeing so many babies die.  You see, many new mothers die and when they do, their infant babies would have to die too because everyone breastfeeds.  No mother, no breastmilk.  So, Ella and her local friend, Adama, began to get formula and train the grandmothers to feed the babies with bottles.  Now, when a new mother dies there is a knock on Adama's door.  She isn't well educated, and she can't write very well but she knows babies and she speaks 10 languages. So, anyone who comes for help will be able to communicate in their tribal language.  
The intimate, kindred setting of the group allows me to see these missionaries in the raw. They share the real needs of their hearts. It's incredibly humbling. I want to tell you the request Ella shared with her friends this week. Right now she is providing milk for 196-197 least that's how many whose names she knows and there are more whose names she doesn't know.  She doesn't have enough milk to feed them all.  She wants GOD's wisdom how to apportion out the formula she has.  She can't turn people away because that is literally a death sentence for the newborn.  Since they weigh all the babies every two weeks, they will work out a way to cut back a ltitle formula from some of the healthier babies so that no one has to starve.  With babies over six months they're mashing peanuts to make a milk that will go further.  
That's desperate isn't it? It is almost unfathomable that in a world where I can buy DVDs, expensive coffees and enough ibuprofen that my children never have to have a fever that babies people love and want will die because they have no milk. I asked Ella how many people she has who are committed supporters of her Babies Without Milk ministry.  Are you ready?  
But she was quick to say that her PRIMARY DONOR always makes sure she's taken care of.  Here and there a check will come from a little prayer group somewhere and help with the $2000 a month it takes to buy the formula and milk for all the babies.

Curlygirl sat beside me during prayer and later that night while we washed dishes she told me she wasn't very good at praying.  "Of course you are", I told her, "Prayer is just talking to the FATHER.  You know how to talk, it's just like you're doing with me right now." 
"No," she argued, "those women pray different."  She is right. 
I guess that when you really get WHO you are talking to, and how desperately you need HIM, praying gets serious. Ok, so maybe our Friday Morningstarbucks isn't exactly the same as what girlfriends in the States are doing...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Joy in the Journey

Our church meets on Sunday nights.  So most Sunday mornings we spend laying around the house and (gasp!) resting.  I love it.  
That's how we thought we were going to spend this Sunday morning as well.  Our plans changed, though, when we found out that a car was on its way to pick us up for an outing we hadn't planned on attending.  I am glad for the mistake because it led us to have my favorite day in Guinea so far.

We drove about an hour out of Conakry and then turned off the paved road onto a bumpy dirt road that led through small villages in thick grass. The large, rumbling vehicle felt like a crude intruder;  its constitution a contrast to the quiet primitive world it was barreling through.  
We weren't meant to ride through this world, peering through windows like spectators. Its simplicity demanded that we join.  
Just feet to dirt.   
We eagerly responded, delivering ourselves from the prison of the vehicle to began the hike.  Now we were part of it, part of the sounds and the smells and the experience.
Curlygirl said, " I could walk forever".

Eventually, we had to arrive at our destination--beautiful, flowing waterfalls.  They were amazing. Breathtaking even. The kids swam and splashed and buried themselves in its powerful cascades.  My Man led them carefully across the rocks where they could climb and explore.  It was a surreal experience. 

and yet, none of it compared to the walk it took to get there.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Can't Write This Stuff!

I can't think of anything to blog about.  That probably means I shouldn't... 
but I am doing it anyway, aren't I?

I know most of the people who read my ramblings on here and I can attest that they are intelligent, involved, and very busy individuals who really don't have time to read an entry with no point... 
but you are reading it anyway, aren't you?

How about I just tell you a short story?

I had a substitute driver a few weeks ago. He dropped me at the house and waited outside while I went in to do something.  Lunch was ready, so I asked our cook, Henry, to make a plate for the driver and take it down.  As I was preparing to leave, Henry rushed back into the kitchen, excitement in his voice and tears in his eyes. 
"Madam!" he exclaimed, "I know your driver! We grew up together back in our country! I know all his family. We were best friends!"
He proceeded to tell me the story.  When I went downstairs, the driver, with the same tears and excitement, told me the same story. 
They were children together in a nearby country.  They grew up together as close friends.  Then came the war.  They were separated from one another and from many of their other kindred friends. They hadn't seen or heard from each other in about 14 years.  Unbeknownst to each other, they both came to Conakry and  have been here for a few years. It wasn't until that day as Henry went downstairs to hand lunch to a driver that their eyes met. 
The moment they saw each other they ran and hugged and cried.  I had gone back inside to give them time to talk.  They went through name after name of all their friends that the war separated them from to see what they could learn.  Some had died. Some had not.  
Internet-bred and facebook-saavy, I found all this shocking.  If I wanted to...and I don't...I could track down everyone I've been to school with since I was in Kindergarten.  It would not be very difficult to find out where they are and what their life is like.  Information age, baby!  You can find anyone on the internet.  That's convenient.  
But it also steals the thrill I saw in the two of them that day. They didn't even know of the other had survived the war. It took a chance (as if there were such a thing) encounter.  And that day, what was their moment, their experience, became one of my favorite moments, my favorite experiences in Guinea. far.