17 November 2017

My trip to Cape Town, South Africa: exploring this beautiful and fascinating city

Camps Bay

One of the first things I did at Cape Town, after hopping off a Red Tour Bus, was head to the ocean. Whoa... when I dipped my feet in the water, it was ice cold.... way too cold to go for a swim.


Another view of Camps Bay

A ride on the Cape Wheel, in an air conditioned cabin

While out exploring, I randomly met a gal who is a missionary in Uganda (but attending a different event than me). We hung out at the V&A Waterfront for the afternoon, enjoying the street music, looking at curio shops, having a bite to eat, and riding the Ferris wheel.

Another day, while strolling around on my own in the downtown area, I meandered into a shop that had just opened that day. I shared a table with three fascinating South Africans, while we each devoured a delicious salmon and creme cheese bagel. I took their recommendation and visited the Iziko Slave Lodge Museum just around the corner.



Not only was the museum quite fascinating, but I also noticed the statue outside of Jan Christian Smuts (1870-1950). For most of his life, he was in favor of racial segregation, but in the final years of his life, he changed his mind. Perhaps his friendship with Gandhi eventually swayed his views on the subject.



I was quite fascinated by the style of architecture. Much of it falls in the category known as Cape Dutch, which became prominent in the 17th century, when Dutch settlers immigrated to the area.



One afternoon, Tina and I decided to go for a walk along the beach at Simon's Town. Little did we know that a sudden rain storm was about to descend on us! Ha... and neither one of us had an umbrella! Fortunately I managed to get this shot of the colorful beach houses before the deluge.


While we enjoyed a walking tour of significant historical locations during the era of Apartheid, I noticed this quite talented street performer portraying Nelson Mandela. It seems appropriate to quote him here:

We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom. 
We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. 
We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, 
for nation building, for the birth of a new world.
Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. 
Let there be work, bread, water, and salt for all. 
Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land 
will experience the oppression of one by another
Let freedom reign.
~ Nelson Mandela, (1918- 2013) 
excerpt from inauguration speech as South Africa's president, May 10, 1994


Sunset at Hout Bay

I had an absolutely wonderful time in Cape Town and thank the Lord for how it all came together... and quite unexpectedly.

15 November 2017

My trip to Cape Town, South Africa: a lovely stroll at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden


Bringing Condolences
"The loss of your child brings much sadness."
by Norbert Shamyarira (born 1962, Zimbabwe)

I thoroughly enjoyed the Sculpture Garden at Kirstenbosch. This particular statue gripped me, as I paused, transfixed by it. Doing a bit of research, I discovered the sculptor has had a very difficult life and understands the blessing of someone offering condolences.



The Prayer
"Ishe wangu ndino kutendai ne mhuri yamakandipa."
Translation: My Lord, I thank you for the family you gave me.
by Gideon Nyanhongo (born 1967, Zimbabwe)



African Linden (Sparrmannia africana)
The species is known for their haptonasty, rapid movements made by the stamens when they are touched.
This adaptation helps in more effective pollination.



Gordon's Bay Pincushion
The Gordon's Bay pincushion is quite unusual for a pincushion with flowers that are a creamy white,
when they are normally a striking orange or yellow, and fragrant where they normally are not.


Pincushion Protea


The 90-acre Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden lives up to its reputation as the most beautiful garden in Africa and one of the great botanic gardens of the world. Few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. The garden was established in 1913 to promote, conserve, and display the extraordinarily rich and diverse flora of southern Africa, and was the first botanic garden in the world to be devoted to a country's indigenous flora. 



I spent a solid three hours strolling around this beautiful spot (plus an hour for lunch at Moyo Restaurant). If you happen to find yourself here some fine day, be sure to have a cup of Famous Hot Chocolate at the Kirstenbosch Tea Room! 



“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

John Muir (1838-1914)
Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher,
and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States

14 November 2017

My trip to Cape Town, South Africa: Cape Point, an afternoon at Africa's (almost) furthest point south


Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will; it is always interesting.
- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832), German writer and statesman

When I realized Cape Point is practically the southern-most tip of the continent of Africa, I thought it was neat that I got to see it. John and Tina took me there for a lovely afternoon, and although the sky was gray and the temps were chilly, we enjoyed walking around the area.

And - contrary to popular belief - Cape Point is not where the cold waters of the Atlantic join with the warmer water of the Indian Ocean. That actually occurs about 90 miles to the east-southeast (as the crow flies) at Cape Agulhas, which is also the southern-most tip of Africa.




While I captured a shot of the beautiful flowers (above), Tina noticed this caterpillar in the foliage. As I got closer to take a picture, the furry spots near the head puffed up... I guess to scare me away!

The old lighthouse

Looking out over Cape Point

Tina and I, above Diaz Beach, named after an early Portuguese explorer, Bartolomeu Diaz (1450-1500)

13 November 2017

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished or Unrewarded // "For which of my good deeds are you stoning me?" (asks Jesus)







Paul Cowell worked fervently to finish his book, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished before his death a year ago. He knew it would enrich the lives of others.




Indeed I have been enriched by this book, and am very grateful to have been given a copy while at the Missionary GetAway in Capetown, South Africa. Below you will find some of the highlights.




Jesus condemns those who refuse to help the needy and states that helping the poor is the same as helping him. Obviously, God’s intention is for us to do good deeds.

I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.   ~ Matthew 25:40

We know that ultimately every good deed gets rewarded, even if it’s not observable. We are called to do good deeds, but we cannot escape the fact that some people we help will become extremely critical of us, especially when you end your assistance.

When we do good deeds, we should expect opposition.

Helping others is often inconvenient and even messy. According to Jesus, the principles of rescue have eternal consequences. The story of the Good Samaritan was Christ's answer to the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Explaining his command, "Love your neighbor as yourself," (Luke 10:27) is that my neighbor might be someone of a different ethnicity, lying in a ditch, and who might not otherwise even speak to me. As we love our neighbors lying in a ditch, we must be ‘as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves'.   ~ Matthew 10:16

Satan has discouraged many well-meaning, good-hearted rescuers by inciting those helped to attack their rescuer. You must understand that you have not failed if you encounter attack by showing ‘Good Samaritan’ love. Even Christ endured attack, when those he came to save rejected him.

We have been sent like lambs among wolves (Luke 10:3), and must help people wisely - regardless of the consequences. Do not quit or withdraw; you are a soldier in battle and may be wounded by friendly fire. Continue to serve others, even if you find yourself washing the feet of Judas.

Most people return small favors, acknowledge medium ones, and repay great ones with ingratitude.   ~ Benjamin Franklin

I was not prepared for the selfishness and animosity that followed some of my best efforts to lighten the load of those less fortunate.   ~ Paul Cowell

Clearly, we cannot turn away from the needy. Help must be given, but with wisdom and realistic expectations. But even when motives are pure and assistance is sincere, rescue still doesn’t always work out.

“Love one another (remember – not emotions and feelings, but Good Samaritan action – good deeds). Don’t get tired of earnest endeavor as you serve the Lord. When using your spiritual gifts, be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of God’s people. Pursue the practice of hospitality. Bless those who persecute you and are cruel in their attitude toward you. Bless and do not curse them."   ~ Romans 12:10-14 (Amp)

   You have spiritual gifts that can make a valuable contribution to those who are in need. If you have been blessed, it’s for you to be a blessing! 
   But you will be persecuted and criticized by some. In fact, the needy and the persecutors may be one and the same. You will be punished for your good deeds. 
   Do not let this evil overwhelm you. Overcome all this with good.    ~ Cowell’s paraphrase, Romans 12:21

Good works are the front line of the battle. You are a soldier and you have an enemy who seeks to discourage you with attacks from those you help. “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."   ~ 2 Timothy 3:12

We expect the minimum of a ‘thank you’ when we assist someone, as good works producing hostility seems illogical. However, even Jesus experienced a lack of gratitude when he healed ten lepers. They cried out to him, “Jesus, have pity on us!” At Jesus' command all ten were healed, but only ONE came back to Jesus in gratitude. Only one in ten! Jesus showed disappointment, but not surprise.


“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner."   ~ 1 Peter 4:12-13 (Msg)

Let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up or quit.   ~ Galatians 6:9-10 (Msg)

Realistically knowing what to expect is not pessimism or cynicism. Knowing that all who are in need will respond with gratitude should not keep you from doing the good works God has positioned you to do. Helping others is the essence of God’s call and commission. Don’t quit!

“Count yourself blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt and seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?"   ~ Matthew 5:11-13 (Msg)

God uses these attacks – like a refiner’s fire – to accomplish purity and strength, giving us more consistency and usefulness. Our heavenly refiner desires that our impurities be burned away, so we’ll reflect more and more of his glory and image. He uses the troubles that come from serving others to accomplish his purpose. Refining fires produce character and humility to make us more useful to God.

God says, “I have refined you, but not as silver is refined; rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.”   ~ Isaiah 48:10 (NLT)


One time when Jesus spoke at the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, he declared that he and the Father were one. This made the Jews so angry, they picked up stones to throw at Jesus. He responded,

At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one will you stone me?
   ~ John 10:32

It is certainly love to reach out to those in need, but love goes one step further and forgives the recipient, even if they are unappreciative and attack you personally. Jesus prayed for those who crucified him while he was on the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing."   ~ Luke 23:34

Only forgiveness allows you to move forward. Do not allow bitterness and hurt to gain power over you. Take every action you can to minimize or eliminate hostility from those you help. When you do good works and are wounded, forgive anyone who offends you. It's God's way and is in your best interests.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.   ~ C.S. Lewis

Be gentle and sensitive with one another. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.   ~ Ephesians 4:32 (Msg)

Conclusion
Every day on earth you are either adding to your treasures in heaven or you are laboring in vain with nothing accomplished for eternity. God has given you the opportunity and the resources to do good deeds. Being alert to those in need around you gives you an opportunity to increase your heavenly rewards, laying up treasures held for you in heaven.

Love each other; conduct your lives in love. Don't lose out on what you've worked so diligently for. I want you to receive every reward you have coming to you.   ~ 2 John 5, 6, 8 (Msg)

- - - -
In Cowell's book, he quotes this song's lyrics - So Send I You. I hope you'll take a few minutes to listen, as they are very fitting to the subject of his book.


08 November 2017

My trip to Cape Town, South Africa: Christian Hospitality Network Missionary Get-Away

Paul Cowell (1941-2016)



Since 2002 the Christian Hospitality Network, founded by Paul Cowell, has hosted over 20 Missionary Get-Aways in 4- or 5-star hotels all around the world. Over 4,650 missionaries have been given four days of rest and regeneration near their fields of service.

A hospitality team from the U.S. including doctors, chiropractors, hair stylists, counselors, and a worship team pay their own way to take the message that these front line workers are appreciated and not forgotten by the body of Christ.

The mission of the Christian Hospitality Network is to give missionaries the rest, esteem, and honor they deserve. CHN GetAways not only keep missionaries refreshed and ready to continue their work, they also cover all the expenses.

- - - - -
What I wish I’d known about missionary burnout
1. Stress is not something to be ignored
2. Treat myself
3. Inner healing is a priority
4. Listen to my body
5. I cannot meet every need or solve every problem
6. What I do is not who I am
7. Take myself less seriously
8. I need friends

The statistics are scary:
80% of missionaries burn out and don’t finish their term.
46% of missionaries have been diagnosed with a psychological issue.
87% of those diagnosed with a psychological issue suffer with depression.

[by Sarita Hartz, at www.saritahartz.com/what-i-wish-id-known-about-missionary-burnout/]

- - - -
Narramore Christian Foundation

Every year more than 5,000 U.S. missionaries leave their fields of service for preventable reasons like depression, marriage and family difficulties, unresolved interpersonal conflicts with team members and nationals, and inadequate spiritual and emotional support.

[www.alongsidecares.net/what-we-do/the-need/statistics]


  

This was my second CNH Get-Away, having also attended one in Kenya in 2010. I loved it and was excited to attend this one in South Africa! There were 170 missionaries and children, with a hospitality team of 30 that came along to serve us.

The structure is simple, giving us a lot of time to do our own thing. We can explore the city, rest in our rooms, get acquainted with other attendees, or take advantage of the services provided by the team members. For instance, I saw a doctor about my recent injuries. We were also given many gifts, including a very nice piece of carry-on luggage for me. And we had a bountiful selection of delicious food at each breakfast and dinner. This picture is a small section of our breakfast buffet.




The gentleman in the red shirt was our speaker at one of the evening services. After speaking, he led all of us in praying for Jean, Paul's widow (also in red), that she would have the energy to continue this much needed ministry.



It was great to visit with several of the other missionaries and hear stories from their work in various parts of Africa.

Kathy, who works for CHN, and I met at the Get-Away in Kenya and have stayed in touch for the intervening six years. On the last day, we hopped on a Red Tour Bus and headed to the beach at Hout Bay for a stroll along the ocean. After that we had a delicious lunch of fresh fish at Mariner's Wharf.



After the Get-Away, I spent some time with friends that live in South Africa, who I know from my church in Nairobi. I spent a few days with Tina (orange vest) and her husband. On one of the days, she and I had lunch with Jonathan and Sandra, seated outside at Groot Constantia, the oldest wine estate in South Africa. It was lovely to see all of them again and pick up the conversation right where we left off a few years ago!



07 November 2017

Lima Bean Soup // Raw Veggies and Raw Emotions















The short rains are upon us in this land straddling the equator
A season when the soil’s dust suddenly becomes sticky mud
A season of gorgeous greens in the midst of dreary grayness and cold

Raindrops falling and splashing on the soil, on the dust
Release plant oils into the air, with a drip, drop
Creating an earthy aroma - petrichor
Named for the fluid flowing from the veins of Greek gods

















But this was a rare sunny day, blue sky, white puffy clouds
A day to stay home, to step out of the traffic
A day to catch up on housework, laundry
A day to cook and bake














It became a day to catch up on my thoughts
I chop raw veggies, as raw emotions are released
Mucous falls on the cutting board














The soup ingredients simmer and then they boil
Just like the heartbreaks of life
Emotions which had been simmering
Suddenly boil over
Forcing themselves to the forefront of my mind, my heart













I allow the tears to boil over
As I release the emotions
Fluid flows from my eyes and down my face

On this sunny day
My tears replace the rain
I embrace the weight of my grief
Allowing my emotions free expression













A pleasant earthy aroma wafts through the house
An enticing fragrance

The soup has been well seasoned
A mixture of things that grew from the earth
That came out of the soil, the dust












I worship you, my God
An earthy incense aroma fills my home
May my worship be a sweet fragrance to your nostrils

I write in my tear-stained journal
Knowing that you collect my tears in a bottle













You and I, my friend, we feasted on mbuzi choma - roasted goat
We ate enthusiastically, with much pleasure
You shared your story with me
And we unknowingly exchanged gifts

You thanked me for a patient and listening ear
With no forced advice
Now I thank you for a life's lesson from a teacher
Live life to the fullest
Live life with no fear

We were friends for a brief season
From different sides of the globe
Brought together, not randomly
But ordained by Almighty God

When you left the soil of this earth
So, so suddenly
You immediately entered the arms of Jesus
In that, I do find comfort and relief














Seasons come and seasons go
Earth to earth
Dust to dust
Farewell my friend, fare thee well

- - - -

There is a season (a time appointed) for everything,
      a time for every delight, event, or purpose under heaven. 
A time to be born and a time to die;
      a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. 
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 

Dust (out of which God made mankind’s body)
      will return to the earth as it was,
      and the spirit will return to God who gave it. 
~ Ecclesiastes 12:7 

22 October 2017

Marking 16 years living in Kenya as a missionary

Sitting outside my former mud hut at Mtoni










This month marks 16 years for me serving as a missionary in Kenya, as I first arrived in October 2001. 

Oswald Chambers has spoken to me deeply for all these years and has played a pivotal role in my persevering at my God-given assignment. This is an excerpt from a recent reading in My Utmost for His Highest:




The duty of a faithful missionary is to concentrate on keeping his soul completely
and continually open to the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The men and women our Lord sends out on His endeavors
are ordinary human people, but people who are controlled by their devotion to Him,
which has been brought about through the work of the Holy Spirit.


Another shot of my mud hut (my ministry base and up-country home, 2002-2011)

Never choose to be a worker,
but once God has placed His call upon you, 
woe be to you if you “turn aside…to the right or the left.” (Deut. 28:14) 
He will do with you what He never did before His call came to you,
and He will do with you what He is not doing with other people.
Let Him have His way.
~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest


The next four blog posts after this one are all subjects that are near and dear to me, but written by others:

Six myths about expat life, by Rachel Pieh Jones
Solitude, a reprieve from the noise of doing, by Katrina Kenison
Living single overseas, by Elizabeth Spencer
How to stay in when it's hard, by Jim Bloom

I hope you'll take a look at them, as you'll gain a glimpse into my mind and heart! 

Just scroll down.


Deb and I (plus several others) enjoyed a picnic in the park
on my 10th anniversary in Kenya (2011).

My 16th anniversary as a missionary living in Kenya; "Six Myths about Ex-Pat Life" (Rachel Pieh Jones)


Myth 1: Adventure
I’m an expatriate! Cue the Indiana Jones soundtrack, give me a whip and a cool hat, and let’s have an adventure! Okay, life as an expatriate is not all about adventure. In fact, it rarely is. Expatriate life is just life. Sometimes we do super awesome things but most of the time we are working, loving people, not-so-loving people, and doing the mundane things of life.

Myth 2: Living is the same as traveling
You might be a seasoned traveler who has seen the world and had a wonderfully adventurous time doing it. But traveling is not the same as living. Travelers don’t need to open bank accounts or rent a post office box or figure out what school to send their children to. Travelers get to see the world they want to see and they get to leave it when they’ve seen enough.

Myth 3: Feels like home
If you stay long enough, you’re right at home. Right? How many times have I heard, “You’re local now”? I’m not. I never will be. Yes, I understand things much better than the adventurous traveler passing through and I have some depth of cultural insight and some history and shared experiences. In some ways, the host country does start to feel like home. We have made it a home. We use phrases now like passport nation and global nomad. Home is being constantly redefined.

Myth 4: Expat life is always fulfilling and purposeful
Oh, but you do such meaningful work! Yes, yes we do. And sometimes, I feel that. Sometimes it is a humbling, awesome thing to see people thriving in a business start-up we launched or a girl earning a personal best in a race for a club that we sponsor. Other days? I see the beggar on the street and I wince. I don’t want to deal with their need. Some days, I give to someone because I am compelled by faith and compassion. Other days? I give because I just want the person to go away. And most days? Most days I don’t give. Most days are groceries, homework, friendships, and culture confusion. Most days are regular days. I believe we carry ourselves with us when we move abroad and that my husband and I would live the same way if we lived in the US – pursuing purpose and doing fulfilling work there, too. Simply slapping on an expat label doesn’t automatically make my writing or my husband’s teaching more purposeful. In many ways, it simply makes it lonelier.

Myth 5: Expat life is one of suffering and deprivation

Well, if it isn’t all gold and diamonds, it must be suffering. It must be lonely and frustrating and discouraging and really, really hard. Yes, sometimes it is. I hate missing funerals and weddings. I hate that I haven’t even met my nephew yet and he is almost one. I hate that I’m not there for my friends’ pregnancies and divorces and to help people move or celebrate. But I wouldn’t classify this as a life of suffering or of deprivation, not any more than life anywhere could be. A stay-at-home mom wondering if she will ever talk to an adult again? A too-young mom with breast cancer? A parent working so many hours they can never make their kid’s t-ball games? Expat life is not more or less. It is just one kind of life.

Myth 6: Expats are heroic

We are brave, we have been through coups and murders and robberies. We are creative, have learned how to make bread by hand, brown sugar by hand, clothes by hand. We are strong, don’t complain about cold showers or our hair falling out or about the boys who shout ‘sex’ at us when we walk past (or even if we do complain about these things, we don’t leave, so we have perseverance). We hear the phrase, all too often, “I could never do it.” Baloney. One – yes you could, if you had to. Two – I can’t do it either. I cry and fight and want to quit. Three – I could turn the phrase around and say I couldn’t do what you are doing – the long hours, the isolation of American independence, the cultural intensity. But that’s not true, I could. Just like you could.

This is refusing empathy, drawing dividing lines, creating unhelpful comparisons. I don’t like hearing, “Oh, you don’t want to hear about my bad day because you have been to a refugee camp.” Don’t compare our challenges. Just open up your life to me and be open to mine and let’s listen to each other. I’m not a hero. You aren’t a hero. Or maybe we both are. We’re just trying to make it through our days, trying to make a little difference in the lives of others and eking out some joy and thankfulness.

I do it here, you do it there. Press on.







Rachel Pieh Jones
(Writing, running, raising three kids in Djibouti)

6.5 Myths About Expat Life