09 December 2009

My Coming and Going

And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, "Today - at the latest, tomorrow - we're off to such and such a city for the year. We're going to start a business and make a lot of money." You don't know the first thing about tomorrow. You're nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, "If the Master wills it and we're still alive, we'll do this or that." (James 4: 13-15)

When I left Kenya on May 1st, I somehow thought I might be back some time in November. I even confidently informed people of that. It’s become painfully obvious that estimate was a pathetic and overly-optimistic stab in the dark!

Almost immediately when I arrived in New York City (my first stop), my daughter Jess asked if I might consider staying through Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not having been in the States for these holiday seasons for six long years, I quickly agreed. I also liked the idea of having another chance to see her adorable daughter, Cadence (who I had just met).

With this change in plans, I surmised that I’d be able to finish my book before Christmas and be ready to leave the States sometime in January.

However… the end of January will also find me still here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

God is teaching me to look to Him for my coming and going. It really is silly of me to try to predict such things.

God, You know when I leave and when I get back; I'm never out of your sight. I look behind me and you're there, then up ahead and you're there, too - your reassuring presence, coming and going. The days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day. (Psalm 139: 3, 5, 6, 16)

When I did all the re-writing, editing, and formatting of my first book, I was better able to focus on it alone. I basically spent five solid months of forty-hour weeks sitting at my computer.

This time around things seem to be different; the book is progressing at a slower rate. But it’s been very much okay with me. I’m pleased about that.

It’s been a good furlough. I’ve felt more relaxed about being away from Kenya. My heart and thoughts are more centered here than they have been in past furloughs. For that I am grateful; it’s difficult when your body is one place and the entire rest of your being yearns to be in a different place.

It’s so nice to be 100% where I am. I’m focusing on “blooming where I’m planted”, so-to-speak.

For the first two months (May and June) I was primarily on the road – New York City (to see Jess, Jason, and Cadence), Colorado (to see a good friend and to attend a much-needed and excellent missionary de-briefing), and Arizona (to visit my son, Zach, and to attend a conference with my mission-sending agency). I also squeezed in a great 15 days enjoying Naomi and her three kids - Terran, Tony, and Mia - when they visited Omaha.

I have enjoyed spending lots of time with another grand-daughter, Aaliyah (who only lives one hour away) and her dad, Caleb. Included in my activities with her, have been two visits to her school. Recently, we also took part in a wonderful inter-active and hands-on "market place" like might have existed in the time of Jesus' birth - “A Walk through Bethlehem”.

In the warm months, I enjoyed some wonderful miles on my bike - a total of 790 (1,270 kilometers). I’ve also been able to thoroughly spruce up my Mom’s rather large yard. Because I love to be outside and also love physical work, it was quite enjoyable.

I was thrilled to attend the opening night of a friend’s movie. Vince wrote the script, produced the movie, and starred in it. I’ve read some great books from the local library and have greatly enjoyed the speedy internet connections here (and wireless, at that).

It was fun to go to three evening bonfires with several friends. There’s nothing much better than being in the out-of-doors and roasting s’mores and hot dogs over an open fire. I also planned a fun surprise birthday party for a dear friend. It was a great success. She stated that it was the best birthday party of her 78 years!

Recently I was privileged to assist my Mom after her hip-replacement surgery. My brother, Greg, and I have had numerous long talks while he cuts firewood.

I attended three retreats, including one on my own. I’ve come to know many new friends at the church I started attending. The four gals making up my accountability group and I have met monthly. I’ve had lunch a few times with a young fellow who’s a missionary in Uganda. I traveled to Wichita, Kansas to visit some supporters of mine, plus a cousin and her family.

I house- and dog-sat for 10 days for some friends. My earnings will allow me to purchase a new bike for Nairobi. And... while there I got in some good time on my book!

I thoroughly enjoyed the fall season - my first in six years! Likewise, I enjoyed a very nice Thanksgiving with a few relatives from Omaha and Lincoln.

I am still working on my book and it is nearing completion. I’m in the formatting stage of things and have just selected the photos that I’ll use. But… there are still numerous steps remaining.

I will resist the urge to predict a time-frame when it will be completely finished.

I can share with you that AFTER I’ve submitted the final draft and approved the dummy manuscript, it will take one month for it to be printed. Once I’ve given the go-ahead to print, I’ll organize a few book parties in the homes of friends. At that point, I’ll also be able to book my flight to leave the U.S.

Now… to any Kenyan friends reading this, please realize that my heart still longs to be back with all of you again! Some days, when I least expect it, I’ll have a thought of one of you. Occasionally, I’ll envision a street in downtown Nairobi or imagine I’m bouncing along the horrible roads in a matatu.

I’ve been able to communicate with almost all of you via text messages, emails, or phone calls. Isn’t the internet wonderful for that purpose?

The day is soon coming when we will again meet face-to-face. And when that day comes, we can rest assured that it will be in our sovereign Lord’s perfect timing!

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my whole spirit… how incessantly I always mention you when at my prayers. I keep pleading that somehow by God's will I may now at last come to you. For I am yearning to see you… that we may be mutually strengthened and encouraged and comforted by each other's faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1: 9-12)

Photos from India

Tony and Mia

Naomi and Mia enjoying (?) a camel ride

First Christmas in a foreign land


17 months old

Aaliyah at School

More Photos of Aaliyah

Fontenelle Forest, October

Thanksgiving Day

"A Walk through Bethlehem",
Cleo the camel and baking bread

23 October 2009


The four photos above were taken in Nebraska City
It's a tradition in many families to make a trip here for apples, etc.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature - the assurance that dawn comes after night and spring after the winter.

- Rachel Carson (founder of contemporary environmental movement)

There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October.

- Nathaniel Hawthorne (19th century author)

This is my first time in six years to be in the States during the season of fall! One thing I miss when I'm in Kenya is the four distinct seasons that Nebraska experiences. I've really enjoyed this fall - the changing colors of the trees and even raking them after they fall!

12 October 2009

More Fall Traditons

Hay-rack rides

Carving pumpkins

Aaliyah spent a couple of days with Mom and I recently. On one of the days, she and I went to Wenninghoff Farm for some fun activities - including a hay-rack ride, a maze in a corn field, viewing farm animals (like these goats), and many more.


10 October 2009

Early Snow

The weathermen forecast "flurries"!

Instead, we got six inches!


29 September 2009

Bike Ride

The temperature was a bit chilly on our early-morning start.

Seven started the ride.
This is 22 miles into our 1st day, at the trail-head of the Wabash.
I'm 3rd from the left.


I organized a bike ride for the last weekend of September. The weather was great and we had great fun! I love being outdoors and I love being on my bike!

Five of us spent the night at Shenandoah, Iowa. My total for the ride was 136 miles (220 kilometers). It wasn't as far as I had aimed for, but I felt a bit sluggish on Saturday and on Sunday afternoon we had STRONG head winds that really slowed us down. Much of our ride was on the beautiful Wabash Trace Nature Trail in the southwest corner of Iowa.

We will all have many wonderful memories of the outing!


17 September 2009

Busy Working on My Book

These photos illustrate what I spend a lot of time doing - either sitting at my computer or sitting with a pen and paper in hand!

Since early July, my focus has been to edit my stories from 2004-2008. It is a bit tedious but... I actually do enjoy it!

In fact, it's as if I get to re-live the events all over again. Many of my stories still move me to tears; many of them encourage me.

My aim is to stay on track and self-publish my second book.


17 August 2009

Forgiveness in the Face of Terror

You may remember hearing about missionaries - John and Eloise Bergen's - horrifying attack in Kitale, Kenya last year. They've just released a book about their ordeal and the forgiveness they offered to their assailants.

Book promo from their website: "The year is 2008. Late one evening in rural Kenya, a band of men break into a farm and brutally assault and rob the couple living there. The couple had recently arrived from Canada for missionary work among orphans. Near the point of death, they struggle to find medical treatment in the dark of night. Their healing is miraculous, but the greater story is their spiritual journey to healing through the power of forgiveness. This book is their story - the shock and suffering they experienced, and the joy and hope they found, told here in their own words."

Order a copy of their book.

Watch a two-minute video interview.


Update on August 1st Plane Crash in Nairobi

"Give a Damn" crew

Mechanic, Ryan Williams

Pilot, Frank Toews

"How much has following Christ cost us?...
For some of us, it will mean paying the ultimate price."

- Frank Toews, in AIM-AIR's fall newsletter, 2006

On the morning of August 1, 2009 Rob Lehr and Dan Parris went up in an AIM-AIR single engine plane to film the Kibera slums near Nairobi, Kenya for their poverty documentary "Give A Damn". In their documentary, they want to expose extreme poverty, its causes, and why we should all "give a damn".

The flight turned tragic as the plane hit an electric telephone pole, spinning to smash into a building, before crashing three stories to the ground.

Sadly the pilot, Frank Toews, died on impact. The flight mechanic, Ryan Williams, succumbed to his injuries a week later, on August 8th.

Tributes to Frank Toews and Ryan Williams, AIM-AIR website.

Dan Parris' podcast from the hospital, August 1.

Rob Lehr's podcast, August 1.

Two blog posts from Rob Lehr -

"Injuries Don't Always Bleed" (August 4)
"Heading Home" (August 9)

"Give a Damn" documentary website.


Drought Conditions in Kenya

Men walk past dead cattle in Narok on Sunday. More than 80,000 animals have been driven from Narok to Kwale District in search of water and grazing, with the drought showing no sign of letting up. Photo/LABAN WALLOGA

Dead and dying cattle in Narok; the drought shows no sign of letting up.

Food Shortage

Kenya's Cabinet met in an emergency session to agree on steps to prevent mass starvation across the country. They discussed the report of a sub-committee which paints an alarming picture of the food situation.

The government believes more than 10 million need food aid. Compiled by a cross-section of ministries, it details the shortage of food and water for people and livestock.

On top of dry taps and daylong blackouts, Prime Minister Raila Odinga has warned Parliament that this year, the maize harvest will be 20 million bags, 13 million bags short of the annual requirement.

Water Shortage

During the long rains season - March to May - the country received very little rain with some areas receiving none at all.

The Kenyan economy is highly susceptible to drought. It pushes up the price of food and general inflation and forces the government to direct more of its resources to importing food at the expense of development.

Malnutrition is particularly serious problem, according to the Red Cross, and in some parts of the country, one in every five children is not getting enough to eat.

Livestock continue to die at a very high rate, said the Red Cross. So far, 40 people have died from drought-related causes.

Information from Government departments, the UN agencies and NGOs, the Red Cross report said, also indicates that the worsening drought has led to severe water shortage.

And it warns: “This is likely to compromise safe water and sanitation services that could trigger waterborne diseases.”

Power Rationing

Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi announced power rationing in late July, because there isn’t enough water in the country to generate it.

In the program, the Kenya Power and Lighting Company says that residents of Nairobi will experience power blackouts from 6am to 6pm for three days in a week.


US Ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger

How I Get Around in Nairobi


At the End of Slavery

After clicking the triangular START button, give the 2-minute video a few seconds to start. It's about the effort to stop human trafficking around the world.

The 30-minute documentary, by International Justice Mission, has a release date next month - September 2009.


News from Malawi

Malawi, with a population of 12 million, is among the poorest countries in the world, with rampant disease and hunger, aggravated by periodic droughts and crop failure.

Cooked, salted or dried, field mice strung on sticks are sold as a popular delicacy in Malawi markets and roadside stalls. The mice are hunted in corn fields after the harvest when they have grown plump on a diet of grains, fruits, grass and the odd insect. The most widely eaten species is known locally as Kapuku, gray in color and with a shorter tail than the more common rat.

Young boys have to be quick as they chase the mice through the fields and catch them. But local villagers have also come up with an innovative trap.

One method involves digging holes and putting clay pots filled with water into them. The mouth of the pot is smeared with fried corn husks. As some of the mice fight for the husks, they fall into the pot and drown.