10 February 2012

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (born 1977) is a Nigerian writer. She has been called "the most prominent" of "a procession of critically acclaimed young anglophone authors which is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature".

Adichie's first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), received excellent reviews and was given numerous awards. Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), was awarded the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her third book, The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), is a collection of short stories. Adichie's story, Ceiling, was included in the 2011 edition of The Best American Short Stories.

Inspired by Nigerian history and tragedies all but forgotten by recent generations of westerners, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels and stories are jewels in the crown of diasporan literature.

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice - and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

I hope you'll take the time to listen to this very articulate and eloquent young lady, as she speaks of the many misconceptions of Africa and Africans. The 18-minute video is well worth your time!

Personal note: I have read Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun. They are both excellent.

06 February 2012

My sabbatical

Sabbatical - (from Hebrew shabbat, i.e., Sabbath, literally a "ceasing") is a rest from work, or a hiatus, often lasting from two months to a year. (source: Wikipedia)

Any extended period of leave from one's customary work, especially for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc. (source: dictionary.com)

According to Howard Culbertson, Nazarene missionary (http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/furlough.htm), a missionary furlough includes the following:
  • being with old friends, sharing your prayer burdens, even unloading some frustration, hurts, and disappointments.
  • finding out where your friends are on their spiritual pilgrimage, sharing their prayer burdens, letting them unload some of their frustrations, hurts and disappointments.
  • learning how large and how big-hearted your spiritual family really is.
  • answering the same questions again and again, but getting excited because people are really interested in your work.
  • meeting people who say they've been praying for you by name every day for years.

In the 10 years I've lived in Kenya, I’ve spent 66% of it in Kenya and the other 1/3 in the US. This is my 6th time to be back in the States.

During  sabbaticals, I struggle with being physically in the US... but my heart and mind are still in Kenya. Emotionally, it's an awkward way to exist. Furloughs often seem like an interruption in the calling God has on my life. It’s not easy living in two places.

Naturally, it’s incredibly wonderful to be with my family and friends! But… simultaneously, it’s hard to be away from everyone in Kenya. My thoughts are pretty much always there. I’m also very aware that it’s not easy on my kids and grand-kids to have me away so much of the time. It’s a hard balancing act.

It's been a really good sabbatical. Perhaps my best one yet.

I started off with a few weeks in Delhi, India visiting my daughter, Naomi, and her family. I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in their normal daily routine!

My next stop was New York City, to spend time with my daughter, Jess, and her family. Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in their normal daily routine.

Right after I arrived in my home town in Nebraska, I got to play in the snow with one of my grand-daughters before the unseasonable warm weather arrived.

We also celebrated my mom's birthday with an open house.

The following are prayer items, as I anticipate my return to Kenya:
  • Spiritual - Growth as I sit quietly at the feet of my Lord and as I immerse myself in and absorb his Word. I want to linger in his presence and walk in his peace.
  • Ministry-wise - Sensitivity to the Lord regarding a balanced weekly routine, as I interact with my ministry relationships and friends. I want to move at his pace and listen to his promptings. I desire that everything I do and say will be aligned with his purpose.
  • Physical safety -
1. Safety for my life and limbs as I travel on dangerous roads and public transportation.
2. Awareness of my surroundings as I face the constant possibility of pick-pockets.
3. Safety in the threat of increasing terrorist activity throughout the country of Kenya. Both the US and UK governments have warned their citizens residing in Kenya of ‘imminent terrorist activity’, specifically from the Somalia-based militant Islamist group known as Al-Shabaab. There have been grenade and bomb attacks, kidnappings, and killings. Kenya’s army is currently on a campaign inside the border of Somalia.
4. Unstable political climate. Another presidential election is due within the next year (date yet to be announced). As a result of the last election (December 2007), mayhem, looting, and killing broke out for two months. As nothing has been resolved, it is highly likely such post-election chaos could replicate itself.
  • Health - Please pray that I will maintain good health, including protection from such tropical diseases as malaria, typhoid, and typhus; a variety of water-borne diseases; worms; amoeba; the common cold, etc.

    This will be a guiding motto for my upcoming field-stay:
    In God's peace, at God's pace, aligned with God's purpose, lingering in God's presence, and listening to God's promptings.

    Quotes from two great missionaries -

    “Obedience to God was the reason for this journey.
    It was a good thing for me to remind myself of the reason because,
    on top of everything, it was really great fun.
    It was an adventure and held the thrill of adventure…
    It was the thing I was made for and I was full of gladness.”

    - Elisabeth Elliot (writing about her first year as a missionary in Ecuador)

    “People talk of the sacrifice I made 
    in spending so much of my life in Africa. 
    I never made a sacrifice. 
    We ought not to talk of sacrifice when we remember 
    the great sacrifice which He made 
    who left His Father’s throne on high 
    to give Himself for us.”  

    - David Livingstone, missionary to Africa in the 1800’s