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Sunday, January 02, 2022

There and back again

 On December 7th, we embarked on a cross-country journey in our white Tacoma (affectionately known to the  family as “ShadowFax”, the trusty steed of Gandalf the Gray—that’s me) to spend Christmas with our kids and my mom (Nana). Why drive 6550 miles in winter? Well, primarily to stay “COVID-safe” in this crazy time of Omicron. We avoided airports, restaurants, and non-family human encounters as much as possible.


For many legs of this journey, we felt like hobbits trying to fulfill a quest. We began within hours of the terrible tornadoes in Kentucky. From Denver, we headed north to drive around the steepest peaks of the Rockies on I-80 West—only to find it closed—and then turned around and drove over the steep Loveland and Vail Passes, our 8 hour day turning to 15.  But we passed over and though to Salt Lake City.


We hiked, talked, and drank bottomless cups of coffee with our kids—until it was time to head west again to spend an extra week with my mom, picking her up in California and bringing her back to SLC for Christmas. But again, ShadowFax was pushed to her limits. Winds in western Utah blew over 18-wheelers. Ice and blowing snow in western Nevada caused others to jack-knife into the ditch. And a blizzard in the Donner Pass (famous for stranding early settlers in the 1840s) threatened to impede us. But, as they say in Uganda — we reached.  


Christmas in Salt Lake City was magical. Fresh snow provided gorgeous backdrops for our dog walks and skiing outings. We spent three nights on the slopes of Alta above Salt Lake City—with enough food for a month (just in case). Homemade lasagne (homemade noodles and all), our traditional Norwegian White Dinner on Christmas Eve (all the food is white), then steaks, fresh sourdough cinnamon rolls, and French cassoulet. What a celebration!


But we were nearly stranded again as a foot of fresh powder fell on the night before our departure—so we shored up the hooves of ShadowFax with chains—and galloped out beautifully.


So, many times these last three weeks, I’ve felt fearful.  Fear that we wouldn’t make it. That our precious time with our family would be cut short or lost. Fear on the top of the mountain that I might not ski to the base without injury. Fear that I might collide with another vehicle on icy roads. All legitimate fears.


In Scott Erikson’s Honest Advent, in the final chapter he posits this statement: Be Not Afraid could be a legitimate substitution for Merry Christmas. For Christmas is Immanuel—God with Us. Why should we fear?


As we enter 2022, there are so many threats looming—threats to our lives and health, threats to democracy, there threats to our goals and dreams, threats to our communities, churches and families, threats to our very planet. In Serge, every year, our Leadership Team does a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). The strengths and weakness are internal; the opportunities and threats are external. The threats lead to fear, and the more we love that which seems threatened (i.e. connecting with kids!)  . . . the harder is to overcome them with faith and courage. 


Erickson ends with this: Today, let our fears be the starting place of divine connection…Let us not be afraid, for Love has drawn near.



























Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Advent Resources 2021

 What is Advent? Definition & Meaning Behind Christmas Tradition

What we're reading devotionally this December...

1.Our Favorite...the online Advent devotional series put out every year by Biola University.  This year they are focusing on the Christmas Canticles (you must go to the devotions to learn what that means)...it is an amazing combination of visual art, music, poetry and devotional reflection. We look forward to this every year--and here's a bonus--they have a series for Lent too!

Here's the link

https://ccca.biola.edu/advent/2021/

2. Second fav, is a book by Scott Erikson called Honest Advent.

There's a Kindle version available on Amazon HERE.

A poignant quote from one of the early devotions...

May you receive the light of divine annunciation in the flames of your best-laid plans.


3. And last, an Advent devotional from Kate Bowler (author of No Cure for Being Human)


Download from her website for free HERE.


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Be that one leper

 



As Jennifer and I have entered Thanksgiving week, we have been inspired by the season to be in touch with those who helped save her life 11-plus weeks ago. We know how rare and meaningful it is to see the patient who was nearly dead, now able to walk and speak words of appreciation. So in the last week, we visited both the Emergency Medical Services crew (ambulance) and the Helicopter crew that were called to Sago Road on Labor Day. Thanks to West Virginia small town spirit and can-do, she also was connected by phone to two of the passers-by who stopped and called 911 and waited with her on the road. Without exception, each vividly remembered the day, the injury, the severity. And each expressed thankfulness to God to see her alive and nearly well. 

We listened to a Trinity Forum (ttf.org) presentation over the weekend on Gratitude and the presenter challenged us to be thankful “to” (someone) this Thanksgiving rather than our traditional habit of being thankful “for” (some thing). This Thanksgiving we have a long list of those TO WHOM we express our thanks:
-to the kind drivers who saw Jennifer lying on the road and stopped to help and didn’t run away from the blood and sorrow
-to the skilled and faithful people who were doing holiday duty and responded to the 911 call
-to our organization (Serge) that provides for us and allows us time to heal, and colleagues who stepped into the gap to take up our work
-to those who mobilised prayer and communicated love - and to those who prayed
-to all in our family who came to be with and support us
-and to God who has been our Rock and Refuge.

Gratitude in the midst of grief has been our theme this month. That is true of life every month, but our cups are especially overflowing with both this month.

Thankful for all of you who follow, read and pray. Happy Thanksgiving.  

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Why We Fight

 


One of our Bundibugyo teammates wrote to Jennifer this week to help her think through a presentation she will be doing in church this week.  She asked Jennifer to articulate the vision of why we work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (aka, The Nursery) of Bundibugyo Hospital.

This is what she wrote back…

… off the top of my head I look at NICU work as being the hands of Jesus to the most vulnerable and marginalised.  This world is broken since the Fall, so hard and wrong things happen particularly in childbirth (specifically mentioned in Genesis) to everyone, but those in the poorest places have the least capacity to withstand those struggles. In Uganda, neonatal deaths account for almost half of childhood mortality and in fact are in the top five causes of death in the whole country, all ages. Jesus came with a concrete mission to reverse the curse, to defeat evil, to bring life. He did that by the cross and resurrection, and He invited his followers to participate in the same. He modelled welcoming the “least of these” and teaching that “of such is the Kingdom of Heaven” as he gathered children.  We try to imitate Him and embody His light and salt approach by moving out to the hardest edges, walking into the places where hope is hard to find, where evil seems to be winning. In Uganda one of those places is the maternity and NICU service, a place that should be full of joy and yet too often holds not just suffering for the sick baby but the worst kind of sorrow for the whole family. By being present we show that God does not shy away from suffering, is also present, sees, notices, cares. We touch, treat, weigh, measure, listen, advocate, teach . . .PRAY . . .because God cares about these “least of these” infants, it is part of His Kingdom coming that Life gets the upper hand over Death, and it helps people see that God’s work in the world is different than the way things normally go. There is actually hope.  Most NICU stays are a week to a month, so we get lots of time with the moms.  They hear the prayers, they see the help, and they dare to hope that God is at work in saving their child. Of course many do still die, but in my experience the parents still find a lot of meaning and comfort that we enabled them to make every effort to save their loved child, and we can offer them hope of eternity together.

Jesus preached and healed, and sent his followers out to do the same. 

It is our holy privilege to do that in Bundibugyo

Friday, November 12, 2021

We interrupt this chronic crisis to bring you: A Birthday

 


Today we celebrate 61 years of Scott. And in honor of that I, Jennifer, who have been silent for a bit over two months, am sneaking back onto this forum while he runs an errand to invite you to celebrate with me. Because this birthday finds him (us) in an unexpected place with an unclear plan, or at least more realistically aware that every birthday finds us in places that are complicated combinations of our choices and life, and we never can plan on the next one! So today please join me in a bit of joy. 

Today's birthday has been joyful, largely due to the presence of our second-born who by God's mercy was able to walk through every step of the first two weeks of this near-death blip with us, and also to come back over this Veteran's Day long weekend. He's been a stalwart and a gem. It's also a glorious Fall day in West Virginia, for a father-son bike ride and polar-plunge river dip, for sunny rocking on the front porch with guitar-accompanied singing truth, for making food and talking. But mostly, today is joyful because it provides a frame in which to gather thankfulness for Scott. It's not the first time he's been instrumental in saving my life but definitely the time that death has come closest. I am thankful for his presence, recognition of the situation, pushing for the helicopter extraction and then sticking by me in the complicated journey of care. He's been constant through those four days on the ventilator, five in the ICU, ten in the main hospital and another week in the rehab.  Then another seven weeks of plugging along at our farm taking me to umpteen appointments, managing both of our jobs at distance alone, shopping, cooking, and on an on. I am trying to be aware of just how drastically my fall has knocked into dozens of other people's lives and plans, but no one's as hard as Scott's. So On this birthday, I am thankful for the companion God has given me (41 years of friendship, 34 years of marriage), and specifically for his capacity to pivot on this unplanned sojourn as we wait to see what it means for our lives.

Our mantra of late has been the paradox of gratefulness and grief. I'm grateful to be alive and in recovery, yet also grieving for the loss of so much of life for now. In the same way on this birthday I'm grateful for Scott's wisdom, energy, faith, commitment, kindness, care for me, capacity to stay involved in our own struggle and those of our team and Area and friends . . . but also grieving that he has to be away from a life that we spent 28 years investing in, the human beings that fill his heart, the hands-on work that brings him satisfaction. Two birthdays ago we got Bwindi in Kampala; last year we went to a Safari Lodge for a lovely treat of a time together. This year we've been boosted for COVID at Walgreens and watched the Veteran's day parade, and are treasuring the weekend with our son and chatting with the rest of the family. We are  marveling that we can be here, even making his mom's traditional carrot cake (without Ruth 61 years ago none of this story would be possible!).

After today, back to PT and zoom calls and the slog of survival, back to hoping and praying and waiting. I'm aware that my brain is not to be fully trusted (going to have this read by someone before posting) and everything takes more energy than it should. But for today, I'm glad that I'm not in this crazy situation alone, that God gave Scott 61 years and counting, and hoping it is many more. He's done a great job of recruiting prayer for me, which is definitely my lifeline. Today pray for him, to also meet God in the mess, to be filled with faith, hope, and love as we recited in our wedding vows from 1 Cor 13, to accept the new normals with grace and find good in his next year of life. And to have a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!