rotating header

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Story Power, again

“This story  . . .  “ we begin.  Phase Two.  We’ve moved on from the pre-school level of colors, numbers, nouns, and very simple action sentences, and into the world of stories. The first week our stories progressed from a few pictures to Kindergarten and 1rst-grade level books.  Our teacher puts a picture or a page in front of us, and we go around the table saying sentences.  Some are quite simple, the woman is wearing a red shirt . . . the bananas are on top of the table.  Some get a little more interesting, the woman feels sad because she knows her children will be hungry because the monkey stole the bananas.  We speak, we get corrected, we record the teacher talking, we listen to the recording and ask questions, we list new vocabulary words and record him again using each new word in sentences.  We speculate on the way the story will progress, then turn the page or pull out a new card and talk some more. 

Stories give words and grammar meaning and power.  We used to just work on sentence constructions, which have their merits, but connecting all our vocabulary and tenses into the context of a story makes much more sense.  I'm reminded again of how we as humans are wired for story.  We try to impose a narrative on what we see, and when we try to recall words or truth, we remember them in the setting of story.  Certainly the Bible has some poetry and prophecy and propositional teaching, but the bulk of the pages reveal God through story.  

As a person whose second story is about to be published, it is fitting that I'm immersed in these little Swahili stories, which can be so simple yet so rich.  Praying that our story here in Kenya is that much more interesting because of the time we're spending now on monkeys and tables and doors left open.  

Standing on Giant Shoulders, and cheering as the World Records fall

Last night, Katie Ledecky won her 4th gold and 5th medal of this Olympics, setting a new world record in the 800 m freestyle.  By 11.38 seconds.  That's twenty times the margin of many races, or more.  Here is her photo from the news:

After the heartbreaking defeat of the US women's football team, this was happy news indeed.  But one has to wonder, how do you sift through the best swimmers all over the world and come up with an individual who is THAT MUCH better than her contemporaries, and 80 seconds faster than the comparable Olympic races of my childhood?  How do human beings keep breaking records?  Is there a limit to human speed and strength? 

I don't know, but I am speculating that Ledecky's performance rests on a long historical foundation that enables athletes to push the margin just a bit further in each generation.  A culture of valuing sports and achievements for women.  Earlier and more consistent training, and pool access.  Coaching techniques improve.  Swimwear improves.  Nutrition improves.  Someone finesses the art of the turn.  I don't know, but the proverbial wheel doesn't have to be reinvented from scratch for each generation, and that must help in some way, because the Olympics remind us that people keep achieving beyond our dreams.

The Lubwisi trip reminded us of that too.  Rich and Alie B spent so many years on that orthography, which enabled the Tabbs and subsequently Charles and Hannington to translate the New Testament.  We were there with D.H., who was doing village visits for community health for years before we arrived, so we could start new programs and significantly expand medical outreach.  P.L. was there too, who had supervised clearing land and laying a foundation for our house before we arrived, so our house construction progressed to liveable in only 4 months, and we later had the energy for innovations like a flush toilet and improvised solar hot water.  In probably any sector where we can think of our own work, we can acknowledge that we stood on broad shoulders of those who enabled us.  People who came and lived in tents to negotiate the sites of initial housing, teams who invested in those buildings, who figured out how to import vehicles, who preached the Gospel and made friends.  We didn't have to start from scratch, so we could go a little further.  And so it goes for wave after wave of missionaries.  Today's group might come to an established hospital or school, to houses that might need repair but are standing, to church denominations with 2nd or 3rd generation leaders, to accessible education and medicine and electricity and clean water.  Which doesn't mean the work is any easier.  What it means is that instead of laboring to collect rain water in a gutter, they can be consulting on a massive water purification system to serve tens of thousands.  Instead of hours trimming the pesky kerosene fridge wick to slight coolness, they can plug in a humming electric unit and spend their energy on more important things.  In the next decade, they will far surpass all that has gone before, and we will cheer.

So we celebrate Ms. Katie Ledecky, and her coaches, her team, her family, her relentless hard work, her discipline, her achievement.  And as record after record falls, we celebrate not only the current tip-of-the-pyramid athlete but the historical mountain of people whose work brought them to this pinnacle.  Our community stretches across cultures and through generations; our blessings flow from the sacrifices of others.  And we pray that our little pushes in 2016, our small losses and sufferings, bear an eternal weight of glory for those that follow.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Lubwisi New Testament Dedication Journey: A Photographic Epilogue

Click here for Jack's photographs of the Dedication event in dropbox.  

We arrived back in Kijabe after the last 12-hour stretch, miraculously intact, but it may take a while for Jack and Scott to process and upload more quality photos.  Meanwhile, enjoy these!

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Lubwisi New Testament Dedication Journey: A Family Reunion (part 7)

For the last 24 hours, we’ve been at a family reunion.  At least that is how quite a few of the attendees described it, and since that was our hope we are thankful.   As we left, I heard a doctor now serving in Bundi say “this group is like a family and we need to get together every year!”
the whole group hearing from Paul 

(two daughters of the late Dr. Jonah)

Jack and Mutegheki Joshua
(The son of the late Dr. Jonah Kule - also named Jonah)

(three of our currently sponsored medical students: Isaiah, Peter, and Birungi)

(Ndyezika, a laboratory medicine student - and Christ school grad)

A few months ago when the Bible launching date was set, we began to contact the various young people who have been a large part of our life and try to organize a retreat for them.  Our idea was to spend face-to-face time, offer some spiritual encouragement and vision, and help them to build a sense of community and connection with each other.  This group included the Kule  Leadership Scholarship recipients (and one Laura Case Trust funded) who were the sprouts that arose from the buried seed of Dr. Jonah’s life:  4 doctors, 1 MPH, and 1 clinical officer completed with 3 more doctors-in-training in their final years of medical school and 1 beginning a degree in nursing.  Those who have graduated now serve: one as the medical superintendent of Bundibugyo hospital, one who has been fighting ebola in West Africa, one who is beginning internship, one who was selected for an anesthesia residency/master’s program, and one who has published a paper on immunisations. The group also included our foster-children for want of a better word, those kids who grew up around us, were friends of our own kids, spent their afternoons and weekends at our house, went on trips with us, and for whom we took parental responsibility to pay their school fees.  A lab technician, an electrical engineer, a library and information science university graduate, a diploma-holder in agribusiness, a nearly-completed CPA accountant, a certificate-holder in human resources, plus those still studying in a university business program and teacher’s college.  Plus the late Dr. Jonah’s family, with one daughter having completed a degree in development and another entering university for a degree in law.  Plus a quorum of the former Bundibugyo missionaries who have shared the privilege and challenge of all this parental care with us.  All in all we were about 40 people. 

(Birungi Fred, a 5th year medical student from Christ School)

There was swimming in the chilly pool.  There were happy hugs of remembrance.  There were snaps galore, by the flowers, at meals.  There was solid teaching by Paul, Dan, Scott and me.  There were small group prayer times, laying hands on these young people and bringing their needs to God.  There was feasting—the guesthouse prepared outdoor tables with a BBQ of various meats including a whole goat donated by Andrew the merchant in Fort Portal with whom we did so much business over the years—and I was very happy to hear a comment “oh, this is so much like Easter used to be at your house.” 

But mostly there was praise to God.  One young man reminded all of us that God took us “from the dust”, we were not people who should be here, but only by His grace have we come this far.  We marveled at the way this unlikely family came together.  And we purposed to be instruments of God’s blessing going forward to others.
(Scott and the most recent medical graduate, Dr. Katuramu Tadeo - also a Christ School grad)

Please pray for these young people.  They are the future of Bundibugyo and beyond.  Most are orphans, and now with their bit of education they are under pressure from their uncles and brothers and sisters and cousins to solve unsolvable problems of debt, or sickness, or addictions in those they love.  Several are married, so pray for their marriages, and for God’s leading to a like-minded spouse for those that aren’t.  About six have kids, so pray that their parenting would then be the foundation of yet another generation of Kingdom committed people.  Many asked for wisdom, all too aware that even with their degrees they face more than they can handle in their work.  Three still need jobs.  And these young people will live by the way of the cross, in ways familiar to some of us and ways beyond our comprehension.  One couple very dear to us suffered 7 miscarriages before the birth of their sweet 2-month-old baby girl.  Another’s first-born son died after a complicated birth, a year before they had their also sweet baby girl.  Another’s wife couldn’t come because she is caring for their 1.4 kg premature baby.  They face jealously, corruption, accidents, loss, theft, failure, and discouragement.  But for today they were triumphantly joyful in this community.

(all these went to CSB)

And let me close with a shout-out to schools, to our finance office, and to TCK’s.  A large proportion of this group went to Christ School Bundibugyo.  They are the fruit of the Bartkovich’s labor, the Pierces and the Isingomas and countless other team members pulling along.  It was sweet to see these boys’ faces light up when they spotted their former headmaster, Isingoma, at the table.  In their own words, they were not always the kids one hoped they would be, they caused us some heartaches along the way, but it is encouraging to see them mature and look back on those years at CSB as spiritually formative.  We are grateful.  And I hope that Dwight and Jerry see this post, and the faces behind all those requests and transfers and problems over the years.  And I heard a theme over and over about our kids, being their friends.  In fact it is the natural kid-to-kid friendship that my children offered a good proportion of this group that probably had the biggest impact.  When we look back on our Bundibugyo years, we may find that the “non-ministry” hours spent with kids around and in our home, all those meals and football games and catechism and stories, were the real deal of bringing Jesus. 

(Masika, Jonah, Mbusa, Mellen, Biira)
(The Kule Leadership Scholars)

Lubwisi New Testament Celebration Journey: An Interlude (part 6)

In between the rich intensity of Bundibugyo and the peaceful reminder of old friendships at Kingfisher, we Myhres spent a day (and two nights) at our old favorite campsite 2 in Queen Elizabeth National Park.  This trip (like the rest of our life actually) always contains a tension of serving our team as Area Directors and acknowledging that for us and our kids it is a sort of homecoming and part of the core of our life.  And that the 12 days this journey will take is also 12 days we have with Jack and Julia and some of them with Acacia, no small thing.  And we knew that the spiritual and emotional intensity of being in Bundibugyo followed by the pouring out which will occur in the Kule Leadership Retreat tonight and tomorrow in Fort Portal necessitated an intake of breath in the middle.

So we pushed on out of Bundibugyo Sunday evening, barely in time to arrive at the park as dusk deepened to full darkness.  We set up tents by the light of a blazing fire and spent some time in thankfulness and reflection over the past week.  As sprinkles began to fall we scurried into our tents for a night of crashing rainstorms, cozy and mostly dry.  The next day and following morning were classic camping-trip joy.  Riding on the roof rack , the wind of our motion refreshing in the dawn and dusk light, scanning for animals.  Nervously watching elephants tussle with each other and rip branches from trees as a massive herd flowed around the landrover.  Cutting up the fresh avocados we bought on the roadside and cooking flat bread on a stone heated in the fire for an afternoon snack.  Spreading out blankets and reading in the shade at our campsite.  Listening to hippos snort in the night, then catching one waddling through the bush in the early morning.  Seeing Jack, Julia, and Acacia relax into the familiarity of being together, giggles and stories and back-scratches and teases abounding.  Setting up our segeli to make coffee and eggs and bacon in the middle of nowhere on a game drive.  Feeling sorry for two male lions surrounded by three tourist vehicles; they looked bored and barely raised their heads as the shutters clicked (it was almost the only time we saw another soul).  Breathing in the quiet of being immersed in creation.

I always remember Job when we camp in the bush—all the answer God gave to the why of his suffering was to point out the wonder of creation.  God is god and we are not, and that’s a good thing to remember in the middle of this journey.

Lubwisi New Testament Celebration Journey: Silver and Gold (part 5)

Make new friends, but keep ye old,
One is silver  and the other gold.

This was a chorus we used to sing as children, and it appropriately introduces the last 2 days.  The dedication of the New Testament became a central rallying point to draw some of the old-guard back to Bundibugyo. Dan, Paul & Lynn, Pat and Rich were all on the team when we arrived in 1993, and the Tabb family joined when the Bensons had to leave, with the Massos soon after.  Edward Isingoma and Christine have served at various times, most recently as Head Teacher at CSB, and now returned to their church and school work in Hoima. With four Myhres, that made 20 of us former Bundibugyo team types who spent the extended weekend in Bundibugyo for the party, then met together at Kingfisher West just outside Queen Elizabeth National Park.  We realized that the focus in-district appropriately needed to be on the Luwisi translation, our Ugandan friends, the current team.  And we were no small hassle to accommodate.  So we planned a brief time together afterwards just to renew our friendships and relax.  Meals and conversations, splashing in the pool, watching the sunset, and a circle of prayer in which we praised God for all the ebenezers of reaching this point and prayed for each other and the many friends who could not come.

There is something about the fires of trial that forges community.  A few of us were friends in college and that was the nucleus of the team that set out to establish a Kingdom outpost in a place of suffering, specifically seeking out this language to encode and translate and preserve.  But most of the missionary community adds and subtracts and morphs with people who might be quite diverse, and not natural acquaintances.  Yet we learn to lean on each other, to understand each other, to pull for each other, and in that commitment and over those years we form some bonds that are not easily replaced or replicated.

Before the Massos, we were once the youthful newbies in this group, with the youngest kids, looking up to the rest for wisdom.  And we still do.  I am thankful for the ways this group has loved us well, cared for our kids, prayed us through many difficulties, been FOR us.  In this we know the love of Christ.