Thursday, December 30, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
So we've had this cash and this hope percolating, but the days we've had with all six of us together and no other obligation since arriving in the US have been, well, very very few. I thought this weekend could be a window, since Luke finished exams mid-day Friday and we didn't need to be in VA until Sunday evening. Not enough time or money to go somewhere with for-sure snow, we would have to take our chances with PA, which lies between New Haven and Virginia. I started surfing the internet. Then my mom "happened" to mention she had points left for 2010 on her time-share that she would need to give away or waste. I jumped to volunteer, and it turned out the choices included a cluster of condos on the NY/PA border, near some Pocono mountain slopes. We booked it. Still now snow in the NE, unlike most of the USA it seems, but we figured we could at least enjoy a day in the woods. . .
We picked Luke up Friday, after untold hours of traffic and detours (nothing like trying to pass through several of the major cities on the East Coast on a Friday before Christmas). Hugs and joy, exams done, first semester survived! We arrived in PA late Friday evening. Saturday broke in, brilliantly sunny and cold. Skeptical, we just though we would check out the local ski slope. If we hadn't had that gift we wouldn't have tried it, given the man-made snow and the weekend-costs. But I'm so glad we did. The lifts and equipment for six was within a few dollars of exactly matching the gift. We had our fifth day of family-ski life, and it was another fantastic one. No lines. Clear skies, empty woods. Powdery snow that scraped away to iciness by sunset. Almost-full moon rising as we flew up the lifts. We skied almost continuously all day, and most of that time we were pretty much together. I was always the last one to reach the bottom, being a fan of sharper speed-decreasing turns than the rest of my family. We would regroup on the lift, take turns choosing the route down, swish and glide through the wintry beauty, encourage the fallen, and then do it all again. The ominous crushing blade of the snow-boarders overtaking me was sometimes unnerving, but we all made it through the day intact. Our rental had a rec center with a pool and hot tub, bubbling hot salt water that was perfect that evening, kindness to rarely-used muscles. By the time we ate dinner I wasn't sure if everyone could stay awake, but we managed to cap the evening off with a fire and a chapter from "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" (which we usually read CAMPING in the SAVANNAH pre-Christmas, still by a fire, but otherwise a world away).
So thanks friends, for the gift of sun and exercise and snow and craziness and overcoming fears and doing it together. Thanks mom for the gift of a place to stay along the way. Thanks other friends for the loan of the massive van to move us from here to there. For me, Christmas has come, I'm content.
Friday, December 17, 2010
God embraced the body. Can I? Mine has been frustratingly inconvenient lately. Last week we anticipated the highlight of our short furlough, the gift of two nights away at a luxurious hotel, just the two of us. It was a gift that was urged upon us by people wiser than we are, that we almost missed receiving through our inertia of rush. As the day approached I started downing multiple meds and recruiting a few praying friends for three different infections and a strained knee. To spare you all the details, you can just smile imagining the most noticeable one: a swollen red nose due to deep skin infection, attractive only to someone with a Rudolph fetish, and leaving me feeling wiped out. The day we drove out to the Inn was probably one of the physically weakest days of my year. We planned to start our retreat with a hike up to the mountaintop which was the scene of our first date, and the site of our engagement. But forty-mile-an-hour winds had downed trees closing the road. So random as to be so noticeable. Surely God had a point.
Yes, the physical concrete nature of our existence can be mightily inconvenient. But as the meds kicked in by evening, and we entered into the peaceful order of this Inn, the inconvenience gave way to glory. A glowing fire and towering lighted Christmas tree, gourmet food served by candlelight. A balcony in the mornings which absorbed the 20-degree sunshine for blanket-wrapped Bible reading. Exploring the machines in the fitness center, running over crunch-frosted grass on the golf course. Reading uninterrupted in the silent afternoon. Dashing over the patio to an outdoor hot tub in the moonlight, simmering in the 103-degree water while our damp hair froze into ice-sicles under the stars. A door opened into a taste of Heaven, outside of time.
But that experience was very physical, taste and touch and sight and smell and sound. As, if you think about it, even the "intangibles" are, peace and love must be enjoyed through our living bodies.
The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. Christmas is all about the inconvenience of that, but also the glory of it. The squalling hunger of the infant Jesus but also the milky pleasure of being satisfied by his mother. The excruciating nails splitting his palms, but also the gloriously healed scars in His resurrected hands.
So let us not apologize for the body (the first reaction of our fallen parents, shame and fig leaves) because it is in the flesh that we shall see God.
And let us not doubt the Kingdom-wholeness of goats' milk and kitengi-quilts and mission as medicine. Let us not measure the value of ministry-diversity on a heretical scale where only the translation into spiritual truly "counts". Let us not give succulent Christmas feasts and a gift you can hold or wear pharisaically suspicious glances. Because Jesus redeems us body and soul, until the paradox of incarnation dissolves into fully convenient glory.
Now back on the road, dodging trucks and slinging salt up 95, a long trip ahead to New Haven, but thankful for the waypoint of cheer.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
I am proud to be a fellow alumna of the same medical school, and soon to be a colleague at Kijabe Hospital. The Bransfords have encouraged us as we follow a mile behind, trying to stay in their Jesus-like footprints.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Another opportunity for meaningful Christmas giving: the $140 BundiNutrition Give-A Goat. For more information, check http://www.whm.org/project/details?ID=12375, or click on the WHM tab above and go to projects, then Give-A Goat. Below I have excerpted some of the text from the site. . . .
In the last year, BundiNutrition Project provided care for 220 kids hospitalized with severe acute malnutrition and provided outpatient care for 359 children suffering from moderate to acute malnutrition. We also provided care for children in two high-risk groups: 61 infants whose mothers had died in childbirth and 68 infants born to HIV-positive mothers. The children in these two groups benefited through our Matiti Goat project, which distributed 120 goats to their families. Other families were shown the love of Christ through our chicken project which gave out 10,000 eggs.
Would you be willing to make a donation of $140 this Christmas to support the Bundi Nutrition program? Funds will be used to:
- Buy food and milk for children who are severely or moderately malnourished, or at extreme risk due to the death of their mother or to HIV infection, and
- Support community-level changes in nutrition practices through the introduction of dairy goats and through education and outreach.
- $1/day buys milk or baby formula to ensure the survival of a baby whose mother dies in the first few months of his life.
- $15 buys enough milk to resuscitate a severely malnourished child.
- $140 buys a dairy goat which can be bred with local goats to improve milk production and provide protein supplementation to children.
For the fourth consecutive year, we are offering African handmade Christmas tree ornaments to the first 100 Give-a-Goat Ornament donors. Merry Christmas from all of us here in Bundibugyo!
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Meet Kansiime Christine. Hailing from Ntandi village, she looks forward to breaks from school when she can go home to visit with her mother and seven sisters—sitting around the fire and sharing stories. Christine is a confident young woman at the age of twenty. She is passionate about literature and reading novels; Emma’s War is her current favorite. As we talk, she is eager to share her story and all that God has done in her life. Christine’s father died when she was young. Her mother managed to scrape by and support her children but there was no money for Christine to go to a high-quality, private school. Instead, she attended the local primary school but she worked hard and earned the highest grades in the district. As she finished primary school, Christine’s mother broke the news that she would not have the money to pay for her to attend secondary school. Christine was devastated but soon after she received a letter telling of the sponsorship program at Christ School. She was fearful as she had never been to Bundibugyo but she gathered her courage and interviewed. Two hundred students were competing for ten sponsorship slots and the hopes of a quality education. Christine was accepted and has been amazed at God’s provision for her entire secondary school education. She is looking forward to graduating from Christ School and hopes to become a teacher or public administrator involved in social services. Join us in praying for Christine, that she would rely on God to help her achieve great things for Uganda.
Meet Kule Isaiah. At nineteen, he is confident and a born-leader. He eagerly explains to me that “Kule” is the name given to a third born male child. When asked about his journey to Christ School, he responds, “God did me a favor in coming here”. At the age of eight, Isaiah’s father was killed in rebel warfare. Isaiah felt hopeless and feared his future had been lost. His mother remained faithful to God and when Isaiah approached secondary school age, she told him to pray, as there was no money for school. He came to Christ School to interview for a sponsorship but the registrations had already been completed. He still interviewed, hoping for a miracle, and was found to be among the top 10 new students. When God answered Isaiah and his mother’s prayers, his life was changed. As he attended Christ School, he began to learn more about God and His character. Today he boldly proclaims that “God is the father of the fatherless.” Isaiah hopes to graduate from Christ School in one year and dreams of completing a Bible course afterwards. He also hopes to continue on and receive a degree in medicine so that he can give back and care for orphans. Join us in praying for Isaiah and the many other students with promise at Christ School, that they would become strong, Christian leaders of Uganda.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
How did our celebration of this day become so sanitized, the ideal so disparate from the real? I dare say there is not one picture in the entire stack that shows blood or sweat. Not one home that looks like a place where a displaced teenage unmarried mother in labor would be easily sheltered. Not one article that even acknowledges the existence of anything too disturbing, anything close to suffering.
Besides the magazines, we also have incredibly fast and ubiquitous internet access here. Yesterday I was trying to download a cute little Christmas-tree app, with flashing lights and an automatic countdown to the day. Clicking on one of the very innocent-appearing links however opened a horrifyingly graphic page of disturbing images, quickly closed. That glimpse was shocking, sobering, a gut-punch. I never experienced that before.
So I'm processing the two extremes. I think the magazine images of Christmas, while appealing, feel empty because they lull us into forgetting that evil is out there. That evil is real, and a click away from even the most attractive and safe of homes. Christmas is a desperate tale that only makes sense in a context of a big-picture struggle, where evil is overcome by good. And where that overcoming occurs by way of incarnation, of giving up and pouring out, of death and resurrection.
The beautiful homes are not invalid, they are legitimate early images of the final feast. The home to which we all aspire, the Heavenly mansion with its many rooms (which is a much more communal image than the multi-million dollar single-family fortresses in the photos, by the way). The music and cakes and twinkling lights and generous gifts would not hold such power over imagination if they were not shadows of that which is truly to come. But the real home is reached by way of the valley of the shadow of death, not by way of superior decorating talents.
Another paradox I suppose: longing for the beauty, enjoying the once-a-year magic of nearly reaching it, but at the same time remembering that the real Christmas Home lies behind the veil, that there is still much of the fight to be won before we will relax around Jesus' Christmas tree.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Emerg Infect Dis. 2010 Dec;16(12):1969-72.