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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Domestic Days

In between churches and road trips, we have assembled a bit of temporary life here in Virginia.  My old bedroom, cluttered now with all our personal papers, books, clothes, computers, a card table for Scott's desk and TV tray for mine .  .  . the rest of my mom's house is unerringly neat, so I'm not sure how I failed to emulate that, but this room is scattered.  Mornings at the dining room table coaching Jack and Julia through Geometry, vocab and grammar.  Highlight of my day is figuring out a formula for how many discreet areas 100 intersecting coplanar lines will create, and then trying to explain it.  Or finding a latin root cross-over in a mathematical term.  Afternoons in the car, doing the traditional Northern-Virginia-Mom thing, driving to soccer practices (now extras since both kids made all-star, and never at the same time or same day), music lessons.  Thankful that this little period of a couple of months can be a time to launch my youngest two with opportunities the older two missed:  clarinet for Julia, drums for Jack, piano for both, hopefully enough to get them started in case they want to keep on with it in Kenya.  Library runs for books. Pulling from the abundance in the fridge, strawberries any day of the year, unlimited salads.  Seeing deer cross the back yard.  Trying to squeeze in some medical study/updating time.  Trying to get Caleb on the phone (success yesterday!  Hooray!  miss him so much).  Posting support letters and sending out our video to those we can't personally reach.  Maintaining life, no glamor, just plugging on.

Scott in the meantime spends a lot more forward-focused time.  After weeks of email exchanges the import taxes on a new vehicle to Kenya have just proven prohibitive.  As the American economy falters and our support account sputters, we scale back expectations, which feels right.  Downwardly mobile missionaries.  Find out we're moving into the same small duplex housing at Kijabe where we stayed for about six months post-ADF when Jack was born!  Will be a bit tighter with three teens than three toddlers and an infant . . but part of the simplifying of life.  And the full-circle sense is satisfying.  

This USA time is more than half over.  We've been present in all six churches that support us in some way.  I can't even count the number of meals and beds with gracious friends, the encouraging words from those that still care for us.  Another paradox, the peculiar juxtaposition of multiplying the interactions in America and yet aching for those we've left behind in Uganda.  Of deep and yet time-limited relationship.  Being back, but always moving on.  How to explain to people calling and emailing now that even though we don't leave until Christmas, we can't maintain this social pace all the way through to the very last day.  Scott is already in Philadelphia for meetings with WHM and will be mostly there until mid-November, then one more trip southwards to my sister's, Thanksgiving with both sets of parents, and then the final stretch.  Hate the awkwardness of being non-committal to people we'd love to see.

Monday, October 25, 2010

On prayers and answers

Basiime Godfrey landed in Atlanta Saturday night, and today had a successful surgery on his best eye.  If his recovery goes well, he'll preserve the limited vision he has left, which is enough for him to function in Uganda but be declared legally blind in America.  He is overflowing with thankfulness for this opportunity, it is a bit like a benevolent millionaire offering someone time travel into the future to save their life with a procedure not yet developed in the present, there is the relief of getting taken care of, and then the over-the-top amazement of the vastly different world he has entered. The same things our kids notice when they come here, automatic garage doors and dishwashers and quiet empty streets and strangers who pray and give sacrificially.  America.

Pray for our Bundibugyo team's two days of prayer tomorrow and the next, a pause for breath as they come towards the end of this tumultuous transition-filled year.  Nothing is ever smooth, or simple, evil never rests, and when one problem is solved another one comes.  The Johnsons and Anna will be on a month of travel to the US for meetings, so Pat, Chrissy, and the Clarks need special prayer to "keep on holding on to the One  who's holding" them as our prayer video sings.  In Sudan Bethany is now the interim leader as the Massos begin a 7-month HMA too, so we have a team of hard-working and creative and caring very young people living at the edge of a national crisis as the vote on the referendum approaches.  The Kenya teams need prayer for wisdom in mentoring church leaders, working with Somali refugees and immigrants, and teaching Bible storying.  

And lastly, World Harvest Mission is about to enter a season of meetings.  Scott leaves Wednesday for the first phase, a prayer and fellowship and spiritual accountability retreat with the other overseas field directors. Next a week-long leadership meeting in Philadelphia, then another week-long team leader training in a small town outside the city.  I'll join him that third week.  Pray for our mission to collectively listen to God and each other, to love, to risk, to bring clarity of vision without eliminating the important things that Jesus himself would have us do and be.

Yale Family Weekend

Fall colors, exploding in New England, brilliant, rich, as sun filters through the trees. The solid stone campus, clusters of families in and out of buildings, chatting, showing. Yale Gospel Choir, enthusiastic harmonies, swaying, clapping, beautiful praise. Walking and walking, in the breeze, absorbing time together. The Yale Sustainable Farm, organic vegetables arranged on fresh pizza from the brick oven, inspiring creativity with rutabaga and ricotta, delicious. Popping into the rink to see an ice-hockey scrimmage, violent, fast, sweaty odors on icy air. An elegant dinner of Spanish tapas with Luke's buddy from RVA up visiting his sister at Yale, three kids from Africa all finding their way through the Ivy League. A men's varsity soccer game, Luke's room mate playing with speed and precision, but a loss to harsh refereeing decisions, under the lights in the chill of night. Church on campus, rousing praise, and a powerful sermon on the Prodigal Son. Afternoon club soccer games, Yale wins twice, Luke in uniform, happy to be outside, playing the game he loves, team camaraderie, meeting a few other parent pairs on the sidelines. And the weekend ends with an orchestral performance in the Battell Chapel, students filling the building with Rimsy-Korsakoff, building, spiraling, crescendos. Then the goodbye, another tearing of the heart, another inevitable sadness, a young man finding out who he is amidst late-night all-suite discussions of politics and Jesus and the environment and love, finding out what he can do in classes with the most brilliant of the world's youth, finding out what his priorities are and who he will become, while we cheer from the sidelines.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Latest Prayer Letter

Now available... our latest prayer letter in pdf file format. Even better than the snail mail version - it's got COLOR. If you download it, read it, and like it. Email us (link above) so we can add you to the hard copy mailing list. Click here to download the prayer letter now (1.2MB pdf file)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

the gospel in Charlottesville

This past weekend we journeyed back to our college days at UVA, to thank Trinity Presbyterian Church for many things. Supporting us. Fasting and prayer for our lives during the ebola epidemic. Believing in us over decades, particularly a former professor of mine who has encouraged us greatly, a former director of the Center for Christian Study who was one of my primary mentors in faith, and the former pastor who impacted our lives through his preaching and his concern for Uganda. And, the fact that Scott and I met BECAUSE I needed a ride to church as an 18 year old first year student one Fall 18 years ago, and he was a year old with a car and picked me up on a street corner one Sunday morning. Trinity has sent us a solid group of interns, at least two missionaries (Mary Ann Carter and Ashley Wood) . . . and two of their pastors over the years as John Hall became a missionary to London and Bob Osborne our executive director. So this was a homecoming in many ways, and one in which we were blessed. The current pastor opened the service with a moving gospel invitation, for the weary and broken to find resurrection life. This set the tone for a spirit-filled worship service that spoke to our souls. And after two services, we were joined by a good quorum of interested people at a luncheon where we once again showed our video and shared our life. Ashley's dad ended with a true benediction, good words of blessing, as he told a story from his time in Uganda speaking with experienced military types unrelated to us at all, who said the real impact on Africa only comes through people who are willing to live out their lives in villages, small-scale and long-term. It was a kind and gracious conclusion to our reporting.
The weekend was also very significant because we stayed with Ashley's family, who had been to see us in Uganda. And not only did we enjoy reuniting with Ashely, Heidi was there as well! So there was this interesting combination of "It's Sunday late afternoon, must be time for family soccer with Ashley and Heidi .. . " and "It's Sunday afternoon, must be time to watch Redskins football with the 'dad' in the den". I felt our family relax.
To cap it off, we drove back to northern Virginia Monday via the Skyline Drive. Not exactly efficient, but beauty rarely is. Fall, muted somewhat this year, but still glorious, spreading over the Blue Ridge Mountains we love so much.
Now we've visited all five of our supporting churches, and a good number of individuals as well. Just in time to plunge into major planning meetings with WHM through the first half of November. Semi-homeschooling and survival, travel and correspondence, not as restful as I perhaps imagined, but I think we're where we are supposed to be this season. Not a lot left to offer, but that's the message of the gospel we were reminded of, we receive and carry the Life in spite of ourselves.

Monday, October 18, 2010

breaking news . . .

Just got an sms from Godfrey in Uganda. He has the receipt for a visa, and will pick up his passport in 24 hours. Many thanks to all who prayed, and to Congressmen Wamp and Wolf. Now for what should have been the harder part: traveling for the first time out of Africa, on an airplane, to America, and having surgery!

Soccer Debut, part 2

From the truly crucial (see Godfrey's latest, below) to the apparently frivolous, we return to Jack's soccer game on Saturday evening. But even as I say that, I know that the game was not frivolous, that our kids love the sport, and the lessons of hard work, team play, cooperation, excellence, exercise, reward are all essential to life.
Jack played his first ever game on a team. This child has been kicking a soccer ball since he could walk, but in a country where the first organized sport opportunities occur for 16 year olds and above. So he was pretty nervous driving to his game, wearing the jersey, and doubting his worthiness. His team is undefeated, and they played the only other undefeated team in the league. Jack started as a left-sided striker, and played all but about ten minutes of the match. And he played hard, got the ball, had drove through the defense, and had many strikes on goal. In the second half he finally scored, which went a LONG way in boosting his confidence. Another of his strikes bounced off the inside of the post, and was probably over the goal line. He also drew a foul in the box that resulted in a team score, and had many good passes. And at the end of a very close and exciting game, he consistently ran back to help the defense, even though he looked exhausted. The final result was a tie 6 to 6, and by that time it was so dark we could barely see which kid on the field was ours.
So we feel one step closer to being real Americans this weekend. Now all four of our kids have played community soccer (Luke in 2nd grade and Caleb in Kindergarten in 2000; Julia in the U14 and Jack in the U13 groups in 2010). It was fun and nerve-wracking to cheer on the sidelines, and a huge relief to see each of them score and celebrate with friends and start to feel a part of things.

Pray now

In seven hours Basiime Godfrey will have a second chance at the US
Embassy in Kampala to convince the consular officer that he really is
going blind, really does have a sponsor for surgery, really can make
it to the US and back without dropping out and becoming a person who
illegally drains American resources. Please pray this evening for him
to be calm and confident and articulate in a very intimidating
situation, and for the embassy staff to actually read his extensive
medical documentation this time around. And mostly for God to bring
healing to his eyes and peace to his heart, by any means that He
chooses. Thanks.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sterling Lightning

Our very first community league soccer match today, and Julia's team the "Lightning" won 5 to 0 against a Reston team. Perfect Fall day with gusting breezes, falling leaves, brilliant sunshine. A handful of parents in folding chairs, cheering. Excited girls, dedicated coaches. Neon-orange jerseys, laughter. Julia played "stopper", a roaming defender in the center in front of the three backs. And she did a lot of stopping, as well as making the pass that initiated the first goal. In the second half the coach moved her up to left mid-field. And from that position, she scored one of the five goals! She had a fantastic time, and we couldn't have asked for a better first-experience.
Yet we're all still learning. At one point in the game, every player went down on one knee, and Julia looked around confused, turns out it's a rule in this league during a stop for injury. She caught on fast. Both kids were somewhat appalled by the shortness of the standard-issue shorts (girls don't even really show knees in Uganda, let alone half the thigh) so we weren't sure if it was OK to substitute longer shorts, but gambled on it, and it was. I asked other parents where we should put our chairs, and tried to cheer appropriately So much to learn, it takes energy. And as we pulled out from the game, I made a U-turn and was stopped by the police. I wasn't fully in the turn lane, I was straddling one of the lanes in the highway. Whoops, another rule I didn't know. It just all weighs down at at times and is a little much. Thankfully the officer was merciful and issued me a warning, but no fine.
Now on to Jack's game!

A family event, for once

My Aunt Ann turned 80 yesterday, and for once, I was there. Her daughter, my cousin, organized a ladies' lunch at an historic miill-turned gourmet restaurant in Purceville, and Julia and I accompanied my mom, along with two other cousins' wives, one cousin's daughter and her newborn baby whom I got to cuddle, and a couple of friends. Aunt Ann is second-youngest in the family, #14 next to my Dad #15. She has been a good friend to my parents for life, and since my Dad died a stalwart support to my mom. I would describe her as "sunny", caring, loyal, and a serious card player! As the outsider in the family who has missed untold numbers of birthdays, weddings, funerals, births, graduations, and holidays . . it was a privilege to be able to attend this event.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

small notes from a Thursday

Highlight of the day:  a picture sent by blackberry from the Johnsons of the team IN OUR HOUSE in Bundi opening a package that Julia and I assembled and mailed in early September I think.  Mail works!

Answer to Laura:  YES, we are returning to Africa, still with World Harvest Mission, but for the next few years we'll be working from a mission hospital in Kenya called Kijabe.  Scott is now the East Africa Field Director for our mission, allowing us to still support and love and pull along with our teams in Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya.  We are looking forward to working in this larger hospital, learning from other doctors instead of being alone, supervising Kenyan interns and residents, and MOST OF ALL living WITH three of our children instead of sending them 23 hours away to boarding school (the school, Rift Valley Academy, is adjacent to the hospital we'll serve).  

Jeans:  wore today the first pair I've bought in probably almost 20 years and realized how COMFORTABLE they are.  I've so appreciated hand-me-downs, but it now occurs to me that the several pairs I've inherited in the last decade or two have been from rather small people.  Old Navy Outlet, highly recommended.

Rain:  came in torrents today, pulling down leaves.  In the car Jack and Julia spy out the best, most colorful trees.  It is Fall.  Chilly.  Damp.  Hot tea weather.  

Emotions:  close to the surface. Watched the Chilean miners being rescued last night.  Beautiful.  

Reality:  Took the frightening step of beginning on-line medical exams to keep up our certification.  Corresponding with our teams, praying for them.  Teaching geometry to Jack and Julia (who usually get it faster than I do), and helping them journal and read and play music and soccer, and cooking for them, and glad that I can pour in a little more than I usually manage in our distracted and demanding lives.  Jack will, on Saturday weather permitting, play in his FIRST ever organized uniform-wearing official-team soccer game.  Pretty amazing for a kid who breathes soccer.  Julia was already named to the Under-14 Girls Sterling Youth Soccer League All-Star team.  She also has yet to play in a game due to our travel, but works really hard in practice . . thanks Miss Ashley!!

Boys-Far-Away:  This week is called "Spiritual Emphasis Week" at RVA, so we are in prayer for the school, sort of a revival, with special speakers and music and emphasis on spiritual growth for the kids.  Join us in prayer.  Luke called me yesterday.  Sounds calm, confident, busy, grown up, thinking about what really matters, asking hard questions, having some fun with soccer.  Nice.  Makes me realize I should call my Mom more.  When we're not living with her, that is. 

More Reality:  our supporters are hard hit by the economy.  Our previously largest single donor has been unemployed now for two years.  And he's not the only one.  In all our 17 years in Uganda God has provided, abundantly and miraculously.  Since we took this HMA leave, our account with World Harvest has been in deficit for the first time ever.  Faith required.  Feels like we took a wrong turn in some ways, we came to America for a few months and our support stopped flowing.  But trusting that God wants us to go back to Kenya at the end of December, and He'll make it possible.  Meanwhile we're working hard to be in contact with our supporters,  to be thankful, to be expectant and faithful.  Thankful that we are living with my Mom for free, that Luke's college expenses are nearly fully covered, that we have a car to borrow for free.  

Quest:  still mulling over Scott's post a few down.  The never-settled, always-outsider feeling, is real.  And I suppose always will be.  It's too late to go back.  Counting the cost, and holding on.

And lastly, the Godfrey saga:  Multiple attempts to fax the US Ambassador in Uganda have failed, the fax number posted on their web site and with the US State Department actually does not accept faxes.  And the only email address I can access has once again failed to elicit a response.  So far we've been told via email from the embassy to the TN congress-person that it is Godfrey's fault that he failed to convince the interviewer of his need, that he could read print on the rejection letter so he wasn't really going blind (which is medically completely erroneous, since glaucoma gradually knocks out the optic nerve from the periphery to the center until one day the person can see NOTHING), and that he should just pay all the fees and reapply with new documentation (never mind the fact that no one read the documentation the first time).  In spite of all that, God HAS intervened, in that his eye exam has held steady in spite of the delay.  Keep praying for a miracle of healing within Ugandan resources, or for a miracle of the US Embassy reversing their decision.


I just got an email from a missionary blogger site that is running a contest.  If you link and leave a comment about our blog, we go into a contest to win a free Kindle.  The Massos went to e-books when they went to Sudan, and we've been thinking seriously about it.  It was painful to leave behind hundreds upon hundreds of great books. like old friends.  But it was not possible to cart them all off to Kenya, and it seemed a bit immoral to remove them from Bundibugyo where they are probably more needed.  So we pray they bless many others.  If anyone wants to increase our chances of winning, leave a comment here:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Birthday Uganda

Ugandan Independence Day was this past weekend.  Ugandans are celebrating Moses Kipsiro's victories at the Commonwealth Games, winning gold in the men's 5000m and 10,000m races, an historic accomplishment in a field of very strong Kenyan runners. And celebrating the oil soon to flow and enrich the country.  And the money that will come in the wake of being named the security hub for the region, with the EU coming to train the military in response to the Al-Shabab related bombings in Kampala a few months ago.  One Ugandan is not celebrating, that is Basiime Godfrey, who reports that his visa rejection letter was pre-printed, that the hasty interview consisted of four questions about his marital status and properties and then a summary dismissal with not even a glance at his extensive medical documentation.  We and a number of other concerned friends are contacting our congressional representatives' offices to appeal the hasty and baseless rejection.  And I have to say the professional responsiveness from our representative (Frank Wolf) and the can-do enthusiasm from friends in Virginia, Illinois, and California, balances the disappointment we felt with the embassy's treatment of Basiime.  

And there are a couple of Ugandan-American kids here who are still longing for their home.  Julia woke up yesterday craving a mango, and misses the sunsets.  Usually they take America in stride, but this weekend we drove a couple of times down a nearby road and passed what used to be a "kennel".  Now it is called a pet motel, with "resort and spa" written under it.  Jack and Julia had a long discussion in the back seat, one insisting that the resort and spa were for the owners of the pets, and the other daring to conjecture that it was for the pets themselves. Services such as "pool" and "beauty" were listed on the side.  When we concluded it was all for pets, they were incredulous.  

As Uganda moves into the 49th year of independence, our hearts are there.  But we are slightly more settled these days, for several days at a time anyway, taking Grammy to doctors' appointments, braving more dentist visits. taking kids to music lessons and soccer practice . . . and even a day of shopping, jeans all around for the impending cooler weather.  Shoes will have to follow.  

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Fortress America

Basiime Godfrey was denied a visa to America. This is deeply saddening to us, embarrassing really. We have been welcomed to Uganda for 17 years, in homes, to meals, in government offices, in churches, always on the receiving end of gracious hospitality. Six of us, over and over and over again, often at significant cost and inconvenience to others. Yes, we have to go through procedures and paperwork for long-term work permits, but anyone from America can land in Uganda and get a 2 month tourist visa to visit. But that openness is not reciprocated. A young man, a college student who is going blind, who has full sponsorship for an airfare and surgery in the USA, and carried documentation of all that to the embassy, was turned away. Why our country can not allow an orphan with a serious NON-CONTAGIOUS eye problem through our borders for a month in order to receive care at NO COST to the state, is beyond me.
The ever-amazing Dr. B is appealing through his congress-people. We can all appeal through prayer. Basiime's not asking to live in America, to study in America, to do anything other than walk on this soil to a surgical center where his sight could be saved.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Julia the Jewel, at 14

Our girl is now 14 years old. And we never cease to think with awe that we do not deserve her. She is truly an amazing person. For her 14th Birthday, we celebrated early (on Saturday, though her B-day was Monday) so that her cousins from NC could be included in 14 activities on a 14th Bday. We were in West Virginia, on our way back east, and our main activity was MAKING APPLE BUTTER. This is an Aylestock family tradition, for all of my childhood shared with our dear friends the Hubachs, and for the last five years not even attempted. It was our first time to do it without my dad. The first time that our generation (Scott and me, Steve and Janie) were basically in charge. And Julia was right in the middle of the process all the way.
The all-night drive was necessary so that we could spend Friday afternoon peeling, coring, slicing 4 bushels of apples. For those not familiar with a bushel anymore, that's A LOT of apples. It took hours, even with our super-duper peeler/slicer. The NC crew left after school Friday and drove long hours to arrive that night. But Scott and Steve were up at dawn on Saturday to clean the massive copper kettle and start a wood fire. The first apples went into the kettle with a gallon of cider at 7:25 a.m., and the last apples were added by about 9:30 a.m. The entire day someone has to be stirring, scraping the bottom of the kettle with a large wooden paddle so the sauce does not burn, carefully looking for any peels or seeds that rise to the surface, scraping down the sides with a wooden spoon, stoking the fire to just the right heat. Rocking back and forth, turning in a circle, tending the cauldron.
Meanwhile the rest of the crew went from game to game, blind man's bluff, basketball, speed scrabble, soccer, shooting cans off the railroad track, all Julia's favorites. The craziest moment of the day was the polar bear run to the river and swim . . all cousins went into the frigid water (one had to be pushed by Julia, but he was a good sport), and me. I love that river, even though I have no tolerance for the cold.
By 6 the sugar was in, the oil-of-cinnamon flavoring, and the apple butter was pronounced ready. The day ends with an assembly line of sterilized jars and lids, pouring the hot apple butter into the jars, screwing down the tops. We canned 11 1/2 gallons of the sweet brown spread, enough for a winter's luxury on corn bread and toast and rolls and muffins.
Julia's day ended with a reading of the poetry we had encouraged everyone to compose throughout the day as tributes to her, and the list of 18 characteristics as an acronym to her name (such as helpful, enduring, endearing, unforgettable, indispensable, etc. ). We had an apple cake (a la Mrs. Elwood, Nathan's favorite which he brought to our team) to keep in theme, with fun candles. Julia glowed.
Apple butter is sweet, nourishing, a product of many hours of labor, beautiful to behold, satisfying to all. And so is Julia. Her very first birthday was also celebrated in West Virginia at my parents' "Camp", when we had evacuated from rebels and just before we returned to Africa to work at Kijabe until things calmed down in Bundibugyo. So this was another circle completed, celebrating amidst the turning maple leaves and cooling mountain breezes once again. And that baby who was carried uncomplaining to safety through gunfire is now a beautiful young woman, sensitive and loving, sharp and organized, silly and appreciative. She loves life, food, family, soccer, books, crocheting, friends, dogs . . . and apple butter. And we love her.

Visa Prayers

Basiime Godfrey has been a part of our extended-family for many, many years.  He became acquainted with us during his primary school days, became friends with our kids, and we ended up sponsoring him through the end of primary school, six years of secondary school, and now on to University.  He's a orphan, and when his father died his father's family excluded him from the land.  His mother remarried, and this young man is basically on his own.  When Scott was doing his physical exam form for admission to the Uganda Christian University, he realized that Basiime had severe impairment of his vision.  At that very time we received an email from an American ophthalmologist who was coming for a short-term medical mission trip to Uganda and wanted to touch base with us . . . God's providence for Basiime.  Dr. Bonner agreed to evaluate him, found he had sever glaucoma, and performed a surgery to preserve what was left of his vision in one eye.  Since then he's been managing Basiime's care from afar, and on his follow-up mission trip decided that a second surgery was necessary in the other eye.  Without this, Basiime will certainly become blind, sooner rather than later.  The second surgery is more difficult and would best be done by a glaucoma specialist in the USA.  And for no reason other than grace, Dr. Bonner decided to arrange for that to happen, donating funds and care for the month he will need to be here.  So for the last couple of months Basiime and a trusted church leader in Kampala have been working on getting his Ugandan passport and all papers in order (NO SMALL TASK).  Tomorrow, the 7th of October, Basiime Godfrey will be interviewed by the US Embassy for a compassionate-care visa, so that he can temporarily travel to the USA for this surgery.

PLEASE PRAY that the visa would be granted. The USA is cautious about granting visas to Ugandans.  Pray that those responsible tomorrow would see the need for this surgery.  God led this young man into our hearts, opened doors for him at Christ School as a student leader, rescued him when he went astray, gave us grace when we missed deadlines and he still got into the University, brought him to Dr. Bonner's attention, and opened this opportunity for care.  Is it too much to ask for one more thing, an American visa?

Jesus delights in restoring sight.  Please pray that He would heal Basiime's.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Adventure -vs- Quest

Jennifer recently wrote about our all night drive from Chicago to West Virginia. I (Scott) did a lot of the driving, too, traversing Indiana and Ohio on lonely two-lane roads while the enormous luminous half-moon rose over the eastern horizon. And while I cruised down those quiet highways, I listened to a sermon on my iPod by Tim Keller. And I’m still thinking about it.

Keller’s text was Genesis 12 and his theme, the Call of Abraham.

Keller says, “Abraham didn’t just live life. He didn’t just go with the flow of events. He happened a life. He lived a big life. He stood against his family, his society, his culture. He stood alone. What made him different? The call of God.”

He goes on to detail different aspects of the call of God (its power, radical nature, and how we receive it). What sticks in my mind, though, are some comments he made about some of our family’s favorite books by JRR Tolkien. While many consider The Hobbit to be merely a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, Keller makes a distinction…

He says “The Hobbit is a children’s book. Then, comes the three books, the Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. I was listening to a literary critic who knows these books who said the thing you’ve got to keep in mind is that The Hobbit is an Adventure, but the The Lord of the Rings is a Quest. The Hobbit is a book for children and it is more light-hearted. It is an Adventure and the way the literary critic defines adventure is that an Adventure is a ‘there and back again.’ It’s an exciting thing you choose. You go and you have your adventures and have all your thrills and it spices up your life and then you come home again and you pick your life again where you left off. An Adventure is there and back again.

But a Quest is not something you choose, it comes to you. You sense a requirement. You’re called to it because of what’s involved. And you never really come back from a Quest. In a Quest you either die for the Quest or if you do come back you are so changed that you never in a sense really do come back. You’re never the way you were. You changed radically. I want you to know that Christianity is not an Adventure. It is not there and back again. It’s not like I want to have some fun, I want to enrich my life. Christianity is a Quest. God says Get Out … you’re going to be radically changed. Don’t ask Me whether what I am about to do will fit into your agenda. Christianity is a whole new agenda. Don’t say how will Christianity will fit into my life because Christianity is a whole New Life.”

At our “Debriefing and Renewal” retreat in Colorado, our facilitators showed us the final clip from “Return of the King” where Frodo and Company ride back into the Shire. But, they don’t fit in any more. People look at them with suspicion. They sit in the pub peering into their pints, listening to the revelry, feeling a bit ill at ease but nod at each other in remembrance of the suffering they endured together for The Quest. That’s a familiar feeling. Not really fitting in, not like I did once.

And while our family continues to define a great vacation (Adventure) as one in which there is a thrill resulting from living on the edge -- it’s helpful for me to be reminded of the stark difference between Adventure and Quest.

Quest comes from Calling. It involves cost, sacrifice, and suffering. It is for a Higher Purpose. And you will be changed.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Driving at Night

We don't drive at night in Uganda, at least not if we can help it.  In a place where bandits still roam, where vehicles are ambushed in the darkness, it's not wise.  Not to mention no street lights, and pretty rough conditions even in full daylight.  But in the USA, following in our family's footsteps from our own childhood, we've been known to pull driving all-nighters.  Our plane from California landed in Chicago on Thursday evening at 8:30 pm, where we had left our borrowed car.  Dear friends who have bent over backwards to care for us there met us at the airport with the car, and though we were sorely tempted to go back home with them and have good food and great talks and comfy beds, we knew we needed to be far east by mid-Friday.  So we were on the road by about 9:30 pm, spurts of speed and clots of traffic, as we passed through the fairy lights of downtown Chicago, twinkling windows and powerful strobes, vibrant in the night sky.  And then on to Indiana, and slant-ways down through Ohio, to West Virginia.  About 600 miles, almost 12 hours, 2-lane roads and 8-line interstates, tractor trailers and not much else.  Scott and I traded off driving, and Jack and Julia slept hunched any-which-way in the back seat, no pillows or blankets.  

I took the midnight to 3-something shift.  And rediscovered the beauty of the night drive.  Quiet.  No radio, no ambient noise other than an occasional sleep-talk from Julia, or sigh from sleeping Scott.  My family in my hands, resting, dependent on my alertness and care, but temporarily oblivious.  Praying.  Thinking, uninterrupted.  The world dormant around us, deserted-looking farms, dimly lit closed gas stations and shops.  My faithful gps companion occasionally advising an exit or a turn, one glowing light in the dark world.  In the constant-presence of visiting and constant-something-to-do of moving from place to place, I appreciated the forced immobility, one seat, strapped in, alone. One way, ahead.  A spectacular half-moon accompanying me ahead to the left as I zig-zagged southeast through rural flat states.  

Reluctantly I woke Scott at 3:30, realizing it was actually now 4:30 in the new East Coast time zone, feeling my attention beginning to strain. It was time for a few hours of rest before the sun rose.  I had forgotten how possible, and relaxing it is, to be awake when everyone else is asleep, except God.

You know you're in CA, part 2

When we get to have coffee with one of our most faithful blog-readers, "Judy in HMB". Who became friends with Scott's parents through the church there, and only later realized that Judy's daughter's husband went to medical school with Scott. We all got together Thursday morning before our flight left, a tribute to a small world, ever shrinking.