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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hold on

Here's one more little window into the Bundibugyo Team of 2010... Click HERE to watch this 4 minute slideshow...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

thanks-given . .

. . first, and foremost, for six Myhres under one roof. Caleb back from a long and trying term of school, 3 months alone in Africa, 4 legs of 8+hour international flights navigating solo. Luke deciding to accompany us on the 4+ hour-each-way trip to the airport, which was brotherly love even beyond getting up at 6 am on his first day of break to get to his sister's super-early soccer tournament game. Caleb's hug, his "I'm OK" signature dismissal of our concerns, slightly more believable in the flesh. There is no logical reason to be less anxious about my kids in the next room than on the next continent, but I am. I see Jack and Julia relax a bit into the wholeness we've all been missing but had a hard time exactly naming.
. . for abundance. Pumpkin in a can so brightly orange and homogenous. Turkey not only dead and plucked but with a built-in pop-out thermometer. Flour without bugs, home made apple butter, unlimited pecans. Two moms and a sister to cook much of the dinner. A full house of 15. Walks and games. The peculiar way that a family Thanksgiving reminds me of a team celebration, rather than the other way around after all these years, and the peculiar guilt of even thinking that, which feels disloyal. But true.
.. for snow flakes, drizzle softening suddenly into a magical white dusting, seeing individual crystals on my black coat. Not enough to coat the ground, though Jack manages one snow ball. The bleak grey of November softened up here in the West Virginia mountains by two brief snow showers.
. . for history, tales from our parents and even my Uncle Herold of long past days (the painfully familiar way he moves and thinks and sounds like my Dad did, which picks at a wound that is usually hidden). But good to reunite here on the holiday with both sides of our family and remember our roots.
.. . for Michael Jackson Dance Moves performed by my nephew Micah, whose main wish for the holidays was to see MegaMind. The Saturday matinee, a good price in Buckhannon, the family trooping over, and then unexpectedly the last scene ends with "Bad". Micah's loose-jointed little Down Syndrome body jumps out of his seat in the theatre to moonwalk in the aisle, it's his absolute favorite music, and he's in Heaven. Worth the whole weekend just for that moment of his happiness.

Monday, November 22, 2010

a paradox production

Presenting...a brief cinematic review of the work of the Bundibugyo Team in 2010. We've just uploaded the video we made in August and have been showing coast to coast this fall (with narration by Jack, Julia, Caleb, and Luke!). Click HERE to see it on the Vimeo website. (We'd suggest clicking on that little "full screen button" on the lower right hand portion of the screen - and getting a pair of headphones - for the best experience).

a glimpse from the middle

Woke early, lying in the dark of a sleeping house.  Last night we welcomed Scott's parents, and late the night before we picked Luke up at the main bus station in DC after his 9-hour trip from Boston.  Still waiting on Caleb, but the house is filling for the holiday.  Sleeping in every available room from basement on up I realized we have 3 in the over-70 crowd and 3 in the under-20 crowd, and Scott and I smack in the middle.  A season of life in which we are supposed to be caring for those on both ends, only it's a little more peculiar when we don't even have a home or car or most of the accompaniments of success or independence, when we're in limbo ourselves, when we still receive from the financial generosity of our parents, and depend upon scholarships and aid for our kids.  So we offer what we can, listening ears, dinner planned and cooked and served and cleaned up, encouragement, medical insight, stories and entertainment and concern, a reason and focus to draw everyone together for a while.  

The middle has been a place of ache recently.  Long trip this past week, which was good, but left us wiped out.  Then immediately back to all-star soccer tournaments.  Both Jack and Julia loved playing with these teams, but both had disappointing outcomes.  Of course I realize that at least 75% or more of the teams leave without winning anything (brackets of 8 to 15 in the tourneys, 1rst and 2nd place trophies).  But it can be excruciating from the sidelines to watch a random ball make the difference between being in and being out, to watch the season end on a defeat.  In the end I think it was sadder that the season was over than that the teams lost.  J and J have made some friends, and it is the one place in America that they feel most at home.  More goodbyes, hard days.  And as well as Luke is doing, his road is also a steep one.  Wish we could make it better for him.  And our parents all have their challenges in health and changing relationships and growing limits, and I know we don't help them the way we should.

So in the early morning hours, awake and wondering how to make this week one of Thanksgiving when my heart is in a fog, how to honor our parents and care for our kids at the same time, how to bind up the hearts that are sad, how to be sensitive to change and age and expectation.  Looming over us, the reality that this week with Luke is one of our last for a long time.  The sorrow of that threatens to engulf, not just sorrow for myself but even moreso sorrow for our kids and our parents, all of whom suffer losses from our lifestyle.  

At that moment in the dark, there was a glimpse of reality, one of those rare moments when the veil is pierced: Jesus feels the same way I do right now, when He looks at this world, sorrow for our sorrows.  Jesus wept.  He had hope, He knew He was the resurrection and the life, and yet He entered into our time-fettered world so completely, that in the moment of loss, He wept.  

The New Sudan

The documentary film which we were able to see in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago with the Massos is now available for purchase by DVD. Check out this web site:
The group seeks to tell the story of what is happening now in Sudan, raise awareness, and channel money from the West back into church development, water, health, and education.  Which is exactly what our team does.  Well worth watching to educate your prayers ahead of the referendum approaching on January 9, 2011, when the South will vote on whether to secede from the North and become an independent state.  Two quotes stuck out to me:  a girl born right now in South Sudan is more likely to eventually die in childbirth than to complete primary school.  And the tremendous progress towards peace and reconciliation and change that has occurred in the last five years has grown out of the prayers of the people of South Sudan.  The least we can do is join them.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

being a parent is EXHAUSTING

One kid in Boston, victorious soccer match against Harvard, but lost his wallet, which is only important because of little details like credit card, money, keys . . .and being in a city far from home.  Many quick prayers for finding, and by mid-morning the good news, the wallet found in a car in which he had ridden, and he made it to the bus.  Age 17, negotiating his own way from Boston to Washington DC, via NYC, in the dark, on a bus.  Another kid calls from seven thousand plus miles away, almost to the end of a trying term of school work, a few run-ins with rules, about to fly alone over three continents, and by the way needs his SSN for registering for SAT's.  Two more kids in all-day soccer all-star tournaments, the anxiety of cheering as teams go down to defeat, watching near-miss shots, comforting, hoping.  An emotionally significant necklace lost on the field then found.  A sprained ankle in the last minute of the last game.  Pulling for them, believing in them, so hard to see disappointment.  Both manage to stay in the tournament, but no spectacular sense of victory.  

Does parenting ever get easier?  Probably not.  We want them to be safe, to be happy, to taste a bit of success, to have friends.  But we can not make that happen, we can only pray (for the lost wallet and the lost necklace I am very very thankful, for the sprained ankle and the tenuous travel and the dashed hopes I am still laboring) that God who knows more and loves more deeply will orchestrate what is good for the soul, will bring them through every challenge for their own good, and His glory.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bible Class and Mana

One of the unexpected delights of visiting my sister in Charlotte was being invited to speak in three 11th grade Bible classes at her kids' Christian school. We told the kids we were there because I'm Emma's aunt, and because God called me to missions when I was a kid, so it's not to early for them to be considering the world's needs and their passions. I have new admiration for teachers who go all-out high-energy for a 50 minute class, and then do it again, and then again. It's a great school, and the kids asked good questions. It was mostly a delight to get into our niece and nephews' lives that way, to meet their friends and see their environment, to cheer at a basketball game and walk down their roads.
Another unexpected delight was to reconnect with our friends Mark and Marnie M. They were missionaries in Uganda back in the day, and we ended up at Kijabe having babies at the same time. In fact Scott delivered their second son. We visited them in Uganda, and we've occasionally kept in touch even since they moved back to America. Mark finished a graduate degree and worked in politics, but recently decided the way he could serve Africa was to begin a company to produce RUTF, ready-to-use therapeutic food. Right now the primary product used in aid situations around the world is produced by a French company. Being peanut-based, Mark saw the potential to make this in Georgia. So he invested all he had, and all he could convince others to give, in a plant that is just starting up. If he can get UNICEF approval and contracts, this could be a product that saves many lives. And though it is a business, it is also a mission, one that exists to address real causes of malnutrition, to pour back into communities, to enable local production of nourishing food (the American plant will only be for emergency situations). Who would have guessed that his company's small headquarter office would be set up in Matthews, the same quaint suburb town where my sister lives? So we dropped in. The feel is of a political campaign or an entrepreneurial adventure, walls plastered with papers and markers, ideas, photos. Used furniture, young enthusiasts, the edge of potential failure or potential greatness. The zeal of a man who has invested everything because he believes in it. Check their web site at :
A third delight came that evening, when my sister hosted several relatives to see our video and chat with us over desert. I have cousins and second cousins and cousins of in-laws, a complicated and extensive family. And some have had hard years, surviving breast cancer and destructive addictions and mental illness. So it is a privilege to just have an evening to be together, and to know that in spite of infrequent meetings and many other life issues, they still care about us.
But the last delight of the evening, Mark and Marnie showed up too. And I was reminded of that bond. There is something a bit haunted, or out-of-place, a bit changed, about those who have lived in Africa for long seasons, something that never goes away, and is recognizable to fellow-pilgrims. And something that does my heart good when we encounter one another again.

Homesick, but seeing

Basime's small window of intact vision has been preserved, for now. The surgery was successful, and he continues to heal, slowly. Because his eye has absolutely NO reserve, Dr. B is monitoring him very closely. Which means that Basime has been in America for almost a month now, and still has at least a week or two to go. Where he finds himself living in unimaginable luxury. This is a kid whom we helped rent his own tiny mud-floored room as a teen, because as an orphan the corner he'd been given at his aunt's house was in a room she used for her alcohol-selling business, and he was finding it impossible to sleep or study in the noisy confusion of the impromptu bar. Now he's being looked after by saints from Tennessee, complete with a tastefully decorated bedroom, private bath, internet access, new shoes, and unlimited food. So it surprised him this week that he felt a certain heaviness in his chest, and a longing for home. That he missed kahunga and sombe and the familiar sun-soaked village, here in the land of dreams.
Which made this the perfect time to go and visit him. We drove from my sister's in North Carolina westward to Chattanooga. When we traced the home where he was staying, his face glowed as we all greeted each other in Lubwisi. I forgot how tiny Ugandans look here in the land of the large. We took him out for the afternoon, and he talked and talked. Perhaps because so much had been stored up inside, or he was with people who got his accent (or maybe he's talking all the time to everyone, I don't know). I love seeing America through his eyes, a view similar to our own kids' views.
What do you do for an afternoon in Chattanooga? We chose to make a pilgrimage to Covenant College. This small institution has been well represented in Bundibugyo. All of the Herrons, for starters. Wendy Gray first came as a student. Teachers Matt Allison and Ashley Wood, interns including the two who fled from the rebels with us, and more. We went to pay homage to the place that formed these remarkable friends, to show our kids the school (who knows? the brochure says 99% get some kind of financial aid), and to give Basime the chance to see the place his friends Peter and Lydia and Luke Herron studied. Since Basime is enrolled in a Library Science degree at Uganda Christian University, we thought he should see an American library. And whom should we find behind the desk, but Laurel Brauer, another WHM MK! Small world.
Our day passed too quickly, and ended with a lovely meal with Dr. B, his wife, newborn son, and inlaws. This family has sacrificed thousands of dollars and countless hours to save Basime's vision. It still makes me shake my head in awe that God provided for our paths to cross at the exactly right time, and moved them to go to such extraordinary lengths for a kid they barely knew.
When we said goodbye, Basime told us that he no longer felt homesick, that being with us was like being home. But I found that being with him only made me miss Uganda and all our "kids" there more. So one case of glaucoma and homesickness cured, but another case only deepens.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Big 5-0

Today we celebrate Scott. (See his facebook page for lots of great appreciations, some funny and many poignantly sweet). And when I reflect on who he is and what God has done in and through him, a half-century seems a short time. We met just over 30 years ago (!) and so I've had a close-up view of a long process of polishing, refining, shattering, remolding; the creation of a full human being. There is no one else I'd rather be with in any situation from having a baby to hiking a mountain to surviving a war to making a dinner to watching a sunset to swimming a wave to just being quiet and doing nothing. Looking forward to the next 50 years up close, too, with the greatest gift in my life.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Human Development Index

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them . . . 
You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned him with glory and honor . . 
(Genesis 1 and Psalm 8)

How far, and how unevenly, we have fallen.  The UNDP released the 2010 report this week on the development index, which ranks 169 countries all over the world based on life expectancy at birth, years of education, and income.  Not surprisingly, the most highly developed countries are Norway, Australia, New Zealand, United States, and Ireland. . . then other countries in Europe and Asia.  And also not surprisingly, the bottom of the list clusters in Africa. 

Here are the neediest 25:
# Uganda
# Senegal
# Haiti
# Angola
# Djibouti
# Tanzania (United Republic of)
# Côte d'Ivoire
# Zambia
# Gambia
# Rwanda
# Malawi
# Sudan
# Afghanistan
# Guinea
# Ethiopia
# Sierra Leone
# Central African Republic
# Mali
# Burkina Faso
# Liberia
# Chad
# Guinea-Bissau
# Mozambique
# Burundi
# Niger
# Congo (Democratic Republic of the)
# Zimbabwe

 As people who are called to fight for the restoration of the glory of God's creation, I think this is one pretty good indicator of where we need to be.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Take a TCK shopping

Though we're seven thousand miles from Uganda and transitioning to Kenya, we still have a huge investment of our hearts there.  Perhaps the largest part of that is in the kids we have sponsored, which means that we continue to fill a parental sort of role in their lives.  There are seven still in school for whom we are fully responsible, three partially, and two young adults who have embarked upon life (besides our medical students and biological children . . ).  Paying and Praying are our main connection to these kids now, but I have the opportunity to send a few small Christmas gifts, which is the other main role of a parent.  So Jack and Julia bravely accompanied me to two stores having good sales yesterday.  None of us are super-shoppers, or great decision-makers about STUFF.  But I found them very helpful in knowing how a certain thing would be perceived, what Ugandans might like.  My last item was for the only girl, whom we've known since she was born, friends of the family and on Julia's soccer team, and who we partially sponsor helping her dad.  I was looking at a display of necklaces and nearby were lotions and perfumes.  So I asked Julia what to choose.  

And she had no hesitation, which for those who know Julia may be a surprise.  Mom, she explained, if you give her a piece of jewelry, then when she wears it, everyone will see she has something different and be jealous, and she wont' want to be excluded by the other girls that way.  But if you give her this perfumed lotion, she can share it with the other girls, and everyone will be happy.

Which is why TCKs make good cross-cultural workers.  They get it.  

Note From the Bench

I like being on the field, which I remembered Wednesday evening as Julia's team scrimmaged parents vs. players.  It was about 8 dads, 2 brothers, and me, versus the team.  Thanks to weekly family soccer with Luke and Caleb and Nathan and Ashley, I at least held my own, which I felt was important as the only mom on the field.  (Though I did accidentally trip a girl in the box which resulted in a penalty shot, not very motherly, but it thankfully went directly into the hands of our keeper).  It was a pretty even game, 1 to 1, until Jack showed up in the last ten minutes and came in for the parent side and scored the winning goal.  I suppose Julia was ambivalent, it is good to be from a soccer-family, but a bummer to be beat by your brother.

But I digress.  I like being on the mission field too, in the game so to speak, running hard and working hard, right in the middle of the action around the ball.  But I've been subbed out, and I'm sitting on the bench.  

So what does a good bench-warmer do?  First, I think, trust the Coach, who sees which players are tired, or about to be injured, or are dragging down the team's play, and need a rest.  Second, cheer.  When my kids are subbed out, they are still fully in the game, pulling for the team.  Luke in particular impresses me in his all-out loyalty, as happy for a team mate's score as his own.  

Next week I'll join the last of Scott's nearly three weeks of WHM meetings, the Team Leader training and retreat.  I'm not a leader any more, but I want to be a good bench player.  One who cheers on the other players, who cares about the game, who is ready with the water bottle or pats on the back to strengthen the starters as they take a brief rest, who trusts this out-of-the-action assignment and waits patiently, who does some warm-up exercises and stays ready to go back in.  Because the only point of being on the bench is that one is waiting on the Coach, in faith.  Not very glorious, but a lot of the Bible is about waiting.  From the bench.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Virginia Politics

Here is my mom tonight, conferring with Congressman Wolf at his post-election party, where she was invited based on her past political activism. We were able to thank him in person for his help with Basime's visa. And to experience a small dose of American culture, the balloons and flag-themed sweaters and happy people and sense of purpose. Not sure where the representatives of Jesus' priorities are (care for the poor, justice, repentance, righteousness, sacrifice) in this election, and certainly people on all extremes think they're speaking for God, so it's hard to go beyond the concrete and relational: glad my mom is glad, glad Basime made it through.

Eternal Friendships

Today, four women drove from places within a few-hour radius of Sterling, to have lunch with us. All were members of our Uganda team between the late 90's to early 2000's. All were single women then, courageous, serving, loyal, wonderful. And all are married now, some rather later in life than average due to their commitment to missions. What a blessing to hear about their lives in recent years, to play with their babies, to look at their pictures, to remember how things were, to talk about mutual friends. To see them now in the life-stage I was in when they came to our rescue, to see them parenting children the ages mine were when they were with us. To see how the time they spent in Uganda still haunts their hearts, how it impacted who they are today. To feel at home with them, even though I haven't seen them for years.
Michelle brought 1-year-old Masie (Zach had to stay back with grandparents due to illness), Heather brought 2 1/2 year old Ellie, Kimiko brought Yael (2) and Portia (9 months), and Mary Ann brought her pictures and love. What strikes me is that though these women are now mostly moms, and married, they still seem exactly the same to me, same characteristic tones and laughs and viewpoints and ways of moving. I love that touch of consistency in a changing world.
Thankful once again for the rich parade of women, mostly teachers, who have blessed our teams. And wishing we could see all of you together at once (Natalee, if you're out there, we should at least talk on the phone!).

Claiming citizenship

I have a voter registration card, and I used it today, the first time I've been in Virginia on the first Tuesday of November in 14 years.  Last time I stood in line at this polling station we were on the way to the airport with baby Julia, 1 month old to the day, returning to Uganda, and I remember there being lines and worrying about getting to the airport in time. It was 1996, a presidential year. Today however, there was no line at all.  Two dedicated 60-ish looking people stood outside the elementary school where my mom and I went to vote, one handing out a "sample ballot" with the democratic name marked, and the other handing out a sample ballot with the republican name marked.  Inside we presented ID, and confirmed our name and address with two women sitting at laptop computers.  Then we stepped up one at a time to a touch-screen computerized polling station mounted on an easel-like frame.  There were only two candidates for congress, and four questions.  I figured that in spite of my ill-informed political awareness, I could legitimately vote for the congressman who graciously listened and responded and helped Basime get into our country.  And vote in favor of policies that helped senior citizens and disabled veterans.  I left one question blank, since I really didn't know about it at all.  It took all of about 30 seconds.  

Contrast that with recent elections in Bundibugyo.  Students were being pulled out of Christ school to vote in spite of the fact that we knew from their registrations that they were under-age.  The cronies of the powerful always win, because the entire system teeters on chaos.  Here are a few of the things that made voting in Virginia smooth, but would be lacking in Bundibugyo:  drivers' license ID, a computerized registration system, a functional mail system for sending out cards, a school with electricity and space and security, laptop computers, literate volunteers, literate voters who can read the ballot, no fear of reprisal, no one knowing how I voted (well, I just told you, but otherwise .. . ), cars to drive to the polling station and back so the whole thing takes only a few minutes.  Not to mention a firm date set years in advance, something you can plan around.  Our democracy rests on our abundance.  It should be possible anywhere, but practically, it just isn't.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The sports gap

The Yale club football (soccer) has been a key component of Luke's adjustment to America, to college, to life as an emerging adult.  Exercise, outdoor time, friends, competition, purpose, brunches, trips, challenge.  A healthy atmosphere for growing up, functioning in a group, taking responsibility.  And Sterling Youth Soccer has been the highlight of Jack and Julia's experience in America, for many of the same reasons.  Pushed to work harder and run further, team-work, laughter, being known by some peers, cheering, having your name called in praise from the coach on the sideline, being invited to hang out with kids for an evening.  (Oh, and they both scored goals in their games in Saturday; Jack always expects more of himself and Julia comes away glowing).   And RVA's JV team has been great for Caleb too, I think, though we're thousands of miles from observing that.

When I drive Jack and Julia back and forth to various practices, I notice that this country has such an abundance of programs for youth.  In our suburban county alone you could be involved in basketball, volleyball, soccer, football, fencing, swimming, baseball, softball, lacrosse, ballet, tennis, karate, and a hundred other things I don't even know about, all with opportunities for coaching, for competition, for developing identity and networks of friends.  There are summer programs, camps, weekend events, casual leagues and intense "travel" teams.  There are lines of cars dropping kids off and picking them up from various events at the rec center.  

Then there are church groups, Sunday schools, midweek youth meetings, trips, service projects, Bible studies.  Music.  Instruction.  Role models.  Constructive and creative and supervised fun.

Sometimes I think of the scads of kids around our house in Bundibugyo, for whom there is no real meaningful adult input through most of their lives. Once they are weaned their moms' focus inevitably returns to the garden, to eking out enough food, to carrying water.  In school the classrooms are so packed a teacher might only offer a swat of a switch.  Kids are too much on their own, to find sustenance and entertainment and education and life.  Out of probably 100,000 kids between the ages of 5 and 18, I would guess that no more than a few hundred a year ever even get to play an organized sport of any sort, watched and cheered by adults.  

There is good scientific evidence that involvement in sports delays sexual debut, a strong protective factor against AIDS.  We're not talking about chalking up resume points for achievement, about winning trophies or outdoing the neighbors.  We're talking about a minimal boost to bring a child alive and intact to adulthood.  To teach a generation some self-discipline, some connection between effort and outcome (a tenuous connection with the school system).  To teach the value of team effort, one that cuts across clan and tribal lines.  To reflect back to kids some of the glory with which they were created.  To say," you matter".

What a powerful vehicle for the Gospel, one that does not subvert indigenous churches or take away from a growing post-colonial independence.  How could we invest in the youth of Africa in a way that develops body and soul as well as mind?  Even as I'm grateful for the opportunities my kids are now having, I'm even more aware of yet another gap between them and all their peers from Bundibugyo.  Which is one reason I guess it is good to be in America for a while, to catch a little vision for what could be.  Even if the fact that it isn't there yet leaves me sad.

Trains, departures, Sudan, birthdays, pizza, and dispersal

November 1, rumbling southward through the sprawl of Philadelphia towards Washington, a tourist in my own country, relieved at successfully purchasing an on-line ticket, finding the right station, transferring in from the commuter line, scanning the bar code in the email, self-printing three tickets, and navigating myself with Jack and Julia and bags into the right line and onto the right part of the right train.  At least everything is in English, though the constantly running disaster preparedness video in the waiting hall was a bit unnerving.  I've rarely taken trains in America, but I love this mode of travel, the independence of walking place to place, light luggage, actually seeing the trees as we slide southward.  

Woke up this morning tired of saying goodbye, the final twist of cost to every reunion.  

Saturday we grabbed Julia straight from all-star practice to speed up to Philadelphia, racing the depressing creep of the gps eta past 7 pm.  The Massos were gathering for the finale of Acacia's Birthday (13!!!) at Catherine's, the house on Girard Avenue where some of our favorite people have lived post-Uganda.  This was Miss Becky's room . . this was Miss Bethany's room . . now Catherine is the lone Bundibugyo teacher still living there.  We made it just after the candles were blown out, but in time to be introduced to the famous Philadelphia Cheese Steaks, the culinary dream of our WHM friends.  

The party was concluding in time to move a few blocks down the street to Liberti Church's screening of a documentary film entitled "The New Sudan", At an hour-and-a-half it might feel long to those who aren't immersing themselves in what looks like home, that's the same teapot we have, the same jerry-can, the familiar look of a hospital or a mud-walled school. But it is worth the time investment.  The producers managed to get great face-time one-on-one interviews with political and religious leaders in South Sudan, and balance that with day-in-the-life-of kind of stories of four ordinary citizens.  Bottom line:  invest in water, health, education, and supporting the indigenous church.  Which is precisely what our team in Mundri is doing.  One comes away from the movie with hope, hope that such dedicated and resilient people will, as one person puts it, be able to "join the third-world".  They aren't asking for luxury, just survival.

Sunday afternoon we made it up to New Haven so Jack, Julia, Karen, and Acacia could see Luke.  The FCYU (Football Club of Yale University) beat Fairfield 5 to 1, and we  cheered for the particularly strong defense from #3, chilled by the sinking-sun wind, chatting with the other handful of parent-fans, sitting in the Massos borrowed camping chairs.  Then a tour of Luke's dorm room where Scott installed the pull-up bar high enough in the hall to accommodate Luke and his 6'5" crew-team suite-mate.  It's pretty much the only thing he's asked for since moving to college.  Then to pizza at Sally's, a seedy-looking but extremely popular and historic pizza place which unbeknownst to us is also famous for its slow service.  By the time we waited 2 hours in our little booth for pizza we were all pretty hungry, thankful for talk-time with Luke, but aware of the dent we had put in his study time for the weekend.  Goodbyes in the dark street by the dorms, and another 3 hours back to Philadelphia.  Treasured time really, 3 up and 3 back makes 6 straight hours of conversation with Karen, which was a real gift.

Which brings us to this morning, more goodbyes, kudos to Uncle Eric who swept over-sleeping Gaby to the train station to hug us goodbye at the last minute, he gets the TCK honor award for today.  The Massos are ensconced in Karen's family and the close-by community of WHM there, and we're grateful that they could make space and time for us to join in, even though it meant wall-to-wall mattresses in the kids' rooms.  We aren't likely to intersect with the whole family again for a long time.

The world just seems sort of large and complicated this morning, and parts of my heart are stuck with Luke striding out into academic intensity that he's not convinced is necessary, looking for a way to get back to the Africa he misses so much.  With Caleb who is navigating growing up too much on his own.  With Scott heading up to WHM leadership meetings that I'm not a part of any more.  With Acacia and Liana and Gaby who are being forced to accept the necessity of shoes and coats as the frost settles.  With Heidi and Ashley looking for clues about what's next.  With Sarah who called Luke while we were all in the car ("I have to interview an adolescent for a class, and you're the only one whose phone number I have") and Nathan immersed in a world of study and city-survival.  With Bethany thrust into leadership of a team holding their balance as the country teeters on the verge.  With Patton and Lilli  and Aidan and their parents and Anna in Kampala getting ready to step into the time machine that brings them to the 21rst century for a few weeks, disoriented.  With Pat gathering the energy after all these years to mold the old Chedester house into a ministry center for women and arts.  For the Clarks and Chrissy and rest of the teams, for friends in Uganda, for Basiime recovering in the foreign world of Tennessee, for my family and Scott's who have to put up with our fragmented hearts and good-bye weary souls.  

Some days like this, ready for the last good-bye.