12 June 2016

Jesus is the ________ of life

Can you fill in the blank? It's rather easy in English, eh? Bread. Of course, bread. We have a nice, neat category for "bread"... and from there we can easily expand as we like. But in instances such as this, we don't need to be specific. We need to be vague.

The ESL translation team has it a bit harder. After all, what kind of bread? Is it injera (the daily flatbread everyone eats)? Dabo (white bread rolls, typically)? K'ita (the spiced unleavened bread you tend to eat in the morning)? Ambasha (special raised flatbread eaten more for celebrations or special events)? Ko'cho (the false banana stalk, fermented flat bread eaten in the south)? Or something else? When each of these had a different place and significance, how do you choose which one is actually the best concept to use for this passage?

Hmmmm...... translation isn't an easy 1:1 task... it's full of all sorts of interesting dilemmas. :)

27 December 2015

12 American Habits I lost while living in Eastern Africa

1) Standing in cue & waiting my turn – Because, even though there may be a cue… it really doesn’t mean as much. To stand in line and wait your turn is a sure recipe to not get served at all.

2) Wearing a seatbelt – Because often there isn’t a seatbelt. Or if there is it doesn’t work. Further more. the public transport is often so full there aren’t empty seats. So I stand. Often, contorted in a variety of gymnastic-worthy positions, due to the cramped space and pressing together of humanity.

3) Speaking my mind / Sharing my opinions openly – I still have opinions, yes. I just recognize I am a visitor here. An outsider. And I don’t have the whole story from which my opinions should be formed… I only see a part. And those around me do not freely express their opinions. What right have I as the foreigner? None.

4) Standing up for myself when someone wrongs me & telling people off – When I have lewd comments yelled at me, or get called “white foreigner” for the umpteenth time, or have things thrown at me or people spit on me… I remain silent. Collected. Unfazed (on the outside). Because speaking out and showing anger is not appropriate and can even be a sign that you are “mad” (mentally unstable). I have learned the hard way that addressing such behavior directly actually only makes it worse. So silence is the best option.

5) Expecting things to happen in an efficient time frame – My African brothers and sisters are never in a hurry. Life is about people, relationships, and events… it’s not about tasks. So tasks can be extended or postponed for a variety of reasons, and it’s ok. Our relationship is more important. We have time. As one friend said recently, “Time is running towards us, not away from us.”

6) Requiring a large personal space bubble – Whether it’s in public taxis, on the train, sitting in church, on a bus, in someone’s home when there is a wedding or funeral or birthday or birth, in a supermarket aisle, in cue, in a cafe or restaurant, or even simply walking down the street… space is found or made for more souls. Personal space? What’s that? More like communal space… everywhere, at all times. No that’s not exclusively your chair, or seat, or table, or stool… for there’s always room to share with one more person.

7) Expecting stores to stock an item indefinitely – I see sesame seed oil and dill pickles at the supermarket. Counting my cash on hand, I decide to buy them next time. But a week later when I return, the entire aisle is restocked with completely different items. Those, which I have never seen before in stock, are gone for good. One week you find 2 kg bags of shredded coconut, then never again for two years. Toilet paper multi-packs are everywhere, then disappear for 6 months. Normal. Just go with it. When you see it, buy it… or resolve to live without and not mind.

8) Monthly or bi-monthly shopping trips – Very limited pre-packaged food, and fewer preservatives… means all cooking is from scratch, and much healthier. I love, love, love this, even though it takes more time. So much better for our bodies. But it also means that food doesn’t have a long shelf life. Milk & bread turn after 3-4 days. Our veggies aren’t refrigerated and last about a week. So it means more frequent shopping trips and fresher food.

9) Using a planner/schedule – I still have a planner/calendar – I just only use it for checking the date or writing down when I paid bills… because scheduling/planning things much in advance is out. Especially planning a day in any sort of hourly schedule… just ain’t happening. Ever. There are too many unknown, uncontrolled variables… your taxi breaking down, not getting a taxi. the mail not showing up, a random friend stopping by, an unexpected visit from a neighbor or landlord, the internet goes out, the water is off, the power is off… just go with it. Life is more spontaneous…and exciting.

10) Impersonal patron/client relationships – Because buying/selling is also about relationships. Going to the same cafe matter. Using the same market stalls and building relationships with your stall owners matters… it brings better prices, better quality produce, credit when you are a little cash shy of your bill, warm greetings of your welfare when you miss a week, and so much more. Greeting the guards you walk by everyday – they notice when you aren’t there or things are amiss, and they check on you. Impersonal interactions throughout the day are unheard of. Relationships – personal, friendly, growing constantly. Does it affect efficiency? Actually no, it builds it – because, when I walk up to my bread selling stall, she just looks up, smiles, and says “how many today?” Or my local supermarket, when I get ready to check out will ask me whether I am forgetting my eggs today (and I often am!).

11) Not getting to know my neighbors – The kids are always at my door when my Love gets home from work. They know it means free bananas. We share laundry lines, garbage day reminders, and huge smiles when the water comes back on after a several day absence. My adopted mom/grandma below us is always ready to make me practice my language learning phrases, teaches me the names of local spices she is pounding on whatever day, and shares tastes of her homemade treats. They watch for me when I’m away, or even when I’m home alone. They make sure I don’t miss out on any important information, as the newbie. And they are quick to help anytime. I’m learning to do the same whenever I can.

12) Relying on power/water/phone/internet systems to work all the time – because it most likely will be off at some point. Roll with it. Before I moved to East Africa, I never hoarded water and backup batteries. Now my life schedule revolves around when the water is on – and filling every possible container in my house. Washing on water days. Reading and writing snail mail letters on no power days. Always having backup everything on hand, just in case. It was baffling to my African friends… which was baffling to me. “You don’t stock up?” I ask… “Why?” they reply. “It’s just life.”

22 October 2015

on my bucket list

I've been wanting an African name for years. Or even just an African nickname would suffice. Yet, my ASL sign-name stayed even after several years and multiple Deaf language communities. After a text message yesterday, I was struck with the realization that I DO have a spoken language African nickname... and have all this time... I've just been in staunch denial of what it is. :-p "Beti."  #Bettyisanoldladyname #washopingforsomethingelse #certainlynottribal #ohwell #winsomelosesome

My Amharic name is Betaniya  - which is really not that different, but has emotional roots now when I hear it in a different context. :-)

18 September 2015

endless transitions

To adjust --> "familiarize oneself with; to acclimate; become accustomed to; come to terms with..." And in our case, to adjust to rapid change & constant transitions.

There are some days I mentally tick off the list of major transitions in my life over the last two years, just to remind myself that I'm not losing it, and having days of just be-ing are ok... needed, even. It's not to applaud myself or give excuse for laziness. It's just the reminder that this is NOT normal life for MOST people... and to give myself some necessary grace on the days I just can't seem to tell up from down.

Just coming back from 3 months Stateside. Coming back to a sink that isn't draining, a toilet that is leaking, and feeling the squish of water that has seeped under the kitchen flooring and will need to be replaced. Coming back just to throw down our bags and run to our teammates' house to help them pack up their lives to go home... for good. Coming back just to say goodbye again.

Yet also coming back to elated neighbors... the smiling faces of the kids in our complex who have mastered the word "Chocolate??" :-) Coming back to warm wishes of "happy holiday" and "happy new year" as we rung in 2008 on the Ethiopian calendar. Coming home to the hugs of friends who pretend their eyes are not misty from missing us. Coming home to relatives who try not to call us to give us time to rest and settle back in.

Transition. Job changes. Home changes. Relationship changes. Marital status changes. Team changes. Physical social network changes.  Weather changes. Visa status changes. Yet... I am reminded I have a loving, faithful, sovereign Father who is UNCHANGING. A Rock. Yesterday morning, as I sat in my corner chair, morning sunlight peeking through the curtains, He lead me here in Isaiah 44, verse 8: "Do not tremble and do not be afraid... ... Is there any God besides me, or is there any other Rock?" No, Lord, there is not. You alone. My Rock. And then this beautiful promise in Isaiah 43, verse 15-16: "I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator..... who makes a way through the sea and a path through the mighty waters." My Rock. My Anchor. The Sea-ruler, Way-maker, & Storm-calmer. The Holy One, my Creator. You alone.

And I opened my laptop to find what tasks awaited me, and found hope, encouragement, affirmation, and challenge from others who walk this journey - so very different, and yet parallel my own. I am convicted to re-think ministry when local partnerships just aren't working well. I am validated and heartened by those who know the heart-rending of adjusting to constant comings and goings of teammates and friends. I am strengthened by women who understand and know the weight and indignity of harassment in our daily environments and refuse to be quiet about it.

And I am struck by how very odd it is, that those who ministered the most to me yesterday, were not even people I have ever met in person or would venture to call my friends. But they are brothers and sisters who know my journey struggles and joys, perhaps better than those who know me well. And I am reminded that I am part of something so much bigger and grander than this little chaotic world of my own. And this thrills and burns my heart to praise and rejoice. For He is the author of the story. And we serve the same Father. And He knows the end from the beginning. He is the Rock. The Anchor, in a life of endless adjusting, changing, and transition. And you, fellow bloggers and writers, have touched my life, and spoken into my story. Thank you.

Linking up with Velvet Ashes today, on the theme: "Adjust"

21 April 2015

Will you trust Me – for today and for tomorrow?

 It was a hot July evening in 2012, sitting on the grassy bank of a stream, as the evening light began to fade and the mosquitoes started making their presence known. It was a quiet place to think. A place to get away and alone with my thoughts... which, this particular evening, was a scary prospect.

I had been away from East Africa for a year now, yet I was still awaiting the morning I would wake without a heaviness in my chest and an ache in my heart of missing Africa with every fiber of my being. I was back in the States on purpose, to further my education, and prepare for a move to SE Asia. That had been the plan all along. At least, that had been my plan. In fact, I had spent the last year reminding myself of this. And I was no further along this evening than I was the first days of arriving "home" to American soil.

My heart was in knots. My spirit in turmoil. And to add to the plot, there was also this one guy... the one I kept resolutely factoring out of the equation when his name was whispered continually through my mind. After all, we were just friends. We were of different cultural, linguistic, and social backgrounds. We lived on different continents. We came from very different communities. And yet, my mind (and my heart) were continually drawn back to him. Despite all my denial, we were skyping on a weekly basis and corresponding even more frequently.

I was a mess. All my "well laid" plans and expectations were now a complex ball of limbo. Internally, I was battling fear of being my own worst enemy and making the wrong choices and the wrong decisions and royally messing everything up. So, that night on the bank of that stream, I was too consumed with swarms of fear and confusion and questions without answers to even heed the swarming bugs.

As I poured my heart out into a journal, hoping the verbal processing would bring some sort of order to my mental chaos, I wrote until I could no longer see the page through tears. I finally dropped the journal into the grass and cried out, "Why are You silent!? I NEED answers. I need to KNOW what You want me to do. I don't know, and I need to know. Why won't You just tell me??"

As the words faded into the buzz of mosquitoes, His voice gently flooded into my agonized spirit, "B, do you trust me for today?" Still in an attitude of frustration and impatience, I irreverently snapped back at Him that since it was already night time, that was a dumb question. Unfazed and ever patient, He whispered, "Ok then, will you trust me for tomorrow?" Realization flooded through me, that this was about to be a significant decision point. Mollified, I said yes. "That is all you need to know. Trust me, love." He finished tenderly.

Each morning following that evening encounter, He whispered the same two questions to me when I woke: "Do you trust me for today? Will you trust me for tomorrow?" He was asking me to surrender my need to know, my need to plan, my need for the answers... to, rather, trust Him, and His love, and His sovereignty, and His goodness and guidance. Yes, Lord, for today and for tomorrow, I will trust You.

And I discovered that in trusting Him--one day at a time, and walking in trust and obedience THAT day, and then the next day, and then the next--I found peace in His capable hands. He shifted my focus from the problems, the confusion, the limbo, the questions, to His heart.

Today, almost 3 years later, I am amazed to see what God has done with that simple trust. You know, that guy--the one on a different continent who I kept factoring OUT of the equation. He is now my husband. And I still wake up each morning with a love and ache for Africa, as I wake up on her soil;  she is now my home.

Linking up this week with The Grove @ Velvet Ashes.

"to be a help" or just "to be"?

THIS. I have been looking for THIS quote for over a year now. It is one of those that has shaped my own view of "ministry."

"I found a very subtle snare... I sought their fellowship in order that I might minister to them, 'be a help,' you know, to these 'weaker' ones. What a rebuke came when I sensed my real motive--that 'I' might minister. Love hacks right at this, for she refuses to parade herself. I learned to recognize no 'spiritual planes,' but simply to LOVE, purely, in every group. Trying to 'be a help' even has a smell of good works in it, for it is not pure. Our motive is only to BE--do nothing, know nothing, act nothing--just to be a sinful bit of flesh, born of a Father's love. Then you see, Beloved, there can be no defeat." 
(Excerpt from "The Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot")

What do you think?