Tidbits

We are now getting an incredible amount of rain, pretty much daily.  It is quite common to get more than an inch/day.  It is cool, 85-90 during the day and 75-80 at night (5-10 degrees cooler than the dry season), it’s always muddy, and it is absolutely wonderful.  The river is rising and the land is being cleansed and its waste dumped into the river.  The locals call it the “yellow river” season for obvious reasons.  Four months of plant and animal waste and decay are washed into the river over the course of about a month and the water will continue to rise until May.  Over thousands of square miles, the river will rise over three meters and continue to flow strongly toward its Atlantic destination.

 

December was a difficult month as we had no water for a week, no electricity often, no gas with which to cook for a week, no internet most of the month, and hit or miss telephone.  We hooked up our new computer and it got fried two hours later by lightning which hit with no warning.  We currently are on our fifth day without water again.  We’re still learning to roll with these punches.  Our Father can use the smallest things to reveal to me how easily frustrated I can become and to train me to trust Him more.  To trust Him is peace and to live independently of Him can seem fine until I’m confronted with pain and/or difficulty.

 

I’m attacked by wild dogs just about every morning on my sunrise exercise bike ride on a logging trail outside of town.  I’ve yet to be bitten and several of these dogs have facial scars from me and my stick (I’m “training” them).  During this season, I usually return covered in mud after 1-2 hours of riding but it’s OK because it’s 5-10 degrees cooler (a huge difference!).

 

Ben’s playing keyboard in a worship band and sounds great.

 

Last week I had a man on my porch who is 58 and having unstable angina of two days duration.  The hospital sent him home as they don’t have an ECG machine or any diagnostic equipment.  I gave him nitroglycerin and aspirin and told him to go immediately to a major city (two days travel).  Such is the local reality.  In the States, he would be taken to Cath lab immediately.  I know and love this guy because I see him often with his much loved 12 y/o son who has a debilitating case of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.  This man is a rarity here as he is a man who loves his kids.

 

At our house, last week I saw three people with broken ribs from falls, two women with crushed lumbar vertebrae from falls on their buttocks (falls here are far more common because of the muddy conditions, poor lighting and poor construction), several people with malaria, several others with dengue fever, a horrible case of neglected leprosy, along with much influenza (virtually everyone is catching it in both the interior and in the city), parasitic diarrhea, etc

 

Luke is running again after a 6 wk layoff due to an ankle stress fracture.  He and Ben seem to love distance running, especially barefoot, and are planning on running an April half marathon together.

 

We have flights leaving for the States on May 27th and hope to be in Angola in September.  We are already beginning our Angola visa process and our application process for our new mission organization (SIM USA).  We hope to be in the Columbus area in August.

 

It looks like we have a buyer for our house and we’ve sold most of our furniture for half the value.  We are grateful.

 

I just finished an incredible book on the life story of a WWII soldier.  It is a well-told story of a human being who went from athletic hero to living through unimaginable POW horrors during the war to learning how to live the rest of his post-war life.  It was disturbing, challenging and thought-provoking.  Once again, I can neither understand nor comprehend what some people have been asked to endure by a loving Father.  Better than fiction and one of the most remarkable books I’ve read.  Not for kids.  It’s called “Unbroken”.  I am also reading a book called “Tortured for Christ” about the underground Russian church of the late 20th century which provokes the same responses in me.

 

A couple of months ago, we were robbed by a twenty-something guy in the neighborhood.  He has robbed us all at one point or another, as well as most of the houses around us.  One night, he stole my fanny pack from near my head while I slept!  He has killed a man and was released after being in jail for a month.  He broke through our steel barred door, broke through two normal, locked wood doors, disarmed our alarm system and carried a 300 lb safe four blocks away and somehow opened it, and immediately left town.  His family bought new motorcycles while he was gone and he returned two months later and was seen his first day back casually walking out of the police station with his girlfriend.  Two policemen in town just happened to stop by our office that day asking us for “food”.  The whole town knew he did it, how much he took (it was a lot), and that he left town the very night we were robbed.  Everyone knows that he paid for his freedom and that, since we wouldn’t “contribute”, the issue has been dropped by the police.   Last week, three girls from our church under the age of 12, removed some roof tiles and climbed into a store and stole several small toys.  The crime was investigated thoroughly and these girls were arrested the following day!

 

When it rains, we lose our internet because the signal cannot travel tower to tower through the rain.  During these months it rains heavily all the time…

 

I received two small singing jungle birds for Christmas and one was stolen last night while we slept.  It was in a 2m x 2m cage we had built with a shoe box size door.  I have no idea how they got to the bird.  We have great watch dogs!

 

One of the most respected animals in the Amazon is the Stingray.  Their sting is extremely painful for 2-24 hrs and the puncture hole that is left always becomes grossly infected.  I saw a strong young man this week who will likely lose his foot because of the infection following the sting of a Stingray, which left a pencil-sized hole in the side of his foot and then became infected.  To these people, a visit to the doctor is a last resort.  They virtually always try jungle medicine first (which virtually always has no value whatsoever) and they keep thinking that with a little more time it will heal.

 

My daughter, Meredith, asked me to be removed from our mailing list!

 

I had the opportunity during furlough to chat with Rob Foster, who was raised on the mission field in Africa and now teaches and lives in Canada.  I asked him how I could prepare my kids for adulthood after their experience in a cross-cultural setting.  He said that his biggest adjustment to “normal” life in North America was that he was no longer unique and “special”.  In Africa, he was the unique white kid and was treated as though he was more special than the “normal” African kids.  When in Canada on furloughs, he was the missionary kid who lived in Africa and he again received special treatment.  When he moved to Canada to go to college and then to work, he was just a normal guy.  He said that it was quite a difficult adjustment for him.  This was a healthy reminder for me.  Missionaries and missionary kids are treated uniquely where they live and they are typically considered special and are elevated in the eyes of those that know them.  Then they return to North America and they are treated as special, as well.  Men are not made to receive much praise and this combined with the fact that we missionaries are not doing anything more than following God’s call for us, like you are.  Please be very careful about treating us and our kids like we are special or more godly simply because we work overseas.  We don’t deserve it!

 

Our 22 year old nephew, Zak, visited us a couple times over these years and he is now engaged to marry a beautiful 22 year old friend of ours.   Both are beautiful people who are in for some unique challenges but communicated that they are ready for their adventure by becoming engaged this month.  The tapestry that our Father weaves!

 

I just returned from a filter trip to a small river that runs into the Amazon.  My good friend, Kevin Van Hulle is visiting from the States with his good friend, Bob, and these two with Terry Price, Richie Bouthillier, Steve Dolan, Ben, myself and four Brasilians delivered 60, 300+ lb filters in three days.  It is a lot of work for four guys to deliver one through the mud, up slippery banks and over dilapidated docks.  Not bad for 6 old men and five young guys.  It was the lightest medical trip I’ve had in a long time.  I saw about 150 people over the three days but Steve Dolan worked with me and just having someone show some interest in what I do was nice.  It was especially nice to have Ben join us and work with us.  He’s a strong kid and a delight to work with.  I asked him why he so enjoyed the trip and he said, “Kevin, Bob, Steve, Terry, Richie, Bomba, Aneif…”

 

The attitudes of this culture confuse me almost daily.  The man that we bought our house from really wanted to buy it back.  He was arranging the paperwork for a loan and hoping that he could afford it.  Because he was uncertain, when another man told us that he would like to buy our house, I talked with the original owner to find out how certain or uncertain he was at this point because I had told him that he had “first dibs”.  He said that he really wanted it but if I had a buyer, he wanted me to sell it.  The same day, we had someone wanting to buy our motorcycle.  We had promised it to another so we asked them if they still wanted it.  They said they really wanted it but if we had another buyer, we should sell it.  Both of these people were genuine in their desire to own and genuine in their placing our benefit before theirs.  I left each interaction so blessed to see genuine unselfishness demonstrated and convicted that I would likely have responded differently and looked for a way to protect my own interest.

 

NOTHING is planned in this culture.  They operate quite comfortably in spontaneity, never seem to worry (or think) about tomorrow, and live in the present as well as I dream I will someday.  They hurt for the lack of productivity and growth that planning brings and they live with no security against the unexpected but they want for none of these.  Interruption is never received with irritation or frustration and people “distraction” is constant and virtually always seen as positive.  Another cultural challenge is, “What is yours is mine”.

 

In the US, it would be sad to see five grown and somewhat responsible men loving video games but this week we got together for several hours to play Tiger Woods – 2011, Wii, with our good friend, Kevin Van Hulle, and had a blast.  Laughing, trash-talking, choking, competing, etc.  Kevin cleaned our clocks.  There’s not much to do here leisurely and this was almost as fun as being on a real course.  In August, I will try to humble Kevin on a real course the way he did us this week on the Wii course.

 

 

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