Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lost Voices

I've been reading 'When Helping Hurts' by Corbett and Fikkert. Really good book that I think I'll need to reread again soon to digest it all. One concept that I really appreciated is their insight into what poverty is. Most people from the western perspective would describe poverty as lack of money or necessary material things. But the poor themselves, "talk in terms of shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness." (pg.53).

Lack of voice is something I've been hearing mentioned a lot recently. Or as the manager of FS T-shirts said the other day, "If the women are unhappy it's because they feel like they're not being heard. It's not that they expect us to change things, they just want to know that we are listening to them." They've been voiceless their whole lives and now they want the right to speak, and through that to remember that they are worthwhile.

In this Christmas season I've also been thinking about a King who gave up his voice to become a baby. He left more power than we can ever imagine to be born in a stable and to be raised in poverty. He gave up His voice so we could get ours back. So our voices could once again be heard by the King of kings. So we can talk to him anytime, anywhere, as if we were face to face.

He came to bring good news to the poor. And thought that we were worth it.


Stand Firm

In Eph. 6:11-14 the word 'stand' is mentioned over and over. Vs. 13 says, "Then after the battle you will still be standing firm." It doesn't say, "After you have courageously, valiantly, and singlehandedly defeated your enemies." It just says 'stand'. I love that because standing sounds attainable.

We are to rely on His 'mighty power' (vs. 10) to fight the fight through us. He's much better about knowing how the battle should go, where justice or mercy should be applied, and what to prioritize. Our job is to 'stand firm' through His power, not to let the enemy knock us down, not to get pushed back, not to retreat.

When the battle is at it's fiercest we don't always have to be plunging forward, sword swinging. Sometimes there are periods of just standing, and that in itself is a victory!

(These are mostly thoughts from my husband's brain. Just putting it in my own words here!)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dishwater Surrender

I have always firmly believed that when our Father calls a family He has a plan for the entire family in it. But I still don’t like to watch my children struggle. One morning recently I woke up groggy after not sleeping well. I’d been thinking about how one of my sons has been really struggling in his school situation, but there just doesn’t seem to be a good alternative right now. The fact that my oldest daughter will be leaving and going far away to university in less than a year was sinking in as well. While I think there is an awful lot of positive in the life of a Third Culture Kid, I was grieving about some of the ways our lifestyle was impacting our kids as well.
I boiled the electric kettle for hot water to do the morning dishes while a monologue ran inside my head. “I am willing to and I have already sacrificed a lot to do what we do, but I will NOT sacrifice my children. Doing what is best for them is a priority. After all they’ve been given to us to raise. I will NOT sacrifice them. It wouldn’t be right.”
I’ve had variations of this conversation with myself many times before, but this time a Still Small Voice firmly interrupted my thoughts, “………………….But what if I asked you to?” I felt like I’d been punched in the gut and I wept into the dishwater.
The night before at bedtime our 7 year-old had read me the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac. In that moment at my kitchen sink I remembered that my Father had tested Abraham’s willingness to do the very thing I said I wouldn’t do.
I live in a city surrounded by literal, physical idols. While I know that there are idols of a different sort in my passport culture as well, seeing them where I live nails the point home of how ‘anti’ my Father they are and what a bondage they are to those who pay homage to them. I don’t want idols in my life.
But what if I’m making idols of my children? The thought hadn’t occurred to me before!
After a while I wiped my face with a sudsy hand and sorted my heart out with my Father.
I may have to keep watching my son flounder in his school situation for now. I will have to see my daughter who I’m not quite ready to let go leave and learn to fly. But while I'm not glorifying sacrifice for sacrifice's sake, when He calls I will put Him first, do what He asks, and trust that He will ‘provide the ram’ in their lives.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Things are going well lately. A team from Steve's home fellowship in NZ has been here this past week with more arriving today. We're enjoying them! The weather has cooled just a tad so it's not so intense. Lovely!

We have just switched from a language class to a tutor who we're hoping will help us take the structure that we learned in class and use it more fluently. We had our first session with her a couple of days ago.

On a page that she was making us read and respond to in the language was the word "dhOrmo" which literally translated means 'religion'. Our tutor explained that that's not the full meaning, however.

The real meaning is this, "That which holds you, that which makes you what you are." She told us that the religion here is not just about belief but it's how you live your life. Pretty insightful, huh? I agreed with her while adding things like, "In response to a relationship, from the inside out," in my head.

She felt that you can choose what it is that you w0rship as long as it gives you strength and means something to you. That's the point where I stopped nodding my head in agreement!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Artwork

Adam, who will be 8 in 16 days (I know this because he's reminding us daily!) was told recently by his siblings that I have a folder of all of their early artwork somewhere in a box in the States and wanted to know where his folder was. Well, in all of the moves we've done in the past few years he didn't have one. But his mom quickly remedied that situation! Adam is actually quite the budding little artist helped along by big sister Rach who is quite the artist as well.

He wants the best of his artwork saved so he can remember it later. And show it to others, I'm sure. And now about once a week or so I get handed a paper folder worthy.

I was just reading the amazing chapters in Deut. before the people entered the Promised Land. I was struck by how many times in a list the word 'remember' was used. They were told to remember all of the amazing things that He had done! It was to carry them through the battles ahead of entering the land and then later meant to keep them from falling away from Him. (ch.7)

A couple of chapters later (ch.11) the words "They didn't see..." about their children is repeated ending with the words, "But you have seen the L perform all these mighty deeds with your own eyes."

What do I need to 'remember' today so that I continue to walk by faith into the future? Because He HAS done amazing things for me! What things do I need to pass along through my own eyes to those who 'didn't see' those things?

I want to store them up so I can pull them out later. To admire the 'artwork' of my Father in my life. And to 'show' others the things that He has done!!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Another puja

Today is a 'puja' day to the goddess of this city. She's not very nice, really. First of all she's always bright blue (?) and scantily clad, but the real disturbing thing about her is that she usually is depicted as having her husband's decapitated head hanging by the hair from her hand. Often she has a bunch of bloody heads around her feet as well.

Like I said not pretty and not something that inspires worship in me!

But to her followers their perspective is that since she's the 'baddest' thing around that she would obviously be the one most likely to be able to protect them. So they worship.

It challenges my thinking about how to present a Relationship that is as tender as a mother to a child while not loosing focus of the fact that He is omnipotent as well!

It's two for one today as it's also the day to worship the goddess of prosperity.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Perceptions

I have oh so far to go in my language learning (!) but instead of just hearing static in the voices around me, my ears are starting to 'tune in' to the sounds better and understand some of what's going on around me randomly on the street. And sometimes I even hear phrases that I don't have to translate in my head before I understand them.

It's been really noisy outside lately even at night with another puja holiday coming this weekend. This one involves fireworks and chocolate bombs (think 'bomb'!) so it's added to the decibel level as well.

Last night I had just finally gotten to sleep when a yelling match erupted between a man and a woman right below our bedroom window. My first conscious thoughts were these words from the man (that my mind recognized without having to translate, YES!). "You are not from America, you are from ________ (our district in the city)." He was basically telling her to get off her high horse and to 'behave' because she was a local woman and shouldn't act like an American woman.

Hummmmm....................I'm really not sure how to respond to that. Was he saying that she didn't have the 'rights' of an American woman? Or was he holding up that type of woman as an undesirable example. Probably a bit of both.

I've been realizing lately that that's generally the perception of people here overall. Even when I'm clearly with my children I have advances made by local men because their perception is that 'American women divorce their husbands.' A local co-worker was talking with Aaron the other day and told him that he should marry a girl from here because 'she'll be more faithful than an American woman.'

Now most of this perception is from movies and TV so it's not based on factual experience, but that's what they think of my countrywomen. And since they see America's people as that, and since 'American' is 'Believing' to them........well, you can connect the train of thought as to what their perceptions are. Not good.

There are obviously heaps of things not right from my point of view as to what is expected of the woman here and how they are treated, but it was a good insight into the kind of mindset that we face.

Metro Musings

I spend a lot of time on the Metro. Since Steve is sick this week and I'm doing all of the school runs, between that and language class I'll spend over 3 hours on the train or waiting in a station today.

On the way to school this morning we got one of the two, brand new, air conditioned trains in the system. Third time this week! They are so much more quiet than the other trains, smoother ride, etc.

On the way back I got an old train, however, and was noticing how much louder and just less luxurious the ride was. It was empty enough that I actually got a seat, however, and I found myself watching the lady sitting directly across from me.

She was young and obviously on her way to work, but she didn't have the usual blank stare or look of stoic endurance that most people have as they ride the rails. Her eyes were shut and even though there were no earphones, her head was gently swaying to an inaudible tune, her face obviously responding to lyrics in her head. One finger and one foot were slowly tapping a beat as well. This lady had music in her heart and all of the outside noise and distractions were not keeping her from enjoying it.

"I have a Song inside as well!" I thought, and spent the rest of the ride putting aside the external things to focus on it. My train mate's song was probably a man made tune from a popular movie, but my Song is one that gives life, strength, joy and peace. Definitely a better use of my time to commune with Him than to blankly endure my ride.

I'll have to make better use of that time in the future as well!

Note: Steve and 2 visitors from NZ were on a train a few weeks back that the first 2 cars derailed on! There had never been an accident on the subway before so it was amazing that they happened to be on THAT train. No one was injured and the whole subway system quickly shut down. They got to walk the rails with hundreds of other passengers to the next station, though.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Holidays

The last few days have been the equivalent of Christmas in this part of the world. And a new experience for us! Hundreds or maybe even thousands of temporary structures have gone up around the city. Some are amazingly elaborate! Their purpose is to 'house' the deities expected to come and possess the idols that are placed inside for this period of time. Now that it's over and the g0ds have 'left', all of the idols around the city are being taken down a street near us to the river are are being burned.

Systematic chants and 'worship' music poured into our windows over the weekend through loudspeakers outside as well.

It's everyone's favorite season of the year with many parties, gifts given, etc. It's also a time that people in our part of town have actually gone hungry to prepare for as everyone, rich or poor, has been expected to contribute to the erecting of the shrines. Important to them, but from the outside looking in it's a huge annual financial burden for this city filled with poverty to bear.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Uncomfortable Question

I was just organizing files on my computer and re-discovered one of my favorite quotes:

"Sometimes I would like to ask G0d why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.

'Well, why don't you ask Him?'

Because I'm afraid He would ask me the same question."

-Richard Stearns

Monday, October 4, 2010

Small Stuff.....

Do you ever feel like you're just spinning your wheels? That what you do from day to day really doesn't seem to impact the world at large or isn't even very important? I want my life to be about significant things. I want it to count. Yet sometimes there are seasons of an awful lot of small stuff. Long periods of time where I wonder, "What is this all for?" Even though I live in an exotic location (!), that's been my life a lot lately, doing various small things that take effort and discipline, but I wonder if I'm actually getting somewhere. (When I put it all together I can see that it's 'good stuff, but day by day can seem mundane or 'not enough'!)

It's encouraging to know that our Father doesn't feel that way. That being faithful today in small things is service to Him that doesn't go unnoticed!

"Well, done!" the king exclaimed. You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward." (Luke 19:17)

or

"And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded." (Matt. 10:42)

What's important about us isn't what we DO anyway. It's about relationship to HIM! And then after that what we do in His name because of it.

When I look back, my most cherished memories of people saying, "Thanks! You made a difference," were about things that I had no idea had meant something to someone. Or times where I was totally unaware that someone was watching.

He can use the small stuff and it's part of the walk that brings us closer to Him. So back to my day that's full of many small things!

Note: What am I doing nowadays? Language study, lots of cooking for and hosting of volunteers and teams, teaching an English class to a couple of the women, giving tours of the factory to pass on the vision, some writing for FS, loaning of kitchen utensils and bowls to the T-shirt women across the balcony when they ask for it on their tea breaks (or in other words, relationship building), school runs, mom chores, etc. Sounds like 'enough' when I list it but still can seem 'routine' when I see the needs here and want to do more! I want to be faithful day by day and thought you might relate to that. No matter where you are or what you're doing.....:-)

Postscript: I just remembered an encouraging quote by Mother Teresa about the small stuff:

"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Flowers
















I made a comment a while back about how the women of this country make the streets look like a flower garden. Here are a few pics of the flowers:


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bells...

"From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
In the clamor and the clanging of the bells."
-Edger Allen Poe

I'm not a big fan of Poe but these lines, put there by some long ago English class no doubt, have been running through my mind a lot lately. Because we hear LOTS of clanging sounds like bells.

There are set times each day that our neighbors appease their deities by lighting incense, clanging bell-like sounds and blowing horns. There are extra bells and horns every time it thunders because someone in the lane behind us is obviously afraid. We hear thunder and we know what's coming!

We're headed into 'puja' season here where there are different days where different deities are worshiped. It's a bit like the Christmas season to them. Our kids even get two weeks off of school pretty soon! And there have been lots more bells lately.

From what I have read the bell is rung to block out sounds that might distract during the ceremony. It is also the sound (the 'OM') that links to the deities they believe in, to call the 'good' ones and drive away the bad. It's all pretty complicated! And it's all based on fear. Fear that you will do something wrong and incur the wrath of the g0ds.

I'm so glad that I serve Someone who loves and cares about me! Who was Himself the sacrifice for any appeasement that I'll ever need. Someone who brings me peace not fear.

Friday, September 17, 2010

FS's Birthday...

FS opened nine years ago today with 20 women. Today there are about 160. It was a day off of work for everyone and time to celebrate! The ladies showed up in their finest and had a blast by giving thanks for the nine years, eating good food, and LOTS of Bollywood dancing!

It was also Heather's first time to wear a sari and since she had NO idea how to put it on, she got help from about 15 of the women.....at the same time!

Back to work tomorrow, though, because there are orders to be filled!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Poverty






Where we live poverty isn't a concept....it has a face. We can't take photos of our area because they're our neighbors, so here are a few from the city at large. (Thanks, Frin!)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

We've Moved!!!

We're in our new home and loving it! A couple of weeks back we thought it might still be a month or so away, but the whole family and a few friends pitched in and got things finished!

We figured out that over a hundred people have labored over this place in the last 8 months to get it done. A huge 'thanks' to all of them!!! Many names and faces come to mind as we look around the walls. What a neat journey it's been to get to know so many fantastic people in the process.

The guy who's the boss of FS communications and does all of the video work did a walk through for us the other day with his camera. When he gets it finished we'll put a link up on You Tube so everyone can see what it looks like. If that's not done soon we'll post a few pics, but since the rooms aren't huge the video will be a better way to see what it's like.

We moved in on Saturday and on Monday doorways were widened to move the cutting tables from T-shirts into the large rooms that were our bedrooms previously. The rooms will eventually be renovated for about 16 sewing machines (and 16 women!) each, but the room where Cutting is currently is leaking when it rains so.......!

Enjoying our new home and smiling!

Here's the link to the video now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqfprLmabuU

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Water




I've been enjoying watching the community life that goes on outside of our window. People that live nearby hang out in the courtyard at least a couple of times a day when the water comes on and the common tap that supplies water begins to flow (ours gets pumped to a tank on the roof during these times). It's been fun to observe their individual personalities, hear the clinking and clanging of pots and pans, the chatting and laughter.

There are arguments, too. Sometimes quite heated. But before too long it goes back to the general sharing of lives, teasing, and playfulness.

You see, while they represent different personalities, families, types of employment, etc, they have to work it out and get along. Because they all share the same source of water!

I've been learning a lot about fellowship in the Body as well since we live in close community with co-workers here. They are an awesome group of people and we get along really well, but in a practical way it's brought Rom 12: 9-18 to life. Words like, "Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them," takes on a deeper meaning when you're around 'them' 24-7 while overheated and overworked. "Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable," when the 20 women from the T-shirt unit upstairs walk past my open door numerous times a day and can easily assess the atmosphere of what's going on in our home.

It challenges me about how to live that way in a broader perspective, too. We are all so different; have different goals, dreams, callings on our lives, preferences, things we do or don't enjoy-----but we really SHOULD to get along.

Why? WE share the same Source of Water, too.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Men at Work

Someone who was just here on a visiting team took some fantastic photos and has given me permission to use them over time. (Thanks, Frin!) Here are a few:
Men doing manual labor jobs.
Laying some kind of cable?
I wonder if these are all workers or guys who just decided to jump in and lend a hand. You can be SURE that this amount of men weren't involved in tearing up the street before this!
The meat market which is the only place to find beef.
There are tables to butcher on and stuff hanging everywhere. I have a guy's phone number. I call and tell him what I want, quickly pay, grab my bags, and leave. All while trying to breathe as little as possible!
Yes, this is in the middle of the city with heavy traffic around!
These animals will wind up in a meat market by the next day.
Even though he's taking a rest this guy would work HARD!
We have seen amazing, heavy loads balanced on the back of these.
Don't let the monsoon slow you down!
My personal favorite.........
(No photo shopping involved! And this is without the trailer that the guy above has on his bike.)

Side note:
I've been helping with painting on our soon-to-be finished (!) flat. The other day I was up on a ladder painting when Steve brought some men to install a converter (Which will store up power so we can run a few fans, etc, when the power goes off. Notice that I didn't use the word 'if'!). Steve left to get something while I was openly stared at by these guys with too little personal space involved for my cultural tastes. What I was doing was highly unusual behavior for a women here. I thought, "I wonder how long they can stand just watching and not give me advice?" They didn't disappoint! About 20 seconds later they began informing me of spots they thought I hadn't done well, that I needed to thin the paint with water, etc, etc, etc!
(I actually didn't mind too much, though, because they weren't speaking in English----and I understood them! Very nice when that sometimes happens now.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Precious in His Image

Yesterday as I rode the subway to pick up the kids from school a women got on who wasn't as well dressed as the rest of the middle class riding the rails. She looked a little frantic at the obviously new experience and since all of the seats were full, hung on to the overhead rail for dear life. Since she was barely tall enough to reach the rail, I decided to get up and give her my seat. I hesitated for just a second as I adjusted my bags and another seat became available.

The 'lower class' lady sat down, but the ladies on either side of her weren't pleased. In fact, one of them got up and moved seats at the next stop clearly to avoid sitting next to her. The lady on the other side slid as far away as possible.

I cringed. Partly for the sake of the lady who was rejected (although she's probably used to being treated that way by people above her 'class') and partly because she looked a lot like the ladies that we have around us every day.

Things like this are a good reminder that every person is precious and worthwhile. I think it's easier for me to see that here because I haven't grown up with the same class system, everything is unfamiliar, and people just look like people to me.

I hope in my own country that I wouldn't be the one to move away.....

Friday, August 13, 2010

Monsoon

It's monsoon season here but this year has had much less rain than usual and higher humidity than normal. Today, however, the heavens opened and we got to experience our first flooding. After only an hour or so of torrential rain there was no way to get home from the subway without walking through 10 inches or so of water! And a couple of hours later the water was completely gone.

This picture's not of our area but shows the kind of thing that can suddenly occur.

The saying, "like a drowned rat," took on a whole new meaning for me today as the sewers and storm drains overflowed. But I won't go into detail!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In the lives of women....

These picture so depict things that are important to women here. There's not much of a range in styles of women's clothes but the fabrics themselves are so important. In most shops clothes are grouped by color and fabric. You choose that first and THEN the cut of the garment. Different colors are everywhere and looking down the street at a group of women is like looking at a garden of flowers.

Another thing central to the lives of women is making food. Most of the cooking is done in the morning and the larger meal is eaten at lunchtime. I get asked every day by the women who work with us what I've cooked for lunch. They think it's amazingly boring that my response always has something to do with bread, as in a sandwich. I must be letting my husband starve!
(Photos by Shelley West)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What's Coming......



You've been asking for photos of the progress on our new home. It will still be at least a month before we can move in but it's come a looooong ways! The pictures are:

1. Just a reminder what our new bathroom and kitchen looked like when we got here----they were empty holes in the floor! This is now the new bathroom and the kitchen is on the floor above.


2. The shower where we're living now.

3. Shower in the new place! Yes, that's marble. Pretty isn't it? It's cheaper than wood is here!

4. Our current kitchen.

5. Progress on our new kitchen as of last night. Still a few things to be done and the walls need to be painted. Can't wait to cook here! The picture is taken from the living room which is only about the size of the kitchen, but the whole room together feels airy and spacious enough.



Monday, August 2, 2010

Small World Moment....



FS was hired to make the bags for an International conference held in Hawaii last week. Everyone who participated was given a bag. Here are a couple of photos of something VERY special to us. People that we know and love like family from Fiji at the conference----with their bags made by the women that we are beginning to love like family here!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Fun times !!!

  • Heather always writes these blogs but I thought it was high time I (Steve) penned an entry. There are many fun advantages of living where we are. I thought I might mention just a few:
  1. 1. Where in the West can you stand 3 stories high on bamboo scaffolding wearing regulation safety boots (flipflops) with no safety equipment at all?
  2. 2. Where else can you drive on the wrong side of the road with traffic coming straight at you and it be quite normal ?
  3. I have not used a seat belt since I got here.
  4. Where else can you drink 12 liters of water in a day and not pee once ?
  5. For us guys, we can pee on any wall we want to any time you like and it is quite normal (I actually have not tried this yet!)
  6. You can play your music as loud as you like in your house or anywhere and no one complains.
  7. When driving, the main point is to use your horn as much as you can so that people know that you are there. You try and overtake on any side you like whenever you like even if someone is coming from the other direction.
  8. My electrician turns up to work sometimes in bare feet and wires the mains board live!
  9. Last week we lifted a 400kg machine 4 stories high---with just bamboo scaffolding.
You are probably sitting in your rocking chair reading this and saying to yourself, "Steve is where the action is!" And you'll be right!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sacrifice?

It's surprising how fast you can get spoiled! On my recent trip to the States it took me no time at all to get used to air conditioning, hopping in the car to go places, no dirt to speak of, etc. My family being here and the fact that I know this is where I'm meant to be was a huge draw to come back, but things being the opposite of the above? Not so much.

Many people have talked to us about how we're pretty neat to be willing to live like we do. But it's really not true! It's often a struggle, but one that we have Help coping with since He provides the gace to do what He asks of us. It's also made easier by the fact that our neighbors have so very little. How can I complain when they live with so much less?

I don't think Steve struggles with it much but I'm ashamed to say that I don't always make it beyond that and walk in the direct opposite of not complaining---- into an actual attitude of gratitude.

It always seems like when my heart's a bit hard there's something or someone that challenges me out of it enough that I struggle with it and finally sort it out inside. This week it was one of our co-workers who at this point is only here for a half a year or so but wants to be here long term. How's she challenging me?

Next week she's moving in with one of FS's women. She'll be living in one tiny room with this woman and her son. It's not even big enough for her to stand up in. She will have to go to the communal toilet to bathe and do other things, she will be washing her clothes by hand, enduring the heat without a fan, eating what this family eats and probably being sick part of the time from it.

Why? Because she feels called to love others by living among them. Sounds like Someone else whom I admire!

Do I feel called to live like that right now with our kids? No. But the big question is: Am I willing to at some point? Not sure I can answer that right now.

But what I can definitely do is shift my attitude back to being humbly grateful for all that I DO have!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Location?

There's a homeschooling forum that I've gone to for years and even though I'm not homeschooling anymore I still enjoy checking up on my friends there who also live overseas. They've been a huge support to me over the years since we understand each other's unique challenges of living outside of our homeland.

At the top of the forum today is a note saying that a certain lady will be missed. It's probably been there for a while but I hadn't noticed it. She's not 'International' but I remember had joined in the conversations in the International corner now and then. When I looked further I found that she died a couple of weeks ago of the ovarian cancer that she'd been fighting for the last 4 years.

Then I noticed the most profound thing I've seen in a long time. Under everyone's picture on the forum page is a place to put your location that is attached to every post that you make. Most people have 'Texas' or 'Thailand', etc. on theirs. I had noticed what this lady's has said in the past but it hit me like a lightning bolt today. Still on the forum put there by her well before she died, her location says, "Exactly where I'm meant to be."

Wow.

Finally!

I've been very lax about our blog lately! Very. Sorry about that! Life's been a bit crazy. I was in the States for two weeks talking about the business and as a side bonus (a big one!) getting to see various family and friends. Steve did a great job as Mr. Mom/Mum and the kids stepped up and helped out, too.

Some recent events since:

-We're pretty sure a new strain of Swine Flu that's in our city hit everyone in the family except Steve and Aaron last week. I think I had the other one last year when we were in Fiji so got this one less intensely than the kids. They're pretty much over it now--but was not fun!

-The teenage daughter of one of the ladies who works with us committed suicide last week. This obviously had a huge impact on everyone here.

-On the flip-side, one of the women took a 'swim' over the weekend. Was precious to witness! There were others who wanted to join her but couldn't because of interference from family members.

-Speaking of the business, we NEED ORDERS! There are some for later in the works but in the past week there have been a number of days with no work for the women to do. They still receive their paycheck regardless, but we need orders to continue to function and grow so that more women can be free!

-Steve's made huge progress on our future home lately! There's still a big job left that involves a lot of welding which the local workers can't do. This means that Steve will have to do it all himself and will take some time, but we'll get there! Pictures soon.

-Meanwhile, the huge rat that lived in our drain finally took the bait and bit the dust the other day. Adam especially was relieved!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Darjeeling




We just got back from a wonderful break in the cool mountains of Darjeeling! Our city apparently had the hottest four days of the summer while we were away and we were not sad to miss them.

It was a wonderful time of hanging out as a family, seeing the sights, enjoying beautiful scenery, and getting perspective on our first six months here. We've come a long ways!

This time of the year the mist is pretty constant in Darjeeling (we literally walked in the clouds!) but on one of our last days it rolled back for a few minutes just enough for us to see the top of Kanjanjunga, the third highest peak in the world, and the surroundings mountains. It was an amazing sight! We were already at 7000 ft. but felt absolutely dwarfed by the peak over 21,000 ft. higher.

The statue the kids are posing by is of Tenzing Norgay, the sherpa who conquered Mt. Everst with Sir Edmund Hiliary (a New Zealander!). Steve's mum met Tenzing many years ago and Steve ran into Sir Edmund in an airport once before his death. We enjoyed seeing the museum in Darjeeling that documented the events of many Everest attempts.

The boys especially loved playing with the street dogs that hung around the city square (oval?). The animals were cared for by an NGO and were healthy and friendly, much different than the disease fill street animals where we live! The boys apparently drew the attention of others since pictures of them petting dogs came out in two different area newspapers!

Now it's back to school on Monday for the kids as they start their new school year. Heather's off to the States for a couple of weeks later today where she'll be doing a bit of speaking and attending a conference to communicate about FS. Back to work for Steve--as well as being Mr. Mom for the next couple of weeks!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Little Ants

Ants have been invading our kitchen and bathroom for the last few weeks. We're pretty used to ants since they found their way inside year round in Fiji, but they seem to be seasonal here.

The problem with them is this: they look like the ants in Fiji, they act like the ants in Fiji, but the normal drone ants in Fiji don't BITE! Some of the ants here are typical black ants that can be swiped away with your hand harmlessly but others..........well, it's not a pleasant experience for your skin to come in contact with them! Stinging pain and welts for a couple of days to remind you of the experience. And drying yourself after a shower only to find that there were these sorts of ants on your towel? Not fun! (Ask me how I know!)

Now I have to be honest that the biting ants are a tiny bit different on close inspection. Their heads are just slightly red but they still look like black ants for the most part. My eyes are 'past 40' so I can't be absolutely sure, but the kids agree that they don't look like typical fire ants.

What teeny, tiny little things do we allow to creep into our lives that look harmless at first but then turn around and bite us? They're not always easy to see clearly in a world where things appear to be shades of gray.

Incidents of major moral failure, for example, don't happen overnight. They start with a second glance at something the eyes should avoid, unchecked thoughts, not following our brother Joseph's example and fleeing the scene of a temptation. Like little ants.....

What should we do with the little ants in our lives whatever they happen to be?
Get rid of it and don't get bit!!! It's not worth it.

Short Update

Our last team of the 'season' has gone and we're amazed at the significant progress that's been made on our building! Still a ways to go, though, and we're not getting our hopes up as to when we'll be able to move into our own flat. But it will come eventually! There's a one bedroom flat below ours, however, that will be ready to house a new couple who will arrive in a few weeks.

For the next few months we'll get the chance to focus more intently on our language study, something we're both really keen to do. Plus we'll have a bit of family holiday time while the kids are on school break.

We've been here six months now!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Safe.....

There is always talk of threatening groups targeting different areas in the country. Right now the rumored potential target is our city. We've been getting emails from embassies, etc, saying to be careful in places where foreigners frequent. We only occasionally go to those places anyway and when we do we keep our eyes open. Very seldom does something actually happen, but these groups enjoy the control that terror brings.

Yesterday I dropped the girls off at their friend's apartment next to a big shopping mall. (It always amazes me at how entirely possible and tempting it would be to live life here without really seeing how the majority of the city lives--but that's a different topic!)

Security was quite tight at the mall. There were guards visible on every floor with one even looking down and walking the perimeter of the glass roof. It was nice to see that they were taking the threats seriously and were doing their best to protect the shoppers.

It made me remember that the BEST security in our lives is that which is Unseen. How even when we feel totally alone in the face of a threat that there is a He*venly Host guided by an an omnipotent Father available to guard and protect us.

Just like it was nice to see extra guards at the mall doing their best for the masses, isn't it gracious that our unseen Guard gives us encouragement in dangerous times as well? I would like to always be satisfied with just the knowledge of the Invisible, but many times when I've needed it He's given me tangible comfort; a person to lean on, an email or call saying someone had been 'thinking' of me, or even just an unexplainable sense of peace.

Recently, I heard a woman tell how she was in a foreign land during a time of turmoil and waiting alone in a less than 'secure' airport. A dog ran up, sat down beside her and stayed! She eventually had to leave her 'guard' to go through Customs, but the creature found her on the other side and sat with her until she boarded the plane. She is convinced that that tangible presence was sent by the He*venly one to remind her that she was never out of His care.

Isn't it good to know that we are ALWAYS in His hands?


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Language Study

I should be doing language study. Does it count if I write about it instead?

It's coming along well, it really is! I know heaps more than when I started. I've got to remember that we've only seriously been at this for a few months. However, the more I know the more I realize how MUCH more I have to learn. Motivation can be hard sometimes when the 'end' is such a long ways ahead...out of sight...around a bend in the road...through a looong black tunnel...under a bridge...through a brick wall..............

Here are a few things I've learned about language study so far:

-There are lots of things that just can't be translated straight from English so you have to open your mind to not saying EXACTLY what you're looking for, a close enough meaning will have to do.

-You CAN become jealous of the progress of your much loved spouse when everyone points out (even strangers on the street) how much more fluidly they're speaking than you are.

-It's really hard.

-If you try to go to sleep thinking of how to say certain things you will be up half the night.

-Every word you've ever learned in any other language that has been asleep in your sub-conscious for years will suddenly float to the front of your brain blocking the free flow of the words in the language that you WANT to speak.

-Did I mention that it's hard?

-Ever left a situation where you walk away and think, "Oh man, I SHOULD have said _______________"? This happens multiple times a day, every day in language study!

-People laugh at you. A lot.

-You may have to resist the urge to hit your spouse when they go on and on about how 'fun' language study is.

-You will most likely become very animated with your hands to try to make up for your lack of verbal skills.

-Even though you're a mature adult with loads of experience under your belt you may find yourself figuratively wagging your tail like a puppy when someone compliments your language skills or accent.

-Lots of housework or writing of blogs may occur to avoid the hard work of study.

-When you say something that sounds like gibberish to your ears but understanding lights the eyes of the person your talking to........WOW, it's really, really COOL!

-An uncomprehending stare back because you've failed to communicate? Not so fun!

Bottom line: The people I desperately want to communicate with are worth all of this bother. So I need to not even try to see the road ahead, take it one day at a time, and just get on with it!

----------------I guess I'd better go study now!


Monday, April 19, 2010

A bit of slime.....

We're having problems with algae in our water pipes.

The water in the area comes on for a couple of hours morning and evening. We plug in a pump during those times that pumps the water to a tank in the roof so we have water all day. Clear plastic hoses run three stories up to the roof, across, and back down two stories to our kitchen and bathroom. It's temporary but it works!

But this algae is a problem. Our tank can be completely full but when clumps of algae come through it blocks up all of our taps, shower, toilet, washing machine, etc. There are days when we clean the filters on all of them numerous times!

Sometimes it's a noticeable amount and sometimes it's just a tiny bit, but even that tiny bit is enough to block the big source of water behind it.

Sometimes our lives are like blocked faucets/taps. We've got a huge Source behind us but there's a bit of unlovely slime blocking the connection and keeping the water from flowing through us. If we're wondering why we're not producing what we should, maybe it's time to check our connection with the Source!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Not for Sale

Someone gave me this poem today that beautifully illustrates why we're here:

Stop the Traffic.

I am a person
not a potato to be picked and packaged
and sent to market
to be sliced and diced
chopped up and ketchupped
on the other side of the world.

I am human and I am not for sale.
I am a living conscience, not a cargo.
I travel passenger not freight.
I am not cattle
not contraband,
not a catalogued commodity.
I’m not the bottom line
for those who trade in tragedy
and profit from perversity.
I am not a can to be recycled.

I am human and I am not for sale.
I am a thinking individual, not a rare exotic bird.
I am your sister, not an inmate for your zoo.
I am not merchandise,
not meat,
not a meal ticket.
I was mothered,
not manufactured,
begotten, not created.

I am human and I am not for sale.
Its time to end this trade
in human tragedy,
to terminate this travesty
of a global economy.
Let the red lights
of your cities
be put to better use
to stop the traffic.
Write it in lights across your seared conscience:

I am human and I am not for sale.

-Gerard Kelly

And even more importantly human in the image of our Creator!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Choosing to laugh!

I had an experience a few days ago that I'm choosing to consider funny now:

I was in a taxi at a stoplight. Usually beggars and people selling things come up at stoplights and try to engage you. And the windows are always open because it's too hot to shut them.

Unexpectedly, I had a cobra shoved in the window at me! There are men who take them around places, show them (somehow it 'blesses' you) and then you're supposed to give them money.

I had carefully memorized the phrase, "Not my custom," in the language to calmly say on just such an occasion. But did I remember that in the heat of the moment? Nope! The only thing I could remember how to yell was, "No, snake! No, snake! Go aw
a
y”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Recreation....


It's not easy to find ways to relax here. The guys in our family have managed to find a couple, though! Steve's had a motorbike here for years and that gets taken out for rides now and then. Backyard cricket games are popular as well! I WISH I'd gotten a picture of Adam yesterday when he came home from school and wanted to help with the construction. He was carrying 4 big bricks at a time up two flights of stairs. The local workers were amazed. Guess for him that qualifies as recreation as well!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Today has been a sad day around FS. A former employee who went back into the trade on the streets was found murdered this morning. No one is sure but the word on the street is that it was a 'customer.'

This is sad on a number of levels. Firstly, that she was put in the position to be in the trade to start with. I don't know her particular story but it usually has to do with trafficking, abuse, or intense poverty. Secondly, that she never really became 'free.' There is the occasional woman who finds leaving her old life difficult. Fortunately that statistic at FS is fairly low but it happens.

We didn't know her but we know who she was. She used to stand on the main street near the flat we stayed in when we first arrived. She loved Adam and hugged him each time he passed.

She will probably remain just another statistic, not considered worth much by the authorities and not missed by too many for too long.

But He knows when each sparrow falls and I'm sure that His heart is sorrowful over this lost sheep as well.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Building Update


Lots has happened towards our permanent quarters recently. Lots of BIG things, helped along by a lot of sacrificial sweat on Kiwi brows by teams that have been here recently.

One team member remarked when he saw the job at hand, "Why don't you just bulldoze and start over?" Actually that didn't sound like a bad idea! The problem would be years of getting permit approvals, etc, and we'd never be allowed to build the size of building that FS has on this property again. Plus, this building does have character with it's age!

What's been done? The holes where the interior staircase used to be have been replaced on both levels. The ceiling was so high on the first level that we didn't want to waste the space so we poured a mezzanine over where the bathroom will be. This creates another small room with a low ceiling that will be good for extra play space for the kids or for someone extra to sleep.

We'll enter our flat by the spiral staircase in the picture on the 2nd floor (1st for non-Americans!) and we will have the storey above that as well. The staircase spirals all the way to the roof as an exterior fire escape for the T-shirt unit that is on the top floor to the right. The need for this was proven last week in the major business area of the city where fire escapes hadn't been provided, there was a fire on the top floors of a building, and quite a few people died.

We are currently living right below the T-shirt unit.

The roof on our part of the building was crumbling so that has been nearly re-cemented. Only one more backbreaking 'pouring day' necessary for that! That will end the major renovations needed. Plumbing is still to be done as well as quite a bit of finishing work including floors, plastering and painting.

The photo of the guys boxing in the roof to be re-poured is where our kitchen will be.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Old Lady

There's an elderly couple who live across the main street nearby. They're like a lot of older couples; moving a bit slower than they used to, bent at the shoulders, and clearly devoted to each other. But they live on the sidewalk under a bus stop.

I get the idea that they haven't been homeless for years. They still have a some pride and the look of their clothes isn't absolutely destitute. But somehow now they've ended up on the streets.

I walked past them the other day and the old lady was slowly counting the few coins in her hand. She dropped one and without thinking I bent to pick it up for her. She was instantly frantic and stamped her foot down protectively on the coin. She did let me pick it up after realizing that I wanted to help not steal but her dignity was ruffled and my heart was pricked by her sad situation.

It's not right that an old women would be so destitute that she would need to vigorously protect a coin worth 2 cents US. Or that she should be sleeping on the street day by day vigilant to protect the few bags of possessions she still has.

She makes me wonder if phrases like these apply to her:

"Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your h_____ly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are?"
or
"Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed at beautifully as they are.......he will certainly care for you."

But I'm sure that our Father Himself is more heartbroken at the injustices of the world than I am! Until the time comes when things are made right, I want to be His hands and feet to people like her.
Squatter settlement by the river

Taking a break

Looking out of what will be our living room window into the lane beside us

Outside of New Market where you can get most of what's available in the city!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hello, Hello?

(I've been waxing philosophical a lot lately so I hope no one minds!)

It's quite cute here the way people walk along the street yelling into their cell phones. Every few sentences or so they yell, "Hello, hello, hello?" in English. I wondered at this unusual habit until someone explained to me that the phone lines which are now quite good used to be very bad. Because of this people are worried that they're talking to thin air and now needlessly yell, "Hello?" to make sure that the person they're talking to is still on the line.

This can be the attitude that we have towards our Father. We wonder if He's listening and offer up little, anxious pr*yers as if we're reminding Him that we exist. But He's always there patiently listening on the other end of the crystal clear line. I wonder if at times He wishes we would stop trying to make sure that we have His attention and just be quiet so He can say something back.

The other day I read one of my favorite passages:

"When you go through deep waters I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression you will not be burned up." (Is. 43:2-3)

We never need to doubt that He's there or that He's listening!

Where do I shop?

It's hard to take photos of people and places that I see every day here but a team member who was just here from New Zealand kindly shared some of hers with me! These are a few photos of the bazaar where I buy most of our food and visit almost every day since I can only take home what I can carry.

My bread man.

The stall to the left is where I get milk, cereal, sugar, rice, flour, soap, etc.

To the right is my veggie stall. Don't know who this man is though!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Crows, crows, and more crows!

A crow left me a little gift right on the top of my head again tonight. I'm starting to think that from above my red head looks like a target in a crowd! Crows are everywhere here. Literally hundreds on any given block. They are big, loud, ugly, and a little like flying rats.

There's one crow that is giving me a new perspective on his species, however. In fact, I've found myself going out of my way to watch him. He's probably not unusual, but he's giving me a cameo glimpse into a different side of these creatures.

There's a large mango tree right outside the window of what will be our living room eventually. And there's a nest in view from that perch that's not available from below. A mother crow and three or four little blue eggs rest in it. The crow that impresses me, however, is the male who is an excellent example of the word 'devotion.' He is absolutely vigilant and aggressive in his efforts to protect the nest and his mate. He's is on guard every time I see him, his head turning and his black eyes constantly scanning the area. He goes to battle with other crows who come too near at the drop of a hat (or flap of a wing?) and will even fly up and sit within arms reach from where I stand to watch him if he sees me as a threat, fluffing his feathers and cawing a warning. He only leaves his post briefly to quickly provide some food to his mate's waiting beak. It's a heart warming display.

How often, I wonder, do I pass by other things thinking they're unattractive, not useful, or not worthy of notice, and miss the beauty that their Creator put there just beneath the surface? And what a wonderful mental picture of how He watches over His creation!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Purple smurfs, Avatars--or our family and friends?

Today is called 'Holi' here. It's a day with religious roots somewhere back there but no one is too clear about the meaning today. Basically it's a chance to have a day off and to play! Playing takes on a new meaning, however, when the method involved is to first throw handfuls of brightly colored powder at someone and then squirt water over the person you've just 'played with'. Or an alternative method is to mix powder and water in your hand and toss the whole whammy at once. The outcome either way=very bright, very hard to wash off PAINT!

We've had quite a bit of deliberation in the past week as to how our family was going to respond to the day. We finally decided 'to each his/her own.' After all the paint is said to come off completely in a week or so. And we've only heard ONE report of blond hair taking three months to right itself....

Rachel's getting over being sick so that made up her mind for her. Steve and I weren't too keen to play actually, but Steve got his face and hands done up by K. when he went down to take the picture! Our other three? See if you can pick them out of the crowd! And, no, that's not an overexposed photo. They really are mostly a weird, bright purplie pink!!! It's much brighter than it looks in the photo. And they don't look too much better yet after a shower.

Experiencing the culture at it's best?! (They actually had a blast!)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Just Step Out...

There are a number of Metro stations around the city that can only be exited by escalators. We often smile at people who obviously have little or no experience with them, however! People seem to put their hands out first to grip the rails only to find that they're being pulled up and are forced to stumble onto the steps.

Yesterday I was behind a young man in this very situation and what I wanted to say (but couldn't think quickly how to say it in his language) was, "Just step out." It got me thinking. I've been using escalators my whole life. I have no fear of them. I know that when I put my foot on that step it's going to be OK and that when I step out in faith it will catch me and carry me along. I mean who's ever heard of 'The Great Escalator Tragedy of 1998' or the like anyway?!

It made me think about life in the One. How sometimes it's hard to watch someone we care about scrabble in their fledgling faith just like people forcing themselves to step onto the escalator for the first time. Their particular trial may look easy to me but how can I after my own years of experience in 'escalator riding' frown on their false starts? All I can do is smile, take them by the hand, and step on beside them just like I have to little elderly ladies and children in Metro stations here.

Or how at times I find myself trying to hang on with my own two hands to something I can't really control just like people grabbing the handrails before their feet move. The end result is the same but it makes for a lot more uncomfortable start! At those times I need to, "Just step out," myself!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A chance to say, "Awwwwww!"

Behind the main FS building there is a wonderful backyard. Pretty amazing in a place where space is at a premium! The yard has been cleaned up, a few trees planted, and it's a great place for the women to be outside on breaks, etc. Our kids love it, too, and soccer and cricket matches occur regularly!

A. reminded me the other day of a very sweet connection with the yard. It was Steve and teams that he brought over that helped to clean it up. He himself welded together the swing set------not knowing that HIS kids would only a few years later be playing on it! Isn't our Father good?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Everything works together.....!

What was an uncomfortable situation (see post below) to start with yesterday, has turned into good! First of all, relationship with the local police has always been a bit of a challenge. They used to downright harass the business. However, the interaction with the police yesterday was the best ever! A. is on committee with the police sergeant of our district and through her he has grown to respect the business and the motives of those who work there. But he still recommended that we speak to the local area council to make sure that they're happy with our remodeling procedures.

A council representative came by yesterday afternoon to look around and K went to a meeting with them this afternoon. They told us to get on with the project! The man who came yesterday was very impressed with some of the methods being used in the work that he'd never seen before and wanted to know how to do them.

So relationally in the district we're better off now than we were before the bricks fell yesterday and the mob came. And the team can get cracking on some of the more intense stuff again tomorrow!

Postscript:
Just want to add that even through the drama of the previous day we always were aware that Someone else was in control! Situations that we can't control on our own seem to heighten our awareness of that fact. People in our building were a bit nervous but no one was terrified. Two people there had been reading about Nehemiah rebuilding the walls that morning and the difficulties they encountered and immediately felt like it was reassurance that we were also just under attack. Everyone involved is rejoicing that it's clear now that it was allowed for the good!

Mob 101

Yesterday we had a chance to grow in the culture. There is a team here of 14 from New Zealand who have been hard at it working on the new building. (They are awesome!) We also had 7 local workers here as well. As we've mentioned, the 'new' building is actually really old so part of the renovations have been repairs on the exterior walls, a challenging thing when there are narrow alleys on two sides with a constant stream of people walking past.

Tarps had been put up on the sides of the building so that should any stray bits of brick wall accidentally break off and come down the wrong way, the tarps funnel the rubble to the side of the pathways and away from people passing by.

This happened yesterday and the tarp worked exactly as planned. Unfortunately, the impression of the people walking past at the time was that they narrowly escaped serious injury. An understandable reaction really! But when a perceived wrong occurs there is no checking it out first here. People react and think, "A wrong has been done so we must do something about it," and mob justice begins.

Steve was the first on the scene and quickly tried to calm 30 screaming men. I was about to take Hannah to her afternoon classes at school but we couldn't get out the front way because of the mob. K quickly arrived from across the street bringing his fluent language skills with him much to Steve's relief. At that point I took Hannah and slipped out the back exit. I didn't like leaving my husband in that situation but knew I couldn't do anything and really didn't want Hannah to be there either. The other kids were already at school.

After we left the mob swelled to about 60 and a few tried to come in the door. Steve sent the team upstairs to lock them inside where we're living just in case. The local workers had escaped out the back exit as soon as the trouble started since they would have been the most likely to be beaten by the crowd. The police arrived about 30 minutes later and when they said to go ahead and clear the rubble from the alley, some of the most ardent protesters turned around and helped!

We were concerned to leave the half finished work sitting without the tarp there for safety but feelings were too hot in the neighborhood to do anything about it last night. Early this morning Steve and K put it back up to the smiles of people walking past. Everything was peaceful and normal again!

An interesting and important cultural lesson! The main thing is to stay calm and in no way be aggressive back. There have been times K. has just stood there and only said, "I'll talk to one of you but not all," until everyone left except a spokesperson.

Most people here have to simply accept so much in life without the ability to do anything about it. It's understandable really why frustration levels run so high and people can become volatile. (Read the above for the rest of the story!)

Visitors

It's been a neat experience lately to have individuals and people here from our home countries. They've mostly come to work on the new/very old building. Now that we're old timers since we've been here all of three months (!) it's been a pleasure to watch the city leave it's mark on them.

One main by product has been a larger world view and a whole heap of perspective. We had a young lady for dinner last night who worked here for a couple of weeks and then did a tour of the rest of the country. She kind of debriefed at the table and it's clear that she'll go back home a person ready to serve way beyond her previous comfort zone. A few minutes ago a gentleman who is here on a team was making comments like, "I'm so grateful for my hard pallet back at the guesthouse because at least I won't be sleeping on the street tonight."

And then there's, Adam, our own little family philosopher. On the way home from school yesterday he said out of the blue, "Mom, there are lots of different things here. There are things that are beautiful. There are things that are sad. There are things that are disgusting!"