Thursday, May 5, 2016

E is for Everyone

On Friday, one of our auntie's sons died. He was 14 years old and died very suddenly after only feeling sick for a day. On Sunday morning, I found myself driving my truck, packed full of our aunties, to our local mortuary to mourn with the family, and then on to the village gravesite where his burial took place. If you've never been to a traditional burial here, there is no describing the wailing of hundreds and hundreds of people, the joy and sorrow crashing against each other in the strangest kind of harmony, or the simplicity of grief openly expressed. I've been a part of more of these days than I'd like to count up, but this was the first time that it was for the child of one of my friends, our auntie. 

As is tradition, different groups are called up one by one to lay their flowers atop the grave. First the mother and father. Then the siblings. Then any family members. Then they called us up, her team of aunties she works with every day. We marched up together, singing our offering as we went. We circled the grave of our friend's child; crying, we planted our flowers in his grave mound. I stood next to those women whom I've worked with every week for years and years and years and was overwhelmed with the privilege of getting to stand with them and be a part of them. We returned to our seats under the shade trees and watched the other mourners take their turns paying their respects. And when it was over, we all loaded up and headed back to work, back to the babies that bind us all together. 

One of the hardest parts of being a missionary is this huge pedestal people place you on. My family and friends laugh at that, knowing all too well my humanity and shortcomings. But the rest of the world tends to have an unrealistic impression of who I am, of who all missionaries are. I can understand the heart behind it, and I even remember feeling that way before I became a missionary myself. But now that I am one, I realize that no missionaries are saints, and all missionaries are just the same flawed people they were when they left their home country. Some are better at hiding it than others, but all of us are right there with you in our longing to be better and our desperate need of God's grace.

In this pedestal life, people tend to think that you are the whole work, or at least the most important part of it. Maybe that's what makes them feel like you are worthy of giving money to each month. That you are it, that you are God's gift to the people, country, church you've come to serve alongside. But this is such a dangerous mentality, minimizing all of the good that God was doing in the people and in the place long before we got here. It's also dangerous to us, blowing up these heads of ours and making us think that we matter way more than we do.

The first thing I'd tell you if you visited us here and I took you around the Haven is what a small piece of our puzzle I really am. Of course my piece matters, in the way that every piece matters and there's an obvious hole in the puzzle when you take one out. But not in the way people tend to think sometimes, which is that I'm holding the whole thing together. People ask me sometimes what the babies do when I'm in America on my furlough, and it always makes me laugh a little inside. And I try as gently as possible to make them see that I'm just a role player on a really big team.

If you came here, you would see so many beautiful things going on. You'd see aunties scrubbing floors so our babies stay clean and healthy. You'd see others doing laundry so our babies' bums stay dry. Others would be sitting on the veranda, singing songs and chasing kids and wiping snotty noses. Others are inside cooking porridge and stirring it perfectly until it cools so our little mouths don't get burned. You'd find others taking babies on nature walks and others giving massages and still others wearing babies on their backs because they're sick and nothing else will soothe them. Another is off at the clinic while her baby is on a drip. One is off at the tuck shop spending her own money on lollipops for her babes because that's just how special they are to her. Others are home sleeping because they worked all night but still calling us to check on a little one who was sick in the night. Others are in bundus pretending to be excited for the thousandth time as little ones show them the same little mound they've built in the sand. You'd see mountains of laundry being folded by singing aunties with babes crawling on their backs and through their legs. You'd see some giving medicines right on time, like clockwork. You'd see others in the kitchen, faithfully writing down just how many bars of soap and bottles of bleach and tins of formula we'd used that week and how many we'll need for the next. You'd see aunties out collecting dry clothes from the line and putting wet ones in their place. You'd see others feeding nshima and waiting patiently for little mouths to swallow.

And to think that I make this whole thing work makes me laugh (and would definitely make them laugh!). My part is wonderful and needed and special, just like each task they do each day. My part is mundane and exhausting and mind-numbing sometimes, just like the tasks they do each day. But we are all just different parts of a whole, complementing each other and completing a work that matters to us all equally.

So while I'm the face you most often see, the one that shares this place with the other side of the world, I am far from the only face here, and I'm definitely no more valuable than any other one. Each day in our language class, the babies tell us the truth. There are six truths, and number four always chokes me up as I look around the room at the precious faces of our babies and our aunties learning and singing together. Number four says "Everyone is important!" and it's true. 

I've been sick the last couple of days, and do you know who's been showing up? Everyone. The aunties, my people, showing up in visits and phone calls and texts and prayers over me. What a gift to be one of them, to be loved by them. So in case you've ever gotten the impression that I'm working alone over here, I just wanted you to know it's not just me-- I'm simply a part of everyone. 

**For those who've asked about the 6 truths we teach our babes, they are:
1. God is good. 
2. Nothing is impossible. 
3. Jesus already won!
4. Everyone is important. 
5. I am God's treasure. 
6. I am the one Jesus loves. 

I adapted these from a blog I found here:

Monday, April 11, 2016

Milestone Monday

Every day brings new changes around here. Our babes are growing, learning, changing all the time. We're so proud of them! Here is a bit of what we've been up to lately! 
Memo lost her two front teeth!
Evey is the wildest of women. 
Suzy is still working hard at physio! Keep praying she will sit!
They've learned to make human trains, and will walk like this forever! 
Essie and Lot are walking and at Haven 2!
Edith graduated from physio!
These snit snorts all eat nshima like big kids with their hands now, not in a baby bowl!

Jenny is sitting!
Luyando is taking 4 steps!

Roinah's starting to use those legs!

Memo is walking now! She's still going to physio 3 times a week, but I think she'll be discharged soon! 
Nora continues to gain weight at an abnormally fast rate. 😂
Lamby is walking! And loves to have that tongue hanging out. 

And as always, we've had tons of birthdays! 

Dwini turned 3! (Peeps as a cake-- I already know. I'm the worst.)
Flo turned 3!

Watupa turned 2!

Sesa Bean turned 7!
John turned 3!
Priscilla turned 3!

This gang all turned 1!



Emmanuel (Manu)
Jose turned 5!
Abbie turned 10!
Jonah turned 4!
Edith turned 2-- and is walking!!
Maureen is 6!
And so is Memory! 😉

All is well in our world. Thanks for loving us and praying for us! 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Haven T-shirts

We, like everyone else in the world, fell in love with Fight Song last summer. Our kids of all ages love to scream it at the top of their lungs, and it brings tears to my eyes every time. Each one of them is a little fighter, overcoming all sorts of circumstances that brought them to us, and we pray that they keep believing how strong they are as they go off into the big wide world out there. The first line of the song says, "Like a small boat on the ocean, sending big waves into motion." Each of our sweet babes, tiny as they may be, changes the world. 

That line inspired our auntie's t-shirts this year! You can buy one and help us get a school bus for our kids! 

If you're interested in buying one, email They are available in adult and kid sizes! 

Thanks for all the ways you support the Haven!

Lamby and the Lamb of God

A little over a year ago, a tiny, dying Mary moved in with me. Because I am who I am and couldn't NOT give her a nickname, she obviously became Lamb as a tribute to the classic nursery song. Lamb quickly turned into Lamby, and before long, the fact that she actually had another, real name was a distant memory. She is Lamby to every other baby, to every auntie, and all of our baby dolls around here even bear that name. 

Lamby transitioned back to the Haven when she was well again, but she never stopped being my every Sunday morning church date. No matter which church I am in on Sunday mornings, she's with me.  For over a year of Sundays now I've rocked that baby in church, fed her, taken her out as she became increasingly vocal and mobile, and cherished those sacred mornings of togetherness. Of course I still see her every day at the Haven, but our Sundays have always been special to me. 

The baby who lived with me before Lamb was Mercy, and during the days she lived with me, I started noticing how often her name came up in songs. It always made me smile as I rocked my Mercy in church and heard her name being used in worship, and even now after she's been gone a long time, I don't sing that name without thinking of that sweet girl. 

But you know what name seems to be in even more songs than Mercy? Lamb. It seems every single song we sing in church here, in English or in Tonga, contains her name. I'll never forget early on in her time with me, when we still prayed daily for a miracle that would give her life, holding her in church on a Sunday night and singing the words "dear dying lamb" from the old hymn "There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood". It stopped me mid song, brought tears to my eyes, as I pleaded again in prayer for God to spare her life and not take her from us. I did not want my Lamb to die. 

This morning, fifty-five Sundays later, I sat rocking that same sweet baby girl, my Lamby, saved by God's mercy and power. She's gotten harder and harder to keep in church, louder and busier and more distracting to those around us, so this morning of still and sleep was a sweet gift to me. I sat and marveled at her, at every perfect thing about her, at the rise and fall of her little chest and her scrunched nose and her nails that need cut and her soft, curly hair. A year ago I didn't think she'd make it, and I definitely didn't think I could love her anymore than I already did. But today as I sat staring at her, I realized how much more depth and history and relationship there is to us now. It's not that I love her more than I did then , but I definitely love her deeper with every day I get with her. 

Our thoughts were turned to John 3:16 by Ba Rodwell as we took communion, and I thought about God giving us his only son, his Lamb. I've always thought of my Lamby when I read verses and sing songs about the Lamb of God, but this morning, watching her sleep perfectly, innocently, vulnerably in my arms, I cried thinking of my little Lamb being hurt in anyway, of anyone being mean to her or rejecting her. I can't even stomach the thought. My thoughts go to a year ago, pleading with God to not take my Lamb from me, to save her instead. 

I've known about God's sacrifice of his only son as long as I've been alive. But I've never had a Lamb before.  So I'd never thought as much about that sacrifice as I did today, in the context of my Lamby and his Lamb. 
God, who didn't just love his Lamb for a year, but has loved him for all of eternity. 
God, who sent his Lamb for all of us to have life.
God, who watched his Lamb be tortured and rejected and humiliated. 
It blows my mind that He who holds all power broke his own heart, not backing down when it became too painful to stomach, but sacrificed anyway, sure of the victory to come. 

Lamby is at the stage where she won't leave me without a fight. If you take her from me, you'll feel the brunt of it. She kicks and screams (and sometimes claws) at whoever tries to separate her from the one she loves the most (if I do say so myself :)). So the willingness of Jesus, the Lamb of God, to come, to leave the one he loves the most, strikes me again, too. How loved we are, by both the Father and the Lamb!

Maybe this outs me for not paying attention too closely in church this morning, but in reality, it was the closest communion I've shared with Him in awhile. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Haven Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I'm here in Zambia for Christmas this year, and so I've tried to make these days leading up to Christmas extra fun and special. We cut snowflakes, we made paper chains, we practiced Jingle Bells until we're all humming it all the time. So much anticipation for today! 
The big day, our Christmas, finally arrived! They could barely be contained as they saw a pile of gifts with their names written on them. Jason and Kathi had picked out the gifts on a recent trip to Lusaka, and Cintia lovingly wrapped them to add to the curiosity and mystery! One by one they opened their gifts, celebrating with each other as we went along. It was such a great time. 

Watupa (This is the face I got whenever I tried to help him get that paper off!)
Sesa Bean

A hula-hoop for all, and to all a good night

I've been thinking so much about Christ's birth, about how he entered this world solely to redeem us. I still can't fathom that at his birth, he was Lord and was our savior. It further blows my mind that he did that not only for those living in his time, or for us who live now and currently need that salvation, but for everyone who is still to come. I especially love thinking about how he knows each of our babies by name, by heart, and he knows how they'll sin and struggle one day. And that tiny baby Jesus coming took care of them, too. 

It has been so fun to see our babes marvel at the gifts and fun this season brings. At this point in their lives, they can't really comprehend the greater gift this season means in their lives-- a savior born just for them. Our prayer is that they'll grow to learn and understand that incredible gift he's given to each of us. 

Merry Christmas to you and yours! We love you guys!