Back to the Bush: Happy Birthday!

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Our birthday boy with his dad.

Our birthday boy with his dad.


     While living in the bush, one of our trainee’s children celebrated his 8th birthday. Here we were out in the middle of nowhere! I was really curious about how this celebration would turn out and how it would compare to his birthdays in America! I am sure this young man also wondered what kind of birthday, if any, he would have living in the bush. As it turned out this young man did celebrate his birthday and while basic in its celebration, it couldn’t have been more unique!


Our birthday boy's younger brother devouring the chocolate birthday cake.

Our birthday boy’s younger brother devouring the chocolate birthday cake.

   Back at base camp one of the trainees had baked a chocolate cake with chocolate icing and a coke cake with buttercream icing and brought it as a surprise. My young friend was the most popular person in camp. Everything centered around him that afternoon. 



camp chameleon

camp chameleon

   My son had just returned from running an errand and on the way back to bush camp he saw a chameleon on the road. Guess what the birthday boy got for a gift that day!

   The chameleon was exotically beautiful. At first he was kept in a box, but that just seemed too restraining for a creature who previously had run of the African Savannah. The cactus tree in the center of camp seemed much more accommodating, so that became its new home. 



  According to the birthday boys wishes, we had two types of chicken soup (one with noodles, compliments of a local store near base camp, and one with rice!) I might add both were delicious, and I’m not kidding. Do you suppose it was so yummy because it wasn’t beans and rice? No, take my word for it, those trainees had mastered the art of cooking from scratch over a charcoal fire! The birthday boy was glorying in all the expressions of love, good tasting food, birthday presents, and attention. Any American kid would have envied him, I think!

     While this young man’s birthday may not have been typical in American terms, it contained all the necessary ingredients in making it memorable. He was surrounded by his loving parents and siblings, a host of grown up friends and young friends; presents, good food, and lots and lots of love. You think he might grow up and remember his bush birthday as one of his most memorable? Yep, bet he does!


BACK TO THE BUSH: A day in the life of this unlikely missionary!

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Our humble classroom!

Our humble classroom!


     My teacher partner and I were told that by 2 pm we would be leaving bush camp for home base.  We welcomed this news for it had proven to be a tiring day.  The wind was blustery; blowing dirt and grit with vigor.  We had attached blankets to some of the openings, trying to cut down on the wind. Rocks had to be laid on the student’s papers to keep them from blowing away. I am sure you can understand why my teaching partner and I were counting down the minutes till 2 pm.

     But 2 pm came and went along with our enthusiasm! Finally, around 4:45 pm we were given the all clear and were headed for home (remember, in this setting that is base camp).  One of the first things I did was to accept the gentlemanly efforts of my son to heat some water over the gas cooker. This would then be poured into the a bucket of cool water that would then be poured into a bucket that hung on a pulley in the shower which acted as a, you guessed it, a shower! Listen, when the grit is embedded into your clothes, your hair, and under your fingernails and your feet are so dirty you can’t tell if you are native or not, you would be willing to make whatever effort is necessary to undo the realities of bush living.   After I hoisted the bucket up above my head, by means of the pulley,tied it off and pulled on the chain so the water could come out of the shower attachment connected to the bucket, I felt as close to godliness as I had for several days. (cleanliness = godliness:)




The shower stall itself was what I was accustomed to. The means by which the water flowed was rustic but it got the job done and I was grateful!



     My missionary gals fixed a supper that would put any home cooking restaurant to shame. And the homemade guacamole dip! Well, until that moment, I was under the impression that I didn’t care for such. NOT ANY MORE!

     After an ultra fine supper and sweet fellowship, I laid my clean body on the cozy comfortable bed, with the  bathroom comfortably nearby and drifted off to a pleasant sleep that lasted all night long.  Ah h h h!

Back to the Bush: Expanding Friendships!

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Living in Africa!

Living in Africa! Now this is a tukal I could get use to!

       Since my son and daughter in law’s move to Africa, their expanding horizons has had an affect on expanding my horizons too.  After their transition from here to there, they met a missionary couple living about an hour’s drive from their home.  Their friendship formed quickly as the husband of the couple was a linguist  as is my son. They are with a different missionary organization and several months after meeting each other, this couple came back to the States for 6 months.  While they were on furlough, my husband and I had the privilege of a visit from them in our home.

     With that brief history we shared, meeting up with them again during my stay in Africa was like a family reunion. Family-like ties grow quickly in this environment. Making memories with family get to gathers are now no longer possible, therefore it becomes imperative to adopt new family asap so that those memory making opportunities continue. 

     While I was at bush camp this couple joined in the training. The wife, who is a nurse, was invited to provide medical training, and the husband, who is a linguist, offered much needed advice on culture and language learning.  After they completed their classes they were to travel to their home to move back in.


This view trumps my concern over any spiders I encountered.

      It was our great joy to meet them there later to assist in the reopening of their home. I swept and dusted just like I did back home, that wasn’t anything new. However, some of the critters I came across in my efforts proved to be a fresh and new experience.  I wondered if these African spiders might be more formidable than ours back home. However, I was assured that quick action on my part with a spider killing spray would allay any latent anxiety on my part. Nevertheless, I was considerably relieved when that part of the cleaning process was completed!

     You know that verse in the Bible that speaks of God supplying all our needs?  Well, I saw that in action as I witnessed how God sent my son and daughter in law to be the new friends this precious couple had been praying about for two years. They lived a rather isolated life there and they needed people they had things in common with, that they could relate to, and with whom they could share their life and work.

     Not only did God meet the need for friendships for all couples concerned, the kingdom’s work was expanded due to their combined efforts. God always comes through for His kids!


Philippians 4:19King James Version (KJV)

19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.




Back to the Bush: Eyes to see the beauty!

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A view from bush camp!


Bush Camp

     I stood gazing upon the landscape laid out before me.  A landscape that in my personal opinion left a lot to be desired. Dry and sandy riverbeds with sparse muddy puddles left me feeling deprived. I longed for the tall proud oaks and abundant broadleaf trees of my homeland–thorn trees called Acacia trees, and cactus trees held no allurement for me. The absence of lush green grass that you could run barefoot through was disappointing. Instead, sturdy shoes were required when walking about in the dry yellowish grass that grows in the savannah; for stickers and undesirable creatures call these grasses home.

      Admittedly the breeze was pleasant most often, but there were times when about all it accomplished was to stir up the dust, making our daily lives anything but pleasant. 

     While the sun made wearing a hat mandatory, shade of any kind provided relief. However, wildfires (almost a daily event), caused by the burning sun on the dry grass or by humans, kept the air scented with smoke.  And, oh yeah, not the pleasing fragrance like that of an oak fire but more like the foul smell of  locust wood. 



Yet, my reality of bush camp, I discovered, was peculiar only to me. For instances, read the list below of how one of my friends described his reality.

-good food

-beautiful landscape

-little to no stress

-good fellowship

-lots of time with God

-time to learn and be equipped to serve God

-time with family

     Come on folks, can you see the obvious here?  I was so focused on my disappointments that I was critically blinded to the beauty and blessings that were all around me. I allowed fiery dart thinking to cast a veil over my sight, thus preventing me from seeing the beauty and wonder that my friend was blessed to see. The following verse stings me a bit!


Hear this, you foolish and senseless people. They have eyes, but they don’t see. They have ears, but they don’t hear. Jeremiah 5:21


Lounging by a cactus tree!                     While I can’t say I was as opened as my friend was to the beauty around us, I did have my moments!

Back to the Bush: Learning to Teach!

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The roof of our circular classroom is being raised.


   My trial by fire was wrapping up!

(My first two weeks at base camp, remember?)

     Finally, my body had begun to make  adjustments to the harsh and unfamiliar environment. Spiritually and emotionally, I was beginning to find my way. (Thanks to God’s Word, the counsel of my son, all those share times I had with my teaching partner, and various members of the trainee group.) It’s a good thing, too, for now it was time to begin the job I had been brought here to do.

Our humble classroom!

My precious preschoolers!

      After some rather successful planning meetings, my vision of the task I had been called upon to do, became clearer.  I (a former middle school and high school teacher) would be teaching preschoolers.  (Talk about making a transition!)

     Once again, I had to throw myself on God’s mercy and plead with Him to help me overcome my fears of inadequacy and ignorance (fiery dart thoughts, you see).  And I am happy to say that is just what He did. He reminded me that children of that age need lots of play intermingled with their learning. (I learned that the hard way after a first day of a too rigid schedule)


      My teaching partner, who was a middle school teacher as well, took charge of the K-2nd graders. (One child for each grade level) She also had the blessing of homeschool curriculum, plus one of the trainees prepared a two week study for her students about the people group with which we were working. God always comes through, just when we need Him to.



after my teaching partner and I learned how to readjust our approach to teaching, (guided by God’s grace and mercy) our bush school was off to a promising start.  






Back to the Bush: A few days off!

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My favorite thing to do back at base camp. Hanging out with my boys!

My favorite thing to do back at base camp. Hanging out with my boys!

     Right before we (meaning camp staff) were to return to base camp, we were visited by a couple of young ladies from our mission organization. They were on assignment to interview and video the training of the church planters at bush camp and the work of my son’s team in general.

     These two young women were a delight to get to know and I admired their independent spirit and their passion for God.  Here they were traveling all over the place doing interviews, taking pictures and videos of the work of missions in some of the most exotic places on earth. National Geographic photographers have nothing over these two gals.  

     As we piled into the my son’s truck to return to base camp, our spirits were running high.  I confess, I was anticipating the luxury that was about to be mine–eating delicious food my daughter in law and others would be preparing for us, (rice and beans are good, really good, but a steady diet of it gets old you know), enjoying the convenience of an in-house bathroom,  sleeping on a soft and comfy bed and getting more opportunities to make memories with my baby grandson!  

     But something unique began happening to me on the drive home. I do believe it had something to do with the praise my son gave to all of us in the truck for our efforts in helping out with the training at bush camp.  

     He started with me by saying that I got the most improved award! An award which I gladly accepted because, my dear readers, I was down pretty low; up was the only place I could go at this point.  My teacher friend and I received a lot of praise for our efforts and I confess it was very motivational and reassuring. 

     The laughter and enthusiasm of my two new friends were contagious. As we rolled into town, I realized that for the first time since I had begun my teaching at base camp, I felt a subtle but noticeable change in my spirit. Up until that moment, the word ‘crushed’ would have been the adjective I would have chosen (you’ll realize why in a bit). 

  That’s a wonderful feeling!  And it’s odd too, because I was 30+ years older than most everyone in that vehicle.  I began to forget how old I was and found myself joining right in with their silliness and good humor.  Ah h h, just what I needed. 

God has some good words to describe what I was feeling:

 A joyful heart is good medicine,but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22 ESV



Back to the Bush: School Has Begun

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Our humble classroom!

I taught the preschoolers!


My friend taught the older children, K-3rd graders.










It’s 2/11/13 and Classes have begun!

     After much preparation, many anxious moments, and what seemed like a million logistics to coordinate, Kelly (not her real name)  and I finally were able to be about the business of teaching our students.  Our school consisted of seven children:  four preschoolers, one kindergartener, a first grader, and a third grader.(Classroom size a teachers dreams of)  I was to teach the preschoolers and Kelly was to teach the older children.  Considering my friend and I were former high school teachers, the adjustments we needed to make were challenging.  (But by God’s grace we did it!)

     My first day with my preschoolers revealed I had too much lesson time and not enough playtime. (I was a former high school teacher, remember)  Therefore, I adjusted and came up with a plan to work on the alphabet in the first part of the morning while interspersing story time.  Snack time (a vital part of any preschooler’s day) happened around 10 a.m. Then after snacks I concentrated on math concepts, mostly about counting, and, of course, interspersed with the reading of stories.

     Parents came to pick up their children for lunch around 12 ish.  After a lunch break, it was back to the school house and we enjoyed play time with our kiddos; not the formal learning as in the morning but learning on a more casual basis. Nature hikes, chalk drawing on the big ole rocks by the camp, singing, playing board games (a favorite was Candy Land), etc. defined our afternoon school day. 


    My anxious feelings began to subside once I had a grasp of exactly what I would be doing.  And while this did help, I found that those anxious feelings were now being replaced by feelings of inadequacy. (Plain and simple, I didn’t think I knew how to teach preschoolers, for I wanted to do more than just babysit them.)  The fiery darts were working on me with a vengeance.  My son was my greatest source of encouragement. Actually, he kept me going.  We had such inspiring conversations that just when I began to feel overwhelmed God would use him to speak a word to me that would give me incentive to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  

     Somehow in the midst of my feelings of inadequacy, God took my meager efforts and blessed them beyond what I deserved. I learned afresh, the awesome truth of a very familiar phrase to most Christians. I learned that,

 “our availability is more valuable to God than our ability!”  

     Looking back on my time at the training camp, it seems I whined every day to God about issues I was having with others, about the harshness of my surroundings, about feeling on the outside and not truly fitting in.  I whined about having no one my age with which to hang out or have camaraderie with. Yet, in spite of all my whining God used me. Why? Because I was there! Certainly, not because I was this super Christian who brought volumes of wisdom and ability to the experience.  It’s humbling to look back on my time in the training camp. For at first I can’t see anything but failure and inadequacy. But then when the fiery dart thinking is rejected, I hear God affirming me by saying,

“Thank you for making yourself available. That was all I needed from you!”

One step forward; two steps backward, then baby steps to victory!

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I searched my photos but no pics of the shower after the doors were installed by Simon and Cameron. That was such a vast improvement.

February 2, 2013

While I am not 100% yet (that’s gonna take awhile) I do feel I am improving.  When I ventured down to the showers later on in the day, I discovered that two of our guys had installed wooden doors.  Oh how wonderful.  Now, I didn’t have to live in fear of the wind (which was ALWAYS) blowing the curtain loose from where I had it tucked; giving whoever might be strolling by a view they weren’t counting on.

On the way back to my tukal, feeling somewhat refreshed and improved, I came upon my son and grandson sitting in the shade of one of the tukals.  Joining them was a delight. I always, always welcomed a moment to hold my grandson.  When only a few moments are allotted and it will be a few years before you get to lay eyes on each other again, these times become priceless.

Hey Dad, I'd rather look at you!

Hey Dad, I’d rather look at you!

Holding on to him; holding on to a memory!

Holding on to him; holding on to a memory!

Our conversation that afternoon centered around my son’s plans about preparing for the future.  He has some well thought out ideas.  I’m especially intrigued with his future study plans which will involve living and studying for several months in a western European country.  The thought that we (my husband and I) will likely get to go visit him there thrills my very soul.  (There are some mighty delightful perks to being the mom of a missionary!)

It’s February 3, 2013

. . and my improved health has proven to be short lived.  Crawling into bed that afternoon, I noticed I had fever.  I sent word to have my son bring me some ibuprofen hoping it would relieve the aching and the fever I was in the throws of. When my son brought the medicine, I approached him about the possibility of my going home earlier than planned. ( Actually, I wanted to leave asap.)  I was feeling all of my 64 years and was beginning to think I had bitten off a lot more than I could chew.  I remember saying to my son, “You have got to get me out of here!”  To say I was in the depths of despair would only scratch the surface.

My son did not want me to make such a decision in my present weakened state.  He called my husband and after his attempt to give me a pep talk, it became painfully clear that I wasn’t going anywhere.

So I resigned myself to the reality that no matter what I had got to stick this thing out.  I had not expected things to be so difficult and I began questioning God’s purpose in allowing me to come for the length of time I had committed to.  Honestly, I was a little mad at God.  He knew what was in store for me and He didn’t intervene to change a thing to spare me this misery. (Ever been in that boat?)

Unlike everybody else in that camp, my reason for being there was mainly to make memories with my son and grandson.  But to do that successfully, I had to feel a lot better than I was.  So achieving that goal was  slightly hindered at the moment.  Very disheartening.

The fiery darts were doing a number on me.  Criticizing me for not being as spiritual as the others and as a result caving in when conditions got challenging.  Fortunately, I’ve had some good training in that regard and I was alert to what the Enemy was up to.  Basically, it all boiled down to

John 10:10

A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. 

I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

I knew I had a decision to make.  I could cooperate with the thief and allow him to steal, kill and destroy, everything that God had planned for me, or I could cooperate with God and enjoy the abundance with which He was so willing to bless me.  Admittedly, it wouldn’t have been quite so hard, if I hadn’t encountered the physical challenges of the sickness, but I was there for the duration and my focus needed to change for God to get the glory and for me to experience success.

The Turning Point

My son left the tukal for awhile and returned to share with me that the camp members were gathering around my tukal to join in prayer for me.  I will never be able to describe the peace that came over me as their audible and soft words drifted around and through my tukal.  Their prayers left me feeling cared for and encouraged. The only condemnation was coming from those stinking fiery darts and believe me I was going to get a grip!

This was a welcomed respite!                                                         I could do this thing.

My book gives a detailed account of what fiery darts are and how to fight them.  I hope you will check out my book and its accompanying blog:

Fiery Darts: Satan’s Weapon of Choice

blog:  http://fierydarts.wordpress.com

Until next blog,

Bush Camp–Another day of added insight!

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Infamous latrine!

Infamous latrine!

It’s Feb. 1, and my physical state is somewhat improved. The latrine is finished and that’s certainly a vast improvement (as I am sure you can imagine)! It didn’t take long, however, for it to begin emitting the characteristic odor of such a structure. I think next time, they should consider venting the latrine.  Just never came up in the conversation as far as I know!  Oh well, you must focus on the improvements. Right?

The fact that I could not seem to get to feeling better physically was my greatest detriment to my spiritual victory. The fiery darts were doing a number on me and my mind was awash in negativity.

Sweet Togetherness!

Sweet Togetherness!

Again, the bright spots during these difficult days was the company of my son and grandson.  My son was so good to come sit with me in my tukal and share his thoughts about the work to which God had called him.  Listening to him and thinking about what he had said was the best medicine for what ailed me.  It accomplished the task of moving my focus off of myself and onto the LORD.  I can’t explain it but God has gifted my son with an understanding heart when it comes to me. Even when he is pointing out my errors, I find I do not feel attacked or condemned for he does it in such a kind and uplifting way.

As I was reading my Bible one afternoon, I came across 2 Corinthians 2:15:

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

That verse was powerful in putting things into perspective for me.  While I didn’t immediately rise out of the mire, this verse showed me the direction my thoughts needed to be moving towards.  Like I said in my last post, my biggest problem was focusing too much on myself and my present struggles.  A different perspective would change everything and was I ever in need of a different perspective!  This verse was providing me with the perspective for which I was desperate.

God provided me with a beautiful distraction later on in the day, as I watched three members of our team (1 a Karamajong and 2 others who were Dinka’s) playing a board game .  They could not speak each other’s language but the game they were playing did not require that.  The game was Candy Land and all you needed to know to play the game was a knowledge of colors. I laid there on my cot watching the game of a child bringing three people, who historically were enemies, together in peace and harmony.  Of course, the source of this sweet miracle was based upon the Christian faith all three possessed.  Jesus brings enemies together as friends!


The next day, Feb. 2, something occurred that lifted a weighty burden from my thoughts.  I had been stressing over what was being expected of me when it came to fulfilling my teaching obligations.  Not that I didn’t feel I could do it, I just was very unclear as to what my responsibilities would be.


Because the parents were gathered together for a class on pressure cooking my daughter-in-law was leading, my team mate and I took care of their children.


Three K-3rd graders, 3 preschoolers, 1 one yr. old, and an infant.  My team mate took charge of the K-3rd graders and I took charge of the others.


What I was relieved to discover in this encounter was that my team mate was very capable in teaching the children of her charge and I was just as capable of teaching those in my charge.  We had a plan and it was going to work.  That’s all I needed to know.  While it isn’t realistic to say it was smooth sailing from that point on, it was a tremendous source of encouragement for me that God was providing for our success.

 God is always faithful to give you what you need, when you need it.

Another day, another challenge!

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It was Jan. 31 and as I checked my calendar I saw that I had 41 more days left of my grand missionary adventure.  At that point, I had a lot of mixed emotions, and my negativism was ruling the day.  The fiery darts were overwhelming due in large part to a simple but powerful influence:  I just plain felt bad.  I had no reserves to fight back with because my sickness, along with the context of bush living, had sapped me of every ounce of fight I might have had within me.  The novelty of my great adventure had long since worn off and had left me with no motivation to think positive thoughts.

There were two factors, however, that kept me from despair:  my son & my grandson.

You know how as Christians we are always told that God equips you to do what He calls you to do?  Well, in this case it was how God had equipped my son to live the life He had called him to and how as he shared God’s thoughts with me that inspired me and kept me going.

Then the innocence of my grandson and the sheer delight that was mine to experience in just spending time with him  which directed my focus off of myself and on to him that gave me something to look forward to every day.  No matter how bad I felt, seeing and being with him always lifted my spirits.   Knowing that my time with him was limited, motivated me to take advantage of every moment I had to be with him.

My son and others encouraged me to eat, even if I didn’t feel like it.  This was a hard concept to grasp.  I live in a culture driven by eating for pleasure.  And God had temporarily (thank goodness)  transplanted me into a culture that ate for sustenance. You see, if they didn’t eat whatever had been placed before them, there was no guarantee that there would soon be another meal.  Therefore, when the opportunity came to eat, one MUST eat, for starvation was a constant threat.

Back home when I struggled with sickness, there were a variety of comforts that until my bush experience, I had taken for granted:  a comfortable bed, the nearness of bathroom facilities, comfortable chairs to curl up in, grocery stores and restaurants to get tasty foods and/or medicines, air conditioning and shelter that protected you from the harsh winds and afforded you a safe and comfortable view of the outside challenges.

I got a reprieve when my son took me with him one evening to drive back to their home to get some medicine for one of the children in camp.  Oh my, what a joy it was to walk into their home.  A home fitted with indoor plumbing and electricity.  I gathered some items I had left there (like lotion and wet ones).  You never realize how the skin can dry out when the wind blows hard on it every day and what a relief it is to have a damp cloth to wipe off the grit and dirt.  But the highlight of this excursion was stopping and getting a coke.  It wasn’t cold and I had no ice but it tasted delicious–the best coke I had ever had!

In my quiet time, I came across 2 Corinthians 2:15:

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Now that kinda puts things in perspective, don’t you think?  Someone who is so focused on their own aches and pains may find that they are shutting out the words the Holy Spirit has to give them to help them deal with their difficulties.   I was getting so-o-o-o tired of focusing on myself.  

All this self-focus was interfering with my ability to hear from God.  I yearned to rise above all this and be able to be a productive member of the camp, in spite of my physical limitations.  I knew that I had to learn to be more positive and open to God, whether I felt better or not. And that was proving to be my greatest challenge. 

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