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Back to the Bush: Eyes to see the beauty!

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A view from bush camp!

2-13-13

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. 

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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

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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.

2-14-13

   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)

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      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.

 

     Therefore,

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!

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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. 

     Reflections!

    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!”

BACK TO THE BUSH – Base Camp Moments

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It’s 2-18-13,

 

and I just got word that we were not returning to bush camp that day as planned.  A decision was made to wait until the next day.  In my journal I made the following comment:

(Thank Goodness!)

     Unfortunately, I hadn’t made as much progress as I would like to claim in moving out of the selfish perspective that shadowed my every thought.  (Not proud of this, but I’m trying to be honest here and it is what it is! or should I say ‘was‘).

 

Remember that verse I mentioned previously, Philippines 4:6-7?

6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 

     Well, folks, I was struggling with that one.  It just wasn’t happening for me.  I was like a duck out of water.  I am a country gal who thrives on lush green grass, green trees of various types minus the thorns,  (the only tree with thorns around my home is locust, but it redeems itself with luscious smelling blossoms in the spring!) and four defined seasons.  I had left all of that and this new place I had come to, in my opinion, left a lot to be desired.

     After lunch that day, God ordained that I would have a talk with my son’s boss who was visiting us and would be joining us at bush camp the following day.  He was closer to my own age (it’s not much fun being the only old person around and having no one to relate to on that level) and I think that made it easier for me to talk with him.  We talked about the seriousness of the problem back in the USA of falling short of our goals for the various mission offerings our missionaries and programs depend upon. Fewer missionaries are being sent to the mission fields in large part due to a lack of funds.  Now I know that doesn’t thwart God’s plans but the sad part of that is what it does to the morale of our missionaries. Not to mention, how it deprives those of us who are to be giving to these mission offerings of the joy we could have in spending our money as God would desire and not so much on fulfilling our own desires. (Coming down off my soapbox now!)

     May I preface the above paragraph with a comment (rather humorous now but at the time I wasn’t laughing-much) that exposes more of my self-centeredness than I care to admit.  Nevertheless, here goes.

     I feel God got me to that particular mission field on false pretenses. (I may not have mentioned this before, but God does have a sense of humor at times)  For the sake of holding my newborn grandson, spending time with him, his dad, and his mom, I was willing to do whatever I had to do to accomplish that.  (Did you know that my husband, returned after 3 weeks without me? This meant I would be traveling home and changing planes 3 times from across that vast ocean all by myself.  And I highly dislike traveling alone

But God had a plan for me and it was just beginning to unfold.

This was a welcomed respite!

If I only knew then what I know now!

 

Back to the Bush! Bush camp vs Base Camp!

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While visiting my favorite Christian camp last week, a young friend of mine asked me if I would be writing anymore about my experience in the African bush. Of course, I never meant to quit writing those posts but ideas came to write other posts and somehow my bush stories got pushed to the back burner, so to speak. Therefore, I will attempt to pick up where I left off and set aside Wednesdays to write these posts.

 

269343_10151831127560389_1908601040_n Not to worry, there were no lions where the camp was. Just thought this would set the stage for my post!


Not to worry, there were no lions where the camp was. Just thought this would set the stage for my post!

(To read the last post I wrote about my bush experience and be brought up to date, check November 2013 archives!)

It’s 2-6-13 and the staff (which, hallelujah, included me) were headed back to base camp!

 

Home Sweet Home!

Base Camp – Home Sweet Home!

 

vs.

Quick action on the part of our trainees kept my tukal from catching fire.

My home away from home!

Ahh, to be in a house (not a tukal) with a bathroom (not an outhouse) just a few short steps from my comfortable bed, eating something other than beans and rice, drinking cokes instead of filtered water! Since I had just come in from the bush I saw these as luxuries for the first time in my life!

By returning to home base, I was able to sort through the jumbled thoughts racing around in my head. God used this reprieve to clear and stabilize my thinking. Though I still had a ways to go, I grew less negative and more positive in my thinking.

A phone call to a dear friend back in the USA gave me the chance to talk with someone who would be willing to listen to me and empathize with me about the harsh realities this 64 year old woman had endured. She didn’t gloss over the hard stuff and offered words that energized and encouraged me. Sharing with her some of the thoughts with which God had impressed upon me over the previous days, helped me gain clarity and purpose.

A media team from the mission organization we belonged to, had arrived at home base. Two young women gifted with the ability to write and photograph well blended right in with our missionary band. I admired these women a lot. Here they were bravely traveling all over the world by themselves and all for the sake of the gospel. I had, up until that meeting, always thought to be a photographer/writer for the National Geographic would be an exciting and intriguing job. After meeting these extraordinary women, I have changed my mind. Not about being a photographer/writer but to do this kind of work for the sake of the gospel?

Wrapping this post up with a verse with which I struggled in taking to heart during my time in the bush. The fiery darts were bombarding me and with the harshness of my living conditions, not to mention the challenges I faced physically, the truths of this verse continued to elude me. Nevertheless, I kept my focus on this verse, for I knew my recovery would be found within its truths–especially the part about praying with thanksgiving. I can’t say that I was able to fully thank God for the challenges and struggles of bush camp (while I was there; at least not to the extent I would like to be able to claim). But now that I am home and have had time to ponder those days, I can sincerely state that I thank God for every difficult moment. If there is to be a next time, my first time in the bush will have prepared me well.

6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Phillipines 4:6-7 (HCSB)

 

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