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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.  

 

 

 

 

 

Isolation and Togetherness; both are beneficial!

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I use these two words of contrast within the context of experiences known to a parent who has just bid farewell to their missionary child. It has been my reality that both isolation and togetherness have worked in tandem to bring me to a quiet state of acceptance and peace of mind with the departure of my only son and his family to the foreign mission field.

Of course, this work wasn’t accomplished overnight but overtime!

After all, it’s put pretty well in Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV),

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.

My time of isolation!

My time of isolation began during the early days after my son’s departure. I poured everything out to God. I spent ALL the grief I felt over loosing the companionship of my son (And I can’t tell you how important this is). I had suffered a genuine loss and not only did I need to acknowledge that, I needed to mourn that loss.

God let me cry for as long as I needed.  He allowed me to say whatever came to mind, for He knew those thoughts and words had to be released and He was the only one I could trust to hear those words. With my Bible in hand and the Holy Spirit’s tender guidance, over time (and the length of that time will vary for each person) God lovingly led me to a time of peace and quiet resolve to accept His will. 

In time, I was able to rejoin the land of the living!

Gradually, I was able to answer questions from those who were concerned about how things were going with me and my son and daughter-in-law (for at that time my grandson was still a precious dream) without my eyes spilling forth with unbidden tears. That, my dear readers, was no small miracle.  

Then came my time of togetherness!

Recently, my husband and I were privileged to join a group of parents who’s children were serving as missionaries within the same mission organization as our son.  As we gathered together, we shared our struggles and experiences, finding understanding companions on every level.  We shared photos and identified with each others stories of our visits (of places most people only dream of) to where our children served. With these parents, I knew the freedom of honest feelings. With them I didn’t have to pretend I had it all together. They knew that as hard as it was to make this sacrifice, when it was all said and done, it was a willing sacrifice.  And being with these missionary parents, I realized a level of joy and happiness unique to that sweet fellowship.  I felt stronger (and happier) and possessed a greater resolve to focus on the abundance of positives I knew as a missionary’s mom. 

* * * *

So you see, we need both isolation and togetherness in times of struggle.  We gain strength to endure by spending appropriate time in both. Don’t stay too long in isolation and by all means don’t go there without God.  From that blessed time of healing, you will find the strength to join together with like-minded parents in coming alongside your missionary child in proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel.  We learn how to focus less on our loss and focus more on what we and our children have gained; not to mention the people they have been called to serve. And my dear readers, that makes all we have gone through entirely worth it! 

Learning how to focus!

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Those of you who know me and my situation are aware of the turmoil in the land to which my son has been called.  Therefore, you are knowledgeable of the dark curtain of uncertainty enveloping our family as a result of this turmoil.  You have heard the pleas for safety and are faithfully praying that impenetrable hedge of protection around them daily,

And I couldn’t be more grateful!

I confess, these days are difficult!  But there was one weekend when I knew my son, his family, and his team mates with their young families would be traveling a distance of 3 hours to their permanent home.  Three hours out in the open, vulnerable and exposed to come what may.  My son called me to let me know when they would be leaving.  Though he didn’t mention it specifically, I assumed he would call me as soon as they arrived so that I would know they had made it successfully.

Two days later, I still had not heard a word about whether or not they had made that 3 hour drive safely.  There is no internet connection in their locality but we can make connection by phone.  I made sure my cell phone was easily accessible throughout the day.  I made phone calls to my other children and my prayer partner to bolster up my courage as I faced this uncertainty.  There was a moment when my courage waned and my resistance to the possible scenarios they might have faced on the road was depleted.  Of course, the fact that the previous night had been spent in fitful dreaming about my son only served to fuel my fears the following day. 

First thing I did was call my prayer partner and ask her to pray over the specifics of the fears that were tempting to deplete me of my peace.  Then I searched in my Bible for verses having to do with protection and peace.   I went to my computer and typed in the words God’s protection and God’s peace.  Then I copied those verses onto a word document and printed them out.  I spent the rest of the day, reading those verses over and over in a prayerful mode.  My immediate fears were abated by the powerful truths of those verses.  

The next day was Sunday and because I still had not heard from my son, I kept my phone in my hand constantly (with the mute button engaged of course) just in case he might call.  My husband (being the pastor) asked for prayer over our son and that we might hear something soon.

That afternoon I decided to contact my daughter-in-law’s parents just in case they might have heard something I had not.  And sure enough, their daughter had called them  and reported that they were safe and sound.  

My son was in serious trouble! Can you figure out why?

It’s a good thing my son did not call me during those next several minutes.  I would have bitten his head off in that state, I am sure, if he had.  By the time he had called me (which was the next day) I had calmed down considerably. And I am so-o-o glad I did.   Come to find out, he HAD called me upon his arrival at their home, but for some reason, the message failed to reach me.  And another tidbit of knowledge that would have calmed my mounting fears was the fact that wherever my son, his family, and the other team member’s family went they were accompanied by armed guards.  So on that 3-hr trip, they had armed guards riding with them in their vehicles.  (I sure wished I’d known that) I found that out later when my son called.  But not knowing that, the only comforting thought I could muster during those hours of worried waiting was:

No news is good news!

What did I learn from that miserable weekend?  When the pressure is on the temptation to think the worst gains strength and momentum. Therefore, it’s vital to remember verses like the following:

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7

If I ever get in this dilemma again, I will remember that, “No news is good news!”, and just camp down on that thought with all my might.  Also, I will do a better job of reining in those fiery darts of fear and implore the power of this verse:

You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you. Isaiah 26:3

I can say that I did two things right:

 1) calling upon a prayer partner to pray over me and the situation  

2) explore the Bible for verses that spoke truth to the lies with which I was being bombarded.  

As I examined the details of that agonizing weekend, there were some key factors that contributed to my failure to maintain a clear and stubborn focus on God’s faithfulness.  As I mentioned earlier, a disturbing dream the previous night had unnerved me and my mind replayed that dream repeatedly the following day. (It wasn’t so much the content of the dream but the evil spin Satan placed upon it) When I fought to focus on the ‘no news is good news’ and the truths of God’s protection as revealed in the verses I had printed out, that dream would thrust itself back into the center of my focus.  But I did persevere and eventually, by God’s loving grace, I was released from its evil influence. 

I will wrap up this post by commenting that if I have to face something like that again the following verse will be my ‘go to’ verse for the power to fight off the fear, dream or no dreams:

God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Tim. 1:7 KJV

 

 

Safari!!!!!!

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Shortly before my husband returned to the States, our son planned an event for us that exceeded all my expectations.  I had read about people doing such things but never dreamed I would ever have the opportunity myself!  So what was it?

Yep, a Safari!

But don’t get any crazy ideas that we marched single file through the jungle while the natives sang (I know, been watching too many Tarzan movies)with a tight grip upon our big ole elephant guns.  Nope, fortunately those days are gone (at least I hope they are) for this was a photo safari.  We just gazed in wonder at these grand animals grazing peacefully without the restraint of metal bars and tiny habitats. It stirred something deep within me to see these animals living in freedom.

There were several of these majestic creatures, all ages.

There were several of these majestic creatures, all ages.

Grace in motion.  Saw 3 of these giraffes.

Grace in motion. Saw 3 of these giraffes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game park tukals.

Game park tukals.

 

Above is a picture of the dwellings we stayed in at the game park (we stayed overnight).  These tukals were unique because unlike the tukals I had seen and would be living in a few weeks from this time, it had an attached bathroom.  NICE!

 

Our guide spotting elephant herds.

Our guide spotting elephant herds.

Let me back up a minute.  You will be amused, I think to know how our excursion to the game park began.

“You might have laughed at us when we pulled out for not only were the 5 of us Lanes in the truck, we also had 4 men in the back + a goat.  One man was dropped off in a town where he was going to buy some sorghum and tomorrow we will pick him up.  The other guy and goat rode almost all the way to the park.  We dropped them off right as we turned onto the road to the entrance.  The goat rode well, and we did too as long as we kept the windows down!” journal entry 1-10-13

Oh well, when you don’t possess a vehicle you just wait around long enough and someone who has a vehicle will be going where you want to go and you simply hitch a ride (animal/s included).  It’s the way of life there.

After getting to the park, we unpacked our vehicle, loaded our stuff into the tukals, and set off for our (mine and my husbands first) safari.  All I kept saying was “Wow”, for I just couldn’t get over the fact that these zoo animals were roaming around free as a bird.  No cages, no glass walls between us, no zookeepers tending to them, and most impressive to me, unrestricted room to spread out.

Off we go, with the best view in the house, or game reserve!

Off we go, with the best view in the house, or game reserve!

Our evening at the game park was indescribable.  Peaceful beyond description.  After helping my daughter-in-law prepare supper (I’m from the south and that’s what we call it) of super delicious chili, we sat around a fire and visited.

The elders, one American and one African.

The elders, one American and one African.

Great day, tasty supper, sweet fellowship.

Great day, tasty supper, sweet fellowship.

The next day we enjoyed our 2nd safari and saw more cape buffalo, hardy beast, water buck, tiny antelope animals, warthogs, zebras, giraffes, elephants, and there were more just can’t remember their names.  But I’m disappointed to write, we never saw lions.  But that wasn’t from want of trying.  I suppose I’ll have to hope for better luck next time.  And God willing, I’m definitely looking forward to a next time.

 * * * * * * *

God has poured His grace upon me in a variety of ways to make learning how to live so far apart from my son a doable thing for me.  This being a missionary’s mom is certainly a difficult life to live.  So hard, in fact that I couldn’t pull this off without God.  For it is His strength that equips me to make it through these days I now live as a missionary’s mom.

But having the memories of our visit to where my son now lives, goes a long way to keeping my spirits up and my focus on God.  By being there, I saw with my own eyes how contended and at peace with life my son is.  Knowing that my son is loving his life there is all I need to be okay with him being so far away.

 

 

 

The Naming Ceremony

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Naming Ceremony!

Naming Ceremony!

 

Shortly after arriving in the village (January) where my son and his family lived, the elders began preparing for the naming ceremony.  The rice and beans were sorted (had to make sure no tiny stones or grit was present).

We understood the honor that was being bestowed upon my little grandson, and we were deeply touched. For my son and his team, it meant acceptance and that’s everything when your heart’s desire is for these people to understand who Jesus is.

Many words were spoken that I did not understand but when my son stood up and spoke using the language of the people, I knew that he was expressing gratitude and respect for the people who had allowed  his family and his team to come among them and be accepted by them.

Choosing the bull!

Choosing the bull!

 

 

Wow, what a day!  I videoed most of the ceremony.  It was a day long event.  The bull was brought up and killed.  Bobby drove in the first spear.  He went down 4 times before he finally gave it up.  I videoed all that but when the skinning and cutting started, I opted to close down my video camera.

During the naming ceremony, my son and a couple of the elders gave a short speech. Of course, I didn’t understand any of what was spoken but I was deeply impressed with my son’s speech for he spoke using the local language.  I have to admit  my eyes clouded up as I watched this ceremony unfold.

The next part was the women’s charge.  For some reason the women rubbed butter all over the exposed parts of their body, and gave my daughter-in-law some bracelets and a necklace.  I later learned the significance of the butter was to assist my grandson’s in accepting his name.  In English his name means Hunger, and White with very Small Spots.  The first name had to do with the time (dry season and little food available) and the 2nd name described the bull that was sacrificed.

Next the meat was cooked along with the rice, beans, and a tasteless concoction made from corn meal called posho.  They stood in a long line waiting their turn to eat.  First the elders, then the women, lastly the children.  The comment was made that even the children would eat today.  Each brought a container be it a plastic pitcher, plastic bag, or tin can.  However, the elders got to eat out of the plastic bowls in my daughter-in-law’s kitchen. I suppose that sometimes the food runs out before the children get to eat.  But not this day, for there was plenty.

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Once the ceremony was complete the fun part of the celebration began.  All gathered in the open area in front of the compound.  Even though there were no musical instrument, the blending of the people’s voices made for a very energetic and happy type of sound.  Of course, that familiar African trill (seemingly only done by the women) could easily be heard.  And to the beat and energy of the voices, the people added their characteristic jumping.  And believe me, they seem to defy gravity when it comes to how high they can jump. ( I regret I don’t have a better picture.)

 

Let the dancing begin!

Let the dancing begin!

 

I learned a lot about the importance of accepting and showing respect for one’s culture that day of the naming ceremony.  These people have pretty much been rejected by outsiders, like us and even their own countrymen. But when my son and his team entered that village one day bringing their families with them, establishing their homes among them, and set about learning their language and culture (so they could better communicate and understand them), these people slowly began letting down their guard.  As the trust level was built, and genuine honor and respect was displayed for the locals, then they became open to hearing about the God that these white men and women wanted to tell them about.

As the parent of a missionary knowing that your child’s obedience ‘to go’ and your responsibility ‘to release your child’ is responsible for expanding God’s kingdom to a people many have rejected offers the solace that’s needed when these sacrifices are made.

When I begin struggling with the separation anxiety of being so far away from my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson, I have discovered time and time again that if I focus on Jesus and the work my precious ones are doing in His name, my peace returns.  Here’s a few of the verses that sustain me.

This will not overwhelm me.

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. Lam. 3:22-23  

If I keep my focus, I’ll know peace.

“You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Filling my mind with happy thoughts trumps the negative thoughts.

“Finally, brothers and sisters whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”  Philippines 4:8

There are many more verses that God has used to strengthen me and offer me comfort as I make this life journey with my son.  And because God has been so faithful to daily give me what I need for this journey, I have found that I do get overwhelmed!

Sometimes, when I think of the glory God is receiving as His kingdom is being expanded through the efforts of the team my son serves with, then, yes, I can get a bit overwhelmed.  And that’s a joy that no words can express.

 

 

Grace makes the hard stuff doable!

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After our dinner cruise on the Nile River – probably one of the most unforgettable moments of my life – we stayed over in a nearby town with a missionary couple of some friends of my son and daughter-in-law’s.  This couple lived in a sufficient and charming home with two lovely daughters.  I always find it interesting how as Christians you can meet other Christians for the very first time and feel an immediate bond with them.

After enjoying a tasty breakfast and catching up on our email and facebook posts (one of the last opportunities we would have for such activity for quite awhile), we set off for a quaint mountain lodge (a mountain top retreat unspoiled and seemingly hidden away from the rest of the world).

I am a mountain girl at heart, so I was in my element around the happy little  stream that  trickled through the lodge property.  Got my toes wet as is my custom whenever I spy a clear running mountain stream:

Wet feet!

Sipi Lodge

This is the building that housed the restaurant which served some pretty impressive and tasty meals for us during our stay.  Located beside the eating area was a reading/visiting area where we went to visit and relax.  We affectionally called it The Hobbit room b/c it was just that cozy.  Here’s my husband and grandson spending some quiet time together.  Well, maybe not so quiet for the little guy looks like he’s crying.

Grandaddy w/Shep

Grandaddy w/Shep

The cottage hidden by the trees is where we stayed.  We could sit on the back porch (you can see it peeking out from the trees) and have a full view of that beautiful waterfall just beyond.

Our hideaway!

Our hideaway!

There's two!

There’s two!

The above view reveals two waterfalls.  This photo was taken at a different angle from the cottage porch.

Baby on the outside!

Baby on the outside!

On a trip to this lodge before our grandson was born, our daughter-in-law had a picture made in this very spot.  So when she returned after he was born she had another picture taken with baby on the outside!

Here I am with my son after hiking with a guide all the way to the top of the waterfalls.  It was a strenuous hike but well worth it for the memories we made.

On top of the world!

On top of the world!

So what’s my take on all of this?

As I think back over the days I spent trying to prepare myself to deal with having a son living on another continent, I took to heart the thought that God would bless us for our sacrifice.  It didn’t make the pain go away, of course, but that kind of thinking made it more bearable.

So above you see the visual representation of those blessings.  Not only was it a happy time that we packed with memories, those memories continued to sustain us after we returned home.

If you would ask me, which would you rather have–experiences in exotic places with my son or memories with him here at home?  Of course, what mom wouldn’t rather have her children close by.  

BUT that is not what God called my son to do!  The temptations to ponder thoughts contrary to what is reality for us are destructive and would place a burden on all relationships concerned.  

So what do I do instead?

I choose to submit to God’s will and thank Him for a son who loves Him with all his heart and desires to live in the center of His will, and for a daughter-in-law who feels the same way.  When God called my son to missions, He had already begun preparing my heart for the sacrifices it would require of me. Over and over again I have found God’s grace to be sufficient.

Not only have I found peace in all of this, I have experienced more joy than I could imagine.  I know that there will be much to enjoy in the future and God’s grace will continue to be sufficient making the separation that is reality for us doable. 

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