Monday, February 21, 2011

Boy, do I travel! Joel

I remember my parents telling me that I had been in a plane when I was too young to remember. Actually I remember a bit of it. Enough to know that it was a memory from inside a plane, though it is so faint and all I really remember was mom taking me up the aisle toward the restroom. In fact, the first time I was on a plane was when I was in college on a choir tour of the southwest states. I was quite scared, actually. But it was quite a marvel, that first flight.

I still like flying. I actually look forward to plane food. At least here in southern Africa they still spoil you with the royal treatment of free snacks, free drinks and even free South African wine for those who care to indulge. I think, however, that I am a bit spoiled now. I have flown a lot, actually, embarrassing a lot, especially this last year. I believe it was in June (2010) when I was marveling at how much I had traveled over the previous year and began to count the flights. It was the year that Nadia was born so I flew from Beira to Johannesburg and back (2 flights). That was the start. The following is a list of all the rest from June 2009-2010.

Johannesburg-Bloemfontein-Johannesburg for conservation agriculture training (2 flights)
Beira to Johannesburg for strategic meetings (2 flights)
Beira to Maputo for meetings with CCM (2 flights)
Beira-Johannesburg-Dakar-Washington-Philadelphia for home leave (3 flights)
Philadelphia-Chicago-Omaha to visit my parents (3 flights)
Wichita-Denver for MCC storytelling (1 flight)
Denver-Chicago for MCC storytelling (1 flight)
Chicago-Saskatchewan (1 flight)
Saskatchewan-Denver-Omaha, my parents again (2 flights)
Omaha-Chicago-Philadelphia, back to Jenny’s parents (2 flights)
Philadelphia-Washington-Dakar-Johannesburg-Beira, return to Mozambique (3 flights)
Chimoio-Maputo-Chimoio, to find house in Maputo (2 flights)

I flew 24 times, 5 different counties, and 12 different cities. That is a lot of airplane food (which I thoroughly enjoyed). And a majority of that was logged with my new daughter. Not to mention that I took another flight from Maputo-Tete in August plus all the vehicle travel that happened over our MCC speaking engagements and to and from team meetings in Mozambique and projects. No wonder I am a little exhausted this past year from all the travel.

But, you know, I still like it.
The fun words of our 1 year old.

So these are some of the words that Nadia has been using of late.

Peengurger – Peanut Butter
Pookabee – Peek-a-boo
‘Nake – Snake
‘Neeker- Sneaker
‘Nack – Snack
Bubble – Elmo
Apul – Apple
Apul– Peach
Apul– Pear
Apul/Teen – Nectarine
Paya – Pineapple, Papaya, Muskmellon
Mato – Tomato
Namanama S’ing – I want to swing
Happy – Please sing ‘If you're happy and you know it’
Kacker – Cracker

Play miss it - Basketball

Cockdoodle - rooster

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

To Receive a Gift

I am learning something about myself. I am learning that I do not receive gifts well. Maybe it is that I do not feel I give gifts well and can never repay that person for the gift. Maybe it is a nagging belief that no-one actually really gives without expecting something in return. I think Mozambique has not always because often people have seen me for my money and do things because they expect something down the line. Or maybe I resist it because I have done Christian service for much of my adult life and at times I feel like I am being irresponsible. Maybe I feel I should return and establish myself instead of relying on others support. Maybe I also think that I need to do my share and accepting a gift, especially money, feels like I am not holding up my end. And we have always been told it is better to give than to receive.

So I resist it so much. Often MCC, colleagues or friends will do something for me or us. I resist it every time because I feel I do not deserve it or I do not want to waste MCC resources. I feel guilty and think of all the ways that I can pay it back. Or I avoid asking for other things because I feel I have received so much and do not want to ‘take’ more. Often I offer to shoulder some of the burden of the gift. Weird, eh.? Human nature, maybe?

My parents visit taught me something about generosity. I have been praying for God to teach me to be generous. They paid for tickets to come, travel, national parks, food and a lot of other things. They brought a suitcase full of gifts from relatives for us and Nadia of which we can never repay. MCC gave us a generous gift by giving us some extra time off which was perfect for there visit. We have been so well cared for and the gifts have been so generous. I realized, however, that I resisted every time my dad wanted to pay for dinner or I felt like the gifts we were sending back for Christmas for family are never enough for what they are doing. I felt I needed to do something; after all they paid a lot just to get here. But over the course of the several weeks we traveled together in South Africa I started to realize that maybe they actually want to pay for it and do not expect anything in return. Maybe in order for God to teach me about generosity he needs to teach me how to receive. With this in mind I started to accept the generosity and I relaxed as the guilt that so often plagues me in such situations disappeared. I started to see the act of love instead of the sacrifice.

The bible says that love does not expect anything in return. Maybe my friends actually do want to have us over and do not expect us to always return the favor equal amount of times. Maybe they just want to be with us because they love us. Maybe colleagues actually do care for us and want what is best for us because they love us. In fact, this is revolutionary thinking. Maybe God’s gift of Jesus, his death on the cross for the payment of our sins is actually a free gift given in love, a gift we can never repay nor are expected to repay. I have spent a lot of energy in my life doing things for God thinking he really wants something in return for his salvation, serving because I need to repay him. Maybe I need to stop and just marvel in the loving gift he gave? Accept it as a gift given, given because he wants to be with me, because he loves me.

Thanks Mom and Dad for teaching me this. I am not sure you realized that this happened but your generosity taught me what a loving gift really is, a gift, and I am truly grateful.


Monday, February 07, 2011

Invite Your Enemies, maybe Your Friends if you like.
I found this very interesting in the bulletin from the St. Luke’s Anglican Church which we attended today.

Alpha Course Introduction Dinner
Invitations available to hand to your friends/enemies/acquaintances- all those in need to know Jesus and want to meet His family.

I have heard often the encouragement to invite friends and family to church but not very often my enemies. It seems like a novel idea. I suppose it would be pretty hard to be bitter toward, repay, damage, fight or even kill my enemy if I was concentrating on inviting him/her to church.

I often wondered that if I was fighting in war I would be killing someone that Jesus told me to ‘invite to church’ and ‘introduce to Jesus’ for example. I suppose if I killed him/her he would never get that chance. I suppose I would be actually condemning him, would I not?

Friday, February 04, 2011

My dad and Nadia at the Baptist Guesthouse

Visit from my Parents

We had a wonderful visit from my parents the last 3 weeks. We have been staying in South Africa for the last few weeks and so it was easy for them to fly into Johannesburg. I was really excited to show them South Africa and Johannesburg especially since a lot of it is very much 1st world and a lot easier to get around in. The last time they visited was in Gondola and it was hot and just a harder place to be. Logistics were more difficult just by virtue of poor infrastructure and we did not have running water in our home.

This time we had a nice place to stay at the Baptist guesthouse with lots of place outside for us to enjoy playing with Nadia and having our tea and meals in the outdoors. We traveled a lot but it was a lot of fun. In Johannesburg we were able to visit a botanical gardens complete with a beautiful English rose garden. We attended the Apartheid museum and several of the local churches on Sunday. Johannesburg is a very dynamic city with rich and poor living right next to each other. The contrasts are quite visible yet and much of the city is walled in with electric fences, guards and closed neighborhoods. Despite this, the city is quite diverse and neighborhoods are getting more diverse with every color and ethnicity of people you can imagine. It has the best nightlife in South Africa and the arts are flourishing. It also has a rather mild, dry climate that makes it very live able and comfortable out of doors with many people having pools or indoor/outdoor living spaces.

Rose Gardents

Mid way through the visit we visited the city of Nelspruit along the escarpment of the Drakensburg passing through small towns on the way made up of separate sections of middle/upper class housing and sprawling poor townships made of decaying houses and shacks. While staying in Nelspruit we spent a day traveling in the lush green mountains, looking down the beautiful Blythe River Canyon and the drop of the escarpment. We ate pancakes and visited an African silk museum where I was able to try eating my first Mopani worms with my dad. Not bad actually.
Blythe River Canyon Rim

Blythe River Canyon Rim

Eating Mopani Worms (not bad actually)

We then visited Kruger National Park. We saw two giraffes, lots of monkeys, one which really wanted the muffin I was eating, tons of elephants, zebra, wildebeest, rhino and much more. One heard of elephants walked across the road right in front of us. I actually put the car in reverse, ready to back off if the elephant decided to use our car for football practice.

This baboon wanted my muffin. I rolled the window up quick. Scary!

It was fortunate that in Maputo the weather was actually cool with some rain. It made for enjoyable days of walking the streets, exploring the old fort and trying out the sidewalk cafes in the park. We ate at our favorite Thai restaurant and spent a few days driving along the beachfront drive. It was really nice to be in Maputo and not have to work for a change. Just to enjoy the beauty and vibrancy of this beautiful and interesting city. It was also nice to be away from the walls and electric fences of Johannesburg and to enjoy walking this very walk able city.

Our way back was through Swaziland. It took a lot longer than expected and we counted more speed bumps along the highway than we cared for but the scenery as we approached the mountains was spectacular. We stayed at a farm where they provided our breakfast of fresh eggs, milk (with the cream) and homemade sausage. I suppose it was a lot like what it used to be when I was young and we got fresh eggs and milk from the farmer up the road. There was plenty of space to eat ouside and just enjoy the peace, quiet and beautiful scenery as well as the Swazi artwork, candles and beautiful batiks.

Swazi Breakfast

We spent the last few days back in Johannesburg. In the short time we were able to take a tour of Soweto Township by a very knowledgeable older man who grew up in the Apartheid era in the township itself. He was a teacher and had to often protect his own students form the police at times. It was interesting to see the area where students protested and several were shot by the police, Desmond Tuto and Mandela’s homes. Did you know they grew up just a few blocks from each other? For those of you who follow South African history, the blacks and colored peoples as they were defined were made to live in townships with minimal services, in shacks or matchbox houses and no electricity or water in their homes. They had to carry passes and could be searched at any time or restricted to certain areas of the city. The townships sprawl for miles and though things are slowly improving unfortunately Johannesburg has not yet solved its problems of informal settlements where people from other countries and the rural areas settle in shacks illegally. We saw one of 18 which actually contained 16,000 people in what looked to be about 100 acres of land. The city just cannot keep up.


Cooling Towers in Soweto, symbol of appresive Apartheid. They never provided electricity for the township surrounding it.

The last two days were spent relaxing and playing games. It was sad to say good by but it was with good feelings because we had so much fun.