Sunday, May 31, 2009

Africa Day 3

We arrived yesterday at the Tums George Hotel (sounds like an antacid doesn't it? But its a relatively nice place) in Manzini. After a nice dinner (chicken, a meat I think was beef, and fish) we met with an amazing couple-- Dr. Harry and Echo Vanderwal. They are doctors who have been in Swaziland for five years. Last year alone, they saw over (hold on to your hat) over 50,000 patients. There is such great need here in Swaziland. We will be working with them on Friday-- when over 500 patients are expected to arrive. The Vanderwal’s will take the 2,000 pair of glasses that we brought with us and distribute them in the coming weeks.

God has been using the Vanderhooks in great ways-- in fact the only fault I could find with them is their love for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Once again proving, no one is perfect.

Today, after breakfast we will head over to the Sharp Memorial Church of the Nazarene for church services. We will meet other leaders and begin to plan out our week ahead.

It's going to be a very busy week--working with HIV patients, planting gardens at the orphanage, holding medical clinics and training pastors, and construction on the nursing quarters. Again the needs are great... but God is greater!

The team is doing remarkably well. All are enjoying the sights and sounds of Swaziland. I will write more later... if I am able!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Africa after a night of sleep

Africa Day 2
OK, I’ve had a little sleep (so maybe I’m a little more coherent). Here’s what I learned after being on an airplane for more than a day:

1) You know it’s a long flight when you are served three meals. My three were pancakes, a chicken and potato mix, and some kind of meat sandwich. It wasn’t Cheesecake Factory but not bad.

2) On our flight was Billy Donovan (the head basketball coach of the University of Florida). Maybe there is a young man down here that is as tall as a giraffe and runs like a gazelle—or maybe Billy wanted to hang out in Johannesburg.

3) The flight also allowed one to pick their choice of movies to view. My choices were:

1) Escape to Witch Mountain (staring the Rock). A word of advice—if the Rock is starring in the movie, it’s probably not going to win an Oscar.
2) Marley and Me. Sad, very sad. (Karla if you are reading this: DO NOT RENT THIS MOVIE)
3) 12 Rounds. It was a guy movie: guns and car chases. Dumb.

4) All the luggage made it! This is a first for me in several mission type trips. Yipppeeee! Thank you Delta baggage handlers!

5) The hotel is nice- the best I’ve stayed at on a mission trip. But it was just for the night. We will leave idlers—you n a few hours for Swaziland. I don’t think we will have the same accommodations.

6) I brought a long a little book on prayer written by John Wesley to use as my devotions for the trip. This morning Wesley was writing on making sure we are up-to-date in our relationship with God. How I long to always be current. I hope this trip stretches me and calls me to be a better pastor, husband, dad, friend, and fellow citizen of the planet.

7) Keep Praying. So Far so good!

Friday, May 29, 2009

We are in Africa

We made it safe and sound to Africa and are right now getting ready for bed at the City Lodge in Johannesburg. After over 24 hours of travel—I don’t know if a shower ever felt better.

No funny stories or inspirational ones...just thankful for a safe trip.

Tomorrow we leave for Swaziland—it’s a five hour trip.

So far everything is going great.

I am not sure how much I will be able to blog in Swaziland—or how many pictures I will be able to post—but if I can…. You’ll see them here first.

OK Let’s see… I left the house yesterday morning at 6:30 AM it is now Friday Night at 9 PM. I’m a little sleepy. Keep praying for us.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Garden City is not my home

Last week, my siblings and I helped my mom sort through 56 years of living in our house on Rosslyn Street in Garden City, Michigan. In all likelihood, it was the last time I’ll sleep in my hometown and the last time I’ll set foot in the house. My mom will be moving to a senior citizen condominium complex in a few weeks.

As far as I know, Garden City, Michigan is known for the following things:
1) The very first K-Mart
2) The very first Little Caesar’s Pizza Parlor
3) The birth place of leadership guru John Maxwell

But, I know Garden City for my first 17 years of life. There were baseball games at Moeller Field and attending school at Marquette Elementary (since torn down), Radcliffe Jr. High (it closed too) and Garden City West High School (apparently West was not best—as our chant indicated, because – you guessed it, West closed after my graduation. So, if you are keeping score—every school I attended prior to college has shut down, even the church where I went to Sunday School for most of those years is a doctor’s office now… I am a little worried for Olivet and the Nazarene Seminary). I marched in the hometown Thanksgiving Day parades as a cub scout and later as a member of the Fighting Tigers Marching band (If you’ve seen my clapping “skills” in one of our services it may come as a surprise that I was a percussionist—a bad percussionist, but a percussionist none the less). I hunted for Easter candy and watched fireworks at the Garden City Park. As I drove out of town last Wednesday, I wondered if I would ever be back.

There are a lot of memories within the walls of the house on Rosslyn Street. In that house we had a “Party Line” with our neighbor which has nothing to do with dancing the conga, and everything to do with one phone line for two houses. We also had one bathroom for six people (my folks added a bathroom after all of the kids moved out. I guess one bathroom was OK for six people but not adequate for two). There were memories of my sister’s cooking experiments which to this day, to coin the cliché, have left a bad taste in my mouth, and seeing her smooch her boyfriend in the hallway which prompted me to make kissing noises and prompted her to get really, really angry. There were Wiffle ball and basketball games on the driveway, football in the front yard and “curb ball” games in the street. The back yard served as a pitching mound where I pretended to be Mickey Lolich throwing a ball against the garage (As you could probably guess, the Tigers always won those pretend games.), the home to our dogs Chester, Tramp and Goober, and the “final resting place” for at least one hamster. It was on Rosslyn Street that my brother learned that diving head first into cement curbs can really hurt, my dad learned you shouldn’t jump “incorrectly” off garages onto cement driveways (that hurts too, apparently jumping the “correct” way does not), and I learned if the garage door was a wee bit wider (or if I was a wee bit better driver), the side-view mirror wouldn’t get ripped-off my dad’s car.

As I stepped out of the side door and into my car—I knew I was leaving those memories behind.

32701 Rosslyn was my parent’s home and my childhood home, but it’s not my home. Jesus said it best: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:1-3 NLT). I’ll be going home one day, but not to Rosslyn Street. My home is in the Father’s House, it’s a wonderful place of which Paul wrote: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (2 Corinthians 2:9) I am not exactly sure what Paul meant by all of that—but I think it means that my heavenly home will not need a window air conditioning unit to keep the upstairs cool in the summertime nor will it need the blanket supply of Fort Riley in order to stay warm in the basement. I think Paul meant, heaven will be more than a house, as you and I will finally be home.

Admittedly, I was a little sad driving away from my childhood house, but I can’t wait to get to my heavenly home.

Friday, May 08, 2009

My Mom and the Rubber Rat

As a high school trumpet player in the Garden City West Marching Band my brother went to New York City one year. Being the fine big brother that he is—Fred brought me back a souvenir from his trip. He did not bring be back a miniature statue of liberty or a hated Yankees’ baseball cap—instead having heard that one might find a rodent or two within the city limits of the Big Apple, he returned with a rubbery life-sized rat. He could not have given this fourth grade brother a better gift.

I loved the rat. My mom hated it. There is something you should know about my dear, sweet mother. While from time to time she may have sung at church the great hymn “All creatures of our God and King…” I don’t believe she meant it. The truth is she hates God’s critters. She hates mice. She hates lice. She hates rats. She hates bats. She hates snakes. She hates bugs. She hates creepy things that hide under the rugs. (I feel like Dr. Seuss ).

Knowing this fact, did not prevent me from strategically placing my New York Souvenir throughout the house. For instance, I would place my rat in the cheese tray of our refrigerator (a perfectly legitimate storage place for a rodent) or occasionally I would place my rubbery friend in a cereal box and then I would wait for my mom to get some shredded cheddar or her morning Cheerios. At those moments of discovery, my mom would let loose a scream that would make the producers of any cheap horror flick proud. While this hasn’t been scientifically proven, I believe the noise level of one of her hollers would compare to a 747 takeoff. Upon hearing the noises being raised in the kitchen, the windows rattling and the house shaking, I knew my rat had been found, as did half of the population in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. My mom knew the rat was rubber, that it was not a real rat still she would scream every time as if she encountered a living and breathing cousin of Willard.

One day my rubber rat went “a missing,” and while she never claimed responsibility for the disappearance, looking back now I do recall a hint of a smile whenever I inquired about the whereabouts of my rubbery friend.

My poor mother endured much more than the “old hidden rubbery rat trick.” In the days before video games and cable TV, before microwaves and all of our time saving devises (we had a ringer washing machine, for crying out loud—and the “dryer” was a clothes line in the back yard) my mom raised four kids. There were trips to emergency rooms (my brother found himself there more than the rest of us); sibling arguments for her to referee (as punishment one time she made my sister and brother hold hands and smile at each other—talk about cruel and unusual); meals to prepare (she still makes a yummy stuffed cabbage); sporting events and concerts to attend; cleaning, laundry and all the other household duties; and while not loving the critters she still welcomed into her home pet dogs, hamsters, turtles, fish and a salamander named Sam. (One lesson learned: Don’t play with a pet turtle in the driveway, at the same moment that your mom is returning home from the grocery store. That story does not have a happy ending.). All this to say my mom earned each and every white hair on her head.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day! It’s a day to honor all our moms (white haired and otherwise) and to tell them thanks for all they have done. So take time to say “Thanks”-- even if your mom accidently squished your pet turtle or in some other way was less than perfect. Don’t let Mother’s Day pass without thinking of and/or praying for the lady that brought you into the world and in most cases did so much more.