Monday, July 29

Extra Special

Once or twice in your lifetime your path crosses with someone truly extraordinary. 

I consider myself lucky enough to say that 6 months before I was born, my family moved into a house next door to one of those extra special people and she has played a huge part in my life over the last 36 years. She has always been there for us and us for her.

Betty has been family to me ever since I can remember, she took me to Sunday School when I was just 2 years old and has prayed for me diligently ever since ... in fact I often 'blame' her for being where I am and doing what I'm doing right now (her prayers are that good!)!! With no blood family of her own, she has been part of our family for my whole life!

Sadly for us, this weekend she became one of heavens newest recruits.

To imagine life back in the UK without her, is to imagine something that doesn't seem possible. When you think of Betty you think of someone who just keeps going and going ... she was only a couple of years away from receiving a telegram from the queen on her birthday. She was a keen gardener and used to deliver flowers to and 'look after' her old ladies who were often a decade or two younger than her. The week before she died she was still in her garden and the day before, she went out to lunch with my mum at the local garden centre.

While she never left the UK (she didn't own a passport), in fact, she barely left the south east of England. Her prayers reached the ends of the earth. Not just for me and my family but also for several other missions and mission partners. Some of whom like me, as children went through sunday school with her as the teacher, something she did for decades teaching different generations within the same families. Leaving a legacy that goes way beyond words.

Yesterday trying to explain death and grief to Abigail who is not quite 5, was interesting. We were talking about Betty and when I told her that Betty was up in heaven with Jesus (which beyond any shadow of a doubt she is!), Abigail was quick to ask 'Is she happy?'. Without hesitation I replied that yes, she was very happy. Again Abigail was quick to respond with 'If she is happy than why are you sad? She's in heaven with Grammie, one day you will be there too and then I will join you and we'll all be together again.'

It is so simple really when you see it though a child's eye. But it doesn't make grieving for someone so loved any easier, especially at a time when as a family we're so far away. Heaven is rejoicing right now though as our loss is their gain ... and they most certainly gained an extra special angel in Betty!

Friday, July 26

The Next Step

These last few weeks have been crazy busy ... can you even say that?!!

It's the school holidays, our container just arrived and I've been taking on a few extra roles while other MAF staff are home for various reasons. As my six months curfew or promise to my family is just about to expire, I find it hard how I can fit anything else into my time but I have already agreed to quite a big project recently too! (More details of that another time!)

Being able to finally unpack all our stuff and being super busy, really does make it feel like we've finally arrived and are settled. Just this morning I was at a friends house, catching up over a cup of tea while the kids all played together ... definitely not the actions of a newbie but of someone who is much more established!

I've mentioned 'transition' before and I know that the first six months anywhere are often the biggest hurdle to overcome but that it takes the first two years for somewhere to really become home. So, although we're getting there, as a family we still have a way to go!

During the unpacking I found some notes from one of my classes at All Nations. While I'm not someone to write poetry (like ever!), part of one assignment was to write a reflective poem on transition. Probably one of the only poems I've ever written since leaving school almost 20 years ago! 

Even now, after several more big moves across the world, I think it reflects well a lot of the details and emotions that are involved, some which are glaringly obvious and others not so much ... 

The Next Step

The plan, the excitement,
The next step and beyond.

Those final and those not for long.
Lives that continue,
But which you won't be a part.

New places, new faces.
Right decision, wrong decision.
Too late now!

Who am I? What do I do?
Where am I meant to be?
Information overload, people and facts,
Exhaustion threatens to overcome,
But push on through.

Making a friend, making mistakes,
Taking a risk,
Fascinated by all that's new,
But sometimes alone, longing for the familiar.

In time, knowing the faces and playing your role,
A routine and a purpose to fulfil.
Home again, yet in a different place,
Looking toward the next step.

Monday, July 22

Double Take

These last few months, since arriving in Tanzania, have see me brushing up on the Swahili I had from when I lived in Dodoma before ... and for which both me and Mark are very grateful for! I love languages and while I make many many many mistakes I've been trying to give it a go when I get the opportunity.

We will have the opportunity to go to Language School but with Mark needing his TCAA (Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority) Licence for our visas it has been put on the back burner for a while. In the meantime my teacher is my house mama, Maria and hopefully soon a local friend of mine who I knew when I lived here before. 

Maria has no English but is really good at teaching me new words when I try and use them with their plurals (as there are many noun classes with different plural prefixes). If I put a sentence together incorrectly, she will also repeat it but without the mistakes which is really helpful for me. She is always complementing me on my Swahili too but for me, I often feel like I'm faltering where I want to be fluent!! I know ... in time!!!

On our fridge door right now is a little list with some of the words I've been been trying to remember recently (it needs updating as I've mastered these few!) ... 

zambarau - purple
maelezo ya upishi - recipe
kutabasamu - smile
mjusi - lizard
kitunguu saumu - garlic

The girls are also picking up bits and pieces here and there, which is really cute! One thing that really amuses them, Abigail especially, is that many words are repetitive and so nice to say. They have a ring to them! 

So to humour them, myself and probably some of you reading this, here are just a few that we use ... and no you don't have to do a double take, each one really is repeated!!

mimi - I, me
wewe - you (singular)
yeye - he/him, she/her
sisi - we us
takataka - rubbish/garbage
mboga mboga - lots of vegetables
katikati - in the middle
pikipiki - motorbike
pilipili - pepper
wasiwasi - disquiet/problem
daladala - (mini)bus/local transport (See photo below)

Friday, July 19

Living in Community

I'm back! What with unpacking and no wifi for a week (too much effort to climb over the boxes to reach the connection!) ... I've had a longer break than expected but it's mainly because my brain has temporarily ceased to function!

Anyway ... 

I have had the privilege of living in a small community on more than one occasion. As a single, as a newlywed and with a family, both in the UK and overseas. It definitely has both huge drawbacks and huge bonuses!

Don't get me wrong. We all live within some sort of community but I mean the more limited one. One where you can't so easily pick and choose the people you spend lots of time with. One where they are 'picked' for you, whether it is because of geographical, time or language restraints ... and there aren't other friends or family a few hours drive away to escape to if you need to!

Everybody is different. That's the joy of human nature. Having all those differences in a concentrated location can be ... 'interesting'! Some people are complete extroverts, while other's need their space. Some put their family first, while others put their work first. Some hold grudges and some just let everything go. Some people choose to discipline their children in one way and some in another. Some international communities work so hard not to be offensive to any particular nationality that they create their own subculture as a result. 

The list really is endless. None of those things are right and none of them are wrong. They are just differences. Differences that you learn to adapt to because the bonuses of being part of the community far outweigh the drawbacks! 

The people you are with become your family. You experience the good times and the tough times, as well as the milestones together. You get to know each other a lot quicker, a lot better and a lot deeper than you would normally.

As a result, even though we've only been here for five months we already have some really good friends here. In the crazy last few weeks, we've had people come and help us unload the container, unpack boxes, cook us meals, look after the girls and put up book shelves to name just a few things. We feel really lucky to have that network in place already.

In the same way we have also had the opportunity to be there for others. Providing meals when people have been recovering from illnesses, throwing birthday lunches, taking over people's roles when they have to leave on short notice, looking after friends children for 24 hours due to unexpected hospital overnight stays (Abigail didn't complain, it was an excuse for her first sleep-over and time with one of her best friends, see below!),  ... the list goes on.

Living in community, you look out for where you can support each other, you notice when something needs to be done. It can be claustrophobic at times, that's the reality of it. Yes, of course people can drive you stir crazy at times too but you stick with it and get through it because at the end of the day you are now each other's support network and you couldn't make it on your own! Yes, it can feel like a sacrifice sometimes ... but it's definitely a sacrifice worth making!

Wednesday, July 10


The observant among you will noticed I missed a post on Monday!

My excuse? ... I completely forgot!! My reason? ... Our container finally arrived totally out of the blue on Sunday morning and I have been working like a machine ever since trying to sort through it all and finally get our house looking like a home!

All the emotions I had anticipated on the arrival of the container were completely blown out the window by the sheer surprise of hearing a truck and voices at 8am on a Sunday morning while the whole family were sitting around in their pyjamas!!! It arrived with absolutely no warning whatsoever that it had even left Dar Es Salaam. Believe me it was the best surprise to wake up to though!

So in lieu of a proper post I will send you via a link to a friends blog that I recently had the opportunity to do a guest post on at The Meaning of Go. (Eluned was the first Missionary Mum to do a guest post for me!)

I make absolutely no apologies if you don't hear from me again until next week ... it's just way too exciting opening all these boxes!!!

Saturday, July 6

Are We There Yet?

Today I want to introduce you to another great friend and Missionary Mum. I met Kristin when our husbands trained together at MMS Aviation. We arrived (and left) within a few months of each other. In many ways we are on the same journey and in other ways our stories are completely different. I am so grateful that our paths crossed when they did, we have shared lots of giggles as well as lots of struggles together and as Naomi's other fairy god-mother, I am pleased to say she will forever remain part of my life! Kristin, her husband and three sons are in the process of joining JAARS a mission based in North Carolina.

Are we there yet?

How many times have we heard that from our children as we travel down the road? Annoying, right? This time I find it’s me whining to my heavenly Father, “This is taking forever. When will we get there? I can’t stand it.” 

Eight months ago we finished our assignment at MMS Aviation. We were eager to get our hands dirty and put to use all that we had learned over our 3 years in Ohio. It was in our hearts to move our family to North Carolina and pursue service with JAARS, an organization that provides practical day to day support (aviation, land transportation, water transportation, information technology, and media) to Bible translators working all over the globe giving the Word of God to people in their own heart language. We prayed, sought wise counsel, and decided to go for it. 

Thus began the process… 

We found a house to rent and hurried back to Ohio to pack our things, cheerfully saying our goodbyes and boldly moving ahead. We set up house. Paul volunteered in the hangar for 2 months and I worked to settle the children and start back to homeschooling. We all began to make friends and find activities we enjoyed. Things were off to a good start. 

January brought another round of exams for Paul, 10 days of oral and practical examination to see if he has the skills to work effectively on the mission field. It was challenging and exhausting but Paul passed (only by God’s grace according to him) and we were offered an position here at the JAARS headquarters where he would start as a mechanic and eventually participate in research and development projects that would utilize his previous aerospace and mechanical engineering experience. Sounds great, right? 

On to the next step… 

Full time missionaries working in aviation at JAARS are expected to join a mission organization, specifically Wycliffe Bible Translators. That means going through a process that includes written applications, interviews for both us and the children, budget projections, administrative details and lots of decision making. We began in February and signed as members of Wycliffe in early May. 

What that means is… 

Now it is June. In August, we will begin a time of training and partner development with Wycliffe that can last for up to two years. The rule is for us to work on that exclusively. This potentially means no airplanes for Paul for the next 18 months. It means Paul working from home with all of us doing school at home. We think it will mean time apart as Paul travels to see our supporters alone. We also think it will mean travel and school on the road together with two teenagers and a very talkative eight year old. Can anyone say “Aaaahhhhggggg”… 

Here’s another sticky detail. Throughout the process, our monthly financial support has been at least $1,000 shy of meeting our needs and yet we have not gone into debt and we are not begging for bread. Wow, right? 

So this is our way forward, narrow and “pinchey” as it may be. Would I choose it? Of course not. But I will walk it, with God’s grace and help. 

May I share with you what has become my life verse? “So work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved. God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey Him.” Philippians 2:13 (CEV) 

As He is faithful, may we be found faithful - regardless of the hurdles, regardless of the time investment, regardless of the questions.

Wednesday, July 3

Riding a Rollercoaster

I LOVE roller-coasters! The adrenalin, the thrill! In fact, I usually just get a fit of the giggles and have tears running down my face by the end of it!

I have a hunch that the littlest munchkin will follow in my footsteps as she's already proving to be a bit of a thrill seeker!

Embarking on the missionary lifestyle can sometimes feel like a bit of a roller coaster ... but not always one of the thrill seeking, giggling variety! You can be obedient to the call, follow the path and it can still twist and turn in ways that you can never be prepared for.

This week for example, we received news that our container is on it's final leg of a very long journey. To describe the process as a battle, would be an understatement. Every single step of getting it released since it arrived in Tanzania has been fought for on our behalf. As I've shared before bureaucracy here is a little different to what we're used to, especially when it comes to issuing visas!

Even this week, when we thought it was all finally going to be sorted, we have had some of the biggest ups and downs to cope with! 

On Monday, we were told the container was loaded onto a truck to bring here. An hour or so later we were told it was just being taken to a warehouse and wouldn't be released until Mark had his visa ... something we had just gone through a whole process to avoid. To say we felt numb and sick when we received that email and thought we were back to square one would definitely be an understatement. Three VERY long hours later we were told it was a mistake and we'd been misinformed and everything was still good for delivery.

On Tuesday, we were told it would be leaving within the next 24 hours. Only to be told later on that we still had to pay an additional 1.2 million Tanzanian Shillings before it was released. Again, somebody somewhere was misinformed and that was not the case!

Today, Wednesday, we trust that it has started making it's final journey here although to be fair, until we see it, we're not going to believe it! When we do, I have no idea how I will react. Tears of relief, tears of joy? Who knows?!

When you've entrusted all your worldly goods to total strangers, it becomes quite personal when there are issues with the processing of it. Yes, possessions aren't everything and the contents of that container aren't overly special but they are ours and they mean something to us.

You can imagine the emotions that we faced this week, especially on Monday when we thought we had to start all over again. It hit us to the core, we may be missionaries but we are also human. It caused us to question everything from 'Are we in the right place?', 'Are we doing the right thing?', 'Why when we've invested so much into this, is this happening to us?' to 'With so many people praying for us, does God really answer prayer?', 'Shall we just pack up and go home?'. It was pretty awful there for a couple of hours. Talk about stressful!

We've been here five months now, our visas are no closer to being processed, Mark is still has no closer to being allowed to sit for his TCAA licence, there is no suitable car available for us to buy and our container is yet to join us. Yet we KNOW God is bigger than all of this ... even if at certain times on certain days, when we're far from home and the familiar, it's been a lot harder to believe! 

I guess it's all part of riding the roller coaster of missionary life ... and we have no intention of getting off that ride just yet!

Monday, July 1

Kiddie Classic

Now the school holidays have started, I'm trying to be a little bit more proactive at planning at least one fun thing each day to do with the girls. I don't just want us to waste the five weeks and wonder what happened to them when Abigail starts in Standard One at the beginning of August!

Nothing huge and amazing, necessarily, it may be quick or may take some time, just at least one fun thing everyday. Here are a few of the ideas that I have up my sleeve :

Making finger-paints and using them
Inviting friends round to play
Trip to the ice-cream parlour
A couple of days away somewhere
Also, HOPEFULLY at some point, unpacking the container!!

On Friday, Day One of the holidays, we made chocolate cornflake cakes. I honestly can't even remember the last time I made them ... years and years ago probably. But they are definitely a kiddie classic! Quick, easy and definitely yummy. Only four ingredients, no baking required and therefore no waiting, either for it to cook or for it to cool down before tucking in. A real bonus with little ones who's patience can often be even less than mine!

The ingredients are easy to get here (one of them, golden syrup, a lot easier here, than when we lived in Ohio!). The only difficult thing to find are the cupcake cases ... so a big thank you to Auntie Amy for stocking us up a little when she sent us a parcel from England!

Makes 12 ...
  • 50g butter
  • 100g chocolate, broken into chunks
  • 3Tbsp Golden Syrup
  • 100g Cornflakes
  1. Melt the butter, syrup and chocolate chunks in a pan
  2. Mix in the cornflakes gently
  3. Divide into 12 cupcake cases
  4. Leave to set/put in the fridge to set ... or just eat them straight away!!!
We have found that one 120g Cadbury's Dairy Milk bar (which is relatively easy to get hold of out here but still a treat as it can be a bit pricey!) minus one chunk for each of the sous-chef's is the perfect size for this recipe!! Always useful to know!!