Monday, December 30

Theory and Practice

With just a two days of 2013 to go I can't believe how much has happened for us as a family since this time last year ... or even the last few years! This week Naomi celebrated her third Christmas and each of those have been on a different continent. Life has certainly not been boring for us!

In many ways our lives are a big adventure but from now on things are set to become relatively mundane and not quite so exciting ... at least that's what we hope anyway! When we moved here, we had hoped that it would be for at least 4 years but most probably for the whole 8 years we have committed to MAF. As a family (and even as a couple) this would be the longest we've lived anywhere together! Crazy but true!

In theory it will us be a chance to really get into our groove, which we've only just hit in the last couple of months! It will be a chance to really get involved in the community. It will be a chance for us all to get settled in our home and open it up to others, knowing that we won't be moving on anytime soon. It will be a chance for our girls to spend their childhoods in one place. It will be a chance to live life in the guaranteed sunshine! It doesn't promise to be easy, limited resources, far from family, an ever-changing ex-pat community, no respite from the heat! However it really feels like home to us now, for how long though, we are yet to see.

Everything can be mapped out in theory, but in practice it can work out a lot differently!

Things change unexpectedly out here. Friends of ours are packing up to leave in a few weeks and move to South Sudan ... their plans are most definitely up in the air right now. For us things are also on hold at least until the end of January. The future of the MAF Tanzania programme is currently under negotiation and we won't know until then which way it will move forward and whether that will or won't include us as a family.

While a lot of people will be thinking about News Years resolutions right now and how they are going to start 2014 off on the right foot, perhaps tweaking some things or drastically changing others, my family will have to wait just that little bit longer. 

We hope and pray that our 2014 will be right here in Tanzania well and truly getting into that groove but only God knows right now what it will look like. I'm glad that we trust one who has already got it all worked out on our behalf. While some people think that is a huge risk, I know that with him in control we will be able to work our way through whatever this next year will bring. We got through this last one which was was a rollercoaster in itself! We'll just have to wait another month after everyone else before we work out what (if any) resolutions/changes we want to make!

Friday, December 27

African Snow

Christmas has been slightly different for us this year. 

A couple of months ago, Abigail asked when the snow was coming so that she knew it was going to be Christmas. I had to break the news to her that this year there most probably wouldn't be any snow for us! It's funny what you get used to. All Abigail's short life, Christmas and snow have come hand-in-hand ... in Ohio and even last year in England. 

Even though in the UK we're not often guaranteed snow, it doesn't help the wishful thinking for the idyllic cosy Christmas, all wrapped up! We're used to hearing songs like 'Frosty the Snowman' and watching movies like 'White Christmas' (I'm watching it right now as I write!) but a British Christmas usually consists of grey skies and rain ... this year rather too much rain!

For lots of our friends here, the hot sunny Tanzanian Christmas doesn't seem all that different from what they are used to back in Australia and New Zealand and they can't imagine the cold snowy Christmas that I find myself dreaming of!

Christmas here in Tanzania falls in the rainy season, although to be fair the rains have been few and far between so far this year. The average temperature is about 32 (90) degrees. And waiting for the rains, the intensity and humidity is well ... intense!

To make it feel like Christmas, we have been playing Christmas songs, eating the traditional foods, pulling Christmas crackers, the list goes on! Yesterday we went one step further. Before we left the States a good friend of ours gave us something for the girls to enjoy at Christmas time! 

Whoever thought that a little bit of fake snow would be such an excitement?!

It's the closest we're going to get to the real thing, living here in Tanzania ... without climbing to the top of Kilimanjaro (and having done it once, I don't intend to repeat the experience!). Over the years, Christmas is probably going to feel quite different and what it normal is going to change. 

This week we have celebrated what we hope will be the first of many Christmases out here in Dodoma ... and it even included a little sprinkling of snow!

Friday, December 20

Christmas Cards

Do you like Christmas? Do you like writing Christmas cards? I have to admit a big YES to both! I realise I may well be in the minority on both counts but I don't care!

I love the festive feel of this time of year ... although admittedly in Dodoma you really have to work hard to get it! I love the opportunity to spoil people with gifts, meals and fun times. I love being able to connect with more people that you would at other times of the year through cards and chances to meet up and celebrate. I love the reason behind it all!

As a family we haven't sent out Christmas cards for a while, what with moving last year and other reasons in previous years, it hasn't been something we have been able to achieve. This year though, I took the advantage of the cheap Tanzanian postage (to post to the UK from here is cheaper than posting a second class letter within the British Isles!) and had an absolute ball writing several hundred cards! Even Mark thinks I'm a little bit crazy but he loves me anyway!

Yes, I'm totally mad but I love it for lots of reasons ... here are just a few! 

Firstly, we wouldn't be here, doing what we're doing without the backing, prayers and support of family, friends, churches and even some people who are complete strangers to us, who all make it possible. We don't take that support for granted and wanted to show our appreciation, even if it is in a very small way.

Secondly, while we're so far from home and haven't been able to catch up with people properly for several years now, it is just a small way to keep the connection going. As I write each piece of snail mail we send, small happy memories flash through my mind of times we have spent together with each and every person!

Thirdly, with each card I write, I usually pray for the recipients. Not in a 'holier than thou' way but it's just a chance to remember each person and their current situation and to bring them before someone who cares SO much about them! We are so regularly prayed for by others, it's a chance to return the favour!

Fourthly, however modern and high-tech our world is becoming, I'm definitely of the opinion that there's nothing better than receiving snail mail however old-fashioned that might seem. It always puts a smile on my face and I like being able to put smiles on the faces of others too, even if it is more time consuming and needs to be budgeted for!

The frustrating thing with sending post from Dodoma is that a certain percentage of letters are almost guaranteed not to get through but it isn't a reason for me not to try! If you know us or support us, sometime in the next few weeks or months (or maybe even already) you should receive some mail from Tanzania. If you don't, we either don't have an address or it was one of the unlucky cards that didn't get through. Know that we care about you anyway and/or get in touch with your contact details! 

Wednesday, December 18

Give to Receive?

As we draw near to Christmas there is an increasing emphasis on gift giving, in some people's eyes the bigger and more expensive the better, in others it's the thought that has gone into it that is more important. Either way there are gifts flying back and forth between friends and families at this time of year!

Something that I have been asked many times from friends since we had munchkins is 'Are we just giving to the children?' meaning 'Are we exchanging for each member of the family or will presents for the kids suffice?' ... I have even heard more and more often 'Are we doing gifts this year?', translate that as 'If you can't be bothered than neither can I, but if we're both OK with that, it doesn't matter'! 

Do we give gifts only because we're expecting something back in return? Is it because we feel uncomfortable receiving something if we can't also give in exchange? Is it a cultural thing? Do we have to give and receive something of equal value for it to be an acceptable present?

Having moved around a lot over the last few years, getting to know new people in different locations and cultures, I recall a few conversations I've had, where someone was giving me information about another family including this choice nugget ... 'we've had them round for a dinner a couple of times but they never invited us back, so we've given up now'. More recently someone said to me 'I think it's probably our turn to have you round, isn't it?'. 

These conversations show an expectation that if we make the effort to have someone to our house, they should also invite us ... and then if they don't invite us in return, there is a limit to how many times we are willing to show this unreciprocated hospitality! Again, maybe this is a cultural thing. Is it only acceptable to pursue a friendship if we receive as much as we give? 

As a family we like to give people gifts, we like to treat people, we like to make them feel special. We don't always get it right (nobody's perfect!) and there are times that we are unable to do everything we want to for various reasons but one thing we don't expect is that we have to be matched or reciprocated ... we do it for one reason and one reason only ... because we enjoy it and the other people are always worth it! 

Gifts come in many forms, presents, meals, childcare, time, listening, we're always on the lookout for what, where and who we can 'treat' but usually do it so far under most people's radars that not many of those around us have the opportunity to notice what we're up to. We hope we're passing this onto our girls, so that they grow up with open eyes to look out for others in this way too!

Giving is an integral part of Christmas. The ultimate Christmas gift arrived in the form of a baby ... in the most extravagant present, all those years ago! It was one of those gifts given with no expectations whatsoever, just the hope that we would accept it. Sometimes it really is that simple!

Monday, December 16

Seven Year Itch

Today my Facebook status read as follows ... "Seven years ago today I put on a big white dress and had one of the best days of my life surrounded by friends and family! Four homes, three continents and two children later, it is still the adventure of a lifetime!"

According to Wikipedia ...
"The seven-year itch is a psychological term that suggests that happiness in a relationship declines after around year seven of a marriage."
So, do I have itchy-feet now that we've hit the milestone? Hell No! Would I want to be having all these adventures with anyone else but Mark! Nope! Am I looking forward to the next seven years! Most definitely ... bring it on!

We have already added so many more stressors to our marriage than a lot of other people do ... moving across the world several times to name just one. We most certainly don't have all the answers or do everything perfectly. However the journey we're on together and with our girls is one I wouldn't miss for the world! Who know's where it's going to lead in the future?!

Wednesday, December 11

What do you need?

As a Missionary Kid (MK) in India, an overseas missionary in South America, a missionary back in the States, a mother and a grandmother ... today's guest blog comes from someone who more than qualifies to write something for The Missionary Mum! Rena Jarboe is the wife of the President and CEO of MMS Aviation in Ohio (where Mark trained as an aircraft engineer), where they have both served faithfully for many decades. She is kept busy with numerous tasks within MMS and the community but today she shares some thought's on the needs of a missionary kid.

Philippians 4:19 says, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.”

Many refer to the above verse as God supplying material needs. While this is true, I would like to suggest other “needs” in the missionary and MK setting. Some say missionary kids are deprived of many things. I beg to differ. My life was rich.

When someone answers God’s call to leave home and family and go to another country to serve Him there is a need for confidence and peace of mind that the move is indeed God’s call.

Family members left behind have deep concerns and need this confidence and peace also. Parents can be anxious for their son/daughter and wonder if they will be safe, healthy and have a fruitful ministry. There is concern as grandparents say goodbye to grandchildren. The fear of dangers and unknown diseases—some real, some imagined—that lurk in foreign lands come to mind as they send them off.

I was born in India to missionary parents. They left America in 1947, to go to an unfamiliar part of the world, knowing that they would not see family for six and a half years (they ended up serving twenty years in India). During that first term I was born, as was my brother, Billy, two years later. 

There was a need for safety from harmful things like snakes and scorpions. In our village setting during the first term, Dad killed many poisonous snakes. None of us were ever bitten. The Lord woke up my Mom more than once in the middle of the night, only to find a scorpion under my bed, which she would dispose of. My brother and I had a close encounter with a 30 foot python. I had a scary moment with a cobra in the bathroom of a friend’s home—and the list could go on. God’s protection was evident. 

There was a need for medical care. Our little village of Ghatkesar had a small clinic where some medicines were available. One night when I was two I developed a severe asthma attack. Being an asthmatic himself, Dad immediately recognized the symptoms. It was frustrating to get the medical worker to open the clinic in the middle of the night in order to get a vial of needed medication. We’re confident God intervened and Dad got the medicine and gave me the injection I needed. (Who knew that his training as an Army Medic would be put to good use in this way!) There are other providential medical provisions too numerous to mention here.

There is a need for family. As a missionary kid, I had an abundance of missionary Aunties and Uncles. It wasn’t until I met my relatives at age four, that I learned to discern between real Aunties and Uncles and my missionary ones. Having cousins, however, was a new concept. To this day, I keep in touch with missionary “relatives” (though many have passed away) and I cherish my memories with them. I also have a special Indian Uncle and Auntie, with whom I am still in contact. My life was and is rich.

There is a need for an education. While home schooling is a popular option these days, those curriculums were not available in the 50s and 60s. I received a good education in a British Boarding School for missionary children. While the separation from my parents was not easy (it was hard for them too), I had an abundance of friends from many different countries. It has been fun to reconnect with many of them recently, through Facebook!

Material needs were something that as a child, did not concern me. However, God provided for my parents. Their sending church took on their entire support for the first six years. Following a change in pastors, it was discontinued during their first furlough. God provided others to fill that need. Our living conditions during the first term in India were quite primitive with no electricity or water pumped to the house. On our first furlough, my brother and I were fascinated with light switches, flushing toilets, escalators, Christmas lights, etc. I think we drove our Grandparents to distraction those first few weeks as we flipped light switches and turned on taps and flushed the toilet numerous times just to see the water swirl and go down!

Only as an adult did I begin to appreciate my unique childhood. I remember on furloughs I just wanted to blend in, and not be noticed as an MK and someone different. This is quite normal. However, now I understand my childhood was something very special. I’ve lived in places with exotic names, such as Ghatkesar, Bhongir, Secunderabad and Coonoor! Not many can say they have traveled by ship multiple times from one side of the world to the other (it took a month). We had a pet monkey and our friends had a pet hyena. I have ridden on an elephants, camels and bicycle rickshaws and have watched snake charmers and scorpion charmers. I’ve seen work elephants in our yard being watered from our well—something quite scary for a three year old, but memorable. God provides unique blessings and experiences to missionary kids. I am grateful to be an MK.

Nowadays I feel the need for good Indian food once in a while and a daily cup of chai.

Monday, December 9

Altered Lenses

This time last year we were frantically buying, selling, packing, saying goodbyes, preparing, organising. It really was quite something and I'm am very grateful to be well on the other side of it all, even though settling here and getting everything sorted has been an experience all of its own! 

Saying goodbye to the States was hard as we had so much fun there as a family, made new friends and even added a new member to our family. We learnt some of the differences in cultures and picked up some traditions to carry on with us too.

Thanksgiving is something we decided we would 'take with us' and a couple of weeks ago we got to celebrate with a couple of other families right here in Dodoma. Thinking of things to be thankful for this year was a little different. After 10 months of living here my perspective has changed and what I am thankful for and appreciate about life has too. So here goes, just a few ... but through some slightly altered lenses ...
  • Electricity and Running Water - While we know that this is something not to take for granted ... out here when both are intermittent and for many (right on our doorstep) a luxury they can't afford, you become a lot more appreciative of them!
  • American Toilet Roll - We shipped some across in the container and opened a couple of rolls last week ... it feels so nice to use soft, strong non-shredding loo roll ... after 10 months you wouldn't believe how thankful toilet roll can make you!
  • Being able to write - My house lady is in her 50's and can read a little but even writing her name (all 5 letters of it!) takes as long as it takes me to write a whole paragraph! To just be able to write the simplest of things is such a blessing ... really!
  • Owning a car - travelling around here is possible on foot/bike but isn't necessarily safe (especially with young children), I am so appreciative of the fact that we are privileged enough to have wheels of our own to get around and not have to be dependent on other people.
  • Not getting malaria - Malaria is a very real and present danger here and so far we have all remained healthy and malaria free! A BIG reason to be thankful!
  • Moving internationally - Talk about stressful, moving from one continent to another (via a third) ... and now we're only just really getting settled! But to be on the other end of it all is a pretty good feeling!
  • Rain - this afternoon it rained ... doesn't sound all that exciting to the Brit readers I'm sure ... but we haven't had any proper rain since April and it is SO dry and dusty here! We're so grateful for the rain, we were dancing and being totally goofy in it!

It will be interesting to see how our perspective changes about what we're thankful for over the years to come!

Wednesday, December 4

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

This morning me and the littlest munchkin made 31 cookies from a new recipe ... we had lots of fun. A little over 4 hours later there are now only 4 left in the kitchen ... an indication of the yumminess! There was no question as to whether this recipe is a keeper or whether it was something I would be sharing! (Just for the record, we did have visitors this afternoon, we didn't eat them all ourselves!)

It was a cookie we'd eater a couple of months ago at a friends house here in Dodoma and thought was delicious ... so really today was just confirmation of something we already knew! What I did notice mid-mixing was that it can be a dairy-free recipe, which is something that I mentioned I was searching for recently ... to stretch our repetoire for a friend here who is lactose intolerant!

We added chocolate chips this time (not for the lactose intolerant!), but walnuts and or raisins I think would taste equally as yummy ... I feel another batch coming on!

So here's the Banana Oatmeal Cookies recipe ...
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup canola/vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips/walnuts/raisins
  1. Mash banana well in a bowl
  2. Add oil, sugar, vanilla and mix
  3. Add flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon until just moistened.
  4. Add oats and walnuts/chocolate chips/raisins and mix well (If dough is slippery add extra flour)
  5. Roll into balls - smaller than a golf ball (with wet hands), flatten and place on prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart ... it is a bit fiddly!
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly browned at 175/350/GM4
  7. Cool for 2 minutes then transfer to a rack
We made about 30 cookies with these ingredients but ... just remember though one batch might not be enough!