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Bruce and Kate Dahlman, serving with Africa Inland Mission
January 21, 2016 12:21 pm
Published in: Ugali

It’s been a bit long between blog posts here on the “GBU”…

So, let me first say “Happy New Year!”, which is the appropriate Kenyan greeting for anyone we haven’t seen or greeted since Dec. 31st (and which will be used for months to come…).

We had a lovely (if somewhat quiet and subdued) Christmas-Season-On-The-Equator.   Highlights:

  • Singing “Jingle Bells”, “White Christmas”, and “Auld Lang Syne” as part of the 3-hour Christmas Eve church service;
  • Christmas dinner with Kabarak friends and 4-year-old Jonah, who fondly calls me “Uncle Kate”;
  • The baobab tree with Kenyan ornaments  (the zebra-pulled, Santa “sleigh” donkey-cart is my new favorite);
  • A Naivasha Resort Get-Away, with “up-close-and-personal” animal sightings to keep us entertained (came this close to being schmucked by an eland, who was either the “chaser” or “chasee” in some every-day-African-animal-life drama…)

JonahChristmas

BaobabTree

SantaDonkeyCart

 

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But…by far, the best part of  December was welcoming Ryan back to Kijabe after his six-month U.S. “home assignment”.  This Mama loves having at least one of her kiddos on the same side of the world as she is, even if by living in Kabarak we are now two hours’ drive away from him:

December2015MomRyan

So; back to the present (“Happy New Year!“):

We’ve had a few “bumps along the road” to the start of the January trimester here at Kabarak University.  The term began Jan. 11th; but to date, I’ve only just met, briefly, with both of my nursing classes for a bit of introduction.

No real teaching has yet taken place.

There have been several reasons for this, most of which are unique to the Kenyan University system, where I’ve been learning the new-to-me concepts of “moderation” and “supplementation“, among other things…

The newly updated, computerized registration system was also a bit late getting up and running; some students haven’t been able to register for classes until now (Week #2).

Another unexpected “bump” involves a member of the Health Sciences faculty who wears a few too many “hats”.  Therefore, it’s always “crisis mode” in order to put out the fires here and there.  Priority is given to all the pressing-issues-of-the-day.

While this is understandable, the ordinary “day-to-day” details and other expected duties/responsibilities get pushed to the side or don’t happen at all.

This has been somewhat frustrating for this American-educated nurse, even though the people I’m working with (including the “fireman“) are all skilled, bright, experienced, and academically gifted in their respective fields.  I admire and like them very much; and they have all been most welcoming and kind to me.

And…as if all of the above weren’t enough…there was this:

A literal “bump along the road” that resulted in the back door of the Subaru being severely dented on one side and back window smashed, “kabisa” (completely).  Mercifully, no one was hurt during this low-velocity, minor Nairobi misadventure.  The car remained drive-able with working tail and brake lights, so was able to make it home to Kabarak with no further incident (although now it sits at the repair shop, awaiting parts).

Sometimes all of these unexpected bumps get a bit overwhelming.  Put them all together with the regular water shortages and random-but-becoming-more-regular power outages, the still-not-quite-working, scalding shower and the lack of proper laundry facilities; and sometimes it can all come crashing down and be a bit too much.

One missionary website (“Velvet Ashes“) I read regularly has suggested that at the beginning of each new year, one should “pick a word” as a motto or guide to use as a “touchstone” or “mantra“.  Something to either strive for/attain or one that might help give understanding or perspective to events that happen to one throughout the year.

As the website puts it, choose “one word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live. One word that you can focus on everyday all year long“.

Some past choices by others have been “Openness” or “Humbled” or “Courage” or “Hopeful” or “Thirsty“.

I have decided that my word will be “Roll“.  This year, I really want to learn how to “roll” with things.  To be able to better “roll with the punches” and the bumps when they come…because I know they will keep coming.

To “just go with it” more.

To become more flexible and open to the unexpected events that just seem to occur so randomly here and there along the way.

To be able, with God’s grace, to not instantly crumble into a million pieces when I’m feeling overwhelmed and out of control of my own life.

So that eventually, rather than merely “bump ‘n roll“, I can learn how to better “Rock ‘n roll“.

“From the end of the earth I will cry to You when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”  (Psalm 61:2)

“You will keep her in perfect peace whose mind is stayed (anchored) on You, because she trusts in You.” (Is. 26:3)

Give thanks unto Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness endures for ever, and His faithfulness unto all generations.” (Psalm100: 4-5).

Touchstones (rocks) for me...to help navigate and endure the bumps of life.

Merrily then, let’s roll along, into this new year……


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 3, 2015 2:09 pm
Published in: Ugali

For those of you interested in more pics of our fixer-upper-in-process (see last blog post), here’s a shot of our recently updated guest bathroom:

I had so much fun finding/pulling together the various items in this room (including the curtain kikoi, bargained for at Maasai Market, of course). The colors in this bathroom always bring a nice, soothing injection of calmness into my day, whenever I pass by.

They always make me feel good.

However…that is about all I’ve been doing with this bathroom lately: passing by.

See the recently installed instant (electric) hot-water showerhead peeking out from behind the curtain, above the windows?  Not working. Mainly because there’s not been enough water pressure coming through the pipes to ensure that the temperature (on the “hot” setting, the only one functioning) is less than scalding.

Isaac-the-electrician (I have all three of his mobile numbers now) has already been here two or three times, persistently trying to get it all sorted/fixed. But he has been defeated (a favorite Kenyan saying) up to now.

Sigh. We had such high hopes for this bathroom, as our own master bath has “issues” of its own. The shower/tub in there has been leaking (apparently for months, long before we arrived) through the floor and into the downstairs apartment.

Which means that our master bathroom shower is unusable to us as we wait for parts/repair…(currently into week three…or is it four?).

And, since yesterday, the coup-de-grace: because a large teacher conference is taking place at the adjacent high school (with which we share a water supply), there has been no water at all coming through the pipes (kitchen taps, bathroom, toilets).

Nada. Zip-Zero-Zilch. Hakuna maji.

I’m told that the conference will go on for a few weeks, ending right before Christmas. We might then get a week or two of regular water before the boarding high school and university students come back in early January…

…when the cycle of “no water” will most likely begin again.

Discouraging. Disappointing. Disheartening. No water = no shower = no dishes = no washing hands = no laundry = no flushing toilets. EXCEPT from the effort of hauling huge quantities/buckets/barrels of the stuff up the stairs each morning from the outside tap.

However, only a few got there in time this morning before that pipe also went dry (we got one small bucket).

So, as I was contemplating

  • living in this lovely-but-waterless apartment for, perhaps, the next few weeks/months…(years?);
  • taking the two-hour trip to Kijabe or the three-hour trip to Nairobi every other weekend just to get my hair properly washed/rinsed and our clothes, sheets, and towels clean (there are no U.S.-style laundromats in Kenya, folks);
  • the fact that “this is not what I signed up for” when I imagined coming back to Kenya…(as a “spoiled and privileged” American missionary, I never had to really deal much with this issue/problem in Kijabe/Nairobi, even though I am well-aware [on an intellectual, abstract basis] that this is the normal way of life for most Kenyans);

I was beginning to feel pretty sorry for myself.

Until…I glanced out the window; and saw this:

Clothesline

 

And heard, from downstairs, my two lovely Kenyan neighbors chatting and laughing away together, enjoying the day and each other’s company, oblivious to (or at least not focusing on) the current water problem that is affecting us all.

As I continued listening to them visit with each other, two thoughts hit me, almost simultaneously:

  • They were not feeling sorry for themselves (even with “inconvenient water”, they had managed to hang out the morning laundry, for crying out loud);

And

  • I can learn so much from them.

I quickly made my way downstairs to join them in the laughter, truly enjoying the easy camaraderie and budding friendships that are beginning to develop with both of these dear ladies.  They informed me that “Block 1” (out of 8 faculty four-plex apartment buildings here on campus) is considered to be the “Happy Block“, where the neighbors treat each other as “family”.

I am so grateful that we were put here, in this block.  More than having running water, God knew that this is just exactly where I needed to be when moving into this new place.

High hopes.  I have such high hopes, living here with my new neighbors and friends.  High hopes for learning from them

  • Patience
  • Grace
  • Humility
  • Acceptance
  • Laughter
  • Joy

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you are involved in various trials…” (James 1:2)

Fruits of the Spirit.  Things I desperately need at the moment.  Attitudes that will help me cope with this current-but-ultimately minor (when put into perspective) water situation/irritation.

Anchors that will help to prepare me for when the major irritations and difficulties (sure to come) inevitably appear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 14, 2015 6:38 pm
Published in: Ugali

Fixer Upper

Those of you who know me well know that I am a huge fan of “HGTV” when in the U.S.  My favorite shows have included “House Hunters International”, “Beachfront Bargain Hunt” (my dream, someday), and my current favorite of this past year, “Fixer Upper”.

So, as you can imagine, I’ve been looking forward to FIXING UP our new (to us) living space here at Kabarak University. The apartment we’ve been assigned is large and spacious, with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms (lots of room for visitors).

There’s also the cozy kitchen that Bruce had already “Fixer/Upper’d” for me, prior to my arrival: new floor tile (to replace the cracked, moldy linoleum) and the installation of upper storage cabinets (where previously there had been only the blank, white wall).

DSC00838

 

So now, it’s my turn. Even though basic beds, table & chairs, and a few “well-loved” couches for the living room have been graciously provided, we will need to furnish/purchase everything else:

  • all kitchen appliances, dishes, pots & pans;
  • all bedroom furnishings, towels, sheets;
  • all rugs, curtains, end tables, office equipment;
  • all the pictures, all the “doodads”

Everything that is necessary to fix this place up and make it our own.

Fortunately, there’s a “Nakumatt” (Kenya’s equivalent to “Target”) in Nakuru, 22 kms (about 30 minutes) away from the Kabarak campus. And, unlike the former Kijabe-to-Nairobi “on high alert” drive we used to make, the road from here to town is actually quite relaxing and pleasant:

First, there are the lush eucalyptus border trees between which one drives as the road winds past the Kabarak Guesthouse and the long, gated driveway leading to former President Moi’s home/estate (note: “His Excellency, Mzee” is the financial Patron and Chancellor of Kabarak University).

 

DSC00863

 

Next, the road morphs into “Acacia Alley” for a few kilometers. These quintessential African thorn trees spread their horizontal branches wide, providing shade for the occasional herd of cows, sheep, or goats grazing lazily beneath them, under the (hopefully) watchful eyes of their youthful handlers, who are armed only with long sticks to keep their flocks from bolting across the road (they are not always successful, I might add).

 

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After that, it’s time to slow down (for the speed bumps, of course; there are 15 in all) as I reach the little village of Kiamunyi, where the “Camp David Suites” apartment building features prominently on the edge of town, next to the “Mama Brains” shop (someday when I’m a brave, I’ll have to stop and find out what kinds of “things” she sells in there).

 

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Next is the village of Canaan (pronounced “Cah-nahn”) where I pass the “Promise Cereal’s Store”, adjacent to “Bethel Cakes and Snacks”.  At the edge of this village is the “Mustard School”, actually the “Mustard Seed” school, but I didn’t catch that until my fourth or fifth time past it. Here is where the view opens up dramatically over Nakuru town, the Rift Valley, and Lake Nakuru beyond (site of Nakuru National Park); all majestically framed by the Mau Escarpment in the distance.

 

DSC00886

 

It was during one of these peaceful “to-and-fro” drives last week that I once again became aware of a feeling that has occurred almost each and every time I have returned to Kenya, especially after a prolonged absence:

I am happier here. This is where I’m supposed to be; this is where I belong.

As in the past, this startling, bolt-from-the-blue realization seems to bubble up from somewhere deep inside and into my conscious thought, happening unexpectedly, taking me by surprise.

I am happier here.

Even with

  • the start of the El Nino rains, which I know will bring its own challenges, including a new crop of “superbugs” (see “It’s a Bug’s Life”);
  • the newly-installed-but-has-never-worked instant hot water heater for the kitchen sink;
  • the microwave (also new) which “flamed out” a few days ago;
  • the giant cockroach living under our living room cabinet (spotted in the early mornings);
  • the shower in our bathroom, which is more of a “sprinkle” and not really sufficient for washing one’s hair (but somehow is leaking into the wall and down into the apartment beneath us, as we were informed today);

 This is where I’m supposed to be.

 And even though

  • I got extremely irritated with Bruce a few days ago for leaving an important document (necessary for obtaining new work permits) back home in the U.S….
  • …until he pointed out (gently, I might add) that I too had forgotten to pack my very own same important document (which I had thought I had packed…)

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention

to the plank in your own eye?” Matt. 7:3

 Ouch.

 Apparently, it’s not only the apartment that needs some “Fixer/Upper”ing around here…seems like somebody’s attitude could also use a bit of an adjustment.

“God resists the proud; but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Humbleness.

Grace.

Attitudes that are vital to my very existence here.

Because I know, from past experience, that there will be many times in the coming weeks and months when humbleness and grace will be the only things that will see me through

  • the cultural “faux pas” which are sure to occur…
  • the misunderstandings/miscommunications with our own fellow missionaries;
  • the frustrations with Kenyan politics, Kenyan rules, Kenyan traffic and roads
  • the frequent, regular power outages and water scarcities

So, here I am, Lord.  Have at it: have Your way with me, as you gently and graciously work to fix me up, so that I might, through your power, become more like You.

Because… this is where I belong.

 

FIX your eyes upon Jesus…. (Hebrews 12:2)

…and humble yourself under God’s mighty hand,

that He may lift you UP (1 Peter 5:6)

 

 

November 1, 2015 3:04 am
Published in: Good

We arrived in Kenya two nights ago. The jet lag arrived today.

It’s finally caught up with me; just like I knew it would.

Whole-body weariness, the kind that settles on you like an oppressive blanket, enveloping you not with a sense of warmth or comfort, but rather heaviness and subjugation, leaving one powerless in its mind-numbing grip.

I do not do well with jet lag.

I am not like some (i.e., Bruce) who are able to push through/ignore jet lag and keep to a normal schedule of the day, the idea being to force the body to adapt quicker to the new time zone.

This has never worked for me. Even if I do manage to stay up until 9 or 10 at night, I will most assuredly find myself wide-awake and raring to go at 1:30 or 2 a.m. the next morning, my brain on Minnesota time, eight hours behind the Kenya clock.

Maybe a week, maybe ten days, before the “lag” catches up with the “jet”.

The two long flights themselves were fine: on time and uneventful, just the way we like them. Economy-class-cramped, crowded with every seat taken (who are all these people flying to Nairobi on a non-holiday, ordinary Thursday morning?), and the sometimes less-than-appetizing airplane food aside, I still marvel that one can be half-way around the world, 8,000 miles away from home, in less than 24 hours.

Including the four-hour layover at the lovely Schiphol (Amsterdam) airport, always a treat. A major airport renovation was happening there, resulting in many shops being closed or covered in plastic; my favorite restaurant’s “giant teacup” tables (see pic below from a previous trip) were also missing, which was a bit disappointing.

TeacupSchiphol

Still, nothing beats a warm Dutch chocolate croissant and strong cup of Starbucks to perk one up at 5:30 a.m. after an eight-hour overnight, mostly sleepless flight across the ocean, illuminated this time by a full moon in a cloudless sky, Orion shining brightly through the window.

And it hits me, once again, that this is my life. This is the life that I get to live. Me, a small town Iowa farmer’s daughter, introverted and cautious, not an adventure seeker in any way but someone who married the extrovert with the big dreams, and has an even bigger God, who has made it all happen for us over these past 20+ years.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea….” (Ps. 139:9)

Here we go, once again. Moving back to Kenya with four trunks and two suitcases (plus carryons) crammed to the hilt (and bang on 50 pounds each, the allowed limit, thanks to ultra-packer-extraordinaire Bruce) with

  • clothes
  • shoes
  • books
  • DVDs
  • food
  • kitchen gadgets
  • more clothes
  • more books
  • and whatever-else-other-random-thing-Kate-thinks-she-needs

for our two-year commitment to teach and mentor Christian doctors and nursing students at Kabarak University.

“…even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast” (Ps. 139: 10).

God is here.

Even as I deal with jet lag and bittersweet feelings of loss for my precious U.S. family and life, I feel it: His presence, His eye on me like a steady beam of light, full of love and assurance, for me, as I lay awake through the early morning hours under the mosquito net, pondering the “what ifs” and “what will be’s” of our once-again new life in Kenya.

As I once again listen to the gentle Swahili cadences of the early morning workers arriving to fix our breakfast; as I once again learn how to “ballet-dance” drive, weave, and bob in and out of the heart-stopping traffic through the ever-more-congested city streets; and as I once again get to walk beneath the willowy jacaranda trees fast dropping their luscious purple petals, carpeting the sidewalks and roads.

jacarandaNBI

 

As I once again begin to fall in love with this country and its people who have been such a big part of my life and who are so dear to my heart.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man
the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”
(1 Cor. 2:9).

 He is here.  God with us.  Immanuel.

And He has prepared the way.  It is He who is here through the jet lag, as I fix my mind on Him during these sleepless wee hours of the night.  And it is He who will guide us, and hold us fast, as we step out in faith here in Africa, once again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2, 2015 11:43 am
Published in: Good

We are having a whole lotta “good” in our lives right now (as opposed to “bad” or “ugali”;  see “Hello World” post that explains our blog title).

Our firstborn son is getting married to the love of his life, two weeks from today.

So, we (darling daughter, lovely daughter-in-law-to-be, amazing sister-in-law, “good sport” son, me, and just about anybody else we come across who will listen to our chatter) are currently in the throes of wedding preparations.

Actually, throes is not the correct word at all, as it means “in the middle of doing or dealing with something very difficult or painful”.

This is so not what we are doing; this is so not the adjective to describe this surreal, enchanting, magical, incredible “micro-season” of our lives.

We are joyfully having the time of our lives, dashing around to buy this charming decorative ornament, these lovely flowers, that color of table runner (“aubergine”), those twinkly lights, reserving hotel rooms, organizing the rehearsal time and OH YES, planning for that dinner, too…

And me…. buying no less than five mother-of-the-groom dresses. Yes, five. Three have already gone back to the store; and the last one not making the cut goes back today, leaving

  • the flowing, elegant one that is something blue. Together with
  • the diamond-like earrings, necklace, and bracelet from a friend (something borrowed);
  • the sparkly shoes with just enough “bling” (something new);
  • and the something old?   Well now….all those things must adorn someone…

(Yes, I realize thesesomethings” are the bride’s purview. But hey….it’s my blog and I’ll something if I want to…).

Good. It’s all good…so incredibly, wonderfully good.

Because there is nothing so wonderful as seeing one of your children find the right person with whom to spend the rest of his or her life.

It’s been a long time coming for our Erik.

Thirty-three years ago this past April, Bruce and I were blessed with an extremely unique, amazing and whip-smart little boy.

Boundary Waters Boys - Version 2

An exceptional, reserved, one-of-a-kind type of guy who has had his fair share of challenges in this world…but one who has always stayed to “true” to his inner self, who knows clearly “who he is” and what he wants out of life.

We admire that in him, even though at times, we may have not always agreed with his decisions.

And…his life hasn’t always been easy.

Especially when his parents dragged him to live halfway around the world, out of his comfort zone and into the metaphorical “jungle”, to Kenya; all at the tender age of 10.

We had been called….but he had not.

Oh…there was no “kicking and screaming”; but for a sensitive, introverted guy like our Erik, this “new adventure” must have come completely “out of the blue” for him.

But he, born with the kind of temperament that can stand strong, even in times of personal adversity, somehow managed to adapt and survive, if not exactly thrive, over there during those two and a half years.

Erik and Twiga

And we, the called-by-God-but-still-fallible parents, feeling our share of “missionary guilt” over the years, have apologized, sincerely from the heart, for the pain and the sacrifice that such a move to Kenya must have caused him; for all the things it might have cost him, so many long years ago.

We think he’s forgiven us…..(smile). He still loves Kenyan chai and is always asking us to bring carvings or malachite figurines back with us when we go there (so he can give them to friends).

And he has continued to be a “survivor” through all of the curveballs that life has thrown at him:

  • through junior high (knowing no one in his class of over 1000 students in 8th grade, to successfully finding his place and his “group” by high school graduation);
  • college (a “break-up” experience with a long-time girlfriend of three years);
  • post-graduate education (it’s not exactly gone the way we all thought it might, although he’s still hanging in there).

He has done all of this with courage, fortitude, and determination, always moving forward even when it would have been easy, some of those times, to just “throw in the towel”.

We are so proud of him.

Even though we haven’t always agreed with some of his life choices (this does not include his choice of fiancee; we adore her!). But they are his choices; he “owns” them.  And that is the way it should be.

So, happy wedding, Erik!  We are so grateful to God for the way He has brought you and Mizuho together. We want you to know that on your special day, we will be appropriately reserved, dignified, and restrained in our outward demonstrations of love and affection towards you.

But inwardly, we will be jumping up and down, thrilled, ecstatic, whooping and hollering with joy, as we watch you get married to the person with whom you are complete.

Just look into our eyes…it will all be there.

 

 

September 12, 2015 9:53 pm
Published in: Bad

 ….coming through my door;

Was it Rachel weeping for her sons who were no more?
Could it have been the babies crying for themselves,
Never understanding that they died for someone else?

(“Spirit of the Age”, Michael Card, Birdwing Music, 1986)

 For those of you who are my “Facebook friends”, you know that I have “waded in” (perhaps jumped in with both feet would be more accurate) to the current controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood; specifically, the undercover videos that have been released (nine so far) that have exposed some of the more gruesome and shocking facts about the abortion industry and the selling of fetal body parts.

I am against abortion. Always have been. I am staunchly, rabidly “pro-life”, or if you prefer (which I don’t), “anti-abortion”. The publication of these videos has once again caused the spotlight to shine hard onto this barbaric, heinous, inhumane procedure that is still happening, day after day, year after year, in our country…

…while most of us just go on with our daily lives. We simply can’t be bothered, we simply do not care; or, rather, we just don’t care enough.

Out of sight…out of mind.

  • “Please don’t show us those horrid videos…we will be sick” (yes, that is the point, actually).
  • “They (the videos) can’t be ‘real’; they’ve all been ‘faked’” (nice try; it would be too awful if they were true, so let’s bury our heads in the sand and fling mud).
  • “It’s not that bad; PP does so many other good things; abortions only count for 3% of their services” (really? Please watch this: PP’s 3% Myth)

I’ve been posting links about this issue on my “wall” at facebook every few weeks since the videos came out, and will probably continue to do so. I realize that it’s not much, but at least to me, it seems to be better than doing nothing at all (which is what I had been doing).

Perhaps you don’t agree.

Perhaps you are one of the ones who have “gently chided” me because I am not doing more to be actively “pro-life” in terms of getting involved with pregnant women: offering to take in their unborn babies, providing them with alternatives to this terrible choice, etc.

Yes. I am sure I could do more. Now that I’m living in the Twin Cities for the next eight weeks, I’m already checking out what it is I might be able to do…(and have been thinking about starting with 40 days for life…always a good idea to begin with prayer and fasting).

And, when I return to Kenya later this year, I will once again look for a ministry similar to “The Least Of These” (orphans and vulnerable children) that I was a part of from 2008-2010 in Nairobi. Can hardly wait to get involved with something like that again.

Kate and Friends

Kate and Friends

But, can I make one small comment? If you feel you must chide me for my “pro-birth” (but not “pro-life”, according to Sister Joan Chittister) stance, please, can I ask you, gently of course, to not do so, unless you are also

  • actively involved in caring for, say…smokers and helping them to quit because you are against cigarette smoking (you could give out nicotine patches to smokers on the street, or in homeless shelters…); or
  • actively involved in the new refugee crisis because it’s horrendous and appalling (volunteer to take in a family, write to your legislators, adopt a people group); or
  • actively involved in rescuing women from sex trafficking, ISIS, pornography, drunk driving, or whatever cause pushes your buttons or sets you “off”…because

Come on now…isn’t it just possible to be totally against the process of something, especially something as horrific as abortion, the destruction and death (most often by violent crushing and/or dismemberment of body parts) to members of the human race, without throwing the “smoke and mirrors” of social action around the issue, so that the primary focus on this cruel and brutal procedure is obscured?

Smoke and mirrors. Red Herrings. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain….” Confound the issue so that people will look over here; while the real issue, the killing, the murder, the butchery, is going on over there (2000+ performed, just today).

Many people have written eloquently on this topic since the videos have started. This week, it has been an article by Katelyn Beaty (“The Power of Pro-life Women”*), the managing editor Christianity Today magazine, that has caught my attention. In CT’s September, 2015 issue, she writes:

As the videos continue to stir public debate, we can expect to hear a common refrain: If you care about women, you will support their right to choose an abortion. You are either for women’s well-being and empowerment, or you are pro-life…

            This is a false dichotomy—one that women in particular need to dismantle.”

Yes. One is not against women if one is pro-life.

Beaty goes on to describe ways in which women are beginning to address the abortion issue, by shaping future government legislation and in continuing to expose the lie of abortion as being empowering for women.   “To be pro-women is to be pro-life…. abortion is not a ‘women’s issue’; rather, it is a human issue that affects women uniquely”.

I hope you take the time to read this article. And, in whatever way you can, I hope that you also might be able to find your voice and speak up, as Michael Card has so eloquently written, for all the ones who seemed to die…for nothing.

And, with all due respect to Sister Joan, it is my humble opinion that to be “pro-birthis to be “pro-life”, in the most basic, fundamental sense of these words.

Because abortion…always…always…brings death.

 

“Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die;

save them as they stagger to their death.

Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.”

For God understands all hearts, and he sees you.

He who guards your soul knows you knew.

He will repay all people as their actions deserve.”

(Ps. 24, 11-12)

 

Beaty, K. (2015). The power of pro-life women. Christianity Today (59), 7. Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/september/power-of-pro-life-women.html.

 

September 5, 2015 11:25 am
Published in: Ugali

We (Ryan and I) got me all packed up at the house, and I moved out on Friday last week.

After

  • Four weeks of packing up every closet, every drawer, every nook, every cranny;
  • Stuffing it all into the back storage room of the Taj (where it all fits, thankfully);
  • Cleaning, scrubbing, vacuuming, and chasing down every lacy spider web trail;
  • Canceling the DirecTV, the garbage pickup, the membership at the “Y”;
  • Draining, anti-freezing, and tarping the hot tub; (because the renters don’t want to maintain it)
  • Getting the top and bottom lawns mowed, all the weeds whacked (nicely done by Ryan)

And, on “the day”, making sure the lovely young family moving in had all the complete instructions they needed about each and every quirky little nuance of our house (the new heat tape plug for the Taj water pipes; the special instructions for the kitchen window roll shutter, etc etc)…

After all of that…there was nothing left to do, except to turn over the keys…and leave.

So now, I am officially “homeless” for the next eight weeks.

Only in a First World sense, of course. I have good friends and generous relatives who have kindly volunteered to “take me in”. Me, with TWO carloads of suitcases/trunks/boxes/jackets and this-and-that-miscellaneous-item-that-I-might-or-might-not-need-over-the-next-eight-weeks-and/or-to-take-to-Kenya

So….when Chloe threw up on the bed at first light a few days ago (while we were staying at a friend’s house)…because her doggie blanket, which normally should have been there to protect the bedspread, had been packed/forgotten/gone, somewhere…

And even though my friend, warm and understanding as she always is, took it calmly in stride …

I lost it.

Couldn’t stop the tears from slowly trickling down my face, even as I leaped out of bed to race for the water, soap, spot remover, whatever in the frantic rush to scrub/wash it out.

I thought I had been holding it all together quite well until then, thank you very much.

But it only took one small, unexpected bit of doggie burp-up to tip me over the edge.

Because, right at that moment…the reality, the enormity of this whole thing that has been going on for weeks and months (years in the planning, actually), this big-hairy-audacious-thing (as a friend of ours has named it) that we are doing once again…all came crashing in.

In one crystallized instant, I realized:

  • How much stress it is to pack up one’s current life to leave for another, even though both are equally loved and valued
  • How tied I am to a sense of place; and to want to “belong” somewhere, to not feel “rootless” and “extraneous”, like a vagabond, even for a very short amount of time
  • How much, in recent weeks, people’s kind-and-well-meaning-but-shot-through-the-heart comments had affected me (“TWO years??” “I could never leave my dog”; “How can you leave this beautiful place?”)
  • How fragile I truly am (perhaps it’s age-related…)

And how much in that instant, even though I know that what we’re doing is the right thing to do, which has been confirmed again and again through countless and faith-building events that continue to amaze (just this week we sold the car for the asking price, but can still keep using it till late October)…

In that instantI just wanted to go home.

Sometimes, reality bites. And it is not pleasant. Quite frankly, I would not be able to do any of this….except for one thing:

“If the LORD had not been on our side (let Israel now say),….[things] would have swallowed me alive…the flood would have engulfed us…the raging waters would have swept me away.” (Psalm 124: 1, 3-5).

I would not be able to pack up and leave my lovely home on a beautiful lake in northern Minnesota…..except that He is the one who has asked me to do it.

I could not leave my precious family (and faithful, stressed-out dog) to go to a new place, half-way around the world, where I will once again “start over” with making friends, finding my way, teaching and living…unless He was in it, guiding and leading and promising to “never leave or forsake me”.

“Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7).

Flint_stones_HC1

To “set one’s face like flint” means to “decisively, resolutely, and whole-heartedly follow the LORD JESUS CHRIST regardless of what the world thinks or says about us” (Brazeal, 2012).

And this: “Setting your face like flint implies that you’re expecting some opposition, to stand strong in the face of adversity. To set your face like flint means to regard these difficulties as worthwhile when you consider what they will lead you to…” (Gyamathy, 2013).

It means having the resolve to surrender your whole life to Him.

Jesus, Jesus, take me over now, I surrender

Everything I have, I lay it down

All of me.*

For all the good things I have in my life, it’s Jesus, the ultimate Reality, that matters most.  He is the only One who can enable me to do the hard things that I need to do right now.

So, “Yes, Lord”.  Yes.  Once again I resolve to set my face like flint, so that I may follow hard after You.

(* Michael W. Smith, Wonder, 2010)

 

 

 

 

August 10, 2015 9:12 am
Published in: Ugali

I’ve been packing up the house, “slowly by slowly” (a favorite Kenya expression of ours, comparable to the American “little by little”). It’s “that time” again, to pack up the stuff, “this American life”, into boxes and containers, to be stored in various places around our property: the shed, the Taj, the “secret spaces” above the laundry room and bedroom closets (oops, guess they’re not so secret anymore…).

Here we go, again. Once more into the “breach”, i.e., once more into the world of missions, one more time to move from our lovely, idyllic, lake-side home in northern Minnesota to go half-way around the world to Kenya, Africa. Paradoxically, this part never gets any easier, and yet, it doesn’t seem all that difficult. After all, it’s not my first rodeo, folks; I’ve been there, done that; and I have the “Mzungu” t-shirt, somewhere, to prove it…

I know how to do this packing thing. I know to start early, organize by categories, do the knick-knacks and pictures first, then the various drawer spaces (who remembered there were all those tapered candles in the living room cabinet?), the books, the office, the Christmas dishes and glassware that only get used once a year.

And the clothes: easy to pack the winter things that won’t be required in the equatorial African sun. All the bulky coats, the sweaters, and the seven pairs of boots (yes, seven; I live where it’s winter 5-6 months of the year, people). Harder to know which clothes to take and which I will need to get me through the autumn season until I fly out in late October. I take one look into the closet and decide to decide on this, “later”…

Bruce, already in Kenya for a few weeks, did his part before he left, all the “big stuff” like fixing the roof leak, cutting up the dead, felled tree, and cleaning out the garage to make room for the furniture that our renters will not use or don’t want.   He is doing well so far, loving his new life at Kabarak University (see if you can spot him, late in this link, depicting the launch of the School of Medicine that recently took place): http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/ktnnews/video/watch/2000096569/-kabarak-university-has-launched-two-new-schools-at-the-university).

And, I don’t really mind, all this packing. I have the time, the whole month, to get it all done, to enjoy these last few weeks by the lake during the best time of the northern Minnesota summer. It’s beautiful and lovely, with all the trees in their greened out lusciousness, the rock garden plants giving pops of color here and there, the two Adirondack chairs down by the water’s edge inviting me to linger, the nightly call of the loons back and forth across the water, lulling me to sleep.

I am so blessed to have this place to call home; it has been a true sanctuary for me.

 

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View from House

 

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Morning Coffee with Chloe

 

And yet…it’s time…to pack it all up and go.

Because, the reality is that this place, with all of its “treasure”, is only so much space, so much stuff. And, quite frankly…it is not even “ours”. Not really.

…For a moment, we are here together
And it hits me that this won’t last forever

We can’t own it
We just get to hold it for a while
This Life.
We can’t keep it
Or save it for another time.
This Life…

What we give is all we have
How we love is what will last
And this Hope we know will carry us through this life.

            (“This Life” by the Afters, 2013)

One thing I know (although with each successive move I must learn it again): as much as possible when I pack, it’s best to hold things lightly, with open hands and heart.

 “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”

(James 4:13-14)

 “I’ve learned that we must hold everything loosely, because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when the Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me”

(Corrie Ten Boom)

 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal…For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”

(Matthew 6:19, 21)

 So, as poignant and bittersweet as it always is, I am glad that I have this time. I will wander around our house and property to soak in the ambience of it all, the whimsical beauty of the northwoods, while I say goodbye.

I will savor each special object, every unique treasure that we’ve collected over the years as I pack them away, one by one, until I see them again, “next time”.

And I will hold them all, fondly but lightly, in my heart.

Because the true Treasure, the Hope who holds my heart, is here to carry me through.

 

August 1, 2015 4:09 pm
Published in: Good

“I have a little shadow; she goes everywhere with me….”*

We have an 11-year-old dog, Chloe, that we’ve had since she was about six weeks old. She was a present to my daughter and me back in 2004 when we were living in Kenya and down to our last child. Kaari, missing her two older brothers (in college in the U.S.), had turned to me one day in July and said, simply, “Mom…we need a dog”.

Lots of expatriates living in Kenya have dogs, for lots of different reasons. Usually they tend to be on the larger side, like a German shepherd, perhaps; or, an exotic brand like the Rhodesian ridgeback (Rugongo) we were privileged to “babysit” for a year while her owners were on home assignment. In fact, dog-sitting other families’ dogs had been the norm for us. In addition to the ridgeback, over the years we had also welcomed a border collie (Max), a golden retriever (Jenna), and one sweet old black Labrador (Cinder), who had been passed around among several families before she got to us (and stayed, faithfully, until she died).

We were also once “adopted” by a cat (Whisper), whose owners had left and who, perhaps, had escaped the family that she had been given to, if there had been one (we never found out). Not really being “cat people” (because of allergies for two of us), she nevertheless determined that we were her new family. As we seemed to have little choice in the matter, she stayed, and became dearly loved; until her cat “nine lives” (and then some) ran out (note to future Kenya ex-pats: unless you can keep them totally inside, cats are probably not the best idea…).

So, when Kaari asked for a dog in her junior year of high school, I was approachable; but did not really relish the thought of getting a “big dog”. Big dogs meant big vet bills, big food purchases, and big…”everything” else. And, having lived in a “pass-the-dog-around” community for a few years, I knew that it was sometimes quite hard to find the right family to watch your dog when it was your turn to leave for those sometimes lengthy home assignments.

However, we simply couldn’t resist the picture of a cute, wispy-looking puppy on the “Notice Board” at Sarit Centre (in Nairobi) one day. The adorable little puffball depicted there appeared to have “baby zebra stripes”, black alternating with white, and an extravagant plume of a curly tail. The price was right, and so was the timing. And so, we found ourselves heading over to check him out…

Mr. Zebra-Stripe was enchanting; however, he was also very rambunctious, and actually, a little bitty rascal. Two things that were not exactly what I had had in mind. So, we picked out his sweet-tempered sister instead, who, although lacking the stripes, was just as adorable, and had endearing, cheetah-like tear marks” of black from the inner corners of both eyes downwards across each side of her face…

Eleven years later, she is still with us, cheetah-stripes fading with age, having made the trip across the ocean in 2010 with me to our northern MN home. (And that is another whole 30-minute story in itself; it’s a miracle we both survived that ordeal…a trip, I might add, which will only happen once in her lifetime). She is now, of course, my dog, with the daughter long-gone, first to college, then career, then career + marriage.

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Adult Chloe

And, I am her person. She absolutely adores me, and is happiest when she can be where I am at all times. When I get up in the morning, she is there, on the bed or right next to it. Like a shadow, she follows me: into the bathroom, down the stairs for coffee, up the stairs to get dressed, back down for breakfast, etc. All day long, day in, day out.  When I go outside, she might whine and carry on if I don’t let her out with me. And when I do come back, she will happily run to greet me from wherever she has been, waiting and watching, for my return.

If I have been gone for an extended time, she will be ecstatic, sometimes barking, sometimes weaving herself in and out between my legs, rubbing her face all over them, with salty-doggy- messy-licky kisses. Tail and whole body manic with wagging and wriggling. Sometimes this occurs even if I’ve been gone only a few hours.

When we return to Kenya fulltime later this year, Chloe will move in with Kaari and Zach. They will love and care for her well, and for this I am truly grateful. But it will be hard for me to leave her; in fact, I’m thinking that it will be much harder than leaving my adult kids, who will at least understand where we are going, and why.

Chloe won’t. From past, shorter trips we’ve taken to Kenya, I know she will be devastated and depressed for days, even weeks. And I will miss her, too; more than I can say.

Dogs have always been important in my life. No one loves you like your dog: totally; unconditionally; no strings attached. And God, in His wisdom, has used them to teach me various important spiritual truths over the years (see 200307 Lessons from Max, “Dahlman Diaries”).

What I have learned from sweet Chloe is this: true love is

  • Trusting
  • Expectant
  • Vigilant
  • Steadfast
  • Faithful
  • True
  • No strings attached.

A lot like the way that the Father loves us. Tangible, furry expressions of unconditional love.   Good examples of how He would want us to love others.

Thank you, Chloe, for personifying these few small, but incredibly poignant, truths about dogs…(and ok, perhaps cats, too).

*(“A Child’s Garden of Verses”, Robert Louis Stevenson; a paraphrase)

July 17, 2015 7:49 pm
Published in: Ugali

“It’s so wonderful what you’re doing! But you know, I have to say that I just couldn’t do what you’re doing; I could never

  • Be a missionary
  • Move to Africa
  • Leave my family/job/friends/children

It would be too hard or impossible for me. But…it’s SO GREAT that God has called you to do this!”

We get remarks like this a lot.

We will inevitably hear some version of the above from someone, whenever we share our story about being medical missionaries to Africa. And now, with our anticipated and upcoming move back to Kenya, we are sure to be hearing it again.

And when we do, we will smile. And, we will thank these dear people, warmly, sincerely, generously, for their support, their encouragement, their enthusiasm, and their love for us.

Because, quite frankly, we need all of their support, encouragement, enthusiasm and love. These things help to sustain and enable us to leave the comforts of our wonderful community, friends, and family, once again. For all of these things (and more) that so many people freely give to us, we are indeed most humbly and truly grateful.

And yet…

A small part of us also perhaps cringes a bit, feels a bit sad, inside. Because, we also know something, have learned something over these years, these decades of moving back and forth across the world. Something that we don’t know if we would have ever known or learned as fully, had we stayed home and had not “done this missionary thing” that we’ve been doing for almost 25 years.

We would have missed out.

We would have never known His bigger plan for us

We would have missed seeing how

  • Faithful
  • Trustworthy
  • Real
  • Loving 
  • Big

That He is.

 We would have missed out on this incredible, round-the-world, crazy life that God has called and enabled us to live.

 I could have missed all of that.

 I (Kate)…I did not want to go. That first time, back in 1992, I did not want to go and leave my idyllic life behind: a perfect job, a lovely new home, a vibrant and loving church family, a community that embraced us, a place where we were putting down roots, establishing good and deep friendships, for us and for our children. My very own American dream of a life.

I wanted to “bloom where I was (firmly) planted”, and thank you very much.

Bloom Where You're Planted5

But…Bruce wanted to go. Bruce had felt a “call” on his life to follow Christ “wherever” from an early age; a call that had never wavered through college, medical school, or practicing medicine in a small town for eight years while we worked to pay off school loans.

And so, when the timing was right and the opportunity was there for us to make the big decision, the move which would begin his real, anticipated and longed-for life, Bruce was ready.

Kate was not; but she knew that this was how he was “wired” from the time she had first met him. She knew what she was signing on for when she agreed to marry this incredibly focused, extremely talented and amazing man. And she had agreed, at least in principle, to the idea of being willing to “go”. In fact, as a child and young adult, she, too, had felt the “tug” from God about perhaps following Him into a life of missionary service, should He ever choose to call her there (“your mission, should you choose to accept it….”).

I had an obligation to fulfill, with no real excuse; and so, reluctantly, I went. And that, my dear friends, just as in the poem by Robert Frost*, has made all the difference

Had I stayed, I might have not learned:

  • How quickly God moves when He wants something accomplished;
  • How, when you give up something for God, He gives it all back, in ways you couldn’t possibly have anticipated (we call these “missionary secrets”)
  • How He works to meet the deepest, most secret fears and worries you have about yourself or your children
  • How much He cares about those things; and how trustworthy He is, with all of it.

And so…I get it. I truly do. When people come up to us now and say things about not being able to “do what we do”. I know; I understand; I’ve been there.

But…what I really want to say is this:

Don’t miss your life.

If you have ever felt that tug/pull/call from God, if He has been calling you somewhere, please don’t miss out.

Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from following what you believe God has called you to do.

Don’t be content to live in the shadows of an ordinary, lamp-lit life when the full color sunshine is out there, just around the bend, over the next horizon, with your name on it.

Just do it….just take that road less traveled, and experience a fullness of life that you can’t even imagine is waiting for you right now.

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He is also there, waiting for you.  And that makes all the difference.

*”The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost (1920)