Luke 24:13-32
This is Jesus heartburn(I have to credit Dallas Willard for this term!)...31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Worst Driver Ever

On the first day I lived in St. Cloud I pulled into the left turn lane…to um, turn left!…and a car 2 lanes over…in the right turn land…turned LEFT! Right in front of me. I remember thinking WHAT in the world is wrong with this place. Why did God send me here to live…they drive like maniacs!

But today, I must confess that I, myself, have turned into the worst driver ever! Crazy drivers in St. Cloud have NOTHING on my new skills. They taught me defensive driving in Drivers Ed…in Sierra Leone, it's all Men, Women, motorcycles, cars, trucks, and podas for themselves; AGGRESSIVE driving is the key to getting anywhere...that and an EXTREME amount of patience and sense of humor!

 I've only been driving for a few months here and I've had quite a few adventures:

First, there was the bus…yes, I hid a big "grey-hound" bus with my little car. It wasn't pleasant…I had to choose, the bus, the ditch (which by the way is a steep drop off) or the 2 motorcycles coming straight at me! And I chose the bus…and it was a hit and run because I just kept driving…I didn't want to end up in jail or have them confiscate my car until I gave them enough money to return the bus to perfect condition…and I figure I only took out my side mirror so what real damage did I do to the bus anyway…and no one was watching;)

One day I was out, taking a road that I take often and people started running at the car and shouting at me…seems that it was a "Common Understanding" that the route of the road was changed for the day…I needed to go through the parking lot to make a left turn…Ooops! Sorry, where are the road signs? Detour signs? Help a girl out!
And speak of road signs, I drive by stop signs all the time and don't stop. Osseh says they are just suggestions, and I hope he's right, and that he means that about ALL stop signs in SL…I think there are 3 or 4!
I have learned that it is acceptable to park your vehicle just about anywhere…in the middle of the street is fine…in fact if you want to park it in a manner that blocks all lanes of traffic you can…if you want to park it in the oncoming lane, FINE…really whatever is most convenient for you! And you have the right to be upset when someone hits you…you can call them "stupid fool" and punch them (this hasn't happened to me yet!
I got waved over by some police officers (or at least they were dressed like police officers) and asked if I was wearing slippers…they told me that they were doing checks on drivers footwear because they were very bored and thirsty…this was code for "give us money"..I played dumb blonde…worked out well! I also learned, later, that stopping for police officers is not always the wise thing to do…sometimes you should just keep driving…how can you know when to stop and when not to? Use your intuition…I look forward to my chance to run from the police…I mean to see them run after me as I'll be in the car and they'll be on foot! LOL!
The other day I went to a restaurant and came out and found that there were two lanes of cars parked behind mine…they made the drivers come out and move their cars so I could get out (that was nice) then they gave me hand signals to help me back up (not so nice because there were 3 of them all giving different suggestions, and I can pretty much assume that none of them had ever driven a vehicle before!) and then when I pulled out there were 5 cars trying to use 1 lane and go in 4 directions. NOT KIDDING! It was insanity. I decided then, that the parking lot at the Crossroads Mall on the Saturday before Christmas is a beautiful, peacefully calm place:)
At some point last week I hit a pothole just right and now the whole underside of the car feels like it is constantly shaking and about to fall off…not sure if it's worth fixing…I know I'm just going to hit a pothole….or a giant speed bump…of a motorcycle…or a bus again soon!
I wanted to go to the grocery store one day but I had to wait because my security guard told me that my car was too dusty to drive. TOO DUSTY!?! I've seen cars on the road with the front window so broken I'm sure you can see out of it…and vans that are duct taped together and are without doors and the dust will hinder my driving:) I am a terrible driver, but not that bad!
I am finding driving to be stressful and yet entertaining…I never know what crazy thing I will encounter while I'm out…Saturday I was stuck in traffic and a LARGE truck decided that things were just moving too slow, so the driver made another lane and came up next to me in oncoming traffic. People start honking and screaming at him and he turns and points at me in my little blue Nissan…look there's a white lady driving here…she must be the cause of it…he starts waving at me frantically trying to get me to move…this time my choice was stay or STAY…there was not an inch to spare…unfortunately for him, his plan to blame it all on the white girl didn't work so well…I had my windows rolled up and the music cranked and I just pretended to be oblivious:) 
It's official, I'm going to be picking up some REALLY TERRIBLE driving skills while here in Sierra Leone…and your prayers for all of us who drive, walk, or transportation of any kind in Freetown are very much appreciated!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Yellow House!

A few weeks ago my parents were here for a visit. Several of the little girls spent a lot of time sitting on my dad's lap. One of the little girls, S., often walks around the Center very sad. There are occasions when she smiles and laughs but they are rare. The week my parents were here I saw her smile and laugh, and it was so good because her smile lights up the whole room.

Later, on a quiet day at the Center, I noticed she was very sad again. She came and sat on my lap and I asked her several times why she was so sad. She eventually told me that she misses her papa very much. Her father died in a boat accident over a year ago. After that S. lived in the village with her mother who tried desperately to care for her children but could not so when TRS came and offered a home, school, food, and hope to the family they sent S. with her siblings to live at The Covering. 

I recently was visiting some villages outside of Freetown and was reminded of how different the rest of the country is from the city. I tried to imagine what it had been like for all our Shenge kids to leave the "bush" and travel into Freetown for the first time. They left a place where they rarely saw a motor car to go to a place filled with too many of them. They left the quiet for the noisy! They left the small village for a home with 80 other children. And they've adjusted so quickly it's easy to forget how scary and difficult that journey was. It's hard to imagine what leaving ones home, language, food, and family behind is really like for a 8 year old.

S. misses her dad. She told me that she used to help him on the farm and spent much of the day working alongside him. Her favorite memories are of sitting on his lap and playing with him. She knows that he died on the boat an that he is never coming back. I got to remind her of my daddy and how she got to sit on his lap and that there are many uncles at TRS and she can sit in their lap and talk about her papa and that it's okay to cry. We also talked about Papa God…the Father who will never leave us and wants to have the type of relationship with us that we crawl up into His lap and share our grief and joy with.

S. will grow up at The Covering, surrounded by aunties and uncles who love her and protect her and teach her about Jesus; surrounded by brothers and sisters who have lost their fathers in the same accident. Please pray that she will be reminded everyday that she is loved by Papa God; pray that she will grow to trust Him with her tears and joys; pray that she will find joy here…that as she talks about her papa and shares her sadness that God will heal her heart and fill her with gladness. 

From S.:
My favorite activity is basketball. I can dribble and I have made 4 baskets.
My favorite color is yellow because that's what house I was in for sports day (S. was the only girl in her team that could run most of the races, she worked very hard for her team that day and one 1 medal)
In Shenge I lived in a house with my papa, mama, 4 brothers and 2 sisters.
The think I like most about TRS is playing balance ball with the other girls. 
When I grow up I want to be a teacher and teach class 2.
In school I am very good at my ABCs.
I thank Papa God for saving us.
My favorite song is "My Head, My Shoulders, My Knees, My Toes…All belong to Jesus!"

Sunday, March 27, 2011

We have some of the most amazing staff working for TRS! I have been privileged to get to know them and hear their stories over the last few months! Recently I asked one of the older boys at the Center to play the role of a journalist and ask each of the staff some questions about themselves. I would like to share parts of their stories with you…

"A Brief Story about Uncle Q…this is what he said:
I have 2 children and I live in Marjay Town; also the food I like best is green and rice. My favorite color is gray. 
The things I enjoy most about my job are when I make sure that what ever is for the kids reach the kids and what ever is for the staff reach the staff. I enjoy the role that I play at TRS.
I have skills in drama but because of the time that is why I don't do it at TRS. The year I came to Christ was in 2003.
I grew up with my mother, because I lost my father when I was a small boy. It was difficult for my mother and even for me to attend school was a problem and housing was a problem.
I go to First Presbyterian Church and I am 35 years old. Before TRS I worked at COTN."

Uncle Q. shares his story with many of the teams that come to Sierra Leone. He is our Country Director and we are very blessed to have him as a leader of the staff and Big Brother to the children. Each time he shares the story of the struggle his mother went through to raise him and his brothers and sisters after his father died and his experiences during the war I am amazed at the protection and provision of God and at his plan and purposes in our lives.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I NEED Mexican Food...RIGHT NOW!

I have a confession to make…something that won't surprise you all…I'm not very good at the blogging thing! I think about it during the day, and often come up with GREAT things to write about at night…but when I sit down to write, there is nothing there…it's like my words have gone the way of all the liquid in my body…sweated right out. So I'm going to try something new and I'm going to tell you about it in hopes that it will hold me accountable! I am planning to write 4 times a week with a different focus each time…on Mondays I'll tell you a story about the kids or what's happening at the Covering…on Wednesdays I'll share with you some funny things that have happened to me (seriously, there are quite a few of those!)…on Fridays I'll write about what I'm learning (I'm not promising anything profound)…and over the weekend I'm gonna write about one of our amazing staff members. I got this idea from a blog I read and she has very spiritual, deep titles for her days and I noticed someone else doing it and his titles were way catchy and neat-o…to be that creative!  I'm just going to see if I can stick to a schedule; HA! 

The counselor and I had a good laugh last night…I came out of the girls room at the Guest House shaking my head at being asked for yet another something…it seems that all they do some days is ask for things! Aunty Cari, we need ____________! Last night it was shelves, and what made me laugh was the realization that we'd given them so much stuff that they didn't have enough shelf space to put it on…and then I realized that if I gave them a shelf they'd ask for more stuff because they would find it 1/2 empty and pretty soon the room that was a blessing a few months ago because there is a real bed in it and the space is only shared with a few others and not 25 would become to small and cramped! 

Honestly, the laugh started out as annoyance…I'm tired of constantly being asked for stuff!  It turned into some what of a rant about what my time is often consumed with in SL…requests for help, stuff, money, food, more, more, more…but when I stopped to really think (Duncan reminded me really) that we all struggle with the difference between want and need…that it's a privilege to help meet needs to the point where people actually have the space to want…and then need to be taught the difference! I spend MANY Sunday's in America talking with children about the difference between want and need, using the children I'd met in Africa as examples…and now I'm realizing that I need to teach these blessed children in Africa the difference between want and need…and I come up short…because I don't know the difference. 

Right now I'm staring at a picture of a meal at Chipotle some lovely friend of mine pasted on Facebook (THANKS A LOT!) and thinking that I NEED Chipotle…but it's only a want, right!?! There are basic things that we as humans need…food, oxygen, water, love…and I can honestly tell you that I have never been in a place where I didn't have those needs met…other than a few times as a child, when asthma made getting oxygen VERY difficult and I remember struggling for breath…I really don't know what it is like to be in need. I do know that after I got air again I quickly forgot what it was like to need.

But these beautiful children in Sierra Leone can teach me about being in need…and about trusting. They know what it is like to NEED…and I wonder, is it because of grace that they've forgotten need…is it really not the difference between want and need that is important…but the difference lies in where we take our wants and needs?

If I am in need or want and I TRUST God with it…I tell Him, "Lord, I'd really like______________, what do you think?" and I listen will I not discover a Father who wants to shower me with EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT (James 1:17)? If instead, I strive and grasp for what I need and want…trying by all means to get it for myself…or being ashamed of it attempt to hide it from God and those around me…will I not find myself in a place of either getting that which I should not have had OR living in continual discontent?

So, what am I saying through all this rambling? That I'm learning that we all have wants and needs…that only God knows how to meet them in ways that will bring us life and not death (sin)…and that when I encounter requests for things (like shelves or curtains or candy or Chipotle) I can stop and say "Thank you God, that you have met our needs so that we have space to want! Help us to remember to TRUST first and give us the freedom of contentment!"

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Activity Room!

I have just a few pictures to share with you! We've been busy the last few months with visitors which means lots of new, fun things to share...We've been blessed with an activity room filled with toys, books, games, and craft supplies and each day a group of 7-10 kids comes to the Guest House to play! Here are a few pictures of our's so precious to see the kids light up and enjoy some time to just be kids. Thank you to ALL of you who had a part in making this happen. Today is music day and I am looking forward to attempting to teach the kids how to play some of the flutes.