Thursday, January 29, 2015

“Laughs at impossibilities and shouts, ‘It shall be done!’”

So, like I was telling you, Dave’s job was to find a better way for missionaries’ kids across Africa to get a good education.

Many families had good options, but too many families had too many problems getting schooling for their kids.

When school options are not good, missionary families often give up their work and return home. Dave’s job was to find a way to keep them on the mission field: to come up good educational opportunities for those families.

It was a daunting task. Other people had tried to solve the problems, but nothing had yet worked.

For a couple of years, Dave assessed situations in over twenty sub-Saharan African countries in which our organization worked.

He prayed and he listened.

He pondered,
worked out mathematics,
devised possible plans,
experimented with them in his head,
revised them,
and perfected them.

Over time, God helped him develop a brilliant plan—one that was clever and intricate and complicated. I’m not going to try to explain it all. Just trust me: It was brilliant.

And, most importantly, it would work!

It all depended on opening West Nairobi School, but it would help more than Nairobi families—it would help missionaries’ kids all across the continent.

When Dave presented the initial idea to our boss, he worried John might not like it, but he did.

At John’s advice, Dave took the idea to the next level, and then the next, knowing it could be vetoed at any point. It was a heart-pounding, breath-holding number of months for Dave.

To our amazement, the school idea got one green light after another. Dave and I were amazed—almost stunned. God was doing all this and we were along for the ride!

Then the school idea faced its toughest hurdle: it became official business at our Africa Area meetings. We knew that there God could either make it happen or bring it to a halt.

Delegates debated and discussed the plan. A couple of people voiced concerns, but nothing came up that Dave, with God’s help, had not already thought through.

Next, it went to committee.

Soon it came back for the vote—and the school received the official okay!

And Uncle Cam’s favorite song danced in our minds:

Faith, mighty faith the promise sees,
And looks to God alone.
Laughs at impossibilities
And shouts, “It shall be done!”
Charles Wesley

Thursday, January 22, 2015

It’ll ever happen!

It’ll never happen,” one man scoffed.

A couple of other people, not quite so doubtful, called my husband crazy to try to open West Nairobi School in the fall of 1996. They urged him to aim instead for the following year.

But when God Himself is the instigator—
when something is according to His plan
and His will
and is in His timing
He can make it happen!

Oh, there are always doubters, there are skeptics and critics, and because of them many of us give up—but once in a while we run across a few choice servants who charge forward, confident of God’s leading. That’s what my husband, Dave, did.

But Dave wasn’t bent on his own big dreams. He sought God’s guidance every step of the way.

The founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, Cameron Townsend (Uncle Cam), showed how it was done—many a time.

Take, for example, Uncle Cam’s vision to begin Bible translation in South American nations where Protestant Christians were unwelcome. Churches had been burned, some Protestants had been martyred, violence was widespread. Almost all new Protestant missions had been refused entrance into such countries. When Uncle Cam proposed beginning Bible translation there, people said, “It’ll never happen!”

But Uncle Cam didn’t give up just because someone was pessimistic.

Uncle Cam “was a man who possessed noble ideas and an inner vision to reach the world’s bypassed peoples for God through the Scriptures. It was this faith, this vision, this singlemindedness, that became Cameron Townsend’s hallmark, and it came from a settled conviction about why he had been created. He was a man at peace with himself, who knew he was appropriately placed in the scheme of God’s will. Thus when he believed a certain course of action was God-directed, he acted, never doubting. … He forthrightly forged ahead believing God was guiding his dreams.” (From A Thousand Trails: The personal journal of William Cameron Townsend, compiled and edited by Hugh Steven; emphasis mine)

And so, when Uncle Cam faced obstacles,
when the odds stacked against his God-given dreams seemed too high,
when others doubted,
he looked to God and sang Charles Wesley’s hymn:

Faith, mighty faith the promise sees,
And looks to God alone.
Laughs at impossibilities
And shouts, “It shall be done!”

Dave was well aware of Uncle Cam’s faith and holy boldness. Time and time again, Uncle Cam forged ahead when others held back, quaking in their boots.

Photo from WNS yearbook
Dave followed Uncle Cam’s example.

Dave had been charged by his bosses to find a way to help missionaries’ kids get a good education across Africa. The kids needed to be equipped to go to college in their home countries. 

Some families homeschooled but that wasn’t always a good option. Some families lived near a missions-run school and that was an excellent option—if the school wasn’t already full. Other families lived near international schools, another excellent option as long as families were wealthy enough to afford tuition—and missionary families are not wealthy!

Too many families had too many problems getting an adequate education for their kids.

When schooling options are not good, missionary families often give up their work and return to their home countries. Dave’s job was to find a way to keep them on the mission field: he had to come up good educational opportunities for those families.

It was a daunting task—our organization worked in over twenty countries across sub-Saharan Africa—but God had given Dave the kind of intellect, and passion, needed to figure it out.

Come back next week to see how this all unfolded.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

God made possible what had looked impossible

Two years before those evacuations from Zaire, West Nairobi School existed as only a misty dream.

You see, my husband’s job was to find ways to help missionaries’ kids across Africa get an adequate education.

And, together with God, Dave did a humdinger of a job by establishing West Nairobi School. It was brilliant—more on that next week.

Some of our colleagues were skeptical that Dave could get the school up and running by the fall of 1996. One of them called Dave crazy to even consider it. (In fact, a couple of them said the school would never be a reality. Boy, were they wrong.)

But God can do anything to accomplish His plans! Dave kept following where God was leading, he kept going through all the doors God kept opening, and by God’s grace and power, West Nairobi School opened its doors in September 1996, a few weeks before the Zaire evacuations.

The first, temporary campus was at and around an old British colonial house.
In September, school enrollment had exceeded everyone’s expectations and the school was full, when suddenly thirteen kids evacuated from Zaire and needed a school! Four teachers of MKs (missionaries’ kids) also evacuated and were looking for teaching positions!

West Nairobi School (WNS) was bursting at the seams, but once again God stepped in. During Christmas break, Dave arranged for an additional two-classroom building, more chairs, desks, and textbooks: God made possible what had looked impossible.

You might think Dave and all the WNS folks complained about the extra work, expense, hassles, and pressures—but that was not the case! Far from it!

Everyone associated with WNS was thankful the school could help those displaced, traumatized families. We felt honored that God gave us a small role to play in answer to some of those families’ prayers.

I wrote this in a letter to my granddaughters:

I think back to that guy who called your grandpa crazy for trying to open the school this year, but God must have known that these thirteen kids and four teachers—and all the families they represent—would need WNS this year. (from Chapter 20, Grandma’s Letters from Africa)

Sometimes God works in mysterious ways. 
What a joy and privilege it was 
for Dave and the rest of us to watch Him work!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

That Christmas Douglas wondered: Would his years of work come to nothing?

I’ll always remember that Christmas. Friends and colleagues had been evacuated to Nairobi from unspeakable violence in Zaire. I felt numb trying to imagine what they were going through before and after arriving in Nairobi.

One of our colleagues assigned to Zaire, Jan, was living with us and other evacuees were living with other Nairobi-based coworkers.

It was a traumatic time for the displaced ones.

Despite our best intentions, we Nairobi-based people couldn’t adequately relate to our traumatized colleagues. We tried not to pry but when people were ready to talk we tried to be good listeners. We offered hugs. We cried with them. We prayed. Nevertheless, too often we fumbled in our attempts.

Leanna recalls that some of us “couldn’t understand the ‘I used to have’ statements that came from leaving most of our possessions and sometimes family pets behind.”

Many of us had given them household goods and personal items to help them make new lives and homes for themselves.

And thanks to our excellent professionals, they received the most loving debriefing possible, though it was only a beginning in their healing process.

But Christmas was coming! I remember wanting so much to offer our colleagues from Zaire a way to cheer up—but I also remember feeling so inadequate.

And confused: I remember asking myself, What kind of Christmas Day do you offer traumatized people? Do you pretend it’s a regular ol’ Christmas and fill it with cheer and music and laughter and good food and brightly wrapped gifts?

I wasn’t sure. Maybe we should downplay everything. Keep it quiet and simple.

On the other hand, would merriment help them more than a toned-down Christmas?

We had invited Douglas to spend Christmas Day with us and with Jan. A Bible translator assigned to Zaire, after arriving in Nairobi he’d learned that burglars broke into his house and took most of his worldly possessions. He told us of his need to heal from so many losses—personal things, sentimental things, and work-related equipment.

Mostly, however, he grieved the loss of his translation materials. When I listened to Douglas talk, I could read between the lines. He had invested more than just time and effort to translate the Bible with and for a group of Zairians—he had invested his heart, his soul, his all. With this turn of events, he wondered if perhaps his many years of work and prayers had come to nothing.

He was in mourning. But he wasn’t going to let that get the best of him!

Douglas said that even though he felt like a homeless person, he chose to count his blessings—friends and a place to live in Nairobi, a visa so he could remain there, friends and family back home who prayed for him, and people who offered to help replace what others stole.

Dear Douglas. I marveled at his perspective and his faith.

I remember telling myself that if ever I suffer great loss, I hope God will remind me of Douglas and his example.  (from Chapter 20, Grandma’s Letters from Africa)

Sunday, December 21, 2014


Since I spent a number of years far from family
a few years in South America, more years in Africa
this year I'll take a wee little break from blogging 
to cherish time with kids, grandkids, 
siblings and their families, and parents-in-law.

Have a blessed Christmas season.
See you in the New Year!

in public domain

Thursday, December 18, 2014

If only we had gas for cooking and water in our pipes: Life was never dull

With widespread brutalities continuing in Zaire and all our personnel there evacuating to Nairobi, we had invited a colleague from there, Jan, to live with us in our apartment. At the time, my husband, Dave, was in the States on business.

Our daughter Karen was living with us that school year. She had taught long enough in the Port Angeles School District to be eligible for a one-year leave so she came to teach at the new school for missionaries’ kids that Dave opened, West Nairobi School. (It was such a joy to have Karen live with us for that school year. When we left the States for Kenya, we never could have predicted such a delightful surprise.)

I wrote this in a letter to my granddaughters, Maggie and Emma. Life was never dull!

Sometimes for weeks on end, only a trickle of water runs through our pipes, and that causes vapor locks in our hot water heaters—no water comes out even if the tank has water in it.            

A couple of months ago, the water heaters in both the master bathroom and Karen’s developed vapor locks. Before your grandpa left for the States, he fixed ours but he couldn’t fix Karen’s. Now she uses the master bathroom shower, but I don’t know what we’ll do when your grandpa returns because the heater doesn’t hold enough water for three showers.
The city turns on our water heaters between two and five in the morning. Saturday the city must have turned them on for just an hour because only lukewarm water came out. Sunday morning the city didn’t turn them on at all so we couldn’t take showers.
We decided to go to church anyway, but just as we headed for the door, Jan said, “Oh, no! My toilet’s leaking!” Water covered the floor. Fundis (repairmen) don’t work on Sundays but the apartment manager looked it over. He couldn’t figure out the problem, though, so we skipped church to tinker with it. To my surprise, I fixed it. (Nope, quaint I ain’t.)

… Our Zaire director arrived back in Nairobi late yesterday after a few days there. His safe return must have been a special Thanksgiving gift for his family.

Evacuations have begun for the few remaining missionaries in Zaire including teachers [like Leanna] and students at Rethy Academy. I understand Zaire’s president has cancer and people expect civil war will break out when he dies—though it appears to have already started. Given that information, Jan will live with us for an extended time.

If Jan needs to live here after our friend Randy arrives for Christmas break, we’ll make our storage room into a bedroom for him. That should work fine as long as (1) Jan’s toilet doesn’t break again; (2) the city turns our water back on (we’ve been carrying water from the office but the city has turned off water at the office, too); (3) our water filter somehow fixes itself; (4) we can get Karen’s hot water heater fixed; and (5) we can find gas cylinders so we can cook. Nairobi frequently has no gas cylinders for weeks or even months on end.  (from Chapter 20, Grandma’s Letters from Africa)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

God was watching over those sitting ducks

God had miraculously provided planes and missionary pilots to evacuate Leanna, many other missionaries, and missionaries’ children, students at Rethy Academy.

It had been a life-and-death situation for all of them. Vicious soldiers were heading their way, and they were demanding money and food from everyone in their path. They left a trail of kidnapping, rape, looting, and murder with machetes.

Barbara Thomas had said of those days, “We were sitting ducks.” She and her family weren’t new to violence and evacuation. “This time we might not get out alive,” she had said to herself.

Looking back on those days Leanna says, “God had orchestrated situations to make things less stressful. One Africa Inland Mission couple, Steve and Debbie, had come to Rethy to celebrate their son’s birthday just before the situation in our part of Zaire became so tense.

“As the situation deteriorated, they decided to stay and Steve played a key role in communicating with other mission leaders.

“Debbie, an experienced teacher, took over as principal after our principal was evacuated with a serious health issue.

“Having them there helped provide the stability and leadership needed in a time of crisis.

“All in all, this was one of the times that was far from easy, but it was also a time I could really see God at work.

In the days the followed we were reminded again and again that “God is good all the time—in the words of that special song that had become our theme through that difficult time.”