Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Of Grace, grace, and grace

At Brackenhurst, for the World Day of Prayer video I interviewed Grace Adjekum in her role as the Director of Ghana’s Bible institute.

Grace found herself in the midst of brutal ethnic violence a few months earlier when my husband and I had planned to travel to Ghana on business. (We received word along the way to skip Ghana so we traveled on to the next country on our five-week itinerary. You can read more about that by clicking on Connect the Dots.)

When Grace arrived at Brackenhurst, she told us those clashes had focused on her and other Ghanaian Bible translators.

Warring factions killed a thousand people, including Grace’s adopted son, and destroyed a hundred and fifty villages.

I reeled, trying to imagine what Grace experienced.

We hear similar stories on the TV news and in newspapers, but it’s so hard to identify with them—the people seem so far away and their situations so hard to imagine—but there I was standing with Grace and hearing her story.

I’m afraid I was a bit numb; I don’t recall how I responded, and I feel bad about that, but Grace seemed poised and strong in her faith. She was a living, breathing, smiling, praying, praising confirmation that God’s grace is sufficient for all our needs.

At the time the violence broke out in Ghana, the two main dissenting groups, the Konkombas and the Nanumbas, expected to receive Old Testaments in their own languages.

By that time, the Konkombas had had the New Testament in their language for sixteen years and had two hundred churches and six thousand Christians.

Given that information, some of us muttered among ourselves and wondered how they could commit such heinous acts against each other.

Our clucking tongues stopped, though, when we recognized we’ve had Scriptures in our language for hundreds of years, yet we sin against one another, too.

That incident was an important reminder for us: When our knowledge of the Bible remains only a mental, academic exercise, rather than a heart-involved lifestyle, then we, too, hurt others, sometimes with physical violence, other times with cruel words and attitudes. We all need God’s GRACE.

Here we are later, outside my office in Nairobi.

Our first trip to Ghana fell through at the
last minute due to ethnic clashes
Grace and her fellow Ghanaians found themselves in,
but a couple of years later Dave and I made it to Ghana.
Here Grace and I visit in Tamale (pronounced TAW-maw-lee),
upcountry in Ghana.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A rare privilege: Interviewing African leaders

In Chapter 5 of Grandma’s Letters from Africa I wrote about traveling to Brackenhurst to attend annual Africa-wide meetings with directors of our Bible translation work from some twenty sub-Saharan nations; our international administrators; directors from Europe, Canada, and Australia; and African leaders from ten nations that had established their own Bible translation organizations.

Besides attending meetings, I had a special task. Let me tell you about it.

On November 11 each year, members of Wycliffe Bible Translators set aside the day to pray for their work. Around the world, wherever they gather, they view the World Day of Prayer video (or they did during my years; I suspect that now they’ve moved into newer technology).

The video was a big improvement over their practice in previous years: merely a list of prayer requests on a sheet of paper. The video helped link faces and personalities with specific prayer requests.

For that year’s video, during our meetings at Brackenhurst I felt both honored and blessed to interview several Africans, leaders in their own nations’ efforts to carry out the task of Bible translation—individuals from Ghana, Nigeria, Central Africa Republic, and the Philippines (yes, he came from all the way from the Philippines).

Above: I interviewed Sophie Ndangere who
directed Bible translation in Central Africa  Republic.

Here's a picture of my interview with
friend and coworker, Marvin,
about his role in Bible translation.
Click on that link to read more
about him and his wife, Joyce.


Marvin interviewed several others.


Here Marvin is interviewing Antoine Yegbe,
an Ivorian involved in Bible translation.  

I thank God for the unique privilege He gave me: interviewing dedicated, well-educated, choice saints working on the cutting edge to provide Scriptures for Africans in their heart languages!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My escape from the big city

I’m not a city gal. Plant me in a small town or down a rural lane or maybe in an outlying suburb. But big city life? It’s not my cup of tea.

When Dave and I moved to Africa, however, we lived in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, population around three million.

Like most of the world’s major cities, wild, thick traffic churned through Nairobi. Cars, buses, and lorries (heavy trucks) spewed billows of black exhaust. Burning trash filled the air with foul odors. Fumes burned noses, tightened chests, and guaranteed ring-around-the-collar (and cuffs) by 10 a.m.

Pedestrians by the thousands flowed river-like along roads.

Littered sidewalks and streets and tracks: trash, spittle, charcoal dust, plastic shopping bags by the thousands.

Open sewage.

Day and night, night and day: hooting, hollering, occasional gunshots, the heavy clank of iron security gates opening, closing, opening, closing. Rusty, sooty trains thundering through neighborhoods.

And then there was Brackenhurst.

You know it’s gonna be good when this smiling askare (guard) swings open the gate and welcomes you.

Brackenhurst: an old colonial place dating back to 1914 and the British East Africa era. Low, whitewashed stone cottages—with red roofs and multi-paned windows—nestled together on a grassy hillside.

Clean cool air. Clear blue skies.

Vast open spaces.

Acres of verdant tea fields and Kelly-green lawns.

Lush British-style gardens and tropical flowers: dahlias, callas, Bird of Paradise, philodendrons, ferns, palms, hibiscus, cosmos, jasmine, gardenias, marguerite daisies, bottlebrush trees, banana trees, flame trees, mimosa trees—lavish beauty.

Poinsettias ten feet tall.

Fresh chilly birdsong mornings.

Soft silent nights.

A hushed haven.

Serene and gentle, life was still.

We could feel our muscles relax.

The wonder, the radiance, the understated magnificence—Brackenhurst reminds me of words Karen Blixen penned about rural Kenya:

Now, looking back on my life in Africa,
it might be described as the existence of a person
who had come from a rushed and noisy world,
into a still country.
Karen Blixen

God had called us out of Nairobi’s throbbing, pulsing din for a couple of weeks and, even though we attended busy meetings every day, God made us to lie down in green pastures. He led us beside still waters. He restored our souls (Psalm 23:2-3).

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Brackenhurst: Rubbing elbows with brilliant, energetic, can-do people giving their all

Remember my story last week about Gordon and Rosemary and the sticky sheets? Would you like to see a picture of them? (No, not the sheets! I mean Gordon and Rosemary.)

Here they are (circled) with our colleagues at lovely Brackenhurst for annual Africa-wide meetings I told you about last time.

You’ll see my husband and me, too, in off-white sweaters near the bottom right.

(Oh, and if you read Grandma’s Letters from Africa, you’ll remember I wrote in Chapter 3, “ Never in my wildest dreams could I have guessed I’d one day run my fingers through a psychiatrist’s hair.” Yep, you guessed it: That psychiatrist is in this picture, too. You can see him there—ahem—Oh, my, this is awkward. He’s between my husband and me, but I can explain! We just stood where the photographer told us to stand! Honest!)

At Brackenhurst, we breathed fresh, still air except for the aroma of wood smoke from fireplaces in guest rooms and the dining room.

Because of Brackenhurst’s elevation, over 7,000 feet, we planned for cool temperatures at night and early morning. We wore wool sweaters, warm shoes, and heavy socks, and sometimes we even took blankets to the meeting room.

Below is a picture of my husband in one of our meeting rooms.

Besides three hearty meals a day, at mid-morning and four o’clock in the afternoon the staff served us bracing black tea, freshly baked pastries, cakes, and pies in a grassy area outside our meeting room. Here are pictures:

Above is our boss, Dr. John Watters, with Antoine Yegbe, an Ivorian Bible translator

Looking back on that, my first Africa-wide meeting, I was a bit dazed with the newness of it all.

I recall the buzz—the voltage, the high—I felt from rubbing elbows with brilliant, energetic, can-do people, 

choice saints,

the front-liners,

the crèmè de la crème,

giving their all as missionaries and Bible translators with a common goal: providing Scriptures for Africans in the languages they understand best!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Brackenhurst: a gem from the British East Africa era

Continuing with I’ve always had a way of doing the dumbest things and Did Gordon and Rosemary stick to the sheets? ... 

Gordon and Rosemary, Brits based in the UK, had traveled to Nairobi for our annual meetings with directors and delegates from some twenty sub-Saharan nations.

Our international administrators also attended, as did directors from Europe, Canada, Australia, and other nations.

By that time, about ten African nations had established their own Bible translation organizations and since we worked closely alongside them, their leaders attended these meetings, too.

They had seen first-hand the way a person’s eyes light up when he hears Scriptures in his own language. They’ve seen the Bible transform families and communities. I feel both honored and blessed to have met with these African men and women, and I applaud their ministry.

Each year, for two weeks we gave reports, made proposals, legislated, strategized, planned, and networked. The meetings could be intense, and we covered important, sometimes controversial, issues.

Our meetings took place in the highlands forty-five minutes north of Nairobi at an old colonial place, Brackenhurst, surrounded by miles of bright green tea plantations.

I was just looking at Brackenhurst Conference Centre’s website and discovered they’ve spiffed up Brackenhurst—a lot. Sigh.… I think I liked it better when it wasn’t so snazzy. It’s still lovely, nevertheless, and you’ll enjoy checking out pictures at http://brackenhurst.com

It dates back to 1914 during the British East Africa era. Low, whitewashed stone cottages—with red roofs and multi-paned windows—nestle together on a grassy hillside. Rooms are—or used to be—small, spare, and worn, yet charming in an old-fashioned way.

Brackenhurst, during our years, was not a luxurious place—except for the eyes. The grounds, then and now, resemble a well-manicured park with emerald grass and lush, colorful flowers: dahlias, Bird of Paradise, philodendrons, ferns, palms, hibiscus, cosmos, jasmine, gardenias, marguerite daisies, bottlebrush trees, banana trees, flame trees, mimosa trees, and many more.

One day I paused to look deeply into the heart of a flower, full of intricate detail and shades.

I stood back and took in the wider view of the gardens’ expanse and the tea fields in the distance, and I marveled at the bursts of color.

The scene made me think of God who has given us all this to enjoy. I suspect that He loves color and fragrance even more than we do.

In fact, I think the colors and textures and fragrances give us a glimpse of God Himself.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Breathless Tales"


Breathless Tales

I would rather clutch my invitation
and wait my turn in party clothes
prim and proper
safe and clean.
But a pulsing hand keeps driving me
over peaks
and spidered brambles.
So, I will pant up to the
pearled knocker
and full of tales!

Janet Bly

Many thanks to Janet Bly for permission to use "Breathless Tales" here and in Grandma's Letters from Africa.

If you’ve read my memoir, you know how often I muttered:

“All I ever wanted was to live a quiet, secure life in a little white house with a picket fence and a rose garden, but my husband, Dave, and our adventuresome God had other plans: Africa!”

I discovered Janet’s words during my third year in Africa and have cherished them ever since.

Her message gives me deep comfort knowing at least one other woman understands the circumstances of my life.

Of course you know whose "pulsing hand keeps driving me over peaks and ravines and spidered brambles," don’t you? The hand belongs to my Heavenly Father.

The adventures He planned for my life have turned out to be so different from my plans—I pictured “party clothes, prim and proper, safe and clean.”

But God’s adventures, despite my whines and protestations, have taken me—physically, culturally, and spiritually—to places so much better, higher, and finer than anything I could have imagined.

The Lord is faithful in all he does.
Psalm 33:4

Taste and see that the Lord is good!
Psalm 34:7

Yes, I’m tattered and breathless, but God is worthy of all that I am and all that I have—and as a bonus, I’m full of tales!

Are you full of tales, too?
I can help you put them in writing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Did Gordon and Rosemary stick to the sheets?

I've always had a way of doing the dumbest things.

I told my granddaughter, Maggie, about one of them in the following letter in Grandma’s Letters from Africa:

Dear Maggie,

We have opened our Kiambere home to numerous houseguests, among them your grandpa’s cousin Paul and his wife Barbara (missionaries in Zaire), and their boys, who stayed with us for two weeks to have medical work done in Nairobi.

We also welcomed newlyweds Andreas and Susanna, friends from our three-month orientation course. Andreas, a Russian-German, and Susanna, a German, work in Bible translation in Ethiopia now.

We also welcomed another friend from orientation, Peggy, a retired teacher from Alaska who teaches in Mozambique. I wrote an article about Peggy for Wycliffe-USA’s magazine, In Other Words.

In May, colleagues from England stayed in our guestroom. Sometimes I perfume our guests’ bed sheets and so, on the day of Gordon and Rosemary’s arrival, I sprayed, and sprayed, and sprayed, and then realized I’d squirted hairspray on the sheets.

We own only two sets of sheets—the other set was on our bed—and with water turned off all over the city, and no clothes dryer—well, Gordon and Rosemary were stuck with those sheets. I just hoped they didn’t stick to the sheets. Oh, yeah, quaint I ain’t.

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

GSP: An exciting short-term opportunity for you!


Many people wish they could work with mission agencies like Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Maybe you are one of them, but you have so many questions:

Would missions work be a good fit for me?

Could I handle cross-cultural living, far from home?

Do I have proper training and education for missions work?

Can I really trust God to provide my financial needs?

How can I know if missions work is God’s will for me?

I have great news! Wycliffe Bible Translators [http://www.wycliffe.org] has a new program called Global Service Program for people interested in serving six months up to two years.

From Wycliffe’s website:

“This program is ideal for individuals who want to serve for a limited time before making a long term commitment.

“During your service with GSP you’ll evaluate us, and we’ll evaluate you to see if Wycliffe is a good fit for you. If it is a good fit, you’ll be able to easily move through Wycliffe’s membership process while serving with GSP.

“The program is also ideal for people who just want to serve for a couple of years and want to get to their service assignment quickly.”

Opportunities: In The Global Service Program, you can serve in a variety of ways including Children’s Education, language roles, and non-language or support roles.

Children’s Education: Teachers, Boarding Home Parents, Tutors, and others.

Support roles: IT, Finance, Nursing, Administration, and others.

Language roles: initial Bible Translation, Literacy, Scripture Use, and others as well as programs such as OneStory (a joint ministry including Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth With A Mission, and Trans World Radio, and Wycliffe), Spectrum (a joint venture between Wycliffe and Operation Mobilization), and ServeInPNG.

Spend a few minutes clicking on all those links and getting acquainted with GSP. God is doing exciting things in missions work! Would you like to be a part of it?

Questions? Ask away! Contact the GSP office at info_gsp@wycliffe.org.

Know someone interested in missions?

Feel free to forward this blog post to them: Below you’ll see little gray and white icons that let you to e-mail this, post it to Facebook, share to Twitter, Google Buzz, or +1.

Help get word out!

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