Thursday, January 26, 2012

True hunger is—


“The proper definition of the word ‘hunger’ is ‘a compelling need or desire for food’ or ‘the painful sensation or state of weakness caused by the need for food.’ I recognize that my hunger,” says Michele Tvedt, “pales in light of what others go through, and the endless access I have to food is abnormal compared to the majority of the globe.”

Writing on the World Vision Blog, Michele continues:

True hunger, especially at a young age, leads to a lack of brain development, an unhealthy heart, cracked skin that leads to infections, and weak bones that prevent proper growth.

True hunger means making the painful choice of entering into the sex trade to provide for your family, or watching your family slowly get weaker and weaker.

True hunger is an upstanding, honest man stealing maize from his neighbor to fill the bellies of his children.

True hunger is a child unable to focus at school because of the weakness and dizziness pounding through her body. Or a child unable to go to school because he must beg for food on the streets instead.…”

According to World Vision, 13.3 million people have been affected by the drought in East Africa: Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania.

In Somalia, 53 percent of the population—4 million people—are in crisis: a child dies every six minutes.

Millions more are at risk.

But it’s not just East Africa that’s suffering. A few days ago Deb, blogging at Avec Deux Mains, told of the severe food crisis in Niger, West Africa, where she lives and works.

When I worked in Africa, my job took me to Niger for about a week and my heart aches when I think of the acute suffering there now.

The problem is twofold: food shortages combined with increasing violence carried out by militants in the nation to the south, Nigeria. You’ve probably heard about this in the news lately.

According to the BBC News, the cereal harvest took a blow from both drought and pests in much of the Sahel region, a semi-arid band along the Sahara Desert’s southern edge “… but it is Niger—one of the world’s poorest nations with chronically high levels of child malnutrition—that has the largest number of vulnerable children.

“The European Union’s Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, Kristalina Georgieva called it ‘a race against time.’ She said that because of the poor harvest the traditional hunger season was expected to start in February or March rather than two months later.”

She urged, “If we act quickly to protect the most vulnerable we can prevent a catastrophe from happening.”

Can you help? Do you know others who can help?

Here’s what’s so sad: We all waited too long to help in East Africa a few months ago.

“Thousands of needless deaths occurred from famine in East Africa last year because the international community failed to heed early warnings, say two leading British aid organizations.

“Oxfam and Save the Children say it took more than six months for aid agencies to act on warnings of imminent famine.

“Between 50,000 and 100,000 people have died in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.

“The agencies say governments, donors, the United Nations, and NGOs need to learn from the mistakes.” (Read more at “Slow Response to East Africa famine ‘cost lives.’”)  

Read about babies left to die alongside the road at “Horn of Africa Drought: Survival of the Fittest.”

See BBC pictures at “Combating Drought in the Horn of Africa.”

How can you help? I hope and pray you’ll look into participating with one of these organizations already on the ground in Africa:

“God can do so much with just one person
who is willing to respond to His call.
What He asks is not that we possess great skill
or ability or fame.
Instead, He simply asks
for us to be willing to be used by Him.
Whether that results in the liberation of nations
or racial groups,
or whether it means that one child can go to school,
saying ‘yes’ to God changes the world.”

Do you know someone who could help? If so, see the little square box below with the “f” in it? Click on that and this post will show up on your Facebook wall! Try clicking on those other little gray and white boxes, too, and you can e-mail this, share to Twitter, Google Buzz, or +1.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

“If life held more challenges, it also unfolded new pleasures.”


This time of year, a number of people are taking the biggest leap of faith in their lives: Young and old, many are preparing to go overseas to the mission field, maybe for a few months, maybe for a few years.

And, oh! Thinking of those people brings back so many memories for me!

When I recall the newness, the scariness, the disorientation of letting go of everything familiar and getting started on the mission field, I think of Joshua and the Israelites when they set out for the Jordan: “You have never been this way before” (Joshua 3:4).

With that in mind, you’ll marvel at this excerpt from Through the Outhouse Floor by Barbara Thomas. As you read about her arrival in Africa and the beginning of her three-month orientation, you’ll see that God brought them challenges, but He also handed them new pleasures:

When I first thought of Phase One of our orientation and Limbamba Bible College, I naively had in mind a quadrant of red brick buildings with paved sidewalks winding their way through smooth green lawns under shady trees. The college, as it turned out, consisted of several cement-block buildings roofed with tin.… Classrooms were unadorned except for utilitarian wooden desks and benches. They had no windows except for a latticework made by gaps in the cement bricks. The cafeteria was little more than a cement rain shelter filled with picnic tables. Had I been more a veteran and less inclined to measure the world by American standards, I would have given thanks for the cement floor, running water, flush toilets and electricity.…

The cook introduced us to the kitchen … “These basins contain the water filters. Use only these jugs when you want drinking water. Whenever the market team purchases fruits and vegetables, they are soaked in these buckets with potassium permanganate. If the water is purple, it’s still good. When the water turns brown, use more permanganate. All dishes must be rinsed and all silverware dunked in boiling water.”

… Slowly we adjusted to this different life. The ants, the mosquitoes, fly bites, our resident rat, screens with holes, and leaking roofs faded into the backdrop scene of our lives.

Yes, moving to the mission field can be uncomfortable, especially at first.

A few words come to my mind:

Maybe even panic.
Being out of control and at the mercy of something (or Someone) larger and stronger than you.

But, Barbara continues:

If life held more challenges, it also unfolded new pleasures. We tasted football-sized papaya with lime juice, mangoes, fresh pineapple and sweet bananas. We sacked on corn roasted over a charcoal fire and sucked peeled sugar cane.

The inland weather was surprisingly comfortable. Temperatures rose to the mid-80s, with breezes. The clouds built up in the afternoon and the humidity pressed down, until four o’clock when like clockwork, every spigot in the sky opened and the rain pounded on the tin roofs. An hour later the rain suddenly stopped and the sun reappeared.

One of our greatest pleasures was gazing up at the equatorial African night sky. No outdoor lighting interfered. No tall building obstructed the view. The stars of the Southern hemisphere shined in all their brilliance and multitude. We recognized the Big Dipper and Orion as old friends from the north, and then turning south, beheld the Southern Cross.” (Barbara Thomas, Through the Outhouse Floor; emphasis mine)

If you are getting ready to move to the mission field—if you are taking a wild, screaming, blind leap of faith—keep in mind words God spoke to Moses, precious words that make all the difference. He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14).

And remember: Your life will hold more challenges, but watch for all the ways God unfolds glorious new pleasures!

Through the Outhouse Floor is available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback.

Below is a page from my scrapbook showing a scene from my orientation to Africa:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A very, very small role in the ministry of Bible translation


A couple of times recently I’ve mentioned that my husband and I felt both honored and humbled to play very small roles in the ministry of Bible translation. Here’s a story that will shed light on what I mean:

Todro, Democratic Republic of Congo. The nation was at war. Few vehicles traveled the roads that remained and, because of limited commerce, people suffered an acute shortage of food and medicine.

But even during that time of war, a colorful group gathered: the Logo people, almost all the pastors from the entire region, and top church leaders—over a thousand in all. It was a Sunday afternoon and crowds waited under tarps, umbrellas, and trees, seeking shelter from hot African sun.

Soon a truck appeared carrying precious cargo: heavy boxes of the Gospel of Luke, newly translated into the Logoti language, as well as newly-published hymnals.

With boisterous singing, flowers, and waving palm fronds, the people of Todro welcomed the books and those who brought them, Bible translators (and colleagues of mine), Doug and Beth Wright.

The jubilant Logo people formed a human chain to pass the boxes from the truck to an office building so they could place the treasured books into the hands of pastors inside.

Doug, however, noticed the layer of dust that had gathered on the boxes during their three-day road trip and hurried to wipe them off before they reached the dressed-up pastors.

He shouldn’t have worried. "We're happy to have these," they said, delighted to be receiving the first printed Scripture book for the Logo people.

And that was the start of a four-hour dedication ceremony and celebration among the Logos. The service focused on God’s faithfulness to three Logo translators, Akudhi, Aguma and Atake, and to Doug and Beth, all of whom endured numerous challenges  during the translation process.

By that evening, hundreds of people had bought copies of both Luke and the songbooks and they sat around the fire singing worship songs in their very own language.

Absent from the celebration that day was the area’s oldest pastor, home-bound due to a dislocated hip, so Doug took a copy of Logoti Luke to him.

When Doug arrived, Pastor Madrangi, over 90 years of age, shuffled outside for a visit under the thatch of his veranda.

Doug handed him Logoti Luke and waited.

Pastor Madrangi sat silently, his eyes sparkling, for what seemed like a long time.

Eventually he smiled, and finally he spoke, almost laughing. “It’s really true. God has given us His Word before I die!”

You see, when this elderly man was just a small boy, he started praying that, before he died, God would give him Scriptures in his own language.

And so, after Bible translation began among his people, over the years Pastor Madrangi faithfully encouraged the Logo translators, Akudhi, Aguma, and Atake. He often stopped in at the translation office and said, “I just came to pray.”

He encouraged Doug Wright, too, throughout the painstaking, tedious process of checking countless important details such as consistent use of key Biblical terms. Many times, Doug persevered because of Pastor Madrangi’s quiet encouragement and because Doug knew how much he longed to have Scriptures in his own language, the language of his heart, the language he understood best.

And so, on that day, out on his verandah, under the thatch, at the moment when Doug handed him his copy of Logoti Luke, God answered Pastor Madrangi’s prayers—probably at least 75 years of prayers. No wonder he was left speechless!

Right now you might be asking, “So, Linda, what does this story have to do with your role on the mission field?”

Here’s the answer: My husband, Dave, started a school for MKs (missionary kids), and Doug and Beth Wright’s daughter, Sarah, was one of the students. In that way, Dave played a small role that helped keep the Wrights on the mission field and that, in turn, enabled the translation of Logoti Luke.

My role was even more indirect because I did not officially work in the Children’s Ed realm (some other day I’ll tell you more about my job), but let me assure you: unofficially, I worked really, really hard to help establish that new MK school!

So I hope that now you have a better idea of what I mean when I say that I felt both honored and humbled to play a very small role in the ministry of Bible translation.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

“A song of Africa”


“If I know a song of Africa,
of the giraffe

and the African new moon lying on her back,
of the plows in the fields
and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers,
does Africa know a song of me?

Will the air over the plain
quiver with a color that I have had on,
or the children invent a game in which my name is,

or the full moon
throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive
that was like me,
or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?"

Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa

Thursday, January 12, 2012

“I thought I knew the Christmas story by heart, but....”


“A row of teenage girls stared at each other in wide-eyed wonder and then dissolved into a group hug. Eyes glistened with tears. As the last word was read, a spontaneous cheer erupted.…”

That scene occurred on the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa during my final Christmas in Africa.

What had caused such amazement, such jubilation?

It was the first Sunday in December, and the church pastor began his sermon as he always did.

“Our reading will be from Luke 2, verses 1 through 7,” he announced.

But he had a big surprise for his congregation.

Instead of reading the Christmas story in the nation’s official language, Portuguese, he read from a copy only recently translated into the congregation’s mother tongue, Kabuverdianu.

A highly trained translation team from that very congregation had worked hard to make it ready for Christmas.

“The translation team began to sob,” says Bob Creson, President/CEO of Wycliffe U.S.A.

“After the service, a woman who was educated in the official language approached a team member and said that at first she tried to follow along in her Portuguese Bible, but then she decided to close her eyes and just listen as the pastor read in her own language.

“‘I let the words fall over me,’ she said. ‘I thought I knew the Christmas story by heart, but I must confess that today I feel like I’ve heard it for the very first time.’”

That’s what Bible translation all about: providing people with Scriptures in their own language—their mother tongue, their heart language, the language they understand best.

And that’s why my husband and I moved to Africa. We played behind-the-scenes roles but, in our own small ways, we helped make it possible for Bible translation to happen.

Would you like to hear the Christmas story just as the Cape Verdeans heard it that December morning? Click here to listen to an audio version on the AKTB website. Click on the box labeled “Stória di Natal” in the top left corner, and then scroll down and click on “Nasimentu de Jizus (Lύkas 2:1-7).” (PC users: use Internet Explorer as your browser, rather than Firefox.) You’ll also get a good look at the Kabuverdianu language in writing.

Information for this story is courtesy of the Cape Verdean Translation Association.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Journey Deepens


A special note to mid-lifers, empty nesters, and baby boomers:

A number of years ago my husband said, “At church they teach us to tithe—give 10 percent—of our money, so why not encourage people to also tithe their professional lives?” In other words, after people have worked, say, thirty years in their careers, how about working three years in a ministry? Great idea!

And, in fact, a number of mid-lifers, empty nesters, and baby boomers—instead of retiring to a life of leisure—are transitioning into ministries, even overseas missions. Most people in this age group have good health, energy, and a wealth of experience and wisdom to share. Many organizations recognize this and actively recruit such people.

Maybe you, too, are ready to try something new, ready to make a difference that really counts. (from the Preface, Grandma’s Letters from Africa)

Perhaps you sense God nudging you toward missions but you don't know where to start. Or maybe you have questions or doubts or worries.

On the other hand, maybe you're ready to go! Maybe you're saying, "Just show me where to sign up!"

Wherever you find yourself, I encourage you to attend The Journey Deepens, a weekend retreat sponsored by The Finishers Project (associated with over  80 sending and mission service organizations) and Mission Next. TJD is also endorsed by In His Image and the Perspectives Study Program.

From TJD's website:

"The weekend consists of worship, large-group teaching sessions, small-group sessions, one-on-one appointment, mission agency interaction with prospective missionaries, and quiet time breakouts. Attendance is intentionally limited to create a personal interaction between individuals, coaches and fellow sojouorners with the Holy Spirit's guidance."

The Dallas area retreat takes place March 16-18 at Mt. Lebanon Retreat and Conference Center in Cedar Hill, Texas.

The Portland area retreat, April 20-22, will take place at Canby Grove Christian Camp and Conference Center in Canby, Oregon.

The Philadelphia area retreat, May 18-20, will happen at Worldwide Evangelization for Christ (WEC) International, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania.

So, what do you say? What are your lifle's goals?

Do you have a burning desire to use your God-given talents and skills in a bolder way?

Will you consider tithing your professional life? If you’ve worked thirty years in your career, how about working three years in a ministry?

Do you sense an urgency? Max Lucado said, "Life is racing by and if we aren't careful, you and I will look up and our shot at it will have passed us by."

"The thought of coming to my old age," said John Piper, "and saying through tears, 'I've wasted it! I've wasted it!' was a fearful and horrible thought to me." (from Don't Waste Your Life)

"Do what you can, with what you have," said George W. Carver, "and do it now."

While it's still fresh in your mind, click over to The Journey Deepens and prayerfully consider how and when and where you can participate.

Make 2012 the year you begin living the best, most rewarding years of your life!

"What if … I did what I could? …
What if I didn’t just think about acting
but actually acted?
What if I didn’t act out of obligation? …
What if I didn’t just wonder
about what difference I could make
but just took a step?"

Elisa Morgan, She Did What She Could

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Troubling questions


In recent days my life has consisted of cough drops, naps, a tight chest, naps, sneezing, naps, lethargy, and naps.

Tylenol, Mentholatum, and Kleenex are my best friends.

In recent days, my life has also consisted of thoughts about people I know in Kenya and others across Africa and around the world, hundreds of thousands—no, millions—who cannot afford Tylenol, Mentholatum, or Kleenex.

Cannot afford a doctor appointment.

Cannot take a day off for frequent naps.

Some might not even have beds or blankets.

I am troubled by questions I asked so many times in Africa and since my return to the US:

Why me? Why should I have such an easy life?  

In Africa, I wrote this in a letter to my granddaughter, Maggie:

These people carry the constant burden of worry—worry about violent crime and threats to bulldoze down their neighborhoods. But, most important, will they have food for their children?—money for medical help?

Why has God blessed me with abundant material possessions and the benefits of the modern world but withheld such things from vast numbers of Africans? I’ve searched for answers. My heart aches for so many souls across the continent.

When our friends explain their current crisis and ask for help, sometimes I see dark desperation in their eyes. Too many live always on the edge, always on the brink of malnutrition, clinging to their unadorned, spare existence, fighting against unrelenting poverty. Even with help from Kenyan churches, programs, and organizations, their lives are so fragile, so precarious. I see a flicker of hope in their eyes when we give them a job, money, or food. Our help seems like a small thing, but for them, it is an answer to prayer.

My heart cries out for justice. The Bible says God is good and just, but why do I have so much while many of my Kenyan friends have so little? They’re good, hard-working people who love God and serve Him, and something within me expects that good things should come to them. They must cry out, like David, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1).

I search Scripture, I pray, and I ponder. What is poverty? What is wealth? Our Maasai friends believe your grandfather lives in poverty—only one wife, only two children, and no cattle.

Who is rich, and who is poor?

Compared to many of our Kenyan friends, your grandpa and I look rich in material goods, but compared to our friends and family back home, our missionary income makes us look poor. And, as poor and desperate as some of our Kenyan friends are, they’re rich compared to millions of people living in places like Zaire and Sudan. It’s all so confusing. (from Chapter 18, Grandma’s Letters from Africa)