17 July, 2015

True Missionaries

  I laid my head on the desk, overwhelmed with a something i couldn't describe. It would hit me at odd times, flooding my soul. I had surrendered my heart to Jesus at 25 years old. Totally and completely i had given Him my heart, and somehow i knew these feelings of wanting to serve Him in a deeper way were Him calling. My mother had just died, releasing us from the responsibility of taking care of her, and i was happy and fulfilled with being a homeschooling mama and wife to Marlin. Things were going very well financially and there was light at the end of the tunnel but there was a nagging something tugging at both of us. Was this really how we wanted to spend our days? Working hard to make farm payments, always thinking of the next bill, the next payment? It was then that we got a phone call, asking us to consider moving to Kenya and we both knew we would go. So we said yes, and sold our farm. We sold our beds and our dishes, our tools and our sheet sets. Finally we would fulfill our longing to serve Jesus in an even deeper way. We would minister to the poor, the orphans, the widows. We set our faces towards Africa with a resolve to spend the rest of our days there if that was where God was calling. But alas, life goes rarely as planned or dreamed.

  The first inkling of trouble set in while en route to Nairobi. I didn't expect to be homesick so soon and i was troubled when i sat beside a Kenya family and instead of feeling a rush of love towards my future fellow countrymen, i just felt tired. I had good reason to be tired. 5 months pregnant and no sleep does that to a person but i knew it was something deeper in my heart. By the time we arrived in Kisumu not only was i tired, but i had the flu, complete with nerve shattering head aches. My first week was a blur of black faces and smiling missionaries. I cried when our children went to school, standing outside the school window hanging out clothes, tears dripping down my cheeks. I missed them desperately, even tho they were just feet away from me. I kept telling Jesus i was doing this for Him but it hurt. He felt so very, very far away. As if i had left Him behind in that London terminal.

  Days turned into weeks and life became a semblance of normality. The first time the corruption in the Agape program was uncovered, the whole mission reeled from shock. It was only the beginning and like a stack of dominoes, one pastor after another was discovered to have been unfaithful. Marlin would come in from a day of doing investigations, his face exhausted and his eyes hurt. Meanwhile my dreams of reaching out to the Kenyan women, building relationships and pointing people to the One who had so completed my life, slowly unraveled. I was so tired and sick, day after day, week after week. When Hadassah died, we wrestled with our grief but the world keeps going around and so we slowly picked up the pieces of our dreams and focused on life. It was shortly after Hadassah's death that i sensed the Holy Spirit telling me that He had not brought us to serve in the way we thought, but He had another plan. I was confused. Why bring us to Africa? I felt intense guilt at living in comfort behind gated walls when my African sisters lived in mud huts, some with husbands who beat them. My husband loves me. I am his first priority, not because i insist, but because he takes it seriously when Christ said to love as He loves His church. He has my heart, and he holds it in all its vulnerability as a precious thing. I loved my Kenyan sisters but i longed for more of a relationship with them. I became pregnant with Christopher and my days became even more tied to my house.

  The thing that frustrated me sometimes was something i hadn't planned on. I had planned on being the best missionary ever and it seemed all i was doing was cooking food for people. American people. Wave after wave of guests passed through our home. We were incredibly honored and delighted when friends and family flew across the world to visit us. It was a glorious taste of home and when they left i would fight tears, along with the desire to climb into the plane with them. Mission teams came over....board members.....fellow missionaries.....i would fry hamburger, toast bread, wash sheets, babysit children and about the time i caught my breath, another wave would show up. I felt completely useless as a missionary, forgetting what a missionary really is. There were mornings i would swing my legs over the side of the bed, and remind myself to just do the next thing. I would wonder when my real mission work would begin, altho i loved fellowshipping with old friends and new friends. Marlin and i are both social people and we totally enjoy meeting new people and through it all, we made lifetime friends. But sometimes i got tired of cooking, cleaning, smiling and organizing. I grieved my dreams of what i thot a missionary would be. And then one day my eyes were opened.

  I was rocking Christopher, while babysitting 3 extra children for a week, when i heard that quiet, still voice. In the midst of the chaos of 12 children and dirty windows, He spoke to my heart that this was His calling all along. He had brought me to serve others so they could also fulfill what He had called them too. He showed me that He had called me to be that smiling welcome, to make our home a safe place for people of all ages. Those cakes i baked and the chickens i served were served for Him and in His name. I realized with a shock of joy that i was being a missionary all along. The mundane duties of cooking and cleaning took on a whole new level of honor. I'm sorry it took me so long to realize this. Some lessons aren't learned in a short time but are experienced through tears and self denial.

  Exactly 2 years to the day that we boarded a plane for Nairobi, we will board a plane for America. We will still be missionaries because true missionaries have nothing to do with location. True missionaries are people who serve Jesus with complete abandon, even if it means cooking yet another meal for His sake.

15 June, 2015

Elephant Orphanage

  Last week we headed to Nairobi to take Marlin's mother to the airport because she was flying back to the states after being with us 3 months. We arrived in Nairobi on a Saturday and since she wasn't flying out until Monday at 5:30, we decided to visit the elephant orphanage Monday morning and watch the caretakers feed the baby elephants. It was a neat way to end our time with grandma. After all, who doesn't love babies of all sizes and shapes.
Nothing like a drink and a loving hug around the neck at the same time.

These are the little ones. Well, unless you compared them to the babies on the other side of the rope. 

Not every child can claim the distinction of petting an elephant.

He's liking it so very much.

A little love.

Grandma Weaver is one of those grandma's who likes a little adventure in her life. Petting a behemoth? Sure, no problem.

The adorable sleeping quarters for the babies. And for only $50 a year you can "adopt" a baby elephant and have the rare privilege of watching it go nighty-night.

Marlin and i saw these cute mammals and decided to adopt them instead. Putting them to bed is as exhausting as putting baby elephants to bed but far more worthwhile. Baby Christopher was asleep in my sling and being that he was sick, i hated to disturb him. There was a young Brazilian woman who was amazed at our crew and kept saying in amazement how perfect and handsome they are. I couldn't agree more. :)
  Marlin and i have mixed feelings about the elephant orphanage. While we agree that its heartbreaking to have orphan animals, it seems kind of ludicrous to spend millions on animals without souls when there are thousands of hurting children a few miles from the orphanage in one of the biggest slums in the world. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2297265.stm) Even tho i'm not an animal lover as in wanting them to hang around my feet, I hate to see hurting animals and few things make me as angry as a defenseless animal being cruelly mistreated, however, in comparison to children........

  Tonight we sat around the campfire as a family and the conversation turned towards Hades/Paradise and what that is or means and how we can know that we are under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Good, heart searching conversations, especially in light of moving back to the States in just 2 1/2 months, Lord willing. Here, poverty and the fine edge between life and death are always present. You leave our compound and it smacks you in the face. Last week we made a wrong turn in Nairobi and ended up in the outskirts of the very slums i mentioned in the previous paragraph. Last week, at a police check, Marlin got locked into a tiny room and then was asked for a bribe. Those kinds of experiences force our children to ask a lot of hard questions. They recognize that their growing up years are in the minority in this world. The safety and love of a two parent home, a warm bed, plenty of nourishing food, and christian friends is something that is hard to take for granted when you see the opposite all around us. They've seen the glue boys, sniffing their bottles for a bit of relief and the drunk, homeless men sleeping in the middle of a grassy patch between two highways. In the city slums, the consequences of not serving Jesus are very clear and horrific. Sin and despair are obvious companions on the streets. 

  So what will happen when we go back to comfortable, middle class America? Our heart is to continue to serve "the least of these" in whatever capacity God calls us. Our mission experience here has been quite the ride and there are parts we weren't prepared for, but one of the main reasons we came has been fulfilled, and that was so our children could see that the world is so much bigger than America. Very few people have had the privileges we have and we pray we won't forget that. God is going to hold us so very, very responsible not, as Marlin says, for what we have given but for what we have kept back. We're excited about going home and wrapping our arms around family and friends. We're excited to move to Virginia and worship Christ with new friends, and to sleep in a house without bars across the windows, but at the end of the day, we want to want Jesus more than anything. 

  Pray for us. It seem the spiritual warfare has intensified in the last several weeks as we start turning our faces towards "home." I'm fighting a lot of fear and at times it's overwhelming. Jesus is calling me to start getting up quite a bit earlier than i normally do. He's wooing me, wanting to have me soak in His presence, and my heart is hungry for that. Not out of law or fear, but out of relationship. To think He loves me and wants to fellowship with me is more than i can fathom, but getting up early is hard so if you think about it, ask God to give me the strength to deny that extra hour of sleep. 

  I'll leave you with a verse that has spoken to my heart.  

John 14:27 - Peace i leave with you. My peace i give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 


13 June, 2015

A Small Word of Advice from Christopher

  Christopher has a few things he'd like to share with fellow baby boy humans. Christopher? Take it away.

   "Hi guys, this is Christopher from Africa. I'm three months old (and counting) and i have a few tips that i thought might be a help to those of you who are also babies and fellow nursers of mamas.

  First of all, it helps to be cute. Really cute. Like me. But of course, doesn't every mama think there baby is the cutest one on the block? Let's not enlighten them. Believing you are the most adorable thing that ever existed will help your cause. My mama tells me this all the time.

  So you get yanked out of the womb into this cold, miserable world which is quite stressful but there are compensations. Mainly warm milk and cozy mother skin. When you first tasted that milk you figured everything will be just ok, and then they have the audacity to stick something called a pacifier into your mouth. Even tho it's miserable comfort compared to the real thing, go with it. You can retrain them later. Here's how you do it.

  Wait until you get sick. You'll hear your parents discussing how a schedule is not the thing to have when you're sick and you'll cough and hack in agreement. Start nursing as often as possible, even at night because there's nothing quite as pitiful as a baby with droopy eyes and a hot forehead. At this point you'll have them eating out of your hand, figuratively speaking. This is when you refuse the pacifier. Absolutely act as if you have no idea what it is. Spit it out, blow bubbles around it, and cry really hard until you get what you want. Which is nursing. (duh!) When you start hearing threatening things like schedules and retraining, it's time to crank up the cute factor.

  When you start nursing, act really, really hungry. Makes mama feel needed and important. After nursing for like 30 seconds, stop and stare at her. Make your eyes really big and just stare. She'll look down and go, "wow, you're really cute." Go back to eating and then do it again. After a while she might get annoyed because you're staring instead of eating so she'll start talking about bottles. At that point, up the cute factor. When she looks down to see you staring at her, give her a big smile. Make it a big one. She will oooh and aahh and forget about bottles and only remember what a privilege it is to nourish you. However, even a smile and stare isn't enough if you do it too often. Time to pull out the big guns. Stop nursing, start staring (making your eyes as big as possible), and when she looks down, give her a big smile and TALK to her. Go "agoo" or whatever makes her heart pitter patter, and your future is sealed. She will tell you that you are beautiful and forgiven of all your baby sins. Even the sin of refusing the pacifier, which i personally have been boycotting. I hate that thing and have a personal belief, bordering on a conviction, that those things are not from a beautiful place but are something dark and sinister.

  So for all babies out there, nurse in peace."

 This is Christopher's mama and what can i say. He has spoken truth.


03 June, 2015

Happy Birthday, Young Lady!

  I can no longer call her my little girl. She is a young lady, with sparkling brown eyes and a sensitive spirit. Her laugh is contagious, her sense of humor well developed, (well really, does she have an option?) and she's at an age where i can meet her eyes across a room and share a private joke. The kinds of jokes that only friends can understand.

  She's beautiful and i'm prejudiced. I'm ok with that.

 I love her. Seriously love her.

 And she's fourteen today.

Happy Birthday, sweet Emily! 

05 May, 2015

The Other Side of the Wall

    I set the flavored coffee creamer out with a quiet sense of pride. We were having friends over for coffee and i loved having something special to serve with our coffee. We were at a crucial stage of our lives. Struggling with credit card debt from a party lifestyle before meeting Jesus, and unable to make ends meet, we were praying about moving from Ohio back to Lancaster Co where Marlin had a job offer. (btw, i had told God i would rather move to China than back to Lancaster. That's another whole story but you can guess where God put us. Lancaster it was.) So our mentor friends came over and we were fellowshipping and sharing about our frustrations when our friend made a comment that has never left me and that changed my whole perspective. He pointed at my bottle of coffee creamer and ever so kindly told me that even little things like that make a difference when you want to get out of debt. I was stunned but after i got over my reaction, i knew i had heard truth and God wanted me to pay attention. That was years ago and we did move back to Lancaster. (and it was a blessing) I struggled with the fact that as a stay at home, homeschooling mama of many littles, i couldn't make money to help out with that debt load. So i prayed about it and the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart that every little sacrifice i made, He would multiply it, loaves and fishes style. I would stand at yard sales, debating whether God meant something as small as a 50 cent piece of something pretty. Often i would lay it back down and walk away, wondering exactly how God was going to manage to multiply something so small but knowing that my heart felt free. I didn't realize that God was teaching me basic principles of money management, of self denial, and of trust. And somehow, He multiplied our efforts and we were able to pay off all debts far sooner than we ever dreamt possible. We talked about calling the Dave Ramsey show and screaming "we're debt free!!" but that never happened. Instead we bought a farm and learned what being poor, american style, really was. :)

  So we move to Africa and Marlin and i wrestled with the poverty outside our compound walls. We knew what it was like to struggle financially but never had we seen anything like we saw here. Our typical, American response was to start handing out money and food but thankfully we had people here who warned us against that. It wasn't long before cynicism knocked on our heart's doors and when the electricity would go out for the fifth time in one day, one of us was sure to mutter, "stupid country." I worried and prayed about our hearts, wondering if we were going to leave discouraged and bitter. It seemed that the more the poor received the more they demanded, and the more they demanded the less we felt like giving. And yet we couldn't deny that there were very real needs surrounding us, and that the Americans had the power and money to help. So why did everything seem backwards and wrong? Were missions and foreign aid a joke? Maybe even wrong? So what does a person do about the scriptures telling believers to help the poor? What about the great commission? And what about the fateful verse, "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away?" I was ready to hand out everything we had and Marlin and i got into some heated (i mean loving, ha!) discussions about what that verse means. Turns out maybe i was wrong and he was right. What??

  And then i was handed a book this past weekend that i've been devouring in great gulps. "The other side of the wall" by Gary Miller. If you have any interest in missions, reaching the poor, and giving, you need to read it. If you have no interest in such things i pity your poor soul. He hits every question that Marlin and i have struggled with and lays out Biblical giving in a clear, compassionate way. I had such guilt when we first came with being born not only in one of the world's richest countries, but also being born into a culture that values honesty, moral integrity, and a hard work ethic. I also wanted to kick every African male's backside who took a second wife. Still working through that one.

  The crux of the matter is that every true, born again believer is going to have a heart of compassion. It might not look the same or be walked out the same, but it will be at the core of a Jesus obeying person. But in spite of having giving, compassionate hearts, a person can do real damage by winging out dollar bills left and right. We have seen that damage. However, there is a place for giving financially and we have been the grateful recipients of people who gave to us in time of need. I don't think i'll ever forget the time when we had hit bottom emotionally and financially on the farm, questioning whether we had heard from God in the first place, and we opened the mail and someone had blessed us financially in a  way that we knew they couldn't really afford. We sat that day in stunned amazement, tears streaming down our faces.

  Sometimes you "just" need someone to walk beside you in love and humility, strengthening your faith in yourself and your abilities. We've been blessed with friends who have also done that. They believed in us, even when we weren't sure we believed in ourselves. They gave counsel and sometimes simply listened, drinking coffee (without fancy creamers ;) and hearing our hearts.

  Now that i think of it, i don't think Marlin and i have ever faced true poverty. We've always been blessed with rich relationships and so many other amazing components that have made us into who we are. Our hearts are to take what we have learned, and are learning, and apply it to our giving.

14 April, 2015

19 Years...

  Nineteen years ago on the thirteenth, i placed my hand in Marlin's and said "I do" and started a life full of crazy love and laughter.

  We've had our moments. I once threw a strawberry pie in Marlin's face. One time he didn't come home for hours because he was so angry with me. We probably both deserved it.

  After 5 years of living and sinning together, we were losing our marriage and had long before lost our trust in each other. But anything is possible with God and it's ONLY because of Him that we have the kind of marriage today that means being best friends. He's my homie. I miss him when he's gone, if only for a couple of hours, and delight in seeing him walk in the gate. I've been accused of chasing him around the house but what's a woman to do if her man plays hard to get.

  Marriage is hard work but it's even more fun than hard if you surrender to Jesus and then surrender to each other. I would walk up that aisle all over again (hopefully in a prettier dress) and say "I do" with deep conviction and then i would chase him back the aisle to begin our happily ever after.

  On to other things.

  Christopher is growing, growing, growing. He is such a happy little man, taking long naps and looking around with big eyes and pursed lips when he's awake. However, i think he's getting a wee bit spoiled because he's learned if he fusses someone is bound to pick him up and shower him with kisses and attention. Little stinker.

  I'm healing well and have joined Marlin on his evening walks to try and get this flab whipped back into shape. My hormones have evened out (i think...do they ever really even out?) and every week i feel better. It's such mixed feelings i have with Christopher. I'm 39 and i know my biological clock is  ticking, warning me that there won't be many more babies. For the first time i'm ok with that. If the Lord chooses to give us more children, i'm fine with that but i'm also ok with Christopher being our last. So glad it's not my decision to make but i can rest in God leading through my husband.  He doesn't make such decisions lightly but feels his responsibility to watch over his "weaker vessel" and i revel in that. I used to think i was tough woman, independent and strong. I have since found out i'm not.  So i soak up puddles of love with my little man and kiss his silky, soft cheeks. I breathe in his sweet, sweet baby smell and try to store up enough baby to last me forever, even if forever is until the next positive pregnancy test. :)

  As far as the other eight, not so mini Weavers floating around here, they are doing well. The boys eat enough to cause fear and trembling in their mother's heart as she compares the size of their food portions and the size of the budget. But as Marlin says, it's an investment. We love having teenagers with their corky sense of humor, altho the sparks fly sometimes. I shudder when i think of what i must have put my mama through at their age. It's a wonderful thing we don't always get what we deserve, isn't it?

   I must post some pictures of dress up day at school. I think i'm emotionally deprived from not doing cool stuff like this when i was young. The children had SO much fun!!

The clown? is the teacher. She's great at coming up with wonderful ideas for keeping school interesting. We then have lego lady, house maid, prairie girl, and pippi long stocking.

This is one of the mission boys, covered in camouflage paint and hair dyed with activated charcoal.  His mama did a great job making him look like a Masai.

Prophet Eric

Crusader Zachary (he has a cross on his shield and armor) and hobo Joshua. My children did their costumes totally on their own while i watched and laughed.  


19 March, 2015

C- Sections, Needles, and Beautiful Baby...

  It's been a week since i lay under those bright lights and wondered what in the world we were thinking to ever consider a long needle in my spine and a knife in my stomach. Now that's it's over? Totally worth it! But don't we always say that?

Dr. Bonyo

  Christopher is doing wonderful and growing like a little man. I haven't weighed him but i'm convinced he's grown a bit since last week. His little face is filling out and he's getting wee little rolls on his legs. I love it, except it makes me sad to think of how fast he will be out of this stage. He's a very good baby so far. He had his days and nights mixed up at first but after working with him a day or two, he's up to 5 or 6 hour stretches at night. I won't promise it will last but i'm happy with even 3 hour stretches as long as he goes right back to sleep after eating. He has the appetite of a little piggy which would fit with the rest of my babies. :)

  So what do i think of a c-section versus natural birth? As i thot, there wasn't any "dear Jesus help me" or "I can't do this" or "NEVER, NEVER again" shrieks but neither was it anything like i envisioned. I was thinking long needle in my spine, and then complete and total numbness from my waist down. Nope, not so much.

  We got into the hospital at 5, planning on an early morning c-section the following day. What do you know, Marlin got a phone call from our surgeon informing us that she had just been told that theatre is full the next morning and she would like to do the surgery that evening yet. Marlin said sure, come on up, and i kissed my dreams of meatballs and french fries good by. He ate his soggy fish while waiting on doctor and the slow wheels of hospital of beaucracy to turn.  Thankfully i hadn't had much of any food that afternoon which is a blessing because puking and choking on the puke wasn't something i wanted to experience while under anesthesia. While we waited we had the privilege of listening to a lady in the throes of very natural labor next door. I found myself praying as much for her as for myself while my eyes filled with tears in sympathy.

Ok, i really, really don't like this picture. I look like i'm either having surgery or have bowel problems. But i'm leaving it on, mostly because Marlin posted it and partly because i can't always be beautiful. "choke" 

  Eventually they wheeled me downstairs on the stretcher and into a little cubby hole to wait on more nurses and paperwork. Marlin asked to be allowed in the operating room so after signing papers that he wouldn't faint and sue them for it, he donned the proper gear and waited. I was feeling pretty calm, up until they wheeled me into the operating room and i saw all the bright lights, the table where i was to be dissected, and the gloved and hatted assistants waiting with their hands in the air. I assumed the "position" and felt the needle go in and the liquid start flowing into my system. As they laid me back and i realized that while i wouldn't feel pain but i WOULD feel pressure, tugging and various other procedures, i had a moment of raw, pure, unadulterated fear. Throw up kind of fear. Never had i felt anything like it and at that moment i envied the woman moaning and praying upstairs in the throes of drug and needle free childbirth. I started praying. Furiously. It's not like i could sit up and say i've changed my mind. I had zero control over my legs at that point and i don't think anyone would've listened if i had. (and just for the record, you know how little, conservative girls are taught modesty as soon as they can sit up? they should also teach them that there will be exceptions and c-sections are one of them. Thankfully they soon taped large blue sheets over my lower half and i hoped no one was scarred for life, esp myself.) As quickly as the fear entered it left, followed by a complete and total peace. I started thanking Jesus for this opportunity of trusting Him, i thanked Him for being in control and i basically held my own praise and worship service while staring up at the ceiling and clutching Marlin's hand. I felt them marking where the incision would be and i sensed when they began, altho thankfully i couldn't feel the actual cutting. I was unprepared for the tugging and pressure that happened and i started wondering if they would ever get the baby out or if they had lost their way. After a great tug and me telling Marlin that i was going to be sore for a very, very long time, we heard a gurgle and Christopher James was pulled out. Marlin said he could tell when the doctor had him out because she got a great big grin on her face. There were tears and rejoicing and much anxious checking to see that baby was ok. And he was!!!

When i first saw this little man's nose i thot it looked like he fit right in with this country. I honestly was a little worried that his nose was abnormal. (It was before i saw the picture of myself during surgery.) His nose is now unsquashed and quite adorable. 

  The nurses brought Christopher over to Marlin and we adored him while the doctor continued to play tug of war with my insides. Marlin and baby disappeared and eventually, at long last i was wheeled out of the operating room and into recovery. That part was tough. My legs felt like concrete and as if there was a million needles pricking them. Like how you feel when you wake up during the night and your hand fell asleep and you can't move it. It was incredibly claustrophobic and i kept praying that no terrorist would decide to choose this time to take over the hospital. Seriously. You think of those things when you are living in a third world country and your legs are completely helpless. At long last they deemed me fit to be moved upstairs and they wheeled my wobbly, still semi numb body upstairs. Marlin was waiting and shortly they brought Christopher in and all was right with my world. Except i had a gash in my stomach, my legs still wouldn't work, and the poor lady next door was still birthing the old fashioned way. At that point i decided i would rather be me than her. Sometimes natural is over rated.

  We were privileged to have a very nice, private room and when the feeling returned to my limbs and they hooked up my pain meds, it truly was right with my world. By Sunday i was home and here we are, a week later. My healing has been going very well, except for a small bout of emotional hormones the fourth and fifth day. Wow, that was not so fun but from what i gathered, normal, especially after a c-section. Christopher is absolutely the cutest thing ever and i don't think it's possible for a child to be loved more.

  Simply put, we are seriously in love!