Getting Settled in Our NEW HOUSE!!

This may be old news for some of you, but I am adding some extra pictures to this blog post so that there will be SOMETHING new for everyone here.

I have been WANTING to share this post with you for quite some time now, but all the busyness that goes into moving and getting settled has really made it difficult to do much else. But, I got the last box unpacked yesterday and the very last shelf in our house organized, so FINALLY I can feel safe to say that we are OFFICIALLY settled in our new house!

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It was just last December that we purchased the property and began the construction of our house. We expected it to take longer to build the house, but God has really been blessing the project and it only took 8 months before it was finished and ready for our family to move in!

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The carpenter was still finishing up some final touches on the shelves and cabinets on the day we moved in.

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I really love how the kitchen counters turned out!

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Our neighbor was kind enough to let us set up our clothesline on his property. We do have a little yard space, but another neighbor had already planted corn all over in our property, so until the corn can be harvested we will be sharing a clothesline with our neighbor.

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The picture above shows me and Keturah sitting among all the boxes in what would become our parlor/hospitality room.

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The kids were really well behaved on moving day. Even amidst all the bustle and activity going on in the rest of the house, they were content to sit and play quietly in their new room.

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Caleb is thrilled. There’s lots of room for riding the tricycle INSIDE!!

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<<Push me daddy!!!>>

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Keturah . . . chilling out in mommy and daddy’s room.

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Watching a movie on the Kindle and just chilling while mommy and daddy are busy unpacking.

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For the first time EVER our family actually has a real kitchen and a dinning table that we can all sit around and eat our meals together. SO nice!!

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Also in the kitchen . . . a nice cupboard for holding dishes. The dishes on the floor represent our “kitchen sink” . . . we don’t have running water in the house, so dirty dishes go in the large basins and are later taken outside to wash on the front porch.

The big “black box” on top of the shelf is our oven. It’s a solar oven that we use to bake things in the sun. We’ve even been able to successfully can meat in it. Very handy!

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Playing with friends outside . . . Keturah loves playing with her toy dishes in the dirt (she pretends to make us all some chocolate ice cream!!)

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There’s a spot right outside our door that is nice and level where the kids can run and play.

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Keturah enjoying a light snack in the kitchen. Sammy made a grocery run for us, so all the shelves are fully stocked now.

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A view of our parlor (aka: “hospitality room”) just off of the kitchen. We get a lot of visitors coming to our house at all hours, so this room is designated as a greeting/meeting area. The curtains can be closed to isolate this room from the rest of the house. This way we can be entertaining guests or holding meetings and the kids can still be free to move around the house without causing a distraction or having their daily routine thrown off at all.

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Setting up the printer! We provide printing services to the people in our community, so this is our in-home photo studio and printing shop!

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Another view of the kitchen and our parlor/hospitality room.

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Storage cabinets just off the kitchen . . . leading into our family room!

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The cabinets are great! Lots of room inside!

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Keturah and Caleb’s room . . . lots of floor space for playing!

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Of course, typically their room looks like this! Lots of activity goes on in this room!

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Also in our family room I set up a little corner as my “office space”. It works great! I can be working at my desk while the kids play nearby.

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Keturah also enjoys sitting at “mommy’s table”!

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Mommy and Daddy’s room!

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This is my favorite piece of furniture in our house . . . a custom made medicine cabinet!

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The doors even have little shelves that are perfect for holding all our essential oils!

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And the medicine cabinet closes up nicely to conceal the contents . . . and it locks to keep the kids out! Love it!

The doorway next to the cabinet (with the red curtain) is the entrance to our prayer room.

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Here’s a look at the inside of the prayer room, as it is so far. Still working at getting it set up and nicely arranged.

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This would be our bathroom (obviously), though perhaps less obvious might be the fact that there is no shower/tub, we don’t have running water, so we use buckets for flushing and bathing.

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Keturah loves drawing with sidewalk chalk. The fact that all the floors in our house are cement means she can pretty much draw wherever she likes . . . and what a great artist she’s turning out to be!

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Caleb . . . sacked out after a very busy day of moving and getting settled!!

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Here’s the floor plan of our house (in case you’re curious about the layout).

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A Prophet or God’s Son?

Jeebo had asked me (Sammy Weber) to come and talk with him and his two apprentices about God. He said he also had some questions for me about the Bible. He asked me to come on Sunday afternoon. That Sunday morning in church, a verse was read that confirmed to me the main point that I wanted to share with Jeebo and his friends. The verse was Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek with all your heart”.

I spent some time in prayer before going to meet with Jeebo, asking God for the right words to say and the for the wisdom to know what approach to take and which topics to discuss. When I arrived at Jeebo’s place, he welcome me and we sat at his porch. His neighbors, whom he’d invited, ended up not coming so it was just Jeebo, his two apprentices, and myself. Once we were seated Jeebo bought us all some roasted corn and then said, “Okay Samuel, go ahead and share with us something about God”.

So I began by talking about how there are many religions today, all claiming to have the truth and how only one path can really be the right one. Then I went on to say that God is a real person who is able to reveal himself to us if we ask him to – but we must do this in humility and sincerity.

We talked about what this means for a little while, then we talked about the difference between what others think of us and what God thinks of us, and how other’s expectation can affect us. We talked about how if I were to become a Muslim, this could mean all sorts of persecution for me and in a similar way if they were to become Christians. But then we talked about how God’s desire for us is more important than anyone else’s expectations or pressures.

During the conversation I told them repeatedly, “I don’t want you to accept anything I tell you today just because I told you, go and ask God to show you whether it is true or not”.

After a few interruption with other people stopping by then leaving, there was just Jeebo and his one apprentice named Mohamed, and myself. Then Mohamed got up to go get something and Jeebo asked me a question that he wanted to ask when there was just the two of us . . . . “I have a question about Jesus. I’ve read in the Koran that Jesus was a prophet and I’ve heard Christians say that Jesus was the son of God. So which was he, a prophet or a son?

In response I asked him, “What do you think of when you hear the word prophet? What does it mean that someone is a prophet?” He answered, “A prophet is someone who God gives a message to”. Then I asked, “Then what do you understand is meant when someone says God’s son?” Jeebo made a face and said, “Well that’s more difficult because Allah never got married.”

“Yes” I said. “You are right that Jesus is not God’s son in the sense that we often talk about fathers and sons down here on earth. For God is not like a man, he has never married, and he does not desire a woman, for his hands have made all those things that we are drawn to here on earth. But is there no other meaning of the word son?”

I then told him about a child named Romeo who was like a son to me for time, long before I was married or had any biological children. I asked him, “Do you see how God could have a son like that?” He nodded.

“So back to your question, is Jesus a prophet or a son. Isn’t it possible to be both? I believe that Jesus was a prophet and he was also God’s son. But I want you to ask God to show you if Jesus was really His Son. I believe that He will.” Jeebo nodded and looked pensive for a while.

When Mohamed returned, I asked them if I could tell them a story. They both said yes and settled more comfortably on their bamboo stools. So I told them the following story (also known as an African Easter story) . . .

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In a very small village, in the jungles of Africa, there lived a very young (but very wise) chief. One day the elders of the village came to the chief and presented to him a problem. Several people in the village had reported that there must be a thief in the village. No one could say who the thief was, but there were several homes that had reported that food supplies were disappearing in the night. The chief began to look into the matter in all his seeking he was not able to find even one clue as to who the thief could be.

This problem went on for quite some time and became a real concern to everyone in the village and the elders and leaders in the village began to pressure the chief to take drastic measures to stop this thieving.

So the chief gathered together all the people of the village and spoke to them. He spoke to the villagers saying, “We all know that there is a thief among us, and you, the person who is doing the thieving knows who you are. We are a small community, and really, we are like one family.  We are all united in our love for one another. If anyone is struggling or lacking food there is no need to steal. You can simply come to us and we will see that you are cared for and all your needs are met”.

The chief went on to encourage the people, and to encourage the person who was stealing that they should come forward and confess. But no one came forward.

“If you come forward now,” the chief said, “the punishment you are to receive for stealing will be light. But if you do not come forward and instead wait to be caught, your punishment will be harsh. The punishment for stealing is 5 lashes with the whip. If you come forward now you will receive these 5 lashes and no more. But if you wait until you are caught the punishment will be double — it will be 10 lashes!” With these words he continued to implore the thief to confess. But still no one came forward.

It was with a heavy heart that he dismissed the people. That night he assigned a group of men to hide out in the bushes and spy on the village to see if they could catch the thief, but they had no way of knowing which house the thief would visit, and they were not able to catch the thief that night.

The next morning (the same as every morning) there was another report of missing food. So once again the chief gathered together all the people of the village and spoke to them.

He said to them, “Is there any need to steal food? Are we not as one family that cares for the needs of each person? If you are hungry there is no need to steal, you have only to come and tell us of your need and we will see that you are provided for. There is no reason why anyone among us should be stealing food.”

Once again he encouraged the person to confess, but no one among the people would admit that they were the thief.

“This cannot continue,” said the chief, “we are a small community, and eventually you will be caught. If you come and confess yourself that you are the one who has been stealing the punishment you will receive is 5 lashes. But if you do not come forward, but instead wait to be caught, your punishment will be harsh — I increase the amount now to 20 lashes!”

With these words he continued to implore the thief to confess. But still no one came forward.

With a heavy heart, he dismissed the people once again.

This went on for many days. Each night a group of men would hide in the bushes to see if they could catch the thief, but each morning there would be reports of stolen food and no thief was caught. Each afternoon the people would be gathered together and the chief would speak to them and implore them, and encourage the thief to confess, but there was never a person who stepped forward in response.

And each time the chief would increase the sentence . . . “If you come and confess that you are the one who has been stealing the punishment will be 5 lashes, but if you do not come forward and instead wait to be caught, your punishment will be harsh –it will be 25 lashes! . . . 30 lashes! . . . 35 lashes! . . . 40 lashes!”

But still no one came forward.

Then, early one morning the chief was awakened by loud shouts in the village. The thief had at last been caught. All the villagers gathered outside the chief’s quarters eager to see who the thief was. The chief stepped forward and called for the thief to be brought forward.

A sudden hush fell over the crowd. Even the chief himself was speechless as they brought before him the thief — the chief’s own mother!

For the longest time no one spoke. The chief stared, his knees growing weak. All the eyes of the village were upon him. They all knew the sentence that had been proclaimed — 40 lashes with the whip. But as they looked at the old, feeble woman who stood before them it was clear to everyone that a sentence like that would be death to her.

And it was the chief’s own mother. How could he possibly follow through with seeing his own mother beaten to death!?

The crowd waiting anxiously as the chief stepped forward to speak to his mother.

“Why?” he asked, “why have you been stealing from these people? Am I not your son? And the chief of this village! If you had a need of any kind could you not have come to me and received everything you need and more? Why did you not come to me? Why have you been stealing?!”

There was no response. The old woman simply lowered her head in shame and remained silent.

The chief turned and stepped up to his throne, then turned to address the crowd. “The sentence is 40 lashes with the whip. Take the woman and bind her in preparation for the flogging.”

There were murmurs heard among the crowd as the men stepped forward to do the chief’s bidding. The old woman’s arms were stretched out and her hands strapped to two poles exposing her back for the whip.

The designated man took up the whip and turned to look at the chief, awaiting his signal to proceed.

Breathlessly the crowd watched, waiting to see the nod from the chief that would commence the sentence — the full 40 lashes that would doubtless be the end of this old woman, his mother.

They watched as the chief stepped down from the throne and went over to his mother. Then he put one hand on each of the posts and stretched out his arms, shielding his mother with his own body. Then he looked at the man with the whip and gave “the nod”.

The whip cracked the full 40 times falling on the back of the chief. Justice was served. But mercy . . . mercy let the lashes fall upon the innocent back of the chief as he took the punishment on himself.  The chief acted in this way so as to be both the one who is just and the one who justifies.

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At the end of the story I asked Jeebo and Mohamed, “Do you think that the chief in this story was a good judge or a bad one. They thought for a moment, then Jeebo said, “I think he was a good judge. He needed to punish the crime but he took the penalty himself.” Mohamed nodded in agreement.

“Okay” I said, “Now let me give you another illustration . . . Let’s suppose that someone breaks into your parents house and beats your parents terribly and steals all their belongings. Let’s suppose that your mother then dies as a result of the beating. Now let’s suppose that he robber is caught and you are in a court room before a judge with the robber there. Now let say that the robber says to the judge, “Your honor, I admit that I am guilty of all these charges being brought against me but I want to bring to the court’s attention the fact that this is my only offense, and before doing this terrible thing I was actually a very good person. I have fed countless orphans, I have build a mosque for a poor village, I have helped many poor people. So I have done a lot of good in my life.

Now suppose the judge then says, “We will now set this man free, since his good deeds outweigh the bad that he’s done”, do you think that this judge would be a good judge or a bad judge?”

Both Jeebo and Mohamed agreed that he would be a very bad judge.

Then I said, “My first story shows what kind of a judge Christianity believes God to be and the second story illustrates what kind of a judge Islam believes God is. So consider the two and think about what kind of a judge he really is”.

We talked for another hour or so and when I left they expressed the desire to continue further conversation on these topics.

Please pray that God would cause the seeds planted that day to germinate and bear fruit. Thank you!

“I Want the Pink House!”

Children say the most interesting things sometimes!

Keturah (being a very precocious child) always seems to be coming up with the most interesting ways to express herself and to share her perspective of the world around her. So, for today’s post, I thought I would let Keturah do the speaking for us as we share the latest updates and give a quick “picture tour” of the house we are building, all from Keturah’s perspective.

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Keturah: “Mommy, look, there’s my new house! Daddy’s building it for me!”

Mommy: “Yes he is! Daddy’s doing a good job building you a new house.”

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Keturah: “This is my new room?! Daddy cleaned it for me and paint my bedroom white. But I don’t want the white room. I think I don’t like this house anymore.”

Mommy: “You don’t like this house anymore?! Why not?”

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Keturah: “I want the PINK house down there!”

Mommy: “You want the pink house!?”

Keturah: “Yes, I think the pink one can be my new house. Pink is my favorite color!”

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Keturah: “Look that’s my daddy and my Caleb! Daddy is a prince! And Caleb is the king! Me, I’m a daughter and a princess!!”

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Mommy: “Keturah, what are these rooms?”

Keturah (from right to left): “This one is going to be the toilet and I think the other room is my baby room. And this one can be mommy and daddy’s room.”

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Keturah: “Mommy and daddy’s room is ALL MESSY! Daddy have to clean it! Then Caleb can’t crawl in the dirt!”

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Keturah: “This is my BIG room where we can walk outside. Then we need to open the toy boxes and I can play in the big room. But I need to put away toys first before I have other ones to play with!”

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Keturah: “This is the ladder to climb inside the window!”

Mommy: “Yes it is, but what is this room going to be used for? Do you remember what we’re going to put in this room?”

Keturah: “Um . . . I don’t know how to say that one. That’s a trash room!”

Mommy: “A trash room?! Why is it a trash room?”

Keturah: “I don’t know” (giggles) “I think it’s a trash room because daddy need to clean it. Then we can put the tables and my chairs, and I think we can come and eat here. But daddy have to clean it first!”

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Mommy: “Keturah, can you show me your room again?”

Keturah: “No, I don’t think this can be my room again.”

Mommy: “Why not?”

Keturah: “Well, I just don’t want the white room, I think my room has to be pink!”

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Mommy: “Maybe we could ask daddy to paint your room and make it pink.”

Keturah (big smiles): “I think that can be good idea!” (laughs gleefully) “I like pink rooms! My daddy have to paint my room pink, then it not be white anymore. Then, when daddy finish to make my room pink, we can put my bed in my room, and my toys in my room, and all my dresses in my room, and my shirt in my room . . . “

Mommy: “Do you like that idea?”

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Keturah (very excitedly): “Yeah! That’s a good idea! Let’s do that!!”

“Jesus can still hear me . . .”

Keturah really enjoys watching the “Hermie and Friends” videos. Her favorite parts in these movies is where the caterpillars go and “talk to God”.

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There have been several times in which I have found Keturah sitting outside on the step just quietly looking up at the sky. When I ask her if she’s okay she just smiles and says, “I’m fine. I’m just talking to God.”

Other times she would even pack a basket of “goodies” as if she were going to be gone a long time. Then she would head to the door and call back to me as she went, “Bye mommy! I need to go talk to God now!”

A couple weeks ago our family was sitting down for supper and paused a moment to pray. Usually the table prayer is a shorter prayer (since everyone is really hungry and anxious to eat), but on this particular day Keturah seemed to have realized in a deeper and more real way that God is the one who gives us EVERYTHING, so when we sat down to pray she told God thank you for the food, but she didn’t stop there. She went on (and on, and on, and on) thanking God for other things as well . . . so many things, in fact, that after a while we began to wonder if she would ever reach the end of her prayer. It was really neat, but we were also very hungry by the time she finished.

The other night, as I was putting Keturah to bed, I asked her if she wanted to pray. That’s when she made the comment, “Jesus is way up, up, up in the sky . . . but He can still hear me!”

Simple, child-like faith! She can’t see Him, but she knows He can hear her.

Well, today she made a new discovery about prayer that was really exciting to her . . .

Sammy had taken the kids out for a walk this morning. When they got back, Keturah was all excited and began talking so fast I could hardly catch what she was telling me.

“Mommy, I saw a butterfly! . . . Daddy didn’t see a butterfly . . . but then I saw a butterfly all by myself . . . then it went up, up, up in the air and I never see it again! . . .I talk to God and then I see a butterfly! . . . I saw over here, I saw over here . . . is yellow and purple and pink . . . and same colors . . . he have pink and purple . . . lots of colors”

Sammy came in while she was telling me about it, so he told me the story behind her excitement. Apparently, while they had been out walking, Keturah kept asking if she could see a butterfly. Sammy told her that he doesn’t have any control of the butterflies and didn’t know where any butterflies were, but he told her that if she really wanted to see a butterfly she should ask Jesus. So she prayed and asked God if she could see a butterfly.

While she was praying, Sammy turned to talk briefly to someone and that’s when it happened . . . Keturah spotted her butterfly!

How special!! Right after she had finished praying that’s when the butterfly appeared!

She was SOOO excited! And it was pretty exciting for the rest of us as well, to witness God’s answer to her prayer.

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(No, this is not the butterfly that she saw, but when we were looking at butterfly pictures online this one was Keturah’s favorite!)

 

All these stories that I share are really cute, but even more than that, it has been really precious to see how Keturah is learning to love God and learning to not just recite prayers but to actually think of God as a real being and to talk to Him the way she talks to any other person.

Her little butterfly story was an inspiration to me. I feel like this little answer to prayer was exactly what I was needing as well.

This last week has seemed especially difficult for us. We’ve been running on very little sleep and having days that seem even more busy than usual. It’s been a whirl-wind of activity, going from one thing to another, that I feel like I’ve gotten so caught up in being busy that I’ve forgotten how to stop and “smell the roses” (or in this case, look for the butterflies!)

But today is Friday . . . which in our home means that it is our day of Sabbath rest. Our one day a week when we can put work stuff aside and actually sit back and take a deep breath.

In some ways it feel more like a day where we can “crash” and give our heads a chance to stop spinning for a little while. A day to catch our breath, regain focus, and prepare our minds and bodies for another week-long sprint.

But today, as I have been thinking about what God really intended the Sabbath rest to look like, the one thing that keeps coming to my mind today is the realization that this is a day in which we can set aside the cares of the world and just take the time to “know that God is God!”

Keturah’s little butterfly story led me into a time of contemplation. A time of thinking back over the past week and about the different answers to prayer that God gave to me.

So many times in a day I offer up a prayer to God, but then I go on with life and don’t ever take the time to watch for the answer to come, or to appreciate God when He does answer my prayers. Sometimes I take God for granted and just expect Him to answer my prayers because “that’s what He does, right?”

Thankfulness. Gratitude. Excitement!

I think we miss out on a lot of excitement when we fall into the habit of just always asking God for things and not taking the time to marvel and rejoice when He answers our prayers!

I just think about the sheer joy and excitement on Keturah’s face over that one little butterfly and I just think how wonderful it would be to live with that joy and excitement each and every day!

Look what God has done!!

Even though Jesus is way up, up, up in the sky, He can still hear us . . . and He answers us when we call!

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Building Our New House

In late December we purchased a piece of property for building a house. Ever since then we have been busy with leveling the property, laying the foundation, constructing the door and window frames, and building up the walls.

It has been pretty exciting, but also pretty challenging. You would not believe all the problems we have encountered so far in the process . . .

  • The property was not as “square” or semetrical as we had thought, so we had to redesign the house to fit in a narrower space.
  • The carpenter we hired got into a motorcycle accident and ended up in the hospital
  • The men laying the foundation didn’t know how to read blueprints and ended up having to redo much of it.
  • Bush fires burned up much of the wood that we had ordered for the rafters
  • The contractor building the house only showed up every other day and his workers didn’t really know what they were doing, so pretty much every other day we were having them correct mistakes or redo things.
  • There was some shifty business going on with our roofer, so we had to fire him and quickly find someone else.

 

Those have been the challenges but there have also been countless joys and blessings as well . . .

  • It has been a joy to see God’s provision of property in a choice location and wonderful neighborhood.
  • It has been exciting to plan out our home to our personalized preferences.
  • God has blessed us with some great friends who have been helping us with the building project.
  • Even in spite of the difficulties mentioned above, the construction is progressing rather quickly.
  • Our new home is only about 500 yards from where we used to live when we first moved to Cameroon (6 years ago), so it’s a very familiar area to us and we already have a lot of friends in the area.

 

Here is a picture of the property that we purchased back in December . . .

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There was already the beginnings of a structure on the property, but it did not align with what we had planned for our house so we had this structure torn down . . .

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There was also a small house already included with the property. At first we had considered adding on to the already existing house, but in the end we agreed that it would be an advantage to have two separate buildings. This existing structure can be used as an office space and a place to do our various ministry and development projects, as well as guest housing for visitors. In having this smaller structure for work and ministry related stuff we could actually have our home be more of a personal space for our family, which is something we’ve never had before.

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Here is the layout of the house we are building . . .

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The most important part of any building project is its foundation. The foundation for this house was particularly difficult in that the property we bought is on the side of a hill and the property was not level by any means. So in laying the foundation we had to first build a wall and raise the property on one side and make the area level . . .

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Here is a shot of the property after the ground was raised for the foundation . . .

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Once the ground was level we could start laying the foundation . . .

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There were a couple measurements off when they first began digging the foundation, so it took a little longer than expected, and required a lot of extra work. But since the foundation is the most important part we needed it done right and didn’t want to rush it.

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Keturah really enjoys visiting the construction site and pretending to help with building our new house. In this picture she is holding a bag of side walk chalk . . .

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While the “big people” were up measuring out the walls and figuring out the dimensions of each of the rooms . . .

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. . . Keturah was down below practicing her shapes and drawing on the wall of the foundation . . .

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Here we are, sitting in the space that will one day be Keturah’s room. She likes to tell us about how she’s going to have a bed, and toys, and all her dresses in her new room. Needless to say, she’s pretty excited.

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Overseeing the placement of the doors as the walls start to go up . . .

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Keturah standing in the doorway of “daddy and mommy’s room” . . .

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The walls are all mud bricks, but when it’s done we’ll be putting a layer of cement on the inside walls . . .

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Keturah standing in her bedroom . . .

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Now the walls are all up and the door and window frames are all in place . . .

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All of a sudden it’s looking like a real house! You can see the kids’ room pretty clearly defined now . . .

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Here’s the view from standing by the exterior door in the family room . . .

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As you can see below, we designed the home in such a way that the house is very “open” which will be great for airflow as well as making the rooms feel bigger than they are . . .

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Tomorrow morning we will be starting on the roof. Rainy season is just around the corner so we’re anxious to get the roof on before it rains. Once the roof is on we can be a little more relaxed about finishing up the other details of the house, but the main thing right now is just to get the roof on before the rains return.

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Here’s Keturah making friends with the neighbor kids. There are a lot of young kids in this neighborhood, which will be a lot of fun for our little “social bug”  🙂

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Our current plan is to be moved into this new home by September — Lord willing!

I hope you enjoyed the pictures!

Too Close for Comfort

This afternoon was rather adventurous. Today was a day that I have been both expecting and dreading — the day they burned the bush around our house.

We were enjoying a quiet afternoon. Sammy had just gone out to talk with someone in the community. Caleb was fast asleep. I was  working on my computer. And Keturah was sitting next to me, enjoying her chocolate banana snack.

I heard the crackling of a fire in the distance so I stepped outside to take a look. I could see that there were some people burning the brush down in the valley. It was a safe distance away, but it WAS on THIS side of the river, so I made a mental note to check on it again a little later to see which direction the fire would be going.

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I went back inside and continued working a few minutes longer. Then, all of a sudden, I heard a huge gust of wind and the sound of the fire suddenly grew much louder. So I went back outside to look and, much to my dismay, the fire was creeping up the side of our hill at a rather quick pace heading right towards our house.

I knew there were people watching the fire, so I wasn’t too alarmed. But since the house we are staying in only has one door (and that door was the facing the direction where the fire was coming from) I didn’t feel comfortable about staying inside while there was a fire raging so close to the house.

The wind was picking up quite a bit at this point and the fire was approaching rather quickly, so I got Keturah down out of her high chair and went fetch Caleb off the bed. On the way out the door I grabbed my purse, my cell phone, and our shoes. I took the kids around to the back of the house and sat them down on the cement slab and proceeded to put Keturah’s shoes and socks on.

That done, we circled back around the house to see how the fire was progressing. It was right around this time that two men came running up the hill carrying branches that they were using to fight back the fire to keep in under control.

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They were shouting more than usual and it didn’t take much to realize that the fire was not completely under their control. They seemed a little frantic and began calling others to come and help them.

People came from every direction to see what was going on. Some people were a bit upset at the men who had started the fire, lecturing them about how they’re not supposed to burn the bush during the “heat of the day” and how they really shouldn’t have done it on such a windy day.

But what’s done is done, so everyone pitched in to try and correct the situation.

They decided that the best way to control the fire would be to create a cross fire (which required starting a second fire). They asked me if I had any matches, so I ran inside quick to fetch the box of matches. How thankful I was that we had just purchased matches that morning as if we had had a premonition that we would be needing them.

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The cross fire helped a great deal in directing the fire away from our house, but then, quite unexpectedly there was another gust of wind and the fire began spreading pretty quickly again.

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We heard someone from a distance calling out and warning the men that the fire was getting too close to the road (and too close to the power lines!) so they set a young boy in charge of watching the fire by our house (which was pretty much under control by this point) and everyone else ran up the road to see if they could fight back the fire before it did any damage to the power lines.

I didn’t bother going along with the group, I wanted to stick closer to home and make sure the fire didn’t get out of hand again.

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I could hear a lot of commotion, but couldn’t really tell what was going on. Then, from across the valley (towards the hospital) I heard new shouts ringing out, a frantic call for people to hurry and fetch some water. I looked over in the direction of the voices and could see several people running to cut down branches to beat the fire while others were rushing to fetch buckets of water. That’s when I noticed that the fire from the valley was making a direct path up the other side of the hill and heading straight towards the generator shed.

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I don’t know how much fuel is stored in the generator shed but it was enough for everyone to be genuinely concerned. For the second time that afternoon I took the kids around behind the house as a safety precaution, and just peered out myself to see what would happen. I watched the group of people throwing water on the fire and beating it back with branches they had cut.

The fire came within 10 feet of the generator shed, but they were able to stop it in time.

The power lines were not as fortunate, though, so the power was out for a while this evening while the power lines were being repaired.

Well, that was our “big adventure” for today. It wasn’t as bad as I had feared, but with the strong winds we had this afternoon the fire did get a little too close for comfort. But, all’s well that ends well.

Once the fire started to die down, a bunch of kids came by with branches to snuff out the embers and small flames that still remained from the fire. They seemed to have a lot of fun chasing after the little fires and beating them with their branches.

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And that was the end of our excitement for the day. Except for a few moments of “frantic” and a couple times of feeling “concerned”, it was actually rather fun to observe all the activity.

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Here’s a cute picture of Keturah during all the activity. She was so chilled about it all and didn’t seem concerned in the least. I think her only real annoyance was being interrupted right in the middle of eating her chocolate banana snack (thus the chocolate all over her face 🙂

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My Neighbor in Need

Last week, very unexpectedly, I felt a sudden burden on my heart to help someone in need. Without even realizing what I was saying, I found myself praying and asking God to show me people who have real needs that I could help to meet.

I remember thinking at the time that this is one of those prayers that you pray a little cautiously, never knowing just how much God is going to ask of you in response. But the burden was so heavy on my heart that I knew it would be wrong to suppress it. From that moment on there was a level of expectation as I waited to see what type of need God would bring to our doorstep.

That evening we received word that two Christian communities in Nigeria had been attacked. The raiders came with containers of Kerosene and literally burned up everything. They had gone with the intent of killing everyone who lived in these communities, but by the grace of God the people were warned in the nick of time and everyone made it out safe before the raiders arrived.

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There were nearly 100 people in these communities who fled in the middle of the night. There wasn’t time to gather anything to take with them so they literally fled with nothing but the clothes on their backs and just barely made it away safely. Even as they fled they looked back and could see the flames rising in the village. Their homes, their animals, all their possessions . . . everything was destroyed in the fire.

We learned about this from a friend of ours here, whose sister was among those who fled. This friend took up a collection here in our community in an attempt to gather supplies that could be sent to help these people in their time of need.

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When I heard this report I knew that this was the need that God had placed as a burden on my heart. These were the people in need that I had prayed for just a few hours before.

In the days that followed, as I sifted through our belongings and began packing boxes to send to the refugees, I found myself meditating on the following verses:

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)

Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” (Luke 3:11)

I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. . . . Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)

If you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” (Matthew 10:42)

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38)

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I thought of these verses and I thought also about how it would be if our community were to face such a trial, or our family were to lose everything. We have enjoyed years of peace and freedom of religion. But there is no guarantee that this peace will continue for us.

Christians in our bordering country of Nigeria are experiencing such intense persecutions now. Christian communities are being targeted their possessions looted or burned. There are very few survivors being left as entire villages are literally being massacred.

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Those who are going around attacking the villages have been “good enough” to send an advance warning to each of the locations they plan to raid. They send a message ahead of them as a warning, but there is no way for anyone to know how much time they have between the time the message arrives and the raid begins; it could be a matter of days, a matter of just a few hours, or even just a matter of a few minutes.

Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak.” (Matthew 24: 17-18)

There isn’t time. If you want to be counted as one of the survivors you will leave everything behind and just run! And even then you can only pray that in running you will not run into the snipers hiding out in the bush.

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For those of you who may be concerned for our safety, let me just say that this is not what is happening in our area, or even in the country where we are serving.

But at the same time I have to ask, why is there more concern for us who are living in safety than there is for those who are living out this nightmare?

These are our neighbors! The family members of some of our friends and colleagues. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ!

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I would much rather be challenged by someone who would ask what we are doing to help then to be warned and asked what we are doing to stay safe. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35)
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These days we hear a lot of reports and a lot of criticism about the U.S. government and most especially about our new president – President Trump. Many question how he could have possibly come into power. Some would even go so far as to claim that our president wasn’t even elected by the American people but was likely put in power by some Russian intervention. (Of course, those same people had some crazy ideas about how Barack Obama got into power and which “evil force” was secretly behind his campaign, as well.)

I think we, the American people, tend to thrive on drama and feed off of conspiracy theories. I think we do this as a means of diversion, as a way in which we can lay blame elsewhere and not be forced to take a look in the mirror and face the fact that WE are responsible for putting these people in power, and also, indirectly responsible for their actions in representing the American people.

I’ll admit that I would have never voted for Trump to be president, but now that he is in power I make it a goal to be supportive and to give him “the benefit of the doubt”. And I make it a goal to PRAY for him. Because the real answer to the question of how Trump became president really lies in the fact that God ordained it.

In Romans 13, Paul gives the command: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

I think about the fact that at the time Paul would have been writing this, Nero would have been the Emperor to whom Paul owed his allegiance. I can’t imagine the injustices Paul would have seen under such an Emperor, certainly a lot more than we see under our current government.

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Like many other Americans it does grieve me that our boarders are being closed to people in need, but at the same time I can’t say that I am surprised or even upset by this decision of the government.

In fact, something that grieves me even more than this is the fact that many of the Christians in America seem to be expecting the government to do their work for them!

The way I see it, the government is a reflection of the people that it governs and quite frankly the majority of people in American are not Christians. I think it’s time to wake up and realize that America is not a Christian nation anymore. We need to stop expecting Christian morals to come out of a secular government. We need to stop waiting for our government to address the issues that we as the body of Christ are responsible for addressing.

Quite frankly, the responsibility of any government is to look to the interests of its own people, to protect its own boarders, to defend the rights of its own citizens.

It is the responsibility of the CHURCH to be looking out for the interests of others. It is the body of Christ that is responsible for feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming strangers, and visiting the sick and imprisoned. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” – that is not a government policy, it’s a Christian calling!

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Instead of spending our energy picketing fences, writing petitions, and trying to convince a secular government to make Christian rulings, how about we take that energy and put it to use meeting the real needs that are all around us?!

If the government isn’t meeting certain needs then let’s see individual Christians and the body of Christ rising up to meet them!

If the government won’t let refugees come into the country then let’s see Christian missionaries going out to help them where they are!

Let’s stop criticizing President Trump for not representing Christ to the world and let’s start letting our own lights shine a little brighter.

There’s a whole world in need, and it starts with showing love to our own neighbors. It can be really easy to send a check to a distant land, but there’s so much more we can do beyond that. I bet there is someone a lot closer to you than that, a need that is right at your doorstep, a friend, a stranger, a “neighbor” by Jesus’ description.

It all starts with a willing heart and a powerful prayer . . . a prayer that God would open your eyes and show you specific needs around you specific needs that you can meet.

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** Please note that most of the images above have been copied from news headlines. It is not my intent to violate copyright laws by posting these images, I am merely attempting to portray an accurate picture of the crisis taking place across our boarder.