The Gift of Baby Clothes . . .

Where do you go when you are expecting a baby and you need to buy baby clothes? Walmart? Target? Goodwill? Garage Sales? Amazon? Ebay? Cragslist?

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In America there is an abundance of merchandise and countless places where you can go shopping to find exactly what you are looking for. New or used, you can buy it or put it on a registry for your baby shower. So many colors and styles to choose from, and if you find an outfit that you particularly love you can even purchase it in multiple sizes so you can continue to enjoy its cuteness even as your baby quickly grows out of one size and into another.

But that isn’t the case here in our little corner of Africa. Where we live there are 2 days a week where merchants will come bringing a new supply of goods. Clothes are brought in as huge bundles of mixed items in random sizes. Early in the morning the bundles are opened up and the contents are spilled out in large pile on the ground. There, at the side of the road, crowds of people gather and sift through these piles. They search specifically for clothing that is close enough to the size they need, and they consider it a real bonus if the item that fits them also happens to be a color or style that they like.

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In order to find something very specific in the way of clothes a person would need to go to the market extra early to be one of the first people in line. If you can tell the merchant exactly what you’re looking for BEFORE they open the bundle you have a better chance of laying claim to the item if there happens to be one of what you’re looking for in the pile. But even so, you need to look quickly and grab it fast before someone else snatches it up. You can also expect to pay a lot more for the item if it is an article of clothing that is in high demand.

This is the case with certain baby clothes!

There are so many babies born in this area and certain types of baby clothes are very rare and hard to find; among these are infant pajamas, onsies, bunnysuits, and blanket sleepers.

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For mothers in the US these particular clothing items are considered the “bare basics”, the key essentials to stock up in the nursery or to pack in the hospital bag in preparation to receive the new baby. But here in this part of Africa these items are considered luxuries – they are like gold to an expectant mother!

Just a few days ago a lady in our community had a baby (a little girl!), so we went to pay her a visit. Before going, I pulled out a suitcase from our storage unit where we keep a supply of baby clothes just especially for distribution in the community. This time, Keturah wanted to be the one to pick out the different articles of clothing that we could take as a gift for the new baby.

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When we presented the gift of clothing to the mother she was SO thankful – almost to the point of tears! She told us about the her struggle with trying to find clothes for her baby. She shared about how both she and her mom had been searching all over in different market places trying to find these basic clothing items. They had gone extra early to the market to try and be the first in-line, and had done this week after week, but in spite of all their efforts they were only able to find ONE onsie and NOTHING in the way of pajamas or one-piece outfits. Needless to say, our gift was very well received and a real answer to prayer for this family.

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Earlier this year another lady in the community also had a baby. She is actually our neighbor and a close friend of mine. In her case the problem wasn’t so much being able to find the items but was more a problem of not having the money to purchase them. They are a very low income family with several kids that they are trying to put through school. Through farming and hiring out to do various odd jobs they still just barely make it from month to month and if someone in the family gets sick (which happens frequently) it puts them in a very tight spot financially. So when their baby was born they were really struggling to find the money to put towards baby clothes and it turned out to be a real blessing to gift them with a few outfits for their baby.

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Since we just recently had a baby of our own, I can certainly relate to the struggle of trying to get the right supplies to outfit a baby. Many of the clothes that our little Timothy is wearing now are ones that my sister sent us in a care package, or clothes that we had leftover from when Caleb was little.

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But even apart from baby clothes, just trying to get decent maternity dresses is a real challenge here! I was fortunate that Sammy was in the US when I found out I was pregnant, so he was able to bring back some maternity clothes for me from the US.

Now that we have had the baby and I am no longer using the maternity clothes, I am passing them along to our neighbor lady who is pregnant and due to have her baby in January. This lady is very new to our community and even new to Cameroon. She is from Nigeria and just moved here earlier this year. She got married to a friend of ours and moved here shortly after the wedding. She got pregnant after only a couple months and has been having a rather hard time adjusting to married life and now pregnancy in addition to adjusting to a new place and even a new country. What’s more, a tragedy in the family has also left them as the guardians of a small boy who now looks to them as his new mother and father. It is certainly a lot for a new bride to go through and the simple gift of maternity clothes has been a real blessing to her – a luxury that she would not otherwise have been able to afford.

It is a small thing, but being able to bring certain clothing items from the US and handing them out to needy families in our community has really created an open door for me to be able to connect with other women in the community and a way in which we can show God’s love to the people around us. It is also a way to teach our children about the gift of giving, and to encourage them to be generous in reaching out to help others in need.

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Matthew 25:40 — “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
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Travel Adventures . . .

This last week has certainly been an unexpected adventure! With baby #3 soon on the way we had long ago made plans to travel to the capital city for the expected delivery.

Last Tuesday we moved out of our house and into a nearby guesthouse so that Sammy could work with our neighbor to break up the floor of our kitchen and re-cement it, since it had lots of cracks and holes in it from the ground settling. Our house has also had a lot of problems with termites, so they treated all the door frames and window frames with chemicals to try and get rid of the termite problems.

We figured this was the best time to do the repairs and termite treatments since we plan to be gone for at least a full month which will give the cement plenty of time to dry and the house enough time to air out so that (hopefully) all the chemical fumes will be gone by the time we get back.

The trip to Yaounde is a very long and taxing drive by road, and being in the final month of pregnancy with the dirt roads being in the worst of condition right now because of the heavy rains, we were advised to not make this long trip by road.

We were scheduled to depart by helicopter on Friday, but Wednesday evening we got a call saying that the helicopter would need to have 2 pilots on this trip, and a crew of 2 meant there would only be enough room for 3 passengers and not all 4 of us!

Right away when we got the news, Sammy started scrambling to get everything done so that he could travel really early the next morning with the intent of taking the long (18 – 20 hour) trip by public transport and arrive in plenty of time to receive us on the other end.

So very early Thursday morning (3am) Sammy left to catch a vehicle to start the long journey by road.

On Friday morning I packed up some last minute things and got the kids ready to travel. The helicopter was scheduled to arrive around 11:45am and Sammy was already in the capital city by this time and planned to meet us at the airfield when we arrived.

Well, come 11:45am we went outside to watch for the helicopter to arrive. We waited, and waited, and waited . . . and nothing!

 

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(Keturah waiting and watching for the helicopter)

 

Finally, we got a call that informed us that the weather was hindering them from being able to depart (they hadn’t even left yet!). They gave us an estimate of a new time when they might be able to arrive, but it would be much later in the day.

By this time it was already after noon, and storm clouds were rolling in. Since we had planned to travel and arrive in the capital city in time for lunch we didn’t have anything in the way of food. What’s more, with the rain coming it really hard just then I couldn’t even send anyone to town to pick up groceries for us.

 

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(Caleb walking around with “auntie” while waiting for the helicopter to arrive)

 

Fortunately another missionary couple stepped in and offered us lunch. They raided their fridge for leftovers and were able to put together enough of a meal to satisfy everyone.

During lunch we got word about the helicopter again, this time saying that because of the weather it just wouldn’t be possible to make the trip today, so they would need to post-pone until the following day.

Supper was another scramble trying to find food for the kids. I managed to find some very basic groceries at a nearby shop, but the meal was very meager, not very tasty, and not very nutritious, but it was at least enough to fill our tummies.

It rained off and on all night long, and by 5:30 Saturday morning we began to worry that the rain wasn’t going to let up and the helicopter would be delayed yet again.

We sent out prayer requests and just started praying really hard that God would give us a nice sunny day and favorable weather for the helicopter ride.

Well, the prayers were answered! The sun finally came out around 9am and at last it looked hopeful that we would be able to travel at last.

But then, more bad news!

The weather was perfect, but apparently when the pilot took the helicopter up for a test run he discovered mechanical issues. What’s more, the issues would require them to import parts from the US, meaning it could be WEEKS before it could be repaired.

That was rather hard news to receive, and poor Keturah took it really hard. For the last month she has been counting down the days until we would go on the helicopter, so she was really disappointed to hear that was broken and wouldn’t be coming.

 

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(Keturah comforting and consoling her doll as a way of processing her own disappointment)

 

What’s more, the kids were starting to get really restless, running out of things to do in the guesthouse, missing their daddy, and just struggling with this in-between stage of transition and waiting.

When we found out that the helicopter would no longer be an option we had to completely change our plans and reassess our options.

It didn’t make sense to have Sammy travel all the way back again to come and get us, but it also would not be a good idea for me to travel alone with the kids.

Then it dawned on us that Sammy’s parents were traveling that same day to head to the capital city and while they were planning to take a different route and not pass through our area on their way we thought it was at least worth asking if it wasn’t too late yet for them to change their plans to include us in their travels.

Well, we called them and explained the situation. At the time in which we called them they were JUST approaching the fork in the road where they would need to make the decision of which route to take – whether to pass through our part of the country or take the shorter (easier) route around us. So when they heard that were stranded they changed their plans and redirected their route in order to come and pick us up.

That afternoon we were struggling again for food. I had at least been able to find us some bread and eggs, some boiled peanuts, and a few snacks to hold us over for lunch, but there was nothing in the way of an actual meal.

Since the weather was agreeable I sent someone to town to pick up some roasted meat and plantains for us so that we could have a “real meal” for supper. They went to town for me, but instead of bringing meat and plantains for us they brought me some bananas – not at ALL what I asked for!

That was rather frustrating and left us in a tight spot. With no other ideas for what to do about food I just had to pray and surrender that need to the Lord. He is faithful. He always provides!

And sure enough. Not long after this I got a call from Sammy’s parents saying that they were about 3 hours away and that they had some food in their cooler if we wanted to share their supper with them.

Thank you Lord!!

Sammy’s parents pulled up in their Land Cruiser right around 6pm. Keturah was SOO excited to see them, and I have to admit that I had a feeling of “Phew! Finally help has arrived!”

The kids ran out to meet them and when they came back in Keturah gave me a BIG hug and said, “Grandma and Grandpa are here – I don’t have to be sad anymore! – They’re going to take us in their truck since the helicopter is broken. Now we can go and see daddy!”

It was too late to travel that evening, so we enjoyed a really nice (nutritious!) supper of chicken soup and just spent some fun relaxing time with grandparents.

The next morning we got up early to have some breakfast, load up the truck, clean up the apartment, and head out to start our 2-day journey by road!

 

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(Sitting and playing with Grandma during the long drive)

 

It is possible to make the trip to the capital city in a single day, but with the roads as bad as they are right now, with me being so far along in the pregnancy, and with the added challenge of traveling with two kids who easily get car sick, we decided to take it really slow.

 

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(Caleb and Keturah in “Grandpa’s Truck”)

 

As it turned out, all the prayers for a sunny day worked out to our advantage! Even though the conditions of the road were still very rough we all just kept marveling over the fact that the roads really were as good as they COULD be. The sun had dried the roads just enough that we didn’t have to worry about slipping and sliding too much, or worry about getting stuck in the mud (even though we passed a few trucks that were stuck). The road was dry enough to make the trip safe, even if it wasn’t smooth, but it was still wet enough that there wasn’t too much dust to worry about, which was also an added blessing.

 

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(One of the worst sections of the road where trucks were getting stuck in the thick mud)

 

On Sunday we drove a total of 9 hours over the worst section of the roads. We were all very tired by the time we made it to a hotel half-way, but it was a great relief to at least know that the worst of the trip was behind us.

We stayed at a hotel that night and were greatly refreshed by warm baths and a good nights sleep.

 

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(Our very happy, ambitious little guy, getting some breakfast before starting out on the road again)

 

Monday morning we got an early start again enjoyed the fact that most of the roads on our second day of travel were paved and much smoother than the day before.

 

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(At the hotel, ready to set off on day-two of our journey)

 

It was still a very long day, though, especially for the kids. Keturah and Caleb were both really excellent travelers, and were both real troopers in spite of getting car sick and spending such a long time in cramped quarters.

When we finally arrived in the capital city we celebrated by stopping for some ice cream!! We don’t get to have ice cream where we live, so it really was a special treat indeed! But even that could not compare with the joy and delight of being reunited with daddy again when we finally reached the end of our long journey!

 

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(Celebrating our arrival with ice cream!!!)

 

As for our expectant baby – in spite of the harsh road conditions and the taxing trip, there was nothing in the way of problems or complications with the pregnancy. Baby seems to be content to wait until the opportune time to be born, and I am sure that is largely thanks to the many prayers of friends and family these last few days.

While traveling by road was certainly not our preference this time around, we just trust that God has His reasons, and we praise Him for how well the trip went, and for His traveling mercies along the way. It is nice to have a faithful God we can depend on to always provide for our needs and to always work everything out for our good – even when we don’t always see the reasoning behind what He is doing.

If you have been among those who have been praying for us the last few days, THANK YOU!!

We praise God for His answered prayers and give Him the glory for safe travels and a blessed arrival!

 

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Also, a special thanks to Grandma and Grandpa Weber for coming to our rescue and “saving the day”!!

Ministry in Homemaking . . .

The other day I had this brief moment of thinking to myself, “What am I doing here in Africa? What exactly is my role in ministry?”

So many times as missionaries we feel the pressure of this unspoken expectation that since many people are supporting us and making personal sacrifices that enable us to engage in overseas missions then every moment of our day should be taking advantage of the opportunities to make a difference and have an impact for the Kingdom of God.

With this notion always at the back of our minds it can be a mind battle at times when I find myself spending much of my day attending to the superficial needs of the family – cooking, cleaning, laundry, dishes, watching our children and striving to raise them up in the way of the Lord.

There are certainly activities that I do which are directly related to ministry work – writing quarterly reports for our sending agency, keeping in touch with donors and supporting church, sending in expense reports, developing ministry materials, etc. But these more specific ministry activities are more of the “occasional focus” for me, while the majority of my time is literally spent doing exactly the same thing I would be doing if we were living in the US – fulfilling my role as wife, mother, and homemaker.

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Of course, being a homemaker in Africa can look a lot different than being a homemaker in the US, especially without running water, without a refrigerator or oven, and without so many of the modern conveniences of machines that can wash your dishes, wash your clothes, dry the laundry, or mow your lawn.

At first glance it would seem like everyday life where we are in Africa is so much harder and the daily chores so much more time-consuming and energy-taxing. But then I think about the fact that instead of recruiting machines to help me with day-to-day activities I often call upon friends and neighbors to pitch in and help, and that right there really makes any activity less of a chore and more of a joy as we share in fellowship, companionship, and helping to carry each other’s loads.

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Another difference in homemaking in Africa instead of the US is the added challenge of there not being much availability or variety in the groceries we can buy or the household supplies that we can get here. I usually have to plan 3 months in advance and keep track of inventories of household supplies we have on hand just in case we need to have anything brought from the big cities (6-18 hours from where we live) or even sent over from the US.

There are also health factors that we deal with on a daily basis here that wouldn’t even be a concern in the US. The constant precautions needed to prevent malaria, the extra steps in food preparation to prevent typhoid, cholera, amoebas, and so many other likely health threats. And there’s the frequent trips my husband has to make, to travel at least 6 hours or more just to reach an ATM where he will spend 3 days trying to withdraw all the funds we will need to manage personal and ministry expenses for the next month before he has to make the trip again.

Yes, there are a lot of things that would just be so much easier in the US.

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Take meal planning, for example. I cannot just plan our meals based on what we would like to eat, more often than not our meal plans revolve around what groceries are available and what we were able to find in market that day. And when it comes to meal preparations not only is everything made completely from scratch, but cooking also requires a degree of flexibility and creativity – especially when recipes require some improvising to make up for ingredients we just don’t have.

It may be hard to believe, but we don’t even have any restaurant in town where we would be able to eat without having to worry about getting sick from the food. The nearest “safe” restaurant would be a 6 hour drive from where we live, so we don’t even have an option for getting take out or deciding not to cook one day.

In fact, there are very few “quick and easy” food options at all — even with regards to snack foods. And this is part of where my “mind battle” surfaced the other day as I came to the realization that being pregnant would be SO much easier in the US, if for no other reason than the fact that I could easily make a quick run to town and purchase whatever foods I happen to be craving at the time, or even just to have a stash of snack foods on hand and available for whenever I’m needing a quick bite to eat.

The missionary, Ella Spees, once listed one of her secrets for contentment to be in never allowing yourself to “wish this or that had been otherwise”. Another of her contentment secrets included: “never picture yourself in any other circumstance or some place else”. So, even amidst crazy pregnancy cravings I have been striving to only think about food options from the selection of foods we have on hand, or the limited selection of groceries I know we can find in market. But there are days (like yesterday) when this can be really hard.

Yesterday I just stood in the kitchen for the longest time taking stock of all the groceries we had on hand and going through a mental list of all the food options that I could make to eat. Any pregnant woman can relate to the feeling of being very hungry but not having any food options sound appealing in the moment, but actually, in that moment I could think of lots of different food options that sounded appealing, but not one of them was something we could even get here in our part of Africa.

I went and cried in my room for a while and then made myself a cup of tea to cheer myself up. It was while sipping the cup of tea that I began thinking along the lines of, “So why am I here again? If the majority of what I do is stuff that I would be doing in the US anyway, and so many things would just be that much easier in the US, then what’s the purpose of my being here in Africa right now?!”

Well, the answer wasn’t long in coming. All I had to do was look over and see my husband and I immediately knew the answer to my question.

You see, the majority of what I do here in Africa would be the same and even easier if I were in the US, but so much of what my husband does here in another matter all together! And the nationals we have trained and continue to encourage in their own ministry work is a part of the fruit that we bear together, even amidst the mundane of everyday chores.

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During the last spiritual retreat that we held for the “Harvesters” we trained, we told the women in the group not to underestimate the vital role they have in ministry, even if it seems like merely a “support role”. Not only are they making it possible for their husbands to engage in ministry, but their interactions with the other people in their communities can be used by God in great ways, and their willingness to endure a harsher lifestyle is also a witness to the people around them, and who knows whether or not they are raising up the future missionaries and leaders of the next generation right there in their home.

So I had to give myself the same little “pep-talk” yesterday and bring things back into perspective again. The truth is, there is no such thing as being “JUST” a wife, or “JUST” a mom, or “JUST” a homemaker. If you live your life in obedience to God it really doesn’t matter what role He calls you to fill, He blesses it and uses it in amazing and incredible ways that we wouldn’t even be able to imagine!

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“Mommy, Look! A River in Our House!!”

Last night I was entertaining the kids in our room, trying to get them wound down and ready for bed, when all of a sudden Keturah says to me, “Mommy, look! There’s a river in our house!”

I look over and sure enough a flood of water was pouring in under the door of our family room.

This was the very first heavy rain of the season — a real tropical storm! And being that our house is build on the side of a hill the water was literally pouring down the side of the hill and right in through the door of our house.

Fortunately, we were able to catch it quickly enough that there was no damage done by the flooding. We were able to put down towels to block the different rooms of the house to keep the water contained in the family room, and everyone worked hard at scooping up the water and pouring it into basins.

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Everyone pitched in to help clean up the water, including the two students we currently have living with us. The kids both thought it was great fun to play in the water and “help” clean up the mess.

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Of course, Caleb’s idea of “helping” was often counter productive, since in his eagerness to help move water from one place to another he was often taking water OUT of the basins and dumping it back on the floor. Both Caleb and Keturah were laughing and having a great time of it, though, and in spite of the huge amount of work and horrible mess the flood made we were all able to laugh about it and stay focused on the positive aspects of the experience.

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One thing that helped us to keep a positive perspective on things was to count the blessings . . .

First of all, we were very thankful that it happened at a time when we were all still awake and could respond to the flood in its earlier stages. How much harder it would have been if this had happened in the middle of the night when we were all asleep — there would have certainly been a lot of damage done if the water had managed to flow into the bedrooms or storage room in our house; we are thankful, indeed, that we were able to keep the water contained to the family room and spare the other rooms in the house from flooding.

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Next, we are very thankful that the flood happened while the two students were with us in the house. Flavin and Robartine were both a huge help in using towels and squeegees to keep the water away from the children’s mattress (which currently sits on a mat on the floor) . . . just trying to save the valuable spring mattress was a huge help! They also stayed through to the end and helped wash the mud and debris that had been carried in with the murky water. It was a hard, dirty job, but they stuck with it to the end.

Also, we were very thankful that in spite of having an estimated 50 – 100 gallons of water flooding our house there was no permanent damage done; so we really thank God for that!

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The next day, Sammy met with the plumber to see about digging a trench to redirect the water and hopefully find a more permanent solution to prevent this from happening again.

All in all, it was quite an adventure — but one we hope we don’t have to deal with again any time soon!

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).

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.”

02

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?”

03

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!”

01

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!!”

04

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.”

09

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

08

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!”

06

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!”

05

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!”

10

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?”

07

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