Saturday, August 30, 2014

“God will not let you stay down if up is where He wants you to go.” ― a bruised but wiser me

Around Christmas time of last year I was having my usual holiday depression, but this time it was pretty bad because I thought we had done all we could do or were ever going to do as a mission here.  Oh, I knew we could still do some of the things we had started, giving away a goat here and there, helping with the last scholarships at the teachers college, and making a biosand water filter or two, but none of that seemed like it was worth going through all the physical issues, pain, and boredom that seemed inevitable.  I didn’t know if we had it in us to just continue to do what little we had done (at least that’s the way I saw it), and I didn’t know what else we could do.  I was feeling pretty worthless and worrying that after I had spent all of Mom’s estate money (or had it earmarked for mission stuff with only a couple of new watches for me to anticipate).  Sometimes, well, more often than not, God has to hit me in the face with a two-by-four to get my attention.  The first such slap in my face came when my cousin Charles’ wife, Adrienne, notified me that her grandchildren were sending money to buy at least twelve goats for widows (we have since bought twenty and have money for five more).  Then we had the unhappiness around getting our first DHL package a week late and had to take three weeks to get my new passport in Dar Es Salaam, costing over three times what I thought it would cost.  Then Karen's DHL package was over a month late!  I was back in the doldrums feeling rather useless.  Of course, how was I to know that 2014 would be the year Karen would bring the Montessori method of teaching preschool to Tanzania and would spend the next six months hand-making the materials for our six schools to use.  Nor could I have foreseen that e3 Partners would come to learn to make biosand filters so they could take this technology and spread the miracle of the filters to the Masaai people on the Kenya/Tanzania border.  I was also caught unawares by my wife’s teaching another sewing workshop seemingly ignoring her pain because the cause was so God centered.  I was beginning to think God’s use of us was not yet over when we learned the tuition for our scholarships had doubled and only the four entering their second year would graduate, that there would be no more new, poor, students helping to change the educational climate in Tanzania.  You’d think I’d learn that if something is of God, nothing can stand in its way.  We now have the money to add four more new students to start this fall.  Along the way, Karen got to spend six weeks in the U.S. visiting with her children and grandchildren and reacquainting herself with teacher friends.  I had also conveniently forgotten that John would be leaving for two weeks to celebrate his birthday and my son Chris’s in San Francisco in the next couple of weeks.  Then I fell and left myself in some very bad pain and was ready to forget all the good that had happened and say, “See, I was right to be depressed.”  While resting during the beginning of four painful weeks of recovery, I got to reflect on some of the other things that have happened this year.  We managed to reengineer a biosand filter mold to get it to the Congo, and biosand filters are now being made in a country that so badly needs them.  Our puppy, Benjy, almost died (I was planning the funeral) when the vet came five times in three days and he is just fine and feisty today.  Our evangelist at Bukore died in a house fire saving the Swahili Bibles (only after saving his wife and daughters), yet saved the Bibles by covering them with his body.  The One Book Foundation is sending more money for Bibles and three new bicycles for our three new churches (oh, did I not mention those?).  Two days ago, we gave a pregnant goat to that evangelist’s widow and have three more to give away (her picture is in yesterday’s blog).  So, let’s see, Karen and John both have new passports and trips taken and to be taken to the U.S. for family times (a true gift).  Montesorri methods are being taught to preschool orphans in six schools in our area (and who knows from there).  Biosand filters are being made by third parties in two new countries using molds from here and by people trained here.  The teacher’s college scholarships are back at full strength, more goats will be given to widows this year than in the previous nine years, all three of us have new passports and residence permits, our house has been completely rewired, Karen is introducing yellow sweet potato farming techniques, and just in the last two weeks, John is working on ways to dry banana chips and market them worldwide.  A man I’ve never met, who knew I liked watches sent me fifteen as gifts (every staff member got one) and I have a real hobby that I can do.  Our dead PS3 has been replaced and I can continue to play American pro football in my living room.  And, there have been many, many words of thanks and encouragement from friends, family, and people I’ve never even met.  Sometimes, you have to fall on your face (and arms, knees, ribs, etc.) to realize that God is just not done with you yet and that you need to remember all the completely new, exciting, and wonderful things that you and your family are accomplishing this year when I will be 70 years old—despite the pain—because I said, “Here am I, send me.”  No more pity parties for me, just curiosity about what is waiting around the corner once these bruised ribs heal.  God is good and a good fall can remind you of that.
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