Saturday, January 30, 2010

Reflections on a Solar Eclipse and Prayers for Joshua

Reflections on a Solar Eclipse

Over one year ago when we first announced our intentions to serve in Kenya, my former partner, Dr. Jerry Chase, promptly advised us that there would be an annular solar eclipse in our area on January 15, 2010. We are glad that he gave us that “heads up” to fully appreciate it. On Jerry’s advice we had ordered 30 cardboard “Solar eclipse shades” a year ago and thankfully we were able to find them amongst the supplies we had shipped here. It was great to use and share the special shades with others on the day of the eclipse. Some of the Missionary Kids also used unexposed x-ray film to view the eclipse. I am not the “Eclipsologist” that Jerry is, but basically a solar eclipse is seen when the moon is exactly between a spot on the earth and the sun. During an annular solar eclipse the moon does not completely block out all of the light from the sun even though the moon is fully between the earth and the sun.

We were especially grateful that it was a SUNNY morning on January 15th, because that day was in the middle of 3 weeks straight with at least some significant rain every day and otherwise very cloudy skies. (There was rain the night before and also during the afternoon after the eclipse.) We never saw the moon at sunrise, because the sunrise was hidden behind hills, but slowly in mid-morning we experienced some eerie changes as the moon passed between the sun and us. The bright sunlight and warmth changed to a vague sense of dusk, “but the shadows were in the wrong places.” With the annular eclipse there still was a complete ring of light (like a donut) shining around the moon. We actually noticed a significant drop in temperature more than the change in sunlight. Crickets and birds changed their sounds. During the eclipse we could follow with our special shades as the shadow of the moon slowly proceeded across the sun from a crescent shape to a donut to a crescent shape again and then the full light of the sun returned. It was amazing to see the shadows through pinholes or the holes in Alene’s crocheted shawl cast similar changing shadows. Many of the folks around the hospital were completely unaware that the eclipse was occurring, but were delighted to have a chance to look through the special solar eclipse shades to see it for themselves. Rather promptly, heat returned as the full sunlight returned.

We couldn’t help reflecting on Jesus’ light to this world as we experienced the eclipse. Jesus came into the world and was “the true light that gives light to every man.” (John 1:9) As followers of Jesus Christ we are reminded: “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before men.” (Matthew 5:14-16) Even a little light can show the way. Even when the moon appeared to cover 90% of the sun’s surface there still was ample light to see our way, but it wasn’t totally clear to people why the lighting was a bit different. We (with our special shades) were very excited to share the experience and explanation for what was happening. We are thankful for those in our lives who have shared with us and enabled us to see the Good News of Christ’s coming more clearly. May we continually share our enthusiasm and tools, such as wisdom from the Bible, to help others clearly see what a gift there is in Jesus and what life His light can bring for all of us. We recognized that if there were no sunlight at all, this earth would be very cold and there would be no life whatsoever. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gives true life. With the annular eclipse we saw that even major obstacles may come into our lives and seem to get between God and us, but God’s power is not diminished and He will overcome any obstacle. May each of us see Jesus’ light and let our light shine brightly for others.

When is the next solar eclipse here in Kenya? We better ask Jerry, but as I checked the NASA website it appears that the next “Hybrid Solar Eclipse” will be here on November 3, 2013. (We’ll need to ask Jerry what a hybrid solar eclipse is!)

We have a few photos on the web link:

The Tenwek group photo and the solar eclipse sequence is kindly courtesy of Jeff Stanfield.

Random Observations …. as Questions:

*How many shops did it take for us to buy an axe in Bomet, Kenya?

The 1st shop - to buy the axe head, a 2nd shop - to buy wood for the axe handle, a 3rd shop – for a carpenter to assemble the axe, and finally a 4th shop – to sharpen the axe!

*Does time really move faster south of the equator?

We are not sure, but this past month has certainly zipped by quickly as we conclude our final month of Swahili language training. We appreciate your prayers as we transition into our ministry services in February.

Prayers for Joshua.

We are continually amazed at how the Lord works! While Alene and I were in Swahili class one day in November our language teacher’s sister, Jane, stopped by for a brief visit. She had been in a distant village and had taken a cellphone photo of a tumor on a toddler’s wrist. I looked at it and advised an orthopedic surgery evaluation, and then sent the photo by email to Dr. Dan Galat , an orthopedic surgeon, who agreed to see the patient at Tenwek Hospital. It took the family some weeks to gather up funds for the lengthy bus trip, but Mama and 1 ½ year old Joshua arrived on Wednesday, January 27th, and the sizeable tumor was removed on Thursday. Our language teacher (Daniel), Alene, Dr. Galat, and I were all able to pray with Joshua and his mother before the surgery and on the following day. Joshua was a happy and delightful child before and after his operation. (Check our photo link.) He and his mother returned to their village the day after the surgery.

Please share in our continued prayers for complete healing for Joshua and a good report on the tissue findings.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Family and Celebrations

January 9, 2010

Family - “Familia”

What does “family” mean to you? Certainly we first think of our blood relations and our relations by marriage. We were blessed to renew many of those family relationships with our travels and visits across the USA this summer. These are relationships that transcend time and distance. We have also come to appreciate a broader perspective of family to include dear friends and those from our church or workplaces. Such shared connections, including through our faith, have drawn us together.

Our definition of family has been stretched and expanded much further with our time here in Kenya. The missionary families here at Tenwek have invited us into their homes and have welcomed us into the community as “Aunt Alene” and “Uncle Steve” for their children. We truly feel a part of the Tenwek family in service and worship and especially during the retreat and planning time together at Turi. One of our “family activities” there involved a relay competition with Steve’s face getting smeared with Vaseline and enough cotton balls to make Santa Claus jealous! (See the photo link on our blog!)

We have also been welcomed into the homes of local Kenyan families, sharing chai (tea), meals, conversation, and fellowship. Pastor Wesley & Charity’s children call us and treat us as “grandpa” and “grandma.” (Considering that we have never had any children of our own this is a quick leap!) Our language tutor has included us in meals, play, worship and celebration with his wife and three children. We have been humbled to share meals and family time with these two Kenyan families after worship together on Christmas Day and also on New Year’s Eve. It was comforting to share this closeness of family here in Kenya even if our own blood relatives and American friends were many miles away. We have felt physical hugs from family here in Kenya and “virtual” hugs from across the miles. Our families and friends in the USA have done a wonderful job of maintaining our connections with email messages, letters, phone calls and Skype (internet) video chats.

We certainly have delighted in the expansion of our definition of family. Our most special sense of family is that which we share as a family of faith through our shared belief in Jesus Christ. We look forward to the ways in which we see our spiritual family relationships continue to grow in this coming year.

Meanwhile, our work as students continues. Our language studies are going very well and we anticipate having a strong foundation in Swahili after our final 4 weeks. It will help us as we continue to connect with our Kenyan “familia.”

More Random Observations:

*It was difficult to remember the word for dog in Swahili: “mbwa” – I think, because it had too many consonants in a row. Our Kenyan Field Director, Jim Vanderhoof, helped us to remember “mbwa” as we think of some “big dog bosses,” who Manage By Walking Around…MBWA!

*Some Swahili sentences can either be a statement or a question depending upon your intonation. We were also advised of one sentence whose meaning changes by whether or not you have a smile on your face: “I am totally satisfied with this job.” Or “I’m fed up with this job.” Such subtleties in language will keep us humble and on our toes.

*Learning Swahili has involved learning about culture as well as language per se. We from USA have been indoctrinated since childhood to always say “Please” and “Thank you.” We now must relearn that saying “please” in Swahili (“tafadhali”) often connotes that you are begging. Also, saying “thank you” usually is not expected here in Kenya.

*Before coming to Kenya we were asked what food we would miss the most and we consistently mentioned that we would miss lettuce salads. We have been delighted to find a safe, local source for leaf lettuce.

*It is nice when a sink in Kenya has both hot and cold water, but it seems that we can only be about 50% certain that the hot will be on the left as it is in USA.

*Our special Christmas gift to each other this year was a field guide for birds of East Africa. We have enjoyed a colorful array of birds literally outside our front door.

*Paper mail letters from USA have been getting to us in about 8 to 14 days with 98 cents postage, but packages sent a few weeks ago have yet to arrive. (Some of the delay could be due to the Christmas holidays.) …Thanks so so much for letters from many of you!

Amended Observations:

*We have experienced daily, heavy rains during the past ten days, which have made things very muddy and have damaged some major roadways at least temporarily. The water falling over the dam near our apartment is now roaring loudly.

*Avocadoes are now in season and a large one now costs only 7.5 cents! (It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to eat them!)

Comments re: photos

We do have several new photos available for viewing via our weblink:

Photos include some from Thanksgiving at Tenwek, local rural homes, family sharing, Turi retreat - Steve’s cotton ball beard!, a Kenyan wedding, UNO in Swahli, Larzarus Funeral Home (rather an oxymoron - see John 11:38-44) and “Polish shoes” (in honor of Alene’s Polish heritage).

Parting words

Steve’s work permit was ready and the paperwork was completed while we were in Nairobi, but Alene’s is temporarily delayed. This is not anticipated to cause us any problems. We appreciate your interest and prayers as we conclude our language study in February and step into our next phase of medical and ministry service.