Friday, December 11, 2009

Name giving

I recently received this comment on my last post:

Okay, Madame Kouka, explain to all of us about names. If your husband had married a Congolese woman, how would the naming go? In other words, would someone from Congo have taken the husband's name as their last name like you did? And what are all your husband's names? Is his last name his father's first name like so many African conventions? Just how does all this go?
Curious Ted

Just thought others would be interested too, so I'm making my reply its own post. First of all, I have chosen to take the name Kouka, but legally (i.e. on my passport, etc.) I'm also keeping my maiden name just to facilitate things (since I have some documents in my former name and what not). But please feel free to use just my married name in your correspondence with me. I will be changing my email in the near future.

I confess I do not know all the ins and outs of name giving in Congo. Kouka is my (deceased) father-in-law's family name, which my mother-in-law also took on when she married him. Esperance does not carry his mother's maiden name. Espe's dad's name was acutally Nkouka, which is a common family name here, but for some reason he dropped the N when he gave the name to his children.

I think name giving is changing in the modern Congo. Previously you could just make up a name for your child so there was no family lineage traced through the name, but rather your name meant something (like something about the circumstances of your birth). But now I think more people are using the practice of passing along a family name. I haven't heard of anyone here using their father's first name as a last name. People tend to have lots of first and middle names (like 3 or 4!). One funny thing is that people's names are often spelled weird because the person who filled out their birth certificate made an error. I can't imagine anyone putting up with that in the US!

Traditionally it needed to be a wise older person in the family who gave the baby its name. And they needed to wait a few weeks to see what the baby was like in order to give the appropriate name. I don't think people in the cities practice this anymore, although some people give their children both a French name and a traditional name. There are also certain names given to twins and to the child who comes after a set of twins, although these are sometimes just nicknames and not officially given. I think there is also a name given to a child whose mother dies in childbirth.

Yes, when women marry here they tend to take their husband's name. Everyone has automatically started calling me Madame Kouka without ever asking if I was taking that name or not. Thanks for the interesting question. I'll ask Esperance to fill me in on the details of name-giving in his culture when I get home from work today!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

More wedding photos

Hey everybody! It's fun reading your comments on my Facebook photos. So much so I'm willing to painstakingly post them with my slow Internet connection. Here is another set of pics from the wedding. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Birthday Dinner

For my birthday, a dear friend treated me and Esperance and another couple we know to a fancy dinner at Mamiwata's (sp?) in Brazzaville. Delish! Here's the Facebook album.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Good Sistah

For those of you who love my sister Cathie Jo--or else if you're interested in embroidery--here's a link to an article interviewing her about her handiwork.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pest Control

I often make reference to what I call “The Holy Spirit Help Desk,” to which I turn for assistance with all manner of technical difficulties. Inexplicable computer glitch? Praying over my laptop often fixes the problem. This week I have discovered a new function for prayer—insect repellent!

Espérance and I have moved into a guest room at the center for another mission whose personnel only come and go from Brazza on their way up to a hospital in the north of the country. A couple I work with rent the main house, while we occupy a bedroom and kitchen/dining room with an outside bathroom. The compound is situated near a central bus stop and is not far from where I work, where I shop, or practically anywhere else I might like to go, so it’s a handy temporary solution while we continue our house hunt.

There have been a few aspects of this housing solution, however, that have irritated and troubled me. It’s rather tight quarters and I don’t have the room and storage space that I need to really feel moved in (although I expect I’ll adapt and find solutions…it’s just a bit tough in the transition phase). It’s hot even in the cool evenings because we keep the shutters closed since there are no screens on the windows and the mosquitoes are plentiful. Although, in spite of this precaution, the house has still been full of the little buggers swarming around my sensitive skin! Sweating and scratching all the time, does not a low stress situation make. Lastly, the place is CRAWLING with cockroaches. Cockroaches in the cupboards, cockroaches in the corners, cockroaches while I cook. Cockroaches flying at my head. Cockroaches running over my feet. Need I say more? (Do you feel a Dr Seuss coming on?)

Two nights ago it really got ridiculous. Espérance and I were eating dinner and it seemed the roaches had made themselves completely at home. I found them to be quite insolent, daring to run around our feet and come out into the middle of the room as though they owned the place. I stomped a few of them and Espé told me I should “laisser vivre la nature.” I’m like, “Yeah, I’ll let nature live…when it’s actually out in nature! This is my house!”

I’m not exactly sure what else was said in the course of this conversation, but somehow I was struck with the inspiration that God is sovereign over all creation and all creatures must submit to His authority, and consequently must also respect us as children of God. I told Espérance that we needed to have a contest: I would chase out the cockroaches in Jesus’ Name and he would take care of the mosquitoes and we’d see which one actually left the house :o) He refused to participate in the challenge (odd, since he has been known to talk plants into bearing fruit in Jesus’ Name!) but I forged ahead anyhow.

I was reminded of Saint Francis’ practice of referring to animals as “brother dog” and “sister cow”, etc. so I spoke kindly but forcefully to all my brother roaches in the house and let them know in Jesus’ Name that they would need to leave the house the next day. Some of them seemed to be standing around listening to me! I repeated the same idea a few times to make sure they’d all heard. Espérance sat amused at the dining table and informed me that if they were my brothers then we should all live together. I stood my ground and insisted they had no right to occupy our house and eat our food when there were plenty of places outside they could go without bothering anyone.

The next morning as I was eating my homemade peanut butter granola, a stranded rebel roach was scampering frantically about and I sternly warned him that this was eviction day. That was 3 days ago and I haven’t seen a cockroach since! Hallelujah! Was even 48 hours before I saw any mosquitoes again! What a relief to have my abode to myself. Now I’m working on the Lord sending a cool breeze through the place so I’m not so hot anymore :o)

Ha! As I’m writing this, a Cece Winans song I’ve never listened to before is playing on my computer: “I am the One, yes, I created the whole universe. Greater than anything in heaven and in all the earth. It’s My air you breathe so I’m the One that you should please. I am the One you need, why should you be alone? I am that I AM, I’m all that you need. I can, yes I can, no it ain’t too hard for Me. Do you know, do you really feel it? Every day, every night of your life, I AM. It hurts my heart indeed to see those whom I love in need. Knowing all I wonder why they never call on Me. If you just ask then I can satisfy you with good things. I’ll give you everything, yes, you can have it all. I tell the sun to rise, the wind to blow, the rain to fall. I move the mountains and the oceans, rivers, great and small. Yes, everything I made I want to hear them give Me praise, and especially you, My children, each and every day.”

Here are the verses I had in mind that gave me the biblical basis for my actions:

Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)

“God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)

“In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered.’ ‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart bu believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:20-24)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

More photos

OK, I finally posted some photos of the wedding! Enjoy them here: My big fat congolese wedding album

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Wedding photos

If you haven't already seen them, here are the pics my friend Amber posted on Facebook from her trip here to Congo and of my wedding: Amber's Congo album.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

my shower cake

My amazing sister-in-law Nancy hosted a bridal shower for my friends and family and ordered a cake that looks like my wedding cloth! I was able to attend the party via video Skype, although I didn't get to taste the dessert :o)

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Wedding Invitation

OK, folks, this is as close as we're gonna get to taking engagement photos. It was for the purpose of creating our wedding invitation. This is the pic we used for that. To see the others go to my Facebook album.

Here are the other graphics on the invitation. I think it's so cute! The heart is cut out in the middle and the picture of us shows through.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I just got off the phone with my friend Amber and she announced to me that she already has a ticket to come to Congo for my wedding!! Woo-hoo!! What a great surprise! We've been friends since we were 6, went to school together 1st thru 12th grade, our parents still live in the same neighborhood, and we've stayed in touch over all these years. We've traveled to Hawaii together twice, to Australia, and to Disneyland. We were in Girl Scouts, band, and countless classes together. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding a couple years back. There aren't very many people I can be sure I will still be friends with in another 20 years, but Amber and I will be!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

My wedding pagne

Many people have been asking about my wedding preparations here and what the differences are between a Congolese and an American wedding. One of my favorite aspects of African weddings is the "wedding pagne" (pronounced pawn-yuh), a cloth chosen for the event which people can buy and have outfits made to wear to the wedding. Oftentimes different cloths are chosen for different sides of the family or for different groups. Heather and I chose this cloth for my work colleagues and other missionaries to wear. Fun!

This is a wedding pagne Heather and I wore a couple months ago.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Congolese handwriting

I never cease to be amazed at the handwriting here in Congo. Penmanship is still very important in school here. When I was a student all that really mattered was that it was legible. I think it might be a French influence here, but it's also the fact that many things are still written out by hand (i.e. official records) rather than being entered into a computer. I'm even more impressed when people write on a chalkboard and it looks like calligraphy! Have you tried writing on a chalkboard lately? Not easy! I don't really have that great of example photos here. Some people's handwriting seriously could be turned into a font it's so precise!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Some new photos...especially of my MAN!!

Here is a new album on Facebook from the last few months in Congo.

PS: I'm engaged to be married

Thursday, August 06, 2009

What Would Jesus Save? Meditations on my inbox

I have two colleagues who are known as “The Deleters”. They delete nearly every email they receive, keeping their inbox to a very tidy minimum. They are even known to exercise mass deletion…Too many emails at once?...After a brief scan of the subject lines to catch anything important, just delete them all! They like to think of this as a selective, voluntary computer crash.

I, on the other hand, am an email packrat. I can’t seem to throw anything away! Not only this, but I don’t manage to stay on top of my email, so I end up with hundreds of ones flagged to indicate they need a reply and others that have never been read. Yet I hang on to them all! I recently discovered the joys of the “archive” function, so now I have moved all my emails from 2003-2005 out of my inbox…yet I didn’t have to delete them! Yes people, I have kept emails from 2003 and still don’t want to get rid of them.

This brings me to my meditation…What would Jesus save? Any thoughts?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Back to blogging in Brazza

My apologies to those of you who have checked my blog to much avail these past few months!

My first entry since returning to Congo in April will be about the delightful party I went to at the American Embassy for the 4th of July, because when I arrived the ambassador greeted me with a chastisement for not maintaining my blog :o)

The fete was held in the embassy courtyard under a tent. Servers continually passed through the crowd with trays of drinks and hors d'oeuvres (sushi, skewered meat, fried shrimp, and other tasty treats). It was hard for me to turn them down and I went away having eaten at least my fair share of government diplomatic funds.

The elections are today and I was surprised to be told that the candidates were present at the party (except for the president himself). Heather and I had a hard time figuring out what to wear and came in African cloth because it's the only nice clothes we have. Most of the people at the party were men and almost all of them were in suits. In general it's difficult to be over-dressed in Congo, not to mention when it comes to high brow events such as this one.

The cake was a giant imitation of the White House and I was delighted to be chosen to receive the very first piece--bribery to get me back on my blog?? :o) Apparently the exquisite work of culinary art suffered a car accident on the way, but it didn't look any the worse for wear (unlike my hair which became progressively frizzy throughout the evening in spite of my rare effort to actually style it for the event).

This was my first opportunity to attend an official embassy function and I look forward to future occasions! Feels like a fancy tax refund :o)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Me on Mando

Some of you have been asking how the mandolin playing is coming along. Well, it's coming...Here's what I can do after 3 months. It's pretty rough, but hey, I'm getting better. Here's my last entry using a high speed connection. Figured I might as well upload a big video!

Sorry, it's not embedding. Here's the YouTube link

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Packing Time

I was excited at the beginning of this week because I could finally pull out the suitcases and actually start packing my bags. And I'm pretty happy with how it's going so far because it looks like I'll have room for everything and even for some of the extras I didn't think I'd have room for (like cheese and chocolate when I pass through Germany!)

People often ask what kind of things I take back with me, or what I can get here that I can't get in Congo. Here's a little rundown of some of what is going to accompany me:

--The Carryon. This will include my computer and camera and purse, etc., and also the mandolin I've started to play the past few months.

--Clothes. This wouldn't be such a big deal this time except that when I left Congo I had not one pair of pants that still fit me. So I've done quite a bit of shopping, which was aided by some fabulous Nordstrom gift cards from the past two Christmases. I also like to stock up on new underwear and shoes, which are quite important.

--Gifts. Gift-giving is an important part of relationships in Africa, so I go back well supplied with shirts and jewelry and other things for my closest friends. Oooh, my favorite this time is a little black baby doll for my goddaughter.

--Things for other people: This time it includes 3 digital cameras, a pair of jeans, a DVD, 2 battery chargers, a book, etc. There are innumberable other items that have been requested of me, but at some point I have to say no or I won't be able to pack any of my own stuff! I only get 2 bags after all.

--Toiletries: New face products, cream, hair stuff, etc. You can get generic stuff there, but it's nice to come equipped with some of the nicer essential items.

--Kitchen supplies: I'm getting better and better equipped in the kitchen with each trip. This time I'm bringing a garlic press, a small non-stick skillet, some more tupperware, more flatware, ziplock bags, etc.

--Entertainment: DVDs and new music to get me through the next year or so. I'm taking about 10 movies with me and loaded probably a dozen more CDs onto my computer. Plus a few books.

--Food: Besides the muesli and cheese and chocolate I plan to pick up in Germany, I've got a can of Kraft Parmesan, a can of cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, and some spray on olive oil which I will use for making pita chips.

That probably covers about 90% of what's in my bags. The other miscellaneous 10%? Things like a mandolin book, tealight candles, a bath towel, cilantro and flower seeds, a new USB flash drive, etc.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Leaving home and going home

Yikes! Less than two weeks until I leave to go back to Congo (via Germany for a few days). A common question I get is "What do you miss while you're in Congo?" or "What can you get here that you can't get in Congo?" Here are a few things off the top of my head:

#1 is obviously time with my family and friends. This is really the only thing that could possibly bring feelings of regret. I'll never say "Gee, I wish I hadn't spent all those years in Congo when I could have been back in the US with high speed Internet and lattes everyday." But the time spent away from special people is time that can't necessarily be made up for later. Plus, giving up luxeries and conveniences is a personal sacrfice, whereas familytime is something I force others to give up as well.

That said, high speed Internet and lattes are probably one of the first things that come to mind when I think of what I have to go without in Congo. That Internet connection over there is going to be pretty painful after these last few months.

The variety of restaurants and cuisine from around the world will also be missed. No Thai or Indian in Brazzaville. But I've pretty much had my fill and will enjoy visiting my favorite places back in Congo once again.

Listening to the radio, especially Christian stations, in the car is something I really love too. The excellent tradeoff, however, is that in Congo I get to attend lots of live concerts, mostly either Christian or jazz.

Wearing socks and regular shoes and jackets and layers has been fun the past few months. Not sweating is definitely a highlight of being back in the States as well. Although I am looking forward to the warmth of Congo (especially once the really hot season is over in a month or two).

OK, gotta run pick up my Indian take out!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Orphanage needs urgent help

Please check out my blog about the House of Hope and spread the word about this urgent financial need. We have an opportunity to provide these orphans with a home of their own! Thanks for praying and a big THANK YOU to all who have already given. Help me continue on to see the project to its glorious conclusion!

Abstinence is the only road to freedom

On Africa trip, Pope says condoms won't solve AIDS

I noticed this article amongst the headlines because I was just talking about this very topic at lunch today. Based on what I've seen in Congo-Brazzaville, condoms absolutely cannot stop the spread of AIDS (in my humble opinion). Sexual activity begins in jr high school and continues with infidelity in marriage. Statistically it just seems impossible that the spread of an STD can be stopped when everyone is having sex with multiple partners...even if they're using condoms.

I talk about abstinence as much as I can and encourage the young people in my youth group to believe it's possible to wait for the one life partner destined for them. But it's a tough battle. Many people do not believe that abstinence is even possible. It is said that one's organs will not function properly if they are not used. The sad thing is that this is a lie that is the exact opposite from the truth--Abstinence is what promotes sexual health. Condoms are hardly needed for birth control because STDs and venereal diseases are so rampant that fertility is hard to come by.

I don't believe we can fight this war against AIDS through science and teaching people proper techniques. This is a social and spiritual battle. The beauty and holiness of a man and woman coming together needs to be reclaimed and cherished and prized. The married couple is the building block of society and when those blocks are in shambles there's nothing to build with and no shelter for people to live in. Exposed to the elements there's no telling what may befall them. That's what I see when I think of the AIDS epidemic. Societies that have fallen apart. Rather than helping them rebuild, we're just handing out helmets hoping they'll dodge the bullets amongst the wreckage.

I know that not every situation is the same, and there are different ways of spreading AIDS, but if the majority of people in a given society would be abstinent outside of marriage and faithful inside it, they would save their own lives and the lives of many others around them and we'd get control over this terrible monster ravaging the continent. That may not be popular opinion, but to me it just seems common sense. And it would solve so many other major problems along with it--unwanted children and teen pregnancies, infertility due to sexual activity, jealousy and lack of trust in marriage. This is a lofty goal, much more difficult than handing out little plastic wrappers, but in the end it's the only choice that produces real results and happiness and stability.

Monday, March 16, 2009

You know you're from Africa when...

Apparently there’s a Facebook group called “I’d Rather Be in Africa.” I don’t have to join such a group because I still live in Africa and can simply enjoy being in my country of origin for a while without too much pining away. But they’ve got one of those “You know you’re from Africa when…” kind of lists and I thought I would comment on a few of the items (there were like 100 things on the list, so I’ll spare you the details; sorry it's still a bit long).

You know you're from Africa when...'re appalled that American grocery stores only sell one or two different types of bananas.
Um, I’m not so bothered by the lack of variety so much as how big and too perfect they are. They look like they’re grown inside, not on trees. The taste leaves a little to be desired as well. One funny thing about bananas in Congo is they’re a little smaller than ours and you’re expected to eat more than one. I don’t know, bananas always seemed like a one per serving kind of fruit to me.

...your parents yell at you for forgetting to use silverware in public.
Well, that hasn’t happened yet, but I have caught myself using my hands a lot. I’ll pick my food up with a piece of bread rather than use a fork :o) find all the non-white people on campus so you can be a minority again.There is indeed something unique about getting used to being the minority and I definitely zone in on the black people around. outs are nothing new to you.

It’s funny when you get used to blackouts and suddenly you find yourself sitting in the dark and everyone just carries on with the conversation/choir rehearsal/whatever you happened to be doing. I was wondering where I was when we lost power a couple of times during the snowstorms at my sister’s house. Thought I’d left that in Congo! running water for a day is just another ordinary thing
Unfortunately, yes. If it goes longer than a week it gets a little rough and we all lament the loss of the use of the washing machine.

...The smell of freshly rained on mud paths/tarmac is comforting.
This has always been true…I’m from Oregon.

...being an hour late equals being "on time"
Duh! 7 is 7 until 7:59!

...Cramming 7 passengers in a 4 passenger taxi is really not a big deal.
Certainly not. know never to question what you're eating (even if it does taste good), cuz sometimes you just don't want to know.
My teammates always said this, but I’m not a believer. Hence, they both ended up with monkey on their plates before they knew what it was!! invite people for a get together at 7 and they all come at 9.
I don’t know why this still catches me off guard. I mean, 30 minutes I can understand, but 2 hours late? Seriously? Sometimes it’s been very beneficial when the meal wasn’t quite ready yet! keep converting the value of things in your home currency when u see the dollar value.
How else would I know if it’s a good deal or not? :o)

... you have another name in your home language.
Yep. Mikembi.

...someone is riding their bike down the road with corrugated iron strapped width wise across the back of the bike and its taking up more than half of the road.
And this would be Mike, our construction guy. He’s American but he loved pulling this kind of stunt.'ve been proposed to while walking down the street
Just take it as a compliment

...You unwrap all your gifts carefully, so that you can reuse the wrapper.
I’ve always been like that, nothing new.

...Nobody in your family informs you that they are coming over for a visit.
If you love each other why should you need an invitation? It still usually annoys me. I have a lot to learn.

...You only make telephone calls at a cheaper rate at night
Is this why people call at midnight and 6am? It’s apparently not rude to wake someone up with a phone call (or by any other means), but that doesn’t really make me like it any better! learn the native words for "white person" everywhere you go, because you hear it shouted everywhere you go.
Sure ‘nuf. I swear children learn to yell “mondele” as one of their first words.

...something that would normally take half an hour in the Western world takes a few days or weeks...and if it didn't it just wouldn't be fun.
I don’t know about the fun part, but things do take a lot longer. Going to the PO feels like a major accomplishment and doing the grocery shopping truly is! find it completely natural to have burglar-bars outside your windows
Naturally. And a wall. And a guard. can smell the rain before it comes
I’m not sure about smelling it, but you can certainly tell it’s going to rain. It gets dark all of a sudden and the wind picks up. The darker and the windier, the harder the rain will be. Oh, and you can hear the thunder in the distance. can look up at the sky and see every star clearly
And here we see what? The moon and venus…

...the sunset is something to look forward to
In the village, yes! I always felt exhausted from the heat and cultural exertion and knew I could hide away in the dark. Going to bed at 8pm is quite easy there! miss the sound of rain on your tin roof at night, the after-rain smell, and the spectacular lightning shows.
Ah yes, the lightening shows! Love it. I like the thunder too that makes me jump out of my skin. always drink your drink straight away in front of the shop, and give them the bottle back.
Of course. Although the store on our street knows us well and we can take bottles cos they know we’ll bring them back.

...instead of being greeted with "good morning", you're greeted with "Are you awake?"
It’s always strange no matter how many times. The bad part is when they say it while you’re still trying to sleep!

...the rain back "home" feels cold.
I’m FREEZING right now as a matter of fact. learn quickly that pedestrians DO NOT have the right-of-way
The thing that ticks me off is when they speed up and honk, scaring the pants off me, rather than slowing however slightly my crossing the street might have necessitated. prefer music that's slightly out of tune
And distorted

...b.o. is a comforting smell
Strangely true. But there’s definitely a limit. Some b.o., yes; unwashed clothes, no. reuse plastic throwaways
We re-use our zip-locks again and again…and then realize we’ve still got boxes of unused ones.

...$2 is too much for a t-shirt
My shopping mantra: “It’s not close enough to free to tempt me.” get culture shock in a grocery store, when you see the shelves completely stocked with 15 different kinds of whatever!
Menus do it to me too

...When there's no electricity, you're in bed by dark and up at sunrise.
By dark? Not exactly, since on the equator it’s dark by 7pm. But when there’s no power there’s only so long you can read by lamplight. dreaming of a red/orange/green Christmas instead of a white one
This year was my first Christmas home in 3 years. It was fun to be with family, but we got this out of character for Oregon snowstorm and had to delay the events. We won’t be dreaming of a white Christmas for quite some time!

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Crime of Living Cautiously

My friend recently quoted a Lucy Shaw book in her newsletter saying:

"The life we hoard, clutch, protect, safeguard out of fear or timidity ends up being of little use to us or anyone else, least of all to God and his Kingdom. The kind of life Jesus lived would appear to be foolishness to any uninformed onlooker..... The cliff edge of our anxiety about the future may indicate that God is calling us to a new and different level of faith. When we walk, praying for guidance, to the edge of all the light we have and breathlessly take that first step into the foggy mystery of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen: either God will provide us with something rock-solid to stand on, or he will teach us how to fly."

I totally identified with this and agree that the kind of life Jesus plans for us is not one of timidity, fear, cautiousness, or reticence, but one of adventure, boldness, faith, and trust. I think I have some experience on that cliff edge between the known and unknown and I can testify that it rocks! I never regret steps of faith taken with trust in God.

(Another good book on this topic is Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper. I'm sure that book has changed many a life and I highly recommend it!)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dallas, TX

Howdy! Check out my new pics on Facebook! I'm in Dallas at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics this month. It's so fun seeing friends from all around the world and reuniting with colleagues from Congo!

Shout outs to Dana, Heather F, Angi, Elizabeth, Heather R, and the Harrisons from Congo! And to Margaret and Annelies from Fox! And to John and the Lewises and Sweetmans and Will and Ken and all the other great peeps I know! It's been so fun hanging out again!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Urgent prayer needed

I just received this email and plan to participate in this Novena (9 days of prayer). Please join me! You can also check out Bound 4 Life, a national movement of prayer and repentance concerning abortion. I especially encourage you to check out the statistics and Abortion Techniques found under the link "The Truth."

Subject: Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) Novena - Starting January 11

Dear friends,
Please join us in praying the 9 days of prayers in the hope that FOCA will not pass. If you are apposed to abortion then there is bad news on the horizon.
For those of you who do not know, the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is set to be signed if Congress passes it on January 21-22 of 2009. The FOCA is the next sick chapter in the book of abortion. If made a law then all limitations on abortion will be lifted which will result in the following:

1) All hospitals, including Catholic hospitals will be required to perform abortions upon request. If this happens Bishops vow to close down all Catholic hospitals, more then 30% of all hospitals in the United States.

2) Partial birth abortions would be legal and have no limitations. (See: )

3) All U.S. tax payers would be funding abortions.

4) Parental notification will no longer be required. (Hence minors at even 10 years of age can have an abortion without the parents' knowledge or approval)

5) The number of abortions will increase by a minimum of 100,000 annually.

Perhaps most importantly the government will now have control in the issue of abortion. This could result in a future amendment that would force women by law to have abortions in certain situations (rape, down syndrome babies, etc) and could even regulate how many children women are allowed to have.

Needless to say this information is disturbing, but sadly true. As Catholics, as Christians, as anyone who is against the needless killing of innocent children, we must stand as one. We must stop this horrific act before it becomes a law.

The Plan :

To say a novena ( 9 days of prayer ) along with fasting starting on January 11th. For Catholics, the prayer of choice will be the rosary with intentions to stop the FOCA. For non Catholics I encourage you to pray your strongest prayers with the same intentions, also for nine consecutive days. The hope is that this will branch and blossom as to become a global effort with maximum impact. We have very little time so we all must act fast. Just do three things:

1) Pass this letter to 5 or more people

2) Do it in three days or less

3) Start the novena on January 11th and pray for nine
consecutive days.

(please also fast for at least two days during the novena)

Remember that with God all things are possible and the power of prayer is undeniable. If you are against the senseless killing of defenseless children then the time is now to do something about it!

May God bless you all!!

Planned Parenthood is the number ONE abortion provider in our country and received over $300 million of our tax dollars to destroy 289,650 unborn children in 2006. They are probably "educating" your children in their school.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God

Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset

From The Times
December 27, 2008
Matthew Parris

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.

We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.

This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.

It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man's place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

There's long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.

I don't follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.

Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.

How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds - at the very moment of passing into the new - that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it's there,” he said.

To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It's... well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary's further explanation - that nobody else had climbed it - would stand as a second reason for passivity.

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosophical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Winter thaw saves Christmas

Of course we can celebrate the day of our Lord's birth without the bells and whistles, but I was happy to finally get to have the traditions and to see my family! We'll never dream of a White Christmas again! Here's pics of the belated Lebold Family Chistmas 2009 on Facebook. This was my first Christmas home in 3 years!