Tuesday, September 29, 2009

and the community grows....

 Can you believe it?  It is the official staff of Back2Back, Nigeria!!  This is Jason and Emilee, our directors, and Peyton their first baby.  They have been gone for pretty much the same amount of time we have been here because they were in the states growing their family.  They have returned and it is soooo nice having them here again.  
When they came they brought of friend of mine and John's with them, Mary.  I would put a photo of her in here as well, but the ones I have, I think she would kill me if I put them in without her knowledge.....  She is joining us for seven weeks and it is also so great having her here.  She is a blessing and my kids absolutely love her and she is kind, caring, super flexible and willing to live with my cooking for that long.  It must be unconditional love, huh?  Anyway, it is kind of neat to see our little community grow again.  We are eating together, enjoying children together and just overall, learning to do ministry together.   
Tomorrow is Independence Day here in Nigeria.  the county became free on Oct. 1st, 1960.  So, we are going to another missionary friends house with lots of other missionary families and having a bonfire and we are eating all american food on this Nigerian holiday.  I cannot wait.... pasta salad, hot dogs/buns, potatoes, brownies, cole slaw, veggie tray and more little snacky items, fun hun???  My kids today, at school, are celebrating with an all nigerian lunch, huge buffet.  I think it will be fun for them to see what it can look like, really, verses our american style... Sarah had to write a report on the first nigerian president and so we, as a family, are learning lots about this precious country that God created.  They are off on Thursday and everything shuts down, again.  Lots of little holidays they have here, I am noticing.
Anyway, I don't really have any deep insights for the day, just little information facts.  I guess that is good as well.  I want you to get somewhat a feel of life here and I am not always as good at communicating Jos life, so here is a bit of it.
For all of you who really are following our life here, you can pray, the bible study with the women starts up again next Wedesday.  We are doing Beth Moore's bible study called Stepping Up.  It is a study on the Psalms.  There are 10 of us this time.  It is the same women as last time, just two more americans added and one more nigerian.  I know it will be challenging at times, but I also get excited about the opportunities for growth for all of us.  Anyway, have a great day.
God Bless!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

it's a strange thing

It's a strange thing to me the way a life can turn out.  How people spend time in their day, how they choose to invest is ultimately what matters to them or is important.  For example, let's take a look at my morning shall we.
Woke up and  immediately started laundry because we had power.  So with that knowledge of power started a string of events that I felt had to happen because you don't know when it will take place again.  So, I quickly unmade beds and threw sheets in the washing machine (as my guards are hand washing their clothes in a bucket next to our machine).  Then started charging my ipod so it will have juice left in it when I run next.  Okay, power stuff underway.
Then, as the kids are making their breakfast, they noticed we have killed more mice (this is number 7 and 8 for us in the last two days), so they make sure they are appropriately not living before they throw them in the trash that gets taken out front and then burned (because that is what we do with our trash here).  With that desire for cleanliness, we have help cleaning off all of our store shelves (which is what they call the pantry here, store) to get rid of the mice droppings that are just hanging out next to my cereal.   Now, we have everything cleaned up, I realize that our flour had some worms in it so the flour gets sifted and restored.  Now let's stop here for a moment before people think to themselves "it is not safe to go there, it is unclean."  It is just some mice and some worms.  Majority of the world lives this way, and John and I make sure we keep our house clean and we take these type of precautions to assure the health of people that come visit.  Also, for the record, no one in my family has gotten real sick yet.  Colds, and a little poison ivy, but no stomach thing.... so stop with those thoughts, okay.
Next, we have a friend coming to live with us for about seven weeks, so we make some No-bake cookies, the kids and I and then clean up and wash up, etc....
Okay, so far, my time has been investing in my house, the health of my children and family and cooking.  It is a strange thing to me because really, I am extremely relational and I just got done reading a blog from a friend of mine talking about investing time and energy into people and the "eternal kingdom" and I cannot help but feel confused with the results of my morning.
I actually feel really productive, but if you were to look around, it doesn't look like I have accomplished much at all and I can almost guess our friend won't think our house is clean or that I spent much of the morning cleaning it.  Not because she is a bad friend, or even picky, just because so much of our work goes unnoticed from others eyes.... but my kids and I know the difference, we spent the energy being a part of the difference.  So, even though I wouldn't say that my home is that important to me, it is to my husband and so I guess it is becoming more important to me because he is important to me.  Does any of this make sense?  
I guess maybe I am learning that it's a strange thing, investing in something that you wouldn't really care about in the past, but you choose to invest and the caring naturally follows.  I wonder if this is true in the spiritual realm and choosing to invest in things that the Lord cares about because we care about Him and even if others don't notice our investment, we know because we took the time, therefore we care.  
I don't know, my thoughts are getting jumbled.  Either way, I guess I should invest in something so I don't become stale or complacent.   And maybe the next time I go into someone else's house, I should realize the time and energy they put forth in making it the way it is in order to help me feel safe and comfortable.  I wouldn't have thought my life would have turned out this way, living in Africa, but I am learning the Lord has things for me to do here so I will become different in the process.  It's still a strange thing to me. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

transient community

So this morning, I get news that one of my closer women friends here is leaving for awhile on Oct. 25th.   It is strange, the community here, different than other ones I have been a part of...
In Mexico, the community was growing always, but deep, intimate friendships were made due to living so much of your life together (ministering, playing, families, church, etc...).  Then you have your community of your family and close friends, which is also more deep, yet more controlled, if you will.  You can make more choices of your own due to just less people being involved.  It is still good and the Lord grows different muscles in that environment than he does in the larger one.
But, living here in Nigeria, there is a different sort of community.  One that is completely connected and dependent on each other, yet completed separate and individualistic at the same time.  It is the "larger missionary community", where missionaries from Sweden, Ireland, Canada, Great Britain and the USA and others have this deep understanding about what it is to be a foreigner here, which isn't always easy.  People don't necessarily live by one another and we all focus on different areas of need here, ones that the Lord has individually called our ministries to be a part.   I have had to make more of an effort in this one because I find since I don't live right next door to them, it could be easy to think you are an island and "others" are just there for when you want them to be there.  But, through time, I have formed about three unique friendships that have ministered to me, encouraged me and helped me along my Nigerian path.  I really love these three women.  They are all different, all involved in different ministries from me and each other and all have drastically different personalities.  Yet we all get a long well.  
Something that is so unique about it is the idea of living life with these women and the larger community with my hands open.  No expectations and no walls because this community is completely transient.  People are always moving away or just beginning life here and you never know when it is time for people to go and follow what the Lord has next for them.  In some ways, I find myself at home here because my life has shown itself to move around a lot and you just get up and go, no questions asked.  Every missionary has that temperament, to some degree anyway.  But, what is new here, is I am used to being the one moving away, not others.  To become close to someone realizing that it is probably just a matter of time before one of you moves is strange.  Knowing that at the beginning, before you even start.  The desire to protect yourself could be there and your lack of effort to build into others could also be there, but surprisingly, as you move forward, it happens.  You knowingly walk into a friendship realizing it is temporary but the Lord has something for  you in it.  So you walk forward and enjoy the moment.
Now, I am not sitting here saying it is easy always and sad never.... but what I do realize is that one of my close friends is moving home for awhile (if not longer) and I might not ever see her again and it is okay because I have so thoroughly enjoyed her while we have had this time, and my hands being wide open will (I know and trust) grow me in ways that the Lord will continue to lead me down his path and this is just part of it.  Plus, she and I are shopping for new material for some cushions tomorrow morning before she moves because she just so happens to be my friend who has a lot of style.....  See, God always works the details out!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

playing in the dark

Okay, so this picture here to the left, has nothing to do with this blog, but you have to admit, it is kind of a cool picture.  Literally, this summer, we would purchase like 20 live chickens and then we would go pick them up once they have been cut and the feathers removed (which for the record, I know how to do that now -- ahhh, the things I am learning in Africa).  Anyway, I wanted to show you how gross it looks really.  But anyway, I digress from the purpose of this entry.

 Last night, the kids were playing in the living room (which by the way, we finally have a living room couch, yeah) and I was playing chess with one of them when John came in and started turning on the lights and saying that we have electricity (however they call it "light" when the power is on) so we should use it.  We kind of chuckled with the idea how much we have become used to not having lights or electricity or even necessarily warm water to shower in that when it is on, we aren't aware so we don't take advantage of the moment.  Instead, we just sit there in the dark, straining our eyes and dealing with the frustration of darkness.
John and I then started talking about how much we might live our life in the dark when God is there, waiting for us to call out to him and take advantage of his blessings and gifts that he has for us.  Or even think about certain sins in our life that we might not even call them that any more because we have lived a big part of our life in it, that we are used to it and have become numb to the "darkness" and not even know you are living in the dark vs. the light.
Anyway, interesting for us to see our family grow up here.  As much as this analogy shows it to be a bad thing, I am grateful that power and electricity don't make it on my kids wish list anymore.  They are off of school today due to a muslim holiday, today and tomorrow actually so they are outside trying to fly a kite with no wind, oops, so wind is today, on their wish list...  Oh well, we have a long way to go, but we are getting there -- wherever "there" is.
Have a good day with your light!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

a good day

I don't have a lot of time, so I will make this quick.  Yesterday was just a really good day, you want to know why?  I walk out in the morning and it was beautiful outside, a cool breeze, sun and our guards are laughing and carrying on about something.  So, I ask them what is going on, just being a bit nosey... and they tell me they are just going through Scriptures and they are just amazed at some of the things Jesus did during his life on Earth.  
Then, the man who asked me about "what do you have to do to be a christian?"  He shows up and he starts going on and on about the verses in Matthew and Acts he is reading and then he proceeds to tell me and our guards that God is good and that He was given a picture Bible a year ago and he is just starting to get it and so he brought it over for our guards to look at over the next few days.  Then, I walk back in my house and a woman who helps me in our home, Juliana, she proceeds to tell me that her older son (who is 20 and she and I have prayed for him for awhile because he had fallen away from the Lord) has returned to his faith and wants to go to baptist seminary school!  She just kept saying, "God is so good and I am so grateful for Him".
What a great day huh?  At that was the first hour of my day.  The Lord just doing his thing, person by person, and the rest of the day I had an extra bounce in my step and so much excitement and energy, I just wanted to be a part of ministry.  Whatever God is doing in the lives of these Nigerians, I want him to be doing in me too.  It is contagious, walking with the Lord.  How cool is that, huh?
Honestly, when was the last time I got together with a friend and laughed and just enjoyed the marvel of Jesus's life?  I am so grateful!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

in one moment

I have been reading a book called Hope Lives and it is a devotional type of book that goes into the issue of poverty and God’s views on it, the causes, the possible solutions and how we as Americans choose to or not to partake in it.  It is not by any means an all-inclusive book, but I am enjoying it because it goes into different stories of individuals whose lives have been impacted by one person. 

One of the main things I am personally learning about is that God does not care as much about our circumstances and symptoms as much as He cares about our person.  It can be a stumbling block to be too rich or too poor.  That isn’t the concern as much as how do we relate to each other within those outside forces.  When I really think about it, that is one of my favorite things about the ministry of Back2Back, they bring two different people groups together and something amazing happens when relationships are formed that cannot be predicted or put in a box.  I love to be a part of it each and every time.

Anyway, I was running this morning and I realized if I stared straight down at my next step of running, I felt sluggish and slow and wasn’t aware of what was going on around me and I kept thinking about how I could stop and rest, but if I looked out onto the trail/road ahead of me, my pace felt stronger and more reliable and I didn’t get messed up by the little potholes.  I immediately thought about the eternal vs. the “here and now”.  If I make choices to look toward the eternal with people, my pace is stronger and a bit more consistent in my everyday life.  BUT, if I look to the “here and now” with people, I tend to get caught up in the potholes of irritations and frustrations of silly things, and I can feel at times like giving up.

“Treasures in heaven” I think I have mostly thought of this verse with the mindset of eternal rewards, kind of…. Don’t judge me on my theology, come on, just honesty coming out.  But, if “storing up for yourselves treasures in heaven” was people, wow, this is kind of more valuable and more important to me now.  Can I be apart of the eternal with someone else?  Someone that God views as His treasures, such as the poor, the orphan?  How do I go about running my race, here on earth, in the “here and now” but look out ahead at the eternal. 

I don’t know.  But, I do want to run the race and try.  I want to live that life, the life that looks toward the eternal with every person in front of me, whether I am at the village or at the children’s home we work with or if I am staring at my children or cooking with my friends.  Not to get irritated because of decisions people have made or whatever, but look past that and look at eternity with the Lord and them and move forward because God, I think, likes it.

This morning a man asked me, point blank, “What does someone have to do to become a Christian?”  Hmmmm….. treasures in heaven, rich vs. poor, eternal vs. “here and now” --- I guess they can all come together in one moment, can’t they?

Friday, September 11, 2009

a farming tradition

John and I were invited by the Chairman of the village we work with to come experience and witness one of the farming/wedding traditions that they practice.  This video is about 1.31 minutes and shows it well.  We picked up the kids right after school and went to go "be a part" of traditional Africa.  

Upon arriving, we learned more.... when a man marries a woman from another village, the husband's village during the next year, has some responsibilities.  Three different times the village will come over to the wife's village and "farm" or till the land and then the two villages share a meal and celebrate.  It just so happened that the Chairman's youngest daughter was married this past year, and the man's village was finishing up their agreement and coming for the third and final time to "farm" the Chairman's land.  

It was actually really fun.  John got a try and I think within time, he would be great and his village can come farm my family's village within the next year.  So, mom and dad, get your garden ready, John's a coming for some weeds.....

No, seriously, it was amazing to be there firsthand and see the excitement and encouragement that both villages shared for one another.  The one came with about 60 men and within an hour tilled maybe 3 acres, but row after row after row of their corn.  They worked together like a machine.   As the men were working, the women and kids were either dancing and encouraging or they were cooking and preparing for the meal afterward.  Overall, I liked the gesture and thought it would be really cool if we could somehow put this practice into place in the States.  Maybe it is not tilling or farming, but maybe it is something different.  I don't know.... something to think about.  How sweet to see one people group take care of another people group.  Even though they didn't all get married, obviously, they all took part in the responsibilities of it.  I like it!

Okay, I just spent about an hour having this video download (and it wasn't finished) and our power went out.  SOOO, no video.  I will add a couple of pictures.  It won't do the scene justice because you need to see these men work with their tools and the women singing and dancing... but here are a few photos.  I hope you can catch the moment somewhat.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

weather is ever changing

Sami yesterday morning wished out loud that the weather would stay the same all day because it was beautiful in her eyes in the exact moment.  The day really was heavy with dark clouds and it looked like it could pour any moment.  Sami is very much like me in the way that we love dark, cloudy, rainy days.  There is something safe in it for me, I am not sure why.  Anyway, as she was saying that, I told her that weather is ever changing, and it just doesn't stay the same.  It wasn't created to remain the same.... it marks the change in seasons, years, temperatures, etc...  She was sad!  She exclaimed excitedly, "God doesn't change like the weather!"

Later that day, John and I were driving towards our village and I was kind of just in my own little world thinking about whatever came to my mind.  In that moment, I started marveling at the fact that I love this season of my life.  In this moment, John and I have three kids which are all in elementary school, they are independent enough to dress themselves, feed themselves if needed, work on their schoolwork (and John and I at this point can still help), but yet not independent enough to just go to a friends house real late and drive home by curfew, etc...  Not only are our kids at the perfect age but I love our two guards that are on our property.  They are Christian young men who just fit with us, and we are adjusting to Nigeria and life is content.

In the very next moment, I was reminded of Sami's comment about not wanting the weather to change.  I want that also, but this season.  It is hard because I know my kids will get older, and the parenting role will need to change as they change, our guards truly will not want to be with us forever, they have their whole lives ahead of them, ministry will always be rearranging as more staff and more groups come and I will be forced to change with them.  That is not bad, just I want "today" to last forever.  What is it in me that wants moments to last forever?  I know some of you reading this might wish your season to end this very moment so the next one can start fresh....  Isn't that funny?  We want to push forward, or we want to hold on to what just took place.  

God never changes, Sami was right, and I guess that is the one thing we can count on to remain the same today, yesterday and for sure, tomorrow.  So, I guess whether it is the weather, circumstances, seasons, etc...  I can for sure rely on the Lord to never change and I hope to always find peace and joy in that... that no matter what season I find myself, that part of me will never change.... the part that seeks God in the season in the moment.  

Hmmmm, God Bless,

P.S.  I had a youth pastor many, many years ago accuse me of never stopping with my thoughts and he asked me if I could just "put it on hold" for a moment to let him breathe.   I am realizing no, I cannot stop, my thoughts are always cluttered with these ideas and parallels.  I know it might be crazy and you might be tired of blog entries that are dealing with the thoughts in my head verses just about living in Africa.  It is just me realizing that it is okay.  It is good for me to get them out of my head and onto this version of paper... thanks for reading and helping me sleep better at night because of it....

Friday, September 4, 2009

a rhythm

I am sitting in my bed typing this at the end of a day of running errands, being at the school to help with Field Day (I am in charge of one of the teams), meeting with people re: future plans and I am overwhelmed with the normalness of all of it.  Living in Africa has become our life and as much as I never thought it would happen, John and Corrie have found a rhythm to being here, in Jos, Nigeria, AFrica.  Can you believe it?
I don't know if it is answered prayer for those of you who have gotten on your knees and prayed for our family, or if it has just been time, or maybe it was the challenges of summer and getting a "crash course" in Nigeria 101, I would imagine all three, but we are thankful.
I am realizing that us moving our family here and raising funds, and selling or giving away items of big or little importance, packing up into 15 or so suitcases was the beginning of the sacrifices.  I have such a desire to check it off of a list and then move on, but as living here has become our life, I realize that the move was nothing and the living life here is a daily commitment to sacrifice and choosing Christ over Corrie moment by moment.  The joy is the recognition that submission is good, holy, pure and pleasing to the Lord.  
There is need here so great, I can become overwhelmed.... but there is also hope and simplicity mixed with chaos and confusion....  yet I see Christ moving.  There are hungry kids at every corner, kids that need to know that God has not forgotten them and he has a plan for them specifically, discipleship necessary for true biblical conviction, relationships to be enjoyed and nurtured and as a friend recently reminded me, there is tension to be embraced and lived in my lack of understanding. 
I so much like our life here.  I don't want to move away (who would have thought that would come out of my mouth a few months ago, huh?).  Maybe the scales have been removed from my eyes, or maybe it was the little act of submission to working in the kitchen this week with my househelp and realizing it is good to be a part of a solution.....  But, I see a need and I want to be a part of the solution, whatever it may show itself to be.  
So, life moves forward for the Guckenberger family, I had a great time laughing in the kitchen this week with a couple of ladies, we had a family over for dinner for the first time this week, I ordered meat from a lady who kills a cow a week because that is how it is done and I find it a nice rhythm.  One I want to continue on and seek out and be a part of.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

a potato chip

When I was running this morning and I was struggling with a neck/shoulder cramp and I was thinking about the interns that lived here this summer in this small community the Lord reminded me of my high school running years.  I have mentioned in the past how I see a lot of parallels in my running disciplines and my spiritual disciplines and this morning showed itself again to be true.
When I was in high school, the cross country coach would ask us to occasionally run with a potato chip in our hands.  His goal was to get our muscles all working together in a way that is best for our body to run without underusing (being too loose) or overusing (cramping up) them.  As we began the practice of  "the potato chip" some of us were notorious for crushing the chip, others were commonly found letting the chip fall from our hands and to the ground.  
I started thinking about how I tend to do that to those living in the same community as me.  I am either crushing them by forcing things that they are not ready for or trying to push too hard in certain areas of their life.... or I am letting them fall from my hands and onto the ground by ignoring their needs and not pursuing them in their relationship with Christ enough out of fear or whatever other excuse I might have at the moment.  I want to learn the balance of every spiritual discipline in place so that I know when to hold firmly, but not too tightly and I know when to loosen up, but not too much that they flounder.  Does that make sense?
Well, I was thinking about how the interns were there in community with me and I relearned the art of balance with all the disciplines.  With them gone, I find myself in the same place as before with losing the sharpness and awareness of using all my muscles together in a way that shows Christ to those around me without shoving Christ in an environment that "do not throw pearls before swine."
Wow, community is really important.  I know that the Lord will grow me in this season by sharpening muscles I don't have to use as much in community, but I also know that there is a purpose for others in my life, always.  I want to ready!
As I finished my run and I tried to loosen up my muscles in a way that the cramp would diminish, I thanked the Lord that he has given me a community that will quickly show me my errors (sin) and want to work with me to correct them and continue running.