Monday, November 22, 2010

What's your vision?

In church yesterday the pastor was talking about the importance of having a vision for your life to give it purpose, to remind us what we're working towards. This message really hit me deeply. What is my vision for life, for this year? I really struggle with this. I've always had a heart to give “beauty for ashes”. I assumed that when I came here to Mada I would work with the downcast and “lowly”, if you will. However, since I've been here I have found that the Lord is opening up doors for me to minister to Missionary women. Now....which way do I go?

Why do I want to help the “downcast and lowly”?
  1. It's just in my heart to reach those whom others would label as “not worthy, too dirty, too uneducated, beneath us”.
  2. I'm sure I would be seen as “doing good”, “suffering for Jesus”, “I couldn't do that so I'll support Megan”.
  3. I enjoy being in a developing country and the challenges that come with it.

Why am I struggling with using my time here to support and encourage missionary women?
  1. It's not as much of a cultural experience as I'd like.
  2. Will people see that as missions work and be willing to support me as I support those who are literally sharing the gospel?
  3. It's not what I planned on doing. I've drempt about being overseas for over 20 years and NEVER did I dream about supporting and helping other foreigners there, it was to help the nationals. This isn't what I planned.
And yet, I've seen how much it is NEEDED for missionaries to have other foreigners to connect with, share their hearts with, their hurts, frustrations, joys, and sorrows. As I meet these beautiful women they just naturally start sharing their hearts with me. Somehow we feel drawn together. How is it that my SPIRIT can feel so drawn towards these women but my HEART is with the Malagasy?

I understand that I can do both, have a balance. I just don't want to be seen as one of those Vazhas (foreigners) who hang out with other foreigners and not with the Malagasy. I can't stand people like that. CRAP....I just realized what I wrote. I'm concerned about what other people think of the work that I'm doing. I'm counting on others to provide my provisions based on how they view my “works” rather than depending on the Lord to provide because I'm following His leading. Oh pride, why dost though taunt me!

So, why am I blogging this? Because I need prayer. I need the Lord to guide me in how I spend my time and with whom, besides my family. Time is precious. I want to have a clear vision so that I can use my time to the fullest to encourage those I've been sent here to encourage. Maybe it's both the Malagasy and the missionary women. That's very posible. I just want to make sure I'm doing the right thing. Sometimes, doing the right thing is just taking a step forward in the morning and being fully present to embrace whatever comes my way at that MOMENT. It seems so simple doesn't it?

I understand that things will look differently depending on what stage of life we are in as a family. Of course there is the obvious.
  1. To bring honour and glory to my Lord
  2. To love and honour my husband
  3. To disciple my boys to be Godly men of integrity
  4. To be a safe haven for those who need it.
  5. To sit in the mud and mourn with those who mourn, and laugh and rejoice with those who rejoice.

And so I will continue to seek His face and ask for a clear vision, for today, for this year, for my life.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Never expected that to happen today!

Mommy! Quick! I think I see a chameleon!” We were just talking yesterday about how the Malagasy children find these great chameleons right by our house in the “wild” that people back home would pay big bucks to have. We never see them! I ran outside as fast as I could. Sure enough. This sucker was BIG! My head started to swirl a little. “Be brave Megan. This is for the happiness of your children. I don't think these things are poisonous. Do they have teeth? Don't think about it. Just do it”.  All of a sudden, before my senses got a hold of me, I hear myself shouting out orders. “Seth, go get the big stick from the hallway. Cole, got get the wash bin from the extra room”. Stick in hand and wash bucket ready for action I silently remind myself, “steady girl, steady”. GOT IT!!

We ran into the house with the poor creature trying it's best to look really big and hissing, except he doesn't make any sound. Randy comes down the stairs. “Wow, honey, that is a big chameleon!” I just looked up at him with a big smile, I was so proud of my accomplishment! We then spent the next ½ hour watching him, trying to touch him, and then screaming or jumping (just a little bit) when he'd turn around and flash his toothless mouth at us!

OK Megan, you only live once. How often are you going to have a wild chameleon in your house? Go for it. Pick it up. You know deep down inside you there lives a brave Steve Irwin want-to-be. You can do it. Be the “chameleon hunter” that you know you can be” I take a deep breath after giving myself a pep talk, put on the yellow rubber dish gloves, and go for it.

Slowly, step by step I found myself becoming more brave. The boys on the other hand, climbed up onto the mantle of the fireplace! I truly believe that that toothless chameleon and I bonded. Don't we look cute together?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Who needs a "snow day" when you can have a "coup day"?!

This week was a little bit different as we didn't have school Wednesday due to political elections. There were some reports of protests and rioting with cars being burnt (some say it was just car tires) and some guns going off but otherwise it was a fairly peaceful day. We did hear, however, that there was a coup attempt Wednesday – thus the gun fire and burning tires. We weren't sure how Thursday was going to go. Do we just get up and go to school as planned? We hadn't heard anything from the American Embassy so off to school we went on Thursday just as if it was another day. And it was.

Today (Friday) started off just like any other day. We all got ready and walked to school together. Randy then left and took the taxi-bé to work. I stayed at school today to help in one of the classrooms. At 10:30 the morning break bell went off. All the teachers and students piled out of the classrooms for their snack and morning break. As I was walking out of the classroom I realized that there were many fewer children than normal. Just as I was thinking this one of the teachers came up to me and asked, “Aren't you going to get your kids and go home?” “No, I know I'm not usually here on Fridays, but I'm helping out today in Miss Anza's class”. She looked at me with a little bit of confusion in her eyes and responded with, “You haven't heard the news have you?”

Well, it turns out that the President put a message out to the public that everyone should evacuate from the Ivato area (not our area but the one up by the airport). He said that if negotiations didn't go well between the government and those in the military who attempted the coup that the government would take back the military base they were in with whatever force was needed. Then there was news that there was shooting in Talatamaty which is the community we have to walk through to go to school (though this was never substantiated.)

The Ivato schools were closing early and all the other Vahza's at MCA(which is about 5 other families) came and got their children and now even the Malagasy were showing up to take their children home. I called Randy and we decided that the kids and I would just stay until the end of the school day ,which is 12:30 on Fridays, and that Randy would just stay at work as he would have to travel right through Talatamaty to get home. There were some teachers who weren't sure if they could get home so I told them they could just walk home with us through the rice patties (safest way) and stay at our house until things calmed down.

So, the day continued! Break finished and we went back into our classrooms. We had an assembly for the older children at 12:00 pm. The principal came in and asked, “Do you know what's going on right now?” The children replied, “A coup's taking over....fighting...Are we in a war?” Miss Pree continued, “We are not in a war, but there are people who are not happy with our government. But we don't need to be afraid.” And then she read Psalm 23. I was sitting there thinking, “this is THE strangest assembly I have ever experienced in my life!” As I looked around me I realized the children didn't seem to be nervous or afraid. Then I realized, “Oh yeah, they went through this already just last year so it's not new for them”. Things just went on. The kids sang through their Christmas music for the program coming up in December. Life goes on.

So Randy got a ride to school and then the 4 of us walked home the normal way. There didn't seem to be anything too drastically different. There were a few stores closed that are usually open. Shop Rite had closed one of their two gates to avoid people running through the parking lot in case of an emergency.

So, Randy got to have a ½ day of work. We lovingly called this day “coup day” instead of “snow day”. So we went home and made lunch and planned on watching the end of The Sound of Music. We started watching it during the first “coup day” Wednesday night! We thought it was appropriate to finish it during this one as well! A huge thunderstorm rolled in and we could hardly hear the movie! We desperately needed the rain. Randy said, “you know, the hotter people are the more irritated and willing they are to fight, maybe the rain will calm things down a bit.” Thank you Lord for the rain.

No, we don't feel we are in any danger as of right now. We are being wise in our decisions. We were supposed to have a prayer meeting tonight with AIM but it was canceled, and rightly so safety wise. Please pray for this country. We will eventually leave it, but these dear Malagasy people won't. It is sad to see our friends morn the fact that they do not have a government who takes their best interest to heart. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what tomorrow holds. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Carts Crawling with crunchy Critters by Randy

Occasionally we are asked how the political situation affects us. Usually we say that we have no idea. Things have been the way they are the whole time we have been here. We are told by some people that there are some differences – like you used to be able to get much better ice cream and fresh milk (but the ousted President owned the dairy company – so no more) or that taxi bé drivers drive however they want because they have paid off the police. But others say that not much has changed.
Often we hear things from my dad in the States. He is tracking the political situation on the web. He recently said that because foreign aid has stopped coming to Mada the Malagasy cannot afford to spray for pests this year. So, there is expected to be a huge plague of locusts.
We recently met some other AIM missionaries who work in the south of the country (about 300 miles away). (Geographically and climate-wise think that we live in SanDiego and they live in central Texas.) They said that in the past there was lots of spraying of pesticide (by helicopter) but not really this year. So, they have seen the locusts come before and expect it to be worse this year.
What they say happens is that when the locusts come everyone grabs their mosquito nets or whatever container they can and they run for the fields. They scoop up all the locusts they can, and the children sit and pluck off all the wings. Then they dump mounds of maroon (not green) insects into carts. It's an amazing picture - (I wish I could see it myself) – oxcarts full of wriggling and writhing wingless insects. And where do they take them? To the market of course! They sell them to eat! Apparently, you boil them and then fry them with a few spices. Supposedly, it is quite the delicasie. Many people box them up and send them up country to relatives. (I guess it's like bringing salt water taffy home from the shore.)
We are told that a few people privately pay for spraying in their fields. So, you can buy dead or alive locusts in the market. Of course the dead ones were killed with insecticide.
So, the plague turns out to be a bumper crop of protein for people who get very little meat. But they are well aware that if they are not diligent in catching all the locusts they will lose their planted crops and have nothing to eat later on.
If you want to know more about the Bara people of southern Mada you can check out this link I found:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Free range chickens and haircuts

So Randy and I were talking about how here in Madagascar they have free range chickens and how Americans would love the sound of that, especially those who want animals to have a nice life until they are ....well....consumed shall we say?.  And so I thought I'd show you what a free range chicken in Madagascar looks like.  See picture above.  Incase there are any doubts about what you see I'll explain it to you.  These free range chickens are eating to their hearts content in the sewers on the side of the road.  yummy.

And so this week Randy begged me to give him a haircut as his hair is getting REALLY long.  I finally gave in.  I got the shaver out and we decided to start on the longest setting which is 4.  ummmm  shouldn't have done the whole head in 4....Too bad Randy's not like a potato head.  I could just switch his hair...bad....very bad.  Hence, no picture of new haircut.

By the by, I changed my blog site a little bit.  You can now leave a comment even if you aren't a member on google.  I did this be honest.... I need feedback people!  There have been a few of you who have commented and I've loved it!  It gives me the umph to keep writing!  So.......if you read the blog could you please leave a comment every now and again for my encouragement?  THANKS!!

Ok, this entry is me just ...well....blah blah blahing.  Have a great day and know that we are too!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The importance of being both a big cow and a little cow (otherwise known as “zebu” here in Mada)

This morning as we headed out our gate to walk to church we saw one of the men from the mud huts behind out house training a baby zebu. As I watched, the scene infront of me really spoke to my heart. There was an adult zebu who was yoked to a zebu who looked to be like a tweenager. The tweenager had no idea how to work together with another zebu in the yoke and so he was fighting, even though he was being wipped repeatedly by the owner. For a little while he just did nothing and let the adult zebu pull him along. Eventually he got tired of that and started walking along side the adult zebu. Later in the day I saw the same team again, but this time there was less wipping and more working together.

This scene reminded me of the importance of mentoring the younger people in our lives. They have no idea how to go through life. They watch others around them and try things, somethings work, other things lead them to falling on their “butt-tongs” (as my children call it). I went through the same things when I was younger. Thankfully I always had an adult, besides my mom and dad, who would walk beside me and share their testamony with me of things they tried when they were my age. Things that worked and things that didn't.

Looking at this team of zebu reiderated the importance to me of having a mentor, even now as an adult. But I can't stop there. I must also be that big zebu to a younger zebu. It is so important to offer ourselves to a younger generation to walk beside them, encourage them, listen to them, laugh with them, and cry with them.

Do you have a mentor? Are you a mentor? Don't know where to start? Just look around you and pray that the Lord will put someone on your heart and put you on someone's heart to create these amazing give and take relationships. I strongly encourage you to take a step forward in this area. I find that I get just as much encouragement from my mentor as I do from my “mentie”. It's also a nice way to break generational gaps and learn from one another. I think that if this happened more regularly in the church that there would be less quaraling and bickering about traditional verses contemporary worship and we would all be willing to differ to one another so that together we can worship the same God, who is both traditional and contemporary!

Just some food for thought.

Oh, and by the way, to my mentors and menties, and you know who you are , thanks for a fun and challanging ride!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

November 3, 2010 Rescue Rangers!

So today as we were walking on the way home from school we saw a man walk up holding three tiny puppies by their legs and watched in horror as he chucked them into a bush! I asked him if he didn't want them any more (seemed obvious but just wanted to make sure). He said, “No”. So I let the boys pick one. We walked on towards our house and stopped at a friends house to see if she and her husband would want it. They said no, and explained why the guy probably throw them out. Apparently most female dogs are thrown out as puppies. As they get older the females are the ones held responsible for having more puppies and when they are in heat all the stray male dogs come “knockin' at the door” so to speak. Now, I'm not normally one to “rescue” animals, but I just couldn't help myself. So my friend gave me the number of a South African lady who is an animal rights activist and has set up a shelter here in Tana. I called her and she wanted all three right away as she was afraid they would die soon without proper attention. So the boys and I walked back to where the other puppies were and walked back into town and met her to give her the puppies. It was easier just to meet her than to try and give her directions on how to come to our house as there are no road names and no address. So, that was one of our “good deeds” today. The boys were excited to help and excited to tell Daddy all about it. Once he, Randy, heard the story he was very glad for the South African lady because that meant we didn't have another dog!

November 1, 2010 good get away that started badly...well...not really

So on October 26th we left to go to Ampefy, Madagascar, a nice little town known as the center of Madagascar. Randy was driving since we were borrowing an automatic car. We were to pick up two of our Korean missionaries on the way and then meet about 35 others at a small hotel that had separate “bungalows” with a big meeting room/dinning room. It was perfect for our conference.

On the way there we were pulled over by the police at a police check. As it turns out the inspection for the car we were driving was out of date by one month. We were told that they would impound it for 10 days and the owner would have to pay a pretty pricey fine. What to do? We prayed and got out of the car. Some of the other team members drove past us and pulled over. There was not much they could do so they went on ahead. The owner of the car (also a team member) came over and after about 1 hr worked things out. So in the end, he didn't have to pay a fine; he didn't have to have his car impounded, and a friend of his loaned us his car (a stick shift, so I had to drive) and took the out of date car to be brought up to date).

In the mean time during the hour of working things out with the police the boys and I went down to the river to watch the women wash clothes. They invited us over, so I rolled up my pants and went in to get a quick lesson on washing clothes in the river. I told the woman, after she was done teaching me, to go sit on a rock and take a break and let me do some washing for her. Well, I'm such a wimp that after about 10 minutes my back was hurting and my hands were on their way to feeling raw! These woman are such hard and dedicated workers!

We finally got to the place were we were having conference. It was a nice week. Busy, but nice. There were three women from England who came over to run a children's program during the morning teaching sessions. They were great! And what as so admirable about them was that the youngest one was 60 and they all had such great energy! The boys had a blast with about 10 other children ranging in age from 1-10 years of age. There was also a 28 year old Malagasy man helping too.

I really enjoyed getting to know the other missionaries and hearing their stories from the past year. I learned SO much about how to encourage missionaries and what questions to ask when I'm back in the States and other missionaries are home on furlough! These missionaries give up more than I can imagine, and yet still their hearts are hard after Jesus. So encouraging!

We went for a few outings during our free times in the afternoons. We went to some waterfalls. BEAUTIFUL!!!! And, of course just like any other man out there, Randy had to jump off of them. He couldn't go all the way to the top as it was the end of the dry season and the water wasn't deep enough for that, but it was deep enough to jump a ridiculously long way! We also went to see the ummmm....nuts, what the heck are they called again? The..... wait, I've got to go ask Randy I'm having a brain fart. Ah yes, the geysers! AMAZING!!! They were not as big as Old Faithful mind you but they were beautiful, and the colors of the soil, water, and the back ground of mountains....breathtaking! You can see pictures on my facebook page. If you need to friend me it's “Megan Kirk Gehlert”.

And so, we were encouraged by the week. It was a little strange coming back to Tana. The week felt like a “wrap it up”, reentry week and we felt as if it prepared us to go back to the US. So, there were some mixed emotions for all four of us. In fact Cole just informed me that he's not going back to school tomorrow.

And so, we will spend this week getting back into school, work, Malagasy living and talking. It's not that we want to leave Madagascar it's just that we'd like to have a nice afternoon meal with our family and friends, ya know?

October 25th, 2010 Pick pockets, packages, and brownies oh my!

So we decided to journey into Tana City on our own as a family today. We needed to pick up a package at the post office. So, off we went. Walked 2 kilometers to catch a taxi-be. Took the taxi-be to where we get off to go to Tana City Church. Got another taxi-be and into Tana we went. As we were getting near to our drop off near the train station traffic was very backed up so people just started getting off the taxi-be and walking the rest of the way. We decided to do the same thing. Seth got off first with me right behind him, however, before I was able to get off the traffic started to move (slowly mind you). Seth looked back in horror thinking he was being left behind. Poor guy. I knew we weren't going more than 10 feet but he didn't know that. He ran after us crying. I got off as quickly as I could and scooped him up. He was so scared! Oh, my heart just melted for him!

Once we were all back together (this all took place in like 2 minutes mind you) off the taxi-be and on the “side walk” we headed through the market towards the post office. Seth and I were in front of Randy and Cole about 10 feet. It's packed full with people and you need to hold onto you personal items as if your life depended it! I kept looking back to make sure Randy was in my sight. About a minute later he called my name. I turned around and he just smiled at me. “Ok, he calls my name in the middle of complete chaos and smiles at me.....he's so sweet”. As we entered the post office he told me that a group of 5 men walked up right behind me and Seth, and one man went in front of us. Randy called my name because it was obvious to him that they were pick pockets. Now, for our parent's sake, let me just explain that pick pocketing is VERY common, especially in Tana's market areas, however, they do not HURT you, they just steal from you! So anyway, when Randy called my name I stopped walking and turned around and the men dispersed! Ah, my night in shining armor!

So, we made it to the post office safely. Our package was delightful! Halloween decorations! We also got a nice letter from grandparent's with pictures of the boys stuffed animals! OH, they LOVED that! We then ventured back out into chaos (the market). Now, I love going to markets because it's a great place to practice my malagasy! The boys needed new sneakers as theirs are coming apart from climbing trees, running on rocks, dirt, hard grass..... So we bought one pair of shoes, two Madagascar shirts for the boys and two “baseball” hats. In the middle of talking with a seller a man walked by and went to go into one of my side pockets of my purse. Little did he know that they were closed with velcro....hello?...loud rip..... I smacked his hand and gave him the hairy eyeball look, but he never made eye contact with me. So, I've decided that next week with my language helper I will learn the phrase “Stealing is a lazy person's job” or “Are you seriously trying to steal from me?” and make a nice stink:) I will ask Helena what an appropriate phrase would be for me to say loudly to make a stink but not be disrespectful!

We made it through the market and went and sat on some steps to rest a little bit. Randy and Cole weren't feeling up to par. After about a 10 minute rest we went to find a restaurant that has become the talk of the town among foreigners: The Cookie Shop. Need I say more people! It was started by a Malagasy woman who had been in America and had loved Starbucks. She came back home to Tana and started her own! They had GREAT bagel sandwiches, different kinds of cookies, including chocolate chips (which are VERY hard to find here), ice cream sundaes on brownies, and milkshakes!!!!! Poor Randy. His stomach wasn't feeling well so he just had a juice smoothie drink. I took it pretty easy too as I didn't want to over do it ya know? I just had a chicken melt bagel with pickles, cucumbers, cheese, and mayo, a chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and cool whip, and then a chocolate milkshake. Not too bad right? RIGHT???
Oh, my mouth was SOOOOOO happy!

And when we arrived at the cookie shop we ran into friends (and very close neighbors) of ours who had driven into town. So, we were able to get a lift home. Ah, what an adventure!