Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I really don't understand You....but somehow I still get You.

I was sitting on my porch this evening looking out at pure wonder. The horizon is a dull red blending into a dusk blue and then a dark gray...the kind of gray that snarls at you threatening a thunderstorm. As I sat there the rains started to dance their way to the ground. The ominous thunder clouds slowly covered the dusk blue and started to take over the dull red right at the horizon line. Lightening struck. Amazing beauty as I watched the lightening light up the entire cloud. Rain started to fall more heavly and my i-pod started playing “What Do I Know Of Holy?” by Addison Road. The words came right through the speaker and penetrated into my heart. “I guess I thought that I had figured You out. I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about how You are mighty to save, those were only empty words on a page. Then I caught a glimps of who You might be. The slightest hint of You brought me down on my knees”...I sat there filled with …. with surprising remorse of how much I realized I thought that I knew/understood this amazing God. My heart sank as I completely connected with the words being sung. Now mind you, I'm growing in the Lord every day, but still I was amazed at my human response of thinking I was able to comprehend and grasp the idea of God. Thank You Jesus that I can't. Who wants to serve a God they can fully comprehend and grasp? Hello?...there'd be no need to worship and serve Him, I'd be the same as Him.

I just sat, frozen in … well … remorse over my simple mind. Thinking I understood the Lord.....seriously?

After a small quiet pause “Revelation Song”, sung by Kim Walker-Smith, started to fill the air. Lightening struck, thunder cracked, rain wet my feet which were stretched out on the portch, and my heart started to soar as I realized, again, what kind of God God was, is, and is to come.

“Clothed in rainbows, of living color
Flashes of lightening, rolls of thunder.
Blessing and honor, strength, and glory and power be
To You the only wise king

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Amighty
Who was, and is, and is to come.
With all creation I sing
Praise to the King of Kings
You are my everything
And I will adore you!

Filled with wonder, awestruck wonder
At the mention of your name.
Jesus your name is power
Breath, and living water
Such a marvelous mystery!”

Thank you for the loving reminder, Lord, that I don't understand You, but somehow I still get You.  You are so incomprehendable, and yet, at the same time, you make Yourself approachable to us through Your amazing grace.

listen to "What Do I Know of Holy" by Addison Road

Monday, April 18, 2011

Introducing....Seth, the successful face painter!

So this afternoon Seth worked for about 15 minutes making a special sign. He said he was going to start his own face painting business. 

Then looked at me with these adorable eyes and a sweet smile and said, “I need to practice so that I can be successful”. Hence, what ensued was a ½ hr of him painting Cole's, mine, and his own face.

Afterwards I looked out the window and saw Cole who had his face painted by Seth, laughing hilariously while chasing John Pierre, our guard, who was running away saying, “Matoatra be aho!” (I'm scared.) I love Madagascar!

About an hour later there was a knock at our gate door. It was a woman from church who had come with her daughter who was very sick with a toothache. It was quite funny seeing their reactions to my face having been painted. I then proceeded to have a ½ hr long serious conversation with my face painted. Must have given God a chuckle.....oh the joys of encouraging my children's creativity:)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Just call us Charlie's Angels...fighting crime in the streets of Madagascar!

April 12, 2011

This morning we decided to take it easy since the past 2 days were full of adventure! Randy took the kids to school and then went off to work. Marsha and I got ready and walked to my friend Helena's house to say goodbye as Marsha was leaving this afternoon.

After chit chatting at Helena's we walked with her into Talatamaty and then went our seperate ways. Marsha and I walked the back road towards our house so that we didn't have to walk in the smog of all the morning traffic on the main road. I can't tell you how many times I've walked down this road. It's a quaint little back road with houses, some small kiosks, and a school. It's a very nice walk. As we were walking Marsha felt a tug on her arm and turned just in time to see a man yank her camera off her arm and take off running!

She screamed and felt compelled to run after him!  Though Marsha wouldn't typically pursue someone robbing her, with the compelling she felt inside and the encouragement I gave as I shouted "get that man!".  Next thing I knew she took off her flip-flops and holding them in her hand started running full speed ahead!  At first she actually got ahold of his shirt which threw him off balance enough that it made sense to keep trying to catch this man.  The only thing I knew to do instinctively was to yell “stop in Jesus name!” (not at Marsha but at the man). Then I took off after her knowing that she didn't have a clue where she was or where she was going or how to get back!  Down through dirt paths we ran.  What a sight it must have been.  One Malagasy man running for his life away from one vaza (foreigner) with no shoes on and one vaza shouting, “Stop in Jesus name!  God make him give the camera back!”  Now, I was shouting this in English so it wasn't like I was saying these things to make him feel guilty, I was literally calling on God!

Before we knew it, we were on the other side of a VERY busy street with many Malagasy pointing the direction the 'bad man' went.  But, alas, we couldn't see him. By this point I was so out of breath I was gasping for air!  I just kept saying, “ratsy lelah! Maka ny ratsy lelah!”  Which I later found out was the comparison of saying “...man bad! Get man bad!”.....so my Malagasy isn't perfect....

Soon we rounded a corner where I saw a group of young men, maybe in their 20s. As soon as they saw us they looked at each other and started walking the opposite direction!  I yelled in Malagasy “Can you help us find the man bad that took my friend's camera?”  One man turned around with what looked like a guilty face, so I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I'm sorry, but I am only able to speak Malagasy a little bit.  I'm learning.  Can you please help us find the man bad who took my friends camera?”  He finally turned and walked towards me.  His friends followed him.  I had the thought in my head, and so did Marsha, that these men were friends with the man who stole her camera and they were feeling guilty because they knew about the situation.  One of the other men quickly said that they were unable to help us, they didn't know anything.  So, I said, “ok, thanks for helping us anyway” and we turned to walk towards home.  After walking about 4 minutes we heard a yell.  We turned around....and there at the top of our road were the men we had just talked to holding up Marsha's camera!

We ran up to them with huge smiles on our faces and tears in our eyes and thanked them profusely!  We shook hands and then left.  For the next 3 ½ hrs, as that's all we had left before Marsha had to get on the plane, we sat on the deck of a restaurant over looking a rice field and ate lunch, drank tea, and talked about all the miracles that God did during that ½ hr of our lives!

                1  The man didn't try to hurt us when Marsha turned to run after him Marsha didn't get anything dangerous in her feet while she ran barefoot
                2    I didn't brake anything running after her (for those of you who know me youknow that's a miracle!)
                3   We don't remember crossing the busy street which means there must have been NO traffic.....VERY unusual
                4   I could speak Malagasy enough to make a connection with the young men who ended up helping us
                6    The men didn't ask for any money!

After dropping Marsha off at the airport and picking up the boys from school I was sitting in the living room with the doors opened.  I was just relaxing and enjoying the breeze and thanking God for ALL He's done for us.  All of a sudden I heard a knock on the gate door.  Yup...it was 3 of the men who had helped us.  I greeted them in Malagasy and thanked them for being such good men that they would help us out.  They continued to stand there.  John Pierre, our guard, was standing next to me, so I asked him, “What are they waiting for?”  He said, “I think they are hoping you will give them some money.”  bummer.  That kind of ruins the story doesn't it?  So I just looked at them and said in Malagasy, “I thought you were helping us because you were good men, not because you wanted money.  I think that God is very happy with you that you helped us, but I'm not going to give you money.  We are missionaries here and didn't have enough money to come here and help for a year so we had to ask for money from a lot of people around us. (Although I have to say it was very awkward saying this knowing that I had more money than they did.)  I think that you helped us because you are very good men. Thank you SO much for being very good men, but I'm not going to give you money because you helped us.  I'm very sorry.  Maybe just helping us out is enough. Again, thank you for being very good men.”  I then shook their hands and went into the yard and closed the gate behind me.

The amazing thing is NOT ONLY did all these miracles happen but God was teaching us and still is teaching us so much through that ½ hr!
                      1  He's teaching us about His ability to protect us.
                      2  He's teaching us about His ability to provide extravagantly for us.
                      3  He's given those men a chance to just do good rather than bad.
                      4  He's teaching us to trust Him as He guides us through our day.
                      5  He's taking us on adventures that we may never understand fully but know that they will, somehow, bring glory to God.

Lord, could I have a boring day tomorrow.....please?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The adventures continue

April 11, 2011

So Marsha and I were to get up at 6:30am to leave at 7:30am to go for a 2 hr hike in the rainforest. I accidentally set the alarm for 6:30PM!!! Instead of panicking, which is a normal response for me, I decided to just go with the flow and let God “worry” about it.

We ended up not leaving until 8:15am. By this time the hope of hearing the Indri Indri sing to claim their territory was gone. Disappointing but, as we learned from yesterday, God seems to have different plans and lessons for us than we plan for ourselves. We were able to get an English speaking guide which was a huge blessing. He explained to us that with the two hour tour (is anyone else now singing the Gilligan's Island theme song?) we would only see the one type of lemur, the Indri Indri. And that's if we were “lucky” as all the groups who have gone before us were unable to spot them that morning!

Now, before we left for the hike Randy and I were telling Marsha how the hike through the forest was not rigorous at all and that is was more like a stroll through the forest and very enjoyable. Once we got there we saw some dancing lemurs within the first five minutes of our hike which was an unexpected joy! They are a beautiful golden color. (picture to the right). After seeing the dancing lemur our tour guide decided to take us off the beaten trail and right INTO the forest! We're talking holding on to the vines and moss covered trees for dear life as we slide on mud and wet leaves. We soon came to the understanding, as sweat beaded up on our foreheads and spider webs danced right above our heads, and mud, dirt, and leaves were being flung everywhere, that this was NOT going to be a nice stroll through the forest but a workout that we'll NEVER forget!

Within about 15 minutes of tramping through the forest (quietly, mind you, as we don't want to scare away the lemurs).....(I guess it's possible to slide and fall quietly)...we started hearing the Indri Indri! UNBELIEVABLE!!! Well, our guide takes off like he's in a horse race sliding down slippery slopes, stooping under vines, leaping over fallen logs...and I'm saying (Afaka mandeha miadana azafady! “Can you walk slowly please!”) while gasping for air!
After about 5 minutes there they were! The Indri Indri. (picture to the right)  Beautiful creatures hanging out in the trees eating berries. They looked so peaceful and ….well....National Geographic-like.... They then looked down at us and saw two white women with twigs and leaves and spider web residue hair, mud on pants and dirt spewed on shirts, panting for oxygen and desperately holding on to vines - as we were standing on a steep incline! I can just imagine what was going through those lemurs' heads!

We then had to hike back UP all that we had just “fallen” down. Great....I can feel that chocolate bar falling right of my hips with this work out! We finally got back to level ground and were making our way back to the parking lot when our guide stopped abruptly and there, right before us, were the bamboo lemurs! They are the tiniest lemur! Now, talk about a blessing. We were only supposed to see 1 kind of lemur and after a bunch of sweat and mud and falling we were able to see 3 kinds of lemurs! The guide said we must have had a lucky day. I responded with, “No, God just wanted to bless us....over and over and over again”

So after that we went back to Vakuna and found the boys playing and relaxing by the pool. We packed up and had lunch and set off back to Tana. What a great and UNFORGETABLE trip....oh yeah....and we passed another pig on a motorcycle!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Panic attacks NOT welcome...

April 10, 2011
We left yesterday afternoon for a three day vacation to Andasibe. We wanted to take my dear friend Marsha there to experience the rainforest and see the lemurs. Thankfully during the 4 hr drive here we passed 5 police check points and didn't get pulled over for ANY!!!! Miracle! The other miracle is that, even though the car we borrowed stalled many times while going around several harrowing turns and passing 18 wheel trucks on a narrow mountain road, we all arrived safely! (Mom and Dad G and K take a breath....we're all doing well:) )Oh, and we saw a pig on a motor bike.....it was dead. This little piggy went to market....

But, the only word I have to sum up today is...... ridiculous..... crazy..... unexpected....oh, that's more than one isn't it? So, we start off the day by Marsha and I going to drive to the forest entrence to take a 4 hr. hike in the rain forest. It was only 3 km. away. After driving 20 km we decided to turn around and try the other direction. 1 hr later we never found the entrance. So, back to Grace Lodge, where we spent the previous night, where Randy and the boys were swimming and hanging out waiting for us. We packed up all our stuff and headed to Vakona Lodge were we are spending tonight. We get settled into our room and head off to Lemur Island! This is where the lemurs jump all over you and you feed them. It is an amazing exerience. Well, apparently a few lemurs wanted to do more than just jump on us. One lemur jumped on my shoulder and peed down my back.....great....that's definitely a new experience. Then two jumped on Randy's shoulders and started to procreate....that's right....procreate...and yes, there's a picture of it...LOL (1st pic Randy realizing what's happening!  2nd pic note Marsha's expression!)

After that adventure Randy and the boys went back to play on the playground while Marshie and I went for a canoe ride to see the Maki lemurs (the ring tailed lemurs). After about 3 minutes on the canoe it starts to pour down rain! Well...we are in a rainforest.....

After taking hot showers and warming up we decided to walk over to the Vakona reserve and see the crocodiles and fosa (a cross between a weasel and a mini-mountain lion). The boys LOVED this. Now, the guide told us that if we follow the blue marked trail we would get back to the hotel. Ok, no big deal. Follow the “yellow brick road”...follow follow follow follow …... well, eventually we saw a sign for the hotel. Unfortunately after that there were a few trails we could pick from and NO sign.....wait, is that thunder? Panic panic... Is it going to be dark in an hour? Panic panic panic... “Meg, you can't panic. Stay calm for the boys” panic panic panic....After praying and following a few gut intuitions ...panic panic...between Marsha and Randy we were able to see the top of Vakona Lodge. We finally made it back...and before the rain came. OK, go inside hotel room and breathe so that I can stop hyper-ventilating ...what....no electricity you say....?......

and the adventure continues....... “MOMMY!!! THERE'S A BAT IN OUR ROOM!!!!”.....seriously?.....

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Beauty in the midst of poverty

April 4, 2011

Just got back yesterday from a village outside a small town called Ankazobe. We went with the AMI students (where Randy teaches). The purpose of the trip was to reach out to the villagers there by running a children's, teens', and adult ministry. We left Friday morning on a HUGE bus packed to the GILLS with lots of luggage and equpiment tied to the top of the bus - including stuff for a home-made shower, tents, backpacks, huge pots for cooking food and all the food we'd need for the weekend (as food was not easily gotten there in the bush).

It was a 3 hr drive on fairly good roads that ended with a 10 kilometer drive on a bumpy (though very good) dirt road. Eventually all of us had to get off the bus and walk about 2 kilometers. “Why did you have to get off and walk?” you might ask. Because the bus had to cross a VERY primitive bridge. The driver had to drive the bus wheels exactly on the main beams, which were about 1 foot wide, across the river. We weren't sure it was going to make it, but all the Malagasy thought it would be ok. …..hold your breath....pray....gasp.....we made it!

This village was your typical Malagasy bush village. In one sense it's the epitome of poverty and in another sense I don't think I've ever seen a place or a people SO beautiful....Everywhere I turned I saw homes made of brick covered with a mud/dung mixture.  Along with them beautiful pairs of dark brown eyes were peeping around a door, a window, a tree here and there trying to take in the sight of vazah (foreigners) for the first time. Eventually courage was built up and groups of barefoot beauties of all ages would slowly come walking up to the bus or hang back under a small canopy made of tree branches and thatched roofs.

It would take me hours to write all that we experienced this weekend so I'll just share a few of the highlights with you. The boys enjoyed walking around with a hammer they found from the tent sets that we brought and some toy construction vehicles pretending to be busy fixing....well....I'm not really sure what. At first the boys were apprehensive about hanging out with the Malagasy children in the village, however, by Sunday they were very comfortable with all the children following them around trying to touch them and play with them. Eventually the Malagasy children and Seth and Cole started speaking a language that all children speak...laughter!

During the teen outreach on Saturday afternoon Marsha (my friend visiting here from America) and I got to participate with some fun group games which included a Simon says game which was explained and played in Malagasy! Needless to say Marsha and I messed up and ended up in the middle of the circle with some of the Malagasy teens having to dance to music as our “punishment” for having been caught doing the wrong moves! It was GREAT fun!

Saturday afternoon I brought out my balloons and made balloon animals for all the children in the children's ministry. I reckon there was about 120+ beaming children waving their balloons in the air while they sang their daily closing song. What a privilege to have experienced this!

Each day the Malagasy hauled water from the river about 1.5 kilometers away from the village for us to use for washing and with the home made showers. I decided instead to go down to the river early in the morning to bathe in the actual river with the AMI students (all Malagasy). This was a great experience and a very typical daily routine of the Malagasy who live in the country near a natural water supply.

We brought along our own cook who works for AMI. We ate typical Malagasy food the whole weekend which included the following...
breakfast: rice in an oatmeal like substance with meat
lunch: rice with some kind of meat and some vegetables
dinner: rice with some kind of      
                                                      meat and some vegetables.
Needless to say we got our fill of rice, which ended up being a blessing as it can bind you up.....take a look at the squaty potty 
we had to use!

On Saturday morning we split up into groups of 5 and went to the homes of the village people who wanted to be visited. It was amazing to see how simply these people lived. I put some pictures up of the inside of their houses below. All in all it was a WONDERFUL weekend and experience for all of us.