Tuesday, April 16, 2013

An Amazing African Adventure

I am still trying to play catch up on my posts.....I think this is from January!!
There isn't much here to do for entertainment.  Really, the kids and I don't get out off the compound much.  There is no McDonalds Play Place, or Chic-fil-A play area.  No libraries to visit, no Jump Zone's or Monkey Joe's.  No WalMart or Targets.  There are no Splash Pads or parks to take the kids to, so when another one of the missionaries here (and her sister who was visiting) asked if we wanted to take a trip to one of the local waterwalls (next door in Ghana), the kids were beyond excited! 
The Wli waterfall near Afegame is the highest waterfall in West Africa and is a bit of a tourist spot.  So I think we each had to pay $2 to make the hike, but that also paid for a guide to walk with us.

And every tourist spot must have a souvenir area and a snack shop, right?!

We hiked for about 45 minutes.  Well, Aiden hiked some of the time and rode part of the time.  Sometimes don't you just wish you were a kid again?

And crossed about 8 bridges.  This was the first one that consisted of a fallen tree and a wobble piece of bamboo for a hand rail.  There was quite a large group of Ghanaians washing their clothes in the river so we drew a lot of looks.  I think they were all wondering if the pregnant white lady would make it across the bridge!

The girls had just the best time.  Who needs toys and video games when you live in Africa!

This was one of the better bridges and was just gorgeous.  It was one of the those sureal moments when I have to pinch myself and take a deep breath when I realize that we really are living in Africa.
Little Aiden straggling behind.
It was just breathtaking hiking through the rainforest.
Aiden made fast friends with our guide, Osmond. 
When we got there it was just beautiful.  John and I visited this waterfall when we lived here before, but it was even more beautiful than I remembered.
The kids with Bethany & Susanna.  Interesting thing, their father was one of the surgeons who started the hospital and they lived here when they were about the same ages as the kids.  And the kids just love them!
My little adventurers!
When we walked up to the waterfall there was a bunch of Africans there too.  As soon as they saw the kids, they all ran over to us and wanted to have their pictures taken with the kids and there was a few marriage proposal for the girls.  It kind of scared the kids so we didn't make them take pictures, but it was a definite change because we are usually the ones taking pictures of the Africans!
Bethany was so sweet and took Eliza out to swim close to the falls.
And Susanna took Livi and Aiden hiking on the rocks to get close!
After playing for a while in the water, Aiden found a good spot to rest.  I laughed when I saw this picture cause I thought it looks like he is sitting on an alligator....but it is just a log!
Time for lunch.
Livi cooling off in the water.
Love these little people.  It looks like I am strangling Aiden, but I promise I wasn't!
One more family picture in front of the waterfall.
So no, we don't get to go alot of places.....but the places we do get to go to are pretty amazing!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Questions in the Night

I have had these thoughts in my head but have struggled to make sense of them and put them into words.  I struggle with this blog.  I want to be honest and transparent about missions.  Sometimes though, it is hard to find a balance of being honest about the difficulties without sounding like I am complaining.  Other times, it is hard to find the balance between being excited about life here and what God is doing, without sounding sickly sweet or "super-spiritual".  My biggest prayer is that God will somehow use something I say to encourage someone, even in just a small way.  I don't want people to see me, or our family, or even Togo necessarily.  With ALL my heart, I want people to read my words and see Jesus.

So I couldn't decide to post this or not.  I am honestly nervous to push "publish".  But then felt led to.  So here goes.

These last few weeks have been hard.  Life here is never easy, but I wouldn't say things have been hard until recently.  We have all been sick.  First, I was on bedrest for a month.  Then Eliza was really sick with a 104-105 temp, that we never did figure out the cause.  Then malaria for Olivia, then I developed a bad kidney infection and was in bed with IVs and IV meds.  Then we all got an amoeba that really knocked us down. 

So I really struggled with being here.  I asked God lots of questions.  Not in a demanding, accusatory way.  But with a broken heart, humbly seeking what the Lord wanted of me.  Asking God what He wanted me to learn about Him through all this.

As I held Eliza in the night as she burned with fever, talked out incoherently, and even talked about seeing Heaven, and as Olivia vomitted violently from Malaria, I found myself asking the question, "Lord what are we doing here?"  As I laid in the bed at night shivering from fever while John tried to wrap me in blankets, I prayed asking the Lord to keep the baby I am carrying safe.  And I begged the Lord not to require this of us.  As Eliza wretched and asked, "Is there nothing else the Drs can do to  help us?", my heart broke.  As the kids little ribs became more evident as they lost weight, I struggled.  As I watched my IV fluids slowly drip and looked at the floor where all three kids were lying sick, I asked the Lord, "Are we doing the right thing by bringing our kids here?".  It is one thing to be here and be sick from something you get by being here (like Malaria or an amoeba) but to see your kids so sick and suffering from a decision that John and I made...that takes thing to a whole different level.  It was hard.

I tried so hard to be strong and keep it all together.  One of the other missionaries commented on how well I have handled everything, that I have been a rock.  But on the inside I thought, "I've been more like a pebble!"  I have cried in frustration.  Cried out of guilt for John having to do everything to care of all of us while he was even sick.  And I have cried in pure exhaustion.

I don't say all of this to sensationalize or dramatize things.  I know people are going through much worse storms that we have just gone through.  I just say all this that I have struggled...that missionaries struggle.  We are not super-Christians.  We are not unfailing.  We are not above trials.  We are not unshakeable.  We doubt.  We ask.  We question.  We get angry.  We hurt and we cry.  We get discouraged.

But in the midst of the trials and storms, we stay centered on one thing- the promise that the same God that led us here, will keep us here. 

The promise that any trial, big or small, that He allows into our lives will make us more like HIM.  And isn't that the ultimate goal of every Christian, to be MORE like Him.

The promise that as I craddled the baby in my womb praying for protection, that I was in fact craddled in the very arms of my Father!

The promise that He will never leave us or forsake us.

The promise that He will sustain us, strenthgen us and lift us up!

So I don't know what you are facing.  What hurt, or disappointment the Lord has brought into your life.  What storm you are wearily navigating, just trying to stay afloat.  What thing you are struggling with.  But I do know that if you come to Him with your questions in the night, He will gently answer and whisper, "I am here.  I will strengthen you. I will hold you. I will carry you.  And I will lift you from this trial!"

Friday, April 12, 2013

Container Day

I am so VERY behind on blogging.  Something seems to have changed with the format and for some reason, I have been having trouble uploading my pictures to the blog and sometimes it takes me over an hour to do a simple post. And sometimes, I do a post and then it is all wonky bizarre.   I really am NOT computer savy!!  So I am trying to catch up on posts before the baby arrives!

This post is actually from waaaay back in January when the container arrived.  People often ask how we get things here in Togo and this is how we get most of our things.  While there is constantly more becoming available in Lome (the capital city of Togo) some things still have to be shipped over, like furniture, good electronics (like a fridge/freezer/washer dryer) and alot of the hospital's medical supplies.

The container is packed in the U.S. then is put on gargo ship that makes the 6 week journey across the Atlantic Ocean here to the coast of West Africa.  Then the container is placed on a truck and makes the 5-6 hour trip here to the compound.  That is the process simplilfied!  It is ALOT of work for whoever is in charge of the container.  Thankfully, we weren't!  We were able to get some space on a container that one of the other missionaries was sending which was a HUGE blessing.
The kids were so excited to see the container finally arrive!
Most of the things we sent were items like clothing for the kids, a few toys, homeschool materials, some canned food, toiletries, and some baby items.  Nothing real extravagant, but things that would make life here a little easier.

It took the poor driver at least 30 minutes to get the truck backed up to the dock.
 I think he was new!

The container was delayed in the port quite a few times.  The kids were so excited for it to arrive and were so patient when the date kept getting changed.  One morning, we all got up early, dressed and ate breakfast beacause the container was supposed to pull onto the compound at 8AM.  The girls were sitting on the front carport watching and waiting.....when I received the phone call that the truck had not even left the port yet!  They were disappointed, but so understanding.

Then, the next day, we again were outside waiting, when we got another phone call saying the truck had broken down about an hour away.  Well, there is no AAA here, so you just have to wait!

Aunt Betty explaining the whole unloading process to the girls.
Finally, one evening around 6pm we hear the truck come onto the compound!  The kids just cheered with excitement and could hardly sleep knowing that it was finally here and that first thing in the morning we would open it start unloading!
Our list of the boxes.  Everything has to be numbered and itemized for customs.
The exciting moment when they open the container and everyone sees their stuff.
 It's the simple things out here that bring the most joy.
The big thing we sent for the kids was their bikes.  All the other missionaries knew the bikes were coming and were looking for them and it was so sweet to see how excited they all were for the kids!  Lots of cheers went up when the bikes were unloaded.
One thing I had sent was a waffle maker.  You can find cereal in Lome, but you have to pay as much as $7 or $8  for a box so we thought it would be a nice treat for the kids to be able to have waffles for breakfast.
The unloading goes on........and on........
Opening our boxes once we got them home.
I really think the kids were the most excited about the books we sent over.  There is no library here, of course, so we planned ahead and sent books.  And every day......we READ lots!
It was quite the exciting day for us.  And quite the process!  It is an all day affair as it takes several hours to unload and distribute boxes to all the missionaries or to the hospital.  Then you have to get them home, unload, unpack, and put everything away!  All that during the HOTTEST month of the year.  It was exhausting, but we sure were glad to get some things from home to help it feel a little bit more like home here.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Our DREAMY anniversary

Today is our 10th anniversary.  It is hard to believe that the Lord has already blessed us with 10 years together.  I know for some that is a long time, but pales to others.  John's grandparents have been married 70 years now!!  But I very vividly remember our 1st anniversary when we stayed at a beautiful Bed & Breakfast out in the country.  As we ate breakfast on the porch, we discussed what we would be doing in 10 years and where we would spend our 10th wedding anniversary.  We talked about returning to the Canadian Rockies to relive where we had a wonderful 2 week honeymoon.  Somehow though, we didn't make it back! Rather than relaxing in the mountains, we are working on the mission field.

I dreamt of going to the beautiful snow capped mountains of western Canada....
Instead we are in lush, green, hot, mosquito infested Africa.

I dreamt of spending the week enjoying time together, just the 2 of us....
Instead, we have spent the week taking care of sick kids and each other!

I dreamt of waking up under the soft fluffy down comforters of the historic Lake Louise Resort...
Instead, I woke up kicking off the sheets and turning up the fan trying to survive the heat!

I dreamt of a lazy morning with breakfast in bed.....
Instead, we woke up with Aiden in between us, asking for his "break-pest".

I dreamt of walking the streets of Jasper hand in hand, window shopping & sipping hot chocolate...
Instead, we were tramping through the crowded, fishy smelling market to buy fabric and fruit while holding hands...with the kids!

I dreamt of meandering drives through the mountains and taking in the breathtaking scenery....
Instead, we were navigating the pot-hole filled, bumpy roads trying not to hit, a goat, a sheep, or a stray chicken while we drove 45 minutes to the nearest "nice" restaurant.

I dreamt of quiet candle-lit meals gazing at each other.......(ok, maybe not really gazing! It has been 10 years after all!)....
Instead, we had lunch with all the kids, washed faces and sticky hands, made several potty trips and shared our food!

I dreamt of gold & silver embossed Hallmark cards that just perfectly expressed our sentiments....
Instead, we both made each other cards out of the kids construction paper, ribbons and stickers.

I dreamt of hours together, just me and John looking back and reflecting on 10 years together....
Instead, we spent hours together...with the kids talking about all sorts of kids things!

Was it the 10th Anniversary that I had dreamed of?  Definitely NOT!

Was it how I envisioned spending the day with the Love of my Life?  Definitely NOT!

Would I change a thing about it???  Absolutely NOT.....

Because even though I dreamed of something else, this is exactly the place and the way the GOD chose for us to celebrate and I am thankful for that.  I loved every minute of it.   And I happen to think, it was a pretty memorable 10th Anniversary after all!

My family

My family