Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Year in Review

This time last year, I hadn't even filled out my application to come to Togo yet. I was thinking actively about it, really meaning to do it every evening, preparing myself to come, but the first step in the process hadn't been officially started yet. I went home for Christmas, watched A LOT of Lost, ate a lot of food, and mentally prepared my heart for my last semester at Harding.


I went back to school and finished out my last semester, which I swear lasted two days total. I went to SpiritFest to represent Harding, hung out with Scott and Bonita on my way home, participated in Honors College wonderfulness, took my capstone course and put together a project to graduate with distinction, met weekly with my beautiful New Zealand team, and spent much time with my beautiful friends.

Then, I graduated. Four years went by in four blinks of an eye, I successfully walked across that stage (I didn't fall), shook Dr. Burks' hand, got an empty diploma cover, and walked out of the GAC where I frantically took pictures with everyone I could find and then... it was over. I went back to my dorm, finished my packing, and went to the Garner's house for the night. The next morning, I went to church, then drove Sean and I home until Wednesday when my beautiful mother drove us back to Searcy to leave for New Zealand.

New Zealand:

New Zealand stole my heart for a second time. Nat, Sean, Kari, Sarah, Andi, Cyndi, Carissa, Terri, Ken, Carolyn, Mike and Sue, Kristen and Elijah, the Palmy crew, the Inver-truck-ell (hehe) crew, the Mataura crew, and the Auckland team (including the lovable AIMers!) are now a huge huge huge part of my life and thoughts and prayers.


After I returned to the States, I jumped in my car and drove to Minnesota to teach Bible classes for Junior camp at Flaming Pine Youth Camp, losing my Ireland ring on the way. I learned how to be an adult in a setting where I’d only been a counselor, kept Michael company while he sat guarding lives at the lake in a jacket (silly FL boy!), and loved that lovely place for only a week.

Rest of the summer:

After FPYC, I spent time in Searcy, Dallas, and Jefferson City. I got to hang out with Bethany, Angela, Paula, Michael and Sarah, Jordan and Sam (yay engagements!!), Mel, Aaron, MonaLee, Jennifer, Amanda, and many other beautiful friends who mean so so so much to me. I went home, took up residence at Panera bread (for internet access), and spent the remainder of the summer prepping for Togo.


I got on a plane in Atlanta, flew to Ghana via London, met April and Nicole, then drove to Kara (where I had my first African middle-of-nowhere bathroom experience, which is no longer a novelty), and collapsed into the Kennell’s guest bedroom. We spent time setting up for school during which time I had my first bout of sickness and my first negative malaria test. Then the Reeves and the Millers got back from furlough and school started!! Since school started, I’ve missed almost a week from being sick (second negative malaria test), lost a dear friend, learned about mourning, learned about community, learned some French, learned how to cook without a Wal-Mart, and learned to appreciate Skype.


Our last day of school for the first half of the year was last Saturday. We ended the semester with a great Christmas party, complete with a snowman building contest and snowball fight. Hot chocolate, popcorn, and chocolate mini-muffins made me smile. All day Monday, les trois filles (as Brett calls us) baked Christmas cookies for the ladies’ party yesterday evening. And today, we hung out at the Kennell’s house. Now, we’re about to head home for yet another day of sleeping in. Tomorrow, we will decorate cookies with the Reeves. Christmas Eve and Christmas will be spent at the Kennell’s house where we will eat pie and wear cute PJ pants. Then safari on the 27th with the Emerson family, and New Year’s festivities (which I think I’ve heard will include a disco).

I’m blessed. So are you.

I love you.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Happy Holidays!!

I'm sitting in the Millers' living room watching the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (his nose was just exposed as being different and he's been banned from future reindeer games, poor Rudolph) and loving the holidays. Yeah, I'm in a different setting, but it's still beautiful.

I love you.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Great Wisdom from Children's Literature

“The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher.
‘Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.’
‘There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven--
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.’”
-Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, 3:1-8,11

I love teaching fourth grade. One amazingly wonderful part of my day is read-aloud, where all of our books are currently centered around the Civil War. We finished Caddie Woodlawn before Thanksgiving break, but the day before it ended, we read something that made me tear up, and I feel that it pertains so much to my current season of life.

First, I’ll set the scene. Little Caddie Woodlawn is a girl whose family moved from Boston to Wisconsin. They live on a farm there, and soon after arriving, Caddie’s sister died because her body was too weak. In order to prevent the same thing from happening to Caddie, her father convinced her mother to let her “run with the boys” and become healthy in body, rather than sitting in the house and learning about how to become a “lady.” This excerpt comes right after Caddie alone has been punished for being rude to a guest, even though her two brothers were just as guilty.

Caddie is planning to run away because she is so angry at the injustice her mother has dealt her. She is waiting for her family to go to sleep so that she can sneak out. Before she does, her father comes in and says this to her:

“Perhaps Mother was a little hasty today, Caddie. She really loves you very much, and, you see, she expects more of you than she would of someone she didn’t care about. It’s a strange thing, but somehow we expect more of girls than of boys. It is the sisters and wives and mothers, you know, Caddie, who keep the world sweet and beautiful. What a rough world it would be if there were only men and boys in it, doing things in their rough way! A woman’s task is to teach them gentleness and courtesy and love and kindness. It’s a big task, too, Caddie-- harder than cutting trees or building mills or damming rivers. It takes nerve and courage and patience, but good women have those things. They have them just as much as the men who build bridges and carve roads through the wilderness. A woman’s work is something fine and noble to grow up to, and it is just as important as a man’s. But no man could ever do ti so well. I don’t want you to be the silly, affected person with fine clothes and manners whom folks sometimes call a lady. No, that is not what I want for you, my little girl. I want you to be a woman with a wise and understanding heart, healthy in body and honest in mind. Do you think you would like to be growing up into that woman now? How about it, Caddie, have we run with the colts long enough?”

After Mr. Woodlawn’s speech, Caddie goes to sleep and wakes up with this new realization:

“When she awoke she knew that she need not be afraid of growing up. It was not just sewing and weaving and wearing stays. It was something more thrilling than that. It was a responsibility, but, as Father spoke of it, it was a beautiful and precious one, and Caddie was ready to go and meet it.”

Later, at the end of the book, I ran into this passage:
“What a lot has happened since last year... How far I’ve come! I’m the same girl and yet not the same. I wonder if it’s always like that? Folks keep growing from one person into another all their lives, and life is just a lot of everyday adventures. Well, whatever life is, I like it.”

I’m growing up, and although I’m not a little girl like Caddie, I make this same realization every morning. I can be scared of the responsibility that I have now, or I can embrace it and see what new wonders I can introduce to both my life and the lives of those around me. I loved reading this passage and seeing how well Carol Ryrie Brink put my feelings into words in a children’s book!! Ecclesiastes’ “There is nothing new under the sun” comes to mind.

Another children’s book that imparted wisdom to me was Across Five Aprils, a book by Irene Hunt about a boy growing up during the Civil War. At the end of the last chapter, Jethro (the main character) has just found out that President Lincoln has been assassinated. *I would like to add a note in here that I have so gained so much respect for President Lincoln teaching the kids about him this year that I have to fight back tears every time a book talks about his assassination. This part was no different, and this quote made it that much harder to not burst into tears during read-aloud!* Jethro says:

“One accepted the good or the evil with humility, for life was a mystery, and questions were not for the lowly.”

A few weeks ago, I was pondering the meaning of life. I was, and still am, grappling with Scott’s death, and not too far behind that on my mind are friends from my home congregation, Katie and Don. My mom’s dad, Grandpa Willard, has Alzheimer’s and that has been painful for my mom and my grandma who have seen it before, and for my brother and I who haven’t. Ecclesiastes’ “All is vanity” was in my mind, and I was desperate to figure out why dear people to my heart had to die. It’s been a long year for learning lessons about mortality and death for me; I know it has to happen for everyone sometime, but I would have preferred it to not be the year I’m adjusting to life in Africa without Cheetos and Dr. Pepper and Ben and Jerry’s Half-Baked ice cream.

The day before I read the end of Across Five Aprils, I had mentioned something to my friend Jamin about not understand the meaning of life. It might seem strange that reading “life was a mystery and questions were not for the lowly” helped, but it did- it reminded me yet again that God is in control and He can see the big plan. Our world is broken and hurting and marred by sin, but His Plan and His Son redeem us from that hurt and give us a Hope.

My questions have not been answered. They won’t be, most likely, for a while. But God continually puts ways in my life for peace to be found amidst the hurt. I pray that you can find peace, too.

I love you.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Back from Lomé

Hello, all! I literally got back less than an hour ago from Lomé, the capitol city of Togo, for our Thanksgiving break trip. I don't have much to say yet, but I love you all, and wanted to give a small update!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

This is Why You Laughed

I grew up in Jefferson City, Missouri, the daughter of two individuals who grew up as farm kids. I was a city kid. I had a nice backyard, but we didn’t grow corn in it, and our biggest animal was Coco, our chocolate lab, or possibly Patches, the blue healer/blue tick mix. I loved our animals, and on two separate occasions we spent a little more than a little money on healing my cat, Tiger (he has even had hip surgery).

When I was in high school, my “boy scout troop,” AKA my Venturing Crew, went hiking in Virginia in Shenandoah National Park. There, I discovered that I thoroughly disliked snakes when the following dialogue occurred:

Me: “Hey, look guys! A snake!”
Everyone else: “Cool beans!”
Snake: slither slightly toward Jacque

Also at Shenandoah, I had an episode with a beetle that I don’t care to relive, but that I will definitely never forget. And that’s enough of that story.

As a counselor, I had to suck it up and be a big girl. As a junior counselor at Little Prairie when I was 17, I stayed in Boys Cabin 1 with a girl in quarantine (she had pink eye) and successfully muffled my hysterics brought on by a persistent cockroach that my beautiful friends rescued me from. Also at LPBC, I abandoned a container of Gobstoppers to a cockroach (as a camper), abandoned my bed to cockroaches (as a JC), and saved my cabin from an infestation of mice (as a counselor). That in itself is a story: I sent my kids outside (as though that would muffle my screams that are just a reflex and I have no control over), and had my fellow brave counselor, Anna, come join me. I eventually just forbade my girls from looking in the rafters for mice because they wouldn’t leave.

At Flaming Pine, there were relatively few bugs, and I developed lightning reflexes to kill the biting bugs- they didn’t scare me, they just angered me.

I scream easily. Bugs and creepy crawlies gross me out, quite easily. I don’t mind if a bug is just hanging out away from me, but even when they’re far away from me, there’s always the knowledge that as a living creature, it might move closer.

For those of you who knew me, those are just a few of the reasons you scoffed when I said I was coming to live in Africa. For those of you who don’t really know me, you now have a picture of my personality that raises your eyebrows when you realize I already live in Africa. Now I will share some specific stories that will make everyone, old and young alike, giggle.

Why You Laughed Story #1:

Ever since I got here, I’ve had a steady stream of ants going from a hole behind my desk to the trash can that is located by the door. I’ve gotten used to them, and only use the giant can of bug spray when they cross the bubble line and swarm my feet/legs (it’s happened twice, and I still shudder when I think about it). The other day, I was amazed by the line of ants- it was three times thicker than it normally was! I had Bethany come and look and we were in awe together. When Nicole came by to bring the girls’ lunches, she came in to help me with my problem. She grabbed the giant green can of bug annihilator and started to spray the hole behind my desk that was a source of the ants.

They swarmed out of that hole. I mean thousands of ants, forming a fan shape coming out of that hole, quicker than I ever want to see ants appear. I kept shuddering and finally moved my class outside, “because of the fumes” and the fact that I was so grossed out about what had just occurred five inches from where I sit every day.

Why You Laughed Story #2:

A couple of weeks ago, I used the dictionary that sits in the corner of the bottom of my shelf. It smelled awful, but I couldn’t figure out why, so I decided it was strange, put it back and did nothing about it. On Tuesday of this week (our first day of the week for school here), Aidan needed the dictionary, so I pulled it out for him. Once again, it smelled really bad, worse even than last time. This time, I decided to see if it was something on the shelf, so I moved the books next to the dictionary space to the ground and looked.

It was a lizard. But not a live one. No, that would have been a normal occurrence. This one was dead, and had been decaying for who knows how long- all I know is that my dictionary has smelled for longer than two weeks. Ew. Ew. EW!!!

I had to have Bethany come in and take care of it for me, because my gag reflex was being quite active, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, it smelled for the rest of that day and all day yesterday, though I’m not sure if that was just my imagination. I put the dictionary and other books outside in the sun yesterday, hoping to get the smell away. I would like to point out that it took me a day to bring myself to touch the books. Ew.

The best part of this story is my kids’ reactions. I didn’t tell them what was there because I couldn’t bring myself to actually talk about it (remember the gag reflex), but they kept saying, “What? What is it?” When I responded, “Nothing,” they said, “Miss Jacque, we know that look.” I have a look, and my kids recognize it! This is enough to send me into fits of giggles upon thought.

Why You Laughed Story #3:

As I’ve already mentioned in passing, we have a lot of lizards and geckos and skinks, both in Kara, but especially in the schoolhouse compound. This makes for entertaining moments when they cross from their acceptable place outside into an unacceptable place: the buildings in which I live. If they stay in their little bubbles, I don’t mind. For example, we have a little “jelly” lizard that sits in our window and waits for us to come home at night. We can always see him because he’s backlit. He doesn’t come out and terrorize us during school, he just waits. He’s my friend.

The gecko that took up residence behind my chalkboard the other day (the day immediately after the decaying lizard was found, mind you), was not where he should have been.

Michal had gone up to the board to do a problem for Math. She was the first one to write on the board for the day, and as she started writing, a gecko about seven inches long emerged from behind, coming toward my desk and bookshelf. I squealed a little bit, then stood up and hopped onto Michal’s chair. None of my beautiful angels knew why I was startled, but I told them and asked Aidan to rescue me from it. He got up and ran his ruler around my bookshelf, making noise to scare it out, but I didn’t see it again that day.

I only hope it doesn’t die back there.

Why You Laughed Short Sundry Stories:

At the beginning of the year, there was a tiny skink on the ground on the other side of a beam from me. I wasn’t panicking, but I wasn’t moving either, because I didn’t want to hurt it. Then, the little bugger ran towards my foot and touched me!!! I proceeded to let out a shriek and hop around like a rabbit. To top it off, all of my kids were in the room as well as some of the parents. It was quite a show.

When Peter Dexter was a part of our lives, he was also a large part of the kids’ lives. Because we moved him around the yard on his leash, the kids explored the ground around the compound often. One day, on a day I was a bit melancholy, the older girls told me they had something to show me outside. As I walk out of Bethany’s room, she tells me in hushed tones, “Jacque, it’s a bug.” I’m thinking, “How bad could it be?” as I walk through my room and out the door that leads outside. Well, it was huge and nasty and disgusting and dead. If it hadn’t been dead, I might have cried. As it was, one of the girls was immediately behind me as I tried to escape from the girls waiting right outside with that nasty bug. I had a bit of a panic attack and asked them where they had found it... “By the goat,” was the answer, and from that time on, I approached the goat very cautiously, scanning the ground for massive insects

The next time you’re around me with my computer, ask to see the cockroach video. In short, sometime during the first month we were here, I was baking bread in our kitchen and it was in the oven. I was going into the kitchen to check on it, and as I walked in the door, I saw a cockroach scurry across the floor to hide under our sink. I lost it. Sarah was out in the Kindergarden room, but Bethany was upstairs in the apartment with me. I came skipping in to the living room, and jumped onto a chair where I couldn’t talk for a few moments because I was so grossed out (remember, please, that this was at the height of adjusting to life here). When I was finally able to communicate what was wrong to Bethany, she yelled for Sarah who came running because she thought we were dying. Don’t worry, Sarah got it, but she tried to give up a few times... Bethany and I would not let her.

There have been a few shower instances with bugs that cause hysterics, and Sarah, the tallest (and therefore the designated bug killer, obviously) always comes to our rescue.

And that, my beautiful friends, is why you laughed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Last Two Weeks

Well, I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth, but I’m sorry it has taken me so long to write. Life was happening- lots of life. For about a week, all I wanted to do when I was online was check my friends’ Facebook pages and talk to my mom. I know that everyone in the world has to deal with the death of a loved one from sickness and the accompanying grief, and I know that many of you who read this blog know exactly what I’m talking about, so I’m not going to go into it much. I would like to say that God put me in a good place with good people whose love helped me so much as I wrestled mentally and spiritually.

This last week, I got physically sick. It started with a little cough on Monday, progressed to a big cough on Tuesday, and was complete with a fever on Wednesday. I had to call in a substitute for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of last week. My fever reached 103.1 during one cycle, but was usually at its highest around 102.5, which is still miserable. At no point during the sickness did I have stomach issues, which was glorious; just sinus yuckiness and that silly fever. By sinus yuckiness, I am referring to the cough that attempted to expel my lungs for a week (it’s still present), and the congestion that was made of solid concrete that filled every nasal cavity I have. Let’s just say that watching me eat was quite disgusting.

My roommates and the beautiful team for which I work were angels during my days out. The Emerson family was on vacation in Lomé and Matt and Dave had taken an emergency trip to Accra; they got back on Friday night, just in time for my return to school on Saturday. Within that time, Nicole subbed for me two days and sent me lunch and movies, Andrea took Asher and I to get malaria tests done in Becky’s car and gave us food, and Becky took the girls grocery shopping and sent me dinner. My beautiful roommates made me food and took out the compost on my days and ate in the room to keep me company while I lay crashing from the fever and watched movies with me and shoved water down my throat... they were great. So, rest assured Mom and Dad- I’m in great hands here!!

On Tuesday night, the day before the fever struck, we had dinner at the Kennell’s house then headed over to Jimmy White’s house for game night. So. Much. Fun! Lisa came, too, making a total of seven people. Lisa and Jimmy are both missionaries on another team here in Kara, and both of them are about to leave on furlough- Lisa for two months, Jimmy for a year. It was wonderful to get to spend some time with them before they left. We played Golf (the card game) and at the amazing cheesecake Jimmy made... oh my goodness, it was so good. For those of you who don’t know, cheesecake is one of my weaknesses, so when Jimmy put it on the table, I was quite happy! I spent the night coughing into a handkerchief and putting hand sanitizer on, hoping to keep everyone around the table from getting my sickness. I would like to point out, that despite being mocked for it all night, IT WORKED!! No one else got sick!!

Most of this post is just an update on my activities of the week, but I want to share a little realization I’ve had recently: playing cards or other kinds of games is vital to my mental health. After our game night, despite my inability to breathe normally, I was so happy and so much more myself than I have been for a while. I love being here and I love the people God has surrounded me with. But I’m never so much myself when I get to play a good game with people and laugh. The competitive part of games is totally not important to me at all- I tend to be quite competitive and I really dislike that side of my personality, so I try to avoid it. However, to play a game with fun people in a fun setting with laughter and love exuding from all is a healing agent like none other.

I’m doing well, on the road to recovery, and full of joy. I get online and have Skype/iChat/Facebook chat in the evenings on Tuesdays, most Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. We are 6 hours ahead of central time in the States, just FYI.

I love you.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I've been sick this week- my intent is to update within the next couple of days. Sorry for the delay!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oktoberfest in Togo

Best quote/conversation starter of the week award goes to Matt Miller. Please enjoy.

Matt: "Today was Oktoberfest in Togo. It was funny. There was a strange parade; there was a truck with a German flag and a Togolese flag followed by a truck with an open back half with two benches in it. In the back of the truck on the benches were 15 white people playing instruments and doing tricks."

Me: "What do you mean by tricks?"

Matt: "Like a wave around the truck."

Me: "So not only was there a parade, but there were fifteen white people who had the ability to play instruments AND do tricks in the middle of a city in Africa...? That's brilliant."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Scott is home

Scott McEndree passed away yesterday morning. Please join me in an outpouring of love and prayers for his beautiful wife, Bonita, and their children, Mac, Rhone, Ayla, and Alia, as well as for the rest of his family and friends.

I love you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

He is Here

On our wonderful eleven-hour car ride to Kara from Accra, Ghana when we first got to Africa, we talked a lot. There isn’t much opportunity for sleep because of the beautifully paved roads (please sense the utter sarcasm in that phrase) so we got to know Nicole and April and they got to know us. As we drove into the actual city limits of Kara, however, I was defying all odds and falling asleep with my heavily cushioned head against the window (at least once every couple of seconds), and sermons from Mars Hill Bible Church were playing on the radio. I soon found out about the Mars Hill Bible Church podcast that I, too, could subscribe to. So, I did.

I love the way Rob Bell teaches. He teaches from the Bible and speaks to his audience in a way that is compelling about things that are relevant. There are often other individuals teaching at this congregation on the podcast, they, too, teach straight from the Bible. I have so enjoyed listening to the sermons from this podcast, especially these past few weeks. Mars Hill Bible Church is in the middle of a series on the Beatitudes. It takes a while to download things here, so I was a few weeks behind as of the end of last week, but I got the latest ones downloaded and have since caught up.

Last night, as I cooked dinner, I listened to the sermon on “blessed are those who hunger and thirst.” Rob Bell was the teacher that day, and the message was marvelous. I highly recommend that you go subscribe to the podcast if only for this one lesson. Here is why (in a long, drawn-out Jacque way of telling reasons).

I’m a little worried about my reverse culture-shock. I’ve been more worried about reverse culture-shock than anything else since I decided to come here. And quite frankly, I don’t know how much I’ve had culture shock since I’ve come; we were (and are) aided greatly in our transition and in adjusting to life here in Kara. Here, I’m surrounded by people who expect culture shock to be a part of adjustment to life. When I go home, people won’t know what I’m thinking when I walk through Walmart or Target- I’m not even sure I’ll know what I’m thinking! I’ve always had inner turmoil when I think about the world and how it operates and how awful some things are. It’s why I can’t watch the news or read a whole newspaper without crying. There are so many things that I cannot fix in the world, so many things that are just not right.

In this particular sermon, I was affected on so many levels so many times. Rob Bell tells this story of a couple at his congregation that approached him with a dilemma. “We want to buy a couch.” Now, this seems simple and easily answered, “Ok, then buy a couch.” But this couple was faced with the knowledge they had that if they put the money they would put into a couch toward fresh water wells in Africa, they could save lives. If they used the money saved by buying a cheaper couch to sponsor a child, they could send that child to school and affect generations in that child’s family. OR they could buy a nice leather couch that was exactly the color and squishiness and size they wanted.

Those of us who have our eyes open should be facing this same dilemma. Now, Mr. Bell doesn’t provide an answer for people with that question. What he does provide is the assurance that God is with us in the tension that question brings up in us. The fact that we have tension is a sign that God is working in us! There is no right answer, necessarily, but we can take comfort in the fact that God knows that our world is not how it should be, and the tension we feel when we buy a couch is simply something we have to deal with in our broken world.

At one point, Rob Bell talks about an television interview he did for the BBC and how she asked him a question that caught him off guard. He and I are alike in how we deal with being caught off guard- he just started talking, thinking, “Wow, that’s interesting that I would say that,” as he spoke. Later, he replayed his answer over and over and over (courtesy of the “rewind demon”), dwelling on the response he wished he hadn’t given, beating himself up over the words that came out of his mouth

I do that almost every day. I re-live the things I did that were boneheaded and silly, the things I never should have said, the look I never should have given, the phrase I never should have laughed at, the couch I never should have stood on, the way I never should have been or reacted.
“The Gospel is Jesus’ counter-intuitive, exuberant announcement that in those moments of frustration beating myself up, God announces, “Blessed are you. I’m with you.” Not “When you get it together, then I’ll meet you.” No. God meets us in the frustration and anger, giving us “blessing, love, and acceptance, saying, “I’m with you in that.”

I’m so glad that when I go home and have no way at all of processing everything I’ll need to process, God will be with me in the tension. While I go to Walmart and buy ready made food and go to the furniture store a buy a couch that’s a tad more comfortable than half of the beds people sleep on here, God will be blessing me in the inner turmoil I will most assuredly feel. 

He is with me now, and He will be with me then. And, He is with you always. Don't forget!

This is a picture of two adorable members of the Reeves family, Elijah (who is one of my students, in the orange) and Gabriel (one of the Kindergarteners, in the red). As we drove up to their house to drop off the girls who are in dance one day, I thought they had a lemonade stand... nope! They had a peanut stand set up outside their compound. And I thought I would share this hilarious memory with you!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Last Sunday, Brett asked us what we were doing on Monday (which is our day off). We told him we were going to Codhani to see what was out there. Then Brett asked us if we would be interested in going on a hike. Despite the almost-amputation of Bethany’s toe during our last hike (which has healed quite nicely, by the way), we were super excited by the prospect of trying again. Brett told us that there was a waterfall near Codhani called Yaka, and that he would take us there after our shopping trip. Our Codhani trip was for the afternoon, and we decided to go on the hike after that.

The next day, we had a relaxing morning around the apartment, getting ready for our little trip in the afternoon. About an hour before we left, the sky started getting dark and about five minutes before we left, the sky opened up. We ran through the pouring rain to the cars outside of our gate and drove through the pouring rain to Codhani. I was riding with Becky and she mentioned that she hadn’t seen it rain that hard in a while- all the while, I’m thinking, “And we’re about to hike to a waterfall...”

We made it to Codhani and looked at the beautiful material. Bethany and I ordered pagnes for our Christmas pajama pants and Sarah bought one that was already made. I also got some paper and envelopes with beautiful scenes painted on them. All of the merchandise at Codhani is made by handicapped people who are employed there, and it's incredible stuff! I’ve been hearing about it since I got to Togo, and it was really wonderful to get to go. We have future plans to go in the morning so we can see the workers in action.

After we finished at Codhani, we climbed into the Emerson vehicle. Caden was supposed to come with us, but he chose to go back with April instead... which turned out to be a very good thing.

We knew it was going to be wet, not only because we were going to a waterfall, but also because it had rained so much earlier in the day and had only really stopped about fifteen minutes before. Yet, our spirits could not be dampened, and we set off really excited about what was to come. As we drove to Yaka, Brett told us, “It’s in the middle of nowhere. Seriously, when I bring people out here, they always ask if I’m serious.” We proceeded to turn onto a “road” that literally consisted of some grass that looked as if it might have been driven on three years ago. Quite frankly, it was hilarious. We turned around and thought we might be wrong, but the fact that we were on the right path was confirmed by a local and we went on our merry way. We parked under a mango tree, doused ourselves with bug spray (because there were eighty million flies buzzing around us and who knows what else), and started on our path.

Brett led the way, taking all of the cobwebs out for us and beating down the very tall grass so us short people could comfortably (HA) trail behind. We could hear the waterfall from the car, and Brett said was the first time that had happened for him- that made me excited to get there and see it. As we walked toward the waterfall, the roar got louder and louder, and finally, the grass parted and we saw the river full of water and raging toward the waterfall. As we explored the rocks a little, I tested the water to find a strong current. Then Brett took us down the side of the mountain to the base of the waterfall. 

It was magnificent. The water was pounding, and by the time I made it to the farthest point I could, we were shouting to communicate, and the backs of my ears were stinging from the water hitting them. Brett and Bethany came as far as I did and we spent some time looking through the “rain” at the beautiful sunset God gave us to look at. My words cannot do the waterfall justice, so I am not even going to try. Just let me tell you it was incredible, and I will never forget it.

So, drenched and blessed, we retreated from the base of the waterfall and realized that night was quickly approaching. We started to head back to the car... and took a few wrong turns. By the time we found our mango tree, it was dark and we were glad to see the car. Brett had resorted to standing on a rock and pushing the button to trigger the lights on the truck to find our way. We got in the car, called April to assure her of our safety, then drove home, soggy but content.

God is good. He reminds me of this every day. Open your eyes to His reminders to you. I love you.

This is the cool little rock house we saw along the way to Yaka from Codhani. It was super creative and an amazing bit of architecture.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


In the past few days, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how God uses our loneliness to remind us that we need Him. I think it’s a beautiful way that our natural human desires draw us closer to Him. Sometimes I think I’m a person standing alone in a crowded room. The kind of loneliness I have isn’t the kind that is solved by eating dinner at someone’s house or watching Casablanca with the girls—although both of those things are nice. The kind of loneliness I have is the soul-kind, the kind that needs another Being to know me, not my favorite color or my favorite food, but Someone who knows my very essence.

Yesterday, in the midst of a particularly rough situation, I was washing dishes and thinking about how much I wanted someone to talk to about everything at that moment. Then, I literally said to myself in my head, “Duh, Jacque, God is always here to talk to, and He always has all the answers!” It seems so silly that I have to remind myself of this constantly, that just because I don’t have someone here in flesh and blood doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination mean I’m alone in this world. Hugs are fantastic, but knowing God cares more about me than I can even imagine is indescribable. That knowledge gives me a peace unattainable anywhere else.

Bethany, Sarah, and I started the Believing God study by Beth Moore last Sunday. This is the first time I’ve done a Beth Moore study, and I love it. Bethany got the workbook before she left, so we all have “homework” that we do each day. This week, there were five statements of faith introduced that I would like to share with you. They are as follows:

1. God is Who He says He is.
2. God can do what He says He can do.
3. I am who God says I am.
4. I can do all things to Christ.
5. God’s Word is alive and active in me.

I feel like these principles are simple statements that every Christian knows, but statements that very few have given themselves the opportunity to believe. I know God is always there for me, but I feel like I’ve missed the boat on believing that He is. There are so many reasons this simple truth is the biggest truth in our lives, yet I feel like so many people I love struggle with believing it; I certainly struggle.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” My prayer for the beautiful souls surrounding me both physically and spiritually is that the peace promised when we come to Him will permeate our beings.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Hardest Part of Being in Africa...

I've had a couple of hard days since I've been here, but nothing that I wouldn't have had if I was anywhere else in the world. Today was one of those hard days- it had hardly anything to do with me, and I need to ask for prayers.

My friend Scott McEndree has a beautiful wife and four beautiful children. I'm quite attached to the McEndree family, for many reasons. They are an incredible Godly family that has impacted me greatly in the past four years that I've known them. Scott is currently fighting a battle with cancer, and they flew down to Reno, Nevada since the last time I had internet to try some natural cancer treatment options there. When they got there, Scott ended up in the hospital, had surgery, and is now doing better, but not fantastic.

At every step along the way, Scott and Bonita have shown nothing but faith in and love for God through the roller coaster that is Scott's cancer battle. I've been fighting to do the same.

Please join me in praying for the McEndree clan, as they do the treatments in Reno and continue to strive in their faith. I want to ask a particular prayer for Mac, Rhone, Ayla, and Alia. They're young and this is hard for me to understand at 22, and I'm not sure it gets easier with age, anyway.

I love you. Thank you.



for the story.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Well, I’m learning lessons every day, though not all of them are new ones. Here are some news snippets of what has happened since the last time I posted.

Peter Dexter was very sick and didn’t make it. He was acting off, so he went to the vet, and then the morning after, he was unable to stand up. So, alas, yesterday, our beloved African goat died. The Kennell’s guardian, Joseph, came and took him away from the school so we didn’t have to deal with it yesterday during school. Joseph also buried PD for us... I’m not sure what we would have done if he hadn’t done that for us.

School is going well- I’m dealing with some strong-willed children, so there are some challenges, but overall, I love teaching the 4th graders! At the end of school every day, after we have hustled the kids out the gate, I collapse on the futon usually with the other teachers and we lay there and decide what we’re going to do for the rest of the time we have until our next activity. Last night, we had some time before we went to the Hangen household for dinner, and we decided to spend that time walking to the mini-market close to our house to get more credit for the cell phone Becky got for us (Thanks again, Becky!) and bananas. We also stopped by Sante Plus, the pharmacy closest to us, to get more malaria medicine. I got two boxes of doxycycline- I’m going to try it for a couple of weeks.

Fun random story: when we were standing in line at Sante Plus, a very well-dressed man driving a very nice vehicle came in to get something. As he came in and stood in line behind us, I caught a whiff of him (which, I know, sounds so strange). He smelled SO GOOD!!! He was wearing cologne, maybe a bit too much (or maybe my nose is just super sensitive to those kinds of smells now), but it was one of the best smells I’ve smelled since I got here. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like it always smells bad here, but I’m not spraying extra good smelly stuff on myself, in hopes of convincing the bugs to leave me alone. So, that quick smell of that man’s cologne was wonderful... it’s the little things in life, right?

We started Meet the Robinsons yesterday, which is, I’ve decided, the epitome of my humor. I love that movie- I recommend it for everyone, because it’s clean, clever, adorable, and it has a fantastic message!

Matt picked us up, and we went to his and Grace’s house for calzones and The Office (this season! I can stay caught up with the lives of Jim and Pam from Togo, who woulda thought?!?!), and good (always significant) conversation. Matt Hangen doesn’t mess around when he wants to talk about theology or social issues or anything else huge, for that matter, and we’re learning that he doesn’t often NOT want to talk about those things! It’s good though- I need to learn more than I know, and Matt is a smart, great guy with lots of experience in lots of different areas of some of those issues. And you can’t beat The Office towards the end of a long school week- thank you TBS for the break.

This morning, I woke up grumpy, which meant I snapped, which meant I had some apologizing to do to my beautiful housemates. The things I said were things I needed to say, but I didn’t say them in a way I needed to say them. The interesting part of living here in Togo is that my social circle is quite limited. I went from living at Harding University with a million friends, to Kara, Togo, West Africa, where I live with three girls my age, work with eight kids who are school age, spend a good amount of time with four toddlers, socialize with ten missionaries on my team and eight people on the other team in town... it’s a little different. I love it. It’s great. Relationships will get deeper than they ever could back at glorious Harding. But still, I have some adjusting to do. Just thought I would be honest about it.

We had our fourth dance class tonight! It was great- I hope to break from my instruction for long enough to take some pictures soon.

In other news: we had pizza at the Miller homestead, school is out for the week, we’re going swimming on Monday, we have a future Settlers of Catan party almost scheduled, my toenails are pink, and life is really beautiful. 

I’m thinking about and missing all of you. Love.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Be Prepared" and "Lately..."

I feel like I should start every one of my blogs with "Today we had an adventure," but that would get repetitive and boring, and since I'm teaching the kids about writing, I know that would be not entertaining to my audience. See, I'm learning just as much as I'm teaching! Despite the fact that I'm learning about good writing, I feel this entry wouldn't be starting right without those words. So...
Sunday we had an adventure. We got up and got ready to go on a hike with Brett. Preparation consisted of putting on clothes we didn't mind getting wet in, lots of bug spray, and climbed in a car with Brett Emerson, Mark Kennell, and Ryan Richardson. We drove a little out of town, climbed out of the car, and started hiking up a gentle slope of a mountain. The group reached some water, passed it, then turned back to follow the stream close on the bank. As we started on our new path through the corn field, we had a little mishap.

A few Wet Ones later (I come prepared!), we hiked back to the truck to doctor up Bethany's freshly-cut-on-a-corn-stalk foot. She had caught a stalk between some of her toes and sliced up one of her toes really well. I was super concerned about infection, because getting a cut on your foot is not good anywhere, but especially not here in Africa where we wear flip-flops and Chacos when we're not barefoot and it's humid, and muddy, during rainy season! When we got back to the truck, Brett pulled out his first aid kit and I doctored up Bethany's foot- because her foot needed doctoring and I needed busy hands!

Her toe is doing much better now- she has kept it clean and covered (when it needed to be) and open when it has been safe to. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, and we are thankful for that, and the speedy recovery is quite a blessing, too!!

The first part of this post was started on Sunday immediately after the incident. The rest of the post is from today- sorry I don't get things posted as often as I want to, but know I am stockpiling stories all day every day!

Now starts the blog entitled "Lately..."

I miss lots of people. According to my dream last night, I miss American Eagle, too! I woke up this morning laughing at myself because of a dream I had where I came home for the weekend and went to the mall and Starbucks and Jimmy White’s condo for a youth group event (which is funny, because he is a missionary here in Kara, too!). The next morning, I had to get back to the airport for my plane back, but then I couldn’t find my ticket and passport... it was amusing. Then, I woke up sweating, because it’s SO warm at night!!!

There’s my little piece of information about my night last night. Now I’d like to tell you about my days! On Thursday, my girl, Michal, went home with a fever and turned out to have malaria and an amoeba and an infection... she’s a little sick. So, it’s just been me and the boys for the past few days, and will continue to be until my beautiful little Michal recovers from her horrible sicknesses. I told the boys the other day that they cannot continue to use me as a crutch- “I’m a human being, not a chunk of wood, so you can’t continue to use me as such!” The primary words that exit my mouth are, “Read the instructions and YOU tell ME what you should do next.” It’s great... but really, I love teaching. It’s quite fun!! My goal is to have the basics of reading directions and following them, as well as basic spelling down before I let them graduate on to fifth grade. Those of you who know me know that I’m stubborn enough to reach this goal! However, I will most definitely be held up on my feet by our Wonderful Savior, so prayers would be welcome and appreciated.

I’ve loved reading the comments I’ve gotten- Facebook messages and blog comments make my heart soar. My life has taken a turn for the even-more-interesting-than-it-was-before with the way I experience life. I miss Harding a lot, and I miss my friends all over the world. Even today, Aidan wore his Haka shirt that he got from Andrew. And I'm trying to teach the boys to recognize the States and be able to name them on our "Markable Map" (brilliant teaching tool) and I keep thinking about who I know in each state.

Please know and understand I'm not unhappy- I love it here. I love the missionaries, I love the kids, and I love the way I learn so much about the simplest things every day here! For example, did you know that to make brown sugar, you just take normal sugar and add molasses? Maybe you did, but I sure didn't. I've learned that goats are herd animals and Peter Dexter would be much happier with a friend. I've learned that goats really don't like baths, even with 2-in-1 shampoo that smells like cherries. I've watched half of Kingdom of Heaven (we stopped at "intermission" of the director's cut to be continued at a later date). I've learned the difference between all of the blocky states in the Western US. I've re-learned how to write a business letter. And I've learned that I will never be finished learning.

For those of you who don't know, I love animals. Our house at times in the past has been quite the zoo. One constant in the Breuer Zoo has been Chewbacca, our little Pekingese-Yorkie mix who we got when I was in fifth grade from one of my classmates (Adam Thompson!). On Wednesday after team worship, I called my mother and discovered that Chewy was hit by a car that morning. That's not easy ever, but being across the world makes it that much harder. I also got some other news that night, of the personal nature, that made it a hard night. However, enter lesson two... it didn't make it a bad night. Bad events do not make bad nights, they make choices. So, I chose to look at the blessings in my life- we had our first successful ballet/tap class that afternoon, I downloaded chapel, the team loves me and I love them, there are beautiful people in my life here, I have so many opportunities to learn about life, and I have a loving Savior who will never forsake me.

Am I always happy? Do I always have a smile on my face? Am I always a ray of sunshine to those around me? No, unfortunately, not by a long-shot. But, I'm trying. Goodness, I'm trying. Please pray for continued strength as I become the woman of God He has called me to be.

I love you. I'm thinking of you.

This is a picture of Coke's marketing in Kara. This is a man putting up a sign at the bar near our house where we go to get sodas. The man who runs the bar speaks English, which was a cool discovery the first time we went there- we're making friends!!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Beginning of This Week

Here is a list of snippets of what we did this week:
We walked to the market and the Miller homestead.
I taught science! We’re learning about the solar system.
I have almost finished my antibiotics for strep.
We had our first almost-whole team worship (Mark was in Accra picking up the team’s future teammates, the Richardsons (Ryan, Beth, Katie, Jonah, and Aaron).
I was kept up all night by a high-pitched squeak our fan was making that I tried to fix with Pam in the middle of the night. The next day, the electrician came and made our fan not squeak. Right after the electrician fixed our fan, Joseph brought us our new goat, Peter Dexter. So, as one sleep deterrent was solved, another one was added- but we do have a goat, which is super exciting!!

Goat story time!
Here is the story of our goat so far. This afternoon, during my class’s French time, my “free” time, Bethany yells up the stairs into the apartment where I was putting the final touches on my solar system powerpoint, “Jacque! The goat’s here!” I kept hearing, “Jacque! The boat’s here!” and I was so confused as to what a boat was doing so far inland, especially at the school house. So, I came down the stairs and Bethany repeated herself (which I understood this time), so I went outside and met our little new addition to the KCA teacher family! After getting Sarah to talk to Joseph and cost, we paid Joseph, and we had a new pet. Of course, all of the kids had to take turns petting the goat- a school day isn’t complete without surprises!

After school, the lady who cleans the school house, Irene, came and we excitedly led her out back to see the goat. Sarah asked her what goats ate, and she told us that they eat the leaves off of corn. We don’t have access to corn (there’s lots around, but it’s not ours), so we tried to give it mangoes and carrots and milk and water, but he kept bleating. Sarah, Bethany, and I tried to take naps/relax, but Peter Dexter (we named him right before our nap-time) kept making noise. At the end of our nap, Bethany and I came down to try to feed PD some more mango, which he would have none of. He kept bleating and bleating, sounding so unhappy! Then, Irene showed back up bearing a gift of corn-husk leaves for PD! He immediately got quiet as he ate his new food. Irene must have thought we were crazy trying to feed the goat mango! She smiled at us, then with an “au revoir” and a wave, she left. I’m fairly certain that she finished her work at the school house then went out of her way to get PD some food- she’s so sweet!!

PD needs a friend- he bleated all night, too. I’m not sure what we’re going to do about it, but I was up two times with him in the night, trying to quiet him. The last time was 5:30 when Bethany and I were both outside trying to make him comfortable. Since our alarm goes off at 6am, 5:30 was not a happy time to be awake and comforting a loud goat. We ended up bringing him inside that second time because the weather was a bit violent, and he’s just a little guy. 

So, now you’ve heard a little about our goat. I’m planning on writing anther post on some deep conversation/thought I’ve been having lately, but I figured you guys needed to hear about our new pet before you heard about anything else! I love you all bunches, and I hope you are all doing well.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

C’est la Vie

Sorry it's been a while since I posted- we were busy trying to get ready for school, which started today. The following post is a post I wrote over the span of Thursday and Friday. Sorry there are no pictures- I have a lot of laminated jungle animals, but not many photos to show off yet :-D. Enjoy reading about my latest life adventure.

Well, I’ve successfully survived my first brush with sickness in Africa! No, it wasn’t malaria, nor was it anything else that would be particular to Togo; I had a virus that gave me a splitting headache (constant. For two days. Including nights. Ugh), a cycling fever, and moderate fatigue for two days. Then, when I woke up the third morning with no headache and was celebrating, I had the beginnings of strep throat! Let me tell you, though, after the headache, strep was a welcome guest! I’m on antibiotics now (which, I feel I should mention, are incredibly easy to get here!), in the process of healing completely, just in time for school to start!

I feel like I should tell you about about the sickness saga. My headache started on Monday evening (after my glorious haircut!) and kept me awake for about three hours before I was conscious enough to go take some advil. That same headache continued through the whole of Tuesday with the same intensity, no matter how many pain relievers I took, with the exception of a few hours that evening during Kennell dinner/meet Lisa time. So, by 5am of Wednesday, after not sleeping for two nights and having this super intense headache for a day, I was a puddle of emotion! I got up to check my temperature because of how my body felt (you know, the achy, hot-chills, complete with tossing and turning and moaning?) and had a fever of 102˚. I decided to try to diagnose what I had by looking in Sarah’s intern book, and it said that a cycling fever, headache, and fatigue were all possible symptoms of malaria. The other girls woke up and I proceeded to cry and tell them my prediction. The next day, when Nicole got to the school, I hopped in the car and we went to the clinic where they pricked my finger to check for parasites (because that’s what malaria is caused by). That afternoon, after I had stayed in bed all day (mostly) because I couldn’t do anything with my headache, Nicole came in and told me it was just a virus. I told her that I almost wished I had malaria because then it could be treated and it would make a good story! She said “what difference does it make if you can’t put the label of “malaria” on it if this is how malaria feels?” So, basically, instead of getting malaria, I got something that healed faster than malaria would have- Someone is looking out for me.

We were supposed to start school on Friday, but a bridge went out somewhere between here and Accra, so the travelers are stuck somewhere that isn’t here. We’ve decided to postpone the first day of school until Saturday, when our beautiful kiddos will be ready to start with bright smiles and lots of energy! I have to say that I’m grateful for the delay; not being able to work for the past few days has taken its toll on my classroom that is still kind of threadbare. My curriculum is ready, but my classroom isn’t quite what I envisioned for Miss Jacque, fourth grade teacher extraordinaire. Hopefully this extra day will let me get on top of my very clean, but very boring room.

I like to look like I have it all together. I spend quite a bit of time attempting to actually have it all together, and I can say with confidence that I never do. I like to be independent, but these past few days I’ve realized I just can’t be. I need people- I have cried about not having my mom to nurse me while I was sick more than once in the past 60 hours. I miss the easy access of communication that comes with a simple phone line, because I miss so many people back home!! 

Don’t get me wrong, I am so excited to be here, still. It’s just one of those things that comes with living life- missing people and places.

Tonight, Bethany asked Nicole if I could go with her for a little bit to use her internet. Because I lost two days of work in my classroom, I chose to stay here at the schoolhouse for the evening. After I voiced my decision, some concern was expressed about my emotional and psychological well-being, which was probably warranted. It’s common for someone who got sick really soon after arriving to soon-thereafter struggle with depression, as a part of culture shock. I was reminded about my incredibly fever-tinted first impressions (and second and third and fourth... it was a long two weeks!) of my beautiful Italia. When I tried to explain what I thought, I was quickly reminded, “This isn’t Italy!”

Of course, I know that. I mean, it would be difficult for me to not notice the differences. Togo is beautiful, full of adventure, cooking, power outages (which should also fall under the category of adventure!), and my new life of being a fourth grade teacher. Italy will always have a grasp on my heart, but Kara has already gotten a pretty good hold, too.

The point I definitely did not articulate well at all is that I think, for me at least, culture shock is more controlled by attitude than environment. I’m certainly not keeping the attitude I should, but I feel like blaming my bad habits on culture shock is a cop-out! I have failures, and I have so many things I would change about so many aspects of me, but those have been the same in lots of places so far in my life. I would be crying about missing Harding if I was in Missouri, New Zealand, or Kara, Togo, West Africa... and have. I would have moments of harsh comments coming out of my mouth, insecurities about my abilities to perform in my new role (whatever role that might be), and things to adapt to in my living space (although in Missouri, lizards aren’t quite as prominent by the washing machine!).

So, if you’re reading this, know I love and miss you. And please pray for my attitude. God’s love is enough to pull me through any trial I might encounter, but I need to make the decision to let Him lead me. Anyway, please don’t be worried about this post, I just needed to get some of my newly developed thoughts out to those I love who aren’t with me here. Keep me and the girls in your prayers as we start on our new journey.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Grand Adventure

I've been in Togo for a week now. So far, the missionaries have driven us to and from their houses and other events. It's been fantastic, because during rainy season, it's muddy and there's always a chance we'll get caught in the rain.

I have a story. Yesterday, we were babysitting at the Emerson's house for their little boys Caden and Corban when it started to downpour. Well, I brought my iPhone to Togo with me which has been super fantastic because I use it as a portable music player that everyone can listen to. Yesterday, before Brett (Emerson) came to pick us up, I had been washing dishes in the kitchen, rocking out to The Last Five Years soundtrack. I had paused the music when I heard whistling from Brett trying to get our attention (our phone doesn't work on a regular basis). I then set my iPhone back down... on the window sill next to our open window (which is kind of a story in itself- our window coverings consist of screens and slanted pieces of glass that open/close, but never completely seal).

So, Bethany, Sarah, and I are at the Emerson's, listening to Tiggy (the Emerson's pet monkey) howl at the storm and watching VeggieTales with the boys when all of the sudden, I realize that not only have we not closed our windows, but my iPhone is sitting right next to one of them. At this point, we're not sure how the storms work with the wind and where water comes in, but it doesn't really matter- my iPhone was in danger and my active imagination was telling me that things were not good. So Sarah and I decide to go back to the apartment to close the windows. We leave Bethany with the boys and the house workers outside (including the night guard- she was safe!), and we proceed to walk to our apartment.

We know the basic path. We've never done the travel, but it can't be that hard! It's fairly easy to explain, so of course we can do it! It's light outside, and we're ready to conquer this challenge. So, we set out.

Our first step was to take a left out of the Emerson's house, a left onto the road, and a right off of that road. Well, we took a right waaaaaay too soon. A few small rivers, lots of laughing Africans, a downpour, a couple of wrong turns, and some laughter later, we found our apartment. 45 minutes after we had left, we made it back to the Emerson's much, much wiser.

In the following picture, you can see that we're each wearing a pagne (pronounced pan-yuh) to be modest when outside of western style homes. The one I'm wearing is the one I got at the market- lots of colors and I love it!!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

New Church Experiences!

Today is Sunday. Sunday is church day. So for church this morning, Sarah, Bethany and I went with the Kennell family to the village of Njei, where we found out they weren't having church this morning. So, we proceeded to trek on a footpath to the village of Ewede where we worshiped with the people there. It was, of course, all in Kabiye, so I spent time looking around and listening intently for words I could recognize. There was one little girl with whom I kept making eye contact, so I would smile and make faces at her- her reaction was always to smile with her mouth closed which would quickly turn into a full-tooth grin! It was pretty fantastic.

I have so many things I want to tell you about. Like yesterday's wall spider fun, and Brett's pet monkey, and the adorable Emerson boys using me as a jungle gym, and the super tiny goats we saw today, and the African food experience we had the other day, and the market experience we had yesterday with the pagnas and the nasty meat and feet sticking out into the walking path, and the baby who is afraid of white people... but I can't possibly do that. So, instead, I'm going to give you a glimpse into my Moleskine notes I took during church!

1. A smile is universal.
2. Church can be long or short, depending on rain.
3. I can tell when someone is generous and serving even when I can tell what is being said.
4. There is a lot of joy in African worship.
5. I know the Ameya song, and that's nice.
6. We should sit in the chairs first because if we don't, they'll ask us to.
7. Preachers passionately raise their voice in Africa, too.
8. I am only a part of the body- I have gifts. I need to serve as a servant, teach as a teacher, encourage as an encourager, give generously as a giver, govern diligently as a leader and show mercy cheerfully as a human. I need to work on this.
9. "Love must be sincere." Romans 12:9a.
10. Cell phones go off during African church, too.
11."Hold on to the good." 1 Thessalonians 5:21b.

One more thing I want to share before I end this post. Today at lunch, we were talking about music and how we woke up to loud, American worship music today coming from the Nigerian church next door to our apartment. Then Nicole said this:

"If you hear Celine Dion, you know its a bar."

I laughed for quite a while.

I love you all, and I hope you are all doing well. I would love to have some comments with questions to prompt me to write more interesting/more applicable things!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Here we are

Yesterday was big- we saw our primary place of residence and work! We went to the school house after a fantastic breakfast of toast and coffee (I am starting to realize that I really really like coffee). It's so interesting driving around here, because it's so utterly different than anything I've ever seen before in my life- it's beautiful in a very-different-from-America way.

At the schoolhouse, we had a little orientation to our workplace then went up to our apartment to see where we would be living for the next nine months. Basically, that meant we laid on the bed and made a list (mostly for my comfort) of things to do in the next couple of weeks before school starts.

We explored our balcony and roof a little then headed back down to the schoolhouse where we had a little introduction to the personalities in the classes, to help us decide which class we would be teaching. Here is the rundown of that:

Bethany- 6th graders and Art class
Jacque- 4th graders and Ballet class
Sarah- Kindergarteners and French class

I also find out that Bethany and I get to take French lessons! I think it will help me to not have culture shock quite as badly as I would otherwise- knowing/learning the language as well as building a relationship with people in the local community is so important. Last night after dinner, we went to the Hangen's house for Bible Study/singing, and it was nice. We had chocolate chip cookies- YAY!!

Today we went back to the school/apartment and worked through more things. Nicole took us through the math curriculum this morning, then Bethany and I went through the core curriculum this afternoon with her, which was kind of overwhelming. I know things are going to go amazingly well, but it's scary at this point to think of myself as a teacher. It's a new thing!

We had some fun jumping on the trampoline time and then an amazing dinner. Now we're sitting in the living room all working on blog things. We've decided to do a blog for the parent newsletter, and I will post that link later, so you all can see what we're doing in school.

Sorry this post is kind of late and drawn out. Life has been a little busy since we got here, just getting used to the differences. I'm hoping to be a little more consistent than I have been, but who knows what the future holds?

Monday, August 24, 2009


We made it to London!! All of our bags were checked successfully, we made it to our gate, and we even convinced people to move so we could sit together on the plane. Currently, we are sitting by the toilets crossing our fingers that our internet doesn't drop us, and getting ready to figure out which gate we need to be at in an hour.

We're tired, but we're great. I hope everyone is doing well- I love you all. I promise I'll post more later.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Be a Blessing

Tonight, the preacher (I think he's one of two) here in Palmerston North, Nathan Paki, told myself, Andrea, and one of the girls from Tauranga that the fun and encouragement we had today/tonight was an answer to his prayers. He said that the Palmerston North congregation has had some rough times as of late, and our energy and love and encouragement has been a blessing. I've been needing some love and encouragement too, so here are the two lessons I got from what Nate said tonight:

1. God answers prayers in beautiful ways, allowing us to see His face in those around us. He gives us the social and emotional tools to build relationships with those who need us and whom we need.

2. We never know what good is being done by our smile.

Be a blessing. Play with the kids. Smile at someone with sad eyes. Pick up a random piece of trash. Serve others. Make some Queen's Holiday crowns, have a tickle war, eat a kebab barefoot like a hobbit, and don't be afraid to karaoke. God loves you and He works though you; you are His.