Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rock of Ages

“… cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee,” by Augustus Toplady. This is a line of deep strength in a hymn I love dearly.

My morning devotions yesterday got only about halfway done before picture sorting from my Africa trip took over. As I resume this page in Tabletalk today, a string of events from the past week are now coming into alignment spiritually in my reflecting mind.

First, there was the tree I told you about me climbing on site in Dar es Salaam. I was eager to climb it. I knew I had the ability to as well. I was frustrated because I was failing where I knew I was able to succeed. I told God about my desire to climb the tree. I told Him with a heart that was confident and resting in knowledge that His will (which is so much broader in scope) is best, and that he knows my desire already (even better than I). I said, “I want to climb this tree, it’d be great if you would make that happen,” and attempted climb #3, the successful climb, with confidence in an unchanging God.

Later in the week, we were on our way home from a local Swahili church. Our bus had made its way down a very narrow (shops on each side of a car-width lane) and bumpy dirt road for about a kilometer before we reached the church. We were all amazed at the driver’s ability to navigate. I have no idea how or where the driver managed to get the bus facing the opposite direction for when we exited church and got onto the vehicle, but he did. We encountered an additional obstacle on the way home though, a car was parked alongside a shop at a curve in the road, inhibiting our ability to round this bend. Our bus was pinned, trapped. As people began gathering around the bus, chatting with the driver, and all giving thoughts and ideas for a hard to imagine escape, our driver got out and began to inspect the side of the bus near the rear. Apparently, with all the maneuvering we had got a tree pressed up firmly onto the side window and another’s trunk was blocking the back upper corner of the bus. It was entertaining to watch the ordeal from inside the bus as the local men chat back and forth, and the American men inside the bus suggest things to one another about picking up the car, etc. (haha) But then, I realize something (or some-power we have), and spoke out loud. “God, please move the tree,” I said. Following my bold little prayer with a defense to the person next to me, “I don’t care if he literally moves the tree (miracle) or if it just seems like it moved, as long as it gets us free.” The idea that sometimes God uses science to dispense his will, and other times he breaks it for his will (miracle). Another teammate replied, “Yeah, God can move mountains, so a tree he can as well.” Certainly. A funny thing happened, the next lurch of the bus set us free from both trees and we continued along our way on the narrow dirt road.

Tonight, I went for a walk around the area of my residence at L’Abri in Holland. The sun sets very early this far north of the equator, around 5pm at the moment, though gloomy and dim most of the day anyway. So when I set out at 4:30, I knew my time with light would be short. After requesting recommended routes from a Dutch L’Abri student, I embarked on a small twenty-minute loop around the apple orchard and through the heart of Eck en Weil (a quaint Dutch village in the country). One hour ten minutes later I returned to L’Abri.

It was an adventure that got me lost beyond belief. I was exhausted. I had been distracted viewing the extraordinary diversity of housing and residential landscaping in Eck en Wiel. I really should go back and take photos of them for study later. Anyway, this fascination, and my semi-conscious delight in finding my own way in foreign towns led me to take the wrong turn. I was nervous that I missed the original turn (apparently I did) and thought I would make up for it (not probable in the Dutch countryside) with the next right turn and thus make my way back around as long as I kept taking the right. But one of my turns ended up leading more straight than right after a bit, so I could feel myself wandering on foot farther away from the intended direction (at this point I still had my sense of direction, though it quickly vanished with the next turn). I made the very next right just as the night was getting very near, even though it was through a residence area. It was hard to see into the distance anymore. I was looking for the apple orchard the was on this side of L’Abri… but there were so many more apple orchards that I had realized since I had only arrived after nightfall earlier this week! I reached a road that I anticipated would be the “main road” I had taken into Eck en Weil at the start of my travels, but instead I was shocked to find it was a dinky country road, and had to press on ahead to what “must” be the road up ahead (I saw cars lights pass by on occasion). I had already tried running, but the temperature was 5 Celsius, so my leg muscle was still very tight and uncooperative from my injury this summer. I pressed on to reach the road, uncertain really which way to go, but made a right again to be consistent, figuring if it was incorrect I would at least end up back at Eck en Weil and could retrace my earlier steps from there. Still lost moments later as I reach the main road (though this part doesn’t look familiar), I see a truck driver hop out of his vehicle near a loading dock, so I head his direction to venture the trouble of communicating English to Dutch-only speakers for directions to a place I don't even have an address for! He hopped back in and was off down the road before I reached him.

I followed after a man I saw just inside the door of the truck building. I knocked and he came over to allow me to make my request, I apologized for only speaking English. He left me and shortly later two other men showed up. I asked the first for directions to L’Abri, for I was very lost. He pointed right and directed me down there a ways until I would reach a bridge. I was confused when the second guy chimed in asking me something in Dutch. I apologized again for only English. He said in a choppy voice, “Where, do you want, to go?” After sharing my request again, he responds, “Oh, LA-BRI” and points the OPPOSITE direction and tells me to go 1.5 kilometers that way.

“Oh dear God! Help me to be going the right direction,” I prayed quickly as I walked. At this point it was very very dark, though not pitch black, and I was on a “main road” – though little room for walking on it. I was teary, and started down the ‘woe-is-me’ path, then I remembered my two tree prayers within the last week. I remembered my full confidence in His will and knowledge. And most of all, I remember His answers.

As I walked, I added an equally important prayer, “God, may I recognize L’Abri when I get there.” For I had only ever been to the entrance when I arrived the other night in pitch black and thick fog… then again, I would be arriving at dark again, but that didn't bring me any comfort since I saw nothing as I travelled with an associate at this point. There were a few more moments of tears along the way, but they cleared when I thought about how God had answered my prayers before, and spoke clarity into my mind about my situation and confidence in Him.

As I travelled along the way of the truck man’s recommendation, a young woman on a bike grunted some kind of Dutch greeting to me as she passed. I spoke loud enough her direction rather quickly as she passed, “Excuse me, do you know the way to L’Abri?” And she continued to pass without a glance. Just then, I reached a fork in the road, and she went left. I cried. Which way do I go? It was so dark, that I hadn’t even seen the signs in the fork of the road ahead until reaching it (there are no street lights or nearby lights in the country here). I prayed again, “May I get there,” and walked straight ahead. A few moments later I look at my watch, and it is 5:40, well past the time I told others to come searching for me if I wasn’t back by then… but I didn’t receive any confirmation they would. To the contrary actually. A second later, I heard a duck quack and then flap against some water. I looked toward the sound on my left, and could barely make it out in the dark, but on a light background I read in black hand painted letters “L’ABRI.” Hallelujah!

I am reminded from the words of my Tabletalk devotional that, “He delights to hear us confess our reliance on His mighty hand.” Maybe this is a lesson that most of you understand already, but for me it is quite what I need to hear. I take strength in God’s sovereignty, in His consistency, in Him, the ROCK of ages. I desire to be formed around him, in him, by him. Too often I fail to pray requests, because I don’t know how to keep the balance of confidence in his movement and requesting his movement. How to have this properly balanced to avoid expectations that will disappoint and confuse faith.

Of course I know to pray the character of God, to pray what I know from the word about him, but when I get lazy and read less of his word, that ability fades fast. Requests to God are few in my prayers, they are hard to make, for I fear disappointment. As I’ve see God respond to these three prayers with a “yes” answer, I am reminded that as little as these things were and as simple as the requests were made, that God does answer YES at times. Just how impacting this is to me has lead me to a fuller realization of how embittered I have become to his answers. With so many requests being returned “no” over the last four years, I have forgotten how eager he is to give us what we ask for.

Maybe I had been resisting his will (like Jonah) so I was receiving consequences. Maybe I was running from his call (like Jonah to missions or from moving/to Florida). I do not know for certain and I’m not sure how much energy I should put into figuring out the past but I think not much, rather to focus on the present. I am excited to hear God answering yes to my little prayers and am encouraged to bring my requests before him with more confidence in getting a “yes” at times.

“Certainly God often intervenes on our behalf /when we fail to ask for His assistance, but that does not mean we should /believe that we need not go before Him in prayer to ask for His help.” ~Tabletalk November 16, 2010

TREE: Climbing an existing tree on the edge of our site.

BUS: Tree hampering our drive back from church in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

L'ABRI: Small moat-type area photographed from the house-side (road in background).  I heard a duck carrying-on there at a critical moment in my journey.


Ah, the joy of hot, pressured showers! This morning I slept in until 10am, then took my things to the girls shower room. Setting myself up I stepped into the shower, turned it on, and behold! A full, steady spray of hot water! This joy lasted the duration of my cleansing processes and I thought many a times about how long it had been since experiencing such a thing. For 10 days I filled water bottles with warm water, transferred it into a larger water bottle, and when getting enough, rinsed my soapy hair. It was entirely manageable, but I was ecstatic to embrace this luxury again.

SHOWER: The low-pressure all-in-one shower/toilet/sink/mirror room in Tanzania.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I amsterdam

As I emerge from the underground tunnels, my eye lands on its first Dutch Windmill. With its four sheik modern blades it glides through the air softly, giving power to this modern town in a very traditional way.

The architecture takes me back to my sophomore year in college. It was my best year of architectural design. I can hear Harry Eggink going on and on about how amazing “his” Holland is; the canals, narrow roads, bridges, and tall residential mixed-use construction. I can see the building I designed and rendered slide right into the context here.

Sheep pasture – pads of pure green grassy land separated by 3-5’ canals with fluffy white sheep only 20 minutes from the city center.

WINDMILL: The traditional windmills are nowhere to be seen, but the modern new ones still speckle the countryside.

AMSTERDAM: My sophmore project was to design a building within a row of homes/shops like this.

SHEEP: Looking at them still makes me giggle!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

God's Glory

After we went around the table at our closing dinner, reflecting on how the Lord impacted our lives on this trip, James spoke. He spoke of our need to focus on God’s glory. The way he spoke reminded me that it is not critical that I figure out what the Lord is speaking to me regarding this trip, nor where he is directing me next, but rather to look to see where and how he has been glorified and focus outward on that instead of inward on self.

JAMES & MARY KAMAU:  The director of ICM Tanzania and his wife (leader of women's ministry & counseling training).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Market & H2O

I practically begged our team lead to let us go to the main market today. Most of the group is going on safari, but I’m just one day in Zanzibar, then starting my trek back to the US. So I was dying to make it to a traditional market to pick up a few items on my list. Having picked up on my many “subtle” hints, we were given permission and a guide to accompany us to the market. It was so funny to stop by the Mall to exchange money, and walk into a Shop Rite grocery store at the corner of the complex! A sea of dark faces passed by us at the entrance, and one of our guys commented that we weren’t being stared at. Sure enough, we found 1 in 20 people to be pale-skinned like most of us. It seemed people were accustomed to this in the area we were shopping in (unlike the area we were staying in). The first light-face that passed us in the doors of the Mall was large, round, and had two giant ears emerging from the top of his head. Mickey Mouse!

During our Tanzanian Mall experience we exchanged money, used the toilet (as it is more accurately called, not restroom), and picked up some yummy foreign snacks at the grocery. These snacks have got the worst of me yet, as I of course went for those tasty oat biscuits (with chocolate!) and proceeded to finish the box before the night was out. I got into a side conversation about my use of the water here. After spending 3 months in India, and getting sick a number of times after wading in the ocean, I am not so phased by the warnings to be super-cautious about letting the water touch your mouth. Each day I’ve got a bit more bold. First it was noticing a bit of water between my lips during shower, then wiping my mouth after tooth brushing with faucet water, then cleaning my brush from the faucet after, then straight up brushing my teeth with the water from the faucet. I haven’t died yet. And I’m certainly not gotten sick like I know very well from Indian water incidences.

Tomorrow we are going to the BEACH! We will see if the Indian Ocean is any cleaner on this side of the great chasm of water.

SHOPRITE:  In Tanzania?!?  Yes, sortof.

OCEAN:  The Indian Ocean from the west coast of Africa.

The Week End

It’s Saturday, the conclusion of our design “charette.”* My thoughts at this point are a craving for rice krispy treats (thanks to Ben for bringing THAT up!) and Cape Cod Potato Chips (I’ve got the late night munchies), as well as a ping of sadness as I am at the beginning of recognizing I’ll need to start thinking about leaving my new friends, goodbyes, and the world beyond our Africa ministry bubble.

*The concept of charette comes from the French word for “cart.” The word began use during the days of the L’Ecole Beau Arts, the first school of architecture, when a professor sent around a cart to the student housing at the time the design assignment was due. Many students, setting the precedent for today’s all-nighters and last minute design changes, would hop onto the cart that was collecting the project models and final drafts, thus capturing a few last minutes of work as they rode the cart towards its final destination.

TEAM:  Architects, project manager, water, surveyor, structural, and road designer all at work designing and computing together.

TEAM:  Three architects discuss our designs-in-progress with the structural engineer.

TEAM:  ICM director James Kamau speaks clearly and directly about his vision and desires for the campus master plan as the architects stand by making adjustments.

CAMPUS MASTERPLAN:  At the conclusion of Day 1, the design team presented 5 distinctly different master plan designs to James.  His wonderfully clear responses directed us to draw from a few and dispose the others.

CAMPUS MASTERPLAN:  After one week of designing, we presented a masterplan that took into account specific building design and all the disciplines present and necessary to construct.

Friday, November 12, 2010


These are my new friends:

Pray for Janet & Mike, they have been dating for 6 months, and they are very much in love - infatuated for sure – you should see this girl light up – lol – the universal language! Janet is 22, and Mike is 27. He works with supply for petrol stations. Janet & Mike want to get married. Life is very difficult in Tanzania they say. Janet asked for prayer about her relationship with Mike. I’m not sure, but it may have been in regard to purity.

Matilda is not married, but she has a 3 year old son. It is very difficult for her - she had a conflict with her son’s father 4 months ago, and she left her son with his father. Although sometimes she goes and takes him [to spend time with him], it is hard. His name is Valentine. Matilda emphasized to me how difficult she knows it to be a wife or a husband. Muslims divorce and remarry sometimes 3-4 times, but Christians marry only once and are with the person forever. As she mentioned her 3 year old son, I noticed her eyes. As I asked her his name, the corners of her eyes welled up. “Life in Tanzania is hard. That is why I work hard, hopefully I can make money, and…” her voice trails off and gaze shifts down in sadness and shame.

These ladies are two of the 4-6 staff that have been waiting on us all day shopping, preparing, and serving our meals, cleaning our rooms (and relocating our stuff – lol), and doing our laundry.

Ross, our road engineer on this trip (assistant for plumbing and w/ww engineer)has been asking us to consider ways that we can serve these ladies in return for all that they have served us this week. Ideas have been to take them out to eat with us, to wash our own dishes after one meal, or sketching and framing a nice sketch of their brand new hotel building. For me, I see service as an everyday event. While there job is to cook, clean, and serve, we serve them when we both show our appreciation for how each of them do their tasks well and how we treat them as just as valuable in God’s eyes as us, the ones they are serving. I desire to serve them by building relationship with them to learn how to love them best. Though receiving these acts of service in the business relationship we have, I find other ways to show them love. Whether stumbling with Swahili while accepting my meal, or learning their names each one by one, I seek to develop relationship. We’ve been exchanging an increasing amount of laughter over the last few days, and we are getting to know one another better each day. This evening, I saw Matilda do a dance move or two from a glance out my bedroom door, I laughed heartily, and she smiled beautifully, then ran to get Janet and the both hustled over to my door. You see, I had done a few silly dance moves to random music that came from a cell phone or from a tv, and laughed at myself with them to share that common language of laughter. They came inside my room. Then inquired about the stuffed bear on my bed – haha – it filled out into a full conversation about their lives, ending when they got a call to get back to work. What a blessing to get to know them better, and the joy of being charged to pray for their needs. Praise God for these new friends!

HOTEL STAFF:  And my new friends Janet and Matilda.