Not-so-quick Updates


Lately in our Lives:

[If you're a blog-skimmer, just scroll on down to the pictures at the bottom.]

  • My parents visited for 2 weeks. We loved every second of it!
  • Kitchen construction is mostly finished. Sean installed a pantry. I organized the shelves. Sean put in plumbing, I like washing dishes in the new sink. Let’s be honest, Sean did almost ALL the work, but I shared in the enjoying of his hard work.
  • We’ve decided to live in Swaziland at least 4 years! (Just two more, 4 total). We’re adding one extra year to our original 3-year commitment. While we could get really excited thinking about the Post-Swaziland phase of our lives, we realized it’s just not time for that yet. However, with a baby coming in February, we feel comfortable committing to just one year more for now. We’ll re-evaluate as time goes on. Largely, we feel like we’re only getting started in some of the community work, so it’d be leaving too soon if we closed up shop in a year. We’re discussing how having a child will change our focus (obviously) and how it’s likely Nicole will shift her focus from lots of out-of-the-house ministry work, to more ministry with a child in tow, and from the house. We’ll keep you abreast of those shifting tides.
  • Nicole’s going to work on an intern-application process. Like most things we do, we can’t imagine this being like too many other “conventional” internship ideas, and we have no idea if people will come. However, Nicole felt an urge to prepare some in this direction, so that IF and WHEN someone inquires, we’ll be ready. We don’t have much space for lots of people, nor are there lots of “projects” that we need foreign hands to complete, but we DO love sharing our lives, love sharing what we’re learning, and enjoy pouring into the lives of people considering full-time ministry, overseas work, etc.
  • Summer is kicking up with a few days of rain blessing our land. It just makes you want to dance!
  • I, Nicole, am feeling pretty good as I hit the half-way mark in my pregnancy. Taking advantage of second-trimester energy to kick up the exercise, planting, garden labor, and all-things-crafty in my free-time. There’s a lot going on in my heart these days, mostly joy and peace. And no, I probably won’t post belly photos. I’ll spare you that much skin. ;) Clothes-on photos may be found from time to time.
  • After a few weeks off with my parents coming, I was excited to head back to the hospital this week. The newspaper reported some very sad news while I was “off” that a laboring woman was told to leave the labor ward and walk around outside (common practice if she’s not into active labor yet). Apparently something happened, which resulting in her squatting over the tile floor and pushing her child out. Reports declared the child died from head trauma, while nurses didn’t rush to attend to mother or baby. I have no idea IF it’s true, if the mother was still in the labor ward, or was indeed walking outside. The negative publicity certainly affects people’s desires to birth at this specific hospital (yes, the one I volunteer at). The trauma to the mother, and nurses who seem to have neglected her points to a broken, hurting world. My heart aches for more to be done to make sure the safety of these babes and mothers. My heart aches for hospital leadership to lead the staff towards greater compassion, better practices, skill development, and personal & professional times of refreshment (can we say “Overworked?”). I’m thankful I have relationships with the nurses that point me to lean in and ask questions before pointing fingers. I’m thankful I have relationships with a few moms that allow a bit of education and empowerment to color their choices and actions.
  • I keep meeting more and more young, single expecting women. In our little Masini community alone, I met four (three whom I didn’t know about). Oh Lord! Our lives are broken without you. Single mothers are incredible women, yet my heart aches for the hardships facing their young, unemployed persons. Show us ways to educate them, connect them to employers, and draw them to You who gives all love, self-worth, and answers that we often seek through others and ourselves. May I be a bit of the hands and feet to help them on the journey. May I be eager to give many cups of cold water, advise mothers of these young mothers on when to take them to the hospital, and empower them with education, so they might have CHOICE over their ambitious, budding lives and those of their children. Lord, heal our heart and our land from fatherless children and broken-hearted young mothers. There is another way. Let us find it together. 
  • Sean’s organizing some “farm visit” days with a permaculture farm here in Swaziland. I guess we’re first on the list and hope to connect loads of cool people to loads of other great people, so the ideas may flow & creativity blossom along with our crops.
  • Thor keeps chasing goats out of our yard. He joyously watches from under the truck for any unsuspecting goats who venture in our front gate. With a simple, “Yah Thor,” he bolts down the driveway. He has just to butt heads with any horn-bearing mama goats, but Sean did catch his being drug out of the yard by a goat. He says Thor attached himself to the poor goat’s ankles. Serves the pesky, plant-devouring heathens right! We give him lots of treat and take him everywhere dogs are allowed (and some places they’re not).
  • We felt really, really, REALLY loved by family, friends, and some strangers when my parents surprised us with gifts from some youth and adults from Greenford Christian Church (our first care package!), some very crafty friends, a few random friends, and family. People blessed us with encouraging notes, notes of joy and prayers for our pregnancy, and all around LOVE. I think I’ll just read one every day until forever. :D Slowly I’m churning out the thank yous, but if you sent something – thank you!!!

 

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Categories: aDventures in Doula-ing, In the Garden, just for fun, Swaziland Updates | Leave a comment

A Day in Sean’s Life


I, Nicole, am writing for Sean to record and share his incredibly good, extremely representative sample of what he does and what it means for people.

Wednesday evening, Sean received a call from the women’s garden co-op about an hour’s drive from our house. Guba, a permaculture farm here in Swaziland, had connected Sean with the treadle pump to Ladies with the Gardens But No Water several months ago. The representative calling said the first and second pair of cables on their pump had worn out, could Sean please come give them more spares?

Although he had plans that would fill a Thursday up, Sean decided to halt those plans in order to replace their pump parts, not wanting the ladies to be without water for a few days. At 5:15 am, his alarm went off. After lying in bed for a few minutes, waking up, he rolled over and kissed me saying, “Okay I’m gonna go babe.” Donned his worn-for-the-10th-time-without-washing outfit and scurried out the door.

Mid-morning, I received a call from him.
“I just wanted to tell you how excited I was about the women’s garden!” he exclaimed. He gushed on and on about how they were in-fact using the pump properly (he had suspected some user-error that caused two sets of cables to wear out so quickly), and their land was lush with crops. Fifteen women, ranging from 20 to mid-60s recounted to him how they loved pumping water to their individual plots. These women had initially scowled at Sean and the pump, thinking the work of pumping was “too strong” for them, that they would need to hire a man to do the work. Now they told him, “If I am not on the pump for three days, I feel sick. I beg the other women, please let me pump today, my body needs the work.” They have been pouring water from the river onto their dry, dusty land with the power of their own legs. They have discovered that their community garden, can indeed work. They have realized they don’t need men in the equation to attain a reliable food supply for their families. They have bound together and created a group of older women who work with younger women. And a small community that has food security. Come famine in the land, come drought, their maize, cabbage, beans, tomatoes, spinach, and beets will grow on.

After admiring their crops and giving a few tips, Sean piled back into the truck and headed into town. Somewhere along the way, our good South African friend (middle-class, business-owning guy) called Sean. He asked if Sean might meet him at the hardware store and advise him on the supplies to build a greenhouse. Since meeting he and his wife and 3 children, we’ve watched a transformation happen. They went from eating chips, sweets, and soft drinks regularly, to dreams of 100% of the veggies they consume organically grown at home. They’ve taken hold of the permaculture principles we shared, and took things WAY further than we even do. Documentaries about food production, scientific findings on Genetically Modified Crops, and health in general have become a mild obsession. They’re ecstatic about the improvements in their children’s energies, abilities to focus, behaviors, and even grades at school. Now they’re looking into ways to prevent their heirloom seeds from being cross-pollinated and contaminated by non-heirloom varities. Hence the call to Sean. Hence the mid-day assessment in the hardware store.

Sean grabbed a few items at the store he needed for our construction, then headed home. On his last stop to buy some airtime (read: minutes) for his cell phone, he ran into our church members and neighbors-down-the-way. This family was the first in Masini to buy and use a treadle pump. Not all members were convinced it was a good purchase. Eventually Mama started using it on Sundays (with help from whatever kids she gathered up) to pump enough water for the week into her drums. Then Papa slowed his hours at work, so he had more time at home. They started clearing land and have planted hoards of tomatoes, onions, Swiss Chards, carrots and beets.

Now at the second hardware store of the day (it is the place to meet people!), Sean decided to wait for the family and chat with them as they bought supplies. He had been elbow-deep in garden work and home-construction for several weeks, only popping out for my maintenance visits. Knowing his day was almost shot at this point, he figured, “What the heck. I’ll wait for them and take them home.” So they gathered more supplies now, knowing they had transport. This project was to build a chicken straw yard <http://milkwood.net/2012/06/13/meanwhile-in-the-gravity-chicken-run/&gt;. The family had gotten the idea from their neighbor, Magongo. Who may or may not have gotten the idea from a strongly-suggesting Sean. Once Sean started explaining the possibilities of a straw yard. Papa was SOLD.

On their way back, the couple asked to stop by our house. It had been some time since they had visited. They wanted to see our garden. Sean also showed them the construction that has happened into our small, round, one-room house. Absolutely amazed, Papa said, “You will design MY house.” (He’s currently building a one-room addition to his house). And the wheels of creativity keep spinning.

Not long after he took the family home, I pulled up in the driveway around 3 pm back from my day of clinic work and doula appointments.

After finishing a few chores up in the yard and cleaning up the tools, Sean said, “Ah my day is a wash. I didn’t get anything done. But I did a lot of ministry stuff today. Let’s head to our date night.” (We’ve recently re-implemented date nights. Yay! 1) they’re awesome 2) we need the specific break-time 3) better get what time together we can before ole Baby Boehrig comes bouncing along!)

On our drive to our location, we reflected about the goodness of Sean’s day. How wholly it shows his ministry, heart, challenges, and especially the successes. It was a great day for rejoicing!

As you can tell, one phone call delayed his start-time on the project he’d had in mind. A second phone call sent him further away from that project. But that’s how life is. That’s how relationships go. You choose people over work and you win every time. There’s always more time for work, but sometimes the people are busy or aren’t around to spend time with. The constant interruptions this day were welcomed and even brought fruit.

Sean is doing some pretty amazing things. Really cool Kingdom-bringing stuff. But his success has largely come from not letting things ride on his back. As quickly as possible, he has allowed Swazis, locals, & permanent residents to take over, run, or share the ideas that may have originally been his. For example, the pump at the women’s garden. He saw a need for water movement in agriculture that wasn’t bound by electricity or petrol. He researched, learned, and bought. Then he started telling everyone he knew about it, showed up to demonstrate, and handed out business cards. In this case Guba had trained these women in some standard garden practices, consulting. They later saw Sean and his pump as the missing link in the garden’s endless viability. Additionally, Sean connected the women to the pump store in town run by Kenny. Kenny saw the treadle pump, visited our house, and bought the remainders Sean had. Now, Sean plans to fetch more pumps and sell them to Kenny. He’ll go on telling people and showing them the pump, but they’ll buy their pumps and parts through Kenny, who’s an incredible guy committed to helping small-scale farmers have solutions with water on their land (without marking up the costs!).

Same thing with the chicken straw yard. The family got their idea from their Swazi neighbor, who got it from Sean.
But when someone comes to visit their house and asks, “Where did you learn this?”
They will reply, “Oh Magongo showed up.”
And Sean, the white-man-with-the-ideas is forgotten. Though it may seem sad and empty of glory, this is exactly the way we see missions working. Whenever we might leave, we want our community to have blossomed – quite literally with fruit trees and plants going to seed, but also hearts loving each other a bit better, bellies a bit more full, families sharing the Good News with more ownership. Whenever we might leave this blossoming community, we want visitors to come to Masini and ask in the following years, “Oh where did you get this?” Or “Who taught you that?”

We dream of the people responding, “Ohhhhhh … mmmmm … We can’t recall exactly. Everyone just started growing gardens or sharing food or loving each other, so we just learned it from each other. It was everyone’s idea.” And they might sit around sometimes reminiscing about that white couple and their crazy, white dog, but they won’t think we brought all these ideas. They’ll smile proudly knowing they’ve lived with these powerful, moving ideas their whole lives, and be thankful they encouraged them out of each other into creative, life-changing, community-shaping, eternally-redeeming schemes.

Categories: Kingdom Coming Related, Swaziland Updates | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Participation


Jesus pushes seeing to the social edge. Can you see the image of Christ in the least of your brothers and sisters? He uses this as his only description of the final judgement. Nothing about commandments, nothing about church attendance, nothing about papal infallibility: simply a matter of our ability to see. Can we see Christ in the least of our brothers and sisters? ‘They smell. They’re a nuisance. They’re on welfare. They are a drain on our tax money,’ we say. Can we see Christ in the people, the nobodies who can’t play our game of success? When we see the image of God where we don’t want to see the image of God, then we have seen with eyes not our own.
Finally Jesus says we have to love and recognize the divine image in even our enemies. He teaches what many thought a leader could never demand of his followers: love of the enemy. Logically that makes no sense. But soulfully it makes perfect sense, because in terms of the soul, it really is all or nothing. Either we see the divine image in all created things, or we don’t see it at all. Once we see it, we’re trapped. We see it once and the circle keeps moving out. If we still try to exclude some (sick people, blacks, people on welfare, gays or whomever we’ve decided to hate), we’re not there. We don’t yet understand. If the world is a temple, then our enemies are sacred, too. The ability to respect the outsider is probably the litmus test of true seeing. It doesn’t even stop with human beings and enemies and the least of the brothers and sisters. It moves to frogs and pansies and weeds. Everything becomes enchanting with true sight. One God, one world, one truth, one suffering, and one love. All we can do is participate.”

- Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs, pg 58-59
How’s our participation? As a person? A body of those feebly claiming Christ? How are your eyes?

Categories: Kingdom Coming Related, Social Justice | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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