Thy Kingdom Come…

One family's journey crossing cultures in pursuit of the kingdom of God

Archive for the category “Our Family”

A Visit from Grandma Nea Nea and Papa

We’ve been blessed with another visit from Grandma Nea Nea and Papa.  The pictures tell the story.

Mom did a "Paint no More" party with Grace's class.  She read the book and the kids got to paint Grace and their teacher!

Mom did a “Paint no More” party with Grace’s class. She read the book and the kids got to paint Grace and their teacher!

 

Thanks to Mrs. Flippence, Grace's teacher this past year, for being a good sport!

Thanks to Mrs. Flippence, Grace’s teacher this past year, for being a good sport!

 

Mom went to Hannah's class for their 100 day party. That is, 100 days of school in 2014 since they weren't ready to count to 100 before Christmas!

Mom went to Hannah’s class for their 100 day party. That is, 100 days of school in 2014 since they weren’t ready to count to 100 before Christmas!

I don’t seem to have pictures, but Dad went to all of the elementary classes to do fire safety lessons.  These were a big hit, especially the ones in which he lit fires and put them out!  After that we heard, both around school and outside of school, “Hi Mr. Al.”

And, of course, playing "Three Billy Goats Gruff," under the bridge on the playground.

And, of course, playing “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” under the bridge on the playground.

 

And underdogs.

And underdogs.

 

And trips to the little souk down the road from our house for "chippies" for tea time (our version of morning snack time).

And trips to the little souk down the road from our house for “chippies” for tea time (our version of morning snack time).

 

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Getting Ready for School…The Same or Different?

Mornings at our house are characteristically chaotic and messy. Think of the stereotypical events such as kids running out the door in crazy outfits or mismatched shoes because the parents were too busy to notice such details or the last minute transaction of lunch money, snacks, library books and gym clothes. We’re not quite to the “You’re not leaving that house in that short of skirt!” part yet.

What is different about us is that the lunch money that is handed out is in birr and instead of entrusting the child with $2-$3 the child must be responsible for 20-30 birr (which is actually only $1-$2) and the snack that is packed will be consumed at “tea time,” a morning recess time that observed and much anticipated by, not only the elementary students, but the middle and high school students and staff as well.

When our ride arrives, our guard calls out to us to let us know that it has arrived and we run out to the waiting vehicle sometimes leaving the unfinished coffee behind and sometimes dumping it into the thermos to take with us.

What is different is the vehicle that stops to pick us up. It isn’t a big yellow school bus, but a little blue taxi. Here it is common to contract a taxi driver to pick up students in the morning and drop off in the afternoon, so that’s what we do. Over the rainy season (summer in the U.S.) a new bridge has been completed enough to create a shorter route to school but last year, on the way to school, we would pass the city dump and, depending on which direction the wind was blowing, were sometimes overwhelmed by the smell of burning, rotting garbage. This was a reminder to us of the people who live in or next to the dump and who earn a living sifting through the garbage to find what they can to eat, use, or sell. This year, even with the shorter route completed, we             are still at times overwhelmed by the clouds of exhaust produced by the             countless numbers of diesel trucks on the road. Let’s just say that 90% of the vehicles wouldn’t pass the emissions tests required for our license tags in the U.S.!

We arrive at school and Grace, especially, is excited to find her friends, see what important events have happened overnight and take Hannah to her classroom when it’s time to go to class before she takes herself to her own classroom. I get to attend staff devotions and prayer time, during which we take turns sharing what God has been teaching us and praying for the students, Ethiopian staff, and each other.

And then the day begins!

Tour of Bingham: Part 1 Grace’s Tour

Here is a tour of Bingham Academy from Grace’s perspective.  Photography by Grace.

Grace's Classroom

Grace’s Classroom

 

Grade 1 and 2 Playground - The Slide

Grade 1 and 2 Playground – The Slide

 

Grade 1 and 2 Playground - The Merry Go Round, Tire Swing, and Monkey Bars

Grade 1 and 2 Playground – The Merry Go Round, Tire Swing, and Monkey Bars

 

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Grade 1 and 2 Playground – The Tukul

Grade 1 and 2 Playground - The Slide (and back of Grace's classroom)

Grade 1 and 2 Playground – The Jungle Gym (and back of Grace’s classroom)

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The Drop-Off and Pick-Up Area, Gym, and Flags Representing Students’ Countries

 

 

Where are you Christmas?

Where are you, Christmas?
Why can’t I find you?
Why have you gone away?
Don’t you remember
the girl you used to know?
My world is changing;
Presents I’m rearranging.
I wish I could find you in December.
The next year has started now.
And I’m happy Jesus Christ was born.

By Grace

The Beautiful Ladies

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Family Photos

I always wondered why people living overseas always seem to have outdated family photos, especially when there are little kids in the family that I know are years older than shown.  Now I understand.  LIfe is too busy to try to get everyone to sit still for a nice family photo.  In our last one Hannah was just a baby, now she is three, so we figured it was past time for a new one.  So here they are.

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Whoa..Wait…Is Jon there too?

For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.   I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.   I can do everything through him who gives me strength.   Philippians 4:11-13

If you have been a frequent reader of this blog, I would understand if that were your reaction to this post.   It has been 14 months since we got to Ethiopia, and 14 months since I have written a post on this blog.  In fact, the last time I posted was the weekend before I started work at Soddo Christian Hospital.  Within two weeks, my partner there, Paul Gray, was being Medivac’d out of the country with a still unknown illness and I was off to the races.   What followed was the hardest year of my life…by a long shot.  Not just for the usual reasons.   We did have the usual stuff – culture stress, interpersonal conflicts, extended periods without power or water, too much work, too little energy, etc.   We were prepared for these things (maybe overprepared) and while our preparation helped us to understand some of the things we were experiencing, it didn’t lessen the experience of them.   But we had mentally built in the space for most of these things and understood them for them for what they are – the natural response to an unnatural thing, living and working in foreign country.  These normal things, however, were not what made this last year so hard.

The real trial, the real hardship of this last year was the profound disappointment that I have experienced.  It is hard to put into words how much Grace suffered during our time in Soddo.   Being a natural introvert, I have a hard time understanding my older daughter sometimes.  She is the very epitome of an extrovert.   Being alone exhausts her.   Being isolated is torture for her.  Learning is a social experience and only can be done among friends.      For her, life in rural Ethiopia was not just hard, it was miserable.  Seeing your child suffer is one of the worst things a parent can experience.   Knowing that your actions, your decisions are causing your child’s suffering is exponentially more distressing.  I wrote in that blog post 14 months ago that “This is all Bekah and I have planned for the 10 years that we have been married and the 5 or 6 years we knew each other before that.   In fact, both Bekah and I were planning to serve God as missionaries long before we knew each other.”

In light of this, Grace’s suffering compounded our suffering.   We are not here out of our own ambition; we sincerely believed (and still do BTW) that we are here in Ethiopia because we are called by God to serve Him here.   I really loved the work in Soddo, though admittedly I liked it a lot more when I wasn’t there alone.   The cases were great and I am well on my way to being a true African general surgeon.   Fifty percent (or more) of my practice was cases that I had never seen before and was not trained to do.   I love, love, love working with and teaching (and learning from) the PAACS residents.  The PAACS residents are the best group of men I have ever been around.  Yet, despite how well my practice and role as a teacher lined up with my dreams and expectations, the rest of life did not.   I was profoundly disappointed that my expectations of a triumphant missionary career were not going to happen the way I wanted.  It was clear that we were going to have to leave Soddo Christian Hospital and I was broken.

Despite this, God has been gracious is ways that I didn’t expect.  We have had incredible visitors come and encourage us and support us during the difficult times.  Our parents, the Kochs, the Rutledges and a big group from Atlanta, John Galloway (my mentor and #1 guru at Emory), Dr. Bill Wood (my chairman of surgery at Emory and now academic dean of PAACS), the Thompson’s, the Schmid’s, the Messerley’s, Greg Myer, and many more prayed with us, encouraged us, loved our girls, brought treats and helped at the hospital.

We would not have made it without Jackie Anderson, Allison Karnes, Kari Aarsland, Stephanie Hail, Becca Gray and Ruth Mulu, our friends, neighbors and teammates in Soddo.   They were incredibly gracious to Grace and tolerated unexpected visits from her at all hours and even the occasional visit in the bathroom.

One of the true joys to come from this last really difficult year has been a friendship with Paul Gray.   Paul is the program director for the PAACS program in Ethiopia and we worked closely together in training surgical residents in Soddo. Paul has been incredibly kind and patient with me as I struggled through the last year and graciously encouraged me to move on to Addis Ababa and the Korean Hospital despite it being against his personal interest.   He is now alone again in Soddo shouldering the burden of training there by himself.

The change in Grace with her new school and her new friends has been dramatic.   She is completely transformed and is the joyful, happy, and sweet girl that we remember from Atlanta.   This has, of course, made life so much better for Bekah too.   Gone (for the most part) are the battles over every detail of life.  Grace is reading just about anything she can get her hands on, writing stories, doing art projects, and singing.   She has joined the Bible club at her school and has been memorizing scripture and ‘teaching’ us what she is learning.

What has made this change in Grace possible is the expansion of the PAACS training program to Myungsung Christian Medical Center and an opening for Bekah to teach at Bingham Academy.   MCM is a unique hospital within PAACS and really a unique mission hospital in general.   Most mission hospitals are in remote areas.  MCM is in the city and serves a different patient population than Soddo Christian Hospital.   It will provide our residents with exposure to more specialty services, better technology, true ICU care, and a different set of pathology.   It will greatly enhance our training of surgeons in Ethiopia.  Being able to help to start PAACS training at MCM is a blessing, not just for the work itself, but because it allowed us to continue in the work God has called us to and given Bekah and Grace an opportunity to thrive at Bingham Academy.

Things have been good, very good since moving to Addis, but not perfect (obviously). Bingham and MCM are on opposite sides of the city (think Stone Mountain and Six Flags for those of you in Atlanta), which makes transportation difficult and means lots of time on the roads. Hannah has not faired as well.   She has been very lonely as she left a very special friend Lydia in Soddo.   This will get better soon, though, when she starts preschool in a couple of weeks. There have been some other bitter disappointments.

Through all this, I am learning what it means to be content.  I am learning that our contentment doesn’t come from our circumstances and the goal is not necessarily our happiness.  What I am learning is that daily, hourly, and even minute-by-minute I need more of Christ.  It is in Him that I will be content and in Him that I will be sustained through trials and hardships.   It is through Him that I can do all things, because He gives me strength.

An Interview with Grace

Hello from Grace!

My name is Grace and I am six years old and I am in first grade.  And my birthday is April 30th.

How do you like living in Addis so far?   Love it now that I get to go to school.

What’s your favorite thing about Addis?  Bingham Academy

Who are your teachers?  Miss Rubie teaches math, Bible, and P.E.  Mr. Pirie teaches us a lot of things that I do not know what to say that he teaches us.  In his class we learn how to write and read and we make planets and the sun go all around the classroom.  And Miss. Lydia is the helper.  She helps Mr. Pirie and Miss Rubie with a lot of things.

What is your favorite thing to do with Miss. Rubie and Mr. Pirie?  Mr. Pirie, writing.  Miss Rubie, Bible.

What do you like to do when you’re not in school?  Play with Pollies (Polly Pocket dolls) and I like to play with Hannah.

Our First Week of School

 

I’ve seen some Facebook updates of sad parents sending their kids off to school.  While I can kind of understand, I have to say that for us the first week of school has been a much-anticipated event and answer to prayer for all of us.

For us, the first week of school means much needed help with teaching and training our kids, a healthy dose of social interaction for Grace, intellectual stimulation for Grace and Bekah, and a place for Grace and Bekah to belong and contribute. Grace got to meet a few of her classmates during orientation and was excited to meet the rest of them. She has three great teachers, including, due to some circumstances, the principal!  And she has also been invited to her first birthday party!  A dream come true for her.

We’re still struggling from everything that has happened over the past year and dealing with growth that had occurred in school in Atlanta that has now been reversed, so it’s not as if everything is perfect.  We are, however, optimistic that with some hard work we will make some progress.

I (Bekah) was also happy to begin school again.  I realized that it’s been seven years since I’ve had a first day of school as a teacher soit’s a little strange, but good.  From the moment we walked onto campus the first time in February we’ve felt good about the atmosphere of the school.

As I was perusing the website to find out more about the school I was excited to see that their vision for the type of students they hoped to graduate matched what I was attempting to do with Grace and the curriculum items I had chosen for her last year.  The website portrayed a desire to instill in students the ability to see things from a biblical worldview, to examine issues and problems from various perspectives, to develop a multicultural awareness of the world and the skills to communicate and interact in such an environment, and, above all, to develop a vibrant relationship with the Father and an intimate understanding of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  After orientation and the first week I continue to sense this even more from the staff and administration.  And, best of all from my perspective, the teachers, administration, and students are from 3o something different countries!

Jon has also decided that 21 years of school and 5 years of training isn’t enough and has also gone back to school.  This time it is to learn Amharic.  He has begun Amharic lessons at the language school down the road from our house and is busy pointing to pictures as they tell him and his classmates a bunch of vocabulary words.  (Their philosophy of language learning includes a “silent time” during the first three weeks where students listen to the sounds of the language and don’t worry about producing anything.)  He is in class half days, so he’s able to be home more with Hannah, easing the transition to having Grace and me gone all day.  (Sorry, no first day picture of him but he pretty much looks the same.)

It is really sweet to see how excited Hannah and Grace are to see each other when we get home at the end of the day.  And Grace desperately wants Hannah to be able to come to her school whenever possible and for her school to be Hannah’s school also.  Next year that should definitely be possible.

A Month of Firsts

 first missing tooth!

Grace has been waiting and waiting.  Much to her chagrin, she made it through her kindergarten year without a loose tooth, although she kept asking us when it would be loose.  Our answer, that it would be loose when her body was ready, wasn’t really satisfactory for her.  When we were back in the U.S. this summer she found out that her friends and cousins had already lost teeth and had conspicuous gaps in their mouths and this furthered her desire to experience this rite of passage from the preschool years to the elementary years.

Three weeks before starting first grade it happened.  She found that her front, bottom tooth was loose!  And not only was it loose, but it was at an angle and bleeding a little, so Bekah definitely believed her.  The next morning she came to us with her tooth in her hand because it had already fallen out.  It seems that when one must wait longer for a loose tooth, it falls out faster.

Oh, and after asking around we found out that the going rate for the tooth fairy in Ethiopia is 10 Ethiopian birr.

Our first self-inflicted haircut!

This one was Hannah’s doing.  I think the pictures pretty much tell the story.

When asked about it, she said that she wanted a haircut like Daddy’s and Doodoo’s (Grace’s).

Here she is now after a trip to the hair salon.  She keeps saying, “It’s a haircut!”

 

 

 

 

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