Last Day of School

I remember my high school graduation. The song my senior class sang. The note I tried to hit and didn’t quite make. The hat I threw that almost knocked me unconscious on the way back down. The speech I gave…last because I’m a “W.” Which also meant I was at the front of my recessional. Unfortunately, no one followed me off the stage and I ended up marching down a very long aisle by myself. I tried to smile enough to make it look like I did the right thing and it was the rest of the class marching down the wrong aisle on the other side of the auditorium.

I knew that night that school wasn’t really over for me. I was already studying so I could earn another paper certificate that said I knew something. Four more years to go. But I was ready for the next challenge because if I had learned nothing else over the prior twelve years, it was what hard work looked like.

Because I was born lazy. Really lazy.

I didn’t like chores. I didn’t like school. I didn’t like to work. Or anything that looked, smelled, or sounded like work.

I didn’t like to exercise. I didn’t like to do math. I didn’t like to clean my room or even make my bed.

So God gave me two very critical character building influences in my life that really boil down into one: Homeschool. And my mother.

And that’s what this story is really about.

My mother was a stay at home mom as long as we were home. But she worked. Yes, goodness knows, she worked.All 1982

My mom raised kids, taught us school, ran an Awana club, ran a homeschool group, cooked, cleaned, paid bills, and taught us and a lot of other girls so many other things…sewing, painting, decorating, driving, and so much more.

I must have made her a little bit crazy because I was not a fan of work. I didn’t like to sweat. I didn’t see any point in doing the same type of math problems day after day, page after page. I didn’t really think I needed to know what happened on this planet 5,000 years ago or even 500 years ago. I didn’t see any point in running around an empty track. And I hated, hated, hated practicing piano.

If I got a lecture about racing through assignments, cutting corners, and being sloppy, I got 1,000. How I hated that lecture.

And I was only one of five kids.

So…here’s the thing: Day after day, my mom trained me and my siblings. She taught us to study, to do chores, to practice music, to memorize Scripture. She taught us to work. Yes, goodness knows, she taught us to work.

After years of persistence by my mother, I made it to graduation. But she had two more kids to go. Five more years of homeschool.

Two more kids who didn’t like doing the same math problems day after day, page after page. Who didn’t really think they needed to know what happened on this planet 5,000 years ago and who hated, hated, hated practicing piano.

When my brother—the youngest—graduated, Mom had been a mother for 26 years and had been homeschooling about 23. She deserved a break.

So here’s the other thing: After all that, my mom went to work.

She started teaching kindergarten, but she didn’t stay with the half day of letters and sounds long. She was turned into a high school science teacher. Physical Science. Biology. Physics. Microbiology. Life Science. Chemistry. Biochemistry. It varied from year to year, curriculum to curriculum. Just when she got something down, it would change.

Over the next twelve years, my mom worked as hard as the US President. She studied. She taught. She wrote tests. She designed PowerPoints. She helped kids prepare science projects and hosted science fairs. She drove back and forth to school on her days off to turn eggs in incubators. She took pictures of birds and flowers that she could use for future presentations. She built robots. She cleaned up roadkill so she could use animal skeletons for future classes. Yep, true story.

Now things were different. She wasn’t the principal. She wasn’t the parent. But some things were the same: she was generally dealing with lazy students who didn’t give a rip about the pictures of flowers and birds.

So, it was a good thing that she is a hard worker. It was years of long days, short nights, and super short summers. Years of commitment. Years of pouring her energy into lazy kids who didn’t want to learn science…and a few who did.

She got paid. But let’s just say, she didn’t do it for the paycheck. That would have been insanity. Okay, it was insanity.

But that’s my mom. Did I mention she is a hard worker? Insanely hard.

And after years of teaching and training, she has made an impact. If on no one else, on me. I no longer think it’s futile to do pages of math problems or study history of the world or practice music. I no longer race through projects and cut corners. Some of that comes from time and maturity, but most of that maturity came from godly influences. Like my mom.

This week marks my mom’s last “last day” of school. She is retiring from her job as a full time teacher. I couldn’t be more excited for her. Or more proud. She has invested so much more than science in so many lives. They may not all appreciate it now, but they have all learned something.

And I know this: if they passed one of her classes, they worked hard. It was far more than robots, hatching eggs, and handling animal skeletons. It was hard work.

Pages of problem solving.

No racing through projects; no cutting corners.

And today, I’m as proud of my mom on her last day as she possibly could have been of me on mine.

Thanks, Mom. Job well done. Now, enjoy a long, long summer!

Day 2: It’s Really Complicated

Tuesday morning came a little too soon after 24 long hours of travel. But I was pleased to find at breakfast that Israeli food was not as bad as I feared. They even had chocolate bread. I’m pretty sure that was Jesus’ favorite breakfast food too.

Our guide showed up around 9:00 and we headed to our first stop in Cesarea–the port town on the Mediterranean–first built by Herod, but conquered and rebuilt many times in the centuries following.

We quickly caught on that one of the hardest things about touring Israel is trying to keep your chronology straight. Biblical history covers thousands of years, but then we’ve also had thousands of years since…can make for some mental gymnastics trying to keep your centuries in order.  There is just no logical way to do the tour chronologically, so I’ll just try to take it as it comes. But I just have to say, it’s complicated.

I can also understand better why there is so much conflict over land. It has belonged to everyone at some point. In Cesarea, for example, The same turf was occupied by Canannites, then Israelites, then Romans, then Israelites, then Muslims, then crusaders (Catholics)…then…I lost track. Each built a city on top of the last which is why they have to dig so far to get to the Biblical sites.

Our guide is not a Christian, but he specializes in Christian history and tours so he knows a lot about the Bible. A lot. And clearly, he is accustomed to knowing more about it than the average Christian tourist. Kinda shameful.

While we were in Cesarea, he read to us the story of Peter and Cornelius — where God instructed Peter to take the gospel to the Gentiles.  It took on new meaning looking across the port town, theatres, shops, and all the culture that came with the gods of that era.

After Cesarea, we headed to Meggido.  This is a city on a hill that was originally built by Canannites. It was later taken by Joshua and the Israelites. During the days of the kings, it was developed–probably by Solomon.  There are only ruins no higher than your knees, but it includes the remnants of stables, temples, and the fascinating city gates–the hub of the city.  Over the years, it’s estimated the town has been rebuilt more than thirty times.

The most remarkable part of the city was the water supply. The town at the top of the mountain was fed by the spring at the bottom. For security reasons, the citizens couldn’t let the water supply be outside the city walls, so their means of diverting and accessing the water supply was absolutely astounding.  Somehow, they hand dug 187 steps down into the lime stone and got the spring to run into the town. It was quite a feat and made me appreciate what the chore of getting the water would have been like for the average girl. The local Planet Fitness.

This place is not just known for its past–it overlooks the plains of Armeggedon–where we believe the final battles in world history will take place. I don’t plan to be there, but if you think you might be, stay in shape. 187 steps is a long way to carry up your water.

As we passed Mt Carmel, Gilad had us read the story of Elijah–and another one I’ll probably meIMG_0021ntion later. Pretty cool to put places with stories. And pretty strange to learn so much about the Bible from a man who doesn’t really believe it. It comes alive a lot more here and you realize how rich the Bible is as a history book even to those who don’t see it as anything else.

Our final stop of the day was in Akko–another city with a long and sordid past but mostly revolving around the Middle Ages and crusaders. The fortress built by the Hospitalar Knights is incredible as are the tunnels under the city. Put perhaps the best part was walking through a town dating so far back, yet still growing and active (though Arab, not Jewish). It was full of cats, markets, and plenty of dirt and junk; but also screaming of history and surrounded by breath taking views of the Mediterranean.  Words don’t quite do it justice. It was quite a place.

Tired feet took us back to the van. The seven hour time difference was getting the best of me and everyone else (except Stephen). It was fitting that the Jewish days end at dusk because I could tell mine was fading with the sun too.

All in all, it was a great day, and I’m looking forward to learning more about this complicated place with so many stories to tell.

 

Day Six: The Big Day

Today is Friday.

The Big Day. The culmination of years of prayer, planning, giving, and hard work. Our team has worked incredibly hard to get the facility as nice as possible. Today is the climax our our trip–the dedication of Hope.

We were a bit slow getting together for our morning announcements and devotions. But despite our slightly ragged beginning and the cumulative exhaustion of the week, everyone opted to leave for Hope right away despite being given the opportunity to spend a few extra hours at the hotel and come later.

The team had already accomplished a lot. 54 sets of bunk beds. Counters and  for the kitchen. Shelving for the pantry. Bookcases for the library. Power throughout three buildings. Plumbing for 7 sinks, 12 showers, 12 toilets…two stoves…and much more. And every building has been swept out at least 13 times. Just for good measure.image

There is always more to do…and the men were determined to get as much as possible done this last day before the kids finished school and joined us for our dedication celebration and dinner.

So that was the plan.

No clinics. No kids. All hands on deck as we got as far as we could making tables, benches, and cubby holes for flip flops and belongings. Then final set up and clean up and fun time with the kids–giving them their sponsor gifts and watching their excited faces as they saw their new home for the first time.

Yummy Gummy and Light & Shine rolled out of the resort something around 8:30. I was hoping this day would be a lot more profitable than the day before. There were a number of items on our shopping list to finish putting up fixtures and furnishings.

Somewhere in the course of the morning, I heard some rumblings about the day being a Bhuddhist holiday. But it was no big deal. We aren’t Buddhist.

Light & Shine was softly paying one of its three songs in its selection when we started noticing that we sure weren’t moving very fast. We were inching our way down the same roads we had been traveling all week. But rain the night before had flooded many of the streets and we found ourselves amazed at the cars forging the flooded streets. Some people were even bathing in the street. A few were washing their cars–using the street as a bucket.

A few times, we were concerned that we would get stuck, but we shouldn’t have been. These bus drivers are something else!

Finally, we reached what seemed to be the other side of the flood. That was encouraging. But if we thought we were going to be able to pick up the pace, we were wrong. Time ticked by with us just sitting in the road being passed by people on foot. It was a mess.

The busses were close enough and the pace was slow enough that we were able to go back and forth between the busses. It was then that we learned that the traffic mess had something to do with the BHuddhist holiday. School was out. People were out. It was a mess.

Pastor Paul, the linchpin of our local contacts also kept calling excitedly. There was some kind of intense storm due to hit Rangoon later that day. It was going to be even more of a mess.

We started doing the math in our heads. It was already 11:00. We had been on the road three and a half hours already and there was no end in sight. The road was combination parking lot and swimming pool. After dropping us off, the busses would have to return to pick up the kids. And then after the dedication celebration, they would have to reverse the process for us before taking us to the airport–a drive that by itself could prove to be an all day affair in this traffic. What a mess.

Our flights out Friday night and the wee hours of Saturday morning suddenly seemed to be approaching rapidly. Our work time was disappearing rapidly. In fact, the only thing not moving rapidly was us.

We hated not being able to see the kids again and not being there when the kids saw Hope for the first time, but between the ridiculous traffic and the impending storm, it was becoming increasingly clear that our plan was just not going to work.

So…We had to cancel the celebration and figure out how to turn busses around in the crowed street. It was about noon.

I was disappointed. But I didn’t feel bad for myself as much as for the kids, who had been looking forward to this; for the construction team who had worked so hard all week without getting to see much of the kids; and for the rest of the team who had traveled to the other side of the world to be ready for this big day.

But there didn’t seem to be any easy way out of this and the best plan seemed to be to stop the traffic and turn Yummy Gummy and Light & Shine toward the barn. As it was, we didn’t expect to get back until around 3:00.

The Agape home was near the resort, so we took the time to stop there, give the kids our gifts, and play with them for a few minutes. They sang for us in English–“Shout to the Lord!” and we were reminded by innocent voices of the incredible power of our God. We didn’t know the day would go like this, but He knew. “I sing for joy at the work of your hand. Forever I’ll love you, forever I’ll stand…nothing compares with the promise I have with You.”

It was a tough afternoon. It was tough leaving with projects undone that we really wanted to finishIt was tough not having the closure of watching everyone get to spend time, take pictures, and give gifts to their sponsor kids. It was tough not having the climax of watching the kids see their new home. It was tough feeling like our best efforts in planning ended in a mess.

But the maturity of this team came through this afternoon in incredible ways. It wasn’t what we wanted, but people accepted the circumstances and the decision and made the best of a day that turned out exactly how God–in His wisdom–knew it would. To me, it was a mess. To God, it was a rainy Friday, but not the least bit outside of His control.

We finished by praying with the kids, then loaded back on the bus to leave Agape. I tried to let go of the regrets and rejoice in the work of His hand. The girls were crying. We said our goodbyes. We took some photos. We hugged. We waived. We hugged. We waived. We took photos. We said goodbye.

And I thanked God that even though we couldn’t take the kids to Hope, we were still able to share with them the Hope we have as an anchor of our souls. These kids know about storms. They know about floods. They know about unpleasant circumstances. So more than anything, after each time we come, I want them to know a little bit more about Hope.

P.S. – the worst news is, I lost track of the score, but I’m pretty sure we lost. I saw two huge rodents scurrying around my room in broad daylight today.  Guess I didn’t make much of an impression.

Day Five: Women at Work…sort of

It went something like this. All week, Geno–our videographer–has been trying to get a quick interview of me and some of our other team members. All week, it just hasn’t worked. I had told him that first thing in the morning would be best. I’m not good on camera, so at the very least, I’d like to do it when I’m clean, fresh, and looking a little more like a Remember board member and a little less like a refugee.

So this morning, before we did anything else, we tried to set up for an interview.  But, alas, our chosen location of the open air breakfast rendezvous proved too noisy because of the busy street right in front. Oh well, there would be time later and if I looked like a drowned rat, it would be so much more authentic.

When we arrived at Hope, I was given the important task of “a quick run into town” to get some fresh pineapples for everyone–including some local talent who were helping finish the trash task we had started yesterday.

I recruited Gino to go with me to keep it safe. Then I found the bus driver. Then I hunted for a translator to tell the bus driver where to go. The translator suggested we take the truck rather than the bus since the truck driver knew the local area better.  Probably a great idea since it can be difficult to maneuver the tight corners and narrow streets lined with bamboo huts selling various trinkets.  Our bus driver has proved it can be done, but no need to push it. Literally.

So I hunted down Curtis who said the truck was needed to haul trash so I better stick with the bus. But…I needed to be sure to take a translator with me.  The only person I found who could speak English couldn’t go but he could call someone else who could go. We would just have to wait for him to come from Faith.

While we were waiting, Geno thought we should give the interview another try.  With the generator running, it was too loud near the buildings, so we took a plastic chair and headed toward the front of the property. But just as we got there, and got set up, someone started running a weed eater. So…we dragged the chair, myself, Gino’s camera equipment, and my blue bag of everything important to me–through the orchard to find a quiet place for an interview.

It had rained pretty heavily the night before so the fire ants weren’t out in force, but I still rather gingerly picked my way through the muddy grass in my flip flops while dodging leaves and Jack fruit.   We reached a quiet spot and arranged the chair, the camera, and the microphone. Geno opened his mouth to ask the first question and a drop of rain hit.

In seconds, it was a steady pelt. We ran for the shelter of the trees, but it was basically like trying to use a dozen spatulas as an umbrella. Just not a great plan. I hunted around in my trusty blue bag for plastic to cover the camera with. And we tried to wait it out  –more just so we could feel like we accomplished something.  But after a while, not only was I getting passed the drowned rat stage, but Geno’s equipment was going to get ruined. Foiled again. 

Pastor Khar, the leader at Faith needed to speak with Curtis and I, so the newly arrived shopping translator, the bus driver, and my escort disbursed so I could have the fun of finding them again in a little while. So much for the quick run into town.

It was nearly noon by the time we finished and I re-recruited the bus driver, the translator, Geno, and Mary Lou for our quick run into town. Unfortunately, the bus was stuck.  In an ordeal that nearly took out the generator, one wall, and the rest of Rick Jackson’s non-gray hair (and involved four men pushing) , we got the bus turned around and we were on our way.  I had some other shopping to do, but this was just the quick run…we would do the real shopping later.

We have two busses–the Yummy Gummy and Light & Shine. We were in Light & Shine, but apparently, Yummy Gummy was feeling left out, because the next thing we knew, it was me, the escort, the translator, Mary Lou, the bus driver, the back up bus driver, and the back up bus and its two man crew threading our way through the narrow streets to get pineapple.      Seizing the moment, I did bend the rules a bit to buy the trash cans, brooms, and a few chairs. The translator did come in quite handy and just to make sure everyone had something to do, they loaded the chairs in the Yummy Gummy.

We did manage to get back to Hope with enough daylight left to make another stab at the interview. Because of sound issues, we had to head back to the orchard. The sound issues followed us when our Burmese help  turned on a radio to entertain the trash pickers. As an aside–We’ve been treated to our share of Burmese music during our daily rides in Light & Shine.  We all have at least one of the three songs on the rotation memorized.

So here we were–me in the chair; Geno with the camera; and the soft background music wafting through the damp air.

Why do you do this? He asked me.

Fair question. I knew I must be quite a sight. Wet, dirty, and a bit frazzled–feeling like my day wasn’t amounting to much.

Why do I do this?

I didn’t say it well. Maybe I can’t put it into words that do it anything like justice. But I do it for Zaw U. I do it for Kyi Yom. I do it for Naw Li.  I do it for Friday.  I do it for Hope. I do it for Jesus.

And I do it for me. Because it’s good for me to pick up trash. To go pineapple shopping. To sweep floors. To move beds. And to pick up beads.  Some days it doesn’t look like much. But maybe that’s the perfect thing to help me understand these people so I can love them a little bit more.
     P.S – the rats and mice have figured out this rat thing. The score is now 8 – 8.

Day Four: Men at Work

Picture this: 30 plus construction workers on one site. Picture those workers living at that site for weeks. Now picture that in Burma…a place where cleanliness is next to godliness…right at the bottom of the list of priorities for human existence. 

Then let me back up and tell you about Hope. 

Remember’s work with persecuted Christians in Burma actually started about 10 years ago with Freedom house orphanage.  But after the children were relocated (and some killed) about five years ago, we began supporting Agape Children’s Home–a place for children of Karen and Kachin believers who needed a home. Some of these kids lost their lives directly due to Christian persecution. 

After Agape came Faith.  We supported about 50 more children at a second location.  

After meeting the kids, it was love at first sight. After visiting the facilities, not so much. No room for beds, no ventilation, no place to play soccer. Flooding at Faith. Over development around Agape. It was time to move. 

And that is why we needed Hope. God has blessed, and over the past few years, He provided the funds to purchase seven acres and build a new concrete structure that will not flood in anything short of Noah’s flood. 

This week is a major milestone in the  dream of Hope coming to life!  And God has put together a truly remarkable team of skilled craftsman. I’ve seen less hard working hills of ants. Today, in fact. 

The generator was already humming when I arrived at Hope this morning. Men were measuring. Cutting. Carrying. Pulling wire. Building stoves. Framing cabinets. Installing plumbing.  Assembling beds, beds, and beds. All of you with husbands and sons over here should be very proud. I mean that. 

   

  

  

 Since I don’t have any skills, I busied myself by grabbing empty cement bags and filling them with trash.  There was an endless supply of empty cement bags, the downer was having to dig them out of the mud and then flick off the worms. While getting eaten by fire ants.  But I really didn’t want our kids to start out life at their new home living inside a perimeter of construction garbage.  

It probably didn’t look much like a dream come true at that moment. Years of fundraising, planning, praying, working (and even days of going barefoot!) and here I am…finally at Hope stuffing empty bottles, cigarette packs, plastic candy wrappers, and various articles of muddy clothing into cement bags while slapping at fire ants and dodging rain drops. 

But that’s the stuff dreams are made of. Lots of praying. Lots of giving. Lots of hard work.  Lots of picking up garbage. 

Of course, without the blessing of God–all of this amounts to nothing.

So…thanks to everyone who has had a part in making this dream come true.  Those who travel and work; and those who stay and pray. 

In just two days, we plan to bring the kids to see their new home. And we have already been telling them about the people in the United States who love them and the Lord enough to sacrifice to make Hope a reality.  

But in the meantime, there is a whole lot of work to be done.  And a whole lot of prayers to be prayed. And a whole lot of trash to be bagged.  Unfortunately, I got fired from that job and I’ll have to find something else to do tomorrow. Bummer. 

   
P.S – this is Wade. Electrician and rat Cather extraordinaire. The score: Wade 6, Rats 3. 

Day Three: Me at Play

The kids. A lot can be summed up in those two words. That’s why Remember supports the Faith and Agape homes. That’s why we come. That’s why we bring doctors. That’s why we are building bunk beds. That’s why we send money every month. That’s why we have Hope…But I’ll tell you about that in a later blog. 

The children’s ministry contingent of our team was at Agape for day three. The kids welcomed us with fanfare and sang even sang for us–One of the most beautiful choirs I’ve ever heard. Our phones and cameras fog up in the humidity making it difficult to get a good shot…or maybe it is just my eyes fogging up. 

  It was a little tough getting started. Our translators had not arrived which makes for a lot of fun. I’ll remain very greatful for Naw Li and a few other kids willing to exercise their mad English skills. 
We have a large team this time and everyone jumped in and made fast friends of the children.  For me, there was a good mixture of old and new faces–some we’ve seen grow into handsome young men and women. 

Because of the clinic set up, we moved our activities into the boys dorm– a thatched building with a patched floor that covers the mud and standing water below; and a thin roof that seems to amplify the sound of the beating rain.  It is hot in there–even with the windows open to let in the breeze and squares of light.  I cannot wait to see these children go to Hope–but I’ll tell you about that in a later blog. 

We played. We painted. We tried to communicate. We watched in despair as puzzle pieces fell through the cracks in the floor. We decorated bags. We painted boxes. Then I looked at the clock. It had been about an hour. Time to get creative!

We made bracelets. My, but we made bracelets!  There was not a soul among the 40+ kids that didn’t seem to enjoy twisting colored bands into bracelets.  To all of you who donated bands and looms–God bless you!

I believe we accomplished our goal of sharing the love of Christ and encouraging these kids to seek Him. Or perhaps that is never a goal you accomplish. Just a field you keep farming. 

Time seems to fly and crawl when we are there and we reached the end of our visit all too soon. If you hate long goodbyes, never come with us to Butma. You will say goodbye, get pictures, give hugs, waive. Then do it all again. Then get on the bus. Then do it all again.

    If we were allowed to take them with us, there would not be any kids at Agape children’s home. Or Hope for that matter…but more on that in a later blog. 

  
P.S–if you followed the last story, just want you to know the score is now Wade-5, Rats-2.

Day Two: Rats at Play

So…if you read my last blog, you may have choked on the first sentence.      

I know how I think. 

And when I read “we arrived at the resort/hotel”...  I think sandy beaches and five star accommodations.  I don’t think mission trip. And you might be the same way. 

So let me just clarify something.  This isn’t the kind of resort where you get unlimited fluffy towels, soap, and toilet paper. But to give you the best picture, I’ll just start by telling you what happened after we said said our goodbyes to the kids Sunday night and worked our way back to our rooms.  Mind you, I have a very nice room and it does overlook a large pond/small lake and if I had time, it might be fun to sit out on the porch and enjoy the view. 

Mind you, it is also true that about 10:30 pm when I and a few others had finished repacking bags for the next day and were ready to call it a night, I was very grateful to see Wade Jackson show up with rat traps. 

Even though I had slept hard the night before, the one thing I remembered is the russle of tiny bodies in various locations around my room. 

The Jackson’s had warned us not to keep food out and they did NOT have to tell me twice. But if I was in for I repeat appearance of the furry little monsters, I was not opposed to it being their last. 

Wade had no sooner set the traps and headed for the door than we heard one snap. Hmm…probably wasn’t set quite right. I figured. 

It was me that was wrong. 

One down, an undefined number to go. 

With that boost of confidence that we were winning the rat war, I clicked off the light, laid my tired self in bed, and listened to the almost immediate scampering of my furry friends. I thanked God for teenage boys who are willing to set rat traps and I drifted to sleep. 

It was not long later when I was awakened by a snap! followed by a thump, thump, thump, thump…as that particular creature refused to give in to the jaws of death. I laid still, not about to intervene unless absolutely necessary. Things were eventually quiet and I fell back asleep believing that perhaps his friends would wise up and just go away. 

It was about 1:30 when I heard the other Snap! followed by its own thumping. 

Score: Wade 3, Rats…?  I didn’t know. 

That was all of the traps however. It would be quiet the rest on the night. 

Not so much. It was like their stories had been published in the obits and their friends came to pay their respects or something. I kept hearing rustling, scampering, gnawing…I even turned on the light at one point but the only rats I saw were the two with their heads on the chopping blocks. 

Sleep still evaded me.  It was the ones under my bed that really kept me on edge. At one point, I was sure I felt one creeping along the end of my bed and while I didn’t scream, I did start kicking wildly–listening intently for the sound of a rat flying across the room before thumping on to the floor. But it never came. It was just me and the realization that that particular critter was in my head and not in my bed. 

Whew. 

 They were not all in my head and Wade can testify to that.  Because when he got there the next morning to empty the traps, at least one of them had already been disposed of by his ex-friends. They left just enough behind to make his prior existence undeniable. We’ll leave it at that. 

So, I’m not complaining. I’m just explaining.  We have it great and we are honored to be here. But if you hear the terms “resort” and “hotel,” don’t think about white sand and five star accommodations. Think about me getting two hours of sleep.   

And definitely not about fluffy towels, soap, or unlimited toilet paper. 

Day One: Kids at Play

benjamin
Me, Benjamin, and my super-cool Burma hair do. Try not to be jealous…

We arrived at our “hotel/resort” at 3:00 am. I guess you could call that the start of day one. We were just finishing about 36 hours of travel. I suspect it is safe to say that we were a pretty tired bunch. Especially since any sleep you get on planes can be chalked right up into the worthless category.

I had to be woken up at 12:30 pm. The pillow next to me was exactly how I’d left it. My bed was untouched except for the corner I had slipped into. I must have slept like a dead man. Don’t grudge me. I needed it.

Kids from Faith and Agape children’s homes were to arrive at the “resort” where we are staying about 2:00 so we tried to rally our group and get organized. We are a pretty diverse team—ranging in age from about 10 to 60 something. We have plumbers, carpenters, doctors, nurses, students, mechanics, teachers, pastors, a title searcher…and, of course, attorneys. (What can I say, we can’t all be skilled labor!)

Our plan was for all 100 kids to be seen by a doctor as well as to generally have a good time and be shown the love of Christ. The resort had some cool peddle boats and other activities and I had brought a few things for crafts and games including innovative pumps with biodegrable water balloons. The biodegrable thing sounded like potential genius and potential disaster but hey, life is boring if you aren’t willing to take some risks.

While we waited for the kids—who were about an hour late—I talked with Benjamin, one of the young men that works at Faith. He told me the kids had been so excited the night before, he had a hard time getting them to sleep. Benjamin looks like a kid himself—maybe 14 or so, but he’s actually been to Bible college in Burma and India, teaches at the Bible school nearby, is married, and helps with the kids at Faith…always with a smile on his face.

Everyone was quick to pitch in and help, so we divided into three groups and one headed for the clinic while the others went their various ways. I didn’t suspect we would have much trouble keeping track of the kids…turns out we lost whole groups…but that’s another story.

As the kids waited for the clinic, I stayed with them and intended to keep them occupied with some crafts and games. They had designated a nice space for us on a brick patio outside the clinic building. But the first thing to happen was rain. So, we ended cramped in a storage room/office for resort workers.

The second thing that happened was that we lost our translator.

And maybe it was because they were sleep deprived, or maybe because Benjamin had just been summoned elsewhere, or maybe because they were about to see the doctor, but the Faith kids seemed a little tense and quiet. It was harder than I remembered to break the ice with a sweet group of kids who haven’t a clue what I’m saying. And even though I recognized a number of their faces, I felt like I was starting back at zero trying to remember names. Aung Thun Kyaw and Siang Khun Tial just don’t stick in my head like I wish they did.

The kids in these children’s homes are generally from Christian families and are taught the Bible, but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to share the gospel. Unfortunately, without the translators and with kids coming and go, some of my attempts were not altogether successful and others were just plain dismal failures. But, we have four more days, so we will just keep giving it our all.

I stayed in the hot storage room most of the afternoon, so I didn’t get to see all of the goings on, but from what I heard, the kids had a lot of fun in the swan boats while our team generally had strokes watching them and worrying that their life vests might be too big. And from what I hear, had it been the World Cup, the score would have been something like Burma 19, USA 1.

It took a while to get all of the kids through the clinic and it was dark by the time we gathered the groups to load the buses. Just as we prepared to say our goodbyes, the skies opened up one final time, giving us a parting drenching. We wasted no time swarming the small outdoor “restaurant” which was now devoid of customers. As we stood and watched the downpour in soft glow of the restaurant lights, the electricity went out. Then we just stood.

The lights flickered on and off a few times, but Pastor Khar had the idea of getting the kids to sing—so my final memories of the evening were 100 voices lifted up in praise to our God. Those kids sing about like they play soccer. Incredible.

And I’m sure all of the rain was just God’s way of helping me out with “bio-degrading” all of those little water balloon pieces. Thanks, God!

Yes, Black Lives Matter

I’m a white girl. Glow-in-the-dark white.

I can’t even get a decent tan…just burn and peel. Burn and peel.

But I was raised just east of Los Angeles—probably can’t get more of a melting pot of humanity than LA. Okay, so there’s New York City. But just the same, we went to an all-Hispanic church, hosted Japanese exchange students, had Thanksgiving dinner with our Romanian friends, and my best babysitting clients were black. And I loved them.

One night a dinner guest asked my dad if he would let his daughters marry a black guy. The four of us girls were pretty young at the time. I don’t know why he asked that; the idea of marriage was distant and unreal. Almost a bit ridiculous. But my dad answered his question. And I still remember what he said.

We were not prejudice, but we did notice differences—strengths and weaknesses that tended to be true of different people groups. Our black friends were not just smart, they were FAST! They dominated the basketball courts. The Asian friends were not only smart, but hardworking and disciplined. The Hispanic friends were not only smart, but their culture took life at a much easier pace. Time was a suggestion. Family birthdays and events were big deals. Their all-day parties took us a little by surprise at first but we realized once you are considered family—you don’t miss one for the world.

So…we were all listening when my dad answered the question. Would he let one of his daughters marry a black man?

“It doesn’t matter so much the color of his skin as the color of his heart.”

I remember not only Dad’s answer, but I remembered the principle. And it wasn’t an isolated statement—it was consistent with the way my parents lived their lives.

They taught us to use our heads. They even taught us to use the “D” word—to be discriminating. The difference was, they taught us to be discriminating about things that matter, like character. Not things that don’t matter, like race. Even those general tendencies we noticed about people groups were just that—generalities. People are different; their skin color did not define them. You best evaluate people by their hearts—one at time.

Race has been in the news a lot this year. And unfortunately, in Charleston, we are now trying to navigate through an incident involving a white cop and a black shooting victim. But I wish all of the people out there who think that black lives don’t matter to white people could see what I see.

Because we care. We are ripped up. Because no one—black, white, or “other,” should be gunned down in cold blood the way that it appears happened in North Charleston recently. I’m glad there was a witness. I’m glad there was a witness with a cell phone. I wish the incident had never happened, but since it did, I’m glad that we can take the opportunity to show that our loyalty is to justice and not necessarily to the cops, the alleged criminals, the white people, or the black people. We want the facts to be brought to a jury –and the jury to do the right thing.

We care because black lives matter. But far more than that, we care because all lives matter—because they are lives, not black lives, white lives, or “other” lives.

I want the Scott family to know that we are behind them. No need for protests. No need for looting. No need to lose precious sleep to convince us that this is an important incident that should be given due process. We want it every bit as much as you.

I’m a white girl and I want justice.

But then, it doesn’t matter so much the color of my skin as the color of my heart.

Big Blue Nation

When I stopped to count it up, I realized that even though I’ve never “lived” there, I’ve spent somewhere around a year of my life in Kentucky. Mostly eastern Kentucky–which truly deserves its own acknowledgment and perhaps it’s own star in the flag.

It’s coal country, natural gas country, and four wheelin’ country; but the thing that seems to bring them all together is the way they love UK basketball.

In case you are not familiar–the Rupp arena seats 22,000 people and it will be sold out every home game. In fact, you probably can’t get a ticket if you weren’t born with one.

I’m not saying they are cultish about basketball. I’m saying they are what comes after cultish. It’s not like they have flat screen TVs playing the games at their wedding receptions–it’s that you don’t get married on game days. Not if you want your groom to show up.

Santa wears blue in Kentucky, and if you’re in Lexington on game days, you won’t see much besides blue.  I’ve never seen blue grass in Kentucky; I think it the country got its name from all the UK Fans looking at the world through blue sunglasses.  

Due to the generosity of some of our clients (prompted by an untimely scheduled funeral), we were blessed with tickets to a recent UK game. Tickets, we were informed, some of the locals would about shoot us over. 

The Rupp arena is strategically connected to both a mall and a hotel. So when the 22,000 fans descend on Lexington, the food court will be full of bright blue shirts. And if you are an out-of-towner trying to sneak in without getting shot, you can buy a blue shirt, sweatshirt, jacket, hat, pants, muffs, pajamas, or Hello Kitty doll.

This particular game was at 9:00 pm on a Tuesday.  It was cold and snowy and generally a terrible time to be out. And as we were entering the arena, people were outside in the cold wearing signs that said, “I need to buy tickets!”

It was tempting, but I put my game face on and we marched inside.  In our section, all the seats were held by season ticket holders. They know who they are sitting next to. In fact, they probably know about everything there is to know about them.

Consequently, the people next to us immediately recognized us at outsiders, but they were kind enough to let us pretend for the night.

I was a little surprised by the demographic of the crowd at first. There were a lot of middle age people and even more older folks.  I guess that makes sense–They probably have a little more time and a little more money on their hands. 

They kicked off the game with live music, fireworks, and a lot of enthusiasm from the crowd.  I did see a few empty seats in the nose bleed section, but not many for 9:00 pm on a school night.  Kentucky easily got the ball from the start–thanks to the seven foot center who made the other team’s 6 foot 9 players look like they needed to do some growing up. 

Most of the fans–at least the older ladies–think of the team as their sons.  And no one was allowed to say anything negative about their boys but them.  If the other team so much as breathed on one of “their boys,” they would threaten them with slow and painful death.  But if one of the boys missed a shot or a pass, they weren’t above letting the boys know what they thought of them and why.

The opposing team–Boise State–was undefeated so UK fans took special delight in watching them spend the night chasing the UK score. 

It was impossible not to catch some of the enthusiasm.  Maybe the blue from my shirt was bleeding into my veins.  I shouted “white” and “blue” and “go cats” with the rest of them.  We truly did have good seats–about 10 rows up behind the clear backboard– close enough to see just how young those kids were, but hopefully far enough that the players couldn’t hear the lady behind us yelling, “What’s the matter, ‘Pointless’?”  Put the ball where it belongs!”

 Nothing makes for a bad day in Kentucky like a mark in the L column.  I can only imagine the pressure those kids were under.  The quality of life of hundreds of thousands of fans lies on their ability to get the ball through the net. 

And maybe a year in Kentucky is long enough that I’m starting to take a little bit of ownership. Who knows, maybe it was my yelling “go cats” that helped them score those last few points…or my seal motions that caused the other team to miss theirs.  Either way, I was one of the happy faces coming out of Rupp arena at 11:30 at night. And Wednesday dawned a beautiful day in Kentucky.