Monday, December 23, 2013

A Different Christmas

Many have asked us 'what does Christmas look like in Guinea Bissau'.  We have also heard 'it must be very different for you this year'. We want to attempt to answer these questions. First, yes it looks different, it is warm, no snow, no lights, no trees, no craziness of the commercial season. It does not feel like Christmas because every day is pretty much the same each day, in fact most days we do not even know the date. Christmas here is very low key, people cook a huge meal and then share with their friends. You can go from house to house eating food and hanging with friends. It is all about giving here, not what you get. People do get a new outfit for the festa (party), but that is not everyone. This is about the only time of the year they may get new clothes. They get all fancied up for Christmas too. Girls will get their hair specially braided and have extensions braided in as well, mainly little girls. This is a trend that has started because of how they perceive the West. They only know what they see in movies, so they believe this is the way all Americans are.  In the church we have a Christmas Eve service and we will go caroling in the village.

That is a glimpse of what Christmas looks like now for us. Yes, it looks different, we are in shorts, we have no tree or decorations, we have had no begging from the kids on what they want, but it has been relaxing. The only thing we brought was our Christmas stockings. We plan to have a few things for the kids in the stockings, read the Christmas story together, and sing a few songs. The rest of the day we will hang out with friends, eating yummy food, and serve yummy food at our house. We are excited for Christmas this year. It is simple, low key, relaxed, and the main focus is serving others. In this pagan culture the message sent is to take care of others. That is exactly what Christ ultimately came to do, be a servant. It amazes me how much God speaks through creation, traditions, and cultures even when they worship false gods. You can still see God working and it gives perfect examples pointing back to His word and showing them the truth.

This is Christmas, and we are looking very forward to it and for the next few beyond. Yes, we miss family, friends, snow, the fireplace or stove, hot cocoa, and cookies. Instead, we are starting new traditions in our time here and focusing on the real reason for the season and that we always have family as long as we are together.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What are you missing


Karen normally writes these and honestly does a better job, but I want to take a minute and share a reflection. Men or whoever is the bread winner this is for you. 
In my 3 months here I have realized what a workaholic I had become and was satisfied in my work. First this was sinful because I was not be satisfied in God and who he made me to be, second I was neglecting my marriage and spending quality time with my wife, and third I was missing so much with my kids. I have missed a lot of firsts in there life or been late because of work.
We need to work and be responsible and of course pay our bills. I am learning we can live with a lot less I mean a lot less and still be happy. Living with less means buying less which means spending less and all this adds up to less overtime or second jobs and time with our families.
I cherish helping teach my kids, walking Isaiah to school, going to the store with a kid to get bread, or taking them on a bike to get water. I am around more and a part of there life yet still working and doing the things I need to help these leaders and church grow and wean off EMM and the missionaries.
Obviously this will look different for everyone, but my children now have very little toys and yet there happy. I believe looking back at this 20 years down the road my kids will be thankful I was there and not to concerned that they did not have a iPhone or wii or something like that.
I also realized consumerism and convenience have become gods for Americans and we did even see it hit us, it snuck in on our back side and before we knew it we were caught up in it. The sad thing is that evil parts of our society are coming this way and a culture that was once grounded on family and proud of that is becoming one who needs more, needs the newest, and what you have determine who you are. 
I had forgotten I was a child of God and needed nothing, I was keeping up with the American Dream and did not even realize it. 
Maybe this is not you or your story, but I challenge you bread winners. Where are your priorities, what do you make sure happens first there your heart is, what have you missed in your kids life to make them happy, and are they happy?
Some things to think about. i have no regrets because God is always teaching and if I had not strayed I would not have learned, but I am thankful for what I am learning and the time i now have with my wife and kids. 
I realize we can live much cheaper here, but in American we can live simpler also. 
So let some things go, say no, and spend time with your family, wife , and kids. I do not believe it is a decision you will ever regret. 
Just wanted to share some things I am learning, I hope you are blessed and challenged. I know I was and it has been hard to say no and not work all the time, but I am a work in progress growing everyday, I hope to be a imitator of Christ.
In this together,
Mike

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Want some rice?

We have some very creative children.  They have brought their creativity with them to Guinea Bissau and are now teaching the local children to use their creativity.  Our children absolutely loved to play house in America. When we first moved to Pennsylvania, five years ago, Jada was six years old, Lydia was five, Josiah was 3, Micah was almost 2 and little Zaney was just a newborn.  God blessed me with a mother's helper that came over once a week and played with the kids so I could do whatever I needed to without interruptions of the children.  This was a huge blessing to me at that stage of my life, and this amazing young lady taught my children to play house.  This was almost five years ago, and they still absolutely love to play house.  In fact, they love to play house so much, that they were frustrated that none of the kids here knew how to play house with them.  Well, after about 8 weeks of being here, our little missionaries got the children to play house with them.  The best way to explain this to you is through pictures.  


First, the kids went to the blanya (rice field) to cut the aros (rice). They were actually sitting in our path to our house.  The green things that they are pretending is rice are leaves from the tree that is giving them shade in the picture.  Jada and some of her friends climbed the tree and dropped the leaves down to the kids.  The kids then pulled the leaflets off and it became rice. That is what the girls in the blanya are doing.  



After the rice has been cut, they bring it home and start pounding it.  Pounding can be heard all throughout the village from morning till night these days. There are usually two or three women that pound rice in a rhythmic motion, sometimes there is even a fourth woman.  These girls had the rhythm and it sounded very real to the actual pounding sound.   


While they are pounding, they also pour it into a flat basket type bowl and shake it in a way to make all the shells come out so that only rice is left.  They then lay out the shells to dry. This is used as chicken food (I think).   This is Luciano (Josiah's closest friend here, he is also 8 years old), he has taken his shirt off so that the 'rice shells' could dry in the sun.  


Now they are pounding it more to break the remaining shells off the rice.  They often take breaks, so Lydia and Ramatoulli are now pounding so the other girls could rest.  Pounding is quite tiring and if your hands aren't calloused, you get blisters on your hands. It is really interesting to watch the women pound rice.  Sometimes (I believe to show off, or just have fun), when the stick is high in the air, they toss it up and clap and grab it again and pound down. 


Now the girls are starting their fire to start cooking their rice.  This is actually how the women here cook.  They have three large rocks that the pot will sit on, and they form the sticks in the middle of the rocks.  The sticks are their firewood and they push them in as the ends burn.  


Here is a better picture of the sticks.  This is actually what their moms do to start the fire.  



They are now cooking the rice (in the same pot they pounded in...that's not what the women do but the kids were being resourceful). 


Luciano is preparing the seasoning for the rice.  The women will pound garlic, onions, seasonings and many other things together for the seasoning they cook the rice in.  Micah was also adding 'salt' (sand) to the rice for seasoning.  


Isaiah is overseeing the cooking process, waiting anxiously to be a taste tester.  Micah's hand is seen here adding the 'salt' to the bianda (rice dish).  I got to 'taste' it and it was quite delicious.  


I was so blessed to see the kids playing this in our yard.  The kids were so happy throughout their playing.  Kids are not typically allowed to play like kids do.  They have learned and are continuing to learn that our compound is a safe place to play.  When I jumped in and was 'tasting' their food, they were so happy and it only encouraged them to play even more.  This was one of my favorite play activities to watch the kids do.  It blessed me just as much as it blessed our children.  

I would like to thank every person (kid, teenager, young adult and adult) that has come to our house and played house with our kids. You taught our kids to use their imaginations and today they are teaching other kids, that are constantly told to stop and be quiet, to use their imaginations.  Our children are able to be a blessing because of so many that have blessed us.  Thank you! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kids will be Kids


Kids are kids no matter where you live.  If one of our kids gets a cracker, the other four will come and ask for one.  If one kid gets a sucker, the other four want one, one gets to go somewhere, the other four will ask.  Today, we gave each of the Mane kids that were at our house a boneku (stuffed animal).  They all ran home filled with happiness to show off their bonekus.  Soon, a few returned with a child that didn’t get one.  They went home and then more returned with another child that didn’t get one.  They wanted to make sure that everyone got a boneku.  The same thing happens when they play at our house and one child asks for a drink.  The next thing we know, all of the children are at our door asking for a drink of water.  “N misti bibi yagu.” was one of the first phrases we learned here.  It means “I want a drink of water.”.  

As we have watched family life here, we have discovered that family life is similar no matter where you live.  There are differences such as money, things you own, where you live, and what your house looks like, but people are people no matter where you are.  Children in America want the latest and greatest toy, here, children want the latest and greatest piece of trash to play with.  The children look out for each other, they defend the small ones, the little girls want to be moms and boys want to be just like their fathers just as children do in America.  
So in the end we have learned kids are kids no matter where you live.

A Trip to the Well


Everyday in Catel brings something new.  Daily things are the same, such as drawing water, sweeping our yard (yes, I said sweeping our yard), cooking, sweeping the house, caring for our children as well as many of the village children, schooling our kids, and some of the village kids, our journey to the deep well for drinking water...I could go on, but lets talk more about the deep well.  Michael usually goes to the deep well on the bike with one child and a bucket strapped to the back of the seat.  Women usually go to the well to get their water and it is usually in the morning and in the evening. When Michael first started going, the women were upset that I (Karen) wasn’t going and Michael was.  They eventually accepted him getting the water, understanding that I was busy at home with the children. They now tell him he is a good man. The well is also usually quite busy in the morning and the evening and there is usually a long wait for your turn to pump water.  When Michael goes, he never knows what he will encounter.  On a recent trip, he came upon an argument. They were fighting who would go first to pump their water. The argument escalated into a fist fight which escalated into the women ripping each others clothes off and all out wrestling.   Michael tried to break up the fight along with all the other women at the well.  Their eyes were filled with rage, and no one was successful in breaking them up.  Michael decided to start pumping their water.  He figured this way, when they were done fighting, they would have water, which was what the fight was all about. He pumped six huge buckets of water before he filled his own and came home.  All the while, the fight carried on.   

One day, Michael was wearing his “I love my wife” shirt.  He went to the well to get our drinking water and there was a woman that could read english there.  She read his shirt, and asked Michael why he loved his wife.  He explained to her that he loves his wife because Christ first loved us. He continued the conversation by explaining that he truly loves and cares for me.  Here, there isn’t much love.  Wives are a necessity because they do all the work around the compound (house) and in the field, they produce children which equals money and status. Having a wife here is like owning property.  There is not a lot of love or trust, in fact, most men have multiple wives. The woman Michael was talking to could not believe that he actually loved me.  

On another trip, there was a dudu minjer (crazy lady) at the well.  Michael missed the most exciting time of her being there, but it was still exciting for him and Jada (who had joined Michael for the trip). The lady came up and was talking in all kinds of different languages, trying to take children, Jada included, and telling people they couldn’t get water.  Michael and Jada were already finished getting their water when she came, so they left.  Earlier though, this lady was guarding the well and not allowing anyone to get water.  One man came to get water (the women were all afraid of her, so they weren’t going to the well) and when he pumped his big bucket full, she told him he had to drink the entire thing right there. She also was naked until someone in the village gave her clothes to put on.  The story we were told later was that her and her husband made a deal with a demon to get rich, and they missed a payment, so she went crazy, or we believe is now demon possessed.  This is a common practice here, to make deals with demons.  They know this is a way to get rich, to curse people, have health, have a better life or to get anything they may want. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Konkoran Visits


Thursday, October 10

Today was a day filled with cultural experiences.  Let me start from the beginning.  It is 6:30 a.m. and the kids are waking up.  Adrienne is already in the kitchen making our morning coffee.  Micah ventures outside and other kids follow suit.  We hear a ‘yiyiyi’ yelp and clanging, Adrienne quickly tells the kids to get inside.  The konkoran has arrived.  The konkoran is a man dressed in a red suit that covers him from head to toe.  He sorta looks like Snuffy from Sesame Street, but the size of a man.  He comes out during celebrations and roams the village clanging together two machetes and yelping ‘yiyiyi’. People in the village (unbelievers) believe he is demon possessed.  In fact, if they believe someone is out to get your child, they can call on the Konkoran to come and scare the person that is out to get your child. This time in the morning, the Konkoran only passed by our house and went on to other houses in the village.  We have a gate, so he doesn’t enter our compound.  Our children were upset, but they quickly got into the groove of breakfast and school for the morning.  Around noon Michael went over to the clinic to see Gibby.  There Michael found out that Gibby and his family (the Mane’s) were having a festa today and we were all invited.  Our kids have become quite close with the Mane’s.  Everyday they play together and the Mane kids usually hang outside our door as we do school anxiously waiting for them to get done. Michael and I have also become friends with the Mane’s, so we were all excited to go and be a part of their festa, or party. We arrived there shortly after noon and Michael joined the men under a tree sitting, talking, drinking juice and eating cucumber salad.  I (Karen) joined the women in the kitchen (see a previous blog to read about a description of their kitchens).  The women were all laughing and chatting about the Konkoran.  They instantly wanted to know if I saw the Konkoran and if I had an experience with him.  I hadn’t so they proceeded to imitate him and laugh about as they jumped around and danced.  One of the women took a rice sack, shoved it in her wrap skirt and started whooping and dancing about making large gestures with her hands laughing hysterically, making us laugh with her.  Later, another woman grabbed two cups and started clanging them together and running at another lady.  They kept looking for the Konkoran, saying he was coming, and telling me that we would all need to run in the house when he comes.  That is what women and children do when the Konkoran comes around.  They run inside, shut the doors and be as silent as possible, all while the Konkoran scrapes his machetes against the door. Eventually the Konkoran will leave and the women and children will come back out.  The men don’t react too much to the Konkoran, well as far as we have seen.  The way we understand the Konkoran is that older men know who he is and are not afraid of him.  We were at the festa all afternoon and the Konkoran did not come visit us.  We all continued to visit, men under a tree, children running about and playing, and the women going between a shady area and the kitchen.  Aminata was cooking the rice dish for the party.  She was cooking in the biggest pot I have ever seen.  When she was done, they dished out the rice dish into 21 large bowls.  The men were served first, and they all had spoons to eat with, then the children were served, Micah had the only spoon, then the women were served, we ate with our right hands.  The food was delicious, it was rice with fish and onions. Sounds simple, but it was so good.  I left with Micah shortly after we ate because she wasn’t feeling well.  After I left, Michael and the other kids had quite the experience.  Someone saw a man all in red and the women and children started yelling and running for the houses.  Our kids were pulled and dragged inside and they were all crouching in the corner of a room.  Michael got up with the other men to go and look and what they saw made them laugh.  A man was up the path visiting at another house and he was wearing a red shirt and red shorts.  The women and children came out and everyone started going home, including Michael and the kids. Our children were a little worked up over this false alarm, but we did our best to calm them down and carry on with making dinner.  In the meantime, Micah got sick to her stomach, Lydia found out yet another friend was leaving Catel for school so she was pretty upset and wanting me to go to her house to take a picture, supper was burning and the other kids were clinging to our side worried the Konkoran was coming.  We were working at supper when Lydia comes running into the house urgently pleading with me to get my camera and go with her to our neighbors to take a picture of her and Fatima.  Lydia quickly explains that Fatima is leaving at 7:00 p.m., I look at the clock and it is 6:58.  I turn the stove off, grab my camera and run with Lydia to take the picture.  I was thinking this would be a two minute side track...what I forgot was nothing takes two minutes in Guinea Bissau.  I easily took the picture of Fatima and Lydia, snapped a few cute pictures of some children and turned to leave, however, I couldn’t leave.  The Konkoran was coming! I knew I would be stuck at their compound until the Konkoran passed by.  The Konkoran can stay for a few seconds or a few hours, it all depends on how long he wants to stay and scare people.  The women and children ran inside grabbing Lydia and Josiah, who had come with me, and all the children (excluding Lydia and Josiah) were screaming and crying.  I stayed out on the veranda watching the Konkoran.  He stood at the gate and clanked his machetes, but did not come in.  I had my camera hanging around my neck, so I snapped a few pictures without him knowing. He only stayed for a few minutes and then went on his way up the path, already having passed our house.  At this point we had to calm the children down and Lydia and Josiah were pretty worked up as well.  We helped get the little ones quieted down and then we came home. As soon as we got out of the gate, Josiah took off running, with his arms flailing, as fast as he could to get to our house. Lydia hugged Fatima, who was delayed in leaving because of the Konkoran, and we all came home.  Jada had joined us at some point during the chaos and she said about walking back to our house, “My knees are knocking!”. Michael was oblivious to everything that had happened because he was out back helping Micah.  By the time I got into the house, Michael was confused.  All he knew was Josiah came rushing into the house exclaiming with tears about our experience. I had Lydia and Jada with me, so they were excitedly sharing their view of the story as well.  We were trying to calm everyone down and explain to them that we have nothing to fear because we have Christ in us and God is bigger than the Konkoran. We changed the words of the song “God is Bigger than the Boogie Man” from Veggie Tales.  Our new version goes like this: God is bigger than the Konkoran, he’s bigger than red costumes and the people who believe. God is bigger than the Konkoran and he’s watching out for you and me.  We sang this many times last night. However, even with our song, the kids that saw the Konkoran were pretty worked up and still worried he would come back. Then enters Zane, hunched over, yipping as though he is the Konkoran.  This brings the other kids fleeing to Michael and my legs which soon turned into all of us filled with laughter as Zane pretends to be the Konkoran. Zane ends up laughing hysterically as well. I wish I could say the rest of our night was uneventful...well I guess it was compared to everything else, but it took a lot to keep the kids calmed down.  We ended up shutting up the entire house, praying with the kids, reading them a few chapters of Stuart Little and putting them to bed.  Oh and in case you wonder how Micah faired through the night, she slept all night with no problems. (I technically wrote this Friday morning...ha!)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Day in our Life in G.B.

Here is a look into our days here in G.B. from the eyes of Karen. 
We wake up about 6:30 every morning and get out of our rooms by 7.
Adrienne is usually in the kitchen by 6:40 or 7 making coffee so our
kids venture out of their rooms by then as well.  The house is small
with the girls door way to their room in the kitchen and a small hall
way to the right of the kitchen that has our bedroom and the boys
bedroom.  We get up and I start breakfast right away and Michael goes to get drinking water on the bike and then
he goes to the store for bread.  We buy bread every day but Sunday, sometimes Saturday we don't buy if they don't have any. One of the girls goes
and draws cooking water for me while I am cooking.  Our options for
breakfast is oatmeal, eggs (which are very very
expensive…we pay $6 for 30 eggs or 2 1/2 dozen), potatoes (which again
are very expensive and we run out of them quickly) or bread.  Today
the kids had toasted bread, we toasted it on the stove with peanut
butter.  After breakfast, the kids clean up the table and brush their
teeth.  Then we start on dishes and sweeping.  We sweep out the entire
house, then the breezeway, then the veranda, then the yard. 
By the time we get done with sweeping, if it's a mopping day, we mop,
if not then we relax a bit.  Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday,
Mai comes to wash our laundry.  Monday, Thursday is clothes, Wednesday
is towels, and Saturday is sheets.  She likes Wednesday's because it
is an easy day. We recently discovered that Jada is allergic to
the laundry detergent, so now her laundry is being done separately as
well.  Laundry takes several hours, which is why we pay someone to do
it.  I think I could keep up with it right now, but once we start
school, there would be no way I could keep up.  It takes Mai about 4
hours to wash our clothes on Mondays and Thursdays, about 2 hours for
towels and 3 hours for sheets.  We eat lunch around 1 every day 
so I start cooking that around noon.  In
the afternoon, I try to work on language a bit or rest and then Monday
through Friday we have language lessons at 3 for an hour and a half.
After language lessons, recently Gibby has been having Michael and I
and whatever kids follow go to his compound to jumbai (hangout).  I
usually work with the ladies while Michael sits around with the guys
talking.  One time when we went over the ladies were pounding
rice.  It was the rice from the field that I helped weed, so that was
neat.  Gibby came back and video
taped us doing it, then he came back
saying he didn't save it so we did it again. I cook
Sunday nights, Monday nights because it's our family night, all the
other missionaries go to Dave and Delores's house to eat and Tuesday
night I cook for all of us at the house.  This past Monday, I made
pancakes.  It was delicious and easy.  Usually we have rice or
noodles.  Every meal actually includes rice, noodles or bread. 

I hope this helps give you a glimpse of life here each day.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ants In My Pants!

There are so many new things we are having to get used to.  Some more common things are drawing water for drinking, washing, cooking, pretty much anything you would need water, having not a lot of electricity, being dirty and hot all the time.  What I didn't think about having to deal with is ants in our pants.  I grew up with that saying meaning you couldn't sit still.  Here, it literally means ants are in your pants and biting you! Several of us have encountered this, and there is definitely some dancing around that goes on.  Isaiah got ants in his pants and he starts dancing around and screaming and of course all the children that had been playing in our yard with the kids come running.  I realize that he has ants in his pants and the local children start motioning for us to take his clothes off...so off with his clothes.  Somebody then throws water on him and all the ants are gone.  Isaiah is then left with about 20 bits all over his bottom and waste.  Thinking back to it now, I am laughing with how hilarious it was, but in the moment I was not seeing the humor in the situation.  We have named the ants, killer ants.

Something else that I never thought I would see is my husband walking hand in hand with another man.  We were walking to someone's compound (house) for lunch when I looked back and there was Michael walking with his friend, hand in hand, fingers interlocked.  In this culture, that is how you walk with your friend, it's a show of friendship.

Since it is the rainy season right now, there are bugs everywhere.  We like to get everyone showered before it gets dark because once its dark, the bugs come out in massive numbers.  I was showering, which involves pouring water on your head from a bucket, when all of a sudden there was something munching on my back.  I started yelping and of course that is heard throughout the 'neighborhood'.  Our kids started yelling, mommy mommy are you okay?! Michael comes to the door and I'm begging him to get it off of me.  Michael laughs hysterically and tells me there is nothing on my back.  I, however, was convinced it was still having supper on my back.  It left me with just a tiny little red spot.

There are so many different experiences we are having, some good and some not so good, but we are so thankful that we get to have this experience.  I will leave you with what blessed us yesterday.

We were coming to Ziguinchor, Senegal and needed to pick up transport in a little city named Sao Domingos.  What we didn't think about is that it was market day, which means transports are constantly going and they get filled quite quickly.  We wanted a specific transport that is called a sept plas, it is a car that holds seven people plus the driver.  We had to wait quite a long time and the kids were getting so hungry.  It was after 11, we left our house at 9, and we, being the wonderful parents we are (sarcasm), forgot to bring food.  Isaiah was asking for food and then all the kids started asking.  There was a lady sitting behind Micah eating a sandwich and the kids noticed this yummy looking sandwich and were asking us in English if we had any food.  She must've understood and broke off half of her sandwich and gave it to Isaiah to eat.  He naturally shared with all of his siblings and they hungrily devoured it.  She got so much joy out of watching them eat it.  Micah just kept smiling at her and the lady ripped off a little piece and gave it to her.  Isaiah walked over and asked Micah for a bite and the lady laughing, waved her finger and said no no no.  Then, when she had just a little bit left she ripped off a tiny piece and gave it to Isaiah.  The kids were all so thankful for her.  We called her our angel sent from God.  She allowed our wait to be more bearable.  I also believe that she found joy out of our kids.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A week in review

We arrived at our house on Wednesday and we’ve already made friends and are having
a lot of fun. We sleep under mosquito nets and have to spray them with bug spray
every once in a while to keep bugs away. I think Africa can be hot or cold. In the rainy
season somedays it’s cold and somedays it’s hot. In the dry season it is very very hot
and it’s very dry. Africa has two seasons the dry season and the rainy season. You have
to sweep your house every day or else it will get very very dirty which isn’t that good.
When we wash our clothes we have to hand wash them by hand and we have to draw
our water to wash our clothes. Once we have washed our clothes we have to hang it on
the clothesline to let it dry. There is no electricity unless you have a solar panel that
gives you electricity. I like Africa so far. To go to the bathroom you go into an outhouse
and check for snakes, especially at night, shut the door and you have to take a concrete
block off of the squatty potty and you have to squat down and go. Every day we take a
quiet time to stay in our rooms and do something quietly by ourselves. Learning kirol
isn’t as hard as you think, it is pretty easy. I am glad we are here. Es sta bon. (It is
good). Bon tardi! (Good afternoon) ~Lydia

My mommy is making food. I had a great day. Jada is helping make dinner too. My
brothers are playing soccer with their friends. My daddy took a nap today. I helped my
mom make lunch today and I took quiet time. Yesterday, I played with my friends. My
daddy is silly. My brothers and sisters are silly. Andrew and Jada are making rice. It’s
almost time to eat. I played today. I played with my doll in the water. ~Micah

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

No Goodbyes Allowed

I am enjoying one of my last quiet mornings here in America.  In less than a week we leave to serve in Guinea Bissau, West Africa.  It seems like it has just been a thought, but now it is reality.  We have been talking about this and visiting churches sharing about this, and now, the moment is coming upon us.  We are taking our kids, and moving to a third world country where we know God wants us to serve.  I am thankful for how God has provided. It is only by Him that we are able to leave.  However, in the midst of my thankfulness, there's a wee bit of timidity.  I am reminded with the word timidity of Paul telling Timothy not to have a spirit of timidity. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline 1 Timothy 1:7. 

Our prayer is that God will go before us, behind us, all around us, above us and below us.  That is a prayer from our time at Oasis that has stuck with me.  There are so many people we want to express our love and thankfulness to.  We are praying that God helps us to communicate that to everyone. We are so thankful that 5 years ago, God introduced us to this community that we have lived in, and this church family that is so dear to our hearts. We are so thankful for the relationships that have been built here and all the people that have been such a blessing to all of us.  

Saying goodbye is hard.  Not a single person in this Baker Beans family wants to say goodbye. No goodbyes are allowed, we want to say "see you later" instead.  So, if you read this and you are one of the persons that we will be seeing in the next week, please don't say goodbye, lets say "see you later".  

~Karen


Saturday, August 10, 2013

What are our kids thinking?

As we prepare for our move to Guinea Bissau, our kids have been walking through the emotions of leaving home just like we have been. Here are some of those thoughts from our kids:

Isaiah: I like my lego set that is x-wing, but I lost Jed Porkins behind the wall.  Daddy thinks he got him out, but I know he's still back there.  I want my Daddy to buy me a new lego set that is really small so I can bring it to Africa.  I really like legos.

Lydia: I can't wait to go to Africa, but I am going to miss all my friends.  When I come back, I will probably have lots of stories to tell.  Here's a story from now. This week, our storage lockers came from UPS and they all came in really big boxes.  We had three big boxes all together.  Mom let us use them as houses.  Mine is the only one that has survived. I cut a window in mine and made a porch.  I locked my front door, so now to get into my house, I have to climb through the window.  I like that we got these boxes, not just because mommy and daddy can pack more, but because now we have these great boxes to play in!  


Lydia in her box house.  

Josiah: A couple days ago was my birthday and I got three new lego sets.  One was a dirt bike, one a trash can and one a star wars.  I am excited for the plane because I can play with some of my legos. 

Micah: I am going to miss my friends when I go to Africa soooooo much, but I am excited to go.  I am excited to fly in the airplane.  Mommy has been packing my carry on bag.  I have a bag of cookies in there, and I have a bag of crayons so I can color and I have my polly pockets to play with and my playdoh and I'm going to bring my blankie.  I have a little neck rest thing so when I go to sleep I will be comfy this way and comfy that way, left and right.  


Micah with her 'neck rest thing'.  

Jada didn't have any words to share at this time.  Maybe she will think of something later and want to write her own blog.  She is a girl of few words but loves to read many.

We hope you enjoyed hearing from our kids in this post.  They have new thoughts and ideas about our move to Guinea Bissau almost everyday.  Some days they are sad and don't want to go, but then some days they are so excited they just want to get on the plane that day.  I am sure as our house gets more and more empty, it will become more and more real for them.

We appreciate the prayers that many of you are praying daily for our family.  We can feel God's arms wrapped around us.  It is only by God's grace that our kids have been continually adjusting to what is happening around them.  We are blessed through this whole process.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Saying Goodbye

Our church had a going away celebration for our family, it was such a meaningful time for all of us.  People shared words with us, that just brought floods of tears from our eyeballs. We wanted to share some of it with all of you.

Here's a video of one of our students singing a song that she dedicated to us.  She blessed us through this song, we hope you enjoy it too.  Yes, that's a ukelele!



During the Sunday school hour, there was a Safari Fun Fair for the kids.  They all had so much fun...alright so did I.  It was amazing all they had set up for the kids to do, they had face painting, a photo booth, amazing snacks, a craft table where they made bracelets out of twizzlers, and lots of games.   I (Karen) followed the kids around like a paparazzi, here's a glimpse into their fun.

The photo booth was set up with dress up accessories for the kids to use.  
These are our little jungle animals and safari ready kids.

This is a friend of ours and her precious baby.  He is a birthday buddy of our Lydia.  

Here's a couple of cute little butterflies. This is just an example of the face painting booth, there were also zebras, cheetahs, tigers and so much more. 



Just a glimpse at all the games, so much fun!



The girls with their friends.

We had a fellowship meal after church and it was all TACOS! Our church knows us. I should've taken a picture of the food, but I did get a picture of this amazing cake. It was not only great looking, it was yummy too!

We had the opportunity to share a little as well.   

It has been an honor and a blessing to serve at CMF these last 4.5 years. We have learned so much and would not trade this last season for anything. We were stretched and challenged, we grew and were a part of something special with the youth and our team during this season of life. We are sad to close this season but excited that CMF is sending us to Africa and is a partner in this new season God is sending us on. We know it will be a very different season with new joys and challenges, but we know God is in all things. If our God is with us and leading us then we shall have no fear and run into this next season.



Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Quiet Mornings

Something I have enjoyed tremendously since we have gotten home is quiet mornings. Sitting on our porch, with my Bible, my journal and my coffee, spending time with the only One that matters.  Today, though was extra special.  God woke me up at 4:00 a.m. with a child that needed something. After we got him back in bed, I desperately tried to fall back to sleep.  Michael also, couldn't quite go back to sleep.  He got up at 5:00 to go to prayer with some other men, so I decided to come downstairs to spend some quiet time with God.  Well, my quiet time with God was not what I expected at all.  It was better than I could've expected.  I got to spend time with Him and then He led me to have a conversation with an incredible young lady.  I had brought my phone out with me because I was checking a different version of a scripture reference and my phone showed that this young lady was on Facebook.  Well, we started talking and God just dropped down into the middle of our conversation.

We can keep ourselves so busy or self-consumed that we miss what God is putting in front of us.  This has happened to me so many times, I am sure. I am praising God that he slowed me down this summer and showed me how to listen to Him and His promptings. This is something I think God is preparing me for when we serve in Guinea Bissau.  Interruptions will become a common occurrence. I love quiet mornings, but I am so blessed by the sweet interruptions. My word to you is be open to God's interruptions.  Be willing to put aside what your agenda is and listen to the promptings from God, His whisper in the storm.

Karen

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Christmas in July


What did we do the week we were in Indiana? Christmas in July of course! 


 Karen's mom surprised us with a tree. 


Grandma played Christmas carols on the piano and we sang along.  


Grandma had ornaments for us to decorate. The kids really enjoyed the glittery glue and gluing ribbons to their ornaments.  


Grandma helping Micah with her ornament. 


Grandma made popcorn for them to string.  


I think more popcorn was eaten than strung... 


...but we did get some strung. 


Our beautiful tree all decorated.




The kids were quite proud of their tree.  


A little goofiness for the camera.  




We had given Grandma a box of our old t-shirts a while ago that we saved for a quilt.  We were thinking one quilt, well, we got four! 



We have two pictured here, but they were all beautiful.  Grandma did different themed quilts. The purple one pictured above, is Karen's and the one pictured left is Michael's.  This was very special to us.  Let's be honest...Michael cried...alright, I had tears too.  







Grandma got Jada a sewing kit, so she is now our official family mender.  Grandma was, but our mending pile would grow quite high in Guinea Bissau, so Jada has now moved into that role with her sewing kit.  Grandma made Micah's doll, Molly, an African skirt out of tie & dye material from the women of Catel, Guinea Bissau (pictured above right). The boys got some cars that they will easily be able to take on the plane and Lydia got a gift certificate to buy some books for her kindle.  These were not typical Grandma gifts (usually she makes something similar for all the grandkids), but they were all very practical gifts for our new move.  


All five kiddos with Grandma. This was a very memorable day from our visit to Indiana. Thank you Grandma for making this special for us.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What is faith?

Faith is believing. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? The truth is, it’s not that simple. Faith is hard, it's tough. Faith is knowing that when your Grandma passes away, it was God’s plan. God wanted to take Grandma home. Faith is recognizing the blessing it was to have Grandma for 33 years of my life. Faith is knowing that having surgery three days after you bury your Grandma is God’s perfect timing. Faith is resting in the chaos of having to go to World Missions Institute 10 days after your surgery. Faith is believing God is in control when your mom has to have heart surgery on the only Friday you have free in a 6 week block of time. Faith is knowing her recovery is in our Creator’s hands. Faith is not easy. Faith is choosing to follow God even when it is hard. Faith is knowing that God is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 

All of those experiences I have listed happened in less than two months. Walking with the Lord, is not easy. There will be trials, there will be temptations, but with faith, we keep on persevering. James 1:2-3 says this: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. I am thankful for the trials we have gone through. I am thankful for how my faith has grown in those trials. My mom having heart surgery was the icing on the cake, so to speak. Losing my Grandma was one of the most difficult things I have ever walked through, losing my mom would have been devastating. God was with me. He never left my side. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” I know that God was also with my mom. He never left her and he never will. His big arms are wrapped around her and His hands have been healing her. It is through faith, that these trials draw me closer to God. I encourage you to keep persevering.  Keep pressing on. 

Faith is why we are leaving everything we know, everything our children know, everything we love, to serve God in Guinea Bissau.  We want the people of Guinea Bissau to know God the way we know God.  We want them to experience the same joy and peace we experience. Our God is a mighty God, He is a strong God. 

In all those things, we had faith, and now, we are having faith that we will be fully funded in order to go and serve in Guinea Bissau this August. We are at 86%, we have to be at 100% to go.  We have faith that God will provide our last 14%.  

I leave you with these questions...What is faith? Do you have faith?

Karen

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lydia's thoughts

Lydia wanted to be a guest writer for our blog, so here it is. Short and sweet, but it's her heart.  

We have finished training and we are at my grandmas house. I love the thought of going to Africa. The more we talk about it the more I get excited about going. I can't wait to finish our fundraising so we can go. I don't like the thought of leaving my friends but I have to. If I want to listen to God I have to go. Please help us with our fundraising. We just need 16% so we can go!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Yay Duck, Yuck Duck

We have now finished our month long training at World Missions Institute.  Throughout this past month, we have learned through many speakers about basic theory, real life experiences, case studies, cultural experiences and we've heard a variety of spiritual journeys. The most impactful part of WMI for us was when we watched the EE-taow video (more here ) and the next day, Mark Zook came to speak to us, and I am sure none of us wanted him to stop. He shared with all of us how he and his family went to a remote tribe that had never seen white people before and proceeded to learn their language and culture and then began to teach them about Jesus Christ. He took us through the things they did in order to establish a ‘ground’ to share the gospel.  The first thing we need to do is learn the language and culture of Guinea Bissau before we can do anything.  That was a central theme of our entire four weeks.  We want to form relationships with the people and know them well, so that when we do have opportunities to share, it can be in their context and in a language they understand. 

Beyond the teachings at WMI, we built friendships with some great people.  We lived together, ate together, worshiped together, prayed over each other and our children did all of those things with their friends.  We are connected.  When we had to say goodbye on Saturday, tears couldn't help but be shed.  Some of the people we were with, are not with EMM and we may not see them again.  God touched each of us in a different way, but he worked in all of us so powerfully.  It was a blessing to be able to pray over our friends, and to bond with missionaries that will serve all over the world.  We had a hymn sing one evening. It was the first time Michael or I had been a part of a hymn sing, and we really enjoyed it. 



Our kids had a wonderful four weeks too. The childcare workers that took care of them were just phenomenal. They were all so creative, enthusiastic, loving and caring.  Our children were loved and they taught them so much.  They have all these wonderful songs they know, one of our children learned how to swim, they played games, did crafts, field trips, just so many things.  The best way to show you is through pictures.  



Settlers of Catan was the favorite game of the month.  At any given point during free time, kids could be found playing, and when the kids were sleeping, the guys were playing.  

The kids got to go to a dairy farm where Josiah milked a cow.  


Here they are playing a game and they are doing an Indian in a teepee.  


This is the older kids class. They all had a blast together.  

That is a glimpse into our kids life these past four weeks.  Like I said before this was a wonderful experience for all of us.  We are all so thankful for the things we have learned.  Oh, one last thing we learned, yay duck and yuck duck.  They are a pair of ducks, or a paradox.  Each day, we all get to say one thing that was good about the day, the yay duck, and one thing that was bad about the day, the yuck duck.  Our prayer is that this will help our kids to know that it is okay to have things go badly, but also to be able to see the good in it.  This was an idea that was told to us from another WMI participant that learned it from another missionary.  We loved it, so we are adopting it for our family.  Yay duck for today, we got to spend the day with family. Yuck duck for today, we had to say goodbye to my aunt this morning.  What are your yays and yucks for today? 





Saturday, June 29, 2013

Experiences

We just finished our third week of World Missions Institute.  We are shocked at how fast it has been going. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of what we are doing.  


Our first Sunday we went to a church service being led by the Karen people of Burma. The service was done in their language and translated into English.  





We went on Father's Day which is a very important day in their culture.  All the fathers age 45 or older were escorted to the front by the young girls and given a gift and a handmade necklace. The fathers under 45 sat in the front pews and were presented with handmade necklaces.  


The second week, we visited a mosque.  My previous blog has more details about the mosque visit. 







While we were at the mosque, the kids got to play in the sprinkler.  



This week, we had language training.  The language we got to practice with was Uzbek. Let me tell you, I am so thankful Creole is an easy language to learn! Languages are in groups based on how difficult the language is.  Creole is a group one! 


One night this week, we had a cultural experience.  They 'took' us to Swaziland to experience a church service.  Typically church services would last all night, but ours only lasted 2 hours.  


This picture is difficult to see, but he is holding a stick that has a cross at the top.  He would pray and start singing and we kinda had to guess what was going on.  It really gave us a good idea of what it will be like for us when we are in Guinea Bissau and don't understand Creole yet.  The experience was pretty amazing though, and the Holy Spirit took over.  




By the time we are done with our classes, we are all so tired we have to find something to relax with.  Puzzles have been a hit! Here is Michael with some of his friend, Kosti, LaVonne, and Ted.  

We had two great surprises this week too.  We had a friend stop by to visit Wednesday night and our kids got a package from their friends at church.  Both of those things were such blessings to us! 

I hope this gives you a good glimpse into our life here at WMI.  We have thoroughly enjoyed it and cannot believe we only have a week left.  Thank you everyone for all the prayers you have covered us with and for everyone that is financially supporting us.  We could not be doing anything of this without your help! 

If you still want to donate to help us to get to Guinea Bissau, there is a link on the right side of this page.  Thank you for everyone for all your support! 







Saturday, June 22, 2013

World Missions Institute

Well, here I am sitting in a dark room with a little nightlight and the glow from my computer. I see a sick child laying on a cot like bed on our floor, right next to the bathroom of course and a exhausted husband drifting in and out next to me in bed. He just got done cleaning up from our sick child and now we are just praying that this bug doesn't continue through our family. We are at World Missions Institute where we are learning about being missionaries in a different culture. That really isn't even a good description of what we are learning about. We have had Old Testament Foundations and World Religions by a phenomenal speaker and person, David Shenk, New Testament Foundations by yet again another wonderful speaker and person, James Krabill, we've learned about Healing Ministry, Discipling, Evangelizing, and learning about the Islam faith. We visited a mosque on Friday. That was quite interesting. The muslim people are so friendly and hospitable. The thing we have learned is the Islam faith is closely related to Christianity. One difference is they don't ever know if they will actually enter paradise. Christianity offers a relationship with Christ and promises us a place in heaven. Christianity has hope, whereas the Islam faith is lacking hope. I noticed that all the women were covered except their hands and their face. Their dress even came down to the floor and only when they walked did you see their feet. I just got this sense that it was almost as if women were sinful because of the beauty they have. As though if a man would lust after them, it would not be the mans fault but the woman's fault for not being modest enough or covering herself enough. I feel like the Islam faith is favorable towards men. With that being said, that is only my opinion from observation. I have not read the Qur'an, so I do not know what it says regarding women. It is now morning, I had too many distractions last night to finish this blog. World Missions Institute (WMI) has been such a great experience. We have learned a lot, like I mentioned above, and we have also made great friends. There are 18 kids here and 22 adults. It is so nice to be with such a great group of people. We are all like-minded, we are all leaving everything we know, we are all leaving our loved ones and our church, and what I love is that all our kids are with other kids that are doing the same thing. They have found friendship in commonality. All of their friends are doing the same thing in going someplace they haven't been, and having to learn everything new...language, culture, friends. They are even sharing sickness. :) The sweet thing is that the kids are concerned for one another and pray for each other. This is such a wonderful group of kids at WMI. The kids have a class that they go to while we are in our sessions. Their classes include worship, devotions, games, crafts, field trips, outside activities and so much more. Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) has a third culture kid (TCK) coach that talks with the older kids and gives them a chance to talk about their thoughts, fears, expectations etc. The kids look forward to going to their class and Jada and Lydia get bummed when Saturday comes and they have no class. Some difficulties that have come up during WMI has been sickness. It seems to be going through people quick, which is good. The other hard thing is our washer and dryer have died in our house. The washer never worked from when we got here. It would wash the clothes but not spin them, so we said that God was preparing us for Guinea Bissau. Then the dryer died. We are thankful for these difficulties. When we are in Guinea Bissau, life will not be perfect. Hardships will arise and we will need to adapt, and rely on God. We are thankful for these small preparations. God is good...ALL the time. Here is a picture of our home here at WMI
If you would like to help us to get to Guinea Bissau please click this link to EMM Please be sure to designate your gift to Michael and Karen Baker. Thank you so much for supporting our family and our ministry in Guinea Bissau!! Since we have been here at WMI we are so excited to get there! We only need 17%!!!! Every little bit helps!