Sunday, August 29, 2010

'Things you don't want to know' for $100, Alex.

I'm a selfish, tight-fisted person by nature.  Ouch!  I didn't  know that until I threw a tantrum over my kid's cell phone bill some years ago.  It hurt her feelings and troubled me deeply.

Along the way, eventually, I heard a different tune about my 'tightfisted' heart ...  

Proverbs 21:26 ... the righteous gives without sparing.

Luke 6:34  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend, expecting to be repaid in full.

1 Timothy 6:18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

Deuteronomy 15:7 ... do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.  Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs.

Matthew 5:42  Give to him that asks in need, and from him that would borrow from you, turn not away.


On a cruise with wife and family, I was reminded of the ease of our lifestyle compared to so many of those whom we know and love.

Elsewhere in our career travels, we've seen how the reality of rural poverty limits the lives of folks so painfully.  Forced to choose between educating their kids, getting some health help, or eating, life is more than difficult.  It's devastating.

I'm having an increasingly difficult time being willing to continue this path of ease.

Fortunately, my wife is a gracious and generous soul with simple needs who encourages me.  We live simply and have no great financial difficulties.  The only real difficulty we have these days is sorting and deciding among all the real needs our Father has given us opportunity to see.

We have dear friends scattered across Africa, some in the drought and famine areas of Djibouti and Kenya.

The boys here in their new school shirts are among the kids we've agreed to sponsor for school costs.  Fine fellows all.

They might as well be our own children and family.  What do we do next, Father?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

AUG '10 - Back in Africa

In country for a couple of weeks work, I made time at the end of the day to visit friends. Just a few minutes from my work site, this is the first family I met here back in '07. Poppa shows me the site for his daughter and son-in-law's new house. My Portuguese remains inadequate, but I think he said they were just married this year.

It will be a simple home, perhaps 300 sq ft. Water is available less than 10 minutes away. Having family nearby is a big deal, of course. In the collage left, the young couple carries wood from the sawmill for the project.

On the right, Poppa's youngest and my first friend in Africa (and our fourth grade scholar) enjoys summer vacation. School starts in October here. She's been making good grades all along and actually enjoys school.

We're tied to five families here now with twelve or so of their children in school. This last school year went well and all of our kids passed on to the next grade. Our oldest boy passed the critical sixth grade standard achievement test, which is quite a big deal. It means he gets to go on the the 7th grade. The test has about a 70% failure rate marking the end of education for most. The next big hurdle is at the end of the 9th grade. Only a few children go on to finish high school.

Aug 26, 2010

With photos from our time together a few months ago (photo, right) and some books from Lisbon, my friends here are part of a large family of fine folks. Grandma adopted me awhile back and the rest of the family has made a place for me. Books in Portuguese are an appreciated gift; there's no outlet in the country where they can buy new books and the libraries are minimally helpful. Most manufactured goods come by plane or ship to this isolated country.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back to where I left my heart...

Given a hurry-up task in Sao Tome, we threw together a plan and coordinated with the folks we hope to serve there.  A bit of a scramble; visas stalled in the embassy while the ambassador was out of the US for two weeks; had to drive to DC to pick up our passports with the visas finally approved on the day before our flights.

In spite of the flail, we're glad for the chance to go.  We work with fine folks on important capabilities that help their country in practical ways.  Fisheries enforcement is on the top of the list in my estimation; the little country is being robbed of millions by international companies who fish illegally in African waters.  The declining fish populations make it hard for local fishermen to feed their communities.

Arrived at the airport already tired; now just 36 hours of airplanes and airports to go. Dulles, London, Lisbon, then Sao Tome.

We expect to land in Africa the morning of 20 Aug.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We're here for a short visit...


"Strange is our situation here upon earth.  Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes  seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know.  That we are here for the sake of others... for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected... by a bond of sympathy."

Einstein's oft quoted declaration points to what so many of us fear about ourselves; that perhaps we're selfish and deliberately blind to the condition of our fellow man.

Could it be that we that we complain about our "rich man's problems" such as our supermarket's lack of good avocados or the rising cost of a good education? Then we neither feel nor say anything about our brother in Pakistan who lost everything in the flood last week. He lost his home, his livelihood, his wife and children. Or how about the African father who weeps because his children are undernourished and he has no power to feed them better?

"We are not in control. We can't change things," one sweet friend said to me yesterday.

Actually, she does change things. Although confined to a wheelchair, she travels with a group to Africa every year accompanying a shipment of things that help communities there. They work all year, collecting goods, then they go to the most difficult places and live in the communities, teaching and helping and dispensing love unconditionally. :) She and her friends at  Casa Fiz do Mundo are on my short list of heroes.

"Estranha é nossa situação aqui na Terra. Cada um de nós vem para uma curta visita, sem saber porquê, mas às vezes parecendo um propósito divino. Do ponto de vista da vida cotidiana, porém, há uma coisa nós sabemos: que estamos aqui para o bem dos outros ... pelas incontáveis almas desconhecidas com cujo destino estamos ligados ... por um vínculo de simpatia."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Married at age 11...

The image here is one of a series of photos about child marriages taken between 2005 and 2007 in Afghanistan, Nepal and Ethiopia.

The groom, Mohammed, is 40 years old and the bride, Ghulam, is still a child; she has just turned 11.

UNICEF estimates that about half of Afghan women are married before they turn 18. In Afghanistan, most parts of South Asia, Southern Africa and other regions, marriage is often seen as a business transaction that has nothing to do with personal desires. In this process, the bride is the article of trade – the younger she is, the higher the bride price.

“What are you feeling today?” Ms. Sinclair recalled asking Ghulam with regard to her engagement.
“Nothing,” the bewildered girl answered. “I do not know this man. What am I supposed to feel?”

UNICEF Germany ‘Photo of the Year’ raises awareness about early marriage

NEW YORK, USA, 24 December 2007 – US photographer Stephanie Sinclair is the winner of this year’s ‘Photo of the Year’ competition presented by the German National Committee for UNICEF.

There are so many versions of child abuse. From kidnapping and sale to families giving their daughters as child brides to satisfy a debt they owe. The list is horrifying to consider in terms of individuals.

Child Trafficking

UNICEF-EC programme gives a second chance to a would-be child bride in India

NEW YORK, USA, 22 April 2010 – Bablu, 15, lives with her family in a small village in rural Rajasthan. She was 13 when her community decided she should be married. “I did not want to get married,” she said. “I thought my life would be completely ruined.”