Kids’ Education

It has been an interesting year for the kids’ education. While we are in the United States right now to be with my mom, the kids are going to school. Earlier in the year when we were on Home Assignment and were in the U.S., the kids missed school in South Africa. But, because we moved around and it was U.S. summer, they did not go to school here. Instead, the did some maths from their South African school. And, we had some guided reading theme weeks. One week was on the Civil War. Both kids picked a book from the Civil War week as being a favorite from the summer. Here are their book reviews:

Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith. (review by Isaac)

It’s a book about a boy who lives on the Kansas-Missouri border and Bushwackers (Confederate gorilla fighters) attack his farm and he signs up with the Union infantry and then is drafted into the cavalry. But, he has a Confederate girlfriend. At some point, he accidentally ends up fighting for the Confederates. I really liked the way this book looked at the Civil War from the point of a soldier who had fought on both sides. Plus, it was a really good book.

Charlie Skedaddle by Patricia Beatty (review by Sophia)

It’s a book about a boy whose brother died fighting in the Battle of Gettysburg. One day he sneaks onto a ship and joins the army as a drummer boy. One day he goes into battle with other troops and when he sees two friends gunned down mercilessly he shoots a soldier. Then he skedaddles into the mountains because he thinks he killed a soldier. So the book is about how he survives in the mountains. I liked it because it shows how war affects people.

The Diverse Body of Christ

Today was All Saints Sunday. It is one of my favorite days of the church year. It is a day to remember all of those joined in Christ – those who are newly baptized, those who have gone on before us, and all of those in between.

This year, I am in the United States to be with my mom. And yet in the midst of that, I am also thinking of the Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) serving in southern Africa. I started to think about this day through their eyes.

Many of them have known a certain location and a certain group of people for all of their lives. Each of them has some diversity in this story. And yet, for the most part, the faces and stories they have known have not included the lives of Southern Africans. But now this year, the lives and stories they know do include those from southern Africa. In fact, they know more than faces. They know their laughter and joys. They know their frustrations and challenges. They know their landscape and their surroundings. And this makes me wonder, what do these YAGM now see differently? If they now know more fully the people of God in the world, how might they now see and know God differently? How is this year, with the saints in southern Africa, changing their understanding of who God is?

These are questions for all of us. What is the face of God? Who is around us that is showing us more about God? How do we see more fully the vastness of the body of Christ in the world?

For Everything There Is A Seaon

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die – Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a

The Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program year is underway. It began with the new group arriving on August 22nd. As far as I was concerned, this was to be a “normal” year. For you see, my first year was of course, my first year. And so, it was a year of learning. And in the midst of that year, Jon had some health challenges and we spent some weeks in the United States. My second program year was the year of Home Assignment. Not only did we do the regular YAGM work, but we also spent 3 months in the United States. That was certainly not a “normal” pattern. So this year, was supposed to be “normal.” I wanted to make my plan for YAGM and to follow it. No interruptions.

Ha! Life does not work that way. For everything there is a season. And this season is about my mom. She has had brain cancer for 5.5 years. Way longer than expected. But soon after we returned to South Africa in July, we found out that her tumor was growing again and options were limited.

Recently, things took a turn for the worse. My mom had a stroke or seizure and was taken to the emergency room. She was near death and we quickly booked our plane tickets. We arrived late September, expecting a rather short trip for the end of my mom’s life. But she is tenacious. And she is not done living. She has rallied and stabilized. She went from a regular hospital room to palliative care and now to a nursing home.

At the nursing home, they are able to give my mom the physical care that we cannot do on our own as a family. She is also receiving some physical therapy. There are days where she mostly sleeps. And there are days where she is quite interactive. It is an interesting season. I came here for one thing and now it is another.

So what do we do? Flights between the United States and South Africa are very expensive so do not want to return to South Africa only to have to return soon to the United States. An active brain cancer diagnosis is not one where one would expect lots of time. And yet, my mom has proven doctors wrong time and time again.

We don’t know how this will all work. We did decide to enroll the kids in school here inthe United States so that they get some structure and stimulation. They begin tomorrow. Jon continues his Luther Seminary classes. I spend a lot of time with my mom and keep up the essentials of my job that I can do remotely. Other than that, we take it day by day. I guess that’s all we can do.

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After flying in some really large planes, the plane for the flight from Chicago to Fargo stood out as being pretty small.

 

“Big Questions”

During the Close of Service retreat with the YAGM (Young Adults in Global Mission participants) in July, we did an exercise I call “Big Questions.” I suggest that their YAGM year has churned up all kinds of questions for them. Some are new questions. Some were maybe there before but have now gotten more intense or are now more real.

For the exercise, I have them write these big life or theology question on post-it notes. They can write on as many post-it notes as they want as long as they just do one question per page. Then, they take turns reading their questions and posting them on the wall (or this year, on the big window in our living room). We talk about the questions. And in there, my point is that these are indeed big questions. They aren’t going to get resolved today. The questions are so big that the young adults might spend their whole lives in search of answers.

Our world often speaks differently. It will tell us that questions have answers that can be found quickly if you just look. Sometimes the world will tell us that there is something wrong with us if we haven’t found an answer when we have looked. But some questions can’t be answered in a small box. Many of these questions come from a longing for justice and peace and everything being right with the world. These young adults have spent a year deepening their understandings of marginalization. They have kept company with people that the world has kept on the edges. They know what these questions taste like, feel like, sound like. They understand the ache of injustice. And they know a God of deep love and compassion. And they are trying to figure out how all this goes together and how they can be a part of it.

So what are young adults today asking? They are asking hard-hitting justice questions. What does it mean to believe? Why isn’t there justice? Why is there hunger? What am I to do about injustice? Where is God in all of this?

A year in YAGM in Southern Africa gives their questions new thrust and urgency. And now, these young people are back in the United States. Asking the same questions. And new questions. Are they in your midst? If they are, ask them about their questions. They are good ones. Maybe you are someone with these questions. I think we need to start asking them together. We need to get agitated that the questions are so big and so important. And maybe in asking them together, we might begin to see anew.

"Big Questions"

“Big Questions”

The New YAGM

The new YAGM are here! More things to share. But for now, take delight in who they are. And, please pray for them as they settle in their new communities.

John, Adwoa, Dave, Caity, Brett, Brittani, Emmeline, Mae Helen, Hannah

John, Adwoa, Dave, Caity, Brett, Brittani, Emmeline, Mae Helen, Hannah

Home

Hello happy followers. Just wanted to let you know that we are home. The last travel day had some delays. But even though we didn’t get home on schedule, we got home. The kids are elated and the parents are tired. And we’re all cold. It’s winter here. We weren’t quite ready for that weather adjustment.

We’ll post more as soon as we are able. In the mean time, please keep the young adults in service in Southern Africa in your prayers. They will be leaving their sites soon and coming to Pietermaritzburg for a closing retreat and the beginnings of their journeys back to the U.S. These are some days of really tough good-byes for them.

Thank you to everyone for your love and prayers during this journey!

One More Week….

How did this happen? We only have one more week in the USA. We have so many things to share with all of you from our time in the U.S., the church visits, family and friend gatherings, etc. We hope to have a moment soon to share some more highlights with you. But for now, know that we are enjoying a week by a Minnesota lake, hanging out with my (Tessa’s) family. We are trying to soak in as much last goodness as we can. Hope you all are doing well as well. Please keep us in your prayers as we begin flying on the 7th of July, landing on the 9th.