February 27, 2009

Out of Texas!!

This morning was windy and humid in Louisiana. After a good run this morning I made breakfast and read my book and wrote letters- enjoying the quietness of the home on my day off as my hosts went to work for the morning. After working the food pantry for the morning my host, Dorina, came back and suggested treating me for lunch. Seeing as I love food and people I quickly agreed, and half an hour later found us at a quaint little Mexican restaurant downtown. I never get tired of talking about this organization I realized as she asked me questions most people are curious about. Sure, I hear them day in and out but I genuinely love it. I am happy to engage people in the work of Africa- to help them get a glimpse into where these children come from, and to speak of the hope that lies ahead for them and their country. But beyond the usual questions came about such a good conversation- of her stories of faith and how she has been practically stretched and tested in her life. I was inspired as I doubt I would have reacted in the same manner, and encouraged by her challenges to face my own with faith. Sometimes I have to step back and remember that I have only known the people I meet for a couple days- that here I am speaking for the organization, or just personally sharing with them in a strangers home….from that angle it does feel strange- I know it looks strange to some of you to call or e-mail and imagine me hearing from you in a new house every other day- being apart of someone else’s family- but only does it seem strange when you think of it like that. To me, so many hosts over the past month have quickly become new friends. The list of contacts with people I have met along the way, especially over the past month, continues to grow- and that’s exciting!
One of the churches we performed at last month donated us free admission to the NASA centre in Houston- so on Monday we cleared off the afternoon schedule to take the kids there for the afternoon. There were some great exhibits on what life on the moon looks like, and some good interactive actives and several spaceships you could walk through the insides. The kids had their first experience watching an IMAX movie of outer space in which they insisted to sit in the first row front and centre. Haha, they may have regretted that decision later as they covered their ears for every blast off. …driving to our homes at the end of the day sharing astronaut freeze dry chocolate ice cream I’d say it was a hit!

post concert reflections...

I don’t know when it happened- somewhere between first seeing these children in Makindye- learning their names, gathering first impressions… and right now- but they feel like family. The feeling and realization that overcame me tonight was completely humbling- somewhere along this road these children feel like my own. And in tonight’s concert I put my notebook down, ignored my usual critique of concerts, and was completely moved and proud of them. In my opinion tonight was their best concert to date. They are like my little heroes I thought as I watched them- how they came from being unnoticed to shining hope to a world made of broken, hopeless people, cities, countries. How they love to try- how they never give up on working. How they love- that they are quicker to forgive than hold onto anger. And as the pastor asked Nelson, our future minister, to pray for the offering I felt their child-like faith and his confidence bring me a real sense of joy. That overwhelmingly excited feeling overcame me my first time since seeing them- leaving me completely moved and sure that is where I want to be, and more importantly am called to be. Soon we approach our six month mark on the road, and tonight that feeling was so real again- just as it was stirring up inside of me a year ago now. More and more I have hosts comment after they are tucked away in bed how much they look up to me- how much they love me- and just how evident those feelings are by their actions. I know I loose sight of that in the day to day family-like living, but it is true. I recognize it and smile over it more as they confide in our team, as I share in their stories, as I continue to keep record of their personal lives, as they open up to me and share their curious spirits.

This morning I went to the church to greet them feeling exhausted from a restless night before- Mo after trying to get my attention with a hug turned to me and says “Auntie- you are not you today. You don’t sound like you and your big smile is not there.” I let my mood get the better of myself as we do when we’re human and show our emotions more freely when we love more freely- seemingly backwards I know, but so true. This morning reminded me of what I’ve been reflecting on tonight- just as I have come to know them on a deeper level, they know me too- and how evident that was in Mo’s childlike honesty this morning.

It is late now and I don’t think I could keep my eyes open for any longer without my thoughts becoming incoherent and fuzzy, so I will say goodnight from here with the feeling of a full heart.

February 19, 2009

weekly monuments

Just the other day I began jotting down everything I wanted to blog to you about- adding to a list of thoughts and events that had started the list last week, when I came accross this in my devotional the other day:

"The Lincoln Memorial. The Vietnam Memorial...Mermorials are places provided for us to stand and be quiet, to reflect, and to pass on to the next generation the roots of a nation's heritage. They give us presnt significance because they give the past perspective. My fear for our present rapid-paced lifestyle is that we have so few memorials, so few monuments, even mental monuments. Life is lived in the fast lane. Superficial decisions. Hurry up childhoods...So little time spent stopping and recording segments of our lives in a journal..." (Charles Swindoll)

Many people ask if I do and tell me that I will regret it if I won't. I have never enjoyed journalling- taking time to process everything and write it down...recording emotions that I know will change, but I am beginning to realize that my days and weeks, and this life goes too fast not to. This experience is changing me and I don't want to forget how. These children are growing and maturing and I don't want to forget those formative moments. Evenings pass with saying goodights and I wish I could hold on to them forever. I wish I could remember more quotes, I wish I had more time to talk with them. I don't want to loose the everyday, small joy details of my work.

Usually I share best and process by talking to people- but living on the road is stretching me to communicate in different ways, and I believe this to be one of them. Sometimes I log onto my blog and don't even know where to begin- time has brought about so many things to pass, and in the spanse of time I cannot remember and hold onto all the memories.

Charles Swindoll goes on to say " In order to have perspective we must have mounuments and memorials, places to return to and learn from and talk about and pass on."

I want this to be that place for me, and I want to make a better start by catching you up on this week and where I'm at...

At the beginning of the week one of my close friends and wonderful Auntie to the kids- Sarah, left us to join Choir 31 in their work. Like any family it is hard to loose someone and say goodbye, but we are all very proud of her confidence to go, put herself out there, and be with a choir that was short staffed and greatly needed her. We hosted a goodbye party for her, and the kids sung her a farewell. While the kids continued eating cake and having a dance party the team of us were able to have some last time with Sarah- pray over her, and encourage her as we sent her off.

Before Valentines day this past Saturday a good friend of mine mailed goodie bags for all the kids, and between goodies sent from Lindsey's parents, and valentines from Angela and the Music for life office our team filled the bags and were done tying the ribbons for valentines day with the kids. From the friday evening to Saturday morning the school that we performed in placed us in a hotel rather than host families. So Saturday we suprised the kids with their goodie and bags and all piled into a room together to watch Madagascar 2. I love watching movies with these kids- I think it is quite possibly more entertaining to watch them than the movie itself because they're laughing so hard and are so suprised by everything on screen. A the movie started and Junior, who is quite quiet spoken, opens his goodie bag I hear him say "The Aunties and Uncles- look at all they do for us and what they have given us this morning. I know they love us so much." There aren't any words for that so I just hugged him.

For the past 3 nights I've had the chance to stay with three of the boys from the choir which doesn't happen often! One of the boys, who had just received a sponsor this week, was so excited that he brough home his school bag so I could help him write his thank you letter. As the rest of the boys played pool and ping pong Mo and I worked away at making a final draft of his letter- I even found him later that evening as I came in the room to say goodnight, letter in hand trying to write by the light of a small flashlight. It was such a great stay- when Mo put away his letter I got tackled by the three boys with hugs- and finally after telling them to stop and go to sleep Mo sits up and says "Come back Auntie Laura- your hugs were plastic hugs- I want a real one!" haha

Right now we're back in Austin and I am staying with a young couple- the wife works at the church as a community missions coordinator. I talked to her last night about her work and the programs she has begun through the church. The vision and programs she has set up are incredible. She and her husband do a lot of work in Brazil and have taken part in many music for life summer missions trips to Africa. Her current work in the community focuses on establishing relationships with the homeless in Austin. She spoke a lot about how being relational with these people takes a lot of time and effort instead of just handing them something, or doing a favour and walking away. We talked a lot last night about the importance of a ministry that begins with being relational- I believe it's the only way that deep roots can be planted in any work. Since an end date for our tour was announced to be December 2009 I have thought a lot more about what I want to do after tour. With an end to this experience, life after tour begins to feel more real. I still don't have an answer for what I'd like to do- but more and more I am learning what's most important- who I want to be. I want to be like this family- I want to partner and work in communities- I don't believe I could work overseas but I would love to continue to travel there- and expand my relationships. For the first time I don't feel panicked by not knowing exactly what I want to do, but I think recognizing what is important to me and how I want to live my life must be the first step before making a career choice that can fit that- and I believe I am slowly gaining a better vision of what that looks like...

February 4, 2009

sunburns in February??

One of my first e-mails from our choir manager when our team had been chosen for this tour was about things to look forward to- among her top highlights being the generous spirit of Uncle Brother Doug and his church, and second to that her story of the beach of Corpus Christi.

" You will love it when you get to Corpus Christi! The team had a beach day where all the North American chaperones got burnt and the Africans all got tan lines"

And yes, now I sit writing to you- my shoulders, arms, and neck completely sunbaked. It continually takes me by suprise-this weather for Febuary. Even this morning the lady I am staying with picked oranges off her orange tree in the backyard to make myself and the girls freshly squeezed orange juice!...and for lunches Peace and Immaculate picked their own oranges off the tree before hopping in the car to head to church.

The other day we told the children they would have three suprises over the next two days to look forward to- the first being a visit from the local fire department. One of the host families is a firefighter and brought his team over with the truck for the kids to explore. After that Christopher, a hopeful future pilot, announces "I am going to be a fireman pilot- so I can fly planes, and when it catches on fire I can put it out." Probably the funniest moment was when Peace got all geared up in the fireman pants, boots, jacket, helmet- everything and then because it was so heavy on her stood up and then completely fell over!

The next day the kids took a walk down the beach and were treated to free burgers at a hamburger chain on the beach- and afterwards the church that's hosting us took the kids to the aquariam- the highlights being the dolphin show and the getting to touch the sting rays. Unfortunately it was my day off so I wasn't with them, but Mo at the end of the day rushes up to tell me that the suprise was "dancing fish that wanted to be a motorcycle."

My day off was spent with Ang, Patrick, and
Sarah- between the beach and a neat
restaurant/tea room we had a great day. I've been really lucky with having my days off in bigger cities lately- the last two being in Austin. I think that Austin and Chicago have been my two favourtie places on tour so far- I just love the culture of the city.

Over the past few weeks the kids have been working hard on studying for exams and in the next couple days the kids will be writing their first term exams since we've been on the road. The exams are really important so please keep them in your thoughts and prayers! An encouraging note from the Music For Life Primary school back in Uganda that the children will return home to...

...If our school was registered, of which we are working on the process we would be ranked 6th in Kampala and 13th in the country. For three years in a row we would have been in the top 20 in the country. Yes, I think that is exceptional when you consider where our children come from…

I can't believe the week is already half over now- hopefully this month won't disappear like the last one and I will try to be in closer touch before Febuary slips away from us.

February 2, 2009

Padre Island

Today found our tour in Corpus Cristi. Walking along the beach with Sarah we both realized that we hadn't blogged since Christmas- wasn't Christmas just last week? At least that's what it feels like. I honestly don't know where January has gone...It has come and gone in the laugh of a child, in a smile, in another day of learning, visits from supervisors, rehearsing, improving, and the temperature rising. This afternoon being the big superbowl game we didn't have a performance and got the afternoon off. The lady I'm staying with took the girls out to the nations largest natural seashore beach! It was beautiful- the girls eagerly ran to the water and splashing around it seemed they would never get enough of it. Since I was a kid just loving the sensation of playing in the water and catching waves has been one of my favourtie sensations so that sometimes I feel as though I just can't get enough of it. Peace, on one of her dives into the waves, comes running back to me to tell me that "wow wow don't drink the ocean Auntie Laura it does not taste good!" I asked her if it was very salty tasting- completely serious she replies "Yes! ...who poured all the salt on it?" I keep trying to take pictures of this place- frantically trying to take in by the snap of a camera lense what appears to only get more beautiful with every block I drive or walk here- but it just doesn't capture the panoramic views I have all around me. The setting sun and the cooling of the evening eventually brought us in to have a picnic snack on the sand before we took a leisurely drive through palm tres and over the ocean back home (not to run it in to you Canadians reading this!)...it was the perfect day.