May 19, 2009

More "firsts"....

It is fun to think that even after 8 months of touring with these children that I still have the lucky privelage of experiencing "firsts" with them. Firsts for everything defined the start of tour- watching their faces laugh and tears of happiness come from the simple push on a swing, seeing their shocked faces at the idea of a washer and dryer (and hearing their confident statements that they can hand wash their clothes better!), seeing them marvel at a McDonald's playplace, watching them trying to eat spoonfuls of jam when they realized how sweet it was, or calling bacon "piglet" at the first taste...

Sometime later after travelling through many states and staying with so many different kinds of people on different walks of lives and in an aray of neighbourhoods and homes the pattern and routine of tour life has become comfortably familiar. Last night the church we were hosted by took us all out to mini golf and pizza. I can still think back and remember the children's first taste of pizza even in their first week in America- and how that was once a newly special treat of an outing! But last night mini golf was definately a first for most and I had a blast! Sometimes I wonder if I get more joy watching the children or if they get more joy from playing.

I got to mini golf with Hannington, Christopher, and Gilbert Big. Hanny and Christopher are two of our youngest boys and they were delighted to be playing with "their friend!". Gilbert Big, one of the oldest boys in the choir- and one whose facial expressions and sayings crack me up acted as a fatherly coach to the mini golf session. I watched as Gilbert methodically calculated how to gently tap the ball into the hole as Hanny and Christopher looked like they were playing a game of curling with the mini putter, and cheering the most when the ball jumped the rocks and they had to fish it out of the little ponds. Christopher's hole in one was definately one of the game highlights as he came running and screaming into my arms. And then I laughed as Gilbert Big coached the boys to "come on, putt gently boy!"

That was our last stop in Georgia as now we've moved on to Tenassee. Georgia caught me by suprise with its beauty- rolling hills and green everywhere! Our first stop in Tenassee was in Signal Point- the church the children sang at sat right at the top of a moutain, and the day after the concert our host drove me and the boys to the lookout point off the mountain- I've attached some pictures, although I wish I could've taken a shot which would have captured the panoramic beauty of it!

Enjoy the pics- I must sign off now for the night. We have just stayed all together at a missions house- I love staying alltogether and having the chance to stay up and talk with friends from the team, but it means I am feeling tired tonight! I also have 8 of the girls from the choir at the host home tonight, and I am sure that has added just a littled to the tired feeling:)

May 14, 2009

Do I always start with food?

I was just about to start my blog for you today with describing how delicious the cilantro hummus is on my sandwich, when I stopped to wonder if starting off my letters, e-mails, updates, and blogs to you with how great something is tasting is becoming a common trend. My last support letter definately began with describing how tasty my cinnamon crunch bagel was, and I am beginning to fear that my personal e-mails start with something along the lines of "wish you were here to enjoy this chai " or "just writing over a great lunch", or option 3 " I love starbucks and wish you were here too, love you bye!" Even as I write to you now, there's a break between every sentence for a bite of bread! Oh dear. It's really just because coffee shops are the kinds of places I find most relaxing to sit and write and read for a day off, but I have to laugh at what has surely become a common thread. If you were to go back and look over your letters from me I'm sure I would find it very emberassing. I will have to switch locations before writing my next support letter- my last one was definately written at Panera bread too!

Tour has reminded me of many things- the simple joys that come from childhood pleasures, that time always goes by too fast when you are enjoying yourself, you need to make time to take care of yourself, how to accept generosity, what it means to be a servant, simplest things are the best, and many other life lessons as I continue to grasp for wisdom in parenting beyond my years. One of the other things tour is a continual reminder of for me is how fragile life is to change. One day I thought I knew where I would be travelling for the next couple months, and the following week I was in Canada and then Nashville recording with country artists I love. Today we're in Georgia, and on Friday we'll be in Tenessee! Just last week we had a team of 9, and beginning this past week we are now a team of 8 as our tour leader Andrew left to return home to be with his family, and be a support to his father who is sick.

Life is a beautiful pattern of being blessed with time to know people and form deep roots in your relationships, and then at sometime say goodbye from your everyday with them and move on to the next place and people you are being called to. I worked at a summer camp for years, and those proved to be some of the best years of my life. I left with 3 of the closest friends I'd made scattered over several provinces and left with a hard transition back into school after saying goodbye. But then if I hadn't said goodbye to that chapter of my life I wouldn't have made the friends I did in Ottawa, in University, or now- here. I guess the other part of life's pattern is bitter sweet in its beauty. The hard part is the goodbyes after becoming so close, but the beautiful part is that for those precious close friendships the depth of the relationship is unchanged by the changing distance between you. Andrew was a wonderful leader for our team- very hardworking, gave great spiritual insight, and was always someone to laugh with. Last week our entire team stayed together at a missions house supported by the church. It was perfect to be together to just be in each others company before he left, and the kids were excited to have a party together for him- recapping memories of their time with Uncle Andrew in Uganda and with lots of dancing and goodies later on.

So now Lindsey has taken over as our tour leader, Angela doing speeches for shows, myself now doing media interviews for the news and t.v, and with Steve on vacation Rachel is driving the bus and doing the sound for shows...and helping Lindsey with her admin roles! It is amazing how this team each has their individual strengths, but talents that can cover for others as well- I guess that's what makes a great team!

May 9, 2009

Pay it forward

Last week I enjoyed the most ideal day off. One of the church members found out a group of us had the day off he offered his kyak and got a canoes to us from a friend to take out on the lake for the day. Do you know the song "Be still and know that I am God?" I always sung it in Sunday school- and it came to mind as we enjoyed the warmth of the sun beating down on us as we paddled. There are few moments I can recall where I have felt a complete and true sense of peace and stillness- but for that whole day I did.

This week for my day off a lady whom I didn't even know from the church we were staying at offered to drive Angela, myself, and Patrick to do our errands when she found that some of us had the day off. She hurried through cleaning up after making all the of the children lunch to run us to Walmart, and then when we asked if we could swing by Starbucks on the way home she offered it as her treat to us. I turned to Ang as she dropped us of and wondered out loud if I would have done something like that for somebody in my situation- I can only hope that I would be so intentional in being sensitive to the needs of someone else and generous to help them. I don't know if before tour I would have the foresight to be so intentional in how I could bless others, but Angela reminded me in our conversation that now after tour I have the hindsight to someday be the person who can look for ways to bless someone else.

That's one of the things that I look forward to. I have learned and experienced that it is not easy to always be on the receiving end of being blessed- it is so easy for me to feel guilty when I accept someone wanting to go out of their way... or on the other extreme I believe we can become complacent to the spirit of giving and thus loose a spirit of genuine thanks. It is a very humbling position I'm in to always be the one who is served, cared for, and thanked and praised. Humbled I am indeed when there is no real way to repay those that bless me daily, but to just think that someday in the future I will be able to pay it forward. I have certainly come to learn a lot more about how to be thoughtful in my intentions- and I think it's one of the greatest things I've gleaned from tour.

Even in Washington when the venue we were singing at found out the children had the afternoon free they quickly got together 4 large taxi vans to take us to the national zoo! After such a busy schedule of rehearsals and long days of travel the afternoon out in the sun for hours watching the animals with 26 excited children was the perfect way to end my time with them.

May 7, 2009

Still working on catching you up...

Let's go back a couple weeks together...

After Nashville4Africa I had a plane ticket booked for me to continue on with 31 as they travelled to Washington D.C to sing for World Malaria Day. We took a very early morning flight to arrive at a very ritzy hotel called the Topaz. Couldn't resist trying on the zebra and cheetah print robes availabe for a purchase of $150 dollars with the girls that were in our room! That evening we went for a soundcheck at the venue before dinner. Now, I should just come out and say it right now...

I didn't meet the Obamas.

I didn't ask about their dog.

I didn't meet former president Bush.

And I didn't meet the Clintons.
I was told they would be there, and so excitedly I told all of you! And then in talking to some of your parents and friends you've told them that I would be meeting Obama myself! I've had to then explain that apparently they were invited to come, but were never actually there. So sorry to those of you who passed on what we thought would have been very exciting news from my time in Washington! The event wasn't as large as I'd expected, but it still added to a lot of exposure for the choir and our work which is exciting. A let down from thinking I was meeting the president yes- but not a let down if those who came that day for conferences and lectures were moved and felt the hope of Africa through song.
It was interesting to me- I feel as though in the past couple weeks I have heard a lot of promises and goals being made. In Nashville one of the artists spoke that it was their goal that there would be no more poverty by the year 2015. At world Malaria day the speakers that I was able to hear confidently spoke for an end to malaria by 2015 as well. I must admit my skepticism to you- it is such a high goal on a timeline whose goalpoint lies only 6 years away. But then again I think of a quote I read somewhere: "Our fear in life is not aiming too high and not acheiving our mark, but setting our mark too low and acheiving it."

I have learned from this tour that I am not the kind of person who is a visionary leader, but rather I am much more detail oriented by nature, and I must work to put together a bigger picture. I may not have seen the famous faces I boasted about, but I have seen a great deal of visionary leaders in the past couple weeks. The details on such an ambitious goal seem blurry to me and it makes me question whether we could ever get there. But then I have to turn it around and ask myself- is that really the question? Or is it more important to aim our goals high and work hard even if we don't meet them? I think I've come to see at least in doing that our hard work will produce greater progress and efforts even if the goal is not fulfilled. And I think that is the answer I have for now...