Monday, December 29, 2008

Blog hiatus

It did occur to me at one point during Advent that I had essentially hijacked my own blog for the sake of the calendar. It also occurred to me that this was a particularly eventful month that merited writing about. Finally, it occurred to me that I was having a sort of time of blog-reprieve in which to do things and take time to relax in the few gaps where I was not doing things. You know, because the blog was constantly having something new on it without me having to go online and make it so.

Still, it's been a wild month, one worth writing about. Here's a synopsis of the past month, by date.

26 - Drove to Gaborone, with an immigration appointment for the next day. Had the entire electrical system on the car give out around Mahalapye. Realizing this, we didn't stop until we reached a garage in Gaborone. Took a taxi to the Gaborone Hotel, the only place in Gaboone that we could get accommodation. Yes, that's the same Gaborone Hotel as is in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency movie. It's the cheapest place to stay in Gabs. There's a good reason for that.
27 - Took a cab to a car rental place and got one for the day so we could do all the immigration running around that we needed to do. Spent from about 10AM until about 4PM getting immigration stuff worked out, running all over town. Returned the rental, taxied to the garage to pick up the Hilux. Checked into a nicer hotel for Thanksgiving, had a nice dinner.
28 - Drove to Maun. In Kang, had the alarm refuse to shut off for about 15 minutes. It eventually shut off. Got into Maun after dark, checked into a B&B.
29 - Called the person we were going to meet to look at a house but they weren't available that day anymore. Decided to take a sensible Saturday off.
30 - Went to the ELCB church in Maun. Went to the Thuso Rehabilitation Center to check in for the ELCB music workshop. Waited around until after 6PM, at which point we discovered that we were a day early for the workshop. Found a hotel, checked in.

1 - Took the now-free day to work on the house hunt. Went to a real estate agent and found that they had 3 rentals available. Of those, one is a viable option. However, that's just from the price and looking at the outside. We can't see the inside until the current tenants vacate, December 15. The workshop begins around 6PM.
2 - Rob teaches on sound system principles. In the evening, I ran a get-to-know-you games night (yes, you read that correctly).
3 - Rob teaches on Scriptural principles of song. In the afternoons, he helps teach the guitar class.
4 - In the evening, we have a cultural sharing night. Rob and I sing “Borders and Time”, by the Ranking Family.
5 - We go to the educational game park in Maun, walk for a long time, see a bunch of animals in the trees around us: zebra, impala, baboons, turtles. We even see a snake hole and a fresh snake track. In the evening, we say our goodbyes.
6 - We drive with Edward and Ntirelang to Francistown, making it back in time for the ELCB Christmas dinner.
7 - We drive with Ntirelang and Oratile to Botswana Music Camp.

I'll pick up on the Music Camp timeline later. In short, more current news, I managed to get a bug for Christmas. Took me a week to kill it. Recovering nicely now.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

from a painting at the Lutheran church in Rundu, Namibia

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Advent: Day 24

Isaiah 49:15 Can a woman forget her baby who nurses at her breast?
Can she withhold compassion from the child she has borne?
Even if mothers were to forget,
I could never forget you!

The youngest Muyeyi dancer I've seen yet was at the Kuru Dance Festival in August. What a cutie! Dancing around the older dancers in the tiny reed skirt, clapping along with the older women and just being generally cute. If there was action, he was there, in the middle of it. None of the dancers seemed to pay him any mind beyond an occasional glance or encouraging interaction. At one point, he ran in so close to the dancers that their rapidly-spinning reed skirts inadvertently gave him a bit of a head-whapping. He moved away quickly, none the worse for wear and the dancing continued.

When I first went through my photos after the event, I found myself wondering whose child this was among the other dancers. At first, I looked for family resemblance. The little boy travelled all around the group so I couldn't tell by proximity to any of the adults. Then, I noticed the last photo, the woman watching him as he stood near her. See how closely she watches him? I think we may have discovered his mother.

As you celebrate the birth of God's Son, Jesus Christ, remember that you too are a precious child of God.
You are never forgotten, even when you feel like you have wandered from God's presence.
You are never forsaken, even when you try to distance yourself from God.
God's Son has brought you into the Family.
God's Spirit has brought the Family into you.
God's eyes are drawn to you, adventurous, curious, precious child.
Thanks be to God.

Have an amazing Christmas.

much love,
Eshinee & Rob

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Advent: Day 23

Isaiah 30:21 You will hear a word spoken behind you, saying,
“This is the correct way, walk in it,”
whether you are heading to the right or the left.

At Botswana Music Camp last year, the campers went on a hike to the Gorge. There wasn't a well-defined trail so we were all reliant on the guides, who were the only ones who knew the way. Rob and I started out the hike in the middle of the end of the pack but, as the guides sped up and those younger than us quickly passed us to keep up with the guides, a handful of us fell behind. For a while, we would call out “Ko ko!” and someone near the end of the long line of those following the guides would call “Ko ko!” back at us. But the calls grew fainter and fainter. Eventually, there were about 7 of us who found ourselves at the edge of a ravine. So, thoroughly lost now, we decided to just stop, enjoy the view and take some photos of each other. Our absence was noted in time and people were sent back to retrieve us and take us the rest of the way but we were, technically, lost in an African forest for a while. On the return trip from the Gorge, one of the guides took up the rear to herd the stragglers (i.e. the other non-teenagers and I). Therefore, on the way back, no one was lost.

When has God herded you because you had straggled too far off course to still be able to follow God's lead?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Advent: Day 22

Isaiah 59:17 He wears his desire for justice like body armor,
and his desire to deliver is like a helmet on his head.
He puts on the garments of vengeance
and wears zeal like a robe.

It isn't uncommon for churchgoers around the world to have a well-defined sense of what constitutes proper “church clothes”. The great variety of expressions of “church clothes” that can be seen each weekend world-over is intriguing. In North America, there is generally a split between casual and dressed-up, though what kind of clothes falls into either category is also fairly subjective. In Botswana, there is a three-way split between casual, dressed-up and uniform. This split can be seen here in the Sunday-morning photo of Rev. Michael Megahan, Rev. and Mrs. Motheto and Rob. Some churches, like the ZCC, have a dress code and a badge that is worn well beyond Sunday morning, daily in fact. One of the cool things about the ZCC is the how readily identifiable they are as a group of believers. The badge, a silver star on a green and black background, is being worn here by Moqaho Ramphisi, one of our Muyeyi co-workers. When we met him, it was one of the first things I noticed about him. Instantly, I knew that in some very important ways, here was man who shared values and belief with me. His heart-on-his-sleeve turned out to be my foot-in-the-door.

How might your life change if you wore a unmistakable badge of Christianity every day?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advent: Day 21

Isaiah 55:1 “Hey, all who are thirsty, come to the water!
You who have no money, come!
Buy and eat!
Come! Buy wine and milk
without money and without cost!

Many of the cultural groups here in Botswana make a form of traditional beer from one of the local grains. Sorghum and millet are favorites. At the Domboshaba festival, I was offered a chance to drink some of the Kalanga traditional beer. It was a bit sandier than I generally like in a beverage but it was also quite acidic and, therefore, refreshing. It was offered to me without cost. By their laughter as I was drinking, I think they considered themselves paid in full.

What has God offered you that you were hesitant to accept because it was completely foreign to you?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Advent: Day 20

Isaiah 41:17 The oppressed and the poor look for water, but there is none;
their tongues are parched from thirst.
I, the Lord, will respond to their prayers;
I, the God of Israel, will not abandon them.

Water is one of the most precious resources here in Botswana, especially during the dry season. This photo, taken in the summer (December) at a home in Gumare, shows a typical water reservoir next to a traditional thatched-roof home and compound. We have been given the “heads up” by a fellow LBT worker in the Delta, Tim Beckendorf, that a reservoir is a must in the Maun area, just as it is where he lives in Shakawe. The water supply will occasionally experience interruptions and life can quickly get pretty complicated without a back-up. It can be very difficult for people in rural areas who can't afford containers like this.

How can you, as God's representative on earth, respond in new ways to the cries of the oppressed and the poor?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Advent: Day 19

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I am with you;
when you pass through the streams, they will not overwhelm you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not harm you.

On our way to Shakawe in August, we drove through a bush fire. Yes, I said through. I have video footage of the event. We didn't realize how close it was to the highway that we were driving on until we suddenly found that it was on both sides of the road, on either side of us. All we could do was keep driving–fast. Also, I sent text messages to the other LBT people in southern Africa so they could be praying for us as we passed through. Thanks to the occasionally spotty cellphone reception in the bush, we were receiving text-messaged words of encouragement and assurance of prayers from the LBT family for most of the rest of the day's trip to Ghanzi.

How has God used your family in Christ to encourage you when you have found yourself walking through the fire?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Advent: Day 18

Isaiah 43:20 The wild animals of the desert honor me,
the jackals and ostriches,
because I put water in the desert
and streams in the wilderness,
to quench the thirst of my chosen people,
43:21 the people whom I formed for myself,
so they might praise me.

I've seen a few ostriches since coming here, usually on the side of the road when we drive through the Makgadikgadi reserve on our way to the Delta. I've even eaten a couple of them–though not while I was in the reserve, of course. They seem to be pretty clever animals. It seems that they are particularly wary of our bakkie and they flee whenever we slow down. I've gotten several pictures but not any good ones; they usually look like black and white blurs running away. Either long-term contact with hungry people has made them wary or they are just instinctively as camera-shy as they should be gun-shy. Isaiah says that they know what side their bread is buttered on. I say that they also have the desert smarts to know what side their flank is potentially grilled on.

What recent evidence of God's desert provision for you causes you to give God praise?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Advent: Day 17

Isaiah 65:5 They say, ‘Keep to yourself!
Don’t get near me, for I am holier than you!’
These people are like smoke in my nostrils,
like a fire that keeps burning all day long.

Unlike Rob, I didn't grow up in an area of the United States prone to wildfires. Therefore, I hadn't experienced fire season until coming to Botswana. In August, the sky grew golden with settling pollution. It colored everything, making the light look like the like of sunset for most of the day. I was surprised, thinking there couldn't be that much pollution being generated by nearby Gaborone. Much to my surprise, the level of yuckiness in the air was only slightly diminished when we drove across the country, up toward the Delta for the LBT retreat at Shakawe. That was when we discovered that it was not car exhaust but the annual burning of the bush that was causing the poor air quality. Boy, did we feel it! By the time we left Gaborone, our breathing was so bad that we had to pause on the steps up to our house. Both of our sinuses were full all the time and, during the drive to Shakawe, Rob actually developed nose bleeds. The fatigue of it was the worst of it. I couldn't get away from that dreadful air. It impacted my functioning in all areas of life.

How has God put out a “holier-than-thou” smoking fire burning in your spiritual walk?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Advent: Day 16

Isaiah 35:7 The dry soil will become a pool of water,
the parched ground springs of water.
Where jackals once lived and sprawled out,
grass, reeds, and papyrus will grow.

During our boating trip on the Delta, the guide took us on a trip down a side channel. These are narrower passages through the clumps of papyrus which float on the delta. The river itself is shaped on all side by the papyrus. As we got deeper into one of these side channels, the guide turned around when the channel got potentially too narrow for us to turn around if we went any further. He also gunned the engine on the way out to churn up the water and help cut up the encroaching papyrus clumps so that the channel might remain clearer for future side trips on boating tours. Papyrus, if left to grow undisturbed, will gradually fill in the clear spots on the water, making them impassable by man or beast (i.e. hippo).

What area of your life has God flooded, permanently changing the terrain?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Advent: Day 15

Isaiah 31:5 Just as birds hover over a nest,
so the Lord who commands armies will protect Jerusalem.
He will protect and deliver it;
as he passes over he will rescue it.

We finally got to go out on the Delta during the LBT retreat in early September. People come from all over the world to see the birds of the Delta as there are hundreds of species represented here. One of the things that struck me on the boating trip was the predictability of the birds. Our guide had no trouble knowing where to take us to see each variety in the area. He could even predict how they would react. The best example of this was how he showed us the fish eagle. We stopped by a clump of papyrus on one side of the river and he took out a fish. After sticking some wood in it to make it more float-able, he threw it into the middle of the river and told us to watch. Sure enough, here came a fish eagle, making for some great “spontaneous” photography. Birds are as they are made and you can count on them to be the way they were wired to be.

What aspect of God's care for you has been demonstrated repeatedly enough that you've come to count on it?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Advent: Day 14

Isaiah 30:29 You will sing
as you do in the evening when you are celebrating a festival.
You will be happy like one who plays a flute
as he goes to the mountain of the Lord, the Rock who shelters Israel.

Part of what makes Rob's job so cool is getting the opportunity to be with people when they are at their most jubilant. I love festivals! We were with the Wayeyi during their Rueta festival in March. The dancing in particular was amazing. I'm hoping that someone will teach me how to do the reed skirt dances.

What gift of God can you actively make a celebration about today?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Advent: Day 13

Isaiah 38:20 The Lord is about to deliver me,
and we will celebrate with music
for the rest of our lives in the Lord’s temple.

Rob has had the opportunity to record a variety of worship styles as expressed here in Botswana. They have ranged from a Catholic mass to a Kalanga spiritual church worship service to a contemporary Lutheran youth choir. One thing that they have all had in common is faith in Jesus Christ. Another commonality is that they are worshipping, as all worshippers do, in the midst of their own troubles and in a broken world. They all sing for a God who is about to deliver them.

From what trial are you expecting deliverance as you celebrate in worship with God's people this weekend?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Advent: Day 12

Isaiah 30:8 Now go, write it down on a tablet in their presence,
inscribe it on a scroll,
so that it might be preserved for a future time
as an enduring witness.

One of the challenges of Bible translation is the idea that people are responsible for the gifts they are given, including the gift of God's Word. A person could devote their life to making sure a language group has the Bible in the language of their hearts but only the people of the language group themselves can make that Bible used in their language community.

What recent revelation of God to you from Scripture available in your language is still waiting to be applied faithfully in your life?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Advent: Day 11

Isaiah 29:16 Your thinking is perverse!
Should the potter be regarded as clay?
Should the thing made say about its maker, “He didn’t make me”?
Or should the pottery say about the potter, “He doesn’t understand”?

There are two potteries within 30 km of where we stayed in Gabane; one was just down the hill from our home and the other was a short drive away in Thamaga. I visited the Gabane pottery first, with its distinctive red clay and dark/white glazing patterns. Later, we drove out to Thamaga, which is more famous for its pottery. Their pottery tends to be white-based with colored (blue, brown, iridescent) accents near the base. Each pottery's style is lovely and completely distinct from that of the other–you'd never mistake a Gabane pot for a Thamaga pot. Yet, even within a particular style, no two pots are truly the same. That is part of the beauty of being hand-fashioned rather than machine-produced. I was intrigued by some of the large mugs at Thamaga, marked with the names of their makers. I don't think they'll sell and I suspect that they are there just to remind purchasers that these mugs are made by real, individual people. Or maybe the potters were just so proud of their work that they couldn't resist putting their name on one.

What physical characteristic of your own 'jar of clay' do you think God got particularly creative with?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Advent: Day 10

Isaiah 26:9 I look for you during the night,
my spirit within me seeks you at dawn,
for when your judgments come upon the earth,
those who live in the world learn about justice.

Something about a sunrise gives you the entitlement to stop and stare, to be still for a moment. The beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the Okavango seem to give even more entitlement than most. There's something about those wee hours of the morning and when the day hasn't quite begun that get the brain working overtime. They also tend to allow us to look to God in our hearts. Maybe it's the lack of sensory stimuli at 3 AM that makes us more sensitive to that still, small Voice. Maybe it's the temporary overload that stops our senses in their tracks at the beauty of the gently glowing sky, opening our spirits to even greater Greatness.

What was your last moment of sunrise revelation?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Advent: Day 9

Isaiah 26:3 You keep completely safe the people who maintain their faith,
for they trust in you.

A mosquito can keep you awake all night long, even if it never lands on you, just by buzzing near your ear. I've lost whole nights of sleep like that. The amazing thing about a mosquito net is that the very same mosquito buzzing, happening right next to your ear but with a net between you and the mosquito, can be successfully ignored long enough to get to sleep. In the Delta, in the malaria zone, a mosquito can be even harder to ignore and, in fact, should not be ignored without that precious net.

When has the knowledge of the safety of God's net enabled you to ignore that mosquito constantly buzzing near your ear long enough to get some sleep?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Advent: Day 8

Isaiah 25:4 For you are a protector for the poor,
a protector for the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the rainstorm,
a shade from the heat.
Though the breath of tyrants is like a winter rainstorm,
25:5 like heat in a dry land,
you humble the boasting foreigners.
Just as the shadow of a cloud causes the heat to subside,
so he causes the song of tyrants to cease.

When you live in a place where the rainstorms will soak you in 15 seconds flat and the sun will burn you in about 15 minutes, you learn to respect shelter. In the Okavango Delta last Christmas, I watched a thunderstorm roll across the papyrus, headed for the Swamp Stop, where we were staying. Rob ran our computers back to the chalet before coming back to watch the storm some more from the observatory deck over the river. He didn't quite make it back exactly in time. At the end of the Botswana summer, in March, the Wayeyi attending the Rueta festival in Sepopa demonstrated a basic African gathering principle.

What storm or heat have you been rescued from when you have run to God for shelter?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Advent: Day 7

Isaiah 61:4 They will rebuild the perpetual ruins
and restore the places that were desolate;
they will reestablish the ruined cities,
the places that have been desolate since ancient times.

Domboshaba is a historical site of the Bakalanga. They were once a great nation of kings in the southern Africa region, most recently in Botswana and Zimbabwe. They are still a very large people group, one of the largest in Botswana. There are ruins here of a great fortified city. They come back to this mountain to pray and to hold an annual cultural festival. There are several organizations working to encourage the retention of their culture and promotion of literacy in the Kalanga language. They are also in the process of Bible translation with LBT and are planning to publish their New Testament and Psalms in early 2009.

What was a fortified area of your life that, once fallen into ruin, God rebuilt in a new and unexpected way?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Advent: Day 6

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
I will be overjoyed because of my God.
For he clothes me in garments of deliverance;
he puts on me a robe symbolizing vindication.
I look like a bridegroom when he wears a turban as a priest would;
I look like a bride when she puts on her jewelry.

In October, Rob found himself in a bit of a quandary; he had upcoming events for which dress clothes would be required. First, there was the wedding of the daughter of a prominent person in the Wayeyi community, for which he needed a suit. Secondly, there was the Gaborone Music Society performance of Handel's Messiah, for which he needed black dress pants. He hadn't brought one with him but, even if he had, it wouldn't have fit him anymore with the way he's shrunk over the past year. All attempts to purchase one ready made fell flat because of his locally unusual height. That left us with the prospect of a custom-made suit. After a successful search for a good black fabric, we took it to a local designer. For 550 pula, she could make him a suit that would well meet his needs. We put in the order and waited. There was bit of worry about 10 days before the wedding when we called her to check on the suit only to discover that her tailor had left the country and she “thought that he'd be back by Friday.” That didn't sound promising. When I was mentioning this to my friend Johanna, she said that I must keep up hope. I said that it was hard to keep hope, especially when there's a good chance that you won't ever see the thing that you're hoping for. The disappointment is just too much if hope doesn't come to fruition. It seems easier sometimes just to save yourself the high of the hoping so that you don't feel the low of the disappointment quite so keenly. Her response was that the disappointment only comes from seeing a result other than the one you hoped for through the eyes of the word, not through God's eyes. If we could just see the potential for God to bring the highest good out of every potential outcome, then we could enjoy the highs of hope without having to worry about the chance of the lows. So, we made a deal–she would continue to hope for what she was hoping for if I would keep hoping for Rob's elusive suit. Within 24 hours, I got a call from the designer saying that Rob could come in that afternoon to try on his new suit.

What have you been holding back on hope for, just in case God's deliverance doesn't come?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Advent: Day 5

Isaiah 33:15 The one who lives uprightly
and speaks honestly;
the one who refuses to profit from oppressive measures
and rejects a bribe;
the one who does not plot violent crimes
and does not seek to harm others

33:16 This is the person who will live in a secure place;
he will find safety in the rocky, mountain strongholds;
he will have food
and a constant supply of water.

The Gorge is a national historical site. Certain groups of Batswana lived there long ago because of the security of the location–it's a long and treacherous hike up to it and an even longer fall to the bottom. Hard to fight a battle on the side of a hill. I missed most of the guide's exposition on the site since I was exhausted and didn't want to get dizzy fending my way across the rocky gorge-side. One thing I did catch was that they used to throw people into the Gorge who were convicted of harming others in the community, their way of purging them from the culture.

When have you been aware that upholding God's values has resulted in blessing or protection in your life?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Advent: Day 4

Isaiah 42:5 This is what the true God, the Lord, says –
the one who created the sky and stretched it out,
the one who fashioned the earth and everything that lives on it,
the one who gives breath to the people on it,
and life to those who live on it:
42:6 “I, the Lord, officially commission you;
I take hold of your hand.
I protect you and make you a covenant mediator for people,
and a light to the nations,
42:7 to open blind eyes,
to release prisoners from dungeons,
those who live in darkness from prisons.”

54:9 “As far as I am concerned, this is like in Noah’s time,
when I vowed that the waters of Noah’s flood would never again cover the earth.
In the same way I have vowed that I will not be angry at you or shout at you.
54:10 Even if the mountains are removed
and the hills displaced,
my devotion will not be removed from you,
nor will my covenant of friendship be displaced,”
says the Lord, the one who has compassion on you.

During the rainy season, we see some pretty spectacular skies here. This is a photo that I took from the passenger window while we were driving back from Tim Beckendorf's place in Shakawe to the chalet where we were staying in Sepopa last Christmas. The rainbow has to be God's coolest mnemonic ever.

What other people, occasions or things are around you that remind you of times when God showed compassion because of covenant with you?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Advent: Day 3

Isaiah 35:1 Let the desert and dry region be happy;
let the wilderness rejoice and bloom like a lily!

The first picture is of flowers against a thatch wall. The second is of water lilies. The water lily root is an important food for the Wayeyi. They grind the root and mix it with meat. I love to take pictures of flowers. There are so many and they are so endlessly beautiful. Why so many different types? It's hardly necessary. They just sit there, looking pretty. Yeah, I know about bees and pollination. Still, they could easily have been designed more simply.

When has God given you a gift that was so extravagant that you knew that it had to be God just being extremely God?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Advent: Day 2

Isaiah 41:18 I will make streams flow down the slopes
and produce springs in the middle of the valleys.
I will turn the desert into a pool of water
and the arid land into springs.

The Okavango Delta has this happen every year, like clockwork. Right there, in the northwestern corner of Botswana, an annual picture of divine provision. An entire ecosystem is dependent on it.

What is the desert area in your life that God has flooded over and over again, as you have needed it?

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