11.07.2011

My Battle

The youth in Battle Creek are, as a general thing, allied to the world. But few maintain a special warfare against the internal foe. But few have an earnest, anxious desire to know and do the will of God. But few hunger and thirst after righteousness. But few know anything of the Spirit of God as a reprover or comforter. Where are the missionaries? Where are the self-denying, self-sacrificing ones? Where are the cross-bearers? Self and self-interest have swallowed up high and noble principles. Things of eternal moment bear with no special weight upon the mind.
God requires you individually to come up to the point, to make an entire surrender. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Ye cannot serve self and at the same time be servants of Christ. You must die to self, die to your love of pleasure, and learn to inquire, Will God be pleased with the objects for which I purpose to spend this means? Shall I glorify him? We are commanded, Whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, to do all to the glory of God.
How many have conscientiously moved from principle rather than from impulse, and obeyed this command to the letter? How many of the youthful disciples of Battle Creek have made God their trust and portion, and have earnestly sought to know and do his will? There are many who profess to be servants of Christ in name, but they are not so in obedience.
Where religious principle governs, the danger of committing important errors is small; for selfishness, which always blinds and deceives, is subordinate. The sincere desire to do others good so predominates that self is forgotten. To have firm religious principles is an inestimable treasure. It is the purest, highest, and most elevated influence mortals can possess. Such have an anchor. Every act is well considered, lest its effect be injurious to another, and lead away from Christ.
The constant inquiry of the mind is, Lord, how shall I best serve and glorify thy name in the earth? how shall I conduct my life to make thy name a praise in the earth, and lead others to love, serve, and honor thee? Let me only desire and choose thy will. Let the words and example of my Redeemer be the light and strength of my heart. While I follow and trust in him, he will not leave me to perish. He shall be my crown of rejoicing.
Testimony for the Church at Battle Creek p. 17

Excelsior

10.15.2011

Two Ways of Living in Anticipation of the Latter Rain

http://agbioresearch.msu.edu/saginawvalley/Pic_Tour/01C01plowing.jpg

How many of us like John are praying for the latter rain of the Holy Spirit, while by our actions we are telling those around us that we don’t really believe?
Click on the title of the blog to read a pointed (for me anyway!) parable about the Latter Rain. God's really been prompting me lately to get serious about preparing my field for the approaching rain, and I thought this little illustration was a good way to sum up a important lesson.

10.09.2011

Singularity

http://withfriendship.com/images/h/37499/Singularity-wallpaper.jpg


In keeping with the theme verse of this blog, I thought I would direct your attention to this blog by Pastor Shawn Brace. He highlights some of the key circumstances that lead him to the conclusion that we're rapidly approaching this world's singularity.

Do you agree?


Excelsior

9.04.2011

Intimations of the Ocean

http://dawnminchin.com/images/photography/sandcastle.jpg


Our boundary-settting rights protect us from the seemingly overwhelming responsibility that would flow from a recognition of unity. This is, I think, a frightening form of the "oceanic feeling", intimations of which have reached us. We fear being "invaded," "taken over," not just by threats but by demands - the overpowering demands of those in pain and hunger all around us. We wall ourselves off from their cries - genuinely do not hear them most of the time, even though we "know" they are there - by telling ourselves that we are "within our rights," that rights define our obligations as well as our entitlements, and that as long as we have violated no one's rights, we are doing nothing wrong in our daily non-responsiveness...

From Law, Boundaries, and the Bounded Self by Jennifer Nedelsky

8.29.2011

Study Subjects

http://www.atheistconnect.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/bible-studying-pen-papger.jpg

The experience of Enoch and of John the Baptist represents what ours should be. Far more than we do, we need to study the lives of these men,—he who was translated to heaven without seeing death; and he who, before Christ’s first advent, was called to prepare the way of the Lord, to make His paths straight.


Gospel Workers 51

8.27.2011

The Ambulance Down in the Valley

http://prideandpoison.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d1w3ryr

Have you ever read this little poem? Somehow I missed it when Teddy first posted it, but upon reading it today, I was really struck by the potency of the concepts it sets forth. There are a number of applications; in healthcare, in education, in the political arena, in humanitarian work, and perhaps most importantly in the spiritual realm.

God's prohibitions are fences. We often look at the Law as a constraint, as if there was a plethora of delights kept just out of reach on the other side of the fence, when in reality, it's meant to keep us from plunging off a dangerous cliff. More than that, I think we too easily succumb to a false feeling of claustrophobia, adopting the spurious notion that God's Law locks us into a narrowly enclosed pasture to keep us "safe." If we could just climb above the fog of the world, I think the view would look a little more like a vast garden, with a fence around one of the trees. . .

Excelsior

8.14.2011

Welcome to Durham


Today I arrived in Durham, NC. I promptly found a library and enquired about a library card (ID and a letter addressed to you in Durham), then moved in to my new abode, Open Air Camp, high above the banks of the Eno River. After I had everything unpacked, I set out on my next important task; exploring the area for prospective running routes. Fortunately, we're on the edge of Eno River State Park, and just down the hill and across the river is a lovely trail that wanders along the river bank for about four miles. I saw four deer, two squirrels, one rabbit, and one black and yellow snake. The welcoming committee was out in force!

Orientation for 1Ls at Duke Law School starts Tuesday, and classes begin in earnest on the 22nd. I'm a unsure of what to expect, but tentatively excited. At least I have a nice place to come home to :)

Excelsior

6.08.2011

Meet Dinah


Currently averaging 51.6 mpg :D

4.30.2011

I think the singing is what I miss most of all

Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and the Southern Appalachians: $15.61
Mild case of poison ivy: Inconvenient
1,200 miles worth of gas: $155.88
Getting to spend the weekend with a few of my best friends: Well, you know :)

Excelsior!

4.29.2011

Pro-Choice

While babysitting a two-ton air handler today, I snatched a few minutes to read from the third chapter of Steps to Christ (our staff devotional for camp this summer.) As I was reading, a concept became clear to me and I want to share it with you.

You always have a choice. Jesus died so you could have a choice. Never let yourself believe that you don't have a choice between doing what's right and sinning. No matter how firmly a habit is ingrained, or how deeply embedded a genetic predisposition is, Jesus lives to give you the right to choose. Your ability to choose is the most respected right in the Universe. Satan can't force you to sin, and God won't make you do right. No matter how far you've fallen, God will give you (through the Holy Spirit) the power boost necessary for you to be able to make an honest choice.

Our problem is that too often we go through life without thinking about the choices we're making--except perhaps to regret them after we've made bad ones.

I can pretty much guarantee that within the next few days I'm going to be faced with a multitude of choices. But the first decision I will make--consciously this time--is to believe that I have a choice, thanks to the One who poured out His life to restore my right to choose.

(Deuteronomy 30:19, Joshua 24:15, Proverbs 1:29-33, etc.)

Excelsior

4.12.2011

Prayer Meeting

Grammie and I went tonight. First time in a long time (inspired by this sermon.) It was really good. I think I'll go again next week.

Excelsior

3.10.2011

Discoveries at the Asian Market



Today Grammy and I visited the Asian market. In addition to our regular purchases (veggie meat and produce) we each got something new to try, something we'd never had before. Grammy got a small can ofmelon-flavored milk. Turns out it was carbonated melon milk. Interesting.

I got a jar of pickled lemongrass. Very interesting. Anybody have a good recipe that uses pickled lemongrass? (Emily?)

Excelsior

3.06.2011

Last Installment of Kotobi Church Pictures

This is the welcome sign for the town. We took this picture on our way to the inaugural church service :) Notice the public service announcement on the bottom of the sign. Apparently the notion that malaria comes from mosquitoes isn't as widely held as you might expect.

And this is the (mostly) completed church from the road, as it looked Sabbath, January 22, 2011.

A closer shot.
Some of you more knowledgeable builder types might wonder why that the roof overhang becomes well nigh nonexistent towards the back corner. We're slightly ashamed of that, but once we noticed it, there wasn't much we could do. The problem partially stems from the fact that our roofing sheets, while obtained in Juba at a substantial discount from Mundri prices, were apparently two centimeters narrower than those used in our calculations. This magnified what we think was the root cause; that our building wasn't exactly square. But at least the sheeting extends over the walls. Shelter-seeking churchgoers will just have to stand under a different eave during the rainy season :)

Church members bringing their chairs to Sabbath School.

Song service. You can get a sense of approximately how wide the sanctuary is by noting that there are only three chairs per side in a row. It's cozy, but the high walls and the tall windows give it an airy feeling. (The plentiful ventilation and hilltop breezes help with that too :)

Luke and I both shared a little bit during Sabbath School.

On Sunday, we completed the veranda roof and poured a suspended slab over the pit latrine hole (not pictured).

Kids excited about the new church.
One thing that really amazed me was how hard the little girls work. By the age of 5 or 6 they're full-time babysitters, water-haulers, and all-around helpers. Unfortunately, this often leads into an unbalanced lifestyle where women do a lion's share of the work.

Luke is standing next to Sylvester, our faithful assistant, helping us with building, masonry, digging, mixing concrete, and whatever we needed to get done. He's a really sweet guy who works his heart out to support his family and extended relatives. He's relatively new to Mundri, having recently been repatriated by the UNHCR from a refugee camp in Uganda. During the war, he and his family fled from Maridi during heavy fighting, walked to the Congo, and finally ended up in Uganda, where he grew up.

Luke, Pastor Julius, and I, in front of the new church.

Pastor Julius with his wife and daughter.

The church, shortly before we left for Kenya.

This is a neat object lesson of what God wants to do in each of our lives. To me, it is clear that the Kotobi SDA church would not have been built without Divine supervision and intervention at every step. But Luke and I had to work awfully hard as well. God wants to craft each of us into a temple for Him to dwell in. We can't do it without His miraculous aid, and He won't do it without our earnest effort. But in the union of the human and the Divine, a beautiful monument to the glory of God, for the blessing of humanity, can be built.


~Excelsior

2.25.2011

Kotobi Church #3 - The Last Week

Luke is putting together box-forms for pouring the bond beam. Doesn't he look nice in this picture? (He is in real life too :)

Here you can see a lot of different things going on. The pre-fabbed trusses are lying in two halves on the ground in preparation for being welded together. The bond beam on top of the walls is finished. And the little boxes on top of the pillars are Luke's ingenious solution to our problem of having trusses wider than our foundation (and thus, walls.) Rather than building a complicated form to go around each of the pillars, we just poured an extra level of beam on top of the pillars, connected with rebar 'S's to the main beam, and sunk the metal sleeves (for holding the tabs on the trusses) into them, centered on the pillars, rather than on the wall. It was a little tricky because the sleeves had to be spaced pretty precisely in order for the trusses to fit into them. Thankfully everything fit perfectly!

The day came when we needed to weld the trusses together and get them set up in place in order to stay on track for our opening Sabbath on January 22. The only problem was that we had been unsuccessful in our attempts to obtain a welding shield. A search of our container turned up some strange things but no welding shield. A subsequent perusal of the Mundri shops, following rabbit trails all around town, turned up only some sunglasses and a welder who had a pair of slightly darker goggles, but wouldn't loan them to us. Next we heard that there was a welding engineer at the Oxfam compound just outside Kotobi who might have a shield he'd loan us. Luke headed over to follow up on this rumor on his motorbike early that morning, only to find that while there had indeed been an engineer who did welding there, he was long gone, and all his equipment with him. So, dead end, right? Not with Luke on the case. He proceeded to beg several pieces of broken plate glass off of our new Oxfam friends and smoke them over a kerosene flame, producing a highly functional, if somewhat bulky and fragile, welding shield. He then cheerfully held it for me as I welded all five trusses together, tacked them to their metal sleeves on the wall, and them put braces onto the system to keep the trusses from swaying. It was definitely a bush solution, but it worked!

This is the view from the church, looking down the hill to the main road. The trees on the left are on Paul's compound, the church elder who helped spearhead the project.

And this is how the church Thursday morning, right before we started putting on the roofing sheets. The whole last week was an extraordinarily busy time. We'd been busy before, but this week we worked until well after sunset almost every night, trying to get things finished enough so we'd be able to worship in the new building on Sabbath. Thanks to the hard work of Sylvester and Estban (our masons), Sabit and Immanuel (assistants), and Paul, Julius, Phillip Muhammed, and many other church members who came to the church workbee on Friday to clear brush away around the outside and sweep, scrape, and mop the inside, and the tremendous blessings of the Lord, we met our goal and had church together that Sabbath.

2.21.2011

Kotobi Church #2

In addition to stones, sand, cement, and bricks, another critical--and somewhat scarce--building material for the church was water. We were fortunate to have the remnants of a small river about a half mile from the church, and with the use of one Toyota Landcruiser pickup, about fifteen 25L jerry cans, and the help of what often seemed like twice that many eager little volunteers, we kept well-supplied with the precious stuff.

We poured the slab in four sections over about a week. It's quite a lot of work when you're doing everything by hand. We hired four guys to mix concrete and Luke and I and Sylvester (our head builder) spread, screeded, floated, troweled, and finished it. The reason why that section is wet is because slab strength increases with drying time.

Here we've just started laying up the walls. Behind the right corner, in the little cleared area you can just see where the hole for the pit latrine is being dug.

This is a shot of the front yard of Pastor Julius' house in Kotobi, where we stayed during the week. The blue mosquito net on the right is where I slept most of the time; Luke stayed in the tent behind it. You can see Luke starting breakfast in the background. For a while it was quite cold in the mornings, meaning that we were quite motivated to get a fire going and start cooking oatmeal!

This isn't market day, nor is it all of the market, but I think you can get a pretty decent idea of what the Kotobi Market was like from the picture. Every day, 6-10 ladies (and a few men) would gather under these trees with their rough lemons/oranges, sweet potatoes, cassava flour, mandazis (fried dough balls), packets of glucose biscuits, local bread (similar to white, low sodium hot dog buns), various greens, papayas, bags of Gnut paste (peanut butter), beans, sesame seeds, onions, and cooking oil.

2.18.2011

Kotobi Church Pictures #1



This is the building the church members were meeting in originally.

It was well ventilated, but not in particularly good repair.

Luke is admiring the inside. Right behind me is a large termite mound. (Built-in pulpit?)
We're in the process of pouring the pad that will form the basis of the footings. The weeds around the perimeter are actually a sorghum field. The lady who planted them was a bit unsure at first that this new structure springing up in her field was worth the loss of her ripe sorghum!

One large problem we encountered was getting enough gravel for the concrete slab. The church members donated many hours of labor crushing large stones into small ones. This particular gentleman whom everyone called Mzee (pronounced "Muzay," a respectful Swahili title for a wise old man) came faithfully every day with his small hammer to break stones for a few hours. He told me that he had prayed for a church for a long time and was just happy to be able to actually see it happen. For my part, I was honored to work along side such an awesome guy.

2.16.2011

A Month of Sabbaths

It's good to be home. I've been enjoying home cooking, reveling in the stark beauty of a New England winter, and delighting in plentiful and meaningful communication with family and friends. Today Mom and I collaborated on some creamy potato broccoli mushroom garlic soup and a batch of roasted garlic spelt bread. Substantive bread was one of the hardest things to do without in Sudan and Mom's homemade artisan bread is much appreciated :)

This Sabbath I'll be sharing at church about our experiences in Sudan. I've definitely had a variety of church experiences over the past month, particularly with regard to music. January 22 we had our first service in the new church in Kotobi. Luke and I sang #448, "Oh When Shall I See Jesus" for Sabbath School, but the musical highlight of the day was these kids, who did the special song for the church service.
video
Youth choirs in South Sudan have a defined pattern. They march up to the front singing the first song, then sing their main number, and then march back to their seats with a closing song. Three special songs for the price of one :)

January 29 was spent with new friends at the Torit Seventh-day Adventist church in Eastern Equatoria, where Luke and I were again asked to sing. This time we chose #465, "I Heard the Voice of Jesus." Feruary 5 found us worshiping under a beautiful blue sky in Kawai, Kenya at the Masai. There was a neat Masai women's chorus who led the music for church, so I don't know why they asked us to sing as well. Unfortunately we didn't have our hymnals this time, but we had #448 down by now, so we sang it again, with the addition of Eric Johnston.

Then last week I was enjoying a wonder Friday night vespers at Southern when I found out that I had been volunteered to play special music at the Village Chapel the next day. No, I didn't play #448 (although the thought did cross my mind); Timothy and I played cello/violin medley of What Wondrous Love/The King Shall Come/Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (162/215/662). Based on recent history, I should probably come to church with a special music prepared as well as a talk ;)

Excelsior

2.09.2011

Back in Kenya

Hey everybody! Just a quick update on how things are going here in Africa.

Luke and I have arrived safely back in Kenya, and after a few days of
work (and animal-spotting) at Africa Mission Services/Mara West camp
on the Masai Mara game preserve, we're getting ready to return home to
the States. You probably already know the gist of what I'm going to
say about how things have been going--basically, God answers prayer!

Five intensely busy weeks of work after we started laying the
foundation, on Sabbath, February
22, Luke and I and the local congregation worshipped together in the
new building. This was by far the highlight of our trip. Finishing
Pastor Julius' house was nice. Pouring the slab at Eyira Adventist
Vocational Academy was gratifying, but worshipping for the first time
in a church you helped design and build from the ground up is. . .
incredible!

On top of that, God answered our prayers for Divine wisdom as Luke had
a series of discussions with the Mundri church and a couple of unhappy
individuals, succeeding (at midnight, the night before we left) in
working out solutions that seemed to solve the major issues and leave
everybody on friendly terms. Thank you for praying with us about
this! There were a number of times when we wondered whether
everything was going to fall apart, but God proved that He has a
thousand ways to work things out.

I'll be posting pictures of our progress sometime next week (when I
can find a place to get film developed!) so be sure to drop back by
and see what the new church looks like :)

Once again, we can't thank you enough for your prayers and
encouragement all throughout our latest African journey. I've learned
a lot about building buildings, and hopefully about building character
as well.

Excelsior!