Thursday, March 7, 2019

Thankful Thursday!


Thankful Thursday:

“We make our plans, but God has the last word.” Proverbs16:1 (GNB)

1.     What do you think happened to my thumb? Picture taken yesterday. I am thankful that it is much better today!




2.     Can you guess what this is? What the colored pieces are? Thankful for the creativity that surprises me and makes me happy.



3.     Do our participants seem shorter than normal? Thankful for new places to minister and new friends we meet there.



Yesterday, as we finished with the last camel, we were all wilting from the heat. There was more water in the truck, but we had gone through all that was in the jugs we carried out with us. The small amount of water that remained in our individual bottles, tasted like it had been boiled for chai.

My left thumb had begun to ache and I finally stopped to check it out. I wondered if the pain was due to the sting from an insect, bite from a spider, or jab from a pesky thorn off the tree we had earlier used for shade. One branch had given us all fits before it was pruned back.

At this time I am still not sure what the exact cause was, but the result was pain, swelling, bruising, and numbness around the joint, which I could no longer bend. This made it interesting as I drove back to town in my manual vehicle, shifting with my left hand (remember we drive left side of the road, right side of the vehicle here).

As we traveled we shared our good things/God things from the day. I am glad we started doing this awhile back. It helps on the hard, busy, hot days to find the good and see God in the day. It also helps me by hearing some things I would not expect or reminds me that this was the first time that person did that new task. We can then praise and encourage them. 

The next topic for conversation was a bit of planning for our next day out (ie today). As this proceeded in the Turkana language, before it was completely translated for me I had the general understanding that our facilitator was not going to join us, due to another meeting. I understand things come up, but he was the one who scheduled us to go back to this certain area and treat many camels that we were not able to treat last week, when we did CHE lessons, Bible study, and animal treatments all in the same day. That was a long day.

My first thought was “Great, I am already short 2 helpers this week, and not sure if either will join us tomorrow (ie today).” However, I was thankful he was telling us early. Usually it is a call as we head out of town or no information at all. Very typical here. I spend lots of time organizing and communicating, only to go try to pick people, who are not available to work that day. I have come to realize it is just part of life here, but that does not make it any less frustrating.

Yesterday, after taking care of business in town and dropping my helpers at their homes, my real work began. This is especially true on days we go out to treat animals back to back. I have to unload, clean, reorganize, restock, and prepare for the next day all as I rehydrate and this time also ice my thumb (after a very thorough hand washing and inspection - not finding any splinters).
  
As I did all that I prayer for the next day (ie today). I also asked my teammates to pray for my thumb, since I really needed 2 working thumbs. One of my teammates even added prayers for calm, compliant camels. What a great prayer (and alliteration)!

I slept well last night and was happily surprised this morning when both of the extra helpers were able to go today. I also discovered they had had rain in their part of Lodwar overnight. Wow, what a blessing. As we crossed the large, dry river bed on the “short cut” route to the bush, we noticed the ground there was a bit wet also. Thankfully, the river was not flowing and it was not too wet to cross at this time. I said a quick prayer for it to not be flowing before we returned later.  I had one experience in the past of waiting over 9 hours for a river to go down before we could cross to get back in to town.  I really did not want to have that be the story for today. Little did I know God had something much better planned. 

The rest of our trip out was uneventful, but we arrived at a very, quite community. No animals, no people. When 2 ladies finally emerged from one of the huts, they were obviously on their way somewhere else and told us the man with the animals had an emergency and was in Lodwar. Of course he was! This is also quite common and although I realize it will still happen, it is also no less frustrating to me. However today, it actually seemed to bother me less. Maybe I have lowered my expectations so much that nothing can surprise me now, or I have actually become a bit better at giving up control to God.

We decided we could go back to the previous community where we had worked yesterday and see about treating animals there. So off we went, but again no animals and no people. As I walked around searching for phone signal, so I could reach our facilitator, to see if anyone might be at his area today, kids began to gather and gather and gather. I never could get a signal, but eventually as I looked at all the kids, I began to see Gods plan for our day. 

I asked the kids if they would want to do a Bible lesson with us. We had been studying Jonah this week and I thought that’s perfect for adapting for a kids only lesson. They all said yes, so we gathered at their meeting tree. We always begin with prayer and I asked if anyone wanted to pray.  They were all a bit shy, so I prayed in simple phrases, which were translated to Turkana (because even my Swahili and Turkana, still gets translated into Swahili and Turkana for most people who are not accustomed with the way I speak Swahili and Turkana). The kids all repeated the prayer and it was a really fun way to pray together. After all prayer can be fun as we praise and thank God. Then we had them lead some songs. They kept singing and singing.  We told the story of Jonah and included some drama and motions to get them up and moving. Most of us portrayed the storm and then when it was time for Jonah to be swallowed by the fish, they came up with the idea of having the tire rim that they play with be the fish's mouth so our Jonah really got swallowed today. It was very creative on their part and I never would have thought of using that as a fish mouth.  

It was a great day and as we got ready to leave a cool breeze came in and energized us all, so that as we packed the truck, they hung around and we prayed again before we departed.

Now you know about my thumb (which is considerably better, although still sore, see picture below). You also know about our short participants today, but what about the colorful rings. Upon our arrival I saw the boy with this stick and I had to know what made all the colors. It’s the inside ring of a plastic soda/ water bottle cap (go get one and take a look, or see picture below if your countries caps are different). I had never seen a walking stick decorated like this and neither had my helpers. We were all impressed and at the end of our time together I negotiated a deal and purchased the stick. I am going to hang it above my new lion painting. The colors are perfect and for me its the simple things that bring joy, like colors from plastic rings used on a walking stick. 

We had a wonderful time with the kids,  studying the word of God. We will do this lesson tomorrow at the same place with the adults. I invited all the kids to return and said they might even get to help teach and definitely help with the drama and motions. I hope they bring the tire rim so even an adult Jonah can get swallowed properly by the big fish!  


As we returned to Lodwar and discussed our day, we all agreed that the whole day was good and fun. We were so happy that God had changed our plans. There was excitement in the truck that we often do not have when were are hot and tired after treating animals. What a blessing today was. How special to spend time teaching the children. I hope we will have a chance to do some more kids only lessons in different places (by the end we did actually have 2 men with us, but they let the kids be the focus.)

Then just as we were thanking God for such a great day, He had another surprise for us. That cool breeze we had felt earlier was also associated with rain. Yes as we drove I said “What is that in the road?” It was huge puddles full of fresh rain water. Wow! One large area got a pretty good rain, so much that we had to detour in a few places. Thankfully the river was not flowing, and we easily returned to town by the “short cut”. Although we are still praying for rain for many more places throughout Turkana and Kenya. 

Thank you God for making your plans known. Even when it changes our plans and we question and get frustrated (Kind of like Jonah??). Your plans are our plans and I pray we all become better at seeing the opportunities you are giving us and are willing to follow you in your plans. Amen. 







Sunday, November 18, 2018

Praise the LORD with drums and dancing!

Praise the LORD! 

Praise God in his Temple! 
Praise his strength in heaven!
Praise him for the mighty things he has done. 
Praise his supreme greatness.

Praise him with trumpets. 
Praise him with harps and lyres. 
Praise him with drums and dancing. 
Praise him with harps and flutes.
Praise him with cymbals. 
Praise him with loud cymbals. 
Praise the LORD, all living creatures!

Praise the LORD!

Psalm 150 (GNB)




In a month full of meetings, where much of my time is being spent down country, today I am thankful for a great service in Lodwar with lots of singing, including new songs performed by multiple choirs. Usually it is only the Children's Choir that sings for us and today I actually think I missed the regular Children's Choir as I was later than the normal late (we rarely go "on time", since services do not really start "on time" and can last 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 hours).



The Children's choir I did hear consisted of the
smaller kids, some of whom I do not see participating regularly and it was nice to see that. Since the older kids are out of school now, we also had a Teen Choir. In addition the Women's Choir (which is really adult women and men) sang, after a typical slow progression, with them saying they did not want to sing, rolling their eyes at each other, and eventually sauntering up to the front to form a group and start. It was fun to see the older mama come join them (looking rather spry today) and this lady on the drum is one of my favorites.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in America. Take time to be Thankful and Praise the LORD!











PS. I was later than my normal late today, due to rechecking a dog patient who was really sick yesterday. I am also very thankful that she is much improved today.




Thursday, October 25, 2018

Blessed are the Flexible.....

Blessed are the Flexible.... for they will Not be Broken. 

This is a favorite saying of one of my teammates and as a missionary it is good to remember.

I have always enjoyed sharing what I have learned with others, whether this was in a large group setting, or with smaller groups and individuals, including people I worked with and clients. I am thankful for all God has allowed me to experience and learn throughout my life and I love sharing those things with others. I especially love public health, veterinary medicine, and science in general. Did you know that scorpions glow under a UV light! Thanks to a friend in Tanzania I now know that and am sharing that Fun Fact for the Day with you all! 

Before I came here I was comfortable that how I taught was not that bad and that people did learn things from me. Now I am transplanted in a new culture and every day I question how I am teaching and how I can do it better. The people I am teaching have different interests, abilities and levels of education, with many having no formal education. However, they all have something in common that is very different from me. They come from oral societies.

" 'Orality' refers to reliance upon the spoken, rather than written, word for communication."         From the International Orality Network website



The CHE (Community Health Evangelism) program, that I work with is great in that it uses spoken word, stories, skits, dramas, pictures and many other participatory learning tools to help teach lessons, which are really more facilitated discussions based around lessons than teaching facts to memorize. In itself it is flexible and can be adapted to use with different cultures. This is good, but it takes the teacher/ facilitator recognizing a need to adapt and the ability to be flexible and do the  adapting.

This has not been easy, but I am continuing to adapt and want to share one way I have done this when teaching/facilitating a lesson that begins with the creation story. When I first taught this I used pictures that I made, then began asking the people to draw the pictures, then I added motions/ actions that made sense to me for each day to help me remember, lastly I asked the people themselves to decide which motions/ actions they wanted to use.
One of my drawings. 

Here is a video of the result from one community. (Click here to watch if the video will not play. )




There was a bit of prompting, but I hope you will appreciate their input and understanding of the story through their own actions. I particularly like them using the sound and actions to call their goats for the land animals, the flicking of their fingers to represent killing the snake, and the fact that they used walking to represent man. 

As usual after we finish a lesson the people are encouraged to share the story with someone before the next time we meet. This is the hard part as people here do not like to share information. It has been explained to me that information is power and by sharing you share a micro-advantage with others that might help them get ahead of you.

That is tough, because everything we teach through CHE is meant to be shared, from Bible Stories, to health lessons. Multiplication is one of the key principles and that cannot happen if the people are not sharing with others. There are a few who share, especially among the women. I find them more willing and understanding of the need to share, but even then I still wonder how can I teach differently to make this easier to share, could there still be a cultural "thing" I am doing that makes it hard to understand and share.

Because of all this, next month,  I will travel with a teammate to South Africa for the International Orality Network's African Conference (ION).  There we will meet with 130 other people learning about African oral societies, how they learn, and how we can work with them to help spread the Gospel. I am most interested to see how they address the idea of a micro-advantage keeping people from sharing information. Is it really the stumbling block or is that an excuse and there are solutions unrelated to it. I am thankful for the commitment of ION and their partners to put on this conference and others they are hosting around the world this fall. I am thankful for their commitment to pray for the conferences and oral societies around the world.

Please join me in praying for this conference and other ION conferences and all who will attend. Pray we come with open minds and are able to absorb many wonderful things that we can take back to our ministry areas. Pray we are able to apply these things we learn and also share them with many others. Pray for travels and logistics and the leaders who are coordinating these events.





Friday, September 7, 2018

Life is a Journey.... Part 1




August 2018 will go down in Shannon Tucker history as the most people filled, event filled and travel filled month of my life. For this introvert it was overwhelming at times and yet quite enjoyable. So much happened that I cannot share only a few stories or use just one blog to do justice to all God has shown me, shared with me and taught me. So sit back and enjoy Part 1 of Life is a Journey!

As we landed in London at 6 am I was happy to see the sun shining. We had a great flight and would have landed about 30 minutes early, but London has an ordinance that says planes cannot land before 6 am. I got a little concerned for my stomach as we zigzagged and did some other route changes, but it was not too bad and it was interesting seeing other planes in the sky doing similar things while we all waited. After landing, we rolled up to the gate and I noticed that I had an incredible view of planes landing in 2 lines, as one on the right got close to touching down, another would break through the clouds and the same on the left, with those staggering the ones on the right. I had the perfect window seat to view all this happening and it was fascinating to see the precision of so many planes landing in such a short time.

Upon exiting the airport, I was greeted with a beautiful day full of warmth and sunshine. I was in England and the country side was green with rolling hills that somehow reminded me of Southern Indiana. I knew it had only been 4 months since I left America this time, but a change of scenery like this was filling my soul in ways I definitely needed. At that point I did not realize how much more my soul would be filled over the next 4 days of meetings.

Highleigh Conference Centre
I was heading north of London to a conference center for our CMF Forum 2018. Indy office staff and CMF missionaries from all over the world would be there and many people had worked long and hard putting together this conference for us. I had met many CMF missionaries for the first time, the previous summer while I was home on furlough, when we gathered in Indianapolis for Furlough Retreat. At that time, they all encouraged me to attend the Forum. At first it was really hard to get excited about choosing to go to 4 more days of meetings. However, after a week together with those missionaries at Furlough Retreat (debriefing, sharing, learning, talking, worshipping, singing, praying, playing and so much more), I could not imagine missing an opportunity to be with them again and  to meet so many others.

CMF Forum 2018 did not disappoint, from the topics discussed in main sessions, to the worship and devotions, to the fellowship and fun with missionaries and office staff. I want to thank everyone involved in making it happen. I learned so much and still have so much to process from our time together, hence I have decided Part 1 of this blog will be dedicated to my time at the Forum. At this point those of you not really interested are welcome to stop reading (as our ministry team says this is the Melba version, feel free to read no further). For those who continue , I hope you enjoy a snapshot of what I learned and experienced. I am happy to answer any questions, or discuss a topic in more depth than I will be able to do here. Also I apologize to our leaders, if I misunderstood or misrepresent anything here, from what you shared/taught us.

Worship Time

Playing croquet in England
Our group consisted of over 120 adults and children who gathered at the Highleigh Conference Centre, in Hoddesdon, England. There were beautiful old buildings, mixed with the new and their grounds were gorgeous, with plenty of room for everyone (we were not the only group there that week). There was a park nearby, a field we could walk through with cows (I was hoping for sheep, but cows still made me smile). I played croquet (check that off the bucket list) with my teammate, walked to town and shopped, drank British tea (when I went to buy some, the label said…made from the finest tea leaves in Kenya J).

We had morning liturgical prayer time together by the “big log” (it really was a very large old log/fallen tree). Worship time was led by very creative MK’s (missionary kids). The room where we met had great acoustics and our voices mixed well with a ukulele and what I assumed was a new-fangled beat box type of drum. It was not until the last day that it was mentioned he was actually playing the rubbish bin and I looked and saw that he really had been playing the rubbish bin (trash can). MK’s are the best!

In devotions we discussed where is home and how to find home in our churches, scarcity and abundance and that where we start with our faith foundation makes a difference. We had a corporate worship service one evening with songs, scripture readings, liturgical readings and prayer.

Relationships

Our main sessions were focused on Relationships: with God, self, team, and national partners.

God:

In this session we learned about different types of spirituality and different ways that we worship. There were six main categories we discussed and most people are a mixture, with a somewhat predominate type. I am an “Affective” type of worshiper. A few of the characteristics of that type are that feelings, emotions, and values bring connection for me. I need to feel I am cared for and experience God’s love and be able to share it. As I write this I am realizing it more and more. When I just reread the above section about worship, I got all the feels again. I remembered the child climbing on the big log as we spoke scripture and prayed together, the trash can (appropriate technology) used as a drum, the voices all mixing so beautifully in the building where we had our meetings, being in meetings, yet having so much time to be outdoors and interacting with God’s people and His Creation (more on that a bit later).

As we learned about all the categories and thought about our dominant types, we probably all realized that there are bits of the other types that help us worship and a few that are definitely not what fill us up in worship. At this point, we were cautioned to learn about our type, but to be open to other types of spirituality and to realize every person is different and certain parts of corporate worship will appeal to each person differently. We need to be flexible for the other styles and the fact that we have (and now know) our dominant style does not give us a “pass” from worshipping corporately within the other styles. Be careful to not be “so delicately balanced” that you cannot enjoy worshipping God in new and different ways. However, if you need filled up, think about your style and do something to help fill that area.


Self:

A field of English cows
The relationship to self, started with a bit of an introduction about how CMF has changed to a more holistic view of missionary care. Now everyone in the office is considered to be involved in our care. This makes sense as even our financial health with CMF and relationship with donors is very important to our personal health and health of our ministries. I have been impressed with the changes taking place in CMF and was happy to meet the new coordinator for our Care Team and to hear about these changes.

A few key statements from this section:
-       Self-care is not self-centeredness, it’s not “me first”, it’s “me too”
-       How you treat the “body” (individual), affects the “body” (family, team, community)
-       Some questions to use for regular self-check in’s:
o   What joys have I not celebrated?
o   What losses have I not grieved?
o   What fears am I afraid to explore?
o   What anger am I holding on to?
o   What are my values and how have I lived them out?
o   What is my motivation? How is it serving me? Others?
-       Think about the 4 areas (mind, body, soul, relational): How full is each area? Which are most satisfying? Why? Which are empty? Why?
-       We were also introduced to enneagrams and encouraged to take the test and learn more about our number classification. It is more than just another personality test and will help with self-discovery and identifying motivations. I did a small test and plan to read more about these classifications, especially the areas that are weaknesses for me.
-       ! Kings 19:4-8 the angel telling Elijah “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” After eating and drinking he was strengthened and traveled 40 days and 40 nights.

This was a really good session and another key point is that we often cannot separate team time and me time without the team speaking into it. Things we do in our personal lives often affect the team and the ministry. Food for thought, that can be a bit tough to swallow.

Team:

We discussed how to be an ideal team player. An ideal team player should be a mixture of 1) Humble, 2) Hungry, and 3) Smart. I would guess that few of us are ideal. By identifying our strong areas and weak areas we can grow into an area so we are a better mix of those 3 attributes and become better team players. We all took the simple test to check where we are now and discussed our strengths and weaknesses (more information can be found at www.tablegroup.com).

My teammates at Forum
Statements to ponder “What we really do as we do it is more important than what we do.”

Or  “How we go about doing the things we do, is more important than the task itself.”

And  “Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved.”  Winnie the Pooh

So, that last one was not shared at the meeting, but it speaks to me.

National Partners:

Our relationships with nationals/partners was discussed with reference to 2 books “Building Strategic Relationships: a Practical Guide to Partnering with Non-Western Missions” by Daniel Rickett and “Western Christians in Global Mission: What’s the Role of the North American Church?” by Paul Borthwick.

Partnerships have 3 main areas 1) Results, 2) Relationships (moving from transactional to kinship) and 3) a shared Vision. There is a healthy dependency that involves reciprocity where both partners respect each other and work together, yet maintain independence. Both partners can correct and instruct and refuse those things from each other. Both partners bring something to the partnership. Lastly both work to safeguard the integrity and honor of Christ.

On paper that all seems straight forward and manageable. However, I can tell you in real life it is not easy. Please pray for my team, and our national partners, as we continue to work through the tough parts of our partnership relationship.

Workshops

Creation Care:

In 2012 the Lausanne Global Consultation on Creation Care and the Gospel was published.

They put forth 2 major convictions:

1)    Creation Care is indeed a “gospel issue within the lordship of Christ.”….. Therefore, our ministry of reconciliation is a matter of great joy and hope  and we would care for creation, even if it were not in crisis.
2)    We are faced with a crisis that is pressing, urgent, and that must be resolved in our generation…….Love for God, our neighbors and the wider creation, as well as our passion for justice, compel us to “urgent and prophetic ecological responsibility."

I have only included a small part of those convictions above to give you an idea of what Creation care is about. This is something I have been involved with through CHE and using veterinary medicine and public health in missions, although, I have never called it Creation Care. For my thinking it again goes back to a holistic way to teach and live, that includes respect for God’s creation and living in Harmony with God, self, others, and nature.

Sunny view from my window
We were presented with a lot of information and Biblical truths about our responsibility to God’s creation. Then we looked at the 10 points under the call to action. We were challenged to think about how our teams were already doing some of these steps well, the areas we wanted to do, some that seemed impossible that we would pray about, and lastly the areas that the church should be doing. It was really interesting to discuss this as a group and to hear the reports from other teams about things they were already doing in their ministry areas.


Disciple Making Movements:

DMM is already being used by some of my teammates working across Kenya and they are seeing many come to Christ through this type of teaching. It uses Discovery Bible Studies to let people who may or may not know anything about Christianity read the Bible and asks questions that help them discover what the scriptures are saying. That is a very watered down version, but much of it is like CHE, the hardest part is asking questions that may or may not get answered the way we would like or would hope they would be answered and then often keeping our mouths shut to let the person learning find the truth in what is being taught. It can be tough, but it was great to hear the reports from my teammate and others in different fields about how they are using these methods to reach many with the Gospel good news.


During the workshop times, there were concurrent sessions, and the two that I did not attend were on homeschooling and business as missions.

Networking, Fellowship, Meals, Conversations, and Games

These times together with individuals and groups were some of my favorite. I got to reconnect with so many that I met last year in the US and meet so many new people. Sometimes it was a conversation over a meal, a quiet moment at a break, a walk through the field with the cows, walks to town, tea breaks, coffee breaks, learning new things about each other as we played games together (shout out to those Mossome sisters!!)

On a walk to town for some talking and shopping
It was a lot of people time and as an introvert I did take time alone each day to recharge, but I also embraced the peopleness of this Forum, knowing there would come a point where I was craving people again, the white skinned variety, that I could talk with in fast, southern Indiana English. It was a time of being with people who could “get me” and “get the things” with which I struggle. We can somewhat relate to each other, even if the specific situations are different. I still laugh when I think of the missionary who looked at me like I had 2 heads when I was reasoning out loud that I could safely sleep with my windows open since there were no mosquitoes  (hence no worries about malaria) and no monkeys (they come into houses in Kenya and steal food, and I had just done some important chocolate and Dorito shopping).

Security

What can I say, other than it is good to be aware, be informed and it is fun to say OODA LOOP! I am thankful that CMF staff have done trainings and shared what they learned with us at this meeting. Some people live where things are not always secure and war is very close. I am thankful that I serve where it is generally peaceful, but that does not mean I should not be aware and think through these things.

Key points were to pay attention, don’t ignore your intuition and be situationally aware, along with some other more specific things to help make you less of a target. To help mitigate a potential attack use the OODA LOOP. O- observe O- orient D-decide A- act.

Sharing What We Learned

In the last session we all had a chance to share what we learned. While CMF also sent out an email survey after the Forum, it was really nice to have this session and to hear the varied answers from so many participants. The thing I took away from this is how different we all were. How certain things resonated with others that seemed to not even stay in my brain very long and what was important to me, maybe was not as important to others.

If we all knew, liked, excelled at the same thing, we would have a rather lopsided group. The body of Christ takes all of us with our different strengths and weaknesses, different personalities (Myers Briggs and enneagrams), and so much more to make it all work. It is a good an glorious thing that we are not all alike, even though it is often our differences that drive us crazy when working together on teams. God loves us all and he loves the unique people he made us to be. Yes he made us all in His image, yet we are unique. What a great, wonderful God we serve and I am so thankful that I am serving Him with other missionaries through CMF.