Thursday, January 29, 2009

Our anniversary ... of sorts

Today is the 20th anniversary of the day I told Robin Jayne, "I like you." Five months later we were engaged. Yes, I've always been pretty deliberate about my words and she's always known exactly what I mean.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chi Rho Singers in concert

Great to have the Chi Rho Singers with us earlier tonight. It is a great event to kick off our 140th year of ministry as Bethany Church. And, one of their songs was dedicated to Pauline Z. and the Bethany Groupies!

50 Years!

Congrats to Dee & George on 50 years together!

From Saint Augustine

Sometimes we feel the need, like the first man and woman, to hide from God. For that reflex, Augustine has incredible wisdom in his Confessions (Book 10, The Philosophy of Memory, 2.2).

Lord, before whose eyes the abyss of man's conscience lies naked, what thing within me could be hidden from you, even if I would not confess it to you? I would be hiding you from myself, not myself from you.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Quotes from the Bishop's Retreat

You can no more be a Christian alone than you can commit adultery all by yourself.
- John Wesley

The ‘martyrdom’ of God is the transformation [not the explanation] of the human condition . . . [We do not] make sense of suffering [but rather], through the martyrdom of God, we transform it.
- Nicholas Lash

Maeyken Wens, Antwerp, 1573

A story from the Bishop's Retreat (where I am Mon-Wed this week), told by our presenter Tex Sample:

Maeyken Wens felt the call to ministry, but no one would ordain her. She started preaching in the street, but was arrested by the authorities: "If you will recant and promise not to preach again, we will release you to your husband and children. If you don’t, you are going back to jail." She refused and languished in jail for months. Brought back before the magistrate, she was offered a last chance: Recant and promise never to preach again, or you will be burned at the stake. She refused. The next day, before walking from the jail to the stake, they screwed her tongue to the roof of her mouth because they were afraid she would start to preach. After the burning, the family went back through the site and sifted through the ashes until they found the tongue screw. Once again, an instrument of torture and death became a symbol of salvation and a witness to grace.

Ghana: Building Solid Foundations

This past Sunday, Grace Quartey of Building Solid Foundations shared the story of their mission and service in Apam, Ghana [pics]. It was so exciting to see how God keeps opening doors when we put ourselves at God's disposal ... from initial plans for one medical team to a well-drilling rig, educational resourcing for the local Methodist school, construction of latrines, experimental gardens and fish ponds, and more opportunities constantly opening up. One of our own has been on the mission trip the past two Septembers, and we provided support to BSF at Christmas Eve.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Negative self-fulfillment

Along the lines of wish fulfillment and self-fulfilling prophecy, these words from Psalm 109 are powerful (taken from The Book of Common Prayer).

He loved cursing,
let it come upon him;
he took no delight in blessing,
let it depart from him.
He put on cursing like a garment,
let it soak into his body like water
and into his bones like oil . . .

Psalm 109:16-17

The Bird Has Landed

Robin landed in NYC this morning about 6:15, an hour earlier than scheduled. She said that it was 105 to 110 degrees in the Kalahari Desert this past week while she was there. We are looking forward to seeing her soon and we are thankful for all your prayers!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Church Camps

The church camp brochure is now online. Check it out and register your children - or yourself!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Covenant Prayer

Used in worship this past Sunday:

Adapted from The United Methodist Book of Worship and The United Methodist Hymnal

The Covenant Service goes back to the writing of Richard Alleine, a Puritan, whose work was included by John Wesley (the father figure of the Methodist movement) in his reference collection, A Christian Library. Wesley adapted it for use in worship in 1755 and regularly used the covenant service as he visited the Methodist Societies across the British Isles. He wrote in his journal that it was regularly "an occasion for a variety of spiritual experiences" including "a sense of pardon," "full salvation," and "a fresh manifestation of [God’s] graces." While the language is updated and abridged, it remains a series of dramatic and demanding prayers offering total devotion to God in Christ.

Commit yourselves to Christ.
Give yourselves to him, that you may belong to him.
Christ has many services to be done.
Some are more easy and honorable,
others are more difficult and disgraceful.
Some are suitable to our inclinations and interests,
others are contrary to both.
In some we may please Christ and please ourselves.
But then there are other works where we cannot please Christ, cannot love Christ,
except by denying ourselves.

Let us, therefore, go to Christ, and pray:

I am no longer mine, but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will.
Put me to doing,
put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for you
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you
or brought low for you.
Let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing.
I freely and with a willing heart
give it all to your pleasure and disposal.

Christ will be the Savior of his servants.
Christ will have no servants except by consent;
Christ will not accept anything except full consent
to all he requires.
Christ will be all in all, or he will be nothing.
God requires that you shall put away all your idols.

From the bottom of my heart, I renounce them all,
covenanting with you that no known sin shall be allowed in my life.

Through Christ, God offers to be your God again.

Before all heaven and earth,
I choose you as my Lord and my God.
I take you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for my portion,
and vow to give up myself, body and soul, as your child,
to follow you in love and faithfulness all the days of my life.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

South Africa: The Week Ahead

Robin's Saturday update:

I will be flying out tomorrow for Kimberley and will be there thru Monday. I do not know what type of e-mail access I will have.

I went to market today. Again, I had to be reminded by Mo that I am in San Diego...It was not anything like the market in Lesotho with cardboard boxes and sheets for stores. It was crowded with individuals with financial means and vendors with fancy cheeses, clothes and crafts. The only black South African person I saw was a lovely lady carrying a box. I thought she was selling goods that she had made in the box. Later, when looking for a trash bin, I found out that her box was the way trash was collected. Culture shock again for me.

This afternoon I went to a potjie - this is South African for a pot of stew that is cooked over an open fire. The meat was lamb and the stew contained many different spices and vegetables (carrots, beets, mushrooms, etc). It was delicious. There was also a lovely bread made with cherry tomatoes and a corn meal dish that was tasty as well. The party was held at the house of a friend of Mo's. The woman of the house is a social worker by training and has worked in the city health department in Cape Town. Her husband is a computer wiz and is working on/in charge of the technology stuff for the World Cup stadium in the area. It was very interesting to hear their perspective on the public healthcare system in SA. They have two foster children who delivered children in the government hospitals. The conditions were not good and the nurses were not sympathetic. It is concerning as many nurses have moved from the public health sector to private health care center. The nurses left behind are overworked and their wages are low in comparison to the private sector. The conversation with this family was very helpful to me. In one farm area where a friend of theirs works, there is an estimated 90% HIV infection. This is in the Zulu part of the country. Many good things are happening in terms of access to care in some areas but other areas are trailing significantly. I am hoping my study will add hope and understanding to the situation at hand.

My future itinerary will be something like this...Kimberley on Sunday (dinner with two individuals from NGO's working in the Northern Cape) and Monday (meet with the Bothmas on Monday), go to Prieska on Tuesday to meet and interview nurses there, on to Upington later in the day and have a meeting that evening. We will stay in Upington on Wed and visit the Kalahari dessert and I assume some clinics there. Thursday we will go to Springbok and then to Calvinia. We will arrive back to Kimberley on Friday in time to fly to Cape Town. In CT, we will meet with two physicians who work with the health department (one city and one provincial) then I will go to the airport and fly to home. Wow...what a journey.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Warkenda is in the cast of a Paul Shanley play, Doubt, at York Little Theatre this month (Jan 16-18, 22-25). I just finished reading it . . . and it is wonderful, serious, thought provoking. The blurb on the YLT site:

Suspicion; Morality; Faith: Two schools of thought clash in a 1960's Catholic School between a traditional nun who doesn't believe in coddling her students and an athletic priest who embraces the Second Vatican Council's directive for the clergy to become more accessible to their parish. Their rivalry comes to a head when an inexperienced yet enthusiastic young nun unwittingly accuses the priest of inapproriate conduct. The ambiguities of suspicion paired with the devastating effects of gossip drive these characters into a verbal combat that explores the essence of faith, doubt and the ambivalent nature of moral certainty that taints our predilection for compassion and understanding.

South Africa: Update on Escapades

In Robin's own words . . .

So, yesterday was quite exciting. Mo and I woke early in the morning to fetch the train. We have a 40 min walk to the train station from her house. There are rules to getting on the train - always ride first class, get on a carriage with other people (never get on alone), keep your eyes open in the train station and you will be safe. We arrived in Cape Town 1.5 hrs later. We had a minute to sit and drink a cup of coffee/water before we went to interview the director of health. He was a very generous man and had two nurses who work with mentoring in the city sit with us in the conversation. This made for a good contact for Mo for the future and they were very interested in my study. From there we went to see the cape region. It is beautiful - a working harbor. We ate a sandwich and then headed to the Nelson Mandela museum - if you have time you can ride a ferry to Robben Island where he was imprisoned. We had to leave to fetch the train home. After we arrived home, I interviewed a physician in the country who has worked in quality assurance for HIV/STD program in the northern part of the country. She was very nice. I am finding a pattern to my interviews as I speak with individuals from different agencies.

Today, I was to take the train to Cape Town and then to Masi clinic in Fish Hoek on my own - a long ride alone. I felt ok about doing it. I knew the rules. That is when the rules all changed. I only saw one other man taking first class. I got on the same carriage as him but then he changed. I did not know what to do. I stepped out to tell the guard outside of the train and that quick the doors closed and the train took off. She kept scolding me, "Why did you get off the train". Somehow the train managed to stop, the guard quickly opened the door, and there I was thrown into third class - you see there is no second class. All eyes were on me. I apologized to all of the eyes for holding up the train and found a seat beside of a woman. It was a long ride to Cape Town, but I managed fine. It is interesting. In second class, between stops a beggar will get on the train - an individual who is physically disabled and walk the car looking for coins - as I placed a coin in the can of the first man, the man across from me looked at me disapprovingly. No beggars come to first class and yet these are the individuals with more resources (lower middle class). There are no padded seats in third class only hard metal benches that line each side of the carriage. I was the only white person in the whole carriage. Only lower middle class and poor take the train to Cape Town. To Fish Hoek, young adults and teens who were well dressed boarded the train as we got closer to the beach, some of them with surf boards. Also, a guard accompanied us part of the way. I was sitting first class on this trip. The whole ordeal took me 4 hrs just to get to the clinic.

The clinic lies in a semi-formal settlement. There are a few cement structures placed by the government and tin and stick structures are built around these. There is running water and some kind of sewage system. Thousands of people live in a very small area. It is hard to imagine. The patients were very gracious. I was sad to hear that the NP that I was working with will be leaving the clinic at the end of the month. She is very good but over worked and worn out. The individuals on ARV treatment are doing very well. The children and adults all look healthy. The side of effects of the treatment are evident in those who have been on treatment for some time. The treatments used are ones that work effectively but have greater side effects than the ones we now use in the US.

I had a ride home from a travel company "The Backpackers" - It took 45 mins! However the trip on the train was 15 Rand and the trip home was 300 Rand (one rand is approximately 10 cents in US money, so $1.50 as opposed to $30)! I took Mo out to dinner as today is her birthday. We had a feast and a lovely walk to the town and back. I have walked more miles since I arrived here than I did in all of 2008! My stamina is increasing - however, my feet have blisters from a poor choice of shoes one day.

Will be heading to the northern cape on Sunday and more interveiws with nurses and public health workers. Then back to Cape Town for a final interview and then home to the US. Woohoo! Love to all of you. Keep up the prayers. God is truly with me. Sleeping is getting better.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A new use for Christmas Cards

You have probably discovered that we're not particularly adept at sending Christmas cards, though we treasure those we receive. This year, we've put them in a basket at the table and are using them for our dinner prayers ... praying for a couple friends each time we gather around the table as a family.

Monday, January 5, 2009

South Africa: Ostrich Neck and Research

Robin leaves Sunday for the Northern Cape (for her interviews) and does not expect to have any web access. Below are some email excerpts with plans for this week and other fun details:

I am looking forward to going to the clinic in the Western Cape on Thursday. The research nurses [whom she met for dinner the very first night] are very nice and very sharp. It will be great to see them at work. I think that most of my work the rest of the week will be in terms of calls, e-mails and gathering research info. I do not know what the end product will be like but I am learning a lot and will have something to report when I am done. Mo went to town on her bike. It is quite hot today. While she is gone, I am going to try to get some work done on her computer. I have a lot of info to organize and research. Mo is really great.

Sleeping is still a challenge. I fell asleep SA time at about 2330, but was wide awake at 0200. I did not fall back to sleep until 0500. I forced myself to get up at 0900 and NO NAPS for me today. We are eating rather simple meals at home. We had a very fancy meal out the first night. I had lots of interesting food - including ostrich neck:) We also ate lunch out yesterday. At home, we have eaten oats, PBJ, fruit - will have cheese and fruit tonight.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

South Africa: Sunny and Warm

Robin flew in on the same flight with Mo (Maureen), the director of the International Council for Equal Healthcare Access (ICEHA) HIV/AIDS clinical mentoring program in South Africa. The evening they arrived they had dinner with three nurses doing research for the government of South Africa. Those nurses are focused on areas related to Robin's research, and it was a wonderful dinner. They slept in today, took a walk downtown, and Robin plans to make calls over the next couple days to hopefully arrange additional interviews.

For their walk today, the weather was sunny and warm - 80 degrees. The boys and I were able to talk with her on the internet based phone today. Thanks for covering her (and us) with your prayers.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

South Africa: Network of Prayers

Gary W. is encouraging everyone to pray for Robin every day at 10:00 pm. That's 6:00 am South Africa time, a great way for Robin to start her day. Thanks, Gary!

Robin was scheduled to arrive in South Africa at 8:00 am our time today ... 4:00 pm there.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Day in the Life

Familiar enough ... though our guys have learned how to use a hamper, and the washing machine itself for that matter. It's from my favorite Sunday strip.

South Africa: Up, Up, and Away

We were up this morning at 4 am, on the road at 4:30 taking Robin to catch the train in Lancaster. Her flight left JFK at 4 pm and she is headed to South Africa for two weeks of research for her graduate nursing thesis - focused on clinical nurse mentoring in HIV/AIDS care (the work she did in Lesotho for 6 weeks, 3 years ago). Communication will be a bit spotty, but I'll try to post some updates along the way.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

H of G

No, not the H.R.G. of Heroes fame, but H. of G., an expression of Dr. Paul Farmer as described in the book Mountains Beyond Mountains, a book I've been listening through. The "hermeneutic of generosity" is an interpretive rule described in the expression "giving the benefit of the doubt", only that the interpretive rule is intensified, that good will is assumed. When you know and love someone and they do something unexpected and, perhaps, offensive, you assume (hopefully) that they are still the one you love. An H. of G. develops along with trust, but it can also be chosen, a deliberate way of relating to others around us . . . and worth a resolution if you are prone to consider such things. (I don't make New Year's resolutions, but that is another matter all together!)