Saturday, June 26, 2010

Happy Thoughts Tea

for Wendy...

Inspired by fireflies in the dusky blue night, Pam and I go to the kitchen in search of enchantment. We open my magical green box and peer excitedly at the colorful array of tea packets tucked neatly inside. I pilfer through the stash for something familiar, something to remind me of home... Lady Grey - a family favorite, and decaf, too! But I know this particular bag is special - magical - because it holds a secret happy thought.

Pam pulls the bright blue packet from its place and turns it over... and laughs. "Oh, this is such a happy thought!" I glance at it too, and laugh in agreement. It's something only people like us can share, as we think of our sweet puppies who love us.

We open the packet and let a citrus zing escape under our noses, then with a plop! we channel all that flavor into a steaming pot of water.

Minutes pass and we spread out the nine previously-enjoyed happy thoughts on the table, recycling memories and smiles and smelling remnants of delicious by-gone teas. As we partake of Lady Grey, happy thoughts turn into jokes and stories that we tell... stories that grow sweeter, more precious, more significant with time, age, and reflection.

This is a magical moment - a moment of enchantment - created by a pot, two cups, and the joy of the Lord shared with a friend.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Angaying Inn

Last night, Thangai showed me pictures of her homeland, the Chin state of Myanmar.

She said it is very cold there in the mountains, and the trees bloom bright red flowers in November and December. In June and July, white blossoms cloak the mountains all around. The mountain views are breathtaking... just ripples and waves of green against a blue blue sky, or grey-blue mountain tops poking out of thick blankets of cloud that settle into all the valleys.

She also told me about the traditional bamboo dance, in which the boys clap and tap long bamboo sticks together and on the ground, and the girls dance between them.

She let me listen to Burmese music - not the light-hearted pop songs I've gotten used to hearing on Michael's favorite music videos, but slower ballad-type of songs that make your heart swell and long for something beautiful and familiar. She sat quietly, rocking baby Debrah and humming Burmese love songs and lullabies. I think she misses her home.
And the saddest thing is that she knows she cannot go back, and probably never will. The Chin people of Burma face great persecution. The militant government makes arbitrary arrests, steals money and food and property, forces the people into labor, and does not allow them to move to another place - all to intimidate and oppress them. You wouldn't know it to look at the beautiful landscape, but this land is truly torn apart by hatred and fear.
Thangai is 22 years old, Hau Lun is 24, and they have a growing family, and they moved here just a few months ago. I am in awe of their courage and strength to escape and seek a better life for their children. They are full of love and hope because they follow and trust Jesus.
I think I've decided on a name for our old house that has so much personality... so much love... I will call it Angaying Inn. "Ang ai ing" is Zo for "love," and "inn" actually means "house." This isn't the order they would put the words for the phrase in the Chin language, and I adapted the spelling for phonetic reasons, so this is more the "American" version, but it seems fitting, right? A blended American-Chin way to say that this house is full of love. Please pray that we will demonstrate this to all who enter in.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I try to be progressive and connected in my ESL lessons. So after teaching numbers, it seemed logical to teach time, then days and months, then dates (ordinal numbers), blending in present, future and past tenses in a more contextual way. So far, so good.

The next step for last night's class was to talk about holidays - a more interesting way to practice dates. We talked about birthdays and anniversaries and such, and once people got the hang of it, I shared some holidays that are important in America, thanks to a great resource by Bill Perry, A Look Inside America. Since 4th of July is coming up soon, I thought it might be a good one to focus on, so I told them a little bit of the history and traditions. They loved this, because they love America, and many of them can't wait to celebrate their first 4th of July this year.

I had people in my class last night from Congo, Burma, and Mexico, so I asked them to get into small groups with the other people from their country and put together a short presentation about a holiday they celebrate in their country. The Mexican group talked about their Independence Day (from France, of all places... who knew?) in September, with parades, food, and dancing. The Burmese talked about their Karen New Year in December, which they celebrated in the Thai refugee camps with a feast and prayer of thanksgiving.

The Congalese holiday is the one that really interested me... it's a big holiday, but seemingly for no purpose but to thank God. You might think, "Oh, like our Thanksgiving Day," but I don't think it is the same. For one thing, they don't sit on couches like potatoes in a turkey coma watching football. This is a huge celebration, with music - singing and dancing (which the women demonstrated for us) and preaching and praying and praising. But like our Thanksgiving, they spend this time thanking the Lord for his provision and blessings... which is a big deal to me, because they celebrate in the midst of civil wars, corrupt government, malnutrition, sexual violence, malitia, and other dangers.

I started thinking about the 4th of July, how I presented our traditions of eating hamburgers and hotdogs and watching parades and fireworks... how we celebrate because of our freedom and rights and safety in America. And I thought about Thanksgiving, and how we celebrate because God has given us so much. But what if we didn't have much? What if we weren't free and safe? What if we had no rights? Would we still praise the name of the Lord?

Christians all around the world do this all the time, and most of them are more passionate and vocal about their praise than we who have plenty of food and a sturdy house. I realized this as Odette and Marta danced and sang, "Thank you, Jesus! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!" as their smiles stretch wide across their faces. They sing and dance because God is good... "oll de time!" - He is good today, when they are safe in America, and he was good last year when they were hungry in Congo... and he will be good next year, no matter what the circumstances. Many people in their countries serve gods who are not good, so these women rejoice that they have a good God whom they serve, and who loves them always.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lakeside Getaway

Mom came to visit last weekend, and it was a whirlwind adventure! We went to Cheddars for lunch, and then Jayne took Leigh Ann, Mom, and I to Lakeside Park. For those of you who enjoy downtown Winston-Salem, imagine driving through the West End to Grace Court or Reynolda Gardens, only its even more is huge, with a lake and fountain in the middle! Here's some pictures of our time exploring this place, among all the weddings and quincinera parties...

After enjoying a stroll around the lake, we headed back home, and mom met all my new friends, and then we got in our pajamas and we stayed up late talking and trying to catch up on the two weeks we've missed with each other.
Early the next morning, mom and Leigh Ann had to leave. It was a short time we had, but very sweet - we know how to squeeze as much life and love as possible out of every moment we have together!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Friends in High Places

The family upstairs is spending more and more time downstairs. I think they either realized I don't bite, or I love teaching English... or maybe both. Whatever the reason it is nice to see them more and more and become their friend.

They have a particular love for Jackie Chan movies in Chinese Burmese music videos, and old Disney classics (which I'm realizing are GREAT for ESL practice). They also make rice in very large quantities and smother it in some Asian sauce that is very strong and lingers for days.

They stay up very late and sleep in very late as well. They are soft-spoken and laid-back, very pleasant to be with.

Hau Lun (pronounced haw- LOON) is the father, and yesterday I helped him apply for a job, so now we are buddies. He is much sillier than he first let on, especially when he plays with his son, Michael. He seems to be aware of my inability to open doors, because when I need to go out or come in, he is always there waiting for me.

Tangei (pronounced tong- GUY) is the mother, and she is brilliant. She has picked up on the fact that I teach English every night, so she comes to every class! Then she sits with me after the other students leave and teaches me her language, Zo, as she rocks baby Debrah to sleep.

Michael loves to play with balls, dance to Burmese music, grab anything within reach, and sneak into my room and "borrow" my stuff. He also doesn't seem to mind Roshni toting him around like a puppy.

Debrah loves to sleep... as most 4-week-old babies do. She is not fussy, and is quite interested in things that move, such as my chair.

Pray for the Lun family! Hau Lun is trying to get a job to support his little family, and he and Tangei are trying to be good parents and neighbors. They love Jesus very much, and want to share their faith with Americans.

Monday, June 21, 2010

My Ethiopian Family

Last Friday night, Leigh Ann and I were invited to Hilina's house for dinner. We got to meet her mom and dad, her brothers, and her sister, as well as her nephew.
We thought we would sample the exotic Ethiopian fare, but instead Hilina's mom spent all day
cooking up an "American feast" in our honor. When we came around the table, she served us each lasagna, two pieces of fish, boiled potatoes and carrots, beets, deviled eggs, rice with corn and peas, and cabbage. :) Never realized that American foods could be displayed so ethnically... it was amazing. She urged us to "eat! eat!" Then we had hot tea and chocolate cake.
Her dad talked a lot about Ethiopia, and at one point he said, "This is a good country... a blessed country." I started to smile and nod and say that I knew, and he held up his hand. "No, you don't know. Americans, they cannot know how blessed they are. Only people from other countries who come here really know this." I think this must be true.
After dinner, we watched the World Cup and played with nephew William. As we got ready to leave, her mom took my face in her hands and kissed both of my cheeks. Something inside me wanted to cry: "I have an Ethiopian mama now!"
I'm so thankful for the love and generosity that has been poured out on me by my Ethiopian family.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Prayer Update

Dear friends,

Well this week was busy but very exciting! I got to start all my new ESL classes, which I teach six times during the week to people from Mexico, Peru, El Salvador, Congo, Yemen, Ethiopia, and Burma. Thank you for praying for relationship building; I’ve had some wonderful times of fellowship, especially with some of the other leaders, Jayne and Tara, and with my housemates.

My students seem to be warming up pretty fast to me, and they tell me that the lessons are helpful. On Thursday night, one student said, “I think we are on to something very good here.” As far as encouragement goes, I think I am the one who has been encouraged. I’ve been especially blessed by the stories that my students tell in class as we study the Bible together. They just love to share what God has done for them, how faithful and good he is. I’m praying that people who do not know the Lord will come to class and hear these powerful testimonies and be drawn to this God who is so personal and loving.

I learned this week that there are some teenagers from Burma and Somolia who are struggling with a lot of challenges at home and school. I’ve met one 14-year-old girl from Burma named Sannu, who is a new Christian. She is coming over to have lunch with me tomorrow. I think we may start some summer tutoring and mentoring with prayer and Bible study.

This week please pray:

· that some non-believers will come to class and hear the gospel, not just from me but from their peers. There are many Muslim women who come on Tuesdays to women’s club, but do not come to the Bible story time yet.

· for Sannu, as she wants to grow in her faith and her understanding of the Bible, that I will be a good friend and a help to her.

· that I will use my time wisely, so I have time to plan lessons, build relationships, and get plenty of sleep.

Thank you for your prayers! It is so exciting to partner with you in this work!