Friday, December 30, 2005

Check out my brother Tom

My youngest brother, Tom, just started his blog...

You'll want to read his tribute to our mom.

And thanks to all of you for your wonderful and kind words. Such an outpouring of love and support is amazing.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Celebration

(this is a pic of my brothers Bud, Steve and Tom and moi--I'm the good looking one--and our dear dad)

That's just what her funeral was. A Grand Celebration.

Mom's funeral was one of the happiest occasions of laying one to rest that I've ever attended.

That's because she was ready. She had lived for Jesus, had sung his praises all of her life--and now is singing a new song over in glory...

She wasn't perfect, not at all. But was perfect by the Blood of Jesus. Her sins were forgiven. She walked in peace and joy knowing she belonged to Christ.

There was no reason to grieve. That would have been selfish. So we sang instead.

We told stories. We shared fun times, funny times, happy things, grand occasions, memorable events. And we sang.

Mom had a song for every event. She sang while she worked, she sang while she played. And we played a recording of her singing, "I'll Sing A New Song Over in Glory" as the PowerPoint went through memorable photos of her.

As a family, growing up, we used to sing and play our instruments together. The first song we learned, and it became our family theme song, was "Mansion Over the Hilltop."

She had taught us all to sing. Music is in our blood. It just seemed appropriate for us to sing our family theme song at her promotion to Heaven.

And as my brothers and I stood on the platform at New Hope Assembly of God in Urbandale, Iowa, singing for Mom, we looked down at our dear Dad, sitting in his wheel chair in the center aisle next to the second row, smiling up at us and directing us with his hand, like he used to do when we played our instruments together so many, many years ago.

Alzheimers just can't take everything from your heart.

We all miss Mom. Especially Dad--he's grieving for her. But it's so wonderful to have the promise of Eternal Life. That's why Jesus died for us--to give us heaven and a New Song.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

My Mom

I just received word from my brother that my mom has died.

I'm sad. But I'm glad for her.

She went quietly, in her sleep--the way we all sort of hope to cross over into eternity.

She was a solidly born again believer--for over 76 years.

Dad and Mom have been in a care facility for about a year. Both having memory problems.

But they knew both of us (Dave and me) when we last visited shortly before coming to Swaziland. Mom had trouble putting words together to form a sentence, but I could almost always help her by figuring out what she was trying to say (I think it's that female thing).

They had celebrated their 70th anniversary in April this year. She was 88.

I learned the basic stuff daughters learn from moms--cooking (though I've never been as good a cook as she was), cleaning (you could eat off the floor, but you'd better not try!), shopping, driving, mothering my babies, and most importantly of all, serving Jesus.

My three brothers and I played musical instruments along with Mom on the guitar, Dad on the saxophone. Our first family "performance" was at Berean Assembly of God, in the basement before the upstairs was finished, playing "Mansion Over the Hilltop."

Although Mom ministred mostly in music, she was also a servant of giving...she'd do laundry, bake cakes, take meals to widows, babysit for young moms needing a break...

I'm sitting here in Africa wishing I could be there with the family right now. We have a call in to the travel agent, hoping to find a seat or two on a flight going to Iowa (hard time of the year to do so). But I know being here as a missionary is with the blessing of both parents. They have been our biggest spiritual supporters. I'll miss her prayers...

When she fell and broke her hip a over year ago now, I went to the hospital to see her. It was other visitors were there. I gave her a handful of little love gifts, a magazine of cookie recipes, some warm socks, a nighty, and some chocolate candy. She was glad to see me, but very tired. I held her hand and prayed with her, patted her head, stroked her gray hair, and sang to her as she went to sleep. "All night, all day, angels watching over me..." When I left the room, she was sleeping.

The next few times I saw them both was at the care center. I'm so glad the people there are loving and kind. They really showed tenderness and love to my parents. For that I am grateful. It's so hard not being so far away when I thnk of that.

My concern goes to my 91-year-old dad now. Questions arise...will he understand that she died? How will he handle it? How long do we have him? Will he just grieve to death? God is still God...He is able and will help my dad through this.

And then I think of Mom...she doesn't have the problems with forming sentences now. She's praising God in perfect words. She's not hobbling around on a patched-up hip. I can almost hear her singing...

And just maybe she's finally getting to sing with Vestal Goodman!

Christmas Shopping in South Africa

You want to know what's really weird?

Christmas shopping in the summer time.

Susan and I were in this really nice "Bed, Bath and Beyond" sort of place, but South African, called Mr Price Home.

It is one of those places that makes me drool, just like BB&B does.

The crazy thing that my mind had a hard time getting around was this: One display of lovely Christmas stockings, pine greenery, wreaths, miscellaneous ornaments (including snowmen), and the like, were situated right next to the beautiful display of neon greens and oranges and yellows--lawn chairs, outdoor cookery equipment, sunshade bonnets, umbrellas and plastic picnic dishes.

Being born and raised in Iowa where the Christmases are extremely WINTER and COLD, this summer display was hard for my brain to accept.

To confuse me further, the shopping music from the store's sound system was playing, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas..." But dream was all anyone here could do.

One step outside confirmed the summer. One glance at the calendar confirmed Christmas.

Not too bad. I think I could get used to it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Jumping Castle Fun

Happy faces at the CarePoint Christmas party…kids are wearing themselves out in the “Jumping Castles” at Ngwane Park.

After the wild jumping, there were games (including pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and a very wet water balloon toss), and then after the older kids put on a nativity skit for everyone to enjoy, we served dinner that included the rare treat: fried chicken!

Last of all, gifts were given to everyone, including the grandmothers who cook the meals everyday for the children.

Everybody went home very, very tired, and very, very happy.

(Even the missionaries.)

The Painted Face

The Children's Cup CarePoint Christmas parties here in Swaziland have many aspects to them…one being the line up for painted faces (what’s a party without painted faces?). Here’s one of my favorites from a place called Moneni. This child was in wide-eyed amazement of the whole event.


English as a second language always presents odd situations. Dave and I were at one of the Swaziland "super markets" where we snapped this memorable ad in their window.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ah, Those Christmas Lights

Following is condensed version of a recent email I received from daughter-in-law Shannon (wife of our youngest son, Josh) about our grandkids Vaughn, 5, and his three-year-old twin sisters, Monroe and Monet:

"Josh finished putting up the Christmas lights last night. We took the kids outside to see them and when Josh turned them on, Monet let out this really excited giggle. Then I asked them all what they liked best. Vaughn said he liked it all. Monroe said she liked the orange lights, which were really the red ones. Her favorite color is still orange. Monet pointed next door to the neighbor’s array of big random colored bulbs, and said, 'I like those!'”

Monday, December 05, 2005

A New Pal

We are in Swaziland now. The calendar says December. The weather says July.

Today we celebrated the first of several Children's Cup CarePoint Christmas Parties. This campus is the biggest of all that we have in Swaziland. Several hundred kids are fed here daily. Today there were two jumping castles (like the space walk blowup jumping things) filled with giggling, shouting kids.

There were games and fried chicken and presents for everyone, including gifts for the grandmothers and other volunteers who help make it all work to help the kids. And, of course, plenty of candy to wire up everyone.

There was this one little kid...a baby girl, just learning to walk. She stole my heart. At first, when I tried to take her picture, she burst into tears. But, if you know me, you know I didn't give up. I kept peeking at her and waving and smiling. Finally she worked her way closer. And then came to me! I held her on my lap, and she let me hug and pat her.

Before long, she was my pal, even putting her head on my shoulder and cuddling.

I had no idea who she belonged to. It seemed she had been passed from one big kid to another during the time I'd been there. So I just carried her around with me while I took pictures of the stuff going on at the party. Soon she began to pat back...I had finger-printed glasses to prove it!

When we had to leave, I hated to just put her down on the grass. I asked around and found she was there with her grandmother who is one of the volunteer cooks.

Reluctuantly, I gave her up, into the arms of a loving granny.

But most of the kids there today are without parents...without someone to hold them, wipe their noses, tell them that they are important. They have no one to tuck them into bed at night and help them say their prayers. No one to kiss the hurts...

That's why Children's Cup is here in Swaziland. Not to physically remove them from their lives, (even though that sounds like a good idea sometimes!) but to help them and teach them about Someone who cares about them, and loves them. One who will give them hope for tomorrow. Who will bring peace and joy.

Isn't that what Christmas is about? That awesome Joy and Peace that comes with knowing Jesus.

Thanks to all the wonderful people who help make Hope available to them.