Sunday, August 28, 2016

John 3:16 and "Not my circus, not my monkeys"


 Well, hello there! 

I know, I've not blogged in ages.  Sorry about that. 

The problem with journals is, if you slack off for even a little time, the life stories keep adding up and adding up, stacking higher and higher in the writer's mind......causing said writer to procrastinate further due to the wrong belief that, "If I write now, I have to catch up on this, and this, and this......

Augh!  I will never have enough time to get caught up ...... or, maybe I will.....tomorrow.  Yes, I will do it tomorrow." 


Only, you know how that goes.  Tomorrow never, never comes.

So, today is the day that I wave the white flag of surrender to my perfectionistic thinking that tells me I have to chronicle every event in this blog.  I can't possibly catch up on our lives for the last year, except to say this:

We moved to Kenya.
 I teach senior English at Ruthie, Sam and Deste's school, Rift Valley Academy.
Tim is a professor of surgery with the PAACS surgery residency program at Kijabe Hospital.
Last year pretty much at our lunch.  Life was way too crazy, exhausting and -- oh, what an adjustment.

Tomorrow, school starts again for this year.  Our prayer is that we learn this year, through the to-do lists and busy schedules, how to discipline ourselves to live sane and healthy lives.  Burning the candle at both ends left us with no candle at all, and so our #1 priority this year is to trust God to show us what is essential and what is not, and to do the essential things, and let the rest slide.

Our relationship with Jesus is of course our #1 essential.  Without Him, nothing else matters and nothing else can be done with meaning.
#2 is time to invest in knowing each other.  We grow, we change, and yet.....if we don't keep spending time together each day (even a few minutes)......we end up feeling more like roommates or teammates rather than marriage partners.
#3 are the family relationships we have.  With 5 kids, my parents and siblings - that's a lot of people.
#4 are our jobs.

So, if you do pray for us and our ministry, our prayer request for this year is that we would go "back to the basics" and quit trying to be everything for everyone, but instead just rest in being God's children - and doing only what we are called by Him to do.


 So, what does this have to do with my post title? Well, I was meditating on this famous verse this morning, and thinking about how much I've taken for granted the fact that God the Father saw his people and knew we were without a prayer, without a hope, that we had HUGE problems we could not solve.  AND HE DECIDED TO GIVE UP HIS SON SO HE COULD FIX IT FOR US.
He knew the only way to help us out of our mess was to send his (one and only) son to save the day.......and He could have said, "Not my circus, not my monkeys", and would have been justified in saying so. 

We were the ones who chose our own way, who left God in the first place.  He could have just said, "Your problem.  Not mine.  You made your bed, now lie in it.  Goodbye.  Thanks for playing."

But he didn't.

Even though our problem, our huge, devastating, eternal nightmare problem was not God's problem at all.......even though we (the human race) had brought this problem on ourselves........God decided, out of LOVE for us, to make our problem His problem.  He decided to move heaven and earth to help us.  And to give his ALL to help us.  He didn't even spare his only son.  That's more than any parent can imagine being asked to give.

The World's coping mechanism system.  Kind of reminds me of Cain's famous line, "What?  Am I my brother's keeper?"

  




When I think of this, it not only fills me with gratitude, it also infuses me with a little less caution about guarding my priorities.  I've been focusing so much on how NOT to burn out, how NOT to become so exhausted, so depleted, so discouraged.......And Tim and I came up with our "plan" to be emotionally and spiritually healthy.  It basically involves building an invisible wall around our lives and saying NO to everything that isn't in our immediate circle of calling.

That's good and well......and I certainly need more of this - to remember I am fully human and cannot go and go and go and go and help and help and help and help without finally just imploding.

AND YET, it is also imperative to remember:  GOD GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON.

God never says, "Not my circus.  Not my monkeys."

And, being one of those monkeys, I am SO glad he doesn't!

Does God want me to solve every problem that arises, everywhere and every time?  Of course not.  But might God call me his year to bear the burden of someone else?  To be a help to someone who needs love who officially is "not my circus, not my monkey"?  Yes.  I believe he might.

So, my quest this year is to LISTEN TO GOD'S VOICE, and not to harden my heart to the needs around me, even as I also try to rein myself in and safeguard my strength and time so that I have enough to give to my God and my family and myself.  Hardening my heart, resolutely saying "NO" every time, means I am trusting in my own strength to restore my tired heart.  I am depending on human methods to restore and refresh me.  "Just say NO" is the human mantra of how to protect ourselves. 

Yes, I do want to say NO a lot more often, I want to eradicate all I do that is not sent from Him, but I want to stay open to saying YES to anything He IS asking of me - because if He asks, I know it's good, no matter what. And if He asks, He will give me the strength and time to do it. 

So, prayers for our family this year?

  • Pray we adopt more God honoring boundaries around the time, money, relationships and energy He has given to us.  That I especially let God be God, and let me be just me. 
  • Pray we are used to bring His love and light to our areas of ministry. 
  • Pray our hearts would not be hardened to His voice as we seek to protect ourselves from exhaustion, but that we would have soft hearts towards Him and open ears to His voice. 
  • Pray that we can find a creative way to celebrate our upcoming Silver Anniversary (25!) this May 2 without spending too much money doing it.  (I know it's early, but the way time flies, we know we need to start planning now.)
  •  Pray for Deste's adjustment to 1st grade.  He's very nervous about going to school "all day", and doesn't know if he can survive it.  (Kinder was a half day program.) Pray also that he learns to read and can stay up with his class.  He is fiercely competitive and when he doesn't catch on to academic things, he becomes super discouraged.  He is very smart, but changing languages three times before age 6 put him rather behind on school type things.
  • Sam is entering his hardest year at RVA.  Junior year classes are tough, very tough - pray he can rise to the challenge, and yet still have time with all his buds.  Pray also for the time he invests teaching piano (Thanks, Verna Benham!).  He really loves his students and enjoys having a part time job.  Pray that God keeps using him and inspiring him in this area.
  • This is Ruthie's senior year.  She'll be a busy bee, applying to colleges (all Texas schools), taking SATs again, taking an online college class and participating in the many RVA classes and extra activities that make up senior year.  Pray for peace for her as she applies (decisions!  decisions!), pray for sizable financial aid to come in for college (we can always pray, right?),  and for God to direct her to HIS college choice - to just the right place for her.
  • Pray for our Aggie Son, Stephen, at (where else?) Texas A&M. He's thinking through possible career directions, and maybe changing majors, so needs lots of wisdom. Pray he gets the support he needs from someone local, since we the parents are 8,000 miles away. 
  • Hannah, our Wheaton English major, has just started classes and moved into a slightly larger dorm than she's had in the past. Wheaton does so many things so well - great classes, fabulous professors, delicious dining hall, beautiful campus. But their housing? Except for one large freshman dorm, the housing is a rollback to OUR 1970-1980 dorms, the kind we all suffered through. šŸ˜€Actually, her dorms have always been much worse than mine ever were. Think sardine can. With 4 students inside. There ya have it. Pray for Hannah - that she and her 3 dorm-mates can find creative ways to manage their limited space and to balance fun, "down time", and study time in a crowded situation - and also whether she will add another major (education) to her degree plan. 
  • Pray for Deste's biological siblings, Desange and Tubunduru, who still live on Idjwi island.  We were not aware that he had siblings when we adopted him, and we probably could never adopt them now.  We do pray for them, and send them to school and provide some support for food and clothing and such, although not nearly as much as we'd like.  Please pray for them, for health, for growth, for opportunities, and most of all, to know that they are loved by a God who never, ever says, "I'm too tired to help you, I am too overwhelmed.  I can't take anything else on." So thankful that we have a God of endless strength, endless love, endless caring.  Please pray that our mighty, magnifacent God will be an everlasting help to Deste's relatives on the Island of Idjwi.   
  • Please pray that two interns could be found - possible Business major or minor students and/or fashion design students - who would commit to spending 3-6 months in Kibogora, Rwanda, to befriend the Seka ladies, teach them, doing Bible studies with them, and setting up some systems (standardized purse making, shipping, 501c3 status, etc) so that Seka can become self sufficient eventually.  We really believe that Seka was a ministry that God called us to start, but if we don't get some tangible help in this way, we are unsure how much longer Seka can continue.  :( 
Thanks for reading.  Sorry this was so long.  I will TRY to update weekly so I don't need to write such long posts in the future.

We'd love to hear how you are doing!  Shoot us an email:  bergfamilyafrica@gmail.com


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Guest Post

I just checked our giving, and it looks like donations to our mission are down.  Yet, I also recently read a blog post by a man we follow named Simon Guillebaud, who has worked for many, many years in Burundi, a kind of "sister country" to Rwanda.  Burundi is now officially the poorest country on earth - not a great #1 spot to claim. 

Simon wrote about an opportunity to help a school that is making a significan positive difference in Burundi in his blogpost today.  "Discovery School" is in need of a new (used) school bus.  

I pray that anyone who still reads my blog - I've obviously lost many readers due to my lack of ever writing - will pray for Discovery School Burundi and will donate something, even $5, to their school bus fund.  

If you think you've got a tough row to hoe, simply google "Burundi", and you'll soon realize how blessed you are.  These are our brothers and sisters.  Please help if you can!  Thanks.  


Read Simon's post here: 

Simon's Post about Discovery School in Burundi

He has shown you
what is good, 
and what 
the LORD requires of you.
To act justly
To love mercy
and
To Walk humbly with your God. 

Micah 6:8 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

? H ? O ? M ? E ?

I call so many places "HOME".  I think the word has partially lost its meaning for me from overuse.

When I'm finishing my teaching day in my classroom at RVA, packing up to walk back to our house, the place we eat and sleep, I say, "I'm going home".  

When I pack my suitcases to head to the airport, board a jet and fly 8,000 miles to the USA, I say, "I'm going home".

After I've visited a while, or done whatever I came to the States to do, I pack bags again, head to the airport and fly back to Africa.  Yep.  As I do that, I say, "I'm going home".

Tim and I are in the middle of selling our home, the building in which we ate, slept, educated our children, played, worked and stored a whole slew of things for 16 years.  When I sleep at my parents' home, wake up and prepare to drive there to sort through more boxes, I tell my parents that "I'm going home" to do some packing.

At the end of the packing workday, I tell myself, "I'm too tired to work anymore.  I think I'll go home now." Meaning, "I think I will go to my parents' home, the home where I spent my high school years".

But, none of these places are really my home.

Home implies belonging, permanence, a resting place, a place of total nurture and love and growth.

No home on this earth is really home completely, is it? Our homes here are mere whispers of our final home.  We will finally go home one day, and what a homecoming that will be.

I get excited when I think of it.  And when I think of friends we've made in Rwanda and Kenya who have no real home on this earth -- I think of how special it will be for them to be welcomed HOME at last.

Please be praying for our family, please hold us in your thoughts as we say goodbye to a home that we once naively thought would be ours until we died or entered a nursing home.  Today I smelled one of Tim's rosebushes, and the happy memories of times shared there together came flooding into my mind, one after the other after the other.

Transitions are painful, and this one is no different than the rest.  Adjustments must be made, reality must be faced.  We would gladly trade things for people -- comfort for our call -- but still, I notice my fists are closed, holding onto something, not wanting to say goodbye to a home that was good to us.

The guilt I feel for taking away my children's childhood home (and schoolroom) swells as a weight in my chest, almost like someone is stepping on me just below my throat.  Breathing becomes difficult.

Selling the love seat (which is so old and worn out!  It used to be in Tim's little brother's dorm room, way back in the early 80s!) which I reupholstered twice and which used to sit in our baby nursery, on which I nursed all four of my biological children, where they later came and sat beside me as I read books to them --- it feels like I am ripping off my arm.

Yet why am I complaining?  This was a choice we made.  You can't have your cake and eat it, too.  Holding onto a house we can no longer afford, when a buyer came our way without our even putting it on the market.......this was a gift from God.  And we realize that.  Yet, change is hard.

Lakewood Drive, I will miss you.  Thanks for the memories.


Thank you for reading.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Advent Fun



Here in Kijabe, the mission community enjoys a tradition of rotating houses each night of Advent for a short, sweet and special Advent activity. One night, we might meet at a British family's house to make colorful paper chains to put on our Christmas trees, another evening, we might meet in a German home to create lovely German 3D paper stars. 

Last night, we journeyed to the Australian-American merger home of the  Steere family for a rollicking-fun Kijabe-Christmas Carol creation competition. 

The game, affectionately stolen from the American home of the (currently stateside) Myhre family, involves teams brainstorming together to write new words about celebrating Christmas time in the unique ways we do in Kijabe, and singing our masterpieces to familiar Christmas carol tunes. 

Deste and I were a team, and our song was sung to the tune of "Away in a Manger". We titled it, "Away in Kijabe". 

We had more fun singing and giggling our way through that song, singing away!
Here is the original, scratch through a and all. 



What fun to get to see Christmas through the eyes of a little child - and even through the eyes of one for whom ALL is still brand new and fresh. Deste loves all things Christmas, including the wonder and joy of the true Christmas story, the silly and fun myths of flying reindeer and jolly elves (though he passionately reminds me every single day: "Santa isn't real, Mom. Don't forget the REAL reason for Christmas!"), watching the Grinch who stole Christmas and Elf movies, decorating a tree, stringing Christmas lights, hanging stockings, Christmas gift wishes, making paper snowflakes, and so much more. 

I promised some kids on another team that I would post the other song entries, so here they are below. Meanwhile, I hope you are having a happy Advent as well! 








Monday, November 30, 2015

Joy Comes in the Morning


Thank you for praying for me!

I "know" many people must have been praying for me since I wrote that last depressing blog post.....I began feeling better within just a few hours of publishing it.  

Wow.  I did not write the post as an experiment in the value of honesty, but if I did, it would have shown honesty really IS the best policy.  

How can a friend help if someone will not say what they need?  How can I help a friend if I do not know my friend needs something?

While I felt hesitant and a bit embarrassed to admit how tired, lousy and bereft of joy I felt on such a normally festive day, I am now glad I said it.  

The end of the story is this:  I do not feel sad any more!  Yay! 
We packed up our stuff and got almost everything in the house on Saturday.  Went up there this morning (Monday) for the last few items, and now we're all in!  Sunday morning, Tim made a fire, and I made coffee for us to drink on the front porch, which includes a luscious view of Mt. Longonot.  Not thirty seconds after I sat, all cozy in my wicker chair, I noticed the faint outlines of a rainbow starting to appear.  Within a few minutes, it became a vibrantly colored, clear-as-a-bell double rainbow! My iphone didn't capture the second rainbow very well at all, but it was there. 

Coincidence?  Nah.  I doubt that very much.  

God came and hugged me tightly Sunday morning, whispering to me through that rainbow, "It will be okay, my child.  I am still here.  You have my promise.  I will always be with you.  It's going to be okay.  I know you're tired, but you'll get some rest now.  And, you're going to enjoy your new house, by the way."  

Since seeing that rainbow, my heart feels like it has grown three sizes, just like the Grinch who (tried to) steal Christmas.  I am still not finished grading, but I've even conquered some of those essays. 

So, thank you for praying for me.  Please let me know how I can pray for you, too.  




Friday, November 27, 2015

When you best isn't good enough

It's Thanksgiving weekend, so I realize I should be writing a post about all the many things for which I am thankful. 

I know that.  And, I am thankful for all that I have been given, though I am not nearly thankful enough, nor do I have any grasp about how little I did to "get" the good things I have, nor how little control (as in, zero) I have about whether or not I will have those things tomorrow. 

But right now I don't feel all overflowing with thankfulness, so to say I did in this post would be a lie.  Right now I just feel sad.

And it makes me think about all the other people around the world who might feel sad right now as well. 

There are many of us sojourners out there, feeling sad on a weekend where we are supposed to feel happy. 

So, I am writing this as a "shout out" to my fellow sad people today. If you see any of us along the way, looking glum and grumpy, maybe give us a smile. 

I'm sad.  And I'm tired.  And I have diarrhea and a cranky stomach, again, for at least the fourth time this school term (I've lost count).  Yes, we are buying a water filter as soon as the school term ends today.  No, I am not convinced that the lab tests, which keep coming back negative for anything bad being in our water, are accurate.  Why am I sad?  Let me count the ways.


1. Tim and I have managed to hurt each other's feelings a lot lately, over pretty petty stuff. Sad. 

2. I have diarrhea and a super sore stomach.  Again.  And so does one of my children, who doesn't probably want their name mentioned on the internet when speaking of diarrhea.  Sad.

3. I miss being with my family on Thanksgiving and I am super irritated about the fact that, once again, I could not be with them, even though my parents are getting really, really old and I never know when any Thanksgiving might be the "last" Thanksgiving with them.  Yes, following Jesus where He called us is totally worth the cost of missing family, but when I could do both follow Jesus AND see my family, but then can't b/c of rather inane reasons (in my opinion), it makes me feel very sad and also very out of control, and I don't like either of those feelings.  Sad sad. 

4.  My daughter in America missed her flight to the ranch for Thanksgiving and so had to spend Thanksgiving alone in her dorm, and there was nothing this mama could do about it to help fix it. (But at least we did get a full refund on the cost of the flight.)  Moms like to fix things, and it is extremely saddening for us when we can't.  Sad, sad, sad, sad!

5.  Even though so many people I love are way more poor than me,  to whit, if compared to them, I would seem as rich as Bill Gates........I am still not used to being "poor" by the American definition of "poor", and I am tired of not being able to be spontaneous and "fun" and just go out to dinner if I want to, or to buy a new shirt if I need it or want it. 

6.  I feel pretty much spent and used up right now, but have 200 essays to grade and 65 memorized, written down soliloquies to grade, and final term grades to enter, by 5 days from now.  But before that, I need to cook a turkey and fixins for a late Thanksgiving meal at our house tonight after school ends in 1 1/2 hours, and then tomorrow, I need to pack up our house and move one mile away to the new house where we will live for 3 whole weeks.  Then, on December 27, I get to pack and move again to yet another house, where we will live for six months.  

Did I mention that I don't like packing and moving?  

And did I mention that I forgot to get cranberries last time I was in Nairobi (I don't actually know if they have cranberries), so we won't be having cranberry sauce for our Thanksgiving dinner? And, did I mention that to me, real cranberry sauce = Thanksgiving, and that the fact that we don't have them makes me want to not cook Thanksgiving dinner at all?  Yes, I am a super rational person right now. So glad you noticed.

7.  Lastly, I am sad that, partly due to all the moving we have to do over this much needed school break, and partly due to the aforementioned "poor" (but not really poor at all) status in which we live, and partly due to the unlucky fact that Tim's work permit finally arrived, just in time for MY work break to arrive (so now he will be working while I am off duty), we cannot afford to take a vacation during this holiday at all.  I am happy for all the people who get to spend a few days at Lake Naivasha or Lake Nukuru or even the lucky dogs who get to go to the beach over this break, but I am also having a major pity party for myself, that we can't.

So, yeah, I am sad this Thanksiving weekend.  I guess I need a major attitude adjustment. Prayers for my heart would be a great thing. Only God can turn around an attitude this bad. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

It Must Be in the Water!


It probably is NOT in our water, but I like to blame it on that.  More likely, I am just spending time with roughly 100 new people every day, exchanging germs with those who spend their time in the close living spaces of dormitories with 30 or so other people......and I am just the lucky recipient of every virus and cold that comes anywhere near this school. 




At any rate, somehow, I truly think I have caught every.single.thing that has gone around school so far this term. 

This week I've stumbled through 1/2 - 3/4 of my classes, but have almost constantly been yearning to crawl back into bed.  A virulent stomach bug swept through the school, seeming to hit more females than males (or maybe it just seemed that way to me?) and only hitting one member of our Berg family, namely, me.  At one point, I was shivering under the covers with 103 fever and wondering if I'd ever felt this bad before in my life. 

Thankfully, I survived, again.  Though the water at school keeps being tested and retested, and nothing foul has been found as of yet, we still have decided to begin boiling all our water.  Only Cipro brought me back to the land of the living, and the same story is true for many of the ill students as well, leading us all to think this is something more than a "virus". 

Meanwhile, Tim has thrilled at the chance to work at the hospital this week.  In school, we are reading Hamlet, and I am struggling to find a way to convince these students that the story is so much more than just a school assignment.  Alas, I have not succeeded, I am afraid.  I see the glazed look in their eyes as they open the books, except for a few brave souls who actually find the plot interesting and applicable to their lives (future English majors, no doubt!).  It breaks my heart that I haven't found a way to transmit my love of this play to them, but I maybe I will have better luck next year, my second round at sharing the play. 

Our hearts still break at the news of Kito, the little boy from Idjwi Island who has been so near death recently, whom Tim treated in a separate life threatening situation just one year ago.  Our hopes are beginning to rise that he might make it, thanks to the clinical care he has received and his little body's amazing response and ability to bounce back.  Then, two days ago, we received news that Deste's sister, who also lives on Idjwi, is also near death.  Malaria is so prevalant on Idjwi that 80% of the patients in their hospital come in with Malaria.  80%!  That is simply atrocious.  Although we enjoy living here in Kenya so much, we realize that our hearts and minds are so often not in Kenya yet, but are still behind us in Rwanda and Idjwi, with such poor and sick people whom the world seems to have forgotten. 


We pray that someday, God will raise up a team of his children to go back with us there, to serve his people there, to love our neighbors, to bring his care to those who do not have it, as he has asked us all to do.