LIAM – turned two on 29 May, and got to do his favorite activities over and over and over – blow out candles and eat chocolate. He had parties at the grandparents house, at school, and at home for a small family gathering. It’s fun to see him running all around the student apartments with his friends and developing a Kenyan kids accent.
poot – put
dees – this
feesh – fish
heeya – here
His “Malawi” grandparents got him a tiny bike delivered by Auntie Beth and he is very possessive of that bike. In terms of potty training, he can go all day, but sometimes he forgets, so you have to watch him. (He’s also beginning to display hints of terrible twos, but we don’t want to talk about that because he is still terribly cute.)
Back on our long road trip to Magadi, Leïla had a meltdown and refused to let Liam have his pillow back. Liam cracked us all up by calmly singing, “Leïla taking my pillow. . . Leïla taking my pillow . . . “ over and over and over. He still sings it whenever he wants to get a laugh out of everyone.
LEILA can read (at 4 1/2)!! She still struggles a bit with silent “e” and some of the double sounds, but it’s quite impressive. Now a whole new world is opening up to her. “Daddy, what does why does that sign say ‘Keep off the grass’?” She also gets real homework now. Leïla’s other main job is making sure that she is loved more than her siblings – middle child. She has only recently started having her own friends in the house to compete with Kiara’s usual crowd. She still prefers to go outside and play with Lydia, or go to Lydia’s house. (Kiara is our only homebody). Unfortunately, Lydia, who is joined at the hip with Leila, is leaving in July for Congo. Her mom is graduating, so Leila will have to make another friend. I think there are two other girls waiting in the wings for some friendship space to open up.
Quotes of the month:
‘I can read Aunt Njeri’s mind. When I was sick, I know she prayed for me and that is why I got better.”
[After falling down and scraping her elbow:] “Satan just came out of the ground and just pushed me down.”
Leïla is our little chef; she loves to cook – chopping and sautéing vegetables, making pancakes and soups, you name it.
KIARA: After a couple years of trying to keep them at arm’s length, Kiara is taking greater interest in French and Kiswahili.
Earlier this month, Kiara was concerned because she is the only “white kid” in her class. She says the teacher always spends extra time helping her out with Kiswahili, and sometimes the other kids get jealous. (White privilege rears its head again). Then Christi told her that I was the only “white kid” in my class too . . . and Leïla was the only white girl in her class . . . Liam is the only lucky one who has other white kids in his class (Josh Simpson and Annabelle Lang). That perked her up quite a bit, though she was down again when she came home from school because her class didn’t win the Bible contest at school today; she said the teacher gave all the easy questions to the other class – competitive as always.
CHRISTI has been a busy, busy girl. Among other things, she has produced the school’s entire graduation magazine almost single-handedly – from taking the pictures of each graduate, to collecting the stories, to designing it in InDesign – a program she had never used before. I grumped a bit about all my extra family and social responsibility compensations – shopping and dentist runs, but it’s a very impressive product, and was no small feat (a minor miracle) given the timeframe and special challenges.
Last month, she did a 21-day modified fast – eating only dinner. It started with a week of fasting and prayer leading up to a healing service that our church held, and she just kept going. Over the last few years, it seems like she has been sick a lot – chest congestion that wouldn’t leave, depression, joint pain, etc.
God spoke to her in many small ways, bringing people day after day into her life who she was able to connect so they could help each other. She learned that one of her God-given gifts is to help people get connected. She also went off Zoloft, which she had been on for about a year, since taking a mega-dose of mephlaquine to treat malaria while she was weaning Liam (which is when she normally gets depressed anyway).
In the midst of all this, she’s done some important networking for others. Stay tuned for more news of Women on the Wild [WOW] – ‘connecting successful Western women (from Canada) in search of significance, with resourceful women in Kenya’ – Lois Shaw’s brainstorm. Let me just say that we have some amazing Kenyan women for friends, and Christi introduced them to Lois. Then there is the usual linking of customers with Mary Magadalen’s rolled-magazine beaded jewelry. (Mary is a very entrepreneurial Sudanese war refugee widow with nine kids.) . . . AND finding ways to help feed our new Congolese neighbors with their six kids . . . AND producing brochures for the kid’s school . . . AND . . . AND . . .
Her friends have all been asking where she has been. “You are so LOST.” Hopefully, things will slow down this month.
BEN needs to be writing more dissertation. Where is the time going? After two months of downloading software and configuring computers – countless installations and restarts – lugging the desktop back and forth into the IT office to solve network problems (it had been completely off-line since Paris three years ago), then home on weekends (family DVD player); I finally have my new laptop and can sit leisurely at home and write. In the meantime, having had to Google for fixes to countless error messages, I feel like I’ve moved up the techie meter a few notches. Hopefully, I’ve got my computer systems in place now – no more excuses.
The other thing I’m a little proud of is my running regimen lately. For years now, I’ve run maybe once every week or two. For the last couple of months, I’ve actually been running almost 2x a week for 7-8km. Liam has accompanied me in the jogging stroller on almost every run, and Leïla joined us for about half of them. A sudden growth spurt in all three kids ended the all-three-kids-pile-in jogs. After feeling like I had plateaued, I extended the distance a little bit and was picked up the pace; it felt good to sit at my desk with a few extra muscle aches.
I went to the awards chapel last Thursday because it is always kind of fun to see who is being recognized by the community for things like “moving among the people”; being a bright spot in people’s life, excellence, punctuality, etc I was sitting there thinking, “That’s not exactly who I would have picked? . . . ” when I heard, “the next award goes to Ben Bu . . . Bu . . . sorry, I can’t pronounce it. ‘Unsung Hero’ for the person who thoughtfully and quietly works behind the scenes for benefit of the community.” I was looking around for another Ben, but he looked right at me and nodded his head. I must have gotten five votes with twenty other people getting four. (It’s not exactly scientific, they hand out nomination forms to whoever happens to be in chapel a week or so earlier and collect them as people walk out the door.) The student council chairman is a great guy (he got two awards), but he was totally baffled about his award for “entrepreneurship” – maybe they were thinking of his wife.
I’m guessing a few of my PhD friends were simply appreciating small things I do like instant computer support, programming Scholars Aid to automate SBL bibliographic and notation references (they already gave me a nice party and shirt for that), editing help, hospital runs, using my credit card so they can make on-line purchases. . . small stuff. Many of the master’s students were like “What?!? All we ever see you do is carry books back and forth between the library and your apartment.” A few of them now call me “hero”; it’s biggest joke they’ve heard in a long time ;-). I’m sure several of my votes were for things Christi has done for people. Anyhow, . . . I’m not so anonymous or “unsung” any more – too bad, but I’m happy for the beautiful cloth wall hanging we now own.
NJERI and NICHOLAS – Njeri (our house helper) is as faithful and cheerful as ever. She made a mean Lemon Tart yesterday; It rivals anything I’ve seen in Parisian pastry shop. Nicholas (11) still loves his new school (Njeri transferred him to the campus school our kids go to a few months ago). He is making tremendous progress (recovering from a crowded public school) and was #1 in his fifth grade class in computers!! He just started learning computers, but he stays after school all afternoon practicing. I don’t see him much, becasue he scarfs down lunch in about ten minutes, then sprints back up to school to play football with the boys.
A couple of days ago, Njeri was on her way home on a matatu with Nicholas in her lap when one of her old primary school classmates got on with two of his buddies and sat down next to her. Remembering that he had always been trouble, she thought she’d better keep an eye on him. No sooner had she mentioned this to our mutual friend Jecinta, than she felt her bag being slit open with a razor blade. She shouted at him and pushed him out of the bus!! Nicholas was so proud. He said, “Mom—you can beat people??”
MOMS and DADS/GRANDPAS and GRANDMAS: My parents, Glenn and Fern, returned last week to African Bible College (www.abcliberia.org) in Malawi – after a year furlough in Wheaton, IL. During that year, they managed to cover the four corners of the continent – Florida, California, and Ontario.
Christi’s parents, Jon and Phyllis Masso, just returned from a month-long visit to the US – a memorial service for Christi’s grandfather, first time to see their 12th grandchild Autumn Loewen, and for Christi’s mom to attend a library conference in Boston. Christi’s dad couldn’t resist a natural water shoot in Pennsylvania, and managed to dislocate his finger bad enough that they cut off his wedding ring. He still spent a week helping renovate Mark & Karin’s basement. We enjoyed spending last weekend out at their home, catching up on all the stories. Christi’s mom is back to being Ahadi mom http://www.freewebs.com/phyllismasso/ahadifamilykenya.htm, (temporary website).
The girls are spending the weekend with a bunch of their school friends at the school principal’s house in Kikuyu. They were so excited when I dropped them off.
Beth is back from three fantastic weeks in Cape Town, so we have a lot of catching up to do.
Graduation is next Saturday, July 12. Celebrating with our friends means also saying goodbye. This graduating class will be the last of those who arrived with us three years ago.
We are moving across the road for a month. Our friends Andrew and Sharon Simpson have graciously offered to let us housesit for them while they spend six weeks in the states. They live about 500 meters down the road outside the campus front gate. This will give us a chance to spread out a little, enjoy their nice lawn and garden, and get a break from the noise of over a hundred kids within spitting distance of our front door. On the downside, it means I’ll have to commute 1.5 km to the library (likely by bike) instead of just taking a quick, one minute walk. Terrible, I know;-). Njeri and Nicholas will join us for a change of pace as well.
AUGUST: Christi and the three kids will go to visit her sisters and families in Cape Cod, Mass. and Portland, Maine. It will be the first time the girls have been in the US in three years; they are very excited. I’ll be spending six weeks at Tyndale House doing research with most of my PhD colleagues – August 17 – Sept. 30. We also get to attend the British New Testament Conference (BNTC)