Wheaton alumni picnic in Nairobi Saturday

Just a brief public service announcement: We are having a little get-together picnic for Wheaton alumni Saturday afternoon on the NEGST campus. If you are a Wheaton alumnus (or know of one who didn’t get the notice from the alumni office) and are in the area this Saturday, come on over. So far I think about 30 folks are coming; many more were out of town or busy this weekend and sent their regrets.

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Baby rush (Moses comic)

Today is Liam’s 3rd birthday. He’s been a little nervous about this day for a while, but seems to be warming up to the idea after we sang him happy birthday this morning. His sisters are really excited!!

Itinerary: Cake, popcorn & ceremony at school this morning; cake at lunch; and cake at grandma’s house this weekend.

Today’s Reverend Fun Cartoon:

Exodus 2.1-9 Baby Rush

[Lots more fun Bible cartoons at www.reverendfun.com.]

Just by serendipitous coincidence, Michael Heiser (The Naked Bible) has this post today: Moses, Sargon, and the Exposed Child motif in Ancient Literature:

Here’s an interesting article that advanced students of the Old Testament should read and digest. Egyptologist Donald Redford traces what he calls the “exposed child” motif through ancient literature. By “exposed child” he means stories that have the elments of the Moses birth in them. Redford’s goal isn’t specifically to deal with the Moses story, but that’s inevitable. The Sargon story in particular is very similar to the Moses story:

Cinderella and her missionary prince, a personal story

Back in August, while I was in Western Kenya at the pastor’s conference, I realized that I was only about an hour away from where Patrick and Violet Nabwera’s rural home near Kakamega. [I’ve written about Patrick and Violet before. They were our next door neighbors last year – and their daughter Joy (Kiara’s best friend last year) was part of our family for a few months. This past week they moved to Mozambique to begin language study.]

Patrick at homeWhen I realized I was this close, I called them and when I was done with my portion of the conference and caught a matatu to Kakamega. There’s something about visiting the place where a friend spent his childhood; suddenly all the family details take on a new concreteness. Here, meet my mother and my brother. These are the two cows he owns.

This is the field of sugar cane that provides a little income, and here is how the sugar company collects it. There is the little primary school school I went to as a kid. Here is Continue reading

Parents and peers are more important than schools for kids’ religion

According to Jeremy Uecker’s article, “Alternative Schooling Strategies and the Religious Lives of American Adolescents,” published in the December 2008 issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

. . . At best, schooling has a limited effectiveness on student religiosity. Parents and friends, however, strongly affect each aspect of religious life in the study. Students who have more religious parents and friends are more likely to attend church, Sunday school, and church youth group. They are also more likely to consider religion more important to their lives and to have private devotions (praying and reading the Bible on their own).

The good news for parents is that while the choice of schooling is important, the most effective thing they can do to affect the religious life of their children is to take their own spiritual life seriously and to encourage their children to build friendships with peers who are also faithful Christians. . .

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A merry family Christmas

My parents have come up from Malawi, my sister Brenda and her husband Ben are here from Mali, and my sister Beth is back from a brief visit to US. My kids are eating up the extra attention. Yesterday, it was home-made, potato-stamped wrapping paper and a Christmas tree piñata (courtesy of their uncle Ben). Today it was Christmas cookies; tomorrow, it will be ginger bread houses. Christi’s happy for the people to help create a festive atmosphere too. I’m afraid I’m not very good at helping create festivity. Tomorrow it will be ginerI’d like to think that I’m more of an infrastructure and logistics kind of a guy – focused on taking care of kids in the middle of the night, airport runs, Band-Aids, comforting crying kids, tracking down recipes on the internet, taking kids jogging, outings, etc.

This morning two of my parents former students from the African Bible College stopped by – Alpheus from Malawi and Thomas from Liberia – both at NEGST now. They enjoyed comparing their experiences at both places, and Thomas regaled us all with Liberian folk tales.

One kind of sad (for us) family announcement is that Joy won’t be returning to us next January. Her parents have decided to send her to the boarding school after all. The school was founded by their mission and has extremely high academic standards. Patrick’s sister is now running the home where the kids stay, and all the kids are learning to do things like wash their own clothes and develop many of the skills their missionary parents have. It will help Joy get the kind of character, education, and skills she would get if she was living with them.

It makes a lot of sense, but we will miss Joy. Ultimately, I think we helped each other through some transitions.Before Joy lived with us, she would just glow about living at NEGST and the thought of staying with us. She clearly enjoyed herself, but I think the last six months have helped her realize that no place is the same without her parents and sister, and there is a lot to be said for her own Kenyan way of life – attractive as a Western lifestyle looks from the outside. We think she will be a lot more open to boarding school now than she would have been six months ago.

Before Joy lived with us, our kids seemed more agitated. Leila, especially, seemed to be suffering middle child syndrome – often angry (especially at her older sister.) Joy was a great friend to all three of our kids. I believe she helped them all learn how to play better together; she brought peace. I know there are lots of other factors (Leila prayed hard for contentment), but I’m sure she played a big part in helping them become more happy and content children.

We will look forward to having Joy stay with us during some of the school vacations when her parents are in Mozambique.

– – – – – –

Anyway, the next couple of weeks, I’m going to focus on enjoying family for Christmas. I’ll see you next year. 😉

Enjoy a good family Christmas.

My poisoned son and African reconciliation

Last week my two-year old son was poisoned. Christi had gotten stuck in traffic downtown, so I had come home early from the library (a long 30 second walk) to hold down the fort – sitting at home while the kids play with their friends outside in case someone needs some food or a Band-Aid.

Suddenly, I heard Liam (2) crying. There are nearly a hundred kids in our small apartment complex (maybe thirty of them are around Liam’s age), so there are always kid noises and someone is likely to be crying at any given moment. Still, I managed to recognized Liam’s cry and went outside to see what was happening.  As I turned the corner, one of the bigger girls was carrying him home, but she had trouble explaining what had happened. Then one of the women walked up and said she had been drying cornmeal “cakes” for killing cockroaches in the grass outside her apartment and caught some kids playing in them. Liam was still covered in the chalky dust. He had started to cry and run away when she tried to wash his hands off.

“Did you eat any of the cookies, Liam?” No.

“How did the cookies taste?” (Puzzled I have no clue; I didn’t eat any look.)

At that point I wasn’t really worried, but I took Liam upstairs, washed his hands and changed his shirt. Then we walked back over to the lady’s apartment to find out what the offending chemical was. By the time I got there, a crowd had already gathered in front of the apartment. Two of Liam’s other little friends had been seen with the chalk dust all over their mouths (a Kenyan girl and a Sudanese girl).

I asked to see the poison bottle. One of the mothers started to lash out. “How could you put poison out here when you see so many kids running around!!” (I confess the same thought had crossed my mind; she’s already safely raised three teenagers; what was she thinking?) Fortunately, one of those guys who oozes leadership was thinking the same thing I was. “Let’s focus on getting the name of the chemical,” he said. “After we treat the kids, we can address other issues.”

The poison label turned out to have a rather scary warning, so we

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Christi’s reader response reveals a few of our family secrets

Tucked in towards the end of a recent (Dec. 4th ) Economist article on France’s Nuclear Energy ambitions is this little sentence:

In 2005 Ms Lauvergeon suffered a blow when the government abruptly cancelled her plan for a share offering.

Christi retorts, “She didn’t suffer; I suffered!!!”

Not even half a year before that “cancellation,” Christi had left her communications and lobbying job in Washington, D.C. as well as her recently-begun executive MBA program at Georgetown and moved our family to Paris in pursuit of her lifelong dream of working in France. When the “government abruptly cancelled her plan for a share offering,” Christi’s project was shut down, and she was transferred to a different department to work under a boss best described as an egomaniacal nut-case. Her French dreams were cruelly shattered, and we began to set out in pursuit of a new plan, which eventually led us to Kenya (God works in mysterious ways – see here for translation).

In a small humorous twist of irony, I’m the only one who actually made it into Ms Lauvergeon’s home, even though Christi worked for her.  (Lauvergeon, CEO of Areva is easily one of the most famous and powerful women in France – a household name there. Forbes named her the 8th most powerful woman in the world in 2006 – see Time’s take.) When we moved to France, I had signed an affidavit with the government saying that I would not pursue any paid employment, so I took care of our girls. It just so happened that Lauvergeon’s British nanny used to bring the kids to the playgroup at our church and invited some of us to a private Halloween party at Lauvergeon’s house. 😉

It also turns out that in the same play group was the American nanny of one of France’s most famous singer, Patrick Bruel – winner of France’s top selling album the year before we got there and three other times. Since Bruel’s little Oscar was the same age as our Leila (1), and we lived just a couple of blocks away, we were invited over to his house for a few play dates. I was clueless; we’d been hanging out in playgroups for months, and I had no idea who this kid or his dad was – even after they told me his name (unbelievable in hindsight). However, after the nanny explained the security procedures and made me promise to be especially discreet about coming over, I figured I’d better check things out on Google. There I found out that were still smarting from the betrayal of a friend who had secretly taken pictures at their private wedding and sold them to a Parisian tabloid for $30,000! I only met Bruel’s wife once, and I don’t know how she pried out of me what I used to do before becoming an at-home dad, but I remember her being impressed that I could read a little Hebrew. That’s how I found out they were Jewish – something all the rest of France already knew.

Someday I might tell you the funny story behind how I was interviewed the national news on the main TV stations in France (not once, but twice – just for being a dad). I think I was most amused by how proud all the local shopkeepers seemed to be that one of their regular customers “was on TV.” (Said in my best Mike Wizowski – Monster’s Inc. voice.) All of them had seen me.

Reader response: how to get from a buried quote in an Economist article on France’s Nuclear Energy ambitions to my brushes with fame as an at-home dad in Paris ;-).