A new challenge

I’ve been feeling very sluggish lately. I still do my morning exercise routine most days, but I quit weight lifting earlier than usual this spring when I foolishly tried lifting something I shouldn’t have and hurt my back. It’s okay now, so I really have no excuse except laziness and lack of incentive. Today I decided to do something about that!

Remembering back to last year when I walked 179.5 km as part of the Hoofing It Across Canada fundraiser for NET cancer research, I recalled how good all that walking felt and how much it helped to have a specific goal. That’s what I needed; a new challenge!

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October 2, our 45th wedding anniversary, is 5 months or exactly 154 days from now. I have decided to walk (or hike) 300 km between now and then. That’s an average of 1.95 km a day. (For my American readers, that’s a total of approximately 186 miles or 1.2 miles a day.) I know that I’m capable of walking further, but I also know that I won’t walk every single day and I want to set a goal that’s realistic and achievable. I’m telling you about it so that you’ll help keep me accountable. In fact, I’m wondering if anyone wants to join me? If my goal isn’t right for you, set one of your own and tell us about it in the comment section below.

Why walk?

Walking has many benefits including:

  • It’s accessible, easy, and free.
  • It reduces stress and decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety which, for many, have been escalated by the current pandemic.
  • It improves heart health and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • It increases blood flow and therefore improves energy levels.
  • It improves blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • It reduces the risk of some cancers.
  • It boosts the immune system.
  • It helps prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
  • It reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
  • It burns calories.
  • It promotes more restful sleep.
  • It improves flexibility and helps ease chronic pain and stiffness.
  • It improves brain function.
  • It’s even been linked to longer life expectancy!

My current walking challenge is not a fundraiser, but I will be participating in a 5 km walk for Multiple Sclerosis research on May 30 in support of a close friend who battles this disease. If you would like to add your support, you can find my fundraising page here.

Bored games

I may be languishing, but sometimes I think hubby is just plain bored. Almost every day, as soon as we’ve cleaned up from lunch, he announces that the table is clear. That’s his way of saying, “Let’s get out a board game!” Yes, we’ve played a lot of games over the past few months. Our sons are avid game players and have gifted us some great two person games over the past couple of years. Today I’m going to review four of them that have helped stave off boredom for us during the past year of sheltering at home.

7 Wonders Duel

7-Wonders-Duel-300x300Like the parent game, 7 Wonders, this is a civilization building game where players collect cards that represent economic, cultural, scientific, and military achievements. While easy to learn, it presents plenty of interesting challenges and with three possible ways to win, it definitely keeps you on your toes. The game typically takes no more than half an hour to play, so we usually play twice in one sitting. While there are expansions available, we’ve probably played the original 100 times or more without getting tired of it, so we’ve never felt the need to purchase them. For us, another advantage to this game is it’s compact size. It’s easy to pack into the trailer or even a suitcase.

Splendor

pic1904079In this Renaissance inspired game for 2 to 4 players, each player increases their wealth by collecting chips (gems) and using them to purchase cards. The cards, some of which are worth points, give you permanent gems and can be used to make future purchases. In addition, they help you acquire nobles which are also worth points. The game is easy to learn and takes about half an hour to play. The Cities of Splendor Expansion includes four different expansions in one package each offering a unique playing experience. While we don’t have it yet, I can see where we might want to add it at some point in the future.

Alhambra

pic4893652Alhambra was the palace and fortress of the Moorish monarchs of Granada, Spain. The object of the game bearing its name is to purchase building tiles of different kinds and place them strategically to build your own Alhambra. In 3 scoring rounds, points are awarded based on who has the most buildings of each kind. Each player also receives additional points for the longest portion of wall that they’ve managed to build around their Alhambra. The game is designed for 2 to 6 players. In a 2 player game there’s an imaginary third player. At first, we thought that that might be a bit weird, but the third player doesn’t actually enter into the action and his tiles are placed in full view of both players. The game is easy to learn and takes about 45 minutes to play. While there are expansions available, my understanding is that they are better suited to playing with 3 or more players.

Rivals for Catan

Screen Shot 2021-04-24 at 10.52.31 PMRivals for Catan, an adaptation of the original Settlers of Catan, is an updated version of the Catan Card Game. Rivals is a 2 player strategy game that is actually 5 games in one. Each player starts with a small principality and by harvesting and spending resources, builds roads, settlements, buildings, trade ships, and cities and hires heroes. The Introductory Game is a good starting point as there’s lots to learn in this game. It takes about 30 minutes to play. Once you’ve mastered the Introductory Game, new challenges await in The Era of Gold, The Era of Turmoil, and The Era of Progress. Each of these takes about an hour to play. Once you’ve played all three a few times and become familiar with each one, you’re ready for the Duel of the Princes which combines elements of all three and is by far the ultimate Rivals experience. It, too, takes about an hour to play. We have the Deluxe version which includes trays to keep the piles of cards organized as well as a few extra cards which you may or may not choose to incorporate into your playing experience.

Though we’ve been weeding through our collection of games and passing several of them on to our children and grandchildren, we still have a shelf full of older games. These four, however, are the ones that have been keeping our minds active and helping prevent boredom during these months of mostly staying at home.

Languishing

Last September, six months into the current pandemic, I wrote about hitting the Covid-19 wall. I got over that wall, as I knew I probably would, but every once in awhile the feeling returns. Today I learned a new word for what I, and probably many of you, have been experiencing. Apparently, we’re languishing

The dictionary describes languishing as losing or lacking vitality, growing weak or feeble, or suffering from being forced to remain in an unpleasant place or situation. Sound familiar? I thought so!

A recent article in The New York Times calls this “the neglected middle child of mental health”. We’re not depressed, but neither are we flourishing. “Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.”

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As a lover of words, I’m glad to have found one that accurately describes how I’ve been feeling. I’m an introvert. I don’t mind solitude, but sometimes too much of a good thing is just too much. There are days when I get up in the morning and the hours seem to stretch out endlessly in front of me; days when I wonder how I’m going to fill those hours. My life hasn’t ground to a complete standstill, of course, but like everyone else’s, it looks a lot different than it did at the beginning of 2020. I’m missing many of the things that once filled my calendar. 

According to the New York Times article, “Part of the danger is that when you’re languishing, you might not notice the dulling of delight or the dwindling of drive. You don’t catch yourself slipping slowly into solitude; you’re indifferent to your indifference.” Perhaps identifying the feeling and giving it a name is an important step toward doing something about it. 

Back in January, when my online friend, Sue Burpee, who writes the blog High Heels in the Wilderness, was languishing (I don’t know if she knew that that was what she was doing) she wrote a post entitled Just One Thing… Every Day. In it, she wrote about asking herself, “What productive thing should I achieve today?” One thing a day became her plan; one that I’ve tried to adopt.

I already had a daily routine and I knew that I was accomplishing something useful every day even if it was just making sure that there were meals on the table, but I felt like I was in a rut with no end in sight. I was definitely languishing! Trying to add one different thing to my usual routine every day has helped. Yesterday it was baking four dozen muffins, today it’s writing this unplanned blog post. Thirteen months into the pandemic, it’s easy to focus on all the things we’re missing. Trying to do something outside my usual routine, especially something that feels productive, is at least a partial antidote. 

Still, if you happen to see me and ask how I’m doing, instead of saying “Great” or “Fine”, I might just say “I’m languishing!”

The last ten

When I sat down to write this evening, my initial plan had been to start working on this Friday’s fashion post, but something else has been weighing on my mind and I decided to go in that direction instead. I’ve written about the Christian and social media before, but tonight that’s where I found myself going again.

I’ve been using Facebook since December 2007. We were about to leave for a year-long teaching assignment in Japan and our daughter insisted that I had to have Facebook as a way of staying in touch. In fact, she actually created my account and chose my first password and profile picture! She was right. In those days, Facebook was a great way to connect with friends and family. We enjoyed exchanging news and posting photos of our families and our daily lives. I even reconnected with a few people that I had completely lost touch with over the years.

Over time, however, Facebook has morphed into something very different than it was in those early days. I don’t mind the proliferation of ads on my Newsfeed because I realize that very little in life is free and someone has to pay for this platform. No, it’s not the ads that bother me, it’s the negativity, the anger, and the misinformation. Gone are the days when people annoyed one another or flirted with one another by “poking” each other on Facebook. Now, many use social media to lash out at one another or to hurl insults at those who disagree with them. Instead of sharing our lives, we try to prove each other wrong.

So, what does the Christian do? Can we be salt and light on social media or would we be better to avoid it altogether? These were the questions that I was wrestling with in late January when I learned of a free 10-day challenge called Instagram for Jesus. Offered by an online women’s ministry called Well-Watered Women, the challenge is simply a series of 10 short emails designed to help users of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok examine their motives for using social media and the potential that it holds, as well as set life-giving boundaries. If this sounds like something that might be of interest to you, check it out and sign up here.

If I had to choose the one thing that impacted me most from the 10 short messages, it was this recommendation from Day 8, “Scroll through your last ten posts, and ask yourself what a follower would know about you through those images and words. Consider opportunities to shift that understanding to a clearer image of what it means to walk as a sinner saved by grace.” Even if you’re not a Christ-follower, that first sentence is worth considering. What do your last ten posts tell the world about you? Is that the image you want to portray? If you are a believer, is this how you’re called to represent Christ to the world? If not, what are you going to do about it? For me, the simple practice of looking at my last ten posts, which I’ve been doing from time to time since completing the challenge in February, has been an excellent way to ensure that I’m being the kind of online presence that I want to be. 

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A new job!

My father, who died a year ago at almost 97 years old, always said of retirement that there is no end of things that you can do as long as you don’t need to be paid for them. I’m blessed to be able to follow in his footsteps. While we aren’t wealthy by any means, we are comfortable enough financially not to need to work. In the first few years of retirement, we did take paying jobs teaching English in Japan for a year and then China for several months. Since then, we’ve kept busy as volunteers in several capacities. In fact, at 68, I have just finished training for a brand new volunteer position that I’m very excited about!

I’ve often mentioned Kiva on the blog before. Kiva is a non-profit organization that allows a person to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income entrepreneur in one of 77 countries around the world. When a loan is repaid, the money can be withdrawn or used to fund a new loan. Since making my first loan 11 years ago, I’ve been able to make 60 more by simply recycling the same money over and over again. When I learned that there was a need for volunteer editors, I realized that this might be an opportunity to put my skills into action and help in another way.

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An average of about 16,000 loan profiles are posted on the Kiva website every month. Each one needs to be carefully edited to ensure that it complies with Kiva policies, that the borrower’s privacy is maintained, that details are consistent, and that the language is understandable to lenders while retaining, as much as possible, the voice of the original text. Kiva relies on over 400 volunteers, each editing approximately 40 loan descriptions a month, to complete this enormous task. That’s my new job! I’ve joined Kiva’s Review and Translation Program as a volunteer editor! 

It was back in July of last year that I first expressed an interest in volunteering. My name was added to a wait list and I was told that I would hear from Kiva staff when they were ready to bring on new volunteer editors, probably much later in the year. In late November, I was asked to submit my resumé and complete an official application that included a brief loan review exercise. In early December, I was invited to take an editing test. Kiva works with a barebones staff and, like everyone else, they’ve been somewhat hindered by Covid slowdowns, so the wheels ground slowly, but at the beginning of February I was notified that my application was approved. At the beginning of March I started training and now I’m finally an active Kiva editor! I edited my first loan yesterday. The borrower was a farmer in Uganda who requested a loan to buy more cattle to fatten and resell.

Volunteer editors are split into teams each led by a volunteer team leader. I was assigned to a group called The Write Stuff which I find very fitting as writing has always been my passion! Kiva asks for a commitment of a minimum of 2 hours a week for at least 6 months, but I foresee being able to do this for a much longer period.

If you’re interested in making a loan, just click on the banner to the right.

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International Women’s Day 2021

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Today is International Women’s Day. It saddens me that we should even need to set aside a day to focus on women’s rights, to remind the world that women deserve equality. It was never meant to be this way. 

I’ve been focusing a lot on what the Bible has to say about womanhood in recent weeks as I’ve started leading a ladies Bible study on women of the Bible. The very first statement about women in the Bible comes in the first chapter of Genesis. Verses 27-31 say: 

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. 

Do you see what I see? First of all, we’re told that God created men and women in His own image! Both were meant to be His image bearers. Second, He gave both of them dominion over and responsibility for His creation. It was a joint assignment. God did not give men dominion over women! That was never His intention. And finally, God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. His plan was equality for men and women and it was very good

In chapter 2 of Genesis we’re given a more detailed creation story. Verse 18 says, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” The King James Version of the Bible uses the words help meet to describe the woman’s role. “Meet” is an archaic adjective meaning suitable or proper, so the phrase simply means a suitable helper. Perhaps this is where the idea that men should dominate came from, but that was never God’s intent. In the original language, the word translated as helper or help meet was ezer. Ezer is a word that appears 21 times in the Old Testament; twice in Genesis for the woman, 3 times for nations to whom Israel appealed for military aid, and 16 times to refer to God as Israel’s helper, their shield and defence. It was used consistently in a military context. That hardly brings to mind a meek or subservient helper! Perhaps strong helper would be a better translation. 

Sadly, God’s plan for a partnership between men and women didn’t play out in human history. It didn’t take long for the relationship to deteriorate to the point where women were simply possessions of their fathers or husbands, barely a step above their livestock. Their primary role was to serve the men in their lives and to produce sons to carry on their husband’s family line. 

These may be radical thoughts for a woman who attends a patriarchal church, but I’ve always been a bit of a rebel and women’s issues have been a passion of mine for a very long time. The reality is that we need to do much more than set aside one day a year to draw attention to the plight of women worldwide. It is something that needs to be addressed 365 days of the year! 

As long as there are places on this planet where parents sell their daughters because they can’t afford to feed them, where girls walk an average of 6 kilometres a day to collect clean water for their households, where they are denied education, where they are forced to undergo female genital mutilation and/or forced into child marriage, we must do more than celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women on International Women’s Day. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to the atrocities inflicted on women in foreign lands when they aren’t happening in our own backyard, but there are women living in abject poverty in Canada, the United States, and other developed countries. Objectifying and exploiting women is still alive and well in our culture. Violence against women is still prevalent. Human trafficking happens in our own neighbourhoods.  

Though the situation may have improved over the years, women have yet to achieve equality in the workplace. As a current example, women are at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19 as front-line and health sector workers, scientists, doctors and caregivers, yet according to a UN report, they get paid 11 percent less globally than their male counterparts!  

What, then, can we do to press for progress for women? First of all, we need to educate ourselves, to look beyond our comfortable lives and become aware of what the issues are and which reputable organizations are working to change them. If you’re serious about wanting to have an impact on the lives of women around the world, I would suggest that you begin by reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Pulitzer Prize winning journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. This book was a life changer for me. Kristof and WuDunn are upfront and clear; they hope to recruit their readers to get involved, to become a part of a movement to emancipate and empower women by helping provide the economic resources that can help transform their lives.  Half the Sky not only inspires the reader to get involved, it gives many suggestions how.

It was after reading Half the Sky that I began making micro loans to women in third world countries through Kiva, the world’s first online micro-lending platform. It’s one small step, but it’s something I can do. Kiva is a non-profit organization that allows a person to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income entrepreneur in one of 77 countries around the world. When a loan is repaid, the money can be withdrawn or used to fund a new loan. I choose to lend to women with children at home. All too often, money in the hands of men goes to alcohol and prostitution but in the hands of women, it nurtures children, feeds families and promotes education.

It’s International Women’s Day. What will you do? 

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What’s your thing?

Yesterday’s post included this quote from Donna McNutt, Instagram’s Cancer Fashionista, It has now become my mission to tell others, find your thing, the thing that makes you whole, do not let cancer take it.” 

For me, that thing, apart from my faith, is writing. Fashion is fun. Travel is a passion. Reading, dancing, golfing, camping, hiking, kayaking, keeping fit, and participating in community theatre are all things I enjoy doing, but writing is the one thing I have to do. Long before cancer, writing was who I am.  

I first knew this in Mr. Geary’s grade 12 English class. I knew it in university when I loved the hours and hours spent researching and writing papers. I knew it when, as a young stay-at-home mom, I put my babies down for their afternoon naps, pulled out my typewriter, and worked on a correspondence course on non-fiction technique offered by the Alberta Culture Film and Literary Arts division. I knew it when, as a member of the now defunct Flagstaff Writers organization (Alberta, not Arizona), I had occasional pieces published in our column in the local weekly paper. I knew it when I sold a few articles to larger publications and savoured the feeling of a cheque in my hands. 

When my children were a bit older and I returned to teaching school, I discovered that there simply weren’t enough hours in the day for writing. Thankfully, for that period of time, passing on my love of reading and writing to my students fulfilled the same passion in me. As soon as I retired, however, the need to write was back. I’d always assumed that I would return to freelance writing, but then came blogging. As many of you know, I started Following Augustine to share our year of teaching English in Japan with friends and families at home. I had no idea then that it would still be going strong more than a decade later! 

Though receiving those cheques for published articles was nice, I discovered that I didn’t need to sell my writing to feel fulfilled by it. I just need to know that someone enjoys reading it. That’s one of the reasons that I haven’t attempted to monetize the blog. I prefer to maintain the freedom to write whatever I want without having to consider whether or not it’s consistent with the values of the brands that I’d be representing. For me, writing is not a job, it’s simply who I am.  

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Now, back to Donna’s wise advice, “find your thing, the thing that makes you whole, do not let cancer take it.” How has writing been part of my cancer journey? Has it helped me cope? There’s no question that cancer added another dimension to the blog. Within three days of hearing that I had cancer in August 2013, I’d published my first post about it and I’ve lived my cancer journey out loud on Following Augustine ever since. There are several reasons for that. First of all, since the blog was already well established and read by many of my close family and friends, it was an easy way to keep them informed about what was happening without having to repeat myself over and over again. Second, because writing is who I am, it helps me process the things that are happening in my life. That’s incredibly important when you’re dealing with something as complex and confusing as cancer and its treatment. And third, I’ve tried to use the blog to raise awareness of neuroendocrine cancer (NETs) which, while no longer rare, is still relatively unknown. Cancer is not who I am, but writing is!  

And now it’s your turn. What is that one thing that makes you whole; the one thing that you have to do? Have you found it yet? Please let us know in the comment section. 

One Word for 2021

For the past few years I’ve chosen one word to inspire or guide me in the coming year as well as a scripture verse to go along with it. There’s actually a whole #OneWord365 movement on the internet urging members to choose a word to focus on every day, all year long; a word that sums up who they want to be or how they want to live.

My one word for 2020 was Bold. I wanted the boldness of the early disciples who shared their faith in spite of great opposition. I wanted the courage to confront injustice and stand up for the downtrodden. I wanted to boldly speak up for what I believed in or knew to be true. That led me to my one word for 2021.

Truth

The dictionary defines truth as that which is in accordance with fact or reality.

There seems to be very little of that going around these days! In fact, fake news, propaganda, and false information seem to spread faster than Covid-19! I have an insatiable desire to grow in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding; to know the truth about anything that affects my life. Perhaps it’s simply a reaction to having been the victim of lies and deception in the past, but I abhor falsehood of any kind.   

When I see something online that I’m unsure about or that doesn’t sound right to me, I check the facts and, in accordance with my desire to speak the truth with boldness, I often post my findings in the form of a comment or a link. This hasn’t always been popular. In fact, one acquaintance called me the “resident fact checker” in an online discussion. She clearly didn’t mean it as a compliment, but I fail to see how seeking and speaking the truth could be anything but good! Thankfully, others have expressed appreciation either online or in person and I’ve even been approached a couple of times by people looking for help in checking the validity of something they’ve read or been told. 

We live in a day of relativism; the idea that you can have your truth and I can have mine. That isn’t actually truth at all; that’s belief or opinion. Unfortunately, belief doesn’t create fact. Truth is independent of belief. Being able to discern between fact and opinion, between news and editorial, between truth and belief, is a very important skill.  American politician, sociologist, and diplomat, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was quoted as saying, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” 

Accepting that absolute truth exists is an essential foundation of Christianity. God was very clear in the Bible that what He revealed was truth. In John 14:6, Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That’s either true or it isn’t. It can’t be true for some and not for others. 

There are many other Bible verses about truth, so choosing one to accompany my one word for 2021 was challenging. I finally settled on 2 Timothy 2:15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

That’s what I want to focus on in 2021, correctly handling the truth. Not just Biblical truth, but all truth. 

Have you ever chosen a word to inspire or guide you in a new year? What would your word for 2021 be?

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The Four

Occasionally a piece of art speaks to my heart. That was certainly true of The Four by American artist, Tricia Robinson, when I saw it for the first time yesterday. 

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No, I wasn’t in an art gallery! Covid restrictions continue to keep me locked up at home. I actually saw the painting on Facebook! It was the vibrant colours and the simplicity of the figures that first caught my attention, but the artist’s description gave it much deeper meaning.

These four women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba have something in common. They are grandmothers in Jesus’ family tree! Grandmothers! Some had affairs, were prostitutes, lied and were truly not the starry eyed perfect princesses.

But God chose them, used them…. These four broken women. 

And that’s why I gave them crowns. A symbol of grace and love from our Creator and Redeemer.

Christian author, Ann Voskamp, wrote this on her blog

Four broken ­women—​­
women who felt like outsiders,
like ­has-​­beens,
like ­never-​­beens.

Women who were weary
of being taken advantage of, 

of being unnoticed
and uncherished
and unappreciated;

women who didn’t fit in, 
who didn’t know how to keep going, 
what to believe, 
where to ­go—​­
women who had thought about giving up.

And Jesus claims exactly these who are
wandering
and wondering
and wounded
and worn out as
His.

These four women can be found in the pages of the Old Testament and all are part of the genealogy of Jesus found in the first chapter of the book of Matthew. Widowed at a young age and rejected by her second husband who also suffered an early death, Tamar, was left husbandless and without children. In her culture that made her worthless. Taking matters into her own hands, through an act of deception, she bore twin sons by her father-in-law who later admitted that “she is more righteous than I.” After Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, spies were sent into the land of Canaan and found lodging with a prostitute named Rahab. After risking her life to hide them, Rahab asked that her life and the lives of her family be spared when the Israelites invaded. In the painting, she can be seen holding the scarlet cord that she was told to tie in the window of her home to mark it. Everyone inside the house would be spared. Another young widow, Ruth, left her homeland and her pagan gods to follow her aging mother-in-law back to her homeland where she would be a foreigner and an object of curiosity. She worked tirelessly gleaning in the fields at harvest time to provide for them until she was noticed by the landowner and became his wife. She eventually became the great grandmother of King David. Bathsheba suffered untold grief when the king, in an attempt to cover up an act of lust that resulted in an unplanned pregnancy, arranged to have her first husband murdered and then took her as his own wife. I can only imagine how much worse her grief became when the child of that union died. Her second son became the great King Solomon.

Yes, these were imperfect, broken women; women who’s lives didn’t go the way of little girls’ dreams, but they are also women who were cherished by God. I can identify. When I saw the painting and understood it’s meaning, I wanted to order a print to hang in my den, my room of prayer. Unfortunately, the artist doesn’t ship to Canada, so I will have to be satisfied with having it on my computer desktop where I can look at it often and be reminded that though, I too, am somewhat flawed and have been damaged by the trials of life, I am a beloved daughter of the one true God!

Graduation Day!

Yesterday was a very exciting day for us, but the story began many years ago when we decided to sponsor a child through New Missions. For over 30 years, New Missions has been establishing churches, medical clinics, and Christian schools in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In addition, a Bible school and a professional trade school prepare graduates of New Missions schools to support their families and become leaders in their communities.

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Marie Khetsia was a 10-year-old child in 3rd grade when we began sponsoring her. She had already lost her mother and a few years later her father also died. Khetsia and her brothers were taken in by her aunt, a woman I have come to admire greatly. Every day her aunt goes to the local market to sell her wares and provide for the needs of a household of eleven people!

Over the years, we wrote letters to Khetsia and sent her gifts at Christmas time. It was always a delight when we received a letter in return. She often coloured pictures for us as well. About four years ago, our relationship took on a whole new dimension when I received a Facebook friend request from her! Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect that to happen! At first, communicating was a challenge. Our letters had always been translated for us, but now we were on our own! Her English, learned at school, was weak and my Haitian Creole non-existent. We chatted frequently though and I’m amazed at how much her English has improved. She calls us Mom and Dad and her messages almost always begin with a question about how our family is doing.

We were so proud of Khetsia when she graduated from high school, but we knew that she didn’t want her education to end there. When we approached New Missions and learned that we would be able to provide a scholarship for her to continue her education, she entered a three year laboratory technician program.

Yesterday was graduation day! This is a monumental accomplishment in a country where the adult literacy rate is only about 61%. As Facebook messages flew back and forth between us, I could sense Khetsia’s excitement all the way from Haiti! I hope she knew how excited we were too.

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Prior to graduating, Khetsia completed a practicum at a hospital that was close enough to her village to allow her to commute each day, but at the beginning of February she begins an internship much further from home. Leaving home will be a new challenge, but one we believe she’s ready for.

Four years ago, we decided that it was time to begin sponsoring another child. Rodolson, who lives with his family in a different Haitian village, is now 11 years old and in 5th grade. We look forward to receiving his letters just as we did Khetsia’s. If you are not already sponsoring a child or children, I urge you to consider New Missions. For just $33 a month, child sponsorship through New Missions provides a child in Haiti or the Dominican Republic with quality education, a daily hot lunch which for some is their primary meal of the day, and medical care. New Missions also provides a number of community development initiatives including clean water, vocational training and local employment, all vital in this poorest part of the western hemisphere.