Monday, November 25, 2013

Pomp and an Unforeseen Circumstance

I have never been to a graduation where a three year old was one of the guests of honor. Until today. 
An unusual situation, no doubt. But even more unusual for me, because my son was the three-year-old guest of honor.
Over the past year, I have spent quite a bit of time teaching at a local bible college. I taught nine different classes during the year, so I knew the students well. Even though I have left the position there (just too many other priorities), I knew I had to make it to the graduation ceremonies.
Adrienne had scheduled two meetings at church, the first with the leaders of the children's ministry, and another with a team helping plan the ladies Christmas luncheon. Our older two boys were going to spending the day with their friends. That left Benjamin without a place to go.
Adrienne and I were trying to decide what we should do with him. By "deciding" I mean I was trying to convince her to take Benjamin, and she was trying to convince me to take him. I suggested he go with her, as she would be indoors. She suggested I take him, as we would be outdoors, where he would be able to make more noise. "Just give him the iPad, and let him play 'Reading Rainbow'," she said. "You can just sit in the back, and he should be fine."
I agreed, and off Ben and I went. Graduation was scheduled to begin at 10:00, and we arrived at 9:50. I walked toward the administrative offices, and was greeted by the Dean of Admissions. "Oh good, you made it! I didn't think you would. Your cap and gown are in my office." 
"Wait, what? I'm wearing a cap and gown?"
"Of course! You're one of our lecturers! You'll be sitting with the other lecturers on stage."
So there we were, Ben holding his Lighting McQueen lunchbox, me holding the iPad I was going to use to keep Ben occupied. I was expected to be upfront, but I had my three-year-old to find a place to sit. Now looking back, I'm sure I could have politely refused, sat in the back with Benny, and all would have been fine. But everything happened so fast, I just agreed to go along with the plan.
A family friend of ours was there, and she agreed to have Benny sit with herduring the ceremony. I handed her the iPad, and Benny walked away with her to find their seats. I quickly dressed, very glad at this point I wasn't wearing my usual jeans and a polo, but instead had actually dressed nicely. I got in line with the lecturers, and we began walking in to the ceremony grounds.
We made our way to the stage, and I found a seat in the middle row on the stage. It seemed like everything was going to work out beautifully. Until I saw my son.
Now, I didn't see him sitting in a seat with our friends. I didn't see him crying, or running in the grass with the other kids. No, he had walked around the side of the crowd and was walking up to the stage, lunchbox in one hand, iPad in the other. He walked right to the stage, and yells up to me, "Dad, can you help me? I want to play Angry Birds."
Luckily I was able to get him to come up the back side of the stage and tried to hide him behind me in the back row. There was only two people in the back row, both sitting on the far side. I started up Angry Birds, made sure the volume was turned down, and turned around, hoping that it would be quickly forgotten by others. 
So there I was, members of the Board of Governors for the school in front of me, a regional bishop for the denomination on my left, and my three-year-old son sitting behind me playing Angry Birds. 
The graduation ceremony was scheduled to last three hours, and I was unsure how Benny was going to handle sitting there for that long. But I was pleasantly surprised. Overall, he did quite good. Well, except when his bladder notified him that it was reaching maximum capacity.
The guest speaker, a well known evangelist from the U.S., had just finished his speech, and  the M.C. had not yet begun speaking again, when out of the back row, Benny yells, "Dad! I gotta go to the bathroom!"  in front of over 1000 people. I turned around and tried to quiet him, and asked him if he could hold it for a bit. He didn't answer, just gave the little potty dance all parents are familiar with. I tried to exit the stage with him as unobtrusively as possible, and headed to the bathrooms.
Now, for those unfamiliar with the bathroom situation in Kenya, many facilities only use the "Squatty Potty" style bathrooms, the toilet bowl resting level with the floor. This is an improvement over other locations, where it is just a hole over a pit. As soon as we got to the bathrooms, Benny started crying. "Daddy, I can't go in there!" Well, it turned out that it wasn't just his bladder that was full. Benny was too scared to use these toilets, and so I tried to figure out a solution.
We have friends that live on the the school grounds, and they were attending the graduation. I grabbed Benny (still wearing my cap and gown) and ran over to their house, praying the entire way that their gate and door would be unlocked.
We made it, but we did get some odd looks from the security at the graduation. I opened the gate, and ran to the front door. It was open, so we ran in. I hollered to the house help, "Hi, were friends, and my son needs to use the toilet!" and ran right in to the small guest bathroom. Alright, I thought, the worst has happened, and everything is fine.
We survived the graduation, but I did learn a big lesson that day. The next time Adrienne and I have to decide who takes Benny, she's taking him.

Benny and I, dressed to our finest

Friday, November 8, 2013

The farmer

Victoria and Gillett Doggett
Our life, like any of yours, has been a whirlwind of events since our last post. We continue to plow, plant, work and soften the ground, much like a farmer. It's easy to get critical, negative, lose sight, lose hope, give up. The temptation is always there. The comforts of our life in America seem to be calling out. But we never came to Kenya because we would be comfortable but because the God of heaven called us by name, our Jesus died for our sins and it is out of the love that Jesus once showed us that we received that call to go out and make disciples of all men, wherever He may take us. The call in America wasn't always easy just like here. Oh friends, but let me tell you, IT IS WORTH IT! It is beautiful and we are privileged and blessed beyond measure. We have spent the last three days on a missions retreat for Calvary Chapel Missionaries. We were privileged to have guest speakers Gillett and Victoria Doggett encourage us on the topic of unity. It fell on and refreshed our souls like a rush of cool spring water bursting through a dry land. As I sit in my room with dirty clothes from our trip still strewn about the house, I want to share with you some of the words that moved us.
Our Little Apple Tree
We studied how we, as Christians, as followers of Christ, are much like farmers. Now, I don't know much about farming, but since moving to Kenya and starting a little garden, I can imagine the intensity and the hard work of the life of a farmer. I can relate as a person who has watched the hard and exhausting work it takes to be in ministry. It doesn't stop. Ever. Much like a farmer we have to be purposeful and intentional with our time. We can't be lazy. A lazy farmer doesn't reap the rewards of a crop if he hasn't worked the ground. And as much as you work the ground, you don't see things happening right away. I know this to be true both in ministry and with a little apple and avocado tree we planted in our front yard. We planted the apple tree 2 years ago. It hasn't grown much. We planted it from something a bit bigger than a seedling. With the promise from the woman who sold us the plant that we'd see fruit in a year and a half we almost tore it out of the ground in a year. The leaves had died off on top, it looked pretty sad and it hadn't grown an inch. Just as we almost pulled that tree up we noticed life just on a little twig of a branch. A little bud. So we left it there, dug around it, put fresh, red, mineral-rich African soil around and waited. Well it's been two years and maybe that tree grew an inch. But a funny thing happened. Not only are there leaves on it, but an apple! It looks like the tree that Charlie Brown picked out at Christmas with a single ornament weighing the little tree down, but it's there. A healthy little tree. Not what we thought it would be at this stage but alas, there's fruit! That's what full time ministry feels like at times. We can forget about patience and perseverance. We learned we could have years of lost crops, uprooted and stolen crops, but we keep diligence.
We keep planting the seeds, even if we don't get to see the harvest. And oh friends, what Jesus said is true as well when he said, "The harvest is plenty yet the laborers are few." There is so much to be done in this wonderful country.  We need more light penetrating the darkness here. We need preachers, teachers of the word of God, we need people who will stay and disciple. We needs to be Christians who are sober, alert and to keep tilling the ground. Keep watering, keep pulling the weeds, keep pruning.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." - Galatians 6:9