Friday, August 29, 2008

That's all for now

Retreat is a memory now. Pictures and videos are posted to help us remember. 

I'm working on a Shutterfly photobook of JAF Retreat 2008. The JAF-MN office will send a letter to campers and volunteers with info about how to see the book and how to order if desired.

So that's the end of this chapter of this blog. Nations-be-glad will return when it's time for another venture  into some part of God's world outside my normal life, whether nearby or farther away. 

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to JAF Family Retreat in 2009!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Magdalene's Song for Joni

Magdalene Nungu from Cameroon has a tradition of bringing a new song to Joni each time she sees her. She teaches Joni a song in Pidgin English and they sing it together.

This trip, she didn't have the chance to see Joni, so she sang the song solo for all of us at retreat, with a 5-gallon plastic pail as a drum. 

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Photo Information

All the camp photos are posted at Kodak Gallery. I pray they will bless you with pleasure and good memories.

1. Group Photos -- 
There are 2 sets each of the group in three sections --right, center, left. This gives you the option to find the grouping that shows your family best. There is also a panorama, but this is my first effort at merging photos and it's not entirely successful.

2. All the Retreat photos , including some by other campers. You won't want all of these, but I hope you will find some you like of you, your family and friends, and your STM.

4. Video clips of the children at the CEFED Special Education Home and School, a large part of Magdalene Nungu's ministry in Cameroon, which was highlighted one morning during the Adult Ministry time. These will give a small glimpse into the drastically different life there of a child with disabilities and of the huge difference a few caring people can make in Jesus' name -- Welcome Song -- I Will Dance for You, O Lord -- I Want to Go to School -- Amazing Grace (name that tune!).

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sorry. You'll have to wait another day for the links I promised to the group photos. Today I got distracted in the most blessed, wonderful way.

Our 9th grandchild was born today--our 4th grandson. He is Morrow John Piper. 

This is especially sweet because his sister Felicity was stillborn a year ago. So the rejoicing today is different than any other time I remember. Greater joy than the great joy we might otherwise have had interpersed with sorrow still that Felicity is not here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


As camp photographer, I had the privilege of seeing activities in many parts of the program. I was very glad I took my bike for getting around and back and forth!

I have loaded onto the Internet all the photos I took and some from others too. There are way too many for any one family. But I hope you'll enjoy scanning through, looking for your own faces and those of friends and for events you particularly enjoyed. At this Kodak website, you can save any photos to your own computer. You can purchase prints. And you can use the website to create a photobook, designed by you.

One of the campers, Rick Klingberg, has also posted the photos at his Internet gallery. You can order prints from him. He also offers a number of products that can be printed with the photo of your choice--apron, t-shirt, mug, mouse pad, and many more.

On my post tomorrow, I will include a link to the group photos of everyone who was there.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Talitha's Thoughts

Elisa and I helped the Turner family during Family Retreat. Mrs. Turner wrote on her blog about how much they enjoyed camp and she also posted some pictures.

My mom thought you might like seeing a camper's perspective.

Monday, August 18, 2008

~Talitha's Thoughts~

Hey Everybody!

How is everybody since I last saw you?? Good? 

Well anyway, I would like to share some of my thoughts with you today. 

ok... Yesterday was one of the most precious days ever for me. It was Sunday and the last day of camp. That is when we have breakfast, pack up, and have a little worship and a word from the camp speaker (this year being Kempton Turner) and we have testimonies from campers and from STMs and everyone else. 

Just hearing people saying how God was at work that week was worth the whole week of camp. And then seeing people, including the mother of my family, cry and say what a blessing their STM was to them also was very moving to me. 

The whole week of camp was tiring and hard as well as sweet and good. It was full of fun, some things include:  Swimming, playing, playing tennis, playing ping pong and pool, talking, staying up late, spending time with the Turners, laughing with the Turners, spending time with girls like Elisa, Tessa, Becca, Elise, Ellen , Courtney, my cousin Betsy and her friend Hannah and many other girls. And spending time with boys like Sam, Ryan, Kyle, Joe, Nate and Nate. There were so many others I spent time with and there are so many other things I did as well. 

Another thing I did, was almost every morning I went to the youth prayer meeting that Elisa organized. That was really encouraging since every morning I was so tired but God helped me to get up in the morning and come to this and I can tell you prayer really helps and encourages and strengthens you. 

I have so much more I could say but if I said it all, you would be sitting there for maybe even a couple of hours!! I am happy to be back but I am also sad that camp is over and I can't wait to go next year for 2009 Joni and Friends Camp!!!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Everyone left camp around noon today. 

After this almost-week of serving, Talitha and I are TIRED. As with many feelings or emotions this week, it's a good reminder of what it's like for families with disabilities. We had responsibilities for 5 days; they for 365.

We have plans to post a few more times with thoughts and stories, but for now it's good night.


When we say "talent," I think we usually mean a high level of performance in comparison with others.

A few years ago, my first Talent Show at a JAF Family Retreat brought me to another understanding of the word--the gifts and abilities that God has given. Period. Not in comparison with anyone else. Especially not in comparison with "normal." What is normal anyway . . . but that's another topic.

Tonight we heard jokes from a tall young man who labors to speak, with his STM (volunteer) as straight man.  We waited patiently until the words were formed and spoken and laughed uproariously when the punch line finally arrived.

We saw a pixie-like girl whose body is weak imitating the mouthy bravado of professional wrestlers as she arm-wrestled 2 STMs to their knees.

We saw a sometimes timid, sometimes determined teenager demonstrate a talent she learned just this week--making her new yoyo go down and up 2 or 3 times before it stayed down.

And we saw a strong young man who wanted just one thing for his birthday a few months ago--a violin. Every time I saw him at camp this week, he was carrying his violin case. At home he watches his Andrew Rieu DVD and plays along, up and down on the same string. Tonight, dressed in tie, dark dress shirt and trousers, with just the right tempo of lip pursing and showman smiling, just the right balance of arching the head back and leaning forward into the music, he entertained us on one string to Happy Birthday to You and We Wish You a Merry Christmas, his favorite tunes. An STM played with him, using all the strings. Her grand finale flourish was nothing compared to his.

Tonight the talent was true talent--the display of God-given ability.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Person Who Traveled Farthest to Attend Retreat

One of the special things about this Family Retreat is that my friend, Magdalene Nungu, is here from Cameroon. She is the founder and director of a disabilities ministry in the Bamenda area of the Northwest Province. I met her last year when I was part of the team distributing wheelchairs through her organization. 

One of the main parts of her work is a school for children with disabilities. For some of the children it is also their home, because they are shunned or neglected in their own villages. It is a sweet thing to see those children--now loved, clean, and well-fed--coming to love Jesus and to hear them praising him.

She has a dream to begin having Family Retreats in Cameroon, and so she is here to observe and learn. Of course, a retreat will look different there, and so we with her for discernment as she figures out the the core values and purposes of a Family Retreat, and gets ideas about what is transferable between cultures.

A small example today . . . . Magdalene watched the children playing outside. There were a pile of wadded-up paper balls with an outer layer of foil. The children were instructed to pick up a few balls and then to throw them away, just as quickly as you should throw away sin out of your life. There was a blizzard of "sin" energetically being discarded. Magdalene said, "We could do that" -- no expensive materials or equipment required to play a game that makes a biblical point.

There was a short presentation this morning about our Harvest Project wheelchair distribution in 2007 and Magdalene said a few words about her ministry. Tonight she was amazed and grateful as she told me about several conversations today--people planning to donate wheelchairs to JAF, people who wanted to know more about her ministry, and a few thinking about the possibility of being part of the next wheelchair distribution, including a young man in a wheelchair who is an architect. 

I could see the wheels turning (sorry, I couldn't help myself) as she thought of the impact he could have. It would be almost impossible for most Cameroonians to imagine a disabled person having that much education and respect in his profession. Just the presence of such a person, even if he did nothing else, could open new vistas for young people with disabilities and their families.

So please pray for Magdalene, that this visit would lead to deeper, broader ministry in Cameroon that brings even more glory to the name of Jesus.

One of the Therapy Llamas

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Therapy Animals

Last year Billy came to Family Retreat. Billy is a black lab trained as a therapy dog. This means he has passed animal "good citizen" tests and is approved to visit hospitals, nursing homes, and other similar situations. 

We watched non-verbal kids who usually show little emotion meet Billy and open up their smiles to him. We saw children connect with each other with Billy as the catalyst.

Dogs aren't the only animals that can be trained as therapy animals, but this year we have with us something I've NEVER heard of--a pair of therapy llamas.

I've got pictures (of course), but it's late and the Internet is very slow for me tonight, so maybe later.

Thanks for praying for us here.

They're here!

Our campers arrived today (yesterday, really, since it's after midnight).

We volunteers finished our training with a prayer walk in groups around the campus, praying for God's work in the sorts of activities that would occur in each place.

Katy Thuleen, JAF-MN Director, painted a picture to help us get ready to greet families. She reminded us that many families haven't had vacation for a long time. Perhaps a family member is disruptively loud and unpredictable. Perhaps he or she is medically fragile. Then imagine pulling up to a hotel with all the equipment the family requires. This is not the kind of guest a hotel is eager to host.

But today it was different--a place where a family is awaited,  then announced and cheered as they arrive. Volunteers unpack their cars and take everything to their rooms. The one-on-one volunteers show them where they're staying and get acquainted, including finding out pertinent info that helps give good, loving, reassuring care.

Now, friends, this is for you. One mother told me she knew all too well what I meant when I asked you to pray that God would help our families through the moments when it seems easier just to stay home. "But this time," she smiled, "I never felt that way, so please thank people for praying." And lest you minimize the power of prayer, you should know this is a family with 8 children, several with disabilities.

Tomorrow is our first full day of Family Retreat. Please pray for STMs as they connect with their charges. Please pray for kids to have a good time in their groups and to understand as much as they are able what is being taught about Jesus. Please pray for parents to be able to relax and enjoy the time in the Word and with each other--a rare time of not being on duty for a couple of hours.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Volunteer Training

Talitha and I arrived at Castaway Club about 4:30, along with most of the other volunteers. Talitha is especially happy that her cousin, Betsy, came up from Chicago to work and brought along her friend, Hannah.

The hours before the campers arrive are filled with information and instruction to get us ready to be most helpful to campers.

For example, Tony Skie talked about wheelchair etiquette--"Please ask before you help me. I may be glad for help, but I may want to do it myself." 

Some of us have been to several JAF Family Retreats. Many are first timers. All of us feel a mixture of excitement at being here and anxiety about what it will be like, connecting with people whom we may not already know and who have special needs that we're not yet familiar with.

And if WE feel anxious, imagine the family who is attending for the first time. They have spent money for registration, they've poured energy and emotions into getting their family ready to travel, and yet they may have little idea what to expect. They're probably wondering, "Will it be worth all the effort? 

If my Internet connection cooperates, I hope to post photos at the end of each day.  Just ignore the sign in and click "View Slideshow."

Go! -- Ready! Set!

I'm sitting in the middle of a puddle of packing. Talitha and I leave in about 3 hours for camp. 

All of us volunteers arrive this afternoon and for 24 hours are getting ready for the campers--mostly getting OURSELVES ready. Campers arrive tomorrow afternoon. 

I remember the challenge of taking a trip with our children when they were small. How much greater is the effort for a family affected by disability. 

So while we're loading the car and driving, I'm praying for the campers--that God will overcome the feeling of "It would just be easier to stay home"; that God will protect health; that he will hold away any events, behaviors, mishaps that would keep someone from coming. I don't know all the contingencies to pray about, so over-all my prayer is that God will bring to camp everyone who should be there.

We are so eager to see them!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Volunteers! On your mark! Get set!

Talitha and I drove home today from our vacation, leaving my husband behind to have a few more days of quiet and retreat on his own. 

Vacation was great. But we two needed to do laundry, repack, and be ready to leave tomorrow for Family Retreat. We've been waiting a long time for this.

We know that more than 100 others have their own stories today of wrapping up one set of activities and responsibilities to get ready to go tomorrow to Joni and Friends Family Retreat to work in some capacity in the name of Jesus on behalf of families affected by disabilities. 

Please pray for us all as we prepare and travel.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Trouble Posting a Comment?

A couple of people have mentioned that they're not sure how to post a comment because they've forgotten their sign-in info or don't want to register.

Here's my solution when that happens. I click on "anonymous." That lets me through without having to sign in. 

Then I always sign my name at the end of my comment, because I don't like truly anonymous comments.

Feel free to test the procedure by commenting on this post--nothing profound required; "test" is fine.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Talitha's Thoughts

Hey Everyone!

I am so excited for Joni and Friends Camp. I would love to give you guys some reasons why I am so excited.

Okay, the first reason is that this is my very first time volunteering at Joni and Friends Camp. Last year, when my mom went for the Minnesota Joni and Friends Camp I didn’t really feel like I was ready to go to one. But now I am ready.

Reason two: I get to bring my violin and play music for people. I just love being able to minister to people that way!

Reason three: I get to take care of an adorable little friend I know!

Reason four: I get to room with other girls from my church!

Reason five: Some of my friends are going from church!

And finally, Reason six: This is a great opportunity for me to serve others and to be like Christ and his image in Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for  many.” I get to serve others maybe even in the smallest ways like playing violin, but the bigger thing is that I get to be like Christ.

I most heartily look forward to seeing you there if you’re going! I really can’t wait to go, can you tell?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Almost Time for Family Retreat

Families and STMs (Short-Term Missionaries=volunteers) are getting ready for Minnesota's second Joni and Friends Family Retreat next week. We've put together a photo book to help campers know what to expect at camp. Near the top right-hand corner you can choose "play" for a slideshow or you may arrow through at your own pace.

I can hardly wait to see all of you who are coming!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Difference a Chair Makes

Imagine that you must lie or crawl or be carried, and you have no hope that anything will ever be better. Then, you are offered a wheelchair. Imagine that, for the first time in your life, you can look at people almost eye to eye, that you can see the world face-on. 

These are just 3 of the 100 people who received chairs during the wheelchair outreach I was part of in January 2007. 

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Wheelchair Outreach

In January 2007, I was part of a team distributing wheelchairs in Cameroon, West Africa. This was a combined ministry of JAF and Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Team members raised their own support. Internet connection was spotty, but we were able to post a few entries in a team blog

The wheelchairs were provided by JAF. People in the US donate chairs to JAF and then the chairs are renovated in a shop in one of several prisons around the country.

In many countries of the world, wheelchairs and walkers and other equipment are either unavailable or prohibitively expensive. Also in some countries, disability is viewed as a curse. This means that people with disabilities receive little or no assistance and perhaps never leave their homes. Physical and occupational therapy is largely unavailable.

The gift of a wheelchair can change a life, and when the wheelchair is fitted by a person who shows care and prays with the recipient, Jesus' name is glorified in the gift. Each person also receives a Bible and other Christian material in a language they or a family member can read.

I was going to post some photos from the Cameroon Project, but the Internet is giving me problems right now (not just an African problem!), so I'll save that for another time. Be sure to watch the video on the JAF Wheels page

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

International Disability Center

From Noel:
A few months ago, Talitha and I visited the Joni and Friends International Disability Center in Agoura Hills, California. This is the hub for the variety of ministries spreading out from JAF--family retreats, wheelchair outreach, radio ministry, church relations, visitation, disabilities awareness curriculum, daily devotions, and connection with the JAF field ministries scattered around the country. There also is a new TV program.

It's hard to take it in--how many kinds of activities spring from this center. So I think I'll focus on some ministries individually in future blogs.

In the meantime, this video highlights the Christian Institute on Disability, one of the key ministries of the Center, offering education and internships for this purpose: "To Impact the Church, Christian and public institutions and societies with a biblical worldview and life-giving Truth on issues pertaining to life, dignity, justice and equality that affect people with disabilities."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Who Would Have Thought?

Summer afternoon. Sisters swimming in the bay. Diving from a raft. Hitting bottom. Broken neck. Quadriplegia. Seventeen years old and life will never again be the same.

Who but God could have thought of this as anything but tragedy? Instead, through God's strength Joni Eareckson Tada has inspired tens of thousands. Her practical love and ministry through Joni and Friends has pointed people around the globe toward the God who is sovereign and in whose image we all are created, whatever abilities and disabilities we have.

She has told her story more fully in Joni, which is available as book or DVD. And perhaps you heard her speak some time ago with Larry King about her life--how God brought her into  a warm personal relationship with himself through friends who treated her "as a person, not a cripple." In that video interview, she also talks about what that relationship means in her life now, for example when she doesn't have the strength or personal resources to face another day.

God Always Shows Up Here

Joni and Friends Family Retreat is a unique week in the year of a person or family affected by disabilities. You can hear it in the words of some of the campers who were at the Minnesota Family Retreat last year, in 2007. A couple of them are parents of children with special needs. One is a husband and father whose physical mobility is a wheelchair. One is an STM (nickname for Retreat volunteer workers--"short-term missionary").

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Posted by Noel:
I'll be making a new side bar for our next ministry opportunity, but I want to save the images that were in the Kenya trip side bar. 

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Goodbye, Kenya

From Talitha:
Today is a sad day for my mom and I. Today is March 10, 2008... which means that today is our last full day in Kenya. Tonight we leave at 11:30pm for our flight to Amsterdam from Kenya. Part of me wants to stay. Part of me wants to leave and see my church, school and just be at home. I have seen so much for me to process. Some of what I saw made me angry. Some of it made me sad. Some of it made me happy. Seeing the poverty made me mad and sad. Seeing the children happy and asking us "how are you?" made me happy. We take so much for granted in "the states" and we don't even think about other people in the world who may not have the same things that we do, or may not have it at all. I encourage you (in the states) to pray earnestly for these (broken or hurt or happy) people in Kenya. Also when you catch yourself being picky about a certain food ( don't feel bad, I do it too) remember that there are people in the world who don't have any food or live on less than a dollar a day so they eat what they can get for their family. One thought I definitly come away with on this trip is that there really is trees dying and a lot of us waste paper in the states and we don't even think about that there really is trees dying. I given you a lot to think about, so process it slowly and maybe you have some thoughts.
God bless you and keep you and give you a heart(if not already) t0 be on your knees for these people in Kenya and all of Africa. May Jesus Christ's name be hallowed forever in Africa!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

"I Cry Every Day"

From Noel:
Today I went with Craig and Francis about 1 hour to Old Kijabe Town for a workshop with community leaders. The purpose was to promote God's vision for his creation. At the beginning Craig and Francis asked for memories of what the land was like 30 or more years ago.

One man said "There were so many wild animals--elands, antelopes . . . . Anytime you cut across the forest, if you met a buffalo, you were safe, because the trees were so thick, he couldn't get through to you. Today you would be dead."

Mr. Stephen Ngungi Munga (pointing to the bare hills) said, " I cry every day. I was born here in 1941. There were huge forests here. Today I look at it and cry because I reflect back and remember how it used to be. The land is groaning. The forest is weeping. If those who have already gone to the Father were allowed to come again, they would leave again immediately."

There was much to ponder in Craig and Francis's presentation. One thing I'll pass on right now. God created everything to display his glory. That includes us and all of nature. "Apart from the scriptures, the creation is the most complete and spectacular physical evidence of God's reality and glory." So damaging and destroying creation insults God and hides his glory.

Friday, March 7, 2008


From Talitha :

Hey Everybody! I hope everybody is safe and blessed.
ok, Some thoughts here. When I saw how the women have to walk down this steep steep hill to get firewood and back up carrying it, it struck me how hard these women work to get food for their families. They (i think ) get firewood down the steep escarpement 3 times a week. That takes a lot of muscle. The firewood they carry is a huge old pile. Some women did not have shoes. Some women did not have husbands because they were widowed. Some women had torn and dirty dresses and scarves. That is one of the reasons (I think) that they loved the scarves. We in The States take for granted the firewood we burn because we can buy firewood. And we have cars to go get it. A lot of us use cars to go get firewood, clothes and other stuff. When they have to walk maybe some miles to go get the essentials for living. Also when I saw some of the children walking to school, it struck me how sometimes they have to walk a long way to get to school. And we sit back and relax in buses. Seeing this taught me that I shouldn't complain when my bus comes late because i should be grateful that I get to ride a bus at all. Also some kids at my school live farther away, They should be grateful that they do not have to walk the 20 or something miles. I have given you alot to think about, so process it slowly. If you have questions or something to say, give me a comment. Blessings!

Coincidence--I mean GOD-incidents

From Noel:
God-incident #1--

Talitha and I decided to read one chapter each day from 1 and 2 Timothy. We chose those fairly randomly, simply because together they had the same number of chapters as there are days of our trip. We could do that, knowing that God would use his word, wherever we read, to give us what we need for each day. We are taking turns being the one who reads for the day and comments about what seems pertinent, especially to this trip.

On Sunday, our first morning in Kenya, where post election violence was so recent, Talitha read 1 Tim 2, and it seemed planned for that particular day. Pray for those in authority so that we may live godly lives in peace and quietness. The perfect prayer for this first day. And yes, it WAS planned, though not by us.

God-incident #2--

On Tuesday, after we returned from the trek down into the Rift Valley with the women hauling wood, we had lunch together. Pastor Kanori's wife and some friends prepared it in the small forest that Pastor Kanori planted 10 years ago--a cool, shady place to rest after the exertion of the climb.

Before I left home, I had collected larger scarves to bring as gifts, just 13 of them. I also had a few earrings. Almost all the rural women wear scarf head ties. I was worried 13 would be enough. I shouldn't have worried. As we ended our time together, I gave earrings to the younger women who weren't wearing head ties. And that left exactly 13 women to receive the 13 scarves.

On the Wild Side

From Noel:

Today Talitha and I joined the Sorleys for their weekly family day. At Lake Naivasha (about a 1-1/4 hour drive from Sorleys'), we rode in a slow motorboat that skirted semi-submerged hippos (you don't want them messing with your boat) and dropped us off at Crescent Island.
Moses, a guide who's worked there 15 years, led us within yards of gazelles and dik diks. We saw a giraffe nursing her 1-day old baby. On the next hill we could see a herd of zebra, and on the shore on the opposite side of the island were waterboks and wildebeests. In the course of the day, we counted at least 19 different kinds of birds--fun and beautiful to see. Amazing when you think how few that is compared to Kenya's 1089 bird species.

We sighted a hippo on land, fortunately headed toward the water. You don't want them to mess with you on land either. And somewhere on the island is a 5-meter long python. Moses explained that when a python eats an animal (gazelle, for example), you can tell what it's eaten by the shape of the lump in its body. Nathan and Aaron Sorley really wanted to see the snake. But Moses apologized that the python was deep in the bushes and not to be found today. Talitha relaxed then.

Afterward we had lunch beside a swimming pool and then we adults had a few quiet moments to talk while the kids played in the water. Quiet moments have been rare this week, but they're important to me for knowing how to pray.
It's 9:30 pm here, which seems early to me. But as usual this week, I'm the only one up this late. Tomorrow Talitha's mission is to minister to MKs--Nathan and Aaron here and a couple of others she's met nearby. I'll be with Craig and Francis at an all-day workshop for community leaders in old Kijabe town, about an hour from here.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Fields of Dreams?

From Noel:

While Talitha was getting her hair braided (don't miss the post just previous to this one), I was attending a workshop, Farming God's Way presented by Care of Creation staff.
During the morning, twenty-one farmers first conversed about the difference in yields over the last 30 years. The farmers harvested an average of 19.6 bags of corn/acre in 1977 and in 2007 it was only an average of 6.5 bags. The land is depleted by erosion, irregular rains, pests, etc. All of these are connected in various ways to the vast deforestation--no root system to hold the water, no nesting places for birds who eat the pests, and the loss of the moisture provided by trees that contributes to rainfall.
Then they heard from Craig and his coworker, Francis, the biblical foundation for taking care of God's creation. Though farmers are considered the bottom of the heap here, they are working in God's image, God who was the first farmer (Gen. 2:8-9).
After lunch Craig and Francis gave instruction in the method of Farming God's Way. One of the first questions was this: With your dead cornstalks is it more important to feed your cow or your soil? The instinct is to feed the hungry cow. But every year your cow gets hungrier because you have fewer cornstalks. If the cornstalks become mulch to enrich the soil and hold moisture, both your cow and you eat better next year. The method involves tilling the soil only once, at the beginning. After that the farmer keeps the ground covered and just digs seed holes.
Well, I could go on. There was 3 hours of great biblical and practical information. We ended by visiting the demonstration farm, where corn and beans were just harvested. The farmers felt the coolness of the mulched soil and were amazed at the height of the corn stalks and the amount of yield.
Pray that they will be convinced to try something new. They are from 10 different churches and as many different communities, so there won't necessarily be supportive neighbors when they don't do what's always been done.
Pray that God will prosper the work of the Care of Creation staff with many "fields of dreams."

Ta Da!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


From Talitha:

Hey Everybody! A exciting thing is happening today. I am gettng my hair braided with extensions. Isn't that exciting? Later we probably will post a picture of my hair. But now, I have to go and get my hair braided! Many bessingsand I miss you all ( especially my class, Thanks Jalen for the awesome comment, I bue you too!) I am feeling better with my shots, Thanks for the prayers! Love you all,bye!

Meeting a Favorite Author

From Noel:

I have known of Rift Valley Academy ever since my sister Julie worked there for a time in the 70s. It is a well-known day and boarding school founded by AIM in Kijabe and sits about halfway up the escarpment of the Rift Valley. Craig Sorley was a boarding student there, grades 8-12.

Adjacent to RVA is the AIM hospital. To all my medical friends I say, if you want to see medicine in a new way, come work at a mission hospital. Most cases are far advanced and there are conditions that are rarely if ever treated in the US.

Today, after walking around a bit at RVA and eating spaghetti lunch amidst a tent-full of student clamor, we drove down the hill to the hospital to meet Dr. Harry Kraus. I "met" Harry first through his writing. Since then, when I knew I'd be coming to Kenya, he and his wife, Kris, were kind enough to invite us to visit them. So this afternoon we had tea--I mean chai--and then this evening they took Talitha and me out to eat at a Java House (apparently founded by Americans who thought there ought to be a good place to buy good coffee in this coffee-growing country).

I want to recommend Harry's books to you. My favorites are The Chairman (fiction) and Breathing Grace (non-fiction). I wouldn't be surprised if when you read these, you'll want to find his others.

Once again, it's late and time to sleep. Tomorrow I'll be attending a Care of Creation workshop for farmers: Farming God's Way. Talitha will be doing something she's never done before, but more about that later.

(By the way, I keep mentioning the Rift Valley. The Great Rift Valley is a north-south volcanic-earthquake fault running from Lebanon to Mozambique. It's major enough to be seen from space.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

There Used to Be Trees

From Noel:

Sorry about the previous post. The internet went down last night just as I pressed "publish".
Anyway, I don't know when I've been so tired--and humbled. We left the house at 6 am to drive to the edge of the escarpment leading down to the Rift Valley, which is wide, deep, and distinct here. We waited at the top for women who would be walking down into the valley to collect fire wood. They would already have been walking 2-3 kilometers, then it was another 3-4 kilometer walk (not the right word) down rocky, dusty semi-paths to find a place where there was still wood to be found.

Hill and valley as far as you can see used to be covered with forest and rich land, maybe just 30 years ago. Now it is all eroded down to grass, rocks, scrub, and gullies. The firewood the women collect, we would call kindling. That's all that's left now.

Here's the humbling part. We went down too, but not as far as the women. Going down, Talitha was glad for a helping hand several times when the slope was steep and the rocks slippery underfoot. But she was energized on the way back--way ahead of me. By the time I was about halfway back up, I was testing the bench qualities of boulders about every 30 feet. And I was carrying nothing. I hope not to do this again for a long time, if ever. But these women, some in their 70s, carry 40-50 lbs of wood on their backs up the escarpment 2-3 times a week. Many women spend 30 hours a week collecting firewood and water. Around that they do all that a woman does to care for her household. This includes cooking over a fire, while I just turn a knob.

You could hardly ask for a more clear illustration of how much Care of Creation is needed, in particular here, for the planting of trees to renew the land and to help people live more productive lives.

On the way home we stopped at a school where one Bethlehem team helped to build a water tank where water is caught from roof rain run-off. Another Bethlehem team built a fence around the tree nursery there--very young saplings that are nurtured by water from the tank. Dozens of fruit trees are ready to be sent home with students who have been instructed how to plant these in their yards. Other types of trees will be suitable to grow for firewood.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Day in Nairobi

From Noel:

This morning we drove through Kibera, a slum/dump area in Nairobi you might have heard of recently during reports of the violent days in Kenya. We saw 2 burned out churches and numerous burned houses and shops that were poor enough to begin with.

Afterward, Craig and Tracy took us to meet with the people at NEGST (Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology) who have taught an elective theological course about caring for God's creation. They are hopeful that the course might become part of the core curriculum. We also met with people at Daystar University, where there is an environmental science course, but not yet a course that looks at creation from a biblical perspective.

Later in the afternoon, Talitha, Tracy and I hung out with MaryAnne Augustin, Bethlehem missionary with Wycliffe. She began her missionary work several years ago, planning to do Bible translation work in Congo. Revolution and later strife there has made it impossible for her to settle there. Wycliffe/SIL's Congo work has gone on "in exile." Now, finally, MaryAnne is planning to move to Congo in a few months.

We're trying for early bedtime tonight, because we leave the house at 6 am tomorrow do do something we've never done before. We'll tell you about that tomorrow.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


From Noel:

We went with the Sorleys this morning to Tigoni Baptist. We expected the service to be in
Swahili, and most of it was. Good music. I was able to catch on to a couple of the phrases if they were repetitive enough. One sounded really familiar and I finally realized it was "Things Already Bettah" that we learned in English from Watoto.

Then when it was sermon time, Pastor Bosco had another man up there with him to translate into English. I think that was an impromptu arrangement because we were visiting. The sermon was from Philippians 1:15-18. He spoke about unity and love, specifically relating it to the recent violence in Kenya. He challenged the church to be different than others.

I have been in services other places where the language is unfamiliar, and God works anyway. Maybe I meditate on the passage I know the pastor is preaching from. Or maybe God brings other things to mind. Or maybe I pray for the people who are worshiping around me.

So I didn't mind when I thought this morning would be all Swahili, but I was glad I could understand more than I expected.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

We're here!

From Talitha:

Ok, tired here. But for the most part i am happy because we are here safely.
Thank you to all who were praying for us that we would be safe. The planes were safe and we had a nice time at the Amsterdam airport and had some delightful walffle caramely cookies ( the kind that Miss Ward really likes! smile). I slept 6 hours on one of the flights. And I slept all of the night yesterday night and woke up in the morning at 6:00am. Here it is about 9 hours difference so right now it is 9:10am. At home it is about midnight.

Grace and peace from God our perfect heavenly Daddy!

Friday, February 29, 2008

We're off!

From Noel: You have given us all we needed to go--prayers and gifts. THANK YOU! Lord willing, we arrive late tomorrow evening, Nairobi time. Thank you for blessing us as we go and while we're there.


From Talitha:

Thank you so much to all who so willingly contributed to " The Piper Travel Fund". Also thank you to all who so willingly prayed for us while we were packing and those who so willingly are going to pray for us. We really really really appreciate all this help and prayers you have bestowed on us. Thank you Thank you Thank you!

May Jesus Christ's name be hallowed in Kenya forever!

Agreement in Kenya

From Noel:

One of the effects of planning a trip to Kenya is that I'm lots more aware of what's happening there. According to my original plans I should have already traveled and returned. But post-election violence caused that trip to be postponed till now. I have paid close attention since then to the progress of talks between the rival leaders, Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga.

The area where we'll be visiting was not affected by the violence and foreigners did not feel threatened.

Just yesterday, an agreement for a coalition government was announced. There is great relief in Kenya, mixed with caution.

So today, let's give thanks and pray for peaceful follow-through.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


From Talitha:

I'm feeling a little sore right now--on both sides. Three shots today!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Prayers for Packing

From Talitha:

Hello Friends.

I want to say that I am so blessed to have all of you as friends.
Please pray hard that I will not forget anything when I pack. Also if you could pray that I will have patience when I pack. Packing for long trips has always been hard. And I need the Lord's grace and mercy as I pack. Thank you for all your prayers. They are appreciated.
God bless you!

May Jesus Christ's name be hallowed now and forever more!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Prayer Requests

From Talitha:

If you could pray for me, that would be great. Here are some ways that you could pray for me:
  • That the Lord would keep us safe traveling.
  • That the Lord would keep us safe there where we will be.
  • That the Lord would give us unity traveling and when we are there.
  • That the Lord would keep us from grumbling when things don't go our way.
  • That the Lord would keep our families [Daddy and brothers and their families] safe and happy while we are gone.
  • That we would encourage each other to have devotions, to pray, and to treat each other and everybody there with love.
  • That God would help us understand more about how important the environment is in people's lives and spiritual lives.
  • That we would always remember that we are there to serve and not to be served.
Thank you for praying for us. God bless you and keep you and give you peace, joy, and love for God and for others.

Going to Kenya

From Noel:

Talitha and I leave for Kenya on Friday. We will be visiting Craig and Tracy Sorley, missionaries sent out by Bethlehem Baptist to service with Care of Creation . Our main purpose is to find out more about Care of Creation so we ourselves can pray more intelligently and so we can bring back to Bethlehem a greater understanding and vision of the ministry of Care of Creation.

The combination of ecology and missions is not a familiar sort of ministry for me. Here's a parallel that I found helpful. We're used to the idea of medical missionaries trying to heal people's bodies, which provides a pathway for the gospel, with the prayer that people's souls will be redeemed and healed. Care of Creation is working to heal the environment, which provides a pathway for the gospel, with the prayer that people's souls will be redeemed and healed.

I know we're supposed to be stewards of the world God put us in, but I've always been wary of environmental activists, because so many seem to make the world itself into god. So I'm excited that to learn more about these things with a biblical foundation.

I found Ed Brown's book,
Our Father's World: Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation, to be a very helpful beginning.