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These are a few of my favorite things

Last night, I asked my ESL students to create a drawing of their favorite things to share with our class.  Many students in my class are refugees, that is, they have been resettled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees because conditions in their countries of origin are simply too dangerous.  War, ethnic strife, starvation and persecution are common reasons.

Not only do their stories remind me that to be born into the United States is an unmerited blessing, but also that these new neighbors carry with them experiences of life and loss that I am privileged to hear and to learn from.  Several of my students hold Master’s Degrees – yet they are now looking for janitorial or fast food employment. Others waited for more than two decades to find a country willing to resettle them – and in the meantime, made their lives in refugee camps.

Today, a photo gallery of a few of my favorite people – brave men and women, through the providence of God, starting life over in Richmond, Virginia.

Hong from Vietnam

Hong from Vietnam

Madi from Nepal

Madi from Nepal

Ariel from Argentina

Ariel from Argentina

Methna from Iraq

Methal from Iraq

Tram from Vietnam

Tram from Vietnam - Tram was a driver for the US Army in the 1970's. Punished by the Communists after the collapse of Vietnam, he was unable to work. Tram waited until 2004 for the US to grant him a visa. Last fall, he became a citizen of the United States. On his drawing of favorite things, he painstakingly drew a map of his new country.

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Christmas Came Early

Over the next few months, volunteers from around Richmond will be coming together to unpack, sort, label and repack literally TONS of medical supplies donated by regional hospitals for use by under-resourced hospitals and clinics in Uganda, East Africa.  After sharing the need for folks to give a few hours toward the effort, we’ve been delighted to receive many, many contacts from old and new friends, girl scout troops, school classes, retirees, immigrants … a true community effort!

A few photos from today’s adventures in the donation warehouse:

Pallets arrive from Bon Secours Medical Center

Pallets arrive from Bon Secours Medical Center

The recording system - pages of line by line descriptions & quantities

The recording system - pages of line by line descriptions & quantities

John, our fearless leader, explains the process.  Note this is the BEFORE picture early this morning...

John, our fearless leader, explains the process. Note this is the BEFORE picture early this morning...

The AFTER picture - just 2 1/2 hours of work - 180 more boxes ready to go to Uganda

The AFTER picture - just 2 1/2 hours of work - 180 more boxes ready to go to Uganda

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Thank you supporters!

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Hannah’s Triumph

Triumphant Hannah

Our family spent the day at Shenandoah National Park’s White Oak Canyon – the trail is beautiful, running along a series of waterfalls and the stream that connects each.  For most of the four hour hike, Hannah led our family, choosing just the right path, stepping with ease across watery rocks, climbing steps half her size – she was truly amazing.  But even more than problem-solving or endurance, we saw a settled confidence in Hannah that we’ve long hoped and dreamed for her.  The picture perfectly captures that spirit.  Thank you God for colorful autumns, quiet paths, rushing waterfalls, but mostly for the healing and redemption of our broken places!

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Apple Fest – October 2010

With gratitude and wonder, we begin another gorgeous autumn in The Promised Land.  Below, a few photos from a family trip to Graves Mountain Lodge’s Annual Apple Festival.

So glad the bugs were invited, too.  Noah & Mom enjoying a grasshopper.

So glad the bugs were invited, too. Noah & Mom enjoying a grasshopper.

Hannah and Mia get lost in the hay maze (only briefly lost)

Hannah and Mia get lost in the hay maze (only briefly lost)

Brotherly Love

Brotherly Love

"The Twins" - Cousins Noah & Katy

"The Twins" - Cousins Noah & Katy

Sisterly love (much improved in our adulthood, eh, Amy?)

Sisterly love (much improved in our adulthood, eh, Amy?)

Joy

Joy

Sam - the only cousin who managed to keep the candy apple IN his mouth, not ON his mouth

Sam - the only cousin who managed to keep the candy apple IN his mouth, not ON his mouth

Into the Peace of Wild Things
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Book Recommendation: THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH

the_phantom_tollbooth

Lest anyone be concerned that my reading list only consists of books featuring pain & suffering, allow me to dispel that notion with a MUST NOT MISS recommendation.  I cannot believe I am 37 years old and am only now reading this amazing story.  If you’ve never read The Phantom Tollbooth, close your computer right now and get to the library.  Truly a book for the whole family to enjoy.

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Book Recommendation: SOLD by Patricia McCormick

sold

“You can’t unknow what you now know.”

A friend reminds me of this truth regularly.  When my dear friend Rachel began ministering to women trapped in prostitution in China, she began a journey into a world I knew nothing about.  “Blissful ignorance” is the phrase that best describes. Today, Rachel is gearing up to move to Cambodia to work full time with women and children exploited by human trafficking and sex tourism.  Along the way, she and her colleagues are traveling the US, sharing the story of the estimated 10,000 to 20,000 women and children trapped in the sex trade in the city of Phnom Penh — and the good news of Jesus Christ to redeem even the deepest wounds with His healing and love.

Rachel recently sent me the Patricia McCormick book SOLD, which follows the story of a twelve year old Nepali girl sold to a brothel in India.  The book was written for a young adult reader — the content is quite a bit milder than you might find in an adult book on the topic.  I read it in one day, hoping against hope that the next page would be better than last.  The story is heart-breaking and terrifyingly real.  According to the US State Department, nearly a half million children are trafficked into the sex trade annually.  SOLD opens an unforgettable window into that world.

Unlike any time before in human history, we can know for sure about grim realities faced in other parts of our world.  Wilberforce and his abolitionists had eye-witness accounts passed from one person to another, Europeans heard rumors about the Nazi death camps, Americans saw footage of the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide — but today, human trafficking is as easy to witness as a google search on the internet.  Blissful ignorance is no longer an option.

Read SOLD.  Follow Rachel’s journey at http://graceandpeacegals.blogspot.com/.  If you are in Richmond, come to hear Rachel and her colleagues speak at Stony Point Presbyterian Church the morning of September 18.  Pray.  Ask God to reveal the part He wants you to play in serving as His hands and feet on behalf of the half million women and children trafficked this year.

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Blueberry Bliss

Just fun pictures from today’s great trip to a local blueberry farm — for you Richmonders, Swift Creek Berry Farm “U Pick” blueberries for $2.09 a pound!

Our great pickers - over 20 pounds in the buckets and lots more in the tummies!

Our great pickers - over 20 pounds in the buckets and lots more in the tummies!

Zach's favorite food is blueberries -- he's pretty sure a taste of heaven can be found in Mosely, Virginia for a few weeks this summer

Zach's favorite food is blueberries -- he's pretty sure a taste of heaven can be found in Mosely, Virginia for a few weeks this summer

Joyful Noah

Joyful Noah

Sweeeeeet Mia

Sweeeeeet Mia

Happy Hannah

Happy Hannah

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Seek the Peace of the City

And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace. Jeremiah 29:7 (NKJV)

Ah, Richmond.  My hometown.  The city that loomed large when homesickness hit hardest.

I’ve recently joined the Board of the Richmond Christian Leadership Institute (http://www.rcliweb.org/), whose “goal is to empower a network of young Christian leaders to serve and influence Metro Richmond across racial, denominational, geographic and socioeconomic lines by aiding people in social and spiritual need, healing community divisions and extending the Church’s influence on the culture.”  In pursuit of this goal, we strive to understand and appreciate the rich history, both glorious and broken, of our city.

Hannah reaches out to the embracing figures at the Reconciliation Memorial

Hannah reaches out to the embracing figures at the Reconciliation Memorial

This morning, the kids and I set out to work on that vision, by following the infamous Slave Trail of Richmond, from the slave ship docks to the notorious prison nicknamed the “Devil’s Half Acre” to the new Reconciliation Statue, one of three duplicate memorials at the vertices of the triangular slave trade.

Zach discovers an old iron hook used for tying slave ships to the dock

Zach discovers an old iron hook used for tying slave ships to the dock

Thankful for educational historical markers along the way

Thankful for educational historical markers along the way

Down the slave trail - captive Africans were taken down this path only at night to protect the sensitivities of local residents

Down the slave trail - captive Africans were taken down this path only at night to protect the sensitivities of local residents

The infamous slave jail, currently under excavation

The infamous slave jail, currently under excavation

Mom, trying to hold it together at the site of the Lumpkin Slave Jail

Mom, trying to hold it together at the site of the Lumpkin Slave Jail

Engraving on the Reconciliation Statue

Engraving on the Reconciliation Statue - the inscription reads: Acknowledge and Forgive the Past/Embrace the Present/Shape a Future of Reconciliation and Justice.

Zach contemplates the triangular trade route at the Reconciliation Memorial

Zach contemplates the triangular trade route at the Reconciliation Memorial

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Sara in Uganda: “…so much of our day would be impossible without her!”

Quick update on…

Sara. The team made it safely to Entebbe, Uganda with no issues or delays (unheard of!). I have only talked to her twice and quite briefly, but we do get daily email updates from different members of the team which are then posted to our church’s website. My favorite quotes about her and the experience so far:

  • “Sara stopp[ed] to talk to one child, then two and three, then twenty gather.  Then she breaks into “Head and shoulders, knees and toes.” And fifty Ugandans no more than six or seven years old crowd her politely, singing soft, sweet words.”
  • “The day when our mini-team went to our first school (just Mr. B, Sara, Woz, and myself), Sara took control by winging together a speech about the word “unconditional.” I was amazed how she just got up there, without notes, and strung together a talk about her family that made sense and was concise!  She’s been a wonderful and majestic Ellie the Eagle every day in Bible Clubs; so much of our day would be impossible without her!” (this one made me cry)
  • “The school is filled with almost 600 children and only 4 teachers. There are few supplies, no school books and hand made notebooks. Some of the children do not even have shoes. Even though to an American, they may seem poor, they are so rich in spirit.”

The home front. The kids and I good. I am stretched with managing Kumveka while taking care of the kiddos (yes, I feed them every day – sometimes even 3 times!), but Week 1 is done with one to go. Exciting days for our ministry around the world! The kids I have enjoyed our time together but everyone is ready for mama-bear to come home…

Pictures below: Several from our adventures at home, Sara with the kids as she departed, and with her team.

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