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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Out the Door . . .

 . . in another hour and a half.  Essentials going into the carry-ons now:  dramamine for travel sickness, pudding mixes and pine nuts and pecans and chocolate for cheering us through our first few weeks, a Bible and a change of clothes, and the Yale course catalogue for long-distance dialogue with Luke as he starts classes in early January, the SAT prep book in case I can get Caleb to prepare for the exam, and our new Kindle.  Scott has carefully weighed and measured our ten suitcases, keyboard and guitar.  Too scattered for closing words of wisdom other than thanks.  We would not have reached this moment without our army of pray-ers and supporters.  I moved through the five-month HMA in a fog much of the time.  It's been four years since my last set of America goodbyes.  Next post will be from Africa once again.  Prayers appreciated for:
-smooth travel (no snow here in VA but the world is still reeling from a week of storms)
-God's grace to Luke who is now being left alone in America for the first time, not yet 18, another two days with Grammy then off on his own for the Boston Winter Conference (Christian student meeting) Jan 1-5 and then back to Yale.  Lots of unknowns:  classes to enroll in, major to choose, something meaningful to do Spring Break and in the Summer, general survival. . . 
-God's grace to my mom, who has become accustomed to a rowdy houseful.  It's going to be quiet.
-Our purchase of a decent serviceable used truck in Kenya.
-Friends and sports and community and inclusion for our kids at RVA, and Swahili-learning focus for us in the first two weeks of January.
-That we would be a blessing to Kijabe Hospital and World Harvest MIssion as we move forward.

For the world's good, and God's glory.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Post-Christmas, Flee to Africa

Well, why not, after all, Jesus did.
At some point not too long after his birth, Jesus' parents received instructions to rise in the night and flee into Egypt. As if being IDP's was not enough (Nazareth to Bethlehem), a post-partum plunge into being refugees as well, crossing borders, heading to a far country, one with historical overtones of oppression.
We are also on the post-Christmas path to Africa. In 48 hours we will be boarding a flight to Kenya via Amsterdam, with our suitcases and new piano keyboard (thanks to grandparents), with our peculiar assortment of essentials: a few books (but mostly a Kindle!), guitar, and computers and clothes and chocolate. Another pass through the portal into the unknown. New community, new job, new language, new school, new unspoken rules and unwritten protocols, new methods for shopping for food or finding fellowship.
Vacillating between numb and stressed, anxious and thankful. Said goodbye to all the cousins today, my sister and her husband, who have generously cared for us and rearranged their holiday to be with us. Talked to my aunt on the phone, with the sobering awareness that her health and age could mean that by next visit, she won't be here. Visits from two of the three close family friends (almost-parents) I grew up with. And as we sort and throw out and tie up and book boarding passes, half our heart (or more) remains with Luke, thinking about next term's classes and his new job and how he'll spend the next holiday.
But when I take a deep breath I can see God's provision. He sent the magi with their portable valuable gifts, gold and spices. Cash for the journey and setting up a new home. And He sends us with ours, too. An hour ago we had a phone call from the missions committee of a church we've never even visited: Scott's parents ended up moving across the country to the same town as the mother of the girl one of his med school classmates married, who reconnected us to that classmate and wife, who took our story to their church, who met this last week and decided to give us two very generous gifts. One for our support, and one for our vehicle, in fact the exact remaining amount we were hoping to receive before we left. After a Fall of marginal finances, which carries its own sort of doubt we are very grateful for the generous outpouring of the last month. The magi don't come until the crisis is at hand. This is the way God works.

Friday, December 24, 2010

"The Dream Isaiah Saw"

Lions and oxen will sleep in the hay,
leopards will join with the lambs as they play,
wolves will be pastured with cows in the glade,
blood will not darken the earth that God made.

Little child whose bed is straw,
take new lodgings in my heart.
Bring the dream Isaiah saw:
life redeemed from fang and claw.

Peace will pervade more than forest and field:
God will transfigure the Violence concealed
deep in the heart and  in systems of gain,
ripe for the judgment the Lord will ordain.

Little child whose bed is straw,
take new lodgings in my heart.
Bring the dream Isaiah saw:
justice, purifying law.

Nature reordered to match God's intent,
nations obeying the call to repent,
all of creation completely restored,
filled with the knowledge and love of the Lord.

Glenn Rudolph

(as performed by the Washington Chorus and the National Capital Brass and Percussion, for a Candlelight Christmas at the Kennedy Center, our Christmas treat from my mom.  A minor key with the rumbling hope of redemption.  Merry Christmas Eve to all . . . )

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Prayer Letter

Our Christmas Prayer Letter is now available for downloading.... Color pictures.... and another original Advent poem from Jennifer.... CLICK HERE to download it now (a 590K pdf file). Merry Christmas!!!!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010


A few months ago some friends put a rather large amount of cash in our hands and said: spend this on something fun that you would not otherwise do. We do not deserve moments like this. And we've had quite a few this HMA, gestures that go beyond anything we've asked for, that affirm a smiling God. I immediately thought of skiing. Our kids had been skiing four times in their lives, four days, and each day stands out as a unique and valuable memory: Massanutten VA with my parents (when 2-year-old Jack snuck his rented yellow ski boots on at night in bed he loved them so much, and my Dad BOUGHT them for him, a milestone moment of crazy love), Sierra Nevada Spain (when we took a bus from Granada after a meeting, had a glorious day, decided we could ski all the way down to the base rather than take the lift, and felt like we might have died by the time our approximately 5 to 10 year olds navigated the steep slopes under pressure of the-last-bus-back deadline rapidly approaching), Lake Tahoe CA with Scott's family (Aunt Sonja took the whole day with protege Julia who was a natural, Jack jumped on the slope with his experienced cousins before we could even remind him about how to slow down), and the Alps in Austria with the Massos and others at WHM (unbelievable snow and views and company). Though that is an average of one day every 3 to 4 years, they have all become milestone family moments.

So we've had this cash and this hope percolating, but the days we've had with all six of us together and no other obligation since arriving in the US have been, well, very very few. I thought this weekend could be a window, since Luke finished exams mid-day Friday and we didn't need to be in VA until Sunday evening. Not enough time or money to go somewhere with for-sure snow, we would have to take our chances with PA, which lies between New Haven and Virginia. I started surfing the internet. Then my mom "happened" to mention she had points left for 2010 on her time-share that she would need to give away or waste. I jumped to volunteer, and it turned out the choices included a cluster of condos on the NY/PA border, near some Pocono mountain slopes. We booked it. Still now snow in the NE, unlike most of the USA it seems, but we figured we could at least enjoy a day in the woods. . .

We picked Luke up Friday, after untold hours of traffic and detours (nothing like trying to pass through several of the major cities on the East Coast on a Friday before Christmas). Hugs and joy, exams done, first semester survived! We arrived in PA late Friday evening. Saturday broke in, brilliantly sunny and cold. Skeptical, we just though we would check out the local ski slope. If we hadn't had that gift we wouldn't have tried it, given the man-made snow and the weekend-costs. But I'm so glad we did. The lifts and equipment for six was within a few dollars of exactly matching the gift. We had our fifth day of family-ski life, and it was another fantastic one. No lines. Clear skies, empty woods. Powdery snow that scraped away to iciness by sunset. Almost-full moon rising as we flew up the lifts. We skied almost continuously all day, and most of that time we were pretty much together. I was always the last one to reach the bottom, being a fan of sharper speed-decreasing turns than the rest of my family. We would regroup on the lift, take turns choosing the route down, swish and glide through the wintry beauty, encourage the fallen, and then do it all again. The ominous crushing blade of the snow-boarders overtaking me was sometimes unnerving, but we all made it through the day intact. Our rental had a rec center with a pool and hot tub, bubbling hot salt water that was perfect that evening, kindness to rarely-used muscles. By the time we ate dinner I wasn't sure if everyone could stay awake, but we managed to cap the evening off with a fire and a chapter from "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" (which we usually read CAMPING in the SAVANNAH pre-Christmas, still by a fire, but otherwise a world away).

So thanks friends, for the gift of sun and exercise and snow and craziness and overcoming fears and doing it together. Thanks mom for the gift of a place to stay along the way. Thanks other friends for the loan of the massive van to move us from here to there. For me, Christmas has come, I'm content.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Incarnation: Inconvenient Glory

"Tis the season to think about Incarnation. Two sermons by one of the primary mentors of our faith start us thinking. The Incarnation is so radical, that we all drift towards heresy to avoid it. Surely the nature of God, of Jesus, of truth, is primarily spiritual. Surely the intangibles of Christmas are what really matter, peace and love and all that. Any indulgence in things that can be wrapped with crinkly colorful paper, or ingested and digested, seems un-Christian, a pagan distraction from the pristine and unsullied spiritual realm. But is it? Skip points us to 1 Cor 1: a marred saviour, human, paradoxically weak, fleshily real.

God embraced the body. Can I? Mine has been frustratingly inconvenient lately. Last week we anticipated the highlight of our short furlough, the gift of two nights away at a luxurious hotel, just the two of us. It was a gift that was urged upon us by people wiser than we are, that we almost missed receiving through our inertia of rush. As the day approached I started downing multiple meds and recruiting a few praying friends for three different infections and a strained knee. To spare you all the details, you can just smile imagining the most noticeable one: a swollen red nose due to deep skin infection, attractive only to someone with a Rudolph fetish, and leaving me feeling wiped out. The day we drove out to the Inn was probably one of the physically weakest days of my year. We planned to start our retreat with a hike up to the mountaintop which was the scene of our first date, and the site of our engagement. But forty-mile-an-hour winds had downed trees closing the road. So random as to be so noticeable. Surely God had a point.

Yes, the physical concrete nature of our existence can be mightily inconvenient. But as the meds kicked in by evening, and we entered into the peaceful order of this Inn, the inconvenience gave way to glory. A glowing fire and towering lighted Christmas tree, gourmet food served by candlelight. A balcony in the mornings which absorbed the 20-degree sunshine for blanket-wrapped Bible reading. Exploring the machines in the fitness center, running over crunch-frosted grass on the golf course. Reading uninterrupted in the silent afternoon. Dashing over the patio to an outdoor hot tub in the moonlight, simmering in the 103-degree water while our damp hair froze into ice-sicles under the stars. A door opened into a taste of Heaven, outside of time.

But that experience was very physical, taste and touch and sight and smell and sound. As, if you think about it, even the "intangibles" are, peace and love must be enjoyed through our living bodies.

The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. Christmas is all about the inconvenience of that, but also the glory of it. The squalling hunger of the infant Jesus but also the milky pleasure of being satisfied by his mother. The excruciating nails splitting his palms, but also the gloriously healed scars in His resurrected hands.

So let us not apologize for the body (the first reaction of our fallen parents, shame and fig leaves) because it is in the flesh that we shall see God.

And let us not doubt the Kingdom-wholeness of goats' milk and kitengi-quilts and mission as medicine. Let us not measure the value of ministry-diversity on a heretical scale where only the translation into spiritual truly "counts". Let us not give succulent Christmas feasts and a gift you can hold or wear pharisaically suspicious glances. Because Jesus redeems us body and soul, until the paradox of incarnation dissolves into fully convenient glory.

Waypoint Cheer

Today, up at 5:30, snow reflects in the starlight and houselight. Out the door by 6, piling into our borrowed massive maroon 12-passenger behemoth. First stop Dulles Airport, re-depositing a stranded former-RVA student trying to get home to Africa who ran into bureaucratic visa red tape and, thanks to the facebook class of 2010 network, spent two nights with our family (we all know that any random tourist buys a visa in the arrivals line in Cameroon or Uganda . . .but try convincing the airline of that if you're 18, African, with a whopping one semester of American experience under your belt). I've known this girl for 36 hours now but feel a lump in my heart when we hug her goodbye, small and competent with her massive wheeled suitcase, anticipating our own departure from this very spot in less then 2 weeks, anticipating the many times someone else will have to be doing this for our kids. Snow-packed neighborhood streets give way to the dismal slush of the highway, hesitant drivers, lurching traffic. The hour to Baltimore stretches into two as we abandon the accident-plugged beltway and use our gps to weave through northern DC suburbs, until we open onto 95. Cloud-cover glows with sunrise and then turns into dull smudgy grey. And then our waypoint: the Glenn Burnie Panera Bread, our beloved Miss Kim and her fiance. We've arranged a sip of friendship over coffee and pastries. Kim, woman of faith, from Bundibugyo to Sudan to marriage, always a solid waypoint in our life, connecting us to community and clarity and prayer and love. A real friend. And now our second time to meet James, once again just struck by his presence, this is a good man. The kind that's hard to find.

Now back on the road, dodging trucks and slinging salt up 95, a long trip ahead to New Haven, but thankful for the waypoint of cheer.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Man of the Year

World Magazine has named Dr. Dick Bransford as their 2010 "Man of the Year". We wholeheartedly applaud the choice. Link here to the well-written feature story:

I am proud to be a fellow alumna of the same medical school, and soon to be a colleague at Kijabe Hospital. The Bransfords have encouraged us as we follow a mile behind, trying to stay in their Jesus-like footprints.

You know you've lived in Africa when . .

You have to TELL your kids NOT TO GO OUTSIDE IN BARE FEET IN THE SNOW. Yes, this happened to me, today. Note the sensible sister in the background, ever-helpful, clearing a path for her grandmother. We got about two inches here in Virginia, the kind of super-cold dry light feathery dusting of snow that sifts down slowly all morning. We fly out two weeks from today, so I'm thankful they all got to experience snow. They actually tried cleats (since we don't really have boots) and played soccer in it for an hour. Meanwhile, the indoor activity: Getting ready to party. Exams are over tomorrow. It's not been a pretty week. Hearts are dragging. Christmas is coming.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Remembering Jesus, with the goats

Another opportunity for meaningful Christmas giving: the $140 BundiNutrition Give-A Goat. For more information, check, or click on the WHM tab above and go to projects, then Give-A Goat. Below I have excerpted some of the text from the site. . . .

In the last year, BundiNutrition Project provided care for 220 kids hospitalized with severe acute malnutrition and provided outpatient care for 359 children suffering from moderate to acute malnutrition. We also provided care for children in two high-risk groups: 61 infants whose mothers had died in childbirth and 68 infants born to HIV-positive mothers. The children in these two groups benefited through our Matiti Goat project, which distributed 120 goats to their families. Other families were shown the love of Christ through our chicken project which gave out 10,000 eggs.

Would you be willing to make a donation of $140 this Christmas to support the Bundi Nutrition program? Funds will be used to:

  • Buy food and milk for children who are severely or moderately malnourished, or at extreme risk due to the death of their mother or to HIV infection, and
  • Support community-level changes in nutrition practices through the introduction of dairy goats and through education and outreach.

Quick Facts:

  • $1/day buys milk or baby formula to ensure the survival of a baby whose mother dies in the first few months of his life.
  • $15 buys enough milk to resuscitate a severely malnourished child.
  • $140 buys a dairy goat which can be bred with local goats to improve milk production and provide protein supplementation to children.

For the fourth consecutive year, we are offering African handmade Christmas tree ornaments to the first 100 Give-a-Goat Ornament donors. Merry Christmas from all of us here in Bundibugyo!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Will answers the call

Scott Will, our ebola buddy, the only one who remained in Bundibugyo with us during the ebola epidemic of late 2007, is featured in the local newspaper of Portland Indiana this week. It's a cool article (by Ray Cooney) highlighting Scott's selfless, sacrificial journey to Sudan.. Click HERE to download the article (10mb pdf file)!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christ School Stories

Missionary Chrissy has interviewed some of our CSB students and written their stories. Read and be encouraged. As the year comes to a close, consider sponsoring a student for 2011. Perhaps a group Christmas gift? You can link above to the World Harvest web site and look under projects to find out how. $600 a year ($50 a month) changes a life, and a community.

Meet Kansiime Christine. Hailing from Ntandi village, she looks forward to breaks from school when she can go home to visit with her mother and seven sisters—sitting around the fire and sharing stories. Christine is a confident young woman at the age of twenty. She is passionate about literature and reading novels; Emma’s War is her current favorite. As we talk, she is eager to share her story and all that God has done in her life. Christine’s father died when she was young. Her mother managed to scrape by and support her children but there was no money for Christine to go to a high-quality, private school. Instead, she attended the local primary school but she worked hard and earned the highest grades in the district. As she finished primary school, Christine’s mother broke the news that she would not have the money to pay for her to attend secondary school. Christine was devastated but soon after she received a letter telling of the sponsorship program at Christ School. She was fearful as she had never been to Bundibugyo but she gathered her courage and interviewed. Two hundred students were competing for ten sponsorship slots and the hopes of a quality education. Christine was accepted and has been amazed at God’s provision for her entire secondary school education. She is looking forward to graduating from Christ School and hopes to become a teacher or public administrator involved in social services. Join us in praying for Christine, that she would rely on God to help her achieve great things for Uganda.

Meet Kule Isaiah. At nineteen, he is confident and a born-leader. He eagerly explains to me that “Kule” is the name given to a third born male child. When asked about his journey to Christ School, he responds, “God did me a favor in coming here”. At the age of eight, Isaiah’s father was killed in rebel warfare. Isaiah felt hopeless and feared his future had been lost. His mother remained faithful to God and when Isaiah approached secondary school age, she told him to pray, as there was no money for school. He came to Christ School to interview for a sponsorship but the registrations had already been completed. He still interviewed, hoping for a miracle, and was found to be among the top 10 new students. When God answered Isaiah and his mother’s prayers, his life was changed. As he attended Christ School, he began to learn more about God and His character. Today he boldly proclaims that “God is the father of the fatherless.” Isaiah hopes to graduate from Christ School in one year and dreams of completing a Bible course afterwards. He also hopes to continue on and receive a degree in medicine so that he can give back and care for orphans. Join us in praying for Isaiah and the many other students with promise at Christ School, that they would become strong, Christian leaders of Uganda.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Magazine Christmas

Here at my Mom's there are a handful of magazines devoting their December issues to Christmas (Southern Living, Better Homes and Gardens, etc.). I like looking at them, at the images of Christmas. Thumbing through them one finds photo after photo of lovely homes, tastefully decorated, with glowing trees, artful crafts, smiling families, perfectly arranged pillows, clever cabinet coverings or tables of delicious food. Even just looking one senses the peace and symmetry. A very literal peace on earth, goodwill towards man, in these images of tidy self-contained homes.

How did our celebration of this day become so sanitized, the ideal so disparate from the real? I dare say there is not one picture in the entire stack that shows blood or sweat. Not one home that looks like a place where a displaced teenage unmarried mother in labor would be easily sheltered. Not one article that even acknowledges the existence of anything too disturbing, anything close to suffering.

Besides the magazines, we also have incredibly fast and ubiquitous internet access here. Yesterday I was trying to download a cute little Christmas-tree app, with flashing lights and an automatic countdown to the day. Clicking on one of the very innocent-appearing links however opened a horrifyingly graphic page of disturbing images, quickly closed. That glimpse was shocking, sobering, a gut-punch. I never experienced that before.

So I'm processing the two extremes. I think the magazine images of Christmas, while appealing, feel empty because they lull us into forgetting that evil is out there. That evil is real, and a click away from even the most attractive and safe of homes. Christmas is a desperate tale that only makes sense in a context of a big-picture struggle, where evil is overcome by good. And where that overcoming occurs by way of incarnation, of giving up and pouring out, of death and resurrection.

The beautiful homes are not invalid, they are legitimate early images of the final feast. The home to which we all aspire, the Heavenly mansion with its many rooms (which is a much more communal image than the multi-million dollar single-family fortresses in the photos, by the way). The music and cakes and twinkling lights and generous gifts would not hold such power over imagination if they were not shadows of that which is truly to come. But the real home is reached by way of the valley of the shadow of death, not by way of superior decorating talents.

Another paradox I suppose: longing for the beauty, enjoying the once-a-year magic of nearly reaching it, but at the same time remembering that the real Christmas Home lies behind the veil, that there is still much of the fight to be won before we will relax around Jesus' Christmas tree.

How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

Well, at least a day or two in the last week, laboring under the assumption that college students will feel loved by home-baked goods in packages, and the equally powerful compulsion that it is a crime NOT to bake cookies almost daily in a land where butter is just a few minutes away at the grocery, where the oven is connected to reliable electricity, where nuts don't have to be requested six months ahead of time and mailed on a slow boat, where the sugar is as white as salt, and sifting the flour yields nothing objectionable. Here is Wednesday's output, or what was left after tasting, mailing, and sharing with the lawn maintenance crew and the drum teacher.
And what is most remarkable to me: in all my hours in the kitchen so far, I have seen NOT EVEN ONE ant, NOT EVEN ONE roach. Truly the evidence of a curse reversed, of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The College Visit

Though we have a child in college already, this is our first experience with what has become a very standard part of late high-school life, the college admission tour.  Luke made his decisions based on on-line data:  pictures, descriptions, testimonies, impressions, as well as on prayer and advice.  The first time he set foot on the Yale campus was when we dropped him off.  God knows our limitations and He has given Luke a great place, a great choice, in spite of minimal input.  But since we're in America for a few months, we thought we should try to see a few schools with Caleb.  There were a couple of times we've been able to stop at a school en route to a family or supporter event, though most of our travel has been without him (including visits to Wheaton, Covenant, and the Air Force Academy on our way).   But now that he's here again and we have a couple of weeks, we asked him if he'd like to see anyplace else. . .  . which led us a couple of days ago to decide on a quick two-day one-night trip southward, to UVA and Duke.  

So here's my plug for such a trip.  Two parents devoting two days to one kid, not very normal in our lives (except maybe when we flew emergently with Caleb on a MAF plane to have his appendix out).  Junior year, relaxed, no pressure.  The visits aren't interviews, they are sales shows for the school, where students are being courted not evaluated.  A little glimpse ahead for the student, which probably puts some of the hard work required now, in perspective.  Maybe it's worth putting in the effort for a class that is actually a stepping stone to a pretty amazing environment of learning and social life.  A view down the road a few years.  Being treated as a person who has potential, and ideas, and value.  A step away from the sequence of high school life, to imagine the possibilities.  Insightful for the parents, to see up close that college is not the same as we remember.  Yet remembering that it was a great time in our lives, and communicating that enthusiasm.  The haunting awareness for us of how blessed students in America are, or how idyllic these enclaves of 300 activities and 60 majors and massive libraries and a thousand professors really are.

I'm sure most of our peers do a dozen of these visits.  Or more?  We're thankful to have managed two official days, sitting through the admissions spiel, going on the requisite tours (in spite of these two days being the coldest in the year!).

But the college visit also carries the shadow of the clock, ticking.  It is the beginning of the end.  On Sunday, I was talking to another parent about his very successful college-age son, a parent who has been through many challenges, and he said "this is the hardest time of parenting yet".  I appreciated that validation, I thought maybe it was just me.  No, we don't wake up at all hours to someone calling "mom-I have to go to the bathroom", we don't have temper tantrums in public places, we can eat a meal all siting down sanely.  But this launching age is perhaps the most bittersweet.  It pulls at our hearts.  The stakes are high.  The emotions are raw.  I am aware of my failures, of not communicating unconditional love, of not focusing enough energy or preparation, of not protecting or providing.  Between 2010 and 2015, d.v., we'll be launching four kids, all bright and beautiful people.  But as the admissions officer today said:  80% of our applicants could succeed here, but we can only admit 15%.  Which means that statistically speaking, it's possible for any one kid who could thrive in any one school to be rejected.  Even five or six or seven times.  And even after being admitted, the daily challenges continue of managing time, grasping material, meeting deadlines, maintaining integrity, making choices, forming friendships, planning the future . . well, it's all enough to keep a mother's (or father's) heart on the knife-edge of faith, waiting for the last-minute ram in the thicket, God's 11th hour provision.

Meanwhile, I'm glad that for now, with Caleb, we are just VISITING colleges.  That at the end of the day, we get to leave WITH him.  Which is the best part of all.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Those who walked in darkness

The darkness lengthens insidiously in Virginia in December, sun low on the horizon and quick to melt into shadows. Today, December 4, was a very dark one three years ago. We had sent our kids and team away as a precaution in the first few days of the ebola epidemic, but the risk became brutally real and the cost excruciatingly high that night when we got the phone call telling us that our friend and colleague Dr. Jonah Kule had died in his isolation tent at Mulago Hospital. We were stunned, spent, sorrowful. Shivering with shock in the tropical darkness, feeling alone and vulnerable in the face of evil. Our neighbor came over to pray with us, our team having dwindled to three: Scott Will, Scott, and me. We stood outside in the dark, late into the night that seemed to last for ever.
Three years later, we're here in America far from ebola and lost friends. We call Melen, Dr. Jonah's widow, who carries on a legacy of wise parenting alone, and creative service to the district. Her Alpha Nursery and Primary School just had their end-of-year graduation party. She protects her fatherless children from the money-seeking relatives who would jeopardize their education and survival. In the darkness of widowhood she has shone, strong and faithful. And this alert pops into our email today, a new article about the epidemic which I've not yet been able to download, the scientific nature of it lending reality to the suffering but sanitizing it too:

Emerg Infect Dis. 2010 Dec;16(12):1969-72.

Proportion of deaths and clinical features in bundibugyo ebola virus infection, Uganda.

Macneil A, Farnon EC, Wamala J, Okware S, Cannon DL, Reed Z, Towner JS, Tappero JW, Lutwama J, Downing R, Nichol ST, Ksiazek TG, Rollin PE

Meanwhile the decorating in Virginia continues, little electric candles now in every window beneath the wreaths. The last time all the decorations came out was another dark December, six years ago. My dad had just been diagnosed with a fatal disease, given a life expectancy of about a year. We flew back to be with my parents while he was still relatively asymptomatic. Since then the decorations have lain dormant in crates in the basement, needing the passage of time and the presence of grandchildren to make it worth reviving them. My mom gives directions, remembering the way my dad connected a particular strand of lights or hung a particular garland, and we try to replicate. She finds a box of letters under the bed that she collected during his last days, and we remember the shadow of that sorrow too. But she is another widow who has weathered the darkness and found that it does not penetrate the light, tears still come, but laughter too.
Two men who have left legacies of sacrificial love and courage, who met death without fear.
Today the darkness of ebola and ALS and death press in our memories, making the promise of that light to come more than just sentimental holiday cheer. It is a flickering lifeline, a glimmering necessity.