Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Thankful


The last ten days, we travelled to The South, where we first met way back in 1991, and where we used to live as a young married couple, to speak about our mission to Rwanda.  We told of our work across the Atlantic, but we also enjoyed renewing, restorative, refreshing fellowship with dear family and friends – most of whom we haven’t seen in years.  Also, we relished time with family, made new friends, including even some new friends who will soon be moving to our part of Africa.  As I type this on our plane, heading back to Texas, I feel such thanks that I could come.  For three weeks before this trip, I fought a cold and a sinus infection that just wouldn’t go away – and even the day before we left, I was wondering if I could make it.  The morning of our departure, however, I felt much better and knew I could go.  Hurrah!  

We couldn't have taken the journey at all if it weren't for our friends in Kerrville here, who so willingly helped out and kept Sam for us while we were gone.  Ten days is a little too long to miss classes in high school!  They drove him, picked him up, washed his clothes, fed him and gave him love.  Wow.  Pretty Incredible.  A big thank you goes out to our friends, Paige, Liz and Chrisie.  As if you all didn't have enough to do, thank you for adding in a whole extra component to your lives for us!

One of our first stops on our journey was the “Prescription for Renewal” conference at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, in Asheville, North Carolina.  What a fabulous conference!  We were surrounded by God's beautiful creation, with other doctors and nurses who have heard and followed the same call we have heard and followed – the call to leave home and bring medical care, in the name of Jesus, to those without adequate health care in other parts of the world. 
While we each spoke about our mission in Rwanda, the highlight for us was hearing Dr. Kent Brantly speak the last night – I don’t think a dry eye was in the house after his speech.

This sweet and FUN nurse and young mama is moving to Kijabe, Kenya this July with her pediatrician husband and children.  She will be living in our friends' house who are going home for furlough and says that she and Ruthie are going to be BFFs!  I think she's right.  :)


The last night, we enjoyed a dinner with dear old friends from Spartanburg, SC, the special town where we lived as newlyweds for five sweet years.  Honestly, we’ve been gone so long, Tim and I weren’t sure how many folks could or would come.  We were honored and humbled when so many people greeted us!   We ate at Wade’s restaurant, an old stand-by favorite, where a mouth watering, seemingly endless array of southern cooked vegetables, sweet iced tea by the gallon, and entrees like fried chicken, chicken fried steak and chicken pot pie grace the menu.  Friend after friend exited the cafeteria-style line and walked in with his or her tray – much to our delight!  It was as if time stood still and we were back in 1995 – except a few gray hairs every now and then!

 
Keith Cox on left and James Dunn on the right



One of my favorite people on the planet, and a true mentor - someone I've so admired since we first met - Annmarie Hope


Annmarie and Steve Hope, two dear friends.  We used to be YL leaders together, back when we were actually young. 

More old YL (and Tennis, for Tim) Spartanburg friends - Teri and Bob Allsbrook.  So special to see these guys!

Sweet Alva, my extra mother and the best Sunday Dinner provider EVER. 

The old staff at Spartanburg Surgical Associates!  The gang was almost ALL there!


Dear friends Katherine and Susan, and our special neighbors, Beverly and Ralph



These adorable twin medical students gave Tim a ride back to our hotel after his speech at Spartanburg Hospital. 






Later, Tim and I talked about how special the evening was for us, and how that reunion must be a small taste of what Heaven will be like for all of God’s children.  Can you just imagine?  It will be a great reunion of so many loved ones – of course, we’ll all be the most happy by far to see Jesus, but I bet we’ll have time to walk around and visit as well, with a new, happy surprise every day of seeing yet another old, cherished friend. 

We’ve had some hard days being home, missing our “other home” in Rwanda, and also just trying to get all our logistics worked out – raising our new 6 year old, travel, medical and evacuation insurance, paperwork, finances, kids in school, new mission agency, plans, travel, etc.  But blessings like last night make all the hard stuff just melt away.  I’m so thankful. 


In between these two events, we packed in many visits with siblings, friends and even former co-worker friends.  I enjoyed taking Deste to his first Pumpkin Patch (in the rain!), and to play in the same park where we’ve taken all four of our other kids at one time or another, the park where I took Hannah-Grace practically every day for the first few years of her life.



(Forgive all the pictures.  Probably boring to look at unless you're me.)
Fran, who used to work in Tim's office.  So good to see her! 

We went to go visit Tim's old senior partner, Vernon Jeffords, in his new home. How fun to see him!


I finally got to meet Chip, my dear, dear friend Nancy's new beau.  They make a great couple! Nancy and James Dunn hosted this gathering. 

Some doc friends with John Tesseneer (in dark shirt),  a kid on our street with whom I used to play basketball before Hannah was born.  Now he is in his thirties.  I feel OLD!  It was SO good to see him. 
Another of Tim's old partners, Dr. Bill Morris and his wife Glenda.  Such great people!

We could NOT have seen all our old friends if it weren't for our Kerrville/Spartanburg friends, Mike and Bess Lee!  They babysat Deste for us that night.  Mike used to live in Kerrville, but now lives just down the street from our old house in Spartanburg.  Here is Deste in the bike trailer, about to go for a ride around our old neighborhood, where Mike and Bess live now.  (Their precious son, Knowlton, is next to him.  He has a bandaid on his eye b/c of eye muscle therapy, but his eye is fine.)

No visit to Spartanburg would be complete without a drive by our old Home, Sweet Home! 

Our old next door neighbor, John, came by to say hi while I was at the park.  Wish Emily could have come too, but it was great to reminisce with John! 

Deste was our photographer on this one.  Breakfast with Nancy and Chip!

Here's a little clearer shot of Nancy and Chip.

We could see our old church, Spartanburg First Baptist, out of our window.

Enjoyed a GREAT visit with my brother Mike in Atlanta. 

Tim's and my apartment, where we lived our first six months of married life together.




Deste with his Aunt Kaye. 


Visiting with Tim's brother Lee, our nephew Brian and with our sis-in-law, Mary.  


The only place we forgot to take pictures was at my sis-in-law Sally's house.  Sally and her family kept Deste for us for four days while we attended the conference at the Cove.  Soo grateful to them!  He had so much fun, he didn't want to leave!  
I guess the trip reminded me of all the ways God has blessed me in these years – sometimes it is easy to lose sight of His blessings when there is so much work to be done.  I’m grateful for the reminder that He is so good, and He has given me so much – and that we should always take the time to rejoice in all He has given!   What do you have to be thankful for today?  I’d love to hear! 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

American Life


I've been savoring every drop I can get of this American life, even while missing Rwanda so much. It's good to be home. 

The best part about being here is that all 7 of us are together. Last night we streamed a movie and watched it. For free. Or for $1. I don't remember. 

"Streaming" just doesn't happen in Rwanda - due to slow internet speeds. What a treat! 

More things happen for free here than I remember! 

Yesterday morning, I took Destin to a "back to school bash" event that our local Salvation Army Kroc center was putting on for the community for free. There were bouncy houses, hot dogs, water, chips and popcorn, face painting and many school supplies - all free. 



From these pictures, you can see that Destin had a ball. 




In the afternoon, our whole family got to catch up with our dear family friend, Dana. What fun to just slide back into laughing and joking together as if no time had passed. 





Later, I took Stephen and Ruthie dorm shopping. The amount of choices - even for toilet bowl cleaners - is still a bit hard for me to comprehend. This country has so much more than most of us realize on a daily basis. As I feel overwhelmed and yes, a little guilty sometimes by it all, I keep remembering the (paraphrased) words of Jesus: "To whom much is given, much is required". Were we blessed so we can have all this stuff and enjoy life on easy street? Is that what Jesus's "abundant life" he mentions in John 10:10 is all about? I don't think so. 

I believe the greatest challenge on earth, spiritually, is to be rich, and/or to live in such a rich country. It takes away the awareness that we need our God. Richness deadens us to awareness of the needs of the less rich. And, keeping track of so much stuff takes so much time, it is hard to have time for others. 

So, should we pretend to not be so filthy rich as a nation? That would just be silly. No, we should accept it, thank God for His blessings, and then find ways, with God's help, to pass His blessings on to others. 

To me, "much is required" sounds a lot like the old movie, "Pay it Forward", or the old phrase, "Blessed to be a blessing". 

Share your bounty with others. Seek out someone for whom you can be the hands and feet of Jesus today. Ask God to show you with whom he'd like you to share. There are plenty of people needing a hand right here. You don't have to go to Africa to share the love God has given you. 

We live in such a blessed country for a reason. God entrusted this to us.  He believed in us, trusted us to make good use of His gifts and pass them on to His other children. 

Dear God, thank You for letting us be Americans. We did nothing to be born here. It was nothing we did. We aren't rich (and if you're American, you ARE rich) because we are smarter or harder working than the rest of the world. You just chose that for us. Please help us to not horde Your blessings, but to share with others who have so much less, and to hope they will share some of the things they have: overflowing joy, deep, abiding faith and the gift of understanding utter dependence on YOU, with us in return.  Amen. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

New Year's Resolutions....in August

So, I've totally fallen off the "keep in touch with people and let them know what's up with our mission" principle.






And I am sorry about that.

I don't think there is any realistic way for me to go back and sum up the last three months or more since I was blogging regularly, so, perhaps I will reminisce some in the next few weeks and try to recall a few past events, or perhaps I will just start where we are now.

Here is a current picture of our new family: 






Okay, maybe that isn't us ~ but we don't have an official picture yet, so maybe this will sum it up for you. 



At any rate, today's post will be about where we as a family are NOW, because, as mundane and ordinary as it sounds for any American readers, it is for us very unusual and extraordinary, after living for two years in a place totally different from the USA.


First Extraordinary Event:

For the FIRST TIME IN FOREVER, all 7 Bergs are living under the same roof in Trinity Baptist Church's missionary house on Bluebell Drive.  (Also, Here's a big shout out to Trinity Baptist!  What a blessing is this house to us!  Thank you!)


I say "first time in forever" and mean it quite literally, since last time we were all together, we were a family of 6.  This is the first time ever for all 7 of us to be together as a family.  

Destin, adopted since June 24, already feels to us as if he has always been a Berg.  What a miracle this is  - we'd read and prepared for the awkwardness and the adjustment of older child adoption - but it went much more smoothly than we could have hoped or imagined.  Still, we are bracing for the end of the adoption "honeymoon" period, and realize that perhaps we have rough waters ahead.  Or perhaps not.  Perhaps, since we've known and loved Destin for two years already, and perhaps since he already knew us and loved us, perhaps the adjustment will not be the same as if we had only just met one month ago. Either way, we know God is holding us in His hand (Isaiah 41:10) and He has the whole thing under his loving control - nothing will happen that has not passed through Him first. 

A few of the other monumental events we've lived since I was posting regularly include: 

Stephen graduated from Rift Valley Academy on July 17. 












 

RVA wouldn't have been NEARLY as great an experience for Stephen if it weren't for his wonderful and devoted dorm parents, Tiffany and Corey Carey.  Oh, how we thank God for them!  We are happy that they will be able to be Sam's dorm parents in two years. 



 The class gathered on the cafeteria steps one more time to throw their hats together. 



Hannah finished her first year of college at Mary Hardin-Baylor University. 


 
 

 Ruthie finished her first year at Rift Valley Academy High School.  






Old friend from Kerrville, Jack, with Ruthie and some of her New Friends from RVA in Nairobi.  What a special treat!
 

Ruthie made many friends this year and really enjoyed RVA.  We are so happy she has adapted to her new environment so well.  One big plus for her this year was when her old neighborhood friend, Jack, came to visit in February with his mom, Chrisie, and his younger brother (Sam's good friend), Shaun.  We had a great time, and Ruthie enjoyed blending her old and new worlds for one special weekend! 

Sam finished Junior High, and I finished homeschooling.  Sam's "school-mates" didn't really exist, until the Lands (thankfully!!) arrived at the end of the school year.  So these pictures are of the friends he hung out with between classes.  




 


And, Destin Moses moved to Kibogora, Rwanda from Idjwi Island, Congo, and began attending Kibogora Methodist Pre-School.  














On July 24, we moved into Trinity Baptist Church's missionary house.  We are so grateful for the gift of this home while we are here in the States.  What a huge gift this has been to us!  We all have comfortable beds, Destin has a backyard, friends donated and set up a slide for him, and our wonderful public library provided many ESL videos and Barney tapes.  Three week checkout periods.  Whoop!

So, what are we doing now?  
 For the next two weeks, we will be trying to cram in as many family times and memories as we can, because starting August 20, our chickens will all be flying the coop once again.  Well, almost all the chickens, anyway.  At least Sam and Destin will still be in our house.  
 
Starting September, our biggest priority is to share what we are doing in Rwanda with anyone who wants to know!  We are available to speak anywhere, anytime we haven't already booked.  We are trusting God to continue his PERFECT record of bringing in our needed funding for this mission, so we won't be arm wrestling anyone about funding.  :) We just really want to connect and share what God has put on our hearts to do, and to see who He calls to join us either physically, like Jaycee Knoulton and the Land family, or financially or prayerfully.  We'll leave that part up to God, and just do our part of telling the story of what we're doing.  We have great pictures if anyone wants to see them!

Also, Tim will be working back in "his" old hospital while we are home, to try to replenish our bank account.  He is looking forward to working with his old colleagues, even while he dearly misses his fellow doctors and nurses in Kibogora Hospital in Rwanda.

I am signing up to substitute teach in our local public schools, and hope I remember some of my classroom management techniques from the Dark Ages when I took those education classes for my M.Ed., back in another lifetime.  

Many of you have asked us when we will return to Rwanda.  We had expected to return in late October of this year, but things got complicated when we tried to arrange for Sam's schooling situation.  We'd planned to fly both Ruthie and Sam back to RVA for the start of fall term.  However, RVA has a policy that we hadn't remembered:  new students must have parents ON the African continent for their first term, and we won't be there for the entire first term.  So, we are sending Ruthie back, who is a returning student, but Sam will have to stay back in Kerrville with us until we return to Rwanda.  For him to get high school credit, he needs to stay in the same school through one semester - he can't just leave midway through the semester. So, we will go back to Rwanda when he finishes the fall term, and he will start at RVA for 2nd term, which begins January 4. 

The bad news about this is, we miss our team-mates at Kibogora, and our many friends there in the Kibogora village and hospital.  The good news about this is:  we have more time to be in Bible studies here, to visit friends and family, to catch people up who want to know about Kibogora, for Destin to learn English, and for Tim and I to work here. 

If you want to see any of us, please don't wait for us to call you if you want to get together.  We've had phones break and all sorts of other techno glitches (and just plain being overwhelmed with all the moving around we've been doing the last few months) which might be preventing us from reaching some of you.  Comment below and we will make a way to get up with you to tell you all about the mission and/or just catch up on life in general!  Until school starts, we are pretty busy getting two kids ready for college, getting Ruthie ready to fly back to Kenya without us, and getting Sam and Destin ready for public school here in Kerrville.  But after September, we can't wait to meet with, pray with, laugh with and just visit with old and new friends. 

Thanks for reading.  If you want to pray for us, please pray for the ongoing transition of all the new school situations, the new housing situation, having a 6 year old again, and the emotions coming up with all the changes with school coming and going.   It's so hard to say good-bye to our kids all the time.  Please pray that we will enjoy some solid, fun, memorable family times these last ten days before everyone starts leaving again. 

Until next time! 

~ Linda

p.s. One more picture!  I have so enjoyed looking at the clouds here.  We have such a big sky!  I don't think anyone has as pretty clouds as we do in the Texas Hill Country. For anyone who doesn't live here, here is a picture just to share with you.