Monthly Archives: June 2010

the news stories that you haven’t heard:

The news doesn’t stop. Not ever. Even if I’m out of touch, the news will still go on. Because whether or not I believe things are noteworthy, life continues to happen. And someone out there thinks they’re worth reporting on. But from time to time, stories which are newsworthy go untold.

I wish to shed light on the stories happening just outside my doorstep that don’t often get reported on…because rather than major crises, they’re more like daily experiences.

  • The news you heard: Major BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The news you didn’t hear: For decades, oil companies have exploited the Niger delta to supply 40% of all the crude oil for the United States. And between 1970 and 2000, there were more than 7,000 reported spills. In 2009 alone, Shell spilled over 14,000 tons in two major incidents. And what’s being done about this? Many of these spills are still awaiting cleanup and no significant action has been taken on Nigeria’s behalf. Sadly, the local people suffer tremendously as they are fully dependent upon their environment for drinking water, fishing, and farming.
  • The news you heard: the American economy is in a recession. And no doubt, it has taken a toll on your mental, physical, and emotional health.
  • The news you didn’t hear: The Heritage Foundation published a recent Economic Index ranking the economies of nearly 180 countries, evaluating trade freedom, financial freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption, among other things. Despite the recession that many of you are experiencing firsthand, the United States still ranks among the top 10 economies. Guess who scored among the 10 worst countries for economic freedom? Yep. The Democratic Republic of Congo ranked 172 out of 179 countries. Pretty sobering.
  • The news you heard: the World Cup is occurring…in an African nation, no less. Experts agree that this shows huge progress for the continent.
  • The news you didn’t hear: A large majority of Africa still lacks the ability to participate in such an event. Speculating, I’d assume that the stands are filled with more expats that nationals. But attending the event is only part of it. Millions on the continent are still without electricity, internet, newspapers, or postal services. Hence, its pretty doubtful that Africans—whose deepest love is soccer—are able to enjoy these games. They don’t have the opportunity to watch the matches, read about the final scores, analyze the lineup.
  • The news you heard: Traditional casket-makers are branching into a new market, manufacturing over-sized coffins for the obese. I can’t help but wonder how many of the deceased requiring these caskets died as a result of their obesity. In America we eat ourselves to death.
  • The news you didn’t hear: Yesterday morning, Angelia, 6 year-old girl from the surrounding UCBC community sat on my lap during chapel. Her oversized, secondhand dress was worn to shreds and missing any type of closure (buttons and zippers had long since fallen off). At the end of chapel, she leaned forward, picked up a small piece of discarded chalk from the dusty ground and began eating it. I tried my best to discourage her from eating the chalk, but her face was sullen as she explained the ache of hunger. I guess hunger makes you desperate when you wake to it each morning.

My Father’s World

Planet Earth: Congo should have given you a glimpse of this spectacular country. Last weekend in Epulu, I experienced God’s creation like never before…

  • Relaxing outside in the evening, we watched a family of redtail monkeys gathering figs as they jumped between trees, swinging through the branches.
  • Hiking through the Ituri forest, we tracked elephants’ footprints and fresh dung to their bathing pools. Meanwhile, chimpanzees called out overhead among the canopy of trees.
  • Everywhere, we saw flowers more vibrant in color and more fragrant in aroma than could be found in the Boerner Botanical Gardens.
  • We had fruit so absurd we struggled to figure out the proper way to eat it.

green sweet fruit

Most of the weekend I was speechless; stunned at God’s amazing creations. Resounding through my veins, they classic hymn, “My Father’s World”, came to life.

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

The next verse has been my prayer this past week as I returned to Beni with my eyes burning at the sight of this corruption…

This is my Father’s world. O let me never forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heaven be one.


Mental Floss 003 – Be effective. Like a mosquito.

Last night I struggled to fall asleep because a mosquito was caught under my net. I’m still convinced he must have had a megaphone amplifying his buzz. As I lay awake, I remembered this quote:

If you think you’re too small to be effective,

try going to bed with a mosquito in the room. -Anita Koddick

mosquito cc

I couldn’t have said it better myself. And now I challenge you to think about what type of impact you’re making on the world around you. I’ll bet you underestimate how effective you are…

Planet Earth: Congo

Who invented the idea of a zoo? Whoever it was, I’m certain that they did so with the intent to replicate Congo. More specifically, the Epulu village in Ituri province.

ituri jungleLast weekend, Chelsie, Brandon, and I ventured out into the jungle for a brief visit with our friend, Joel. Fellow muzungu and cartographer extraordinaire, Joel lives six hours north in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.

Somewhat of an outdoors enthusiast, I’m familiar with the woods. I’ve spent time in the Wisconsin wilderness, marveling at the deciduous trees and their color-changing leaves. I’ve wandered among the great, towering redwoods of California. I’ve been caught in showers of the Costa Rican rainforest. Never before, though, has this outdoorsy girl seen anything like Ituri. It’s a dense, tropical, rolling region of lush rainforest barely penetrated by civilization. The beauty of this place left me speechless most of the weekend, awed at God’s vast imagination to create such unrivaled flora and fauna.

I’ll spare you the minute details about the trip, sharing just two of my favorite memories: Continue Reading

Finding Encouragement in ESL

So I recently assigned homework to my UCBC students – Write a paragraph about someone you admire. Provide supporting details to explain why this person has earned your admiration.

Bless my heart, one of the students–whom I frequently reprimand for tardiness–wrote the following:

student paragraph notebook paperSo what have I learned? Apparently I hate noses…or my students need to improve on spelling.

Mental Floss 002 – Less like an individual; More like a community

In African societies, the concept of “the individual” doesn’t exist. Life is all about community, a corporate endeavor.

pygmi houses

“The secret of village togetherness and happiness has always been the generosity of the people, but the key to that generosity is inefficiency and decay. Because our village huts were not built to last very long, they had to be regularly renewed. To do this, villagers came together, at least once a year to work on somebody’s hut. It is the putting back together again, the renewing, that ultimately makes something strong. That is true of our houses, our language, our relationships.” – Martin Prechtel

Such truth is embedded in the above quote. A truth which seems so foreign to American society.

Lately I’ve pondered this: What would the Unites States look like if we stopped focusing so much on ourselves and started acting selflessly on behalf of others? I wonder…

  • How would our families be affected if we abandoned individualism?
  • How would our churches benefit if we served humbly and sacrificially for the goodness of the entire congregation?
  • How would our communities change if we began to view life as a corporate undertaking rather than a personal journey?