Friday Funny – Can You Hear Me Now?

We followed this lorry full of chairs from a party and noticed there was a man perched on top of it all. He talked away on his cell phone, never noticing that at times his head barely cleared the power lines over the road.

Do you think he was trying for a better signal?

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“Can you hear me now?”

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A Micro Library at Ngarama

The building at Ngarama is completely finished, including a fresh coat of paint and the name of the church on its side. It boasts its own baptistry and a fancy new toilet with two stalls for women and two for men. 

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A couple years ago we shipped a container full of books we’d collected from all over the US. Our goal was to build a library at Sangano and stock it with books. Bro. Bassett built the library building before they moved back to the states, then we began carrying books out there as soon as they arrived. Bro. Tom Tracht built a school at the church in Sangano. It has over 300 children in attendance every day. We’re working to sort more books into each of the grade levels, which we’ll then stock in the classrooms. It’s a long process and we still have many boxes of books to sort.

Another goal we had was to create a mini library at each church. We were finally able to begin this project at Ngarama. The second week of January, we started sorting through books in our personal library. We’d accumulated quite a few over the years and we weren’t using nearly all of them. We didn’t need some of them anymore — maybe we had digital copies or the children had outgrown them. Whatever the reason, we were able to clear the books from 3 bookshelves.

We took those bookshelves and dropped them off at Ngarama a week ago yesterday. We also carried a couple bins of books out there and discovered we could bring quite a few more bins before the shelves would be full. This week, we carried four more bins and still didn’t fill the shelves.

The children always struggle to sit in church, so this week we spread the mats in the back and passed out books for them to look at. It kept them quiet for most of the service. Brennah sat in the middle of the group and whisper read books to as many as would huddle around her. One of the little girls told me (in Swahili) “She’s teaching me how to read!”

I can see we’re going to need to keep all the churches well supplied with children’s books — not a problem since we have many of those.

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That Amazing Car – fiction by Anna Spilger

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Last week, we spent the week sorting through old books and papers. We reorganized our bookshelves and got rid of things we weren’t using, didn’t need, or that the kids had outgrown.

In the process of all that, I came across one of the first “novels” I ever wrote. I’ve typed it up here for your enjoyment. I corrected most of the spelling errors but left some of the grammatical ones. I also discovered a potential reason I have trouble picking character names — I used them all up in this story. 😀

You might also note that my 9 year old self thought a moral was an essential element for a novel. My much older self laughed to tears over the moral my 9 year old self chose. Especially since said 9 year old self was rather obsessed with winning.


That Amazing Car

by Anna Spilger 9 years old

Chapter 1

The Race Car

There once was a race car that always landed upright when it went over a ramp. Other cars always landed on their side or top. Everyone wanted to know how it was made but no one did.

Chapter 2

The Unusual Car

This car was made different. It had bike pedals and a gas pedal so if the bike pedals didn’t work, the gas pedal did. If the gas pedal didn’t work, the big pedals did. If none of the pedals worked, you couldn’t drive it.

Chapter 3

Meet the Car

The car had a name. It’s name was Fred. Fred was all blue except the lights, windows, and a white triangle on the front and both sides. The white triangles had the number 30 on them. It was neat.

Chapter 4

Meet the Driver

The name of the driver was Fredrick. His nickname was Rick. Rick was tall and strong. His voice was deep. His hair was black and parted in the middle and smoothed back. He had brown eyes and smiled like a half moon. He was the best racer. He never gave up.

Chapter 5

About the Other Cars

Joe’s car was guaranteed for landing upright (but it never did). So was all nine of the other cars, except Rick. None of the other cars ever landed upright. But Rick’s did.

Joe’s car was white with 18 written on the side. Bill’s car was red with 100 written on the side. John’s car was yellow with 10 written on the side. Albert’s car was green with 23 written on the side. Gorge’s car was purple with 90 written on the side. Ken’s car was brown with 88 written on the side. Alan’s car was orange with 76 written on the side. Gilbert’s car was gray with 66 written on the side. And Peter’s car was black with 59 written on the side. All the cars had the numbers written on white triangles.

Chapter 6

The Big Race

The race was just beginning. Joe was in the lead but Rick was just behind him, pedaling as fast as he could. He had decided to bike pedal because he’d never done it before. He pushed the gas pedal and went ahead of Joe. Just then, on their last time around, Rick went over the ramp, then Joe, then —

Chapter 7

The Accident

Rick had just cross the finish line when Joe went over the ramp and landed top-side down. The other cars stopped, not wanting to hurt him more. Rick turned around and went back to Joe, pulled him out of the wreck, called an ambulance, and went with him to the hospital. Joe was in critical yet stable condition.

Chapter 8

The Repentant

When Rick walked into Joe’s room, Joe said, “Rick, we drivers have envied you, but mostly me. You see, we thought you were trying to make yourself great. I think you proved that you weren’t today. I’m sorry” “That’s alright,” said Rick, “and from now on let’s share the winning sensation, okay?” And they did.

The End

Moral: Share the sensation of winning, don’t get too proud.

What 10 Eggs Taught Me About Gratefulness

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We bought our Thanksgiving Turkey from a man who attends the church in Sangano. We didn’t intend to buy a turkey when we left for church that morning so we hadn’t come prepared to carry it home with us.

Now, I know how to butcher a turkey. I didn’t know how when we got to Africa, but I’ve learned since then. Just because I know how, doesn’t mean I enjoy doing it. I’d rather pay someone to clean it for me. Besides, I was in my church clothes and I couldn’t conceive of a way we could get two *live* turkeys home with us. So we included the butchering cost in our purchase price. 

As I watched the turkey butchering process, I noticed right away that the young men we’d hired to clean the turkeys weren’t actually the ones doing it. Zizi’s wife was doing most of the work. It irritated me. I told Zizi that if I’d have known his wife would end up doing the work, I’d have paid her to do it in the first place. I told him I wasn’t going to pay those guys, but I was going to give the money to his wife instead. It was only fair.

Zizi insisted I couldn’t do this. We’d already agreed on it. So I told him he and his wife were to take the offals (heart, liver, gizzard). We gathered them up and one of his daughters carried them into their house.

Sadly, I only had enough money with me to pay what we’d agreed to the guys who didn’t do much of the work. So, the next week I sent a little money to Zizi’s wife in payment for all her work in cleaning the turkeys. It wasn’t much. I felt embarrassed sending it but at the time it was all I had.

The next Sunday we were at Sangano again (we alternate weeks between the four churches, two one week, two the next). As soon as service was over, Zizi’s wife pulled me into their house and handed me 10 small, white eggs.

She said, “Thank you for buying me a soda and biscuits (cookies).” She’d used the money I gave her to buy herself a treat. (What woman doesn’t enjoy a treat now and then?)

Eggs are expensive in the refugee camp, almost half again of what we pay in town for a tray. She’d given me a valuable gift, far more valuable than what I’d given her. 

God’s gifts to us are the same. They are far more valuable than anything we can bring to Him. All I can give God is what He has already given me. 

I have nothing.

He has everything.

Yet He wants us to give ourselves to him — after He has done everything to redeem us. We are valuable to Him because of who He is and what He has done, not because of who we are.

Paul says it best:

Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift. 

II Corinthians 9:15

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(The bright yellow yoke on the right is from one of the eggs we were given. The one on the left is an egg I bought in town. Most eggs here have yolks that are so light they are almost white.)


How’s Africa? — When the Water Comes Out Brown

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What would you do if the water looked like that when it came out of your tap?

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How about if it looked like this coming out of your shower?

The truth is, it doesn’t always look like this for us, either. (Our water had been off all day and this is what it looked like when they turned it back on.) Most of the time the water is murky or cloudy. Our whites don’t stay white very long. Showers, toilets, and sinks get a film of dirt over them between cleanings. We never use the tap water for cooking or drinking. 

But not everyone here has that option. Many people use the water here, straight from the tap without boiling. Water is a necessity of life. They can’t afford a fancy filter or to buy bottled water  so they drink what they can get. I’ve even seen children collecting water from ditches and puddles. I tell myself their mom is going to use it for laundry. Then I wonder how on earth she’ll get the clothes clean using muddy water to wash. But I know better than that. I know people drink and cook with that water.

So, what do you do if you visit a place where the water isn’t suitable for drinking? Here is what we do and it’s worked well for us the last several years:

1. Drink only bottled or filtered water.

We have a Berkey water filter at home and we use that for our drinking and cooking water. When we go places, they always serve us bottled water (you have to pay for it; water isn’t free here) and open the bottle for us while we watch. 

2. Make sure water for coffee or tea is boiled.

Sometimes we’ll order coffee or tea when we’re away from home. We always make sure the pot they bring us is to hot to drink immediately. This ensures that the water, even if it came from a tap, was heated hot enough to kill anything inside it.

3. Love the skin you’re in

Skin, your largest organ, will protect you from everything else. I try not to shower or wash in nasty water (what good does it do, anyway?) but soap still binds with dirt and oil and washes it away, even if the water is, well, dirty. I keep Epsom salts around to use for soaking if we get infections. 

We also treat the whole family for intestinal parasites a couple times a year, just to be on the safe side. 

Next time you turn on the tap in your house and clean, drinkable water comes out, give thanks! Most of the rest of the world doesn’t have that.

Language Struggles

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A few weeks ago I posted about my goals for the new year, one of which is to learn Swahili to the point I can speak and teach in it. The need for this was brought home to me the very next time I taught Sunday School.

A man wanted to get saved! Fantastic news! The only trouble was James and Zizi needed to talk to him at the same time I needed to teach Sunday School. Zizi knows I can understand Swahili pretty well and he’s been trying to get me to use it.

Thing is, I have used it with hilarious results. I come up with stuff like:

  • God bless Himself (instead of God bless you).
  • My name is what? (instead of what is your name)
  • It’s good to see (instead of it’s good to see you)

Apparently I have pronoun problems.

My attempt at teaching Sunday School was no exception. I managed to tell the man who was going to translate my tortured Swahili into Kinyarwanda the book of the Bible, chapter, and verse I was using for the lesson. *pats self on back for that*

It went downhill from there. I *tried* to say Ahab and Jezebel were going to kill Elijah. What I said was “Ahab and Jezebel were going to Elijah died.”

Yes, you read that right.

My translator gave me the strangest look. Then he read the verse and said, in Swahili, “Ahab and Jezebel were going to kill Elijah.” I knew he used a different verb than I did, but it didn’t register right away what it was. 

So I repeated myself, “Yes, Elijah died.”

“No,” he said, “Ahab and Jezebel were going to kill Elijah.”

It went even further downhill, in that I *completely forgot* all the verbs I did know – ones like running, and saying, and eating, and sleeping, and nouns like food and water. In fact, I’m pretty sure I even forgot the appropriate English words at that point and started thinking only in pictures. Which does absolutely nothing when you are trying to communicate with those around you.

Amazingly, we managed somehow. Another man came to help. Between what little English he knew, what little Swahili I managed to muster from the depths of my cerebrum, and the Runyankore words they knew and I could use instead, we got that lesson taught.

I’ve doubled down on the language study since then. 

I was happy that the next Sunday, even though I was asking questions about the Sunday School lesson in English and the kids were answering in Swahili, I was able to understand all but a couple of them. Understanding does nothing when you can’t use the words. But I suppose it’s a beginning.

Out comes the Swahili/English dictionary and Google translate. Somehow, some way, I’m *going* to leap this gap between understanding and speaking.