Posts Tagged With: safari

“Earn This….”

Having survived the rigors of Mission Training International and exiting the US through the World Harvest Mission offices in Philadelphia, we’re semi-permanently gone from American soil.  It was a strange feeling when the wheels lifted off from Philadelphia International airport, knowing that my plane ticket was one way, with no immediate plans to reside again in the US.  Sad and exciting all at once.  A highlight of our stop in Philadelphia was getting to stay with my long lost cousin Kelly and her family!

We’re currently doing hard time in Dublin, Ireland.  Ann’s parents are the most amazing hosts:  beautiful meals, cozy beds, and even luxurious trips down to Wexford.  You know you’re a really terrible father when your seven year old son wakes up and tells you he thinks he’d like a fish pedicure today!  Where did I go wrong??!?  We’re all getting a little spoiled by BB and Granda.

Our next challenge is getting our household goods to Kenya.  Our intricate plan was to ship our household goods to Dublin, have them held in a storage unit until we got here, and then pack them into about a dozen duffle bags to take with us on the flight to Nairobi as excess luggage.  On advice from a number of experienced Kenyan travelers, this is cheaper and more secure than trying to get a shipment through Kenyan customs.  This would have all worked out great, except all of our stuff is stuck in England!  Not really sure what happened, but a very long time clearing customs, and now waiting for a partially filled truck to bring our less than truckload sized shipment to Dublin.  There’s every chance it might not make it here before we’re schedule to depart for Nairobi on 17 September.  We’re not sure what to do about this, so right now our plan is to pray that somehow it gets here before we leave for Africa.  It’s going to make for a pretty sparse house (and chilly nights, without blankets) if our shipment doesn’t arrive.

While down in Wexford we visited the longest sandy beach in Ireland, Curracloe Strand.  I went for an hours run on the perfect sand, the wind blowing off the Irish sea.  Running along this beach is kind of surreal, which you’ll understand from the pictures below:

The picture on the right is how the beach looked the day I ran it.  The picture on the left is the same beach, as they were shooting the Omaha Beach invasion scene from the movie “Saving Private Ryan”.  As I was running down the beach, I couldn’t help but envision the nearly thirty minute opening scene, which veterans of this amphibious assault have said closely captures the feeling of being there.  If you don’t recall, the movie centers around Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) organizing a group of soldiers to extract Private Ryan (Matt Damon) from the village of Ramelle, where he is preparing, with limited resources, to defend a key bridge from a Nazi mechanized division.  Unbeknownst to Private Ryan, he has lost three brothers in the war, and the military elite has decided that Mrs. Ryan should not have to receive the news of her last son dying on the battle field.  He must be extracted at any cost.

The cost turns out to be exceedingly high.  Men are killed during the search for Private Ryan.  Once he is eventually found, he refuses to leave his post, and Captain Miller’s group joins the soldiers at Ramelle to defend the bridge.  In the climactic scene, the messiah-character Captain Miller, having been mortally wounded, in the middle of the conflagration, turns in agony to Private Ryan and groans “Earn this!”  The battle won, Private Ryan returns to the US, and his mother.  The movie closes with an elderly Private Ryan at Captain Miller’s grave, in tears.  Did his survival, his extraction, and the life he led thereafter, justify the sacrifice of Captain Miller and his men?  He turns to his wife and sobs “Am I a good man?  Have I lived a good life?”

How many people have sacrificed for me?  My great-great-great grandparents who got on a boat, fleeing starvation and hoping for a better life in America.  My own parents who somehow kept a roof over the head of a family of eight, and managed to get us all through college.  The countless teachers, mentors, and friends, who took that little extra time with an immature and impulsive kid.  Does my life do justice to the sacrifices made?

As a follower of Christ, this takes on special perspective.  The ultimate “extraction”, the ultimate sacrifice, was the creator of the universe choosing to enter the battle ground of human history.  If we were subjected to Private Ryan’s mandate to “earn this”, we’d be crushed under the weight.  The paradox is, no one could live a life good enough, or be a good enough man or woman, to “earn this.”  Instead, this act of love is given freely.  Instead of “earn this”, we get Matthew 18:  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  We get rest from our burdens, a life of freedom and delight, joy and peace.

We could use your prayers for a safe travel and smooth transition to life in Kenya.  We need our shipment to arrive from England, we need a ride from the airport, probably a place to stay in Nairobi for a day or two, and safe passage for Heidi Wright and Bosco to Nairobi.  Thank you to so many of you who’ve been so amazingly supportive in too many ways to count.

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Stuff, stuff and more stuff…

One of the biggest obstacles to our moving from Bend has been the necessity of clearing out our house and packing up our belongings.  The dread!  I have had nightmares about how we were going to fit all of our stuff into boxes.  This past month has seen that particular nightmare come true!

It is incredible how much stuff one can accumulate over a ten year period.  Last July, we held a garage sale.  The front porch, steps, driveway and garden were completely covered with toys, games, kitchen ware, books, and tools.  Our first customer arrived at 6am that morning after whom came a steady flow of passer-bys, neighbors, and “professional garage sale perusers.”  There really is such a thing!  They start the rounds as early as 6am – coffee in hand – ruthless and ready to steal a bargain!  We got rid of so much stuff in anticipation for our big move next month, and yet…it seemed as if in the last ten months, we accumulated just as much as we had sold!  The initial feeling of liberation passed all too quickly.

In facing this mammoth task in the last few weeks, I have learned a few valuable lessons:

  • Any packing materials that promise fun and laughter are setting you up for complete and utter misery!  There was very little smiling on our end of things!
  • Both Mike and I have very different ideas about what is and what is not sentimental…all giraffes, whether plastic, glass, or wooden, are all worth keeping! Yes!  Our 7 foot tall, solid mahogany giraffe has begun his voyage back across the seas to a new home…in a custom made “coffin” of sorts.
  • My attention to detail and fastidiousness about wrapping delicate items is far more trustworthy than Mike’s “just throw it all into a box and call it good” method of packing!
  • Moving is arguably one of the most stressful events that one can live through.
  • Reducing ones possessions to the bare minimum (albeit 47 boxes) is truly liberating.

And where are these boxes en route to, one might ask?   They are currently making their way to Dublin, Ireland.  We will be making our “home base” in Dublin for the foreseeable future.  Yes!  That makes me very happy.  The boxes will sit in a storage unit for as long as we figure out the next step of this crazy adventure. We intend to stop off in Dublin on the way to Kenya so that we can stuff the contents of 16 of those boxes into duffel bags to carry with us as luggage to Nairobi. Ann, Mike, two kids, and 22 pieces of luggage battling their way through airports and navigating airport trolleys.  I am anticipating a little stress during that particular phase of things!

Our house is now devoid of any character due to the absence of photos, pictures, and various different knick-knacks.  It’s not really our house anymore, however, as we closed on the sale over a week ago.  As the shipping truck pulled off and away from sight, I had an urge to run after it and say that it had all been a big mistake!  Mike and I still look at one another and ask if all of this is actually happening.  It is a very surreal feeling to be packing up, saying goodbye, and moving onto new experiences and places yet unseen.  In one way, it seems as if this move has been such a long time coming.  In other ways, it’s hard to believe that we get to embark on this adventure together as a family.  So many emotions pack themselves into a single day…excitement, fear, being overwhelmed, joy, terror, disbelief, enthusiasm, sadness, anticipation…it’s hard to hold so many feelings at once.  Our over-riding feeling, however, is one of Peace.  Contented that we are on the right path.  Satisfied that we are following our calling.  Trusting in our God to never leave nor forsake us.

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Swahili for Journey

Several people have asked me recently how the Mara family wound up moving to Kenya to serve in missions.  This is a re-post of an essay from March which describes our journey (Swahili: safari).

“Where you live should not determine whether you live,

or whether you die.”

(Bono, National Prayer Breakfast, Washington, D.C. 2006)

Imagine being in a terrible car wreck. You and your family members have broken bones and life-threatening injuries, but there are no ambulances, hospitals, nurses, or doctors available to help.

Unfortunately, this unimaginable suffering is a daily reality in the East African country of Kenya.

Fewer than 40 fully trained orthopedic surgeons struggle to serve a population of over 40 million people!  While some facilities exist for those who can afford them, the majority of those living in poverty have little or no access to surgical care.  Many severe injuries simply go untreated, leading to unnecessary suffering, disability, and even death.

What is desperately needed is teachers to raise up a generation of highly trained, Kenyan, orthopedic surgeons.  One teacher alone can exponentially expand the number of doctors serving the population of Kenya, dramatically reducing unnecessary suffering.

Standing at the Crossroads

Since first meeting in Tanzania, we have hoped and prayed that God would bring us back to Africa as a family.  Despite the busyness of raising two small children and the joy of being surrounded by wonderful friends, God’s call to serve in Africa has persisted and grown stronger over the last ten years.

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

In December 2010, we reached this crossroads.  God made it abundantly clear that we were to “throw off everything that hinders,” (Hebrews 12:1) and make ourselves available to return to work in Africa.  This call was accompanied by great excitement and joy, but also tinged with sadness and fear, as we acknowledged the hard choices we would have to make.  But we fully trust our lives to God and we go with open hearts and ready hands.

A favorite excerpt from the writing of Frederick Buechner has challenged us:

“To Isaiah the voice said ‘Go,’ and for each of us there are many voices… but the question is, which one will we obey with our lives.  I believe that it is possible to say at least this…we should go with our lives where we most need to go and where we are most needed.”

Responding to the Need

Through World Harvest Mission, the Maras will be moving to Kenya in the summer of 2012 for a five-year assignment.  Mike will be teaching orthopedic surgery at Kijabe Hospital, a Christian mission hospital founded in 1915. The hospital is located in a small village one hour west of the capital city, Nairobi. With 9,000 outpatient visits and over 700 surgeries performed every month, Kijabe Hospital has become a vital referral center for East Africa.  However, the volume of patients has completely outstripped the capacity of the current orthopedic surgeons, creating the urgent need for an additional full time surgeon and educator.

This amazing opportunity will see Mike join the faculty of the first orthopedic surgery training program in Kenya.  This will leverage his training in orthopedic surgery, his extensive experience in the developing world, and his passion for teaching. His role will involve expanding the capacity for orthopedic care in Kenya, while discipling and educating future Christian leaders in the medical community.

Ann’s consuming interest in Africa began as a teenager.  After completing her advanced teaching degree at Trinity College in Dublin, she took her first teaching job in the southern African country of Lesotho.  Her passion for work in Africa was confirmed and ignited, and she returned to Ireland to complete her Masters in International Development.  She then moved to Musoma, Tanzania, where she was director of an adult leadership training program. She has most recently worked in project management with World Relief and The Justice Conference in Bend, and hopes to continue to serve in a similar capacity in Kenya.

Michael and Jane have both been raised with the idea of one day moving to Africa, and are excitedly looking forward to the move and their new school. As a family, we believe strongly that Kijabe is “where we most need to go and where we are most needed.” 

“Where you live should not determine whether you live…”

We cannot embark on this exciting mission alone, and will rely on a group of dedicated advocates who will support us both spiritually and financially. One of the requirements of our new ministry is that we are supported solely through donations pledged by our partners, recognizing that collaboration is the essence of mission.  Just as a surgeon is of little use without the support of his or her surgical team, so we rely solely on individuals who will make this mission possible. We believe that all of God’s children deserve the love, compassion, and dignity of medical care in their moment of need.  We invite you to join us in making this possible by considering a monthly contribution to this mission.

For our part, we promise to embrace wholeheartedly our new ministry, and to be good stewards of your investment. Please know that we recognize you as a vital part of this mission, and look forward to sharing with you through regular communiqués our challenges, successes, heartaches and triumphs.  You will be contributing directly to the care of sick and injured people, as well as the education and discipling of future leaders in Kenya. Thank you for considering a partnership with us.

Mike, Ann, Michael and Jane

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