Posts tagged ‘ponderings’

December 8, 2018

Holding onto Hope

Dear friends;

What a crazy few months it has been! It is hard to believe that I have been away from Beni since August (now away longer than I was there). Although nothing has gone to plan, we are trusting that God has us in His hands and that He wants to use us where we are. We have so much to be thankful for. God provided affordable places for me to stay prior to the wedding, a wonderful and affordable Airbnb for me and my family in the week before the wedding, and now a place for Othy and I to live until mid-January. We are overwhelmed by people’s generosity, particularly many of the staff of EMI.

It has been a period of such highs and lows. The high points have been the celebration of our marriage, time with family and time experiencing God’s beautiful creation, a relaxing and enjoyable honeymoon to begin married life together, and the celebration of the marriage of our dear friends Matt and Jess. But in all of these activities, there is a grey cloud that has been looming over us. Every day we hear news of new ebola cases that are growing in number around Beni. The cases are not being reported soon enough because initial symptoms look similar to other tropical diseases like Malaria and Typhoid. There is also distrust of the health authorities which is causing communities to be uncooperative by not reporting cases, or not following the prescribed burial practices which can feel very cold and distant.

The distrust is warranted because insecurity is at an all time high in Beni with rebel attacks happening every week, often within the city itself and with little to no protection being offered by the Congolese army or the UN. It seems as though the rebels see an opportunity to create more chaos to make the fight to contain ebola more difficult. Whole neighbourhoods have been emptied out because of fear of attack which only gives more space for rebels to come closer and be undetected. Events have only increased the number of internally displaced people which makes tracking contacts of ebola cases more difficult. Vox recently published an article that outlines many of the challenges in containing the virus. Community groups are demanding that the international community help them to end the insecurity as well as the Ebola. They don’t want to survive ebola only to be attacked while they sleep in their homes. It doesn’t make sense to meet one need and not the other.

Another layer to this situation is that elections are scheduled to happen on December 23rd. So far plans are moving forward for elections to take place, but the Congolese population is on edge because the government has decided to use machines to vote making everyone nervous about the possibility of cheating. There are also three major candidates running instead of two, making the possibility for vote rigging easier. Originally the opposition were planning to come together behind one contender, but last minute one of them changed their minds, which makes people wonder what the real motivation was. Kabila is not running again because he is constitutionally barred from doing so, but has selected what many people are referring to as his pawn, a person who they think he will be able to manipulate to continue pursuing his own interests. So in January much could be the same or could be very different. We pray that God will direct these elections and help establish a leader who knows Him and will pull this country out of the deep sludge of corruption and exploitation by political elites.

God at Work

At times it becomes difficult to continue praying for Beni. God’s word tells us that our prayers have authority, and yet it is difficult to pray when the situations remains unchanged or even worsens. One thing we have to remember is that God still hears our prayers and uses us in these times for his purposes. Othy and I were reminded in talking with the rector of UCBC, that Congo Initiative and the university were started in a time of war. The seed was planted in a time of lamentation when enough was enough. And now the university has had its ten year anniversary and has impacted countless lives. And so we must keep working even through dark times, even though we cry out asking why this is happening again. God did not wait until a time of peace to send his son Jesus into the world. Christ came into a very messy situation to seek out the sick and the lost.

Despite the difficulties, UCBC has started classes and has taken measures to give staff and students a safe working and learning environment. They recently obtained a property in town, City Campus, where they have decided to run classes because the main campus is in an area on the outskirts of town that has experienced insecurity. For Giving Tuesday, CI raised a few thousand dollars to purchase tents to set up at the new campus to be able to accommodate more classes. They also had a special service day where staff and students gathered together to clean up the property. Another part of CI that is very active at this time is the Bethesda Counselling Center who are providing support services for grief and trauma resulting from the ebola and insecurity. Although international staff are currently away from Beni, they are still working from afar on their regular tasks, and also pursuing new partnerships and initiatives. One such initiative is being headed up by our friend Ben Lawson to raise money for lab equipment to support the transition of the faculty to active-learning classrooms. For Christmas this year, please consider contributing to one of the items on the Wish List of UCBC Applied Sciences that will help equip future Congolese leaders!

Prayer requests

Praises:

  • Othy and I are married and family and friends were able to travel safely and celebrate with us
  • We had a relaxing and enjoyable honeymoon and have enjoyed our first month of life together
  • We have a temporary place to call home in Uganda
  • UCBC found a property in the city to use for classes and the ebola and insecurity has not directly affected anyone in the community

Petitions:

  • Pray for peace and healing to come to Beni
  • Pray for ongoing protection of CI-UCBC community as they continue their work and service in the community
  • Pray for smooth and fair elections to happen on December 23rd
  • Pray for discernment for Othy and I as we decide how we can best continue serving CI from a distance and resolve our finances
  • Pray that we continue to grow in the knowledge and grace of God as a couple and discover how to use our gifts and serve together in this new season of life
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August 30, 2018

Yet Another Layer

July was a full month of intense work. I was finishing with the IRI trainings. Campus too was busy with students wrapping up final projects and writing exams. On the last Saturday of July we had graduation, and then after that the campus became quiet. During that week I saw a post on the IRI Whatsapp group that reported an unknown illness coming out of a region several kilometers away from Beni. I decided to google it to see if I could find any confirmation and I found a local news article. Unknown illnesses are always a bad sign in a place that is so familiar with identifying tropical diseases. Everyone feared that it might be Ebola. A few days later it was confirmed from samples that had been sent to Kinshasa for testing. Unfortunately since the unknown illness wasn’t reported immediately, it gave time for people in contact with Ebola patients to travel to other parts of the region. A few cases soon showed up in Beni, and a few in other places as well. In the face of this new challenge people in Beni were quick to take action. People stopped shaking hands (an everyday gesture here, so it feels strange to refrain), setting up hand-washing stations, and sharing texts and e-mails describing how the illness spreads and the best ways to prevent spread. Going about the everyday with my Congolese colleagues felt almost normal; I felt hopeful because the recent epidemic in West Congo got contained so quickly. However, it was clear that this situation was different because it is yet another layer of challenge in a zone that already deals with insecurity and a great number of displaced people. There were fears that if it got worse, then neighbouring countries might consider closing borders – something that could make evacuation more difficult later. And so it didn’t come as a surprise when the security team met and advised the international staff to leave for a time.

On August 9th Othy and I left Beni by road to Uganda. We left a day after the other international staff because Othy still had some remaining things to finish up at UCBC. Our plan was for him to join me for the first two weeks because he was planning to go to Kinshasa to apply for a South African visa for a conference he will be attending at the beginning of October. We decided it would be good to go together so that at least we would have two more weeks together and it would be a good chance for me to experience Kinshasa since it might be where we end up in the long term. Once through the border at Uganda we took the Link bus and arrived in Kampala at around 2am the following day. We found a hotel for the remaining hours of the early morning and then stayed with Othy’s friend for two nights before heading to the Entebbe airport to begin the second part of our journey to Kinshasa. That will be for another blog post!

God at Work

There are many ways that God is working through this challenging time. He is present with those who are suffering with the illness, with the health workers who are caring for them, and with the workers who are tracking those who have been in contact with Ebola patients and administering the experimental vaccine. Communities have drawn together to make sure correct information is shared and that contacts are identified. One of the realities coming out of this challenge is that the international community and national government have quickly intervened to contain a disease outbreak that they know might have wider impact, and yet very little intervention is happening in response to the attacks that have become almost normal to life in this region that have killed over 1500 people since October 2014 and displaced tens of thousands of people. The corruption that permeates political decision making is itself a disease that is hurting this country. It is my hope that through this epidemic there might be an increased international awareness of what is going on in this region, especially in light of the upcoming elections in December.

It is hard to describe all of the feelings I experienced and am still experiencing from these events and my own displacement. Part of it is frustration at God for allowing yet another layer of challenge to come upon a region already struggling with so much. I thought a colleague of mine put it well when she said that this is a real “Job moment” for Beni, a reference to the story of Job in the Bible when God allows many hardships to fall on him. I and the other international staff had to leave our friends and community behind, community that I was just starting to feel more connected with after being there for 2.5 months. The epidemic has also put Othy and my marriage plans into question if the epidemic cannot be contained before October. I knew I had to let go of these worries by giving them to God and to trust Him while proceeding on this journey that I hadn’t planned on taking. I also had to remind myself that God has always provided and that He often works through difficult trials to bring out good in us. Soon after the epidemic was announced when I was still in Beni, my friend Jessica sent out an update e-mail to her supporters that was a good reminder for me. She wrote that God is not unfamiliar with death and is saddened by it. Jesus himself experienced sorrow in the face of the death of his friend Lazarus from a disease and also in the face of his own coming death on the cross. God also has a plan to overcome death once and for all and demonstrated this through Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and Jesus himself being resurrected. Just as a seed gives birth to new life out of the decay of winter, and just as darkness cannot conquer a shining light, God has plans to redeem the world and He has already begun.

Prayer requests

Praises

  • No one from the CI or UCBC community has been impacted by the illness to date.
  • All of the international staff experienced safe and smooth travels out of Beni.
  • This time away in Uganda/Kinshasa has afforded me an opportunity to make new connections and reconnect with old friends and colleagues.
  • God answered CI-UCBC prayers for funding that will address some of their financial challenges that I mentioned in my last update.

Petitions:

  • Pray for continued discernment, energy, and health for health workers and officials
  • Pray for healing for those who have contracted the virus and for God to be present with those who are suffering because of the illness or the loss of loved ones.
  • Pray that the region may experience increased security.
  • Pray for continued health of the CI-UCBC community and their families.
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment of CI-UCBC leaders as they decide how to best care for the community in the face of the epidemic and as they decide about what factors will determine the timing of the return of international staff to Beni
  • Pray that good and affordable accommodations may be found for those of us who are temporarily displaced.
  • Pray that I may remain effective in my work and find valuable ways to contribute from a distance.
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April 28, 2018

God at Work

On the first Sunday of April I shared a God at Work testimony with the congregation at Grace West. I thought that I would include it here as well.

I am headed to Congo in one month’s time and want to share how God is working in the Congo, through the university I will be partnering with, and in my own life. The Congo is a beautiful and a broken country. It is lush and green, has incredibly warm and welcoming people who will invite strangers into their home to stay dry during a downpour, and a very rich culture. And yet they suffer from a cycle of exploitation and conflict. Currently in the East of the country, lack of governance has lead to the formation of rebel groups that periodically attack vulnerable civilians and it is impossible to tell what their larger strategy is or who is involved in funding them. But despite a situation that feels almost hopeless, there are many signs that God is still working in this place. God’s word through the old testament prophet Isaiah 43:19 says:

“Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.”

God is providing hope to Congo through the work of the Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo (UCBC) who are providing post-secondary education that is often subsidized to a few hundred students with the goal to grow to have a few thousand. Their vision is to bring students up with biblical teaching to encourage them to serve as humble leaders who refuse to participate in the pattern of corruption that has become a regular practice, and to transform their communities from the bottom up. Over the years UCBC has gained a reputation with organizations and businesses who wish to hire graduates who are dependable and trust-worthy.

God is working through a project of UCBC’s Integrated Research Institute called Sharing the Land. The project is mapping land conflict in the region in order to bring land disputes and corrupt practices of selling land into the open where resolution can begin to take place. God is also working through another project called Community Land Use Planning that is teaching local municipalities digital land administration tools in the hope that it will improve land administration practices and accept multiple types of land claims to give people greater land security. These are projects I am privileged to be serving with while I am there.

God has also been working in my own life and teaching me to trust him more completely and become more rooted in my identity in Him instead of the world. Eight years ago I was struggling how to serve God with my skills in architecture and was praying for Him to show me a path to serve him more fully . He responded by opening an opportunity, connecting me with the right people, and speaking to me through His word in the Bible. He brought me to serve in 2012 with Engineering Ministries International and work on a campus master plan project that brought me to Congo for the first time and introduced me to what God was doing through UCBC. It feels like there is this cyclical conversation happening between God and I, where I pray, He opens a door, I doubt about things like finances and ineptitude but pray for provision, He works in the details and sustains me. He reminds me repeatedly, Lise, you can trust me; look how I clothe the lilies of the field?

The return to Congo this time is more daunting than previous times. I follow the news closely to keep tabs on the security situation which is becoming increasingly unpredictable. People respond often in surprise to hear I am going there even with the situation the way it is. But I’ve also realized that God doesn’t call us to be comfortable and that with the kingdom perspective, this is a place that God continues to need people to do His work, and that this part of the world can’t simply be abandoned. He has given me the skills, the passion, and the opportunity; all that remains is to go.

Please pray for what God is doing in Congo through UCBC and their ongoing projects, that they may continue to be a river in the dessert and be God’s instrument in that place. Please pray for peace and security in Beni territory. Please pray for me as I adjust to a new culture and build relationships. Pray for wisdom and the fruits of the spirit in my daily encounters and as I take leadership on these projects. This church community at Grace Toronto is an answer to prayer and I am so thankful to be able to share this journey with you. Thank you for your love and support.

March 25, 2017

It Is Well

Early this year I lost two people who were a small but meaningful part of my life.

On January 2nd, Gord, a good friend of our family, passed away after what felt like a short battle with cancer. Although he was a closer friend to our parents than to us kids, he always had interest in our lives, a word of encouragement, or a big hug to offer. I will miss his small but significant presence in my life. Thinking of him and how he lived his day to day life will always challenge me to deeply care for everyone around me. As we left the service of remembrance we were given paper white bulbs. Caroline included a note that said “touch another’s life subtly, such as a bulb spreads beneath the ground.” It was wonderful to have flowers blooming in the house during this particularly grey winter.

Then on February 13th, our great uncle John passed away. He too was another person who knew how to live in contentment. Uncle John was another person who always had a hug for us and always was always brimming with joy. Him and his wife opened their home and lives to many people over the years with Christ-like hospitality. At the celebration service the pastor read from Ecclesiastes 5 and Psalm 16. Both verses speak of trust in God as the holder of our lives and the keeper of our circumstances. Psalm 16 verses 8-11 says; “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

These were words that were a good reminder for me as I have been going through my own season of restlessness and learning to trust God more. At the remembrance service for Gord I was also introduced to a song that has become a bit of an anthem for the past few months.

It Is Well

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well
Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
It is well with me

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see
And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well
Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
It is well it is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name (x3)

The waves and wind still know His name

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well it is well with my soul (x2)

It is well it is well with my soul (x2)

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well
Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
It is well with me

January 3, 2015

Prayer of Serenity

I’ve been putting off this post because frankly it’s easier to write about the fun things I did in Uganda than about the hard times. I want to share the challenges though because they are an important part of the story and grew me in many ways. I’ve been slowly adding to this post over the course of two months, and now I’m finally publishing it even though I am already home in Canada. It’s probably one of the most difficult posts I’ve written.

These past weeks/months have been quite an emotional roller-coaster. I have felt great joy and great sadness; great hope and great discouragement. This journey began when I decided last year that I would pursue thesis research in the DR Congo. Even though I could do a simple architectural project, I decided that if I was going to spend this time to do a thesis, then I would take it as a chance to learn something new and do something with physical impact. My interest in the DRC came from when I was there two years ago and began pondering on the question of what design could offer that community. My preliminary research lead me to mapping as a key design and communication tool to impact positive change in a community. I saw God working in many of the logistics that followed. I reached out to see if UCBC would be interested in partnering in the research and it fit well with their own schedule and ambitions. Finances were working out because I was given a scholarship from Waterloo and my tax return covered my plane ticket. All of the doors were opening to make this research happen.

Then two weeks before I was supposed to leave the doors began closing. My university informed me last minute that they could not support travel to a region with a level four travel advisory. My heart was breaking because I had already invested a year in the research and this trip was the crux of it. I decided that I would pursue the research whether or not it could be counted as work for Waterloo. I got on the plane uncertain of what direction the research would take and whether or not I would have to withdraw from the program. I held so much resentment inside because I had never felt so rejected before and so powerless to do anything. All I could do was submit a lengthy grievance and hope that this mammoth institution would even take a second glance at it. In the meantime I lost my OSAP funding and the scholarship that I was supposed to receive for the international experience; I would be riding out limited funds for the next four months.

Arriving in Kampala and then in Beni felt a bit like coming home. I settled in very quickly and already on the second day I jumped into some field research that a team of students were already doing in Beni. I could once again see a purpose to being in this place. The following weeks were an incredible blessing. The students were very interested in the project, I received a small sum of funding from one of the research institute’s grants to cover logistical costs for the mapping (because I was no longer receiving funds from Waterloo), and even the mayor of Beni was on board. In mid-October we devoted four days to completing the greater part of the data collection for the base-map. In rainy season it normally rains every day in Beni, but miraculously we had four days with no rain so that we could maximize the time in the field.

Then the next wave of challenges came. I was still pursuing my ethics application with Waterloo for the field research because I was expecting that my grievance challenge could be accepted and that I might still be permitted to continue with the research; however, Waterloo International tipped off the ethics board about my situation and they put up the red flag stating that it was high risk research and needed to be reviewed by a sub-committee. This was two months after I had submitted my original application and after I had gone to a personal consultation and gone through two rounds of reviews. The subcommittee reviewed my application and tore it to shreds. They wanted to find things wrong with it and so they jumped to many false conclusions in the attempt to justify their decision. It was another low move from the university and made me lose all hope for the institution.

Another challenge was a petrol strike that began in Beni the week we started work on the base-map. Moto fares were quickly rising even while we were doing data collection, and near the end we were paying double to get the volunteers around town. My patience was tried as electricity was off much more often, which caused our work to slow down. At about the same time the first attacks began several kilometers north of the city. I remember that on the day of the first attack a colleague told me that I should get home before five. The reason was because a wave of refugees were coming to the city for safety, and many of them were gathering at an intersection I had to pass through to get home. I was never in any danger from an attack; I lived in a secure compound and the violence was directed at vulnerable civilians in villages outside of the city. The bigger danger for international staff was in the resulting tension in town and the negative feelings towards the UN because of their perceived inaction. The international staff at UCBC had a few very difficult meetings to discuss whether or not to leave. We came to the decision that it was important to stick together and that it would be good to leave for a week even just to recuperate from the stress. I was one of the few who wanted to stay. I think deep down I knew that if we left we would not be coming back. Once again I felt like I was being tossed around by the waves with no choice but to let them carry me.

My intuition proved correct. What was originally considered an isolated set of incidences began to reveal itself as a pattern of events with deep political motives. One week turned into two, two turned into four, and four turned into eight weeks away in Uganda. The first weeks were mentally exhausting as we went through a cycle of preparing to go back and then being disappointed when something else happened and we were advised to stay away longer. It was difficult to hear bad news from Beni and be unable to be physically present to share the burden with our friends and colleagues there. Even though we are brothers and sisters in Christ, as north americans we were set apart because of liability issues. Another struggle was to have the desire to serve people there but feel an equal responsibility to friends and family back home. I went through a time of being mad at God. Since the moment I began contemplating doing work in this place I have prayed for peace there. God promises so many good things for his children; why can’t he make his glory known in this place? I’ve always been an initiator and someone who is not afraid to take action, but in this case I was helpless and there was nothing I could do. I’ve never felt as restless in my life as I did in those few weeks. I felt trapped and useless and it was discouraging to think of how much work it takes to build something up and then how easily it can be torn down.

There were small moments of blessing and joy in the midst of the discouragement. My time in Uganda was not wasted. I spent some of the days learning how to fly the quadrocopter drone that the research institute had purchased for GIS research so that I could later teach others how to use it. I also spent a significant amount of time developing the Beni Atlas website, something that I thought I wouldn’t do until I was back home. It was a blessing to live in community with the other UCBC international staff. I learned how to pray in community as we gathered and prayed for Beni every morning and evening.  I feel like everyone in the group had something to teach me: Mary taught me wisdom and facilitation; Jon taught me leadership and connectivity; Kate taught me love and servanthood; the kids taught me imagination and truthfulness; Jessica taught me devotion and encouragement; Lauren taught me sincerity and thoughtfulness. I learned what it meant to accept the things that I couldn’t change but to intentionally do the small (and yet significant) things that I could – like pray, or give a word of encouragement. I realized how selfish it was to have my own plans so central in my perspective when God’s plans are all encompassing.

Another blessing was to have Othy and Archip come join us in Kampala for intensive training when I reached the point of knowing that I would not be going back to Beni. I was teaching them but at the same time learned so much from them. These two guys taught me passion, joy, and hope. Despite growing up in challenging circumstances they persevered by God’s grace. I am excited for what the future holds for these two. If everyone in Congo had as much hope and initiative as these two, there would be peace tomorrow! Even though I didn’t accomplish all of the physical objectives I had originally set, I am content knowing that the most important objective was met, which was to equip people at UCBC and to develop a partnership that can continue past this point. I finally felt some peace about the changes to my thesis research and the situation with the university.

It felt like this project was quite literally attacked on all sides. One final blow came when I had already arrived home in Canada. When Othy and Archip were on the way back to Beni by bus, the backpack with all of the GIS equipment got stolen. The GIS computer, external hard-drive, Archip’s passport, and other money and valuables were lost. What was worse is that when they stopped at a checkpoint and Archip didn’t have his ID, the police arrested him. We found out later that he had been left out in the rain, put in prison,  and mistreated by the guards and other detainees. He received some physical injury, but God kept Archip safe and he was released and made it home safely the next day. Mary describes more about what happened in a post entitled “In all, we bless the Lord”. It is true that there is no way to understand what has happened, not just for this incident but this whole story, however we must continue to hold fast to God’s promises. That’s why I think it is important to tell the story: because through it we can bless others with our testimony. Archip and Othy are back in Beni and have not lost one bit of stamina. Their hope is in the Lord and they are continuing to persevere for His kingdom here and now in Congo.

 

Prayer of Serenity:

God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

The courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference

 

 

December 23, 2014

Unastahili Kuwabudiwa

Climbing the Water Tank

Sunset

Unastahili kuwabudiwa

Unastahili ewe yesu

Unastahili kuwabudiwa

Unastahili e

You are worthy to be praised

Worthy O Jesus

You are worthy to be praised

Worthy

January 14, 2014

Thoughts in the New Year

This past holiday was a wonderful rest after a very busy first term of Masters. The weekend before Christmas was spent with the immediate family. Jen and I also went to the 11th annual Christmas party to catch up with old high school friends. I stayed at my parents place until Tuesday (Christmas Eve) when we went up as a family to visit the Lam Fam over Christmas. It was nice to spend Christmas with such a large group of people, and with so many growing families. I saw some little cousins who I had not yet met, the youngest being Hen and Greg’s newborn son Benry.

Christmas day was a very joyful event. I also find that in every year that passes, I gain an additional sliver of understanding of what it really means that God sent his son into the world. Sometimes I even think it strange that we use the word “sent”. God became human, stooped to our level, so that we might be holy in His eyes and be called His children. It’s such an amazing promise and yet I forget about it daily as if it isn’t naturally wired into my system. I either forget because of the worldly feeling of impossibility, or because it’s almost too great and glorious for my tiny mind to comprehend. All I can do is try to remind myself daily, hoping that this great gift will become a greater part of my being.

This year I think I finally understood a bit more of God’s timing. He came to the earth in the dawn of the Roman empire during the reign of Ceasar Augustus, an emperor who claimed a divine heritage and expanded the empire to include almost all of Europe. I think that God intentionally decided to send the greatest and yet most humble king into a period of history remembered for its earthly glory. And yet the Roman empire fell, and through history there have been failed attempts to bring back that same shallow glory, a few of which I studied while I was in Rome and experienced something of the mirroring of history as witnessed by architecture.

The new year is a such a refreshing time. It’s a time when we allow ourselves a blank slate with the hopes of breaking old habits, accomplishing many things, and working towards self betterment. I often give myself a New Years resolution and this year is going to be a tough one. I’ve decided to give up watching TV and movies when I’m on my own. I have found that living alone has made it into a constant habit and it is a real time waster. I’m hoping to replace that time by being more intentionally social (planning things for once instead of just following along), devoting more time to God, and doing other activities more often like reading, arts and crafts, and music. Wish me luck! I’m one week in and I’m already going crazy without it. Those of you who live alone will understand the cosy feeling of eating dinner in front of a TV show to remove the strange feeling of eating in silence. Although the new year is a great reason to set new goals, I’m trying not to forget that God has made it possible for me to begin new each day because He forgives my sins. Even if I screw up again and again his mercies are new every morning!

I was fortunate over the holidays to share meals with many people, an activity that I never appreciated as much as I do now. The holidays were a wonderful time to catch up with friends who I had not seen in a while. I had coffee at different points with a few friends, went to a New Years party in Toronto organized by a friend from Grace Toronto church, and went skiing in the new year with friends from school. Skiing after a three year hiatus felt amazing. It was all such a blessing.

 

Here is a an interesting perspective on John 3:16 that my cousin Janice printed out and showed to us on Christmas day:

 

For God [the greatest good]

so loved [the greatest action]

the world [the greatest need]

that He gave [the greatest example]

His only son [the greatest sacrifice]

that whoever [the greatest invitation]

believes in him [the greatest response]

should not perish [the greatest horror]

but have eternal life [the greatest gift]

John 3:16 [the greatest promise]

November 23, 2013

New Life

Very recently three different friends (couples) of mine had babies. Alison and Kit had little Emma Lee, Sake and Martine had little Cameron, and Alyssa and Luke had little Aurelie. They are all such beautiful little human beings and it’s amazing to think of how they came into the world. It’s strange to have friends who are having kids just because I’m not at that time in life yet, but at the same time it’s pretty cool to witness. The image below is of a piece of art that I recently created for Luke and Alyssa of a poem that they wanted represented in a graphic way that they could hang in their nursery (although I have no idea what the title is or who wrote it!). I created the piece by overlaying a graphic of the text printed on transparency onto a watercolour painting, and used some sketch paper in between to mute it out a bit. My thought was that Luke and Alyssa can eventually replace the background with a drawing done by their little girl! I really like the poem and so I thought I would share it!Poem

For the three of us it ended up being forty weeks

give or take,

but for you O Little One,

well? Tell me, love.

What thoughts by means of speech,

Beyond mountains of religious cosmogony and creed,

beyond scientific display,

could unsettle the first gaze of your parents:

in their eyes

always

miracle,

well? Tell me, love.

Squaling presence,

awesom possibility

almost unbelievable event:

You becoming.

Well? Tell me, love.

Splitting of an egg,

invisible speck of protoplasm,

on another time-scale

big bang.

What on earth are you?

Well? Tell me, love.

I imagine Wisdom dwelling with you,

before you decided together “It’s time.”

What She whispered to your heart there,

I burn to remember.

Living, fiery essence of what it means to be.

Whatever it is, glowing with us today,

in water,

in leaf,

in warm sleeping skin.

Well? Tell me, love, can you breath it in now, still knowing?

Blast of the thundered Word lying in bed with us…

Crazy.

The more obvious wonder:

That you, for forty weeks,

knew how to breathe under water.

One secret our Maker has let me in on,

in letting me kiss the flying joy,

of tender, intimate, fear and trembling – the occasion of your birth:

that your arrival on the scene

and life to be,

is, in short,

about learning again

what you already knew.

How to breathe under water.

To be born again of Spirit and of Water.

I forgot, unfortunately, but you…

Well? Tell me, love.

September 16, 2012

Road Trip

Transitions:  You’d think I’d be used to them by now, you know with my nomadic lifestyle and all.  But this is the first time in five years that I haven’t had many of my decisions laid out for me.  The world feels quite literally at my doorstep and I don’t know what to do with myself.

As many of you readers know, I finally graduated this August with my bachelor of architectural studies.  This should feel like an accomplishment, but mostly all I’ve been feeling is anxiety over what to do next.  After being in a fixed program for so long, it is no wonder I am a little bit lost.  I have not really decided where my life is headed, and that has caused me to take a year off from my studies to try and discover who is or who do I want Lise to be.  All of these years I have believed that God has a plan for my life.  He certainly gave me the ability and passion for architecture at a very young age.  But back then, going to Waterloo to do architectural undergraduate studies was pretty much my only choice; now the choices seem infinite.  But at the same time, how blessed am I to even have so many choices!

I thought that my internship earlier this year with eMi East Africa would make my destiny clearer, but it only confused me all the more (which is a healthy thing I believe).  Even though I have no idea whether architectural missions is for me, I certainly learned more about my physical and spiritual strengths, and learned that mission work can be described as investing in and giving to any community, no matter where it may be in the world.  I figure if I can find a community that I can invest in with my architectural skill, as well as my Christ-like love, then I will truly be living to the greatest degree that I can.

The problem I’m facing now is trying to find out whether my desires for my life align with God’s desires.  I’ve always had the desire to be the best architect I can be; I really want to go to a really good graduate school and cultivate a really strong international network of professionals so that one day my design work can become reality.  Is this what God wants though and am I putting my energies and time in the right places?  It seems like I’m always torn between being the best I can be at the skill that I think God has bestowed on me, and fulfilling His work for the kingdom.  Can they be one and the same?  Argh!

From all of this indecision of what to do next, and interest at least to find out where I might like to continue my education, I decided to go on a road trip to the US to discover for myself many of the graduate schools of architecture that are supposed to be the best down there.  I planned a six day venture where I would visit Boston, New Haven, New York, Princeton, and Philadelphia.  I didn’t find anyone who was interested in joining me, and so I turned to Couch Surfing as a way to meet people, get to know the cities, and travel cheaply.   At first I didn’t get any responses from these places, but with some help of friends, and friends contacting friends (thanks guys, you know who you are!), I finally had a place to stay every night.  In a way I’m glad I went alone.  It meant that I was forced to problem solve and figure things out on my own, that I could see what I really wanted to see, and ask the questions I wanted to ask.  It also became a time to meditate and pray.  The trip was fabulous and I look forward to writing about it!

So for those of you who are interested in my life section, enjoy the followings posts from my recent travels!

May 3, 2012

Glory to God in the highest

In the middle of April our group of seven interns headed out to Murcheson National Park for our intern weekend.  It was a relaxing and beautiful trip!  We went on safari for three days and saw some amazing wildlife.  In looking upon this awesome creation, I was put ever more in awe of God the creator.  This earth and its complex natural systems are no accident; God created it all for His glory.  During my time in Africa I have been constantly reminded of the vast and mind-numbing power and glory of God.  Recent Bible verses I have been reading are Psalm 139: “You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”, 2 Corinthians 3: “If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!  For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory.  And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!”, and Ephesians 3: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  Wow!

Thanks goes to fellow interns Brenna Malaney, Aaron Haazen, Katherine McCourt, and Erland Mowinckel for taking most of these fabulous photographs (if you click on this post you can see who took which one).  Enjoy!

Photo by Aaron Haazen

We had a particularly fun time inventing dialogue for this hilarious Ugandan Kob.  “Who turned the lights out?!!”  “Ha ha they can’t see me with my amazing new camouflage!”

Photo by Erland Mowinckel

Now this is an example of exemplary camouflage.  This photo shows the lions better than we could see them!

Photo by Aaron Haazen

There are hippos everywhere in the Nile!  We were even warned at the lodge we were staying at to do a full 360 with a flashlight before walking to the toilet block so as not to alarm a hippo.  They chill out in the water all day and come out and graze on land at night.  They look harmless enough but I’ve heard that they can be quite dangerous.

Photo by Erland Mowinckel

There was one point where we saw more than twenty Giraffes at once!  Intern Kevin wittily suggested that we should change the name of the park to ‘Giraffic Park’.

Photo by Brenna Malaney

This particular one greeted us on the road.

Photo by Brenna Malaney

These were the animals I had really wanted to see and boy did I get to see them!  We had three fairly close encounters.

Photo by Aaron Haazen

Photo by Katherine McCourt

Although we didn’t see it in the wild, this bird was cool to see because it is Uganda’s national emblem and is even on their flag.

Photo by Brenna Malaney

On our way back to Kampala we visited a White Rhino Sanctuary and got to go trekking on foot to see a few of them.  The sanctuary is trying to reintroduce White Rhinos into the country as they were brought to extinction many years ago.

Intern photo!

And finally…. the waterfall.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” – Luke 2:14