Monday, May 12, 2014

The Things We Don't Talk About...

"Alright class," I said to a rowdy bunch of middle schoolers, "Please sit down and get to work."

Some of the kids got to work, others still chatted with their nearest classmates.

"That's enough talking," I said a little firmer this time. "It is time to get working."

After a few seconds only one student continued to stand and goof around.

I took a deep breath and said in a calm but firm voice, "Sit down now."


My mind flashed back to another time and place. I saw myself walking in the market in Betroka ducking my head down as men called me, "vazaha (white foreigner)" and grabbed at my hair.  

I saw the reaction on my national friend's faces when they realized people were charging us double for groceries. 

I saw the drunken man swerve toward me and grab me as I walked up the hill with two little girls, making me fight to escape his grasp.

I saw men shoving unmentionable parts of cows in my face, and women shoving bugs in my face just to see me squirm.

I saw women teaching their children to call us "vazaha" and men dropping their children in our laps and laughing at their terrified screams. After all, we white people were going to steal their organs.

I saw the red faces and heard the sobs of my students as they related the fact that some kids threw rocks at them and pulled them off their bikes yelling, "VAZAHA!" on their ride to school that morning. I saw the looks of dread on their faces when I told them it was time to ride their bikes home. 

I saw the smiles and laughter of the Malagasy children as they taught me games, and the faces of our friends welcoming us into their home.

I saw my national friends being ridiculed by their friends for showing us around the town, welcoming us into their lives, though they knew they would be made fun of along with us.

Some treated us as special, others treated us as freaks. But everyday we knew we were different.

"No sir," I said calmly, knowing he had no idea what was going through my mind. "It's not because you are black. It is because you are the only one still standing."

"For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7b

I might be racist. I know I put too much weight on outward appearances. Praise the LORD that He does not. Red and yellow, black and white, we are ALL precious in His sight. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Look Back: January 31, 2013

 I found this archived with some old blogs that I never posted. For some reason I decided to record my experiences as I traveled from France to Madagascar last year. I don't know if you will find it as entertaining and I do, but it's kind of fun to look back at my ridiculousness. =) 

Sunday, January 31, 2013 Travel from France to Madagascar

3:15 am, alarm rings... I hit snooze.
3:20 am, I realize that today is actually happening, and I get out of bed.
3:45 am, goodbyes to the awesome family who has graciously allowed me to live in their house for 3 months. I hate mornings in general, but goodbye mornings suck even worse.
4:00 am, leave for the airport
5:30 am, check in at airport. The lady asked me for proof I'm a missionary. I panicked. Personally if you knew me the sheer fact I was in the airport with tickets to Madagascar in hand would be enough to prove I am not going of my own power. God reminds me of the important document package that is in my carry on. End panic mode.
7:00 am, our flight is delayed due to a strike in Paris.
7:10 am, sit next to an awesome girl named Evangeline who is from the States.
7:15 am, man asks me something in French... I say "oui! No! Uh, je ne sais pa!" He looks at me like I lost my mind... I smile and congratulate myself on speaking French and NOT panicking! Woot!
8:10 am, we finally leave after sitting on the runway for an hour.
9:20 am, we land in Paris, get off the plane and onto a bus. Evangeline and I have an hour and 10 minutes to make our flights. Her to Washington, me to Tana.
9:25 am, bus breaks down. Irritated guy who also needs to make a connection gets into a fight with the guy trying to fix the bus. Not actually helpful in the grand scheme of things.
9:45 am, we arrive at a terminal but have no idea which one it is or how to get to our flight. Evangeline and I ask a kind lady, our flights are boarding a couple of terminals and a passport check away. So we part ways and take off running. I am praying she made her flight and is peacefully flying home as I type.
10:15 am, I make it to my gate and check in. I go down a bunch of stairs to another bus that site there for about 15 minutes, then drives us to this plane faaaaaaar away from the real airport. Thank you Paris for not making us walk.
10:30 am, board the plane
11:30 am, still sittin on the plane. On the runway.
11:35 am, the plane moves. O think I see the Eiffel tower!
11:36 am, false alarm. Twas just a telephone pole. Dangit.
12:04 pm, goodbye Paris and goodbye dream of seeing the Eiffel tower.
12:45 pm, I feel like trying raw fish for the first time when I am stuck on a plane for another 9 hours is a probably a poor life choice. So I think i'll just stick with rice bread and cheese... Oh and the delicious eclair. Also I am fairly certain the last next to me wants my bottle of wine (yep. I said bottle. It comes with lunch). Go for it lady.
3:27 pm, note to self, next time black more motion sickness meds.
4:30 pm, over the Lybian Desert. Ooohhh we're halfway there! Oh oh! Living on a prayer! (I feel like this plane needs to be serenaded... Challenge accepted).
6:30 pm, the map says we're almost over Kampala, Uganda. I know someone there. Maybe they could just open the door and let me hop out quick. I wouldn't be too much trouble. I want off this plane! Ooo... The stewardess just passed out ice cream. OK maybe I'll stay on a bit longer....
7:00 pm, the guy next to me must have unbuttoned his pants while he was sleeping... Cause when he stood up they fell down .Maybe air France should think twice before handing out those bottles of wine...
8:32 pm, there are no movies left to watch. 
8:33 pm, just kidding, I'll watch Pitch Perfect.
9:25 pm, note to Self: Don't watch singing movies on a plane full of people. I don't think the lady next to me is impressed with my singing and dancing.
10:17 pm, Dear Lady Next to Me: I'm really sorry if you don't like my singing and dancing, but if you were listening to this ending, YOU'D BE DANCING TOO!!! (But you probably wouldn't be singing because you don't speak English...)
11:00 pm, OH MY GOODNESS!!!! You know those movies where people are on a plane and then really crazy interesting things happen? Yeah well... this isn't one of those flights.
1:17am, we're approaching Madagascar... is it too late to change my mind? I don't think I can do this... God help me.

We landed around 2 am. I got off the plane and it was hot and sticky, raining a little bit. We were shuffled through lines and made to fill out some paperwork. I didn't know half the answers so I just prayed and wrote stuff down. "What will be your address?" Uhm... Somewhere in the middle of nowhere Madagascar? I wrote 8 Betroka, Madagascar. I have no idea where I got that number, but no one questioned me.

I got my bags and had to go put through customs. Directly outside of the baggage check were at least 100 people grabbing to try and "help" me with my bags. I was fighting tears, and I think that the customs guys took pity on me because they just let me pass. The Petrelli's found me and helped me with my bags. They were so sweet and helpful. I feel like I have known them forever. I am still pretty sure I can't do this, and I am not sure I really comprehend the fact that I am in Madagascar, but for now I am just going to sleep. God will give me peace and rest. He promises.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


A year ago today I was traveling to Betroka for the first time.

I had been in Madagascar for a little over 2 weeks. For the first week I stayed with an amazing missionary family, the Patrelli's in the capital while I awaited the arrival of the team. Then, on the 7th, the team arrived and we started a whirlwind of activity. Getting enough money and groceries for 4 months... How do you calculate how much powdered milk you will need in that amount of time when you have never used powdered milk in your life? I still don't know... I just used the mathematical principal of "THROW AS MUCH AS YOU CAN INTO THE CART!"

We then traveled to Ranohira for language training. This part was hard for me. I missed Stacy and the kids, I didn't know what I was doing, I felt like everyone on the team knew each other and I was the outsider. I was "on the team" but I was only short term. I had no concept of what was expected of me and I was fairly certain there was no way I could do any of this. Even teaching, something I have always had a gift for, was foreign to me. How was I supposed to teach these two little girls English? What had I gotten myself into?

I quickly learned that I liked language learning, so that was a bright spot in my day. It was embarrassing to walk around fumbling through language and getting laughed at. But I LOVED it.

A few days later, the 16th I believe, we had a "day off". We went hiking in Isalo National Park. Now, those who know me know that I am not a hiker. I'm not even good at walking. It takes enough concentration to stay upright on flat ground, let alone the, you know, natural kind of ground. But off we went.

 It was beautiful.
 I mean breathtakingly beautiful.

But as I said earlier, I'm not exactly a hiker. I don't mind going for leisurely walks along clearly marked paths that have safety railings anytime you get somewhere potentially sketchy. 
There were no safety railings.
          Anyway.  By the time we were on our way back, I was exhausted. I was hot and sticky and struggling to keep up. "Just keep going..." I told myself, "Keep up with them Meg... Don't get too far behind!" I've always been the last one in any type of things that involves athleticism. That doesn't bother me. Making the whole group stop and wait for my slowness... THAT bothers me. So I plugged on. Slipped a few times on slippery rocks and yelled at myself (in my head) for being clumsy.
Sunk into a mud hole, laughed about it trying to be cool, all the while thinking, "I am such a moron."

And then it happened. I fell. I didn't just slip this time, I completely missed the rock I was trying to land on and fell into some more rocks and some mud. I had rolled my ankle and it felt like fire was shooting up it. There was bloodied mud all across my right ankle and knee. It was starting to trickle down my leg like lava from a volcano. My toe was all mangled and it looked like I had cut half of it off (I had been barefoot at the time because that was easier than trying to walk in shoes). Someone took my backpack for me and another person helped me up. Our team leader squirted some purified water on the cuts, trying to clear away some of the mud. There was still quite a ways to walk before we got back to camp. 

Fun Fact: I am one of the most stubborn prideful people I know.

I insisted I was fine to walk. Partially because I knew the longer I sat, the more it would ache. Better to keep moving than to think about the pain. But mostly because I was embarrassed by my clumsiness. Of course I would be the one to fall and get hurt. Of course.  We plugged on, every step a painful reminder of my stupidity. "I'm fine!" I kept insisting to anyone who asked. I tried to keep a normal pace, and a normal conversation. I would NOT show that I was in pain. We got to the place we were to stop and eat lunch, and my team helped patch me up. 

We still had a long ways to walk after lunch, at least, it seemed terribly long. Probably not more than a kilometer. I plugged on, at first trying to use my own strength. Halfway through, I realized I couldn't make it on my own power. I'm not sure when I stopped berating myself and telling myself to "suck it up", but by the time we reached the van that would take us the rest of the way out of the park I was simply praying God would help me make it. 

They were the first of the scars on my body from this trip. There are many. As I look at them now, I am not embarrassed. I don't think I am an idiot for falling. I look at them and I see my filthy pride. I see my inability to let others help me, which would come back many times throughout the year, and I suspect will come back time and again throughout my life. 

Psalm 147:3 says, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." 

It took time, but my wounds were bound up. Let's just say I am as slow of a healer as I am a learner. God binds up our wounds, but sometimes he leaves the scars to remind us where we have been It reminds us of our mistakes, of our hurts and of the incredible mercy and grace he offers so freely. 

I am a filthy sinner who has been made new by the Creator of the Universe. His scars offer me freedom form my scars. His wounds have paid my ransom.

There is beauty in scars.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Knowns and the Unknowns

You know in High School when they start asking you questions like "Where are you going to be in 5 years? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What are you going to be doing with your life?"

I hate those questions. No one knows where they will be 5 or 10 years from this moment. You can guess, you can imagine, you can hope... but you can't know.

I always used to irritate the teachers when I said, "I will be following God, and going wherever he leads me." Apparently it wasn't a solid enough answer for them. But in my head, I did have a thought as to what the plan would be. I am a planner, so of course I had an idea. I knew I would be following God and doing what He wanted me to do. But I also assumed I knew that that was.

If you has asked be back then, I never, EVER in my wildest imagination would have said, "In Madagascar."

And I can guarantee that if I had said that, several people would have had a good laugh, and then probably sent me to the counselor to break the news that it was never going to happen. Even when I really was getting ready to go, I would run into people from high school and they would just stare at me. Some laughed. Heck I laughed too... I mean, who knew it would really actually happen. Who knew I would really actually be here? Certainly not me.

"'For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD! "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11)

I feel like every Christian, and even non-Christians know that verse. Let me put it this way...

Jeremiah 29:11 is to Christian Encouragement as John 3:16 is to a Salvation Message

I am not saying these verses are bad, I just have always felt like there is the entire rest of the Bible full of amazing verses that we can sometimes forget.

That said, it's this promise that I am clinging to right now. I never dreamed I would be here. Yet I am, because God has plans for me that I do not even know about yet. I am nervous, that is for sure. This is so outside of my comfort zone. Yesterday I let myself get caught up in worry, but not today. Today I am choosing to trust God's plan for my life. He has never led me astray before, and he never will.

So off I go. From now until Sunday night I will go with the team and get the things we need for the next 5ish months of our lives. Then bright and early Monday morning we head down.

Thanks for your prayers as we travel and start the next phase of all of our lives. I am so excited to watch God's plans unfold in my life, and in the lives of others... even if it is a little scary on the "unknown" side of the plan.

Monday, February 4, 2013


God has been reminding me of something lately that I wanted to share with you before I head off the blogosphere for a while.

See, as I look towards the next few months of my life, I know there will be some great days, and some not so pretty days. There will be days when I crawl under my mosquito net at the end of the day and I feel like it was a good day, and there will be days when I just cry out of sheer frustration and exhaustion.

But no matter what each day brings, I know that eventually the day will end. There are 24 hours in each day, good or bad. The sun will set on the one day and a new day will dawn in it's beauty. God's mercies are new each day, and they are sufficient for that day's troubles. 

Each day, each season, each trial will eventually come to an end. The sun will set and rise anew. I will worship His holy name in every moment, in every season, in everything.

Sing like never before, Oh my soul! I worship your holy name. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

I say goodbye, and I say hello.

No matter how long you have been in a place, goodbyes are always hard. In the last 3 months I have  come to adore these munchkins, and though the goodbye is only for a short time, it is still hard.

On the plus side, this goodbye is not perminant. Before I know it, I will have crazy pictures in of us in Madagascar, instead of France. It will be nice to have pictures without winter coats on...

The thing about goodbyes, is that they always make way for new hellos.

Hello Mr. Chameleon chilling in the avocado tree in the back yard. It's nice to meet you.

There are new sights, new sounds and new smells to take in all around me. This place is so different than anywhere I have ever been. 

There are children playing everywhere. In the streets, in vacant lots, anywhere they can chase each other and get dirty.

I will never understand a child's fascination with mud puddles... but it definitely is an interest that crosses all cultures.

 Oh and tree climbing... I think my brother tried this once on a tree with no branches... he didn't get quite as far...

They even bring their tag along little brothers and sisters out to play. 

It's really beautiful here.

Not just the landscape, but the people as well. 

I am only here in Tana for about a week more. So there are more goodbyes in my near future.

But these pictures and memories will stay with me for the rest of my life. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Providence, not coincidence.

 I am reading Charles Spurgeon's "Faith's Checkbook" devotional, and this was January 30th entry. I read it about 4 hours before I started my journey to Madagascar. God is so amazing. Wherever you are going in life, whether around the globe or down the street, God is with you. Have no fear.

January 30

A Heavenly Escort"And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest"   (Genesis 28:15).

Do we need journeying mercies? Here are choice ones -- God's presence and preservation, In all places we need both of these, and in all places we shall have them if we go at the call of duty, and not merely according to our own fancy. Why should we look upon removal to another country as a sorrowful necessity when it is laid upon us by the divine will? In all lands the believer is equally a pilgrim and a stranger; and yet in every region the LORD is His dwelling place, even as He has been to His saints in all generations. We may miss the protection of an earthly monarch, but when God says, "I will keep thee," we are in no real danger. This is a blessed passport for a traveler and a heavenly escort for an emigrant.

Jacob had never left his father's room before; he had been a mother's boy and not an adventurer tike his brother. Yet he went abroad, and God went with him. He had little luggage and no attendants; yet no prince ever journeyed with a nobler bodyguard. Even while he slept in the open field, angels watched over him, and the LORD God spoke to him. If the LORD bids us go, let us say with our LORD Jesus, "Arise, let us go hence."