African outfits

African outfits
Our crazy family

Saturday, October 29, 2011


At the bridge

Who is Wilson??

Wilson's Home and Family
In 2005 Marie and I (Drew) went to Kenya on a 2 week short term mission trip to Kenya with Wycliffe Associates.  We went to a property they owned and were turning into a retreat/conference center.  Imagine your church or work is having a weekend retreat and renting the facilities of a YMCA camp or a church camp a little ways out of the city, that kind of place just a short distance outside of Nairobi. Then the facility could be used to generate income instead of just being an expense.  About a 1/4 mile down the road from the compound entrance was a little stream. most of the year cars could drive through it to go to the conference center. During the rainy season however, the stream was too deep, and too wide.  That turned a 1/2 hour trip to and from the city into a much longer trip.  In the African countryside, when the main road is shut down, finding another route is a little more involved than just going the other way around the block.  Not good for a retreat center business.

Having a background in concrete,  I was assigned to work on the little bridge.  They had hired a number of local men from a small nearby village to accomplish a lot of the construction that had been going on and the guys were mostly working on the bridge at this point because it was the most labor intensive thing happening. These guys had done an amazing job of hand hewing rock faced block out of small boulders(with hammers and chisels) and building some beautiful dorm buildings. Apparently however, no one had formed concrete up in the air. (Except the regional construction manger who had an engineering degree - but not the time to stay on one project.)  It's one thing to stake some 2" X 4"s into the ground and pour a sidewalk.  The wall that is behind Wilson and I in the "At the Bridge" picture however, would weigh about as much as 8 or 9 Chevy Suburbans.  To hold this much weight up in the air, you need to know what you're doing. Especially when the materials you're working with are what we would have used in America about 100 yrs ago.  The trip planners were happy "a concrete guy"  was on the trip that could form the first vertical wall and hopefully teach some one else to continue after the team left.

Last Day
Now we get to Wilson. Wilson(first name) was one of local guys working at the compound.  We met the the first day I worked on the bridge and hit it off from the start.  Wilson is also a believer and frequently would say "It is written . . . ."  and quote scripture, simply as a part of his normal everyday self.  He was filled with a joyful outlook on life, was encouraging to be around, and was a diligent hard worker.  Wilson was married and had 3 kids.  He invited Marie and I and a few others to his home to see his house that he was so proud of and meet his family.  When we got there we were warmly welcomed and noticed a few things as soon as we approached  and entered. First, Wilson's house, which was very nice by the standards of the average persons dwelling, is most easily described as a concrete block single car garage.  Second, when we entered the house we immediately could not miss the scripture verses written in chalk near the top of the walls all around the house.  Have you ever met someone who says "Jesus is my everything" or  "His word sustains me"??  I've often wondered how many times that's just Sunday morning Christian talk. Do they really mean it??  What does that really look like??  Travel with me to Kenya and I can introduce you to the real thing.  His name is Wilson.  Wilson was incredibly thankful for God's provision for his family.  Wilson made about $3 or $4 a day at his full time job with which to provide for that family.

Back to the bridge.  Seeing that Wilson and I hit it off so well and knowing his hard working diligence, Wilson basically got assigned to work with me on forming the wall.  Wilson, like many people (even 10 yr olds) in Africa can converse in 3 languages Swahili, English, and the  local tribal language.  And we can think we are so smart if we know 20 words of Spanish.  He hadn't, however, been to college or had any real form of what we would call "higher education".  But Wilson was a "sponge" for learning.  Forming Concrete "up in the air"  is basically a real life lesson in the physics of  masses and forces.  If a 20,000 lb section of your wall (and the lumber holding it) blows out or falls over it can get really expensive fast and can really injure someone.  Wilson and I were side by side for several days, and I did all I could to teach him about the foundation principles of containing that much mass and that much force.  To try and get him to follow the domino effect of "This is exerting force there, and it's traveling through this to that, so we must also brace here . . .    When you pour  the concrete,  watch here, if there is a weakness, it will be the first place to move . . ." and so on.  So much information, so little time.  Such a deep friendship, so little time

There were other things to be accomplished before Wilson and I formed the wall and I had to leave just a few work days before the pour.  I was actually really bummed to not be there for it.  I was told by e-mail that all went well and the forms held.  I was also told that Wilson, who learned in a week what it would usually take me a whole season to teach someone,  got what to him was a pretty big raise and was made the main forming guy for the rest of the project.  That was 6 years ago and in our fast pace american life that we live, I haven't inquired about Wilson for a few years.  Last I heard he was still a trusted foreman type employee who was joyfully thankful for a full time job that paid him for a days work what we could spend for a "lunch on the go".  He was still a living example of "Jesus is my everything" and "His word sustains me".  So little time, so much impact.  I still haven't figured out who's life was impacted more. Wilson and his family's, or mine?  Probably mine.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Top 10 Fears

The scriptures tell us over and over to "Fear Not", but the reality is we all have fears if we are honest.  Recently our Pastor Doug asked if our family would be willing to share our fears during his series on "Living Courageously".  Our first reaction was that we don't feel courageous and we  don't have very many fears.  Our trip to Africa just seems like a big adventure.  Trusting that Pastor Doug must have a reason for wanting us to share our story we decided to have a brainstorming session on what we might fear.  It was so good for us to do this because it made us realize we do have fears.  I don't believe God wants us to shove our fears down and pretend like they don't exist but to acknowledge fear and give it to Jesus.  I Peter 5:7 "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

Pastor Doug's series on "Living Courageously" can be found in full by following the link below to Evergreen Community Church New Hope and check out their media section.  The day we shared he was talking about doing something CRAZY for God.  We definitely fit the "crazy" category.

 Here is a list of our families top 10 fears and who shared that fear.

10.  Levi is fearful of having an injury while in Cameroon and having to visit an emergency room.  With his track record of injuries this is a very real fear.  Please pray for protection for him and our whole team.

9.  Levi also has a fear that our plane will crash.  The kids have never been on an airplane so they feel a little anxious about this.  However, Levi did say that he would prefer the plane crash to going to an emergency room.  His reasoning is that if he dies he'll be ushered into the presence of Jesus and if he's in an emergency room it could be scary.

8.  Ellie is worried about being away from her friends for so long.

7.  Ellie is afraid of the unknown - not knowing what it will be like to be in another country, what kind of toilets we might have to use... and all the other stuff she doesn't know.

6.  Kyle has no fear but will miss playing piano every day  because this is how he worships.

5.  I (Marie) have practical fears:  Once the team leaves we will no longer be taken care of  with meals and laundry.  I believe I will have to prepare all of our meals and the food will be different then what we have here.  The laundry will need to be line dried, which wouldn't be that big of a deal.  Unfortunately, Tracey Hagman told me that in Africa there are moths or something that lay their eggs on laundry.  Body heat warms the eggs and the larvae burrow under your skin.  When we went to Kenya it was only 2 weeks so I made sure to have enough underwear for the whole time.  I think it is unrealistic to bring each of us 73 pairs of underwear... so I guess I will have undies hanging all over our bathroom.

4.  I do fear that I will get all caught up in doing this for the sake of the "purpose" rather than going on this trip because God is leading us.  I don't want to miss anything that He is trying to show me because I have my eyes on the wrong things.

3.  I fear that God might call us to go somewhere more permanently... and we would have to go because what I really fear is NOT obeying God.

2.  Drew fears that he will be asked to do something way beyond his skills or knowledge and that he will not meet their expectations.

1.  Our main fear for both Drew and I is that when we return from this amazing trip our old life will no longer make sense.  That we will be completely discontent with the way things are.  Really we want to be changed, but what does that look like?
We are just an ordinary family that is following an extraordinary and amazing God.... to the ends of the Earth if He asks us.  Our story is really about Him and how he can use anyone if we open our eyes to what He is doing.

This prayer is from 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12a:  "We keep on praying that our God will make us worthy of the life to which He called us.  We pray that God, by His power, will fulfill all our good intentions and faithful deeds.  Then everyone will give honor to the name of our Lord Jesus because of us"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why Africa?

The whole reason I've started blogging is so that I can keep people informed about our activities in Africa.  I figure that I better know what I am doing before we set out or it might not happen.  That being said, I'll give you a little background on our decision to take our family to Africa.
Back in 2005, our church had a team go to Kenya to work with Wycliffe Associates.  Eric and Tracey Hagman are missionaries in Kenya and our trip was in part to support and encourage them because their family was originally from Evergreen Community Church.  Drew and I were on that team and it really was life changing.  There is something about working alongside these people who had very little, yet more joy than I could even imagine.  It was inspiring and humbling to  listen to them thank God for all their riches and quote scripture knowing they were truly Words of Life.  I realize in a 2 week trip you get the "honeymoon" version of what a country is like but we were determined to return to Africa.  As we talked we decided that when our kids were old enough we would come back to Africa with them so that they could experience this first hand.  When Chris was younger we had gone on a mission trip with him to Honduras and found that to be a very worthwhile investment.  So our plan was made and life went on.

Fast forward 6 years, to January 2011.  The economy has been in a several year slump and we are feeling it.  Drew works in seasonal construction and has to worker harder than ever for less money than ever.  We're doing okay but it's definitely by the grace of God and we surely don't have EXTRA.  One day as I was praying for our friends in Africa while walking on my treadmill this thought came blazing into my mind.  "If you are ever going to take your kids back to Africa like you said, the time is now."  It was that clear.  Being the logical one that I am, all I could think was - That would be impossible.  Right about then, the song came on with the line "He can move a mountain..."  Wow, did I believe that God could move a mountain?  I felt really challenged by that thought as I prayed more about the possibility of us taking our kids to Africa.  In my mind, I pictured just the 5 of us going and staying near Eric and Tracey.  I thought the kids and I could work at Heshima with Tracey, and Drew could do construction with Eric.  We had been there before so it didn't seem too risky.

Once I had this great idea figured out in my head I went upstairs to talk to Drew about it.  Now here is what I love about this man.  He could have laughed at me or said "No way" or just ignored me.  He looked at me and said "Wow, that would be great.  You're right, there is no way we could do that without God making a way for us to.  I think we should pray as a family for 2 weeks and see if we still should move forward."
So we prayed and prayed (all 5 of us) for 2 weeks.  At the end of the 2 weeks we sent an email to Eric to see if it would even work.  He copied our email on to Michael Wahl with Wycliffe Associate (Volunteer Coordinator).  We laid our plans before the Lord and he took our willingness.  Michael called us right away and said it wouldn't work for us to go to Kenya but would we consider going to Cameroon?  Cameroon sounded almost as good, since we had another couple from our church moving there.  Then he asked if we could get a team together...Okay.  This wasn't really what we had in mind but our good friends Jon and Julie Sybrant agreed to co-lead a team with us.  There are 16 people in our team!  We thought we were just dipping our toes into the water to see if there was a need and suddenly things are happening.  We still had no idea where we would come up with the money.

Well, I'm here to say that God really can move a mountain when it is part of His plan.  We had prayed for things before that just seemed to go on empty ears after years of laying it before God.  I don't know why this is so important to Him or even why he would chose to use me and my family - I'm just along for the ride.  With each step of faith we have taken on this journey the money has come in at just the right time.  We have been blown away with the generosity of people, some we don't even know!  The more we planned the clearer it became to us that we should stay longer than the team.  There are a lot of projects going on in Cameroon and we have the time.  The biggest expense is the airline tickets so in our mind we might as well get our moneys worth and stay until mid-March.  Since making this decision to stay 10 1/2 weeks I have heard a few different speakers talk about the 6 week point being very difficult in a new land.  I really believe this is going to bring us closer as a family and cause us to cling to Jesus in a whole new way.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thoughts on Parenting

I had this epiphany the other day: So much of who I am is wrapped up in being a Mom, which in my case is homeschooling and raising my kids. I can hardly think of myself outside of those terms. I'm sure this is why I can start feeling anxious when I think time is going by at warp speed and I realize I can't slow it down. We really only have a handful of years left with our kids at home. Have I done enough to help them prepare for life? What will I do when they are all gone? Then it hit me, my overall purpose will not change. My purpose all along has been to live my life to give God glory and to be faithful with the job he has given me. For the past 23 years, my full time job has been being Mom to my 4 kids. My job will change but I'm confident that God will make my new job just as clear. Ephesians 2:10 says "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
Being a Mom has definitely been the most fulfilling thing I have done... and also the most challenging. It seems my failures have taught me far more than actually getting it right the first time. When Drew and I married, I was a single Mom with a 5 year old son (Chris). Being a young Mom I really did strive to do my best, but looking back I could have done so much better for him. Hind sight is 20/20 and the reality is, I did the best with what I knew. Good thing Chris is blessed with a great sense of humor because we often refer to him as our "experimental child". The poor first born, what they have to put up with.
Not long ago, I dropped by the worksite where I was suppose to meet Drew. He was not there but I chatted with the homeowner for a few minutes. She told me there were just 2 men there and I realized one of them was Chris. I told her that Chris was my son. She looked at me with this huge smile and said "He's your son? What a nice young man he is!" That warmed this Mom's heart! We have had some long hard years with him and it's so encouraging to be seeing the other side of those hard times.
Drew and I have had the advantage of having 8 years between our eldest and the next child. We've been able to look at what we wished we would have done better and what we think we did right. We also realized we better get it right because our last 3 are all just 3 years and 3 months apart. I don't dwell too much on my failures - I really see them as opportunities for me to change.

Here are some lessons we have learned:
1. Make the most of the time I have with my kids - it does go by fast!
2. Live according to our own convictions - not what other people think is best.
3. Surround ourselves with like minded families.
4. Treat my kids the way I want to be treated.
5. See them each as unique individuals - enjoy how God created them.
6. When I hurt them or fail, be quick to ask forgiveness and get our relationship right!
7. Let natural consequences teach them - resist the urge to bail them out before the lesson is learned.
8. Pray with them and for them.
9. Be united as a team (Drew and I).
10. Show them in the way we live that God really is our Everything!
Psalm 90:12 "Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom." I realize I still have much to learn and I'm thankful to have the opportunity to raise these kids to make a difference in this world. As they are all becoming young people, capable of doing so much, it's easy to think that my job is done. I don't want to prematurely let go of the wheel. I want to finish strong this job marked out for me. I realize we're shifting to more of a coaching role so I guess I better brush up on my coaching skills.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Drew & Marie Petersen

If you are interested in giving towards our trip click on this link.  All donations are tax deductible.
Drew & Marie Petersen: P /P

Change is hard

I tried doing a blog some years back and never got very far. Today I'm attempting it again and I'm coming up with the same frustrations. I've kept a journal for years - it's so easy, pick up a pen and write whatever comes to my mind. I thought this would be the same but honestly it has taken me so long to get to this point that my mind is empty. The only reason I'm willing to not scrap the whole thing is because I have had so many requests from friends to keep them posted on our journey to Africa. We leave in 10 1/2 weeks - hopefully this will get easier before that day comes. I don't really think we are all that interesting but I do know that we will be in need of prayer. My hope is that I can keep the interest up enough that we will have an army of friends lifting us up in prayer. I have no idea specifically what we will be doing in Africa - being flexible is part of the journey. We will be doing construction work of some kind. Actually, they don't need us to do the construction work, there are many local people that would be capable. We are really going to serve alongside those who have given their lives to advance the Word of God into the language of the 180 people groups of Cameroon that do not have the Bible in their native tongue. Our hope is that we can encourage even one family that has given up everything to live without regret, fully surrendered to the call God has put on their life. The full time missionaries are the real heroes. In 10 1/2 weeks we will return to our home, to our comfy life.... but then what? I want to live my life without regret. What will that look like for us?