January 8, 2011

What a Year!

Posted in Community, Travel, Work tagged , , , , , at 10:42 am by Mo Dardinger

The nearly empty shelves of the library near Lima, serving a whole community. My own overstocked bookshelves, serving mostly to collect dust.

The fall this summer that could have killed me. The sorrow this fall that almost did.

Happy, busy Food for the Hungry staff members crowded together, wearing jackets inside in the cold office. Townhouse hallways and rooms at a perfect temperature, spacious rooms, crowded with possessions rather than with people, topsy turvy.

Women whose husbands work far away all day, managing to keep their families going and even make things better for them. My husband nearby all day and taking care of the laundry, the meals, the patio, the vehicles. How blessed they are with courage and resourcefulness. How blessed I am with companionship and prosperity.

The hard-working women who struggle against poverty and disease and often face domestic violence, learning to cope and to thrive. My efforts to put one foot in front of the other and keep going, get more done for work, be a blessing to those I teach, encourage others, start up neighborhood community.

Children dwelling on the steep hillsides. What happens when they are ill or injured? Does anyone there have a stretcher that two adults could carry a child on, down the hill? How far is the nearest doctor?

Dear Maria, eager to tell us more about the communities, about our FH programmes. Our lack of time, the need to hurry back to the technical tasks we mostly went for. So much I’d like to learn from Maria.

The graduation ceremony. The odd sandwiches we were served, dried chicken with minute fries. The sweet, refreshing tea.

Enjoying visits with three sets of friends on four days on our vacation in the Seattle area. Our excitement in seeing one another. Wondering why my happy, chatty girlfriends live so far away.

The school on the hillside. A start. What one begins with when books and desks are hard to come by. The mothers who developed it, so proud, so determined to make a difference, glad to show it off. Trying to see how my job connects to all this and what difference we at the Phoenix office of FH are making.

Sleeping in while the others exercised, trying to get the energy to be useful while sick. A late lunch of chocolate cake and a salty tube of peanuts and raisins, very tasty.

The Lima office on a holiday, deserted, just us geeks doing some last-minute stuff. Hearing the party next door, the first day of Fiestas Patrias. Music, laughter, the things that make life worth living.

Expecting the 400 varieties of potatoes in Peru to be available in all sorts of imaginative dishes. Finding out that Peruvians are just as stupid as Americans in this regard, thinking French fries count as potatoes. Wondering if I’ll ever make it back to continue the spud hunt.

Being watched over on the trip, and at home, and at work by those who want what’s best for me, who want to see me thrive. Feeling very blessed.

Mourning over a closed door, but rejoicing over the opened window now apparent — friendship within a circle of near neighbors. Not many weeks from now perhaps. Closer all the time, as we meet the neighbors, host the parties, pray for the spread of Truth and Mercy into our corner of the world. Trusting in God’s plan. Quite glad that He allows us glimpses of His wonderful plans — and sometimes allows us see just why His answer to our prayers was No.

These are the memories and reflections that jumble together when I think about the year 2010. It’s a mixed bag of hope, joy, sorrow, courage, and fear.

So . . . what was your year like, my blog readers and friends?

August 7, 2010

Welcome Home

Posted in Community, Spiritual Life tagged , , , at 6:33 pm by Mo Dardinger

Eight days ago I arrived in Houston from Lima, Peru. I stood at the line in Customs and Immigration. When the customs officer was satisfied with my documents and my answers, he told me, “Welcome back.” I mumbled my thanks, then trotted off to collect my baggage. “Welcome back.” It’s a nice way to greet citizens and permanent residents of your country. I wasn’t quite ready to kiss the ground, but I had definitely been looking forward to returning to the US and to my husband and friends. And to the comforts of home — air conditioning in practically every residence, business, and automobile (because we live in the desert southwest); safe water from a tap, not just a bottle; vehicles I can drive, and traffic flow that makes sense; being able to converse with everyone I meet, because they all speak English; my heating pad.

My boss was wrong that the two-day extension for some site-seeing and shopping was a mistake, that I would be ready to come home after just the work portion of the trip. I would have missed out on a lot, on many of my favorite moments of the trip. I was glad to stay the extra days. Sorry that we didn’t get to do more site-seeing, sorry I hadn’t brought more cash and exchanged more dollars for soles.

Why was the official Customs greeting, “Welcome back,” I wondered? Why not “Welcome home”? Probably because a lot of people arriving back in the States will have left loved ones behind in Mexico or Peru or wherever. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, fiances, and fiancees. So a greeting of “Welcome home” might sound discordant, might bring up memories of those left behind. Home, after all, is where the heart is.

I have a different home-coming to prepare for. It will be on a much grander scale than getting to tell a few stories at my small group or in Google Wave or over lunch. My true home awaits me. If I work hard, that is. If I stay true. If I don’t abandon my post under fire. If I remain committed to the Lord through the Great Tribulation or whatever else the enemy throws at me. A big IF. Especially given my history of failure to work hard and to stay joyful.

The home-coming ahead will make all the trials here worth facing. More than worth it. Much more than worth it.

While we were in Peru, we saw a part of the hillside community Nueva Jerusalen II. New Jerusalem with streets of dirt? Floors of bare cement? Tin roofs? That little community on the hill is making the best of what they have, using the materials at hand to build homes and community centers. But the real New Jerusalem will feature streets of pure gold, “like transparent glass.”

More importantly, the souls of those who live there will have been swept clean. No dust, no dirt, no filth of any kind will enter the City.

Our flesh that loves to sin will have been removed. Perfected bodies await us. This place of astounding beauty and exuberant joy will be reserved for the righteous, those made clean by the blood of the Lamb of God, those who do deeds in keeping with their status as saints. The offer is open to all, and some few will accept the offer and render obedience.

Someday — if I do my part while I still can — there will be an ear-splitting cry of, “WELCOME HOME” that reverberates throughout heaven. And it will be for me. For insignificant Mo, who can’t even find a lunch partner most days.

The grandest Being in the Universe is making ready already for my arrival. He will not forget me or fail to care about me. He loves me. He will include me in dances and parties, in feasting, in joyous occasions without number.

Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 10:31-33, ESV)

May the Day of Rejoicing hasten, and yet may I have plenty of time to earn the rewards of the heavenly realm, the rewards that will pay off forever. May I become thoroughly faithful. May I reach the “true home” that my heart so longs for.

June 26, 2010

This Foolish Tourist

Posted in Spiritual Life tagged , , , at 2:18 pm by Mo Dardinger

My parents used to watch the evening news on the CBS network. For a long time, Walter Cronkite was the newscaster. He signed off each evening with, “And that’s the way it is.” Until one night when he leaned too far back in his anchor chair, lost his balance, and almost fell backwards. That evening, he signed off with, “And that’s the way it could have been.” It’s one of those “could have been” moments in my life that forms the subject of this blogpost.

When my dear Dave and I signeddeer up for a cruise to Alaska — my second and his first — neither of us realized what a life-changing adventure it would be. We just tGreat Horned Owlhought we’d study some, since learning to use Logos 4 software was part and parcel of our particular cruise package. We thought we’d observe and photograph immense beauty. We thought we’d have good fellowship and good food. We thought we’d get close to some birds we don’t see where we live. We thought Dave would collect his last three states, would have visited all 50 states in his lifetime. All this we did, but so very much more we did — or maybe the right way to say it is that it was done to us!

Our cruise was 80% pleasurable, 10% boring, and 10% frightening and painful. We studied Logos all day Sunday and Monday until noon. Then we visited Juneau on Monday afternoon, Skagway on Tuesday, and Glacier Bay on Wednesday.

On Thursday, we visited Ketchikan. In Seattle, we’d seen deer up close and a great horned owl. We’d witnessed humpback whales engaged in “bubble net” group feeding outside of Juneau, which is a rare and exciting sight. We’d seen harbor seals and various gulls in Glacier Bay. Now we were hoping to see bald eagles up close and other birds and animals, perhaps even a bear.

Our first stop on the Ketchikan bus tour was uneventful. We saw a salmon ladder, though it wasn’t yet the time for salmon to be leaping upstream. I shot tons of photos, as always. (You’re more likely to get at least a few good ones if you shoot lots. And with digital photography, there’s practically no cost to shooting lots — unlike with the film cameras we grew up with.)

Then we arrived! There were both adult and juvenile bald eagles near enough to get some great pictures of them. Some even flew around in groups. (Do eagles flock?)Bald Eagle

On to our next stop. I snapped a few pictures. A couple of people from our tour were looking at something on the front left side of the parking area. So I wandered over to see what it was. Maybe another eagle, even closer? I never found out. For when I reached the spot, stepping onto the muddy ground for a closer look, my feet slipped out from under me.

I expected to plop on my backside, then get up. But to my surprise, I kept sliding. Next I expected that I would soon get hung up on a bush. But I kept sliding. It was a long slope. How would I stop sliding? What would await me at the bottom? Lots of pain, broken bones, maybe even death.

Realizing my danger at last, I began to roll over, arms facing the slope, to try to grab at bushes or trees. As I turned, I said out loud, “Lord, help me.” I am not a great saint, but the God of the Bible is a great God, full of mercy. He was certainly the only one who could help me at this point. All the folks on our tour were too far off to do me any good. A small plant appeared on my left, and I grabbed for it, but it slipped away.

area where this foolish tourist fell

area where this foolish tourist fell

Then, as I completed my desperate prayer and completed my turn, I saw a rope to my right. I grabbed it. It held. My fall was stopped. The Lord had heard and answered my prayer.

The rope was an inch or more thick and quite sturdy. The tree it was tied to had an 8-inch diameter. Strong enough to hold me as I got my feet under me and started climbing back up.

Someone called down from above to ask how I was. Though I was shaken and bruised, my arms and legs worked. And I was alive! So I called back that I was okay.

I climbed up using the rope and my legs. A strong young man reached down to help me. I asked him if he was secure, as I didn’t want to pull him down the muddy slope, too.

My legs could no longer find any purchase. Nor could my knees. The muddy ground just gave way beneath them. And I’d reached the top of the rope. Now it was up to the young man and his helpers to pull me up the rest of the way.

chief human rescuer

my chief human rescuer (in red t-shirt)

There were many involved in my rescue: Dave from my right, the young man and those holding him from straight ahead, and many angels from on high dispatched to care for this foolish tourist. Praise God for sending so many to help me. Where would I have been without them? Dead or severely injured.

We finished the tour without further excitement. Though why I can’t tell. I should have been, you would think, jumping up and down for joy, even with hurt knees. I should have collected the names and addresses of those who helped me. I should have told everyone how desperately I had prayed and how quickly God’s answer came. But I didn’t. Dave and I are passive, often too passive. And we process things slowly.

I could tell I’d have a great story to tell back home. And I knew my knees were hurt, so I should take it easy, get some prayer, and possibly seek medical attention.

My gratitude to God is real, though, just not expressed quickly or loudly. My gratitude includes the fact that the iPhone in my pocket didn’t slip out or get broken. The camera around my neck was still okay. The purse around my neck and shoulder stayed shut. My new passport in the purse was okay. I think I lost two tissues and a lipstick from my pockets — nothing huge, nothing hard to replace.

Muddy Mo

Muddy Mo at Saxman Totem Village

Back on our ship, we ate lunch and sent an email to three friends in our small group to get some prayer going. Then we had our stateroom steward bring some ice, and I rested my knees. Dave went off to do laundry while I re-watched “The Young Victoria,” a film about Queen Victoria’s youth and first year or two on the throne. My aches and pains became more evident as the afternoon wore on. It reached the point where I could no longer stand without lots on pain, particularly in my right knee. Dave had to help me hobble to the head in our stateroom. We paged our steward for a wheelchair, waited for the medical clinic to re-open, and paid them a visit.

Dave taking good care of Mo

Dave takes good care of Mo

It took a long time to get seen as there were a slew of crew members and other passengers also seeking attention. But we received excellent care from the doctor and nurses from South Africa. The x-rays showed no broken bones. They treated both knees with Deep Heat, gave me an injection for the pain and swelling, and supplied me with two kinds of pills. My left knee got a urethane brace, while my right knee was heavily bandaged. I was told to sleep with a pillow between my knees and to let Dave wheel me around as much as possible.

By evening the next day, I was greatly improved. I could walk on my own some, though with some pain. We kept using the wheelchair until we left the ship and at the airports on the way back.

Getting up from a sitting position is still more of a bother than it used to be. Soon I’ll see my primary care physician for her take on my injuries and what else may need to be done. Also soon, I hope and pray, I’ll come to a greater realization of just what “might have been” versus what “was and is” — and praise and thank the Lord more fervently for His protection of this foolish tourist.