Cast Off and Anchors Aweigh, My Boys!

I got my cast off this week! (Still limping and afraid to walk, though.) :/

I got my cast off this week! (Still limping and afraid to walk, though.) :/

We’re feeling a sense of relief and excitement this week as we see the end of our school year approaching. It’s so fun to be able to “check off the box” for a subject that final time for the year. Of course, part of our excitement is due to our upcoming vacation. A friend gave us a place to stay in Durban for about 10 days right next to the Indian Ocean! Yes, we are suffering missionaries.

I still expected about three, maybe four weeks to finish our school year after our vacation; but let me share (cuz I’m so pumped) what we’ve finished this week. First, Colin finished his ABeka phonics and handwriting lessons for the year.

All that kindergarten work tuckered me out.

All that kindergarten work tuckered me out.

I decided to continue practicing with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons rather than jump into ABeka’s 1st grade phonics. We quit 100 EZ when he started ABeka kindergarten, so we just picked up where we’d left off in 4-year old preschool. It was getting very difficult for him when we stopped in preschool (about lesson 40), but now it’s much easier, of course. He flew through six lessons this week. We also will continue some handwriting with his kindergarten writing tablet from ABeka, which I usually cut out during the year, because ABeka is heavy on handwriting (all opinions my own!)

Caleb still has about three weeks left of phonics lessons; but when he saw Colin finish his workbook, he got in the mood and finished his 2nd grade workbook. We will still finish most of his lessons, however. He wanted to work ahead in handwriting as well, but I decided that would defeat the purpose of daily practice.

Two finished lapbooks for Apologia Swimming Creatures.

Two finished lapbooks for Apologia Swimming Creatures.

Making jellyfish for our ocean box.

Making jellyfish for our ocean box.

Instead, we doubled and tripled our work in science and finished our book! I remember thinking at the beginning of the year that we wouldn’t be able to finish it, because Caleb’s attention span wouldn’t handle such long and technical readings. But he has matured, and while it is still too technical for lower elementary at times, we managed to complete all thirteen chapters. This chapter was a catch-all: water worms, sponges, and microscopic water animals. Science is my least favorite subject (and probably Caleb’s favorite), so I am glad to be done for the year.

Our finished ocean box: isn't it bee-yoo-ti-ful!

Our finished ocean box: isn’t it bee-yoo-ti-ful!

Since we borrowed this textbook from a friend, we are returning it with some handmade thank you cards and cookies. We spent a lot of time drawing different sea creatures for our cards–sharks, frogs, hermit crabs, and an angler fish. I’m happy with how they turned out; it was worth the time.

Colin's card is left (plankton and frog); mine on top--oops, the froglet is 1/2 the size of the shark! and science text and Caleb's card.

Colin’s card is left (plankton and frog); mine on top–oops, the froglet is 1/2 the size of the shark! and science text and Caleb’s card.

In history this week we met Shakespeare–who needs his first name? The bard has been a household name since the Elizabethan Age and has greatly impacted the English language. Caleb read a children’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which had lovely pictures and was slightly challenging for his reading level. (I’d love to have more Shakespeare works by Coville, but they’re kinda pricey; this one is rather cheap, though.) But I read another children’s version aloud from Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare, so it helped him to understand the story first. We tried to read aloud Macbeth, but starting out with Shakespeare’s tragedies isn’t endearing to sensitive children. After introducing Shakespeare with Midsummer, I then read Hamlet from Beautiful Stories, and the boys were okay with everyone dying at the end of that one. For fun, the boys disguised themselves with branches and tried to sneak up on the house, like the finale of Macbeth. Caleb also began memorizing a short speech from Macbeth.

October 31 is Reformation Day, though most people will remember Halloween. Our church will recognize it with a normal service, including some special music and a little history lesson. Our people know nothing of how the Reformation impacted church history, so (even if we are Baptist) it will be good for them to hear another emphasis on the Five Solas in a time when those are under attack here in Africa by the prosperity gospel.

Then we’re off and away to the sea! I hope to take the boys to an aquarium in Durban to catch a glimpse of some of the creatures we studied this year. I also hope to comb the beach for some shells. Caleb has memorized a poem called “The Legend of the Sand Dollar,” (this was included in Apologia’s textbook) so I would love it if we could find a sand dollar! Please pray for the safety of our house if you think of it!

Caleb's card, inside. There's a hermit crab on the bottom right.

Caleb’s card, inside. There’s a hermit crab on the bottom right.

 

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Contradictory South Africa

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This is a perfect example of the inconsistencies we’ve found in South Africa. Right under their logo, Liquor City puts a prayer: “God bless South Africa.” While Europe beats the world for alcohol consumption, South Africa is a close follower and ranks as the highest-drinking country in Africa.

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The Pastor’s Paycheck ~ A Prayer Request

My husband has been preaching through 1 Corinthians this year, and yesterday he arrived at the first half of chapter nine in which the apostle Paul challenges the Corinthians over their lack of financial support for him. We deem this lesson crucial to our baby believers as well; yet we are reticent to preach on the topic unless it comes up naturally through the course of expositional preaching, as it did yesterday.

This passage of Scripture is crucial to a baby church plant because, as I explained to my son last night, “If we want to move on to plant other churches, we must make sure this church is strong first and able to stand on its own. And if we want this church to stand on its own, it must be able to pay its own pastor.”

We are reticent to preach on this topic for two major reasons:

  • the prosperity gospel and
  • the people’s poverty

The prosperity gospel has burned over much of southern Africa. False pastors, syncretistic churches, and money-making miracle crusades are everywhere in Africa–copying to the extreme the abuses they see on TBN. Every one of those pastors preaches weekly about the tithe or makes big ordeals out of the collection of the offerings and rewards big givers through promises or status symbols. The church is big business over here. In fact, so many of the other churches are like that that we and our church members  simply describe them as “money churches.” Thus an obvious, major difference between our church and the prosperity churches is that we DON’T talk a lot about money.

So we feel we must avoid those topics so as to not be joined in a group we consider heretical and detrimental to the Gospel; and when we do address the giving of church members, we sometimes feel that we have to add a lot of disclaimers to enumerate the differences between what we’re preaching and what they say.

Poverty is obviously another big problem. How can they be expected to support their pastors when they have barely enough to live on? Would we want to live on that much?

The issue of poverty is complicated by the centuries of vast amounts of aid Africa has received through the years. The Africans get so MUCH welfare and yet seem to feel that it’s not enough. So it might not occur to them to live sacrificially and plan a budget in order to pay their pastor. After all, so many needs are met from outside them. Why would this need be met from within them?

So one of the questions Seth asked the church yesterday in his sermon was, “If a church can’t support its pastor, is it sinning?” What do you think? Tough question. The answer could certainly be yes; but it could possibly be no as well, if the church were too poor to support its pastor yet tried wholeheartedly to support him more than they supported self-comforts.

There are so many other questions that can be included in this issue. For example, should our poor, small church try to support us with whatever finances they can? At first I said no, because we are church planting missionaries, which is not the same thing as a pastor. But my husband reminded me that the apostle Paul was also a missionary when he assumed the Corinthians should support him.

Please pray for your church planting missionaries around the world, because they cannot leave their churches and begin new works until the churches are selfish, meaning that they have the “Three Selfs”:

  • Self-supporting
  • Self-governing
  • Self-propagating

and supporting their pastor includes two of those points. We need a change in their cultures and worldviews to allow for sacrificial giving to their pastor (and to missions). At times this seems like an impossible task indeed, but God can do what seems impossible!

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When Cures Hurt

African version of snow: hail! What a storm we had yesterday.

African version of snow: hail! What a storm we had yesterday.

Ah, a “normal” week. I went to church on the weekend, homeschooled my children five days, and prepared to teach a women’s Bible study tomorrow on meekness. Anytime I prepare for the ladies’ Bible study, my time for writing at Ita Vita suffers. But my lesson prep is done, so I type this weekly update to the background of my neighbor blaring an interesting electrified African CD of “Gimme Dat Ol’ Time Religion,” interspersed with occasional “Beep-boops” and syncopated “doots.” Unfortunately, our neighbor is not interested in old-time religion.

Colin finished reading his last official kindergarten reading book this week! We celebrated with brownies. I made sure to have a share of the chocolate too. (Since I endured the teaching, right?) We came up with a new idea for motivation when his mind is wandering rather than focusing on his handwriting papers, which are his enemy. I don’t want to always be nagging. So I laid a row of jelly beans in front of his paper, and anytime he didn’t focus on his work, I snagged one and put it away. I can’t say this idea is working very well yet! But I hope with time it will at least show him how often his mind wanders and help him with the character trait of attentiveness.

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The boys finished a chapter on cnidarians (jellyfish, anemones, and corals, etc.) in science this week. We did a demonstration (can’t fairly call it an experiment, but calling it a demonstration is a stretch too, as I’ll explain…) on how currents in the sea can be caused by cooler water below and hot water on the top; thus the cnidarians and zooplankton float through the water on these currents. The demonstration didn’t really work, but I’ll blame it on not having the correct ingredients? We needed a fruit popsicle preferably made from real fruit like Edy’s frozen fruit bar, and ours was very far from being anything real. It was all we could find. But my cynical side did snicker inwardly at yet another failed science “experiment.” Caleb was supposed to write what he learned from it. “Caleb, what did you learn?” Nothing. “Okay, repeat after me… [this is what you were supposed to learn...]“

In history we learned about Good Queen Bess. I really didn’t know or remember anything about the Elizabethan Age. Very interesting! Caleb is reading a biography called Who Was Queen Elizabeth? It is interesting and at a perfect reading level! I had heard of this series of biographies before called Who Was __?, but hadn’t read any yet. I would love to have more from this series. This seems an excellent series for biographies for lower elementary (even upper could read it for a quick biography). There are pictures, nice size of font, not too difficult vocabulary yet challenging for a 2nd grader, call-out boxes on related topics (some examples from this one: the Plague, the Tower of London, Sir Francis Drake, Martin Luther, etc.), interesting details, and not too long.

In order from top: egg yolk/vinegar/flower petal cure, crushed ruby and emerald cure (crushed candies), live spider covered in honey cure, lettuce tea to induce sleep, and "cow manure" poultice.

In order from top: egg yolk/vinegar/flower petal cure, crushed ruby and emerald cure (crushed candies), live spider covered in honey cure, lettuce tea to induce sleep, and “cow manure” poultice.

Flower petal treatment for their "sores."

Flower petal treatment for their “sores.”

For a fun history project we performed some Renaissance cures (loosely related to all the strange treatments doctors gave Edward VI) for sore limbs, inflammation, to induce sleep, to give energy, and treat sores. I felt SO bad though, because the “cow manure poultice” (the chocolate no-bake cookies) was still too hot, and I barely burned Caleb’s wrist! So much for a cure! Or fun! Anyway, he felt a little better when he got to eat the poultice. Poor kid.

No thank you to the lettuce tea!

No thank you to the lettuce tea!

Self-education: I read some more of Don Quixote this week. It’s gotten a bit more interesting, if unbelievable. Seth and I ditched reading Bulfinch’s Mythology together at his request and began Cry, the Beloved Country (a novel placed in South Africa.) Seth finished reviewing When Helping Hurts and disagreed with enough of it to title his review When Hurting Helps. I decided to play along and title this article in the same vein.

What are you reading lately?

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Shelob’s Sister?

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Laughter Is Really Serious

A long time ago when someone was interested in possibly joining our ministry here, our team compiled a list of what we thought were missionary “essentials” in order for our team to work well. If you wanted to join our team, we hoped that you would agree with these essentials and have them in your own life. Since then, I’ve sometimes thought of other “essentials,” or at least, good-to-haves. I thought I’d share them with you when the mood strikes.

So what makes a good missionary?

One of the original points on the list was a sense of humor. We were not made to carry the gravity of the most serious task in the world without a break of merriment. Steel can only be stressed so long and so hard. Now this point does not require that you would be expected to perform extemporaneous stand-up comedian routines, but can you recognize humor and have an appropriate sense of humor?

This is actually an important issue in team ministry. What we laugh about says a lot about us. Likewise, what a culture in general finds funny communicates their worldview and character. So in a mission team, when there is only one other person or couple in your large area who understands both your home culture and your host culture, it can be extremely frustrating if the teammate laughs at things that you deem un-funny, or highly disappointing if they don’t see the humor in something you find obviously hilarious. In fact, we can get very angry about what others laugh at or don’t laugh at.

You won’t be sorry if you read this very long quote that says this much better than I can:

…I propose to cut through it by considering one of the raw materials from which culture is built, namely laughter. All rational beings laugh–and maybe only rational beings laugh. And all rational beings benefit from laughing. As a result there has emerged a peculiar human institution–that of the joke, the repeatable performance in words or gestures that is designed as an object of laughter.

Now there is a great difficulty in saying exactly what laughter is. It is not just a sound….Nor is it just a thought, like the thought of some object as incongruous. It is a response to something, which also involves a judgment of that thing. Moreover, it is not an individual peculiarity….Laughter is an expression of amusement. Laughter begins as a collective condition, as when children giggle together over some absurdity. And in adulthood amusement remains one of the ways in which human beings enjoy each other’s company, become reconciled to their differences, and accept their common lot. Laughter helps us to overcome our isolation and fortifies us against despair.

That does not mean that laughter is subjective in the sense that “anything goes,” or that it is uncritical of its object. On the contrary, jokes are the object of fierce disputes, and many are dismissed as “not funny,” “in bad taste,” “offensive,” and so on. The habit of laughing at things is not detachable from the habit of judging things to be worthy of laughter. Indeed, amusement, although a spontaneous outflow of social emotion, is also the most frequently practiced form of judgment. To laugh at something is already to judge it, and when we refrain from laughing at what someone nevertheless believes to be funny, we may thereby show our disapproval of that person’s stance.

~Roger Scruton in Culture Counts, pgs. 6-7

When stressful events rain down all at once like it’s trial monsoon season or it seems like your life is an all-too-frequent example of Murphy’s Law (we had nine machines break in a short period of time one year–car, fridge, stove blew up, etc.), sometimes you have to crack a sarcastic joke about it.

When you’re going nuts because of some element of the host culture that you’re not used to or even think is rude, sometimes it is cathartic to laugh with your teammates until the tears come to your eyes at the unexpectedness of this or that happening. Just keeps you sane sometimes and helps to release the anger or bitterness that shouldn’t be there.

Those are examples of how you might laugh at events out of your control, such as elements of your host culture. But being able to laugh at yourself is perhaps even more important. Isn’t that really an element of humility? To be able to laugh at yourself when you make a language mistake or harmless cultural gaffe or have a most embarrassing moment on furlough, etc., is very important as well. Be humble, and laugh at yourself.

I was embarrassed to see this proof of my failure to tie my baby to my back African style that my teammates took of me while I was keeping score at a Bible Quiz tournament. But it WAS funny!

I was embarrassed to see this proof of my failure to tie my baby to my back African style that my teammates took of me while I was keeping score at a Bible Quiz tournament. But it WAS funny!

Seth has tried before to pin down what people may universally find funny, and he came up with this: “Connecting two things in an unexpected way.” You weren’t expecting those two ideas to be put together like that. Let me give you one example recently that our team found funny in our host culture because it was unexpected. There is danger in giving examples because someone may miss my main point in shooting down the example, but here goes:

Recently our team laughed until there were tears in our eyes over someone’s account and imitation of a song blared at his house. Here is an event that frustrated the missionary couple: neighbors 20 meters away put up 4-foot high speakers and blared an inane, offensive song so loudly in the direction of their house that the speakers went staticky; and this continued for hours, including the kids’ naptimes. (I’m sure this is a common issue for missionaries, not only in Africa.) Now, this is actually a very frustrating occurrence, and we began by expressing our sympathy for them. The funny part was when the narrator told us, and then imitated, what was in the song: belching.

Completely unexpected. Songs and belching don’t go together. Add to that volume. These Africans liked this music so much, they wanted it to be heard loudly by everyone! Who produces this music??? It’s just…funny.

Now some people at this point may object. “You’re judging their culture. You’re laughing at them!” Our politically correct culture doesn’t like to laugh at other people’s cultures. But as that quote above begins to express, we are making judgments all the time in what we laugh at. Every culture does this. Some things shouldn’t or can’t be laughed about. For example, when someone is hurt or when something is sinful, we shouldn’t laugh at those things. Some people have a cutting sense of humor that only makes fun of others in a belittling or demeaning way. That’s inappropriate. But some things can and should be laughed at.

And that brings me to the next objection: “Are you saying someone shouldn’t be a missionary if they don’t have a sense of humor? What if they just don’t have the same sense of humor as you?” Exactly. This is the issue.

It isn’t enough to say that the teammate must have a sense of humor. Even though we may judge another person with the statement, “He doesn’t have a sense of humor,” what we mean is, “He doesn’t appreciate my sense of humor.” Or “I don’t appreciate his sense of humor.” So that is the key. Can that teammate laugh at things that you deem important to laugh at? Can she laugh at herself? Can you laugh together over similar things without one squirming with discomfort or another blankly staring in misunderstanding?

Remember that excellent quote above: “And in adulthood amusement remains one of the ways in which human beings enjoy each other’s company, become reconciled to their differences, and accept their common lot. Laughter helps us to overcome our isolation and fortifies us against despair.”

Yes, some things shouldn’t be laughed at. But on the other hand, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”

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Belated October Goals

I keep getting later with my goals’ posts. Guess that’s typical for the end of the year, right? I almost didn’t do it this month, but I’ll try to just go fast. Here’s my online accountability group for this year. Here are my goals for the year and my specific September goals.

My September goals were very basic: to survive the first part of the month and thrive for the second part of the month. Well, I’ll admit that in one sense I did not thrive; I had some disappointing health issues that just got resolved this week. I was very happy that I still managed to get the basics of homeschooling done for several weeks in spite of that.

Ministry

September: prepare for a big service on the 21st at our teammates’ church.

October:

  • might need to make more lip balm!
  • Plan another ladies’ Bible study on meekness before we leave for vacation at the end of the month!

Marriage

Focus on being positive and affirming this month. Plan ahead for some special things he’d like for vacation.

Children

Focus on two good weeks of homeschooling before we go on vacation. Work on consistent discipline. Get Carson’s cast off!

Homeschooling

  • Make some copywork examples for Colin’s ABeka K5 Writing Tablet.
  • Get back to doing some of the special extras in our week.
  • Organize some books that might excite Caleb about reading more.

Personal

Begin seriously exercising and dieting. My health concerns and having visitors for essentially three months have ruined all good that had been done before. To be honest, I look terrible. I must be on My Fitness Pal daily. Anyone want to “friend” me to encourage me? :)

Self-Education

Here’s my tentative reading list for 2014.

I finished up to page 400 of Don Quixote today! Small triumph for a 1,000 page book, but whew! What a slog. I have continued reading several kids’ fantasy books, which was fun: The High King and The Book of Three from The Chronicles of Prydain series, Beyond the Valley of Thorns (book #2 in The Land of Elyon series–now I want book #3!), The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, and book #3 in The Aedyn Chronicles. I also began How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare (we are almost to Shakespeare in our history and lit studies!), I finished 2/3 of In Your Hands (a parent guide for the My Book House series), and began The Seven Laws of Teaching, as well as reading one more chapter in The Core. I finished a free booklet from Simply Charlotte Mason called something about Getting Started in Homeschooling, and began Smooth and Easy Days.

Of course that all looks impressive, but it’s almost a month and a half’s worth, including time when I was sick on my bed. So… next month probably won’t look as impressive. I hope to get to page 500 in DQ, finish How to Teach Shakespeare and In Your Hands and Smooth and Easy Days, and maybe The Core, and then just have some fun reading a Christian fiction novel during vacation, which begins the last week of October! I’ll be very excited when I can get my brain caught up from the past and looking forward to that vacation. Seth and I have just begun reading Bulfinch’s Mythology together as well.

How are your 2014 goals going? Still going?

My new cast! It was put on just before we left for our tourist trip.

My new cast! It was put on just before we left for our tourist trip.

Creative K Kids

 

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