Saturday, July 18, 2015

Should we stay or should we go?

Life here has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster these past few weeks as there have been 2 suicide bomb attacks here in the city, quite close to our compound (about a 5 minute drive for both of them). The first one was targeting the police station and a police training academy, then the most recent incident was this past saturday morning at the central market. There has been no official claim of responsibility from any terrorist organization but intelligence strongly suspects Boko Haram as the force behind them.
2 of our national staff lost relatives in this suicide bomb
attack at the Central Market in N'Djamena.

Life has changed here, maybe forever.

Chad was on the 'no go' list even before we arrived two years ago....mainly due to its surrounding neighbours, as all of those countries are in turmoil whether from terrorist activity or civil war (Libya, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Central African Republic, Cameroon) and it is believed that some of those conflicts could filter into Chad through its porous borders (although the borders have tightened up significantly since Chad joined the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria in Jan 2015).

So, how does this play out for MAF Chad practically? Well, for starters, our security level has been upped from 1 to 3 in the past three weeks and we now have a list of things to prepare and have on hand just in case things escalate a 'Go Bag' which is a pre-packed bag containing essential documents, water, food, clothes to take for a quick get-a-way; as well, we have a 2 week supply of food and water in our houses in case we have to stay put for a while, extra cash, and we are stocking up on fuel for the generator to have 2 weeks worth at all times as ya....things like that. We put these measures into place so that we are not taken by surprise if we have to leave quickly. It's good to be prepared.


As calm as this may sound as you read the words above,  emotionally for me, this is worrisome, scary, stressful, exhausting, and also very sad for the people of Chad....and I know I am not the only one who thinks this way. 

I flip flop back and forth between being totally calm about it all and then having slight freak outs. 

Some changes to our way of life have made things a bit more difficult in our day to day such as, we shouldn't go to any hotels or restaurants anymore (and there was already no where to go to relax as a family except those!!!), we have to go everywhere in two's, we have to provide a detailed outline of our movements should we leave the compound, and we can't take the kids with us when we shop (coordinating someone to watch them while we are gone--hard when there's only 2 families on the compound now and we both have to go together!). You might read those and think 'oh, those aren't really a big deal' and I would agree with you as they are more inconvenient than stressful; however, I don't think it is these actual changes that are the stressful, worrisome part....I think it is the idea of implementing these changes under the threat of being caught up in the next random attack....and wondering where and when that might be and if you might be there when it happens. That is essentially the goal of terrorism, and I can tell you, it works.

So, what can we do? Well, I guess we could call it quits and live in Canada for a while until things either calm down or it is clear we shouldn't return OR we could stay and learn how to function in this new kind of life.  It's difficult to make that decision but I don't think we need to make that kind of call at this point. We have to wait and see how this all plays this the new norm for Chad? Suicide bomb attacks in public places on a weekly basis? or will this pass as Boko Haram are slowly defeated in Nigeria? We have put safety and security measures in place and I have full confidence in the leadership in MAF both here in Chad and at the home office in England, to make the right decisions, in fact, I know they err on the side of caution.

But as much as we can place our trust in security measures and good leadership, the ONE place I am placing 100% confidence in, is God. He called us to Chad, He has sustained us here through a tough first year and brought us back despite that, and we believe that He will make it clear if we should leave and He will give us peace and wisdom if we stay.

One of the thoughts that fear creates in my head is the fear of dying....not so much the dying part, but the 'how' I die part. I have seen and read in the news the awful acts of terrorism against  civilians by Boko Haram and against Christians carried out by ISIS....crucifixions, burning people alive, drowning groups of people in a cage....sick, sick, horribly evil ways of murdering innocent people in the name of religion and that freaks me right out.  But then I know that God never promised to protect and keep safe our lives here on earth, in fact, it is in the crazy, stressful times when we seek God most desperately and isn't that what is important? Seeking God, being changed by Him, being refined into who he wants us to be? And He can only do that if we cling to Him like he is our everything, something very hard to do when you have everything you need.  What He promises is that he will guard our lives for eternity....which means we will die here on earth but live forever with Him in heaven. That hope is crucial for those who are facing life and death situations....

I read this compilation of verses the other day and it was so fitting to our situation here....and a good reminder that nothing can separate us from God, and that our lives are His.....and if we live, we live for Him and if we die, we die for Him.  I read this as I was having random scenarios play out in my mind of us being caught up in the next attack or us having to leave suddenly or one of our teammates being killed.....I know....crazy thoughts but fear does crazy things to your mind....

"I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that He is able to guard safely all that I have given Him until the day of His return. For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels won't, and all the powers of Hell itself cannot keep God's love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are-–high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean--nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God. The love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when He died for us.  I have kept safe within your family, all of these you gave me. For Jehovah enjoys his people. How happy I was with what he created. God is so rich in mercy, He loved us so much that....He gave us back our lives again. The greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends. God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God, because He owns it. Living or dying we follow the Lord. Either way, we are His. "

Wow. Don't you just love it when God speaks through his word, directly to you, and it was exactly what you needed to hear? A-mazing! This was such a good reminder.....and the peace it gave to my was enough to realign my thoughts from fear to trust, for that moment. I am so thankful for His loving care.

I know it will be a daily, intentional decision to keep reminding myself of the hope He has given us, as fear has a way of creeping in and taking over.

So, we are taking it day by day....not knowing what is to come, but preparing wisely for it as best we can, trusting in His plan and appreciating your prayers.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Costly Attack of Terrorism for Chadians

Where do I begin......I guess I will say that life will never be the same here in N'Djamena. Chadians have been very proud of their military in the fight against Boko Haram in Cameroon and Nigeria.....taking a real and costly stand against Islamic fundamentalists....threats were made against Chad.....but they did not back away and continued to rescue many villages and cities who were desperate for help.

On Monday, June 15, the very first attack in the capital city of N'Djamena took place in the form of 2 suicide bombers targeting the police station and a police training academy. Around 20 people lost their lives and over 100 severely injured, and the death toll is rising as already overwhelmed hospitals try to treat major injuries with limited medical resources.

In the days following the bombings, we have seen and experienced one of the after-effects of this kind of random yet coordinated strike.....fear. The normal way of life here has been changed, maybe forever. Yes, people are still out and about, markets and stores are open and people are back to work, but movements are cautious, police and military are out in full force, personal security checks on bridges, and as you enter the Grand Marché (frisking, security wand etc.), and a ban has been placed on the Islamic full face veil (reports say that the police are burning all of the full face veils sold in the market) and also, rumors have been flying of other attempted suicide bomb attacks being thwarted by the police etc. All of our American Embassy friends have strict bans placed on going out, meeting in groups or having people over to their houses until further notice. We have been advised not to take children with us into town as their presence could slow our reaction time if something should happen. Only time will tell how long these precautions will be in place. For now, I am staying close to home with the girls, and only going out when necessary (ie: we ran out of milk powder and cat food on Tuesday so I went into town briefly, without incident).

Phil on the other hand has a busy week of flying this with 2 overnight trips and a day trip.....the side of the airport that MAF is located (customs area) is completely closed and in order to access the airport they have been parking their vehicle on the main road and walking 15 minutes into the airport and to the hanger. Totally unsustainable long-term as customs usually has 100 or more trucks picking up shipments daily....keep in mind that most products for sale have been imported into Chad.....all of the import shops rely on air shipments for resupply, so it could be interesting to see the effects if this customs closure continues for a while.

I told the girls about what had happened because I figured they were either going to overhear someone (me?) talking about it or find out from one of their friends. They asked a lot of why's and were desperately trying hard to understand why someone would want to blow himself and others up....hard to answer that one. Today they were imagining a scenario with some little figures, and I overheard them say something about a bomb going off as part of their story line....Hmmm.....not many 6 and 7 year old girls include that kind of thing in their play.....the things they have been exposed to in their short lifetime....Praise God they don't seem too shaken up by it all....I guess that is the beauty of being a long as mom and dad are calm and cool, then the kids feel safe. Praise God for that.

I think one of the hardest things about life after these attacks (which were a 5 minute drive from our house)  is the not knowing if this is the beginning of something or if it was just a one time heart wants to think it won't happen again, but my head is telling me otherwise. We'll just have to wait and see.

For now, our movements around the city are cautious and we are praying for safety and peace for Chad and all who live and work in the city of N'Djamena.

I know God is in control and we have nothing to fear...but I'm human, and a mother, and a when fear starts producing many 'what if' thoughts and playing out different scenarios in my mind....I pray for peace to replace fear, after all....I know this is exactly where God wants our family now.....and we will rest in the safety of God's will.

Thanks for praying.

Here is a link to the news story if you would like to read more details about the situation here in N'Djamena:

Monday, June 1, 2015

It's worth it.

Mother's Day. I have witnessed many facebook well-wishes to mothers and beautiful memories and tributes all around the world....and it got me thinking.....

It's funny. Before you have your own kids, you don't really hear about all the craziness that comes after having, naturally it was just one big shock to my dream of motherhood when I slowly found all these things know, the not-so-fun side of being a mother. I know, I know, you are if she just said that! But, I know for a fact, that every.single.mother has had those moments of wanting to throw in the towel....if ever so brief....we have all had them. Whether it was in the midst of a 2 year old tantrum or out of sheer exhaustion at 3 am when the word 'sleep' has become extinct in your family dictionary, or when you just want to sit down and have your own space and time to just think (about nothing or everything!) but someone is wanting juice, help putting on those next to impossible polly pocket clothes, help cleaning up a spill etc and you just can't get that time alone unless you are in the bathroom (and even that is hard to do!),  or the time when your kids are dishevelled and unruly and then *that family* shows up that seems soooo perfect and makes you seem like a failure and you just want to be invisible......those are just some of those challenging moments, to name a few. But I find it's not even in the major moments where motherhood is the hardest, in fact I would argue that it is in the day-to-day life of a mom where some of the biggest mountains need to be traversed. I am talking about serious, only 6 more hours until daddy gets home, I can do this!! And inevitably we make it to the end of the day, and after the kids are tucked in bed, we flop down on whatever clean surface we can find and this what the rest of my life is going to be like? I am EXHAUSTED!!!

One of my biggest struggles has been finding purpose and value in my what I do. Sometimes it is so hard to see through the barrage of diapers, drool, mashed banana, laundry mountains, dishes, meals and the other 1000 things us mothers do in a day and see the importance of it all....sure, when I sit down and really think of it, I know this is an awesome, important, special, once-in-a-lifetime chance to raise the next generation....and my kids are my favorite, and I love them beyond words and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.....but how come I lose sight of all that in the day to day sometimes? Why does it have to be so hard? It is a daily, 'die-to-self' job, one that often times is only witnessed by you and God and hopefully one day our kids will 'rise up and called us blessed'....but, that is not why we do what we do.

We are mothers because we have been called to be.

These little lives (real humans!!!) have been given to us by God to mold, grow, love, encourage, train and walk alongside in this crazy thing called life....I mean, how AMAZING is that?! And there's something else. God knew that we needed to be molded, loved, encouraged, and trained during our adult years as well....and so He uses our kids to do that! It's one big refining fire! My kids reveal sin in my life on a daily basis which I think is the thing that is the most challenging to me as a mother. To face my weakness is not a fun time. I want to think that I have it all together....all by myself, and maybe let other people think that too. I have to remember that in our weakness, He is our strength......He can't help someone who is so full of pride that there is no room for His help. God uses my kids to teach me, to humble me, to shape me into the woman He wants me to be.....and I daily strive to leave behind selfishness, discontentment, complaining, impatience, anger, judging others, pride, hypocrisy, ingratitude and a whole slew of other un-Christ-like behaviors....all those reactions to the situations we find ourselves in on a daily basis while parenting (some days are a success and others are a complete disaster!....I am a work in progress!)

So, in the end, despite the challenging moments/ encouraged to know that there is eternal purpose in them.....for you and for your kids. Nothing comes easy....and that is's gonna hurt, and it's gonna be hard but in the end, we will be who He wants us to just hang in there as he shapes us through our kids! So, If you haven't had kids yet, don't let this scare you off....embrace it'll never be the same (in a good way) again!

These adorable faces bring the greatest joys and the most challenging moments!

Sweet Evie, a chance to mold another precious life

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Lilykins Turns 6

I know it is such a cliche thing to say but....I still can't believe Lily is already 6! Wow! When we arrived in Chad, she was a cute, little, round baby-faced girl.....and now when I look at her she isn't that baby girl any more. Lily is tall, with skinny minny arms (I always joke that I could snap her like a twig!) and legs that fly around faster than any other 6 year old I know. She has seen so much and lived so differently than most 6 year olds....but she is thriving here in Chad and that makes this mama's heart glow. Lily is super independent (has been since birth I think) and is very sure of herself and completely content to be alone....but also loves playing with her friends. God has blessed her with a 4 year old boy named Nathan who thinks along the same lines as Lily in his creative play and those two can be off for hours, playing Tigers or baby horsey or making mud pies. We are thankful for that friendship. She also loves playing with Kaitlyn....anything from house, to barbies, to playmobil, to whatever their imaginations can come up with and we are thankful for their friendship too. So, it is on this day that we celebrate and give thanks to God for giving us sweet Lily.....and our prayer for her is that she would grow in Godly wisdom, and that she would love Him and serve Him with her whole heart for the rest of her life. Ultimately, nothing else matters and everything else will fall into place. Can't wait to see what He has in store for her....
As per tradition, here are some things that I don't want to forget about Lily at this age....

Classic candy on the spoon game
-You are a creature of habit and each night you plant 6 kisses on our faces in various spots and as per your schedule, we snuggle with you every other night and end that time with tickling on your back first, your face next and your neck last. You love routine! And to be honest, we love snuggle time too....where we chat about the good and not so good parts of the day, pray about those, and then chat about whatever else is on your special.
-Recently you have been waking up, getting totally gussied up (ie: fancy dress, shoes, hair done, jewellery on) before breakfast (which is around 6:30am on a school day!)...but the thing is that we aren't allowed to see you before you are totally ready....or a meltdown will ensue---I guess you like the element of surprise! Phil said he was the same way as a kid....Hmm.....his genes....not mine! :)
-You still love to swing in the baby swing (now you have to cross your legs underneath you or your feet will hit the fence behind the swing set) and you often say while swinging: 'Soooo, what do you want to talk about?".
The compound kids/party crew
-Your favorite thing to bake is banana muffins with a cinnamon sugar topping and your favorite thing to cook is scrambled eggs because you can do it yourself.....from the egg cracking to the spatula stirring, you have it down pat!
-You love homeschool and your favorite part is science (you recently grew a bean plant from a kidney bean and some wet paper towel which amazed you!), and you really like the poem book too.
-You love to color.....and will actually finish coloring books from start to finish! I always colored random pictures and often some would be half done etc....nope...not you....every page complete, in order too!
Mmmm....Jasmine cake!
-You love to make Evie (and everyone else) laugh.....and she does! Evie laughed her first belly laugh when you were doing something funny.
-You are an animal lover Lily, and you are always asking me for a glass jar to put whatever you just caught into was a moth, the other day was a dead chameleon.....yuck....but you just love animals....including our cats Whiskers and Ginger.....and you have said more than once that you want to be an animal'll just have to wait and see. (you also said you want to be a person who helps people ride bikes....I guess you can have 2 jobs at once)
-When we returned to Chad with Evie, you had to have your own baby (doll) to change, feed, carry around....I remember videoing you one day changing your baby's seriously took 5 were very thorough and I have no doubt that one day, when you have a real will know exactly how to change his/her diaper!
-You learned to ride your 2 wheeler bike after trying 4 different times! You are amazing!!! No scraped knees or major just peddled and wobbled and kept on going with your bike helmet sitting crooked on your little head and a big grin on your face. I think those are some of the most special moments....seeing you accomplish something and feel on top of the world!
Another Philip Henderson masterpiece....Princess Jasmine Cake!
-You are an 'expectations girl'....just like me...and lately hearing the word 'no' has sent you into a tizzy....I know that goes hand in hand with wanting to be independent, and I pray that God will use your fierce independence for good one day.....but for now....we are working on obeying with a "Yes mom!" and a joyful heart to go along with that. Some days are great, others are challenging.....but we are working on it together.....often times I need a reminder to have a joyful heart too!
-You LOVE jumping on the trampoline with Daddy....the poor guy barely gets in the door from an exhausting long day of flying before you yell " you want to jump on the trampoline with me???".....most often he'll drop his bags and jump for a while....during which time he'll make up fun games that you want to play over and over again
-You are a book lover Lily, and will get a stack of books, park yourself on the couch and say "Mom, can you read me some books?" has been a challenge with Evie as all she wants to do is eat the books (!) but we do our best to distract her so we can read some of your selection for that day. You have a book chart that records all the books we've read each day.....just for the fun of looking back on it and seeing just how much we've read!
The 'spread'
-You love oreo cookies and so for your birthday we made oreo ice cream, complete with an oreo on had no idea the two could be combined like that!!
-Your favorite meal is chicken pot pie, your favorite veggie is green beans and mashed potatoes and you think it is the most special treat in the world to have your own glass bottle of coke (rare treat!)
-You keep a plethora of things at the end of your bed....coloring supplies, stuffies, flashlight, you'll have a variety of things to do during 'flashlight time'---the 10 minutes before bed where the lights are out but you can do a quiet activity to unwind

Kaitlyn about to sample the goods
This year holds a huge change again for you will be going to school (not at home!)....and I know you have been struggling with this idea for a while now....even today when we were snuggling, you were telling me some of your worries and fears about going to school.....things like being teased, not knowing an answer, maybe not wanting to sing during music somedays.....I love when you open up your heart to me and we can talk about it and then pray about it all to God for him to replace our fears and worries with His peace....I'm sure we'll have many more chats like that one before school begins for you, but hopefully over that time, you will feel less and less worried and more and more excited to start this new adventure called GRADE 1!!!

Well Lilykins, another letter added to the precious years of birthday letters from me to day you are going to read these and laugh, cry, wonder, understand, remember and cherish all these memories that we have of you. You are loved Lily.



Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas in Chad

Merry Christmas everyone....and a Happy New Year as well! We really enjoyed Christmas this year....we had a solid year between us and the bad memories of me throwing up every time I moved and Phil cooking Christmas dinner by himself....oh boy. Well, this year was awesome! We started things off with our traditional Christmas Eve spread.....salsa and tortilla chips (they just came in that day to the store....we had been tortilla chip-less for 2 months!!), veggies (including some cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas from this new import shop....all the way from Egypt!), pringles-like chips, homemade ham and cheese rolls, bruschetta and coke in some wine glasses. We ate by candle light then played Ticket to Ride with the girls. It was a peaceful, relaxing evening and a great way to start the celebrations. Christmas morning rolled around and Phil woke up first and made some cinnamon toast and hot chocolate while us girls lazed in bed a bit longer. 

We met for breakfast, lit the last advent candle and chatted about the significance of Jesus' birth once again. We prayed as a family, thanking God for sending His son, and prayed for the upcoming year, that we would be willing servants, that our hearts would continue to be changed by His spirit and that we would be a light to those around us. THEN.....we opened the gifts! As per tradition, the girls went searching for their 3 stars....and opened their gift under each representing each of the gifts the wisemen gave to Jesus. We had an awesome morning, enjoying seeing others reactions to their gifts and having fun playing with all of them. Evie took a long nap in the morning, the girls played for a long time with Lily's playmobil horse farm, and Phil spent a bunch of time teaching Kaitlyn how to use her calligraphy set. Kaitlyn was so thrilled about her 'grown-up presents' (she also got a stamp set for card making)....she's been churning out notes to everyone in calligraphy! Such an artist like Phil.
After a snacky sort of lunch,  we were able to briefly skype with some family (with video even!!) and then we headed over around 3:30 to another MAF family's house where all of the MAF families (plus 2 other families) were gathered for a potluck. We even had a turkey.....from Egypt (import shop again!!) and all the was a great time....yummy food, great company and fun games afterwards. We flopped into bed after it was all done....full and happy. It was a Christmas to my mind, a perfect blend of all things Christmas.

Christmas cookie decorating with her friend Anna
Kaitlyn practising her calligraphy skills

Lily packing on as many toppings as possible!

Ticket to Ride!!!

She needs to grow into that one....

Phil wrote a hilarious commentary between the princesses on Lily's gift wrap.

Lily was very proud of the stress ball she made Phil.

Lily enjoying her fairy sticker book. Thanks Nan & Gramps!

My new clay pots!!! Now, to find some flowers....

My gift from Phil....

Lily using her spatula that she got for Christmas....her culinary specialty: Scrambled Eggs.

Why bother with the gift? She just wants to chew the wrapping paper!

A little reminder of home....and trying out his new '1 cup' coffee maker.

Camp-out on Boxing complete with roasted Canadian marshmallows!

Sleep-over in the tent....the girls loved it so much they talked Phil into a second night!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Photo Update of our first 2 months back in Chad

It has already been close to 2 months since we left Canada and headed back to Chad. Time has flown by....but it has been a good time thus far. We are preparing for a desert Christmas which is always a bit weird for the Canadian inside of me (although can't say I miss the snow and cold at all!)....but we'll make it memorable despite the fact we'll be wearing t-shirts and flip flops and drinking ice water instead of hot chocolate! Anyways, thanks for thinking of us, praying for us and sending us your love via email and facebook. Our family Christmas gift came a bit early this year....awesome internet!!! So, we plan to be way more in touch with everyone back in Canada via facebook, blog posts and even skype!

In no particular order....these are snapshots of what we do and see on a daily basis....nothing thrilling but a good overall picture of daily life.

Evie loving her bath...a little squished but she doesn't seem to mind.

Chatting with the miracle workers at 'John the Tailor's"...
amazing what they do with a foot powered sewing machine.

Kaitlyn getting a taste of horseback riding at a local horse farm.

Lily the animal lover enjoyed every minute with her pony friend.

Evie and the Tortoise.

Reading buddies.

The MAF Crew.

Lots of people say she looks like him.

Birthday meal! Sharing an oreo milkshake
(aka chocolate milk with whipped cream on top and an oreo on top of that....
for $8. 

Baking beauties.

Josephine displaying one of her many talents.

Abdouleye and Zam enjoying a fresh catch of the day before work.
Zam is one of our guards here and his son Abdouleye does odd jobs around MAF.

Serious money maker here in HOT chad....they made $10 at the garage sale....
oh and that's 100 cfa per glass (.20) not $100! :)

MAF multi family garage sale

My good friend Susan and her daughter Audrey.

Evie smevie as we call her.

This can't be comfortable....but he beelines for it whenever its vacant!

Decorating the Christmas 'plant'. 

Evie knew exactly where to put the candy cane!

Peppermint patties anyone?

Fellowship Day with all the MAF staff.

Abdouleye and his wife Arabe and daughter Merilee
(yes, they named her after moi!)
Paparazzi Phil took this pic of me. Au naturel.

Sweet Evie, 4 months old and already cut two bottom teeth!

Whiskers getting snuggly with Kailtyn's homework.

Whiskers highjacked the bib. :)

Where Phil spent 3 nights this past a village in Eastern Chad.

Lily having a reading the doll bed. 

Phil pulling out all the stops to fix this fan for two single
 ladies living in a remote village in Eastern Chad. He told me he
was desperate enough to use the leatherman and the swiss army knife
in tandem which he said was usually a no-no! A guy thing?

Kaitlyn at her Bestie Anna's birthday party....sporting their 'high tea' hats.

Perhaps I should buckle her up from now on?
Although she seemed quite happy half in her chair and half on the floor!

Lily and Kaitlyn showing off their hats they made and the change purses
 they got from one of the ladies that Phil fixed things for during his 4 day trip out East.

Christmas crafting for Kaitlyn's school mates.
Snowman pencils.

More Christmas crafting....Monster Book Corners.