Friday, January 29, 2010

"There's no place like Home"

We made it home from Liberia! I have so much to share with you... expect many posts over the next few days, weeks, maybe even years ;-)

I've never seen such abject poverty before in my life. Even our little apartment is shockingly glamourous in Liberian standards. Electricity? Running water? Nutritious food? It's unheard of there. Even the Bishop of Liberia only has electricity a few hours a day and no flush toilets (I know because we got to visit his house! wee!!)

A woman bathing her child outside our "hotel"

But even in their poverty, these are the happiest, most spiritual people I have ever met. I was shocked by their level of joy. We prayed, we marched, we danced, we sang... we even clapped our hands for Jesus! The children especially were fountains of hope. They were so excited to hold our hands and show us our houses. Every moment was a game. Their favorite game was for us to take their picture then turn the camera around and show them. Many have never seen their own faces except reflected in the river.

Circle Game in Salala

Praise be to the Lord! Our mission was beyond what one would consider "successful." Out of our three missionary crusades, we had results that made my heart sing for joy:

  • In Salala, over 100 people came to faith in Jesus. 34 were baptized during the crusade and another 20 requested further instruction.

  • In Totota, 39 souls were baptized and 147 names were given for follow-up.

  • In Rubber Camp #7, 44 people were baptized. During the Celebration Service, local men volunteered their homes and services to help during the construction of the new church start and provide for the new (non-salaried) pastor.

Oh my goodness, I have so much I could share with you. My heart is just so excited and full of hope and ideas. Thank you so much for your prayers while we were gone! More tomorrow... now it is time to sleep!

Our "son" Tonia. We are sponsoring his school fees.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Trip of a Lifetime

'Twas the night before Africa, and all through the house,
Jenny was trying to find that last perfect blouse.
The suitcases were stacked in the hallway with care
And silent prayers that every necessity was there.
The bed was a wreck since the pillows were packed
And Shaune started to wonder if his brain had cracked.

When deep in their hearts there arose such a thought
This packing, this chaos, it was not for naught!
It was for the children that this, we pursued
Our joy is not dependent on anyone's mood!
We're off to give glory to God up above
To show the people of Liberia His radical love.
To the slums and the bushes, to the jungles we'll go
Who we'll met and we'll see, only Jesus shall know.

So we humbly request that you keep us in prayer,
On the flights, in the vans -- the whole time we're there.
Pray that hearts will be changed and that churches are planted

And that nothing we learn will be taken for granted.
I hope you'll remember me by this simple rhyme
Once we depart on on our trip of a lifetime.

We'll be gone for two full weeks! I'll see you all after the 28th with many stories and many photographs to share. God Bless you all until then!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Skirty New Year

Women in Africa don't wear pants. This shouldn't be a shock -- only in the Westernized world do women frequently borrow styles from the men in our lives. But, as I leave for Africa this week, I had to go on a sewing spree to prepare myself for another country. Between shopping at the Goodwill and stitching, I've literally doubled my skirt wardrobe. I showed you the fabrics for my new skirts some time ago- - it's taken 2 months to set aside the time to make the,

I made this skirt based upon what I saw at Sarah Jane's blog a long, long time ago. The pink fabric is a quilter's cotton I got at $2.25 / yd at Wal-Mart. It's bright, fun, and Africa-y. Although, I belive I am way taller than either Sarah or the models from the tutorial, as this skirt hits me mid-calf rather than nearly ankle. And, I'm wearing it low on my hips. The pains of being 5'9"... It's cute and fun and comfy for the 90* weather Monrovia is currently experiencing.

Something else interesting is that the women in Liberia cover their heads most of the time, but especially for church. Therefore, I've had to learn how to tie scarves to completely cover my hair. You can see, this one matches my pink skirt. I don't know if I'll wear them together, but it's kind of nice to have an "outfit" when so much else of my wardrobe is randomly pulled together. You can see I've still not perfected the twist over the bun -- the underside of the fabric is showing. It works better with a pretty brown flowered scarf I have that I found at a yard sale for $0.25.

This second skirt is my absolute favorite. When I was still living at home, my mom decided to clear out some of her old sewing stuff. She does commercial embroidery now instead of fashion sewing. I "saved" a huge stack of patterns from being donated. Most were skirts she had made in high school and college. This one is Butterick 4215, a wrap skirt from the late 1970's. It was super fast to put together. There's only a few pieces. The hardest part was the hem (and let me tell you, I DETEST hemming, so I kept putting it off). I think I'll be making several more of these for my regular wardrobe once I'm back in the country. It's so full you can't even tell it's a wrap skirt!

I love having new skirts. I've been wearing skirts almost exclusively since graduation and being at home. I feel more attractive, and that does weird things to my productivity -- i.e., I actually get stuff done. When I stay in sweat pants all day, it is exceptionally difficult for me to pull

myself away from the computer. Even just putting on a skirt or dress *over* my sweat pants changes my entire mindset. I'll have to explore this concept more once I get back in the country...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Give Away Winner

The winner of the book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, is...


My dear hubby helped by drawing a name from a basket. He's so helpful! So, Gillian, please email me at when you see this so that I can mail this book to you before I leave the country on Thursday.

For everyone else, I still recommend reading this book. It's wonderfully insightful into a spiritual discipline that runs completely backwards to our modern culture.

Have a lovely night!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Give-Away!

I've been reading a book in my mass amounts of free time since graduation. A friend of mine gave me this book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton, and recommended I read it. It's sat on my shelf for... goodness... 2 years or so now? I'm finally getting around to picking it up and I've found myself absolutely devouring it. The idea of silence is scary -- especially for someone as word-oriented as myself. But it's worth it:
The invitation to solitude and silence is just that. It is an invitation to enter more deeply into the intimacy of relationship with the One who Waits just outside the noise and busyness of our lives. It is an invitation to communication and communion with the One who is always present even when our awareness has been dulled by distration. It is an invitation to the adventure of spiritual transformation in the deepest places of our being, an adventure that will result in greater freedom and authenticity and surrender to God than we have yet experienced. (Barton 18)
I'm only just starting to get my "feet wet" with the idea of silence. I've started with setting a timer for a short time to practice this new spiritual discipline. I never realized until trying this just how busy and noisy my mind is. Thoughts are constant! I'm only 2 weeks in, but I've already experienced some amazing transformation. I can feel my heart getting quieter. I feel closer to God.
I want you to explore this spiritual discipline with me. Silence is power. Remember Elijah? He stood on the mountain to see God. God wasn't in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. He was in "the sound of sheer silence" (1 Kings 19:1 - 19). So! For the first time in Humble Beginnings history, I'm doing a give-away!
I'd like to pass on to you this wonderful book that my friend shared with me. Leave a comment below on or before Sunday, January 10. I'll pick someone at that point and mail off the book right before I leave for Africa. Good Luck!

Monday, January 4, 2010

10 Days to Africa

Oh my, oh my, oh my! We leave for Africa in 10 days! I'm scrambling around to gather and pack everything we'll need, as well as the missions items that will be left in Kakata (like the ridiculously huge 90's "laptops.") Darn the airlines for changing baggage regulations -- again.

Just a teaser photograph:

And in 10 days, I'll be able to show you picture of me and my team there, instead of some I've stolen from the ministry's web site!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Welcome to 2010

I absolutely love the holiday season. The lights, the music, the food (the FOOD!)... But like all good things (and bad things), "this too shall pass." So here we are at the start of a new year, a new decade, another new day where we have the priviledge of walking this life with our treasured family and friends.

For some people, the mark of the new year is a chance to set lavish resolutions that are vague or nearly impossible: Lose weight. Work out. Et cetera. I am hilariously bad at these. I usually forget by the end of January or get too bogged down in legalism of "how it should be" to get around to actually doing it. So, in response, this year I am setting simple, acheivable goals that are in-line with conversations my husband and I have been having anyway. "Goals" makes it sound less intimidating to my silly ears.

Goals 1 and 2: Serve at least one whole fruit at breakfast and one whole veggie at lunch and dinner. This may seem small to you; you're probably already doing it. However, there has been a significant lack of nutrition in the Preston household. Part of it comes from still being in college and therefore the college mindset. Part of it comes from the fact we both grew up in "meat and potatoes" households and I personally don't like potatoes. I've only just this year discovered that foods such as asparagus and pomegranet exist. Now's as good a time to start as any: I can't tell children to eat their veggies and have them respond, "But Mommy doesn't!"

Goal 3: Write thank you notes after receiving gifts or hospitality. This social nicety really can help to brighten someone's day and let them know they are appreciated. I bought some pretty cards and stuck them in my desk to help make this goal easier to achieve. I spent this morning writing the ones for Christmas!

Goal 4: Make a concious effort to call each of my dearest friends once a week, even if we can only talk for a few minutes. I have really let my friendships slide since getting married and it has only been recently that I realized how long it goes between talking to the girls who truly understand my heart. My husband is wonderful, but he isn't (and should never, ever try to be) a woman. "I'm too busy" can't be an excuse anymore.

Four simple goals, four little habits that can hopefully make me a better woman, wife, and friend. I think I can actually meet my goals since they're little and routine. Baby steps, right?

Are you a "resolution" person? Did you set goals to achieve this year? I'd love to hear, so that I can root you on, too!