Friday, September 28, 2012

Brain Full

One of my classmates mentioned this far side cartoon in class.  That is DEFINITELY how I felt in the middle of my last economic development class.  During the break, all I could think was I have been in class for an hour and half and there is still and hour and half of learning to go! It was all great stuff, but my brain was full! This class in particular felt like a mental marathon, and I had not been training. 

But then today my roommates and I went to a political rally because it was less than a mile from our house.   We kept on making eye contact whenever we made connections to things we had just been discussing in class.  I guess we did retain something.  I understood on a deeper level, and my questions and concerns were more complex than they would have been a month ago. 

So looks like I'm learning something. 

On another note, I was cleaning out some things I had been storing in my parents house a few months ago, and I found this! It was on the cover page of my organic chemistry exam at PSU.  After the exam I cut it out and kept it.  Good times. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Because infographics seem to be all rage these days, here is one on South Sudan. Of course there are significant regional variations within South Sudan.  There isn't much data available on South Sudan, and this is relatively recent (2011).   I think it is interesting to consider.  

  Just for fun, I found this infographic on infographics. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fit for Service

I was a hesitant blogger when I was first appointed as a missionary with WHM.  I make myself vulnerable as a blogger, striving to share the truth which includes both successes and failures.  As a blogger I know there have been times when I have feared the judgment of men, which totally changes the way I write and doesn't glorify God.  While I am vulnerable, the reader is anonymous.  At least in my prayer letters, I know the audience. I debated writing this post for that very reason.

This week I reached the ambitious weight loss goal I set for myself about a year and a half ago.  (I promise this has to do with missions as well, so keep reading.)   I made a change in my life for two main reasons.

1) For my health at the recommendation of my doctor because, as she said, it is much easier to make a change now than it would be ten years from now

2) For Mundri (this is the part about missions) which I did not admit to publicly until now, because what if I failed to reach my goal...

The reality was I just didn't have the energy of stamina do everything I wanted to do in Mundri.  My primary mode of transportation was my trusty bicycle, and although I was relatively fit and could get the places I needed to go on my bicycle, I found myself avoiding the bike ride into town when possible.  If I didn't HAVE to check up on a water project, I would avoid the bike ride.  If I had time to visit a friend, but she lived on the other side of town, I would find something else to do instead.  Life in Mundri was definitely more physically demanding than life in the US, and I knew that losing some weight would give more energy for the life I wanted to lead as a member of the community in Mundri.

At least for me, achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a type of spiritual discipline.  I hope to be ready and able to follow God anywhere in the world.  Part of that for me means being physically fit for service as far as that depends on my choices and discipline.  I'm not running a marathon anytime soon (or probably ever), but I have so much more energy now, which is currently being poured into being a grad student.  I must admit, that I haven't had the same discipline over the last year and half in other spiritual disciplines.

I am thankful for the people who have been my workout buddies along the way.  Bethany brought P90X to Mundri, so we got up early many days before the heat of the day rolling out our yoga mats on the dusty concrete floor while laughing and sweating together.  Now my roommates and I get up early to jog at a local track before we start our reading for the day.  We will see what happens once it starts getting really cold, but for now, it is a routine that works for us.

Now it is time to set a new goal for physical fitness and in writing this I have been challenged to look at other spiritual disciplines that are being neglected in my life. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012


A friend shared this comic with me a while back.  I liked it then, and I like it even more now. 

As it got later last night, the readings started feeling like a long string of keywords. 

"Community....sustainable.... globalization.... development... sustainability... community development... global solutions... sustainable..." 

That is when you know it is time to go to sleep and try again in the morning. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


As an undergrad taking classes like organic chemistry and thermodynamics the answers were clear.  There was only one correct answer to problems assigned by professors. 

Working as a process engineer at DuPont a little more uncertainty was introduced.  You might be able to find all the information you wanted to solve a problem, but only with infinite time and money.  I learned to make decisions with 80% of the information. 

Then I moved to South Sudan, and I had access to even less of the information I wanted as an engineer approaching a problem. Finding accurate and relevant data was a challenge.  I learned a lot by watching and listening. 

As I learned to live in the gray areas of life in Africa, I finally spoke the words aloud that I was considering leaving traditional engineering and working in community development.  

The Bible is full of mystery and paradox, and yet I push against every time it makes its way into my life. 

Now I find myself sitting in classes being presented with many of the questions that I have been thinking about for the last several years. 

When you ask questions like "What is poverty?", you aren't going to get a nice answer that fits into a box at the bottom of the page like π/2.  Even an imaginary number has a precise mathematical definition and follows a defined set of rules.  Now I sit in a class called economic development getting a degree called international development as we ask "What is development?". The answer most certainly does not fit in a box.   

And so today as I reflected on our class discussion I had a lot of thoughts.  I was excited about all the unique expressions of the coming Kingdom in different cultures around the world.  I was feeling disillusioned about development work as I thought about how practitioners (including myself) use new and trendy words to describe the same tired paradigm.  I recognized how the Holy Spirit has been at work guiding our team in Mundri.  I saw the ugliness of my idolatrous heart that wants to serve for myself and not because of Jesus. 

And isn't that a part of tension in so many things worth considering?  We live in the paradox of the already and not yet and it can be an uncomfortable place to be for someone like me who likes neat answers that fit in boxes.     

A little over a year ago as I considered a lot of questions that had come up in my time in S. Sudan I wrote this, and now a year later, I consider many of the same questions.  I pray I continue to ask questions and learn, because if ever believe I have it all figured out... well that would be a dangerous day. 

I'm sure that most of you who are reading this blog post are friends who have walked with me on at least part of this journey, so thank you for the grace you have shown me. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Prayer for Students

It is a beautiful day in Pennsylvania.  The sun is shinning, and the leaves are green.  This morning my roommates and I headed out to a local farmers' market, and then we spent the rest of the morning camping out in a local coffee shop.  The light pouring in the beautiful windows and a good cup of coffee made being inside a lot more bearable.

I'm taking a short break from reading to share this prayer with you.  It came up in my readings the day before our first class.  What a great prayer to start a year of reading, learning, testing ideas against scripture, and lots of hard work.


O Lord, 

The world is artful to entrap,
approaches in fascinating guise,
extends many a gilded bait,
presents many a charming face.

Let my faith scan every painted bauble,
and escape every bewitching snare
in a victory that overcomes all things.

In my duties give me firmness, energy, zeal,
devotion to thy cause,
courage in thy name,
love as a working grace, 
and all commensurate with my trust.

Let faith stride forth in giant power,
and love respond with energy in every act. 

I often mourn the absence of my beloved Lord
whose smile makes earth a paradise, 
whose voice is sweetest music,
whose presence gives all graces strength.

But by unbelief I often keep him outside my door.  

Let faith give entrance that he may abide with me for ever.

Thy Word is full of promises,
flowers of sweet fragrance, 
fruit of refreshing flavour
when called by faith.

May I be made rich in its riches,
be strong in its power,
be happy in its joy,
abide in its sweetness,
feast on its preciousness,
draw vigour from its manna.

Lord, increase my faith.  

~ The Valley of Vision, Puritan Prayers and Devotions