Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Lifestyle of Ministry

Growing up my family had 6 core values – the 6 things that my parents wanted to make sure that we understood and integrated into our lives before we left the house. 1.A heart for God, 2.A lifestyle of ministry, 3.Sexual purity, 4.A strong work ethic, 5.Proper roles of men and women, and 6.A sense of humor. There are a million things you can teach your children and sometimes I think we try to teach them so many things that we end up not really teaching them anything well. My parents understood the need for focus in parenting and I'm so grateful that they took the time to weed out the unimportant.

The one that's been on my mind a lot recently is #2 - A lifestyle of ministry. This past weekend we traveled to a church in Ohio that has been supporting our ministry in Guinea-Bissau, and it was fun having Savannah grace our table with her cuteness for the first time. Having her with us while we talked about our ministry made me think about what it will look like to raise her to have a lifestyle of ministry unique to the special way that God made her.

Me and Savannah at our display table.

When we were growing up my parents were on staff with Family Life (a division of Campus Crusade for Christ) and it was cool watch them dedicate their lives to saving marriages. As much as I learned from watching them, the real lessons that I learned about having a lifestyle of ministry came from the ways that they taught me to get involved in ministry myself.

Because we're missionaries Savannah is going to grow up watching us visit churches, write newsletters, send out thank you notes, and more than all of that she will watch us dedicate our lives to loving Guineans well and spreading the good news of salvation in a tiny little country in West Africa. I'm sure she'll learn a lot about the ways God has called us to live out a lifestyle of ministry. That's a start, but I want her to learn how minister in the way that God will call her.

The lifestyle of ministry that my parents taught me (and that I want to teach Savannah) is about seeing people's needs and loving them well. I want her to know how to look at a situation and see how God has gifted her to be salt and light in that situation. I want her to know how to be a friend to someone who is friendless. I want her to bring encouragement to someone who is hopeless. I want her to take dinner to someone who is overwhelmed. I want her to know how to share the gospel through her words and through her actions so that the world will be changed.

Having a lifestyle of ministry has nothing to do with being a pastor of missionary. It's about using what God has given me in the place where He's put me to impact the world for Him. I guess I have high hopes for my baby girl. I want her to understand how to use everything she is and everything she has to glorify the Lord.

A family shot on the day that Savannah turned one month old. A lot has changed in our lives in the last month :-)

Hanging wither her pigs a few days after she was born.

One month old - isn't she precious!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Rapidly Expanding Belly

Somehow in the business of packing up our house in Bissau, finishing projects to prepare to come home, traveling home and then traveling all over once we got home, I didn't write a single blog the whole third trimester of being pregnant! Yikes!

To sum up the last three months of being pregnant I would use one word – long! The last month definitely felt longer than the first 8 put together! The good news is that on October 12th (a week late) our darling daughter, Savannah, finally decided to grace us with her presence. She is wonderful and adorable and we are having a great time getting to know her and learning how to take care of her.

Just for kicks, here's a little pictorial review of my third trimester :-) It's kind of amazing how much bigger I got each week – definitely noticeable!

28 weeks, our last day in Bissau

29 weeks, our first day back in the States after a week of traveling to get there. The first thing we did when we got to New Jersey was order a pizza from Papa Johns.

30 weeks at Simpson Park Camp

31 weeks, outside of Jason's parents' house

32 weeks, getting ready to get in the car and head down to Little Rock to see my family.

33 weeks, after my baby shower in Little Rock - there's quite a bit of pink on that table!

34 weeks outside of a famous Imlay City restaurant, Nachos :-)

35 weeks at Jason's grandparents' house in Caseville. Don't worry, I had Jason move the logs :-)

36 weeks, the last month begins!

37 weeks in a raspberry shirt in front of the raspberry bushes. Now that is a belly!!!

38 weeks, putting away her clothes. The onesie I'm holding says "Daddy's Little Girl"

39 weeks, yes my hand is on the door. Ready at any second darling :-)

40 weeks outside among the changing leaves.

She was born one day before the 41 week picture would have been taken :-)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cops and Robbers

There are lots of things that happen in the course of a normal day here that would be anything but normal in the US. Today I saw something that is a little bit strange even for Guinea-Bissau. I hopped in a taxi this morning to run a few errands downtown and as we neared the police station in our neighborhood I saw a huge crowd of people. It was sprinkling, so it seemed a little odd that they would all be standing outside getting wet. As we passed the station itself I saw about 10 police officers with rifles dressed in full riot gear. The police usually don't carry guns and I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen them in their helmets and shields.

I started asking around to find out what was going on. Apparently yesterday there was a dispute between a guy selling cell phone credit and a guy who bought credit from him and said that the credit didn't work. The seller ended up calling the police and they came to the scene of the argument.

The police in Guinea-Bissau don't have too many options. The jail is only really for murders so all other crimes are usually either dealt with by someone paying them a “fine” or by someone getting beat. This time the police sided with the seller and the guy who wanted his money back ended up getting beaten. I'm not sure if he just just wanted a refund or if he had stolen money from the seller to get his money back.

The police beat the guy so severely that when he arrived home his family took him straight to the hospital but by the time they got there he had died. This morning the family marched over to the police station with the body and demanded some answers. A crowd formed rapidly, shots were fired in the air, riot gear was broken out, and more people came to see what was going on. When I passed the police station to go into town there were about 200 people in the crowd and maybe 10 officers, when I passed an hour later on the way home there were probably about 300 people in the crowd and at least 25 officers.

We've been asking people we know at the Youth Center what they think is going to happen. Since the guy who died was just a normal guy people seem to think it will pass and nothing more will come of it.
Pretty sad when you think about it. No consequences other than just a tense day with a big crowd of people and having to wear extra gear in the rain.

Stuff like this just reminds me how grateful I am for the police in the US. I have never seen a police officer in Guinea-Bissau and felt safe. I've never had one speak to me except to harass me to try to get a bribe. In the US I don't even know how many times I've been helped and protected by our fine men and women in uniform.

We're leaving in two days, so I guess that's what's making me a little reminiscent :-)

I will leave you with a few pictures of my adorable, gigantic belly :-)

25 Weeks - living large :-)

26 Weeks - on the balcony in front of our house with the youth center in the background

27 Weeks - for this monumental occasion (entering the third trimester) I had a few assistants. All this week I taught a continuing education seminar for our current English, French, and Computer teachers. One day on break I had a few of them pose with me.

Week 28 will be my last pregnant picture in Bissau. After that we're headed back to the US :-) Hope to see you soon :-)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Beach Bums

So far 2010 has been the busiest year on record for the Atkins family. When I got back from my 5 week whirlwind US adventure I returned to find a very burned out husband waiting for me. We spent about three weeks getting caught up and working with Jason's construction crew to get the shop water tight and then we hit the road for a few days at the beach.

There aren't many beaches in Guinea-Bissau, but there are several beautiful ones in Senegal, the country just north of us. So we packed a few clothes, a few snacks, and the Wii and set off with some friends of our for Cap Skirring, Senegal. Since it's a tourist town and right now is not tourist season we got an amazing deal on a two bedroom air conditioned villa and we spent a long weekend split between the pool, the beach, and several yummy restaurants specializing in delicious seafood with prices around what you would pay for a value meal at McDonalds!

The Quinn family and Atkins Family at our little villa in Cap Skirring

Since my bump is growing by leaps and bounds I had to improvise a little to come up with a swimsuit, but I think it worked out pretty well.

One of the highlights of the trip for the kids was that a stray beach dog followed us home from the beach one day became an instant pet, guarding the villa, munching up leftovers, and generally enjoying all of the attention.

When we were not enjoying the water Jason and Jonathan spent a good amount of time watching the World Cup games (that's the world-wide big soccer tournament for all of you non soccer watchers in the States). One day when he turned on the TV to watch soccer for a few minutes he was elated when game 5 of the NBA finals was on instead. We will cheer for anyone against the Lakers, so it was even cooler when the Celtics won after an amazing game.

Haha, Lakers loose!

I never really post enough pictures of Jason on my blog, so here are a few more.

Jason spent a lot of time giving Joseph (who was pretending to be a crab) rides in the pool.

Why sit on the couch when you can find a comfy spot on top of your favorite Jason shaped jungle gym?

All-in-all we had a much needed rest and for the first time in months Jason has the energy to be excited getting some serious work done. Good timing since we're leaving in about a month and we've got a lot to finish between now and then!

After an evening walk on the beach

I leave you with my latest belly pic :-)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wii Mania!!!

For a combination Christmas 2009 / both of our birthdays / our anniversary present Jason and I bought ourselves a Wii. I brought it back with me a few weeks ago and we’ve been having a ball. It’s a nice way to spend some time relaxing after a super busy day. So far I am awesome at Frisbe, but Jason always beats me at Ping Pong (who didn’t see that coming).

There are two other missionary families who live close to us and they both have kids, so we’ve had a few “Wii parties” and everyone has had a blast. It’s a little too much for the two 3 and half year olds, but even they enjoy sword fighting – when else can you swing something crazily around in the air and knock someone else into the water?

Since the Wii uses your whole body, people get really into it! Jason said yesterday that we’ve already gotten our money’s worth out of it just in the entertainment value of watching other people play it!

Jason demonstrating archery on the Wii. One Saturday night we set up the Wii in one of the classrooms and played on the rojector.

Abby Bowling

Jonathan and Tammy racing in canoeing at our apartment

An intense game of ping pong. I had to get the proper stance with the belly :-)

In other news our silly dog Sydney is now full grown and loving Africa. She does a bunch of crazy things and I think that Jason is really going to miss her when we’re in the States!

Lately she loves laying on her back and twisting from side to side to get our attention. What a nut!

I know you want to see more belly, and trust me there's more to see :-)

21 weeks, in front of a mango tree with Sydney hanging out in the background.

Anna, Sydney, and Joseph joined me for this one - "Tada!!!"

22 weeks, back in the baby's room. In the next month there should be a lot of cool progress :-)

23 weeks, Jason joined me for the picture because he felt the baby move for the first time this week. She moves around a lot and I feel like I'm already getting to know her a little bit.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Catching Up

With the the crazieness of the last few weeks in the States, the rush of travel, and the mountain that awaited me when I got home, I haven't put many pictures up lately. Since some pretty fun stuff happened, I thought I would post a few :-)

Here's a shot of what my belly was looking like at 16 weeks

This is right about the time when people that I don't know started smiling at me in stores for no reason. Not quite big enough for them to ask me, but big enough for them to be suspicious

On May first my sister Rachel got married. She and Josh had a beautiful outdoor wedding in Cotter, Arkansas. The baby happened to pick that weekend to have a huge growth spurt, and it was fun to have my belly be noticeably bigger everyday for about 5 days. It also meant that I was really hungry (good timing with all of the awesome wedding food) and in general not that much help. Good thing they had 14 bridesmaids and groomsmen (all together), three flower girls and a ring bearer to pick up the slack :-) hehe

I stole a few pictures from friends :-)

The wedding party looking snazzy

Rachel and Josh

My Sibblings - Amanda, Me, Rachel, and Jordan

My Mom's Family - Cousin Tim, Uncle Dan, Aunt Sue, Dad, Olivia (flower girl), Rachel (bride), Josh (groom), Mom, Leslie, Uncle Kevin

17.5 weeks - we waited a little bit to get a picture in the bridesmaid dress. At the time my mom said that the baby was trying so hard to grow so that people would notice her at her Aunt's wedding that my mom was sure it had to be a girl :-)

Jason sent me flowers since he couldn't be at the wedding with me – stargazer lilies, one of my favorites! So I took the 18 week picture with them

Then I headed to Houston to visit my friend Kelly. She is also pregnant and we due the same week so we had fun going out to eat to celebrate our first Mother's Day together. The baby decided that the day should extra special for me so right after church I felt the first kick – how about that for timing?

After that I went back up to Michigan and spent a few days in a crazy whirlwind of packing up about 160 pounds of equipment to take back with me for the youth center. I had toner cartridges for our printers, replacement parts for wide variety of things, certificates for our computer program, a 26 pound reel of fiber optic cable, and whole assortment of other things just like that. I did manage to fit a jar of sweet pickle relish and a bag of peanut M&M's for Jason's birthday.

After that I went to the doctor, got an ultrasound and a few more tests, got the all clear to head back to Africa, took a picture to document week 19, and hit the road!

The plane ended up being craziness! One of my tickets was accidentally canceled then reinstated, then one of my flights was late, and it looked like I was either going to have to stay in Washington DC for 5 days; or fly stand by to Paris, stay in Paris for a day, then fly down to Africa (with out bags which would come by another route); or run like crazy and pray that I could change 2 concourses and make it to my flight 40 minutes before departure so that I'd be cleared to board – with a 28 minute layover... Nothing's impossible with God, right? So after considering all of my options I decided to run for it.

I've never really been much of runner and being 5 months pregnant didn't help matters. I hiked up escalators, ran on people movers, and sprinted down the straightaways. People were calling out to me to slow down, but I kept on going. I arrived at my gate, pregnant and panting, 5 minutes before the plane was supposed to take off. I'm pretty sure the gate attendants felt sorry for me because even though the doors were locked and the pilot was turning up the engines to pull away from the gate, they radioed the plane, franticly scanned in my info, reopened the flight for boarding, and got me onboard moments before take off.

Sadly, my bags were not as speedy as I was, and while the flights to Dakar were booked full of people for the next 5 days, they did manage to find room for my luggage – no small feat! So the next day I got my bags on got on the overnight boat to the south of Senegal to finally see Jason again.

I slept like a log on the boat and arrived safe and sound with all of my bags to the biggest hug of all time! Then Jason and I crashed in a little hotel that has AC went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday. We got up the next day and set out for Guinea-Bissau.

This is my 20 week picture. It's not a great belly shot, but the baby and I were really happy to see Jase again!

It was so fun to come back home to Bissau and I have loved everyone's comments on my belly as it has been growing more and more noticeable! Usually when I see people I don't know here the first thing they say to me is “you're white”, but now the first thing they say is “wow, look how beautiful you are!” with a special gleam in their eyes as they rub my belly. Not a bad change. I should've gotten pregnant a long time ago!!! :-) lol!

About a week after I got back we celebrated Jason's birthday with a stellar apple pie! I didn't have any birthday candles, but we made due :-)

Speaking of pie, it's getting to be about that time, so I'm going to get some food ready – this pregnant lady's gotta eat!!! I'll post some more in a few days :-)