Hippos and Sippy Cups (3) Daughter…In Love And In Law

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001264-hippo-cartoon-comic-funny-silly-wacky-breadwig.com_We established a mission base that, for a while, looked like it was going to be our permanent home for Love Botswana Outreach Mission Trust. We built a camp where outreach teams came to learn and serve in the north of Botswana. When we had teams in, I did the cooking over the Big, black, cast iron pots over the open fire while Grandma Pat helped take care of the 2 very active Remick and Jordan Lackey.  There was a period of time when we had a terrible drought in the country. (1996/97) The thick dust from no rain, the intense heat, and the stench of death were all around. The last pool of water from the Okavango Delta was right in front of our house. There were animals of all kinds that came from afar to get a drink of the life giving water. Sometimes they would get stuck in the mud and be left to die. There were hippos in the pool as well. Thirty- Two to be exact. At night, these huge creatures who were starving to death, would crash down our barbed wire fences that separated us from the river, and make their way onto the property to eat what was left of our fruit trees outside our bedroom window.

One night, Pat heard a sound that got her out of bed. She pressed her nose against the long narrow window to see what the noise was. To her surprise there was a hippo staring right back at her through the window. Indignant, as only Miss Pat can be- she pointed her finger and firmly whispered, as not to wake the rest of us and said, “Shoo! You get on out of here, do you hear me? Shoo!” And with that, the hippo turned and walked away in silent obedience. But that’s just the kind of spunk she has!

imagesGrandma Pat was especially helpful when it came time to wean the nursing grandbabies. She and Jerry would take turns consoling the blood curdling screams of the uncooperative little ones while mommy (me) was in there other room crying in agony and pain from my side of the weaning! They would take the “sippy cup” with a spout and handles, filled with milk or juice, put the toddler in the stroller, fasten the seat belt and take off on a walk around the property. The further they walked, the fainter the screams became, at least to me, in the house. On their side, the kid would take a few sips from the sippy cup (imported from America, I might add), and throw it with all his might onto the sandy ground! A statement was made, and all of my (3 breastfed boys) made it very clear that they wanted no part of that plastic gadget!

Eventually peace would come. And the child was weaned. Remick was the first to give up his sippy cup at the age of 3. He, together with a young man we brought to the states with us on a trip, went to the edge of the dock in Galveston, Texas and threw the cup into the ocean, never to be seen again. At least until he realized what he had done. The tears didn’t stop till we ended up getting another one at Walmart to calm him down! You have to choose your battles, you know?

To be continued….

*hippo photo compliments of breadwig.com

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Luau’s and Hyenas! (2) Daughter…In Law and In Love

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?????????????????????????The next time I saw my future mother in law was at our rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding. It was a Hawaiian Luau. We got married, put our wedding gifts in storage and drove our old white Mercedes Benz pulling a trailer to Southern California where we were to live for 3 months in an apartment attached to a home of a couple who had 5 children, all under the age of 9. We were working with them to raise our funds to go to Africa. Turns out, the apartment ended up being a room just off the kitchen, and to top it off there was no lock on the door! For a newlywed couple, with curious toddlers around, it was more than a little awkward! The highlights were a deepened friendship with the host family, watching the nearby Disney World fireworks every night on the front lawn and long walks on the beach.

After that, we took our wheels and moved to Denver, Colorado where we were to settle into a charming apartment (just the 2 of us!) and spend 3 months on our next project to get us closer to the African Continent. We had no sooner gotten settled in and got to work, when we received a call from Kentucky. Pat had gone through a personal crisis and needed to get away and make a new start. When Jerry’s dad had left in his teens, it was pretty much just he and his mom. They had to sell the family civil war farmhouse and move into town. She was a kindergarten teacher at the time and Jerry was still in High School. In some ways, he helped take care of her during that difficult time. Once again, she needed him. I was the first to say, “sure, come on over!”  So she did. She came with her bags and we moved her into the other bedroom of the apartment. It was right across from ours. What I didn’t know is that she never closed her bedroom door because of being locked in the basement as a child. You see, her mother died when she was very young and her sister, 20 years older than her took her and raised her. When her sister got married, Pat was subjected to some pretty cruel practices, such as being locked in the basement when she was naughty. She was a ring-tail-tooter with a vivid imagination, but no one deserved that, and it did have its effects on her.

Something I didn’t anticipate was having my mother-in-law across the hall with this very shy, newlywed wife within earshot of our bedroom! What was worse? The toddlers or this? She was easy to get along with, and I think we all just had a special “grace” to live together like that. It was just a matter of time till we ended up in Houston for our last event. We managed to get her into an apartment and a job as Principal for a church where I was formerly a Youth Pastor.  They were starting a Christian School and I introduced them to Pat and she successfully grew their school over the next few years.

After our first few years in Africa, I had a growing desire to start our own Christian School in the Village of Maun, Botswana, where we had settled. I wanted something that would remain after us and it was, after all, at a Christian School where my life was changed and my life purpose discovered. Who better than “Miss Pat” to come and be our founding Principal, or Headmistress as referred to in Africa. The school in Houston was doing well and so during our next stateside visit, we asked her if she would be willing to move to Africa with us and help us start our school. Her response was that she would pray about it. It took some time for her to decide. She didn’t want to do it just because we were there. It had to be a word from God to her to do this next assignment. Not long after, we went to a church near Galveston, Texas. Just before the service ended, a Pastor named Rusty Martin got up, not knowing anything about our school or her plans. He said that he felt the Lord was speaking to him that (Pat), out of the hundreds of people who were there, was in conflict about a decision to go to the mission field in Africa. He said, “The Lord says to tell you that He is asking you to go, and it is not because of your children, but because of my heart for the many children that will one day, call  you a “Mother” on the continent.”

She packed her bags and came over with me shortly after our second son, Jordan, was born in 1991. We started the school together in January of 1992. Pat lived in our small house with us until we fixed up a cute thatched rondovel for her on the property we rented. She put all her energy, expertise and efforts into the school we named, Ngamiland Christian Academy. The school was in its second year, located in the London Mission Society house that was owned by the UCCSA church of Botswana. It was a historical building in which Jerry’s office was housed. Originally, it was the office of Robert Moffit, where the bible was translated into Setswana, giving Africa its first bible in an African language. Those early years were filled with joy and growth! And to have a grandma nearby for our two boys was a bonus!

She was the kind of Grandma that would go on long walks with the kids, pick up bugs and look at things through the kids’ plastic detective magnifying glasses and experience the wonder of the great African outdoors together. I had friends that would ask me what it was like having your “mother in law” always around and so close. Really, it was great. She helped me so much with the kids and never interfered with the way I did things. I was (am) a good cook, and she would watch the kids while I did the cooking and always helped with clean up afterwards. I rarely felt my space encroached upon and we generally got on very well. Life with Toddlers is very busy as well as building a ministry from the ground up. She and I were at the helm of the school while Jerry was busy with outreaches to even more remote areas than our own village of Maun.hyenas-laugh-2

On school holidays we went on outreaches together, sleeping in tents and cooking over the open fire. We had recently bought a new tent that had a divider in it and went out on one such trip. Pat slept on the one side with Remick, our firstborn son, while Jerry and I slept on the other side. I had the baby nicely tucked against the side of the tent and held him close as he was still nursing. I had a sudden urge to move Jordan, and out of that instinct, I moved him in between me and Jerry when all of a sudden, I heard a crash outside the tent! A crack in the zipper revealed a pack of Hyena’s that had made their way into our camp site and were rummaging for our leftover food right outside!

There are many, many stories I could tell about unusual times together. On that same safari, we were snugly tucked in when we heard a loud cracking sound, then the buzz of voices. When we looked out the tent, we saw an elephant straddling a small pup tent that contained two frenchmen who were no doubt, terrified at the thought of what was overhead! While the elephant dug his long ivory tusks into the side of the pulpy baobab tree and shook its fruit with his long nose, they hung on for dear life, all the while wondering if, at any moment they would be crushed. But alas, the friendly mammal was just looking for a midnight snack. In the morning, the two frenchmen left that site with a story to tell for the rest of their lives!

……..to be continued!

Daughter……In Law And In Love (1)

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“Whither thou goest I will go, whither thou lodgest, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, My God.”

We’ve had quite a journey my mom-in-law and I. We kind of did it the other way around though. I went with her son to Africa. Before we had even met, Jerry and I were on our own journey to Southern Africa. God saw fit to cross our paths and 2 years later we found ourselves married, with a shared calling, in Africa on a true journey of our hearts. We were together and we were happy serving God in the most unlikely place for us two American “yuppies”. A few years later, she joined us in our work, giving us a Principal for our new school and a live-in grandmother for our kids. Here is the story of how my Mother in Law, become my Mother in Love.

The first time I met Pat Lackey aka “Miss Pat”, was Thanksgiving week, of 1985. Jerry and I were getting serious in our relationship, so we made the long drive up to Radcliff, Kentucky to meet his mama.  I heard from a family friend that she was a really likable person and that she would just love me! Still, I was nervous! We arrived to the smell of  a wonderful Turkey dinner.  I instantly felt at ease and comfortable. It was true, we hit it off well. Come Monday, she was off to the school she had started and was Principal, at the local Assembly of God Church. We went to visit and I was astounded by her leadership of the kids and staff. She came home later with bite marks on her from a kid that had some serious behavioral problems. I heard the story and was moved to tears at the way she handled it. She held the little boy tight in her arms, praying for him, loving him, until he finally melted in the love that he was being surrounded with. It was not the first, or last child whose life was changed by her love and faith in him. It was a stubborn love and was not the only time I would see that in action on behalf of a troubled child!

A Life Changed:

I think of “Esa”. The boy brought to our school when no other school could help him. They said he had learning disabilities. Under Miss Pat’s watchful eye, the boy grew in confidence and in spite of plenty of episodes of “discipline”. She saw the potential, the hidden gifts in him and brought those out. Today-17 years later, he is a college graduate, a successful businessman, an entrepreneur who is active in the men’s ministry of our church.

Penned by Jeff Lackey:

A Poem For My Mother

She was born in a small town

a homecoming queen with a musical sound,

From Nebraska to Kentucky

we followed the work,

Each place made special

by the lessons we learned:

Nature is magic

Belief is your friend

Animals can talk

Keep the child within,

She  taught us that people are basically good

Save a place for forgiveness –

when things don’t work as they should

We’re all connected despite what it seems

You can find excitement in your smallest of dreams

If you try and change her

You’re wasting your time

If you’re looking for head-strong

she carries the sign

But she channels the spirit from a place up above

and she wears the clothes of unconditional love

As time passes and I finish this line,

paper and pen fall short

when I try to describe

My mother, my friend, a teacher of life.

…to be continued

Wearing Pajamas To Church

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pulling-my-hair-outCaring for a mother-in-law who was once an independent, self-sufficient individual was unexpected, at this stage in my life, to say the least. It started with a knee surgery and now, 4 months later and 4 surgeries later, I find myself in Pretoria, South Africa attending to her at every visit allowed in the High Care Unit. Love is being tested and leaves feelings of guilt when a test is failed.

“There is nothing on this planet quite so toxic as guilt.”  Caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease is no joke. It reminds me of popcorn, one of my favorite foods. Great finished product, but the grease gets hot and if the lid isn’t on the pan, grease will fly and you will get burned! Two women. Two wills. One to keep the other one safe-no matter what. Ruth and Naomi-sort of, in a very unromantic way. The raw stuff of life. Literally. From a knee surgery to give her a new lease on life, followed by a blocked colon that burst in the middle of nowhere in Africa, miracle survival, and a bag to catch-you know what. 2 months of that and this week it got reconnected! That part is going to work again, but I can honestly say, along with my dutiful, devoted friend Michelle, who helped me, I was knee deep in !@#*! The aroma was anything but savory.

The one certainty through all of this is the few Sunday mornings when we were at home over the last few months. No matter what, our mom would be well enough to go to church. It was a chore. I bought some beautiful new outfits for her before her knee surgery. I also bought some warm Pajamas for the recovery time in hospital. There was one pair that was a favorite. Much to my surprise, the outfit I had picked out to wear was put aside and I was informed she was going “casual”. I came in to administer the morning meds to find her fully dressed in the favorite PJ’s! Should I let her go, or preserve her dignity, even if unappreciated at the time? A forced, “nice” outfit was imposed and wills clashed. I won. Sometimes the popcorn gets burned. The smell hangs around for a while. But oh, the joy to taste buds is the warm, salty taste of perfect popcorn! The process in the pan is intense-but if we stick with it, there are moments of delight.

Time is not on our side. The past 4 months have proven that. I hope I can get a few good batches of popcorn and heck, if she has to wear pi’s to church to be happy, why not?

Botswana: The Jewel In The Crown Of Africa, Part 2

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These stories are not uncommon. Just over 10 years ago Botswana faced an epidemic of catastrophic proportion.  The response, from the beginning of the epidemic, both by the Botswana government and international donors and research institutions, has been unprecedented.

Besides investing hugely by its own government, Botswana has received aid from international donors and research institutions. The U.S. government was involved through the CDC and PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which was launched by President George W. Bush. The Bill and Melinda Gates & Merck Foundations have also been a vital part of seeing these statistics improve. 

Today, the plight of a Zimbabwean is close to what it was over 15 years ago. It was too late for the teacher mentioned in my previous post. But for the young woman, a citizen of Botswana, who got help almost immediately once the free program was rolled out in the country, it meant life for her. The Southern African nation of Botswana has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world. Nearly 25 percent of all adults in the country are infected with the virus, with the Kingdom of Swaziland ranking number one.

But Botswana is also remarkable for its response to the epidemic. It has one of the most comprehensive and effective HIV treatment programs in Africa. Transmission of HIV from infected mothers to their fetuses and newborn babies went from 40% has now been brought down to just 4%.  A decade ago, Botswana was facing a national crisis as AIDS appeared on the verge of decimating the country’s adult population. Now, Botswana provides free, life-saving ARV drugs to citizens who need them.

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From the beginning of the epidemic, there’s been tremendous leadership on the part of the government of Botswana to address the epidemic head on.” – Kathleen Toomey, head of the CDC’s office in Botswana

In 2002, Botswana became the first nation in Africa to launch a program to try to provide access to HIV drug treatment nationwide. Now, roughly 95 percent of Botswana citizens who need the medications are on them and living healthy, productive lives.  Botswana has had advantages in addressing HIV that many other countries do not have even though through ongoing infection rates it comes in at the second most affected country from HIV in the world.  Through education, both Moral and academically, the statistics are slowly improving. Though as large as the State of Texas or the country of France, its small population of only 2 million people, the effects on such a small population are substantial. The Botswana government now spends more on health care per capita than any other country in Africa.

Having lived in the country for more than 25 years, we have seen a turnaround in the effects of HIV/AIDS on our everyday lives. Funerals were continual, hospital beds were not enough, there was not one area of life here that was not affected by the scourge. Today, things are shaping up. With services offered by Government, with partnerships with NGO’s, with a society that wants to see change, hope is becoming a reality. I for one am grateful for all the efforts made, international and local, to see what was a death sentence for a nation, turn into a thriving nation that is headed towards Vision 2016 and continue to be a Model for all of Africa to see.

Photo: Bing.com

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Stats taken from: http://www.npr.org/2012/07/09/156375781/botswanas-stunning-achievement-against-aids

My 500 Words Post 21