All the Questions, Very few Answers

Let me start by saying that we are safe and healthy. We are living in a furnished house that a friend’s grandmother moved out of a few months ago. Another friend lent us his car since few of us have anywhere to go. We have eaten some of our favorite foods, waved at dear friends from a distance, and overall been incredibly happy to be back in our home state, but what a state our country is in!
I want to share with you a quick recap of our time getting from Congo to Ohio. We spent the second half of February through half of March packing and selling household items that could not make the move to Zambia. When will the movers come get our stuff? When that happened (last minute) we walked with our suitcase to a nearby hotel, stayed one night, and attempted to fly with our missionary friend, Gaston Ntabmbo. What time will Gaston be ready to fly? Great excitement…crushing disappointment. Due to bad weather we ended up at his house for one more night in Lubumbashi. Anticlimactic but still fun because the Ntambo’s are incredible people and serve Jesus with their whole hearts.
Anyway, our second flight attempt was a go and we all loved it. A quick hour and a half later we landed in our new home with 16 bags and suitcases and the excitement of speaking the language of the man checking us through customs. Our first encounter with this COVID-19 monster was when the airport employee took our temperatures and asked us to fill out a form indicating where we were traveling from.
We smushed into a taxi bus (about the size of a minivan) with all the bags and four charming Zambian men. No one smelled badly, which is not always the case, so praise God for that! We arrived at Evelin’s house where we were treated like family. Do we want to stay long-term and rent her house? Evelin is a widow with a beautiful property and is a dear friend of other UMC missionaries. We had the best week at her house playing by the pool and eating from her plethora of fruit trees. Dun dun dunnnnnn, but COVID-19 was not going to allow too much time to settle in.
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Pool side at Evelin’s house.
We visited two wonderful schools, which do we prefer? We were sitting down at a coffee shop to have a family discussion on which was the preference when Porter pointed to the television on the wall. The Zambian Minister of Health had made the decision that starting on Friday, two days from then, schools would be canceled until further notice. We then were notified that the Zambian government would also not be processing any new work visas. We were guests in the country and only allowed to stay for 90 days. YIKES. Would the government start reissuing visas in time for us to be there legally?
We found out that night that the US government was encouraging any Americans who were abroad to come home or prepare to stay where they were for a long time. What is a long time? Global Ministries, our employer, contacted us on Friday night offering to fly us home. Did we want to go? We were not allowed to legally work in Zambia so we would just be “hanging out.” Saturday night, tickets were booked and Sunday at noon we were on a plane. The plane rides were 4.5 hours to Addis Ababa, 16 hours to Chicago (with a brief refueling in Dublin), and then a glorious, life-giving drive to Ohio.
Now that we’re here the questions have come fast and furious. Where should we eat first? Can we see anyone? Where should we live? How can we get around? Are we going back to Africa? When do we decide what we’re going to do? Can we enroll the boys in school? What do we miss about our time in Africa?
The list goes on and on. In unity we wait. All I know for certain in this moment is that we are together, the kids are receiving an education again, family and friends have provided for us in countless ways that we can never repay, and our loving, faithful, never ceasing God will be with us to the end…whenever that is. Hang in there guys!!
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
Jeremiah 33:3
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Circle the Wagons

Do you ever look at your life and think, “What in the world was I thinking?!” I have had this thought when I was juggling nursing a baby while yelling at boys to stop fighting, in the middle of a coffee shop remodel that went on for days, and certainly when stranded in a foreign country with a broken down, gas-guzzling hunk of junk car. The “How did I get here?” question has run through my head countless times over the past year. The answer doesn’t always come easily or with the same fervor, but it always comes. God. We answered His call.
Missionary life is many wonderful things but is also many difficult things. It is overwhelming at times, everyone is in your business, people expect you to pour out all of the goodness of the Lord, and give them everything you have. Reflecting on this, we have seen a beautiful sunny side in what God has done in our family. We circled the wagons. What could have unraveled us, instead has woven us more tightly together. Our family of 6 has spent an unprecedented amount of time together and we’ve come through it stronger (with minor battle scars).
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Saying Goodbye to Carl Sanderson, a good dog and friend.
When we arrived we tightened the net around ourselves, but during our 13 months in Congo we have grown into this call to be in community with others. We have as the locals say, “poly poly” (slowly slowly) let down our guard. I find sweet irony in our few remaining weeks here that we have welcomed more people into our home than I can keep track of. With the impending move to Zambia we have needed to sell some of our personal items, requiring many visitors stopping by. I’ve had coffee and conversations with many and am saddened that as I meet new friends, I’m also saying goodbye.
The boys have had a revolving door of friends at our house. On one day of insanity we had 11 children running around. Nick locked the front door so that they could only go in and out through the back where he stationed himself, closing the door behind them over and over again. The house has been full of friends and visitors just as we are preparing to leave. Did we wait too long to open our door? Part of me thinks yes, but I would still lean towards no.
We are so thankful to be on this journey and grateful to God, our friends, family, and church to have made this possible. However, as I said before, one of the most beautiful parts of this journey thus far has been the closeness of our Sh’awesome 6. I first answer to God for the spiritual health of my family and I cannot stop praising God for the goodness of that. The boys are doing better than I could have asked for, though I do ask for it every day. God has been so faithful.
As we say goodbye to the new friends we’ve made in Congo, we go forward a little less guarded, with more love in our hearts, more trust in our God, and more joy in the mission. I’m sure the question of “What in the world was I thinking?” will still come up as we settle into our new home in the third country in a 15 month span. The tapestry that God is weaving us into is complicated, unpredictable and full of uncertainty. Lucky for us, the weaver sees the finished product.
Colossians 2:2
I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery.
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Friends at Hasna Farms
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The vacation that kept on giving…

When you plan a vacation, I imagine you choose a destination that you are excited to visit with plenty of fun activities, beautiful scenery, relaxing beaches, or people you want to see.
What if I told you the Shaw’s just spent two weeks paying a heap of money that met none of those qualifications?! That’s right. We did not see cool people, beautiful scenery, relax, or do exciting things. In fact, we got to walk down muddy, crowded sidewalks for seven days straight, sometimes in the rain and other days in the searing heat…uphill both ways!! Okay, that part is exaggerated. It was only uphill one way.

The story of our adventure started with our first solo border-crossing. We typically have a charming, elderly man accompany us who knows the ins and outs of crossing the border, but sadly he wasn’t available for this journey. There are always plenty of people to “help” you whether you want it or not and a man named Jean attached himself to us like Cling Wrap which did ease some of the hassle of knowing which window to visit in which order. There are 8 on the Congo side alone.

Once we crossed to the Zambian side, we rejoiced in our ability to speak English but promptly got intercepted by Interpol. Though this was our third time crossing, there was the unexpected need for a document that we did not have and have never been asked to present. This document should have been signed by the Lubumbashi police department to authorize that our vehicle is legal to take out of the country. We still don’t know if this was a ruse, but I applied all my powers of persuasion, appealed to their Christian values (it being the day after Christmas), and we were allowed through. We breathed a sigh of relief and headed to Kitwe, which was our first stop of the journey.
One night in Kitwe and the world was not our oyster…it turned into 3 very long nights. After rolling into town and finding our accommodations unprepared for our visit, we went to get dinner. We received a green light for our guesthouse while at dinner, but by a cruel twist of fate, our beast of a Land Cruiser, Tina, lost gears 3 and 4. We had JUST had this unreliable hunk of white junk serviced before leaving town…but what can you do? Day 2 in Kitwe was spent searching for a new transmission, and Day 3 Nick spent sitting at the garage babysitting the installation. Day 4 and thousands of dollars lighter, we took off bright and early for our destination of Lusaka, the capital city.

We had a fantastic time exploring, eating at good restaurants, finding Malaria medication, and ringing in the New Year, but sadly Tina still struggled with her transmission. This time gears 3 and 5 had to be forcibly held in place or they would drop into neutral. We headed back to Kitwe with a sense of hope but annoyance. The garage that had installed the transmission was going to work on Tina for free. Thank you, God.
We chose a hotel in town which was much more expensive than the guesthouse but enabled us to walk to the malls and boasted a pool. This was a good choice because the 2 estimated days for repair turned into a WEEK! The boys rejoiced in swimming everyday and we did what the Shaw’s do. We played a lot of Uno, ate a lot of ice cream, and made the best of it. This is where we walked the muddy sidewalks… yay!

So if this sounds like a delightful vacation to you, requiring unforeseen expenses, a week of extra travel, and an extended stay in a city with very little to do for entertainment, travel with us! One of the positive things I have heard said about Africa is the pace of life. I do have to admit that the easy, slow speed of the way we live definitely has its perks (silver lining?), but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that my American need for efficiency doesn’t fit that slow pace. Fortunately, the race I am running is one I am running for God and He determines the outcome, no matter at what pace I am living. Thank you, God for unexpected “vacations” which always come with lessons learned.

Romans 5:3

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”

Hebrews 12:1-2

“…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”


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No Words To Say ‘Thank You’

“I do it myself!” A phrase so many beautiful, chubby toddlers have insisted to their moms and dads. Often we want them to hurry up and “do it yourself!” but typically we need them to do it faster and honestly, we’re just more capable. Here’s the problem I’ve been facing, sometimes I just can’t “do it myself!”
I have mentioned that I am independent, Type A, and many other good or bad things, depending on your perspective. However, there have been countless times in my life in Congo that I am simply incapable of solving a problem. I may know the answer but I don’t know the first thing about finding the parts I need or knowing whether or not the parts are even in country. God has not been just breaking down my walls of self-proclaimed independence, he has been lobbing grenades at them.
It is painfully hard to realize that I am not in control of my situations. When our car broke down on the side of the road outside the city, our only weapons of attack were a cell phone and prayer. After a short period of time, bonding with some boys watching us sweat alongside the road, and several

heaven sent friends, the boys and I got a ride home and Nick spent the next 4.5 hours with our friend Gaston and his “pit crew” well after it was dark fixing the car. Is there anything I can do or say to repay this generosity? No, there isn’t. It makes me squirm a little at receiving this act of love and fall on my knees because that is the only response I have.
When we moved here, “fresh off the boat,” a non-UMC missionary from Australia took it upon herself to visit us at the guesthouse where we were staying. Unhappy with our accommodations, she took us to see another guesthouse, invited us to her church and later fed us lunch. She has not stopped extending her hand in friendship, encouraging us and saving us over and over from our “we don’t know what to do!” situations. She seeks approval from God because there is nothing, we can do to repay this kind of radical love and hospitality.
IT IS SO HARD! I love what God is showing me through this kind of “I can’t do it myself” lifestyle. I pray that I take this lesson with me, knowing this is how I am to receive Christ’s gift of the cross. I can’t earn the love of God, salvation, or do anything to lose it (which is a good thing when I’m being a terrible).
The gifts that God gives us through this type of giving and receiving are countless. This is that fabulous time of year where we all look at our bank accounts (or tell ourselves that we should be responsible and look at our bank accounts) and calculate how much we want to spend on Christmas. There are so many family members and friends who you want to buy for, so many charitable causes that are worth contributing to…what about mission’s work?

{Shameless plug} What missionaries do is so amazing! It is much larger than you can imagine! People envision missionaries as “bringing Jesus to the downtrodden” but really it is about connecting the church through taking care of people, working with people in a community to grow in health, education, and sustainable jobs. It’s really amazing. Please think about giving, even a little bit, to making this continuing work a reality. God bless you this season my friends!

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Provers 3:5-6

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