Why I have a Piggy in my Bathroom

What are some great, inexpensive, convenient, simple items that make your life easier?

Here are 3 of mine; not in any particular order or preference or convenience.

1. A piggy bank in our upstairs bathroom. In any random place in our home–on the floor, under couch cushions–I find coins. They go into the piggy bank. Easy cleanup, no fuss about whose quarter it really was (unless of course we know for sure it belonged to said person.)

2. A “return-it bag” on a hook in the front door closet. When I’m finished with something I borrowed, or someone forgot an item at our house, it goes into the return-it bag. The item is less likely to get lost and more likely to be returned sooner than later.

3. Notebooks. I have many notebooks and journals going at the same time, each with specific purposes, which I pile in stacks at my current work station. Daily to-do’s, writing projects, health journal, homeschool journal, etc. I buy lots at back to school sales or find them at yard sales sometimes…and put them to good use!


The Colour of Missions Part 6

We stopped in a village for lunch. We sat on the notorious narrow, backless benches in a brick house eating rice and beans and drinking chai. Jake smiled and made friendly faces at the children who peeked into the window. Not used to seeing mzungus, they scattered in all directions.

Then we visited some friends of Trudy’s from the Masai tribe–a nomadic, cattle herding people. We sat under a shade tree in their yard, visiting with two wives. Trudy introduced us, they asked questions, and she translated. It felt like we were visiting with two Old Colony Mennonite ladies in Mexico.

“Who is older, Andrew or Megan?”

“Do Baba and Mama Andrew have more children in their homeland?”

“Megan wants to stay here with us when Baba and Mama Andrew go back to Canada, doesn’t she?”

They invited us into their house and served us beef and ugali, but they stayed outside while we ate.

When the children came home from school, we were once again sitting under the shade tree. They greeted us and then changed out of their school uniforms. I was delighted to discover that one of the little girls was named Tina.

Tina and Tina!
The wives and some of the children walked back with us a ways toward the guta. I held Tina’s hand.

Around the next bend in the path past a huge tree we saw a rainbow! Droplets of water in the air breaking white sunlight into the seven colours of the spectrum, each connected to each other.

When Jesus the Light of the World shines upon the connection of the missionary and his or her church, it will illuminate support and encouragement and colour. 

Let us ask God to show us how we can better connect with our missionaries, so that the good gift of the gospel can be shared effectively. 

That evening we all gathered at the mission house. We sang songs, we prayed, we blessed. And we washed the missionaries’ feet.

The next day we headed back to Mbeya, experiencing it all in reverse: the guta ride to the bus stop, the bumpy bus ride to Mlowo, switching buses, the crowded bus ride to Mbeya.

On Thursday the group went to Ngozi Crater Lake. I stayed back with Sheryl and these two sweethearts.

Afterward Trudy took us shopping at market.

Friday we flew home.

Finally, finally on Saturday afternoon we hugged these three. Oh, the rainbow of connection that shone then!

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. John 17:21

The Colour of Missions Part 5

Dazi, dazi,” a small voice begged at the kitchen window first thing Monday morning. It was Kona, the down syndrome boy who came every morning asking for food, first at Trudy’s and then at the mission house. His parents had gotten up at dawn to go to farm, leaving the children to fend for themselves.

I spent the morning at Trudy’s, tidying up and doing some laundry. Termites had built a muddy wall by our mattress, and mud had gotten on our sheets.

Kona helped me, plunging a washcloth in and out of the washtub, splashing water all over himself. He fiercely wrung out the cloth and clipped it onto the wash line, chattering all the while. Finally he took off his shirt and proceeded to wash it as well. A murky pool spread out in the washtub water. The children are often known by the clothes they wear.

Jake made a water filter stand for Trudy, which turned out to be a formidable task since African carpentry is vastly different than what he was used to.

At lunchtime it rained!

It was brief but a much needed shower of blessings on the parched soil of Ivuna. Children ran in the refreshing, cooling, cleansing rain. One little girl set a rain barrel near the roof to collect rainwater.

The village well.
In the afternoon, Trudy wrapped our gifts in black grocery bags and, as we walked along the village paths, instructed us on the proper greetings. We were going to greet the chief!

We were invited into the chief’s courtyard by his right-hand-man and then into his palace, a rectangular gazebo. We entered one behind the other, bowing, being ever so careful to not look at the chief. We bowed low and did our best to mimic the greetings Trudy uttered; then seated ourselves on the narrow, backless benches that lined the walls. Now we were finally free to look the chief in the face.

He was an older, thin man wearing a long black robe that touched his dusty black shoes. On his head he wore a round flat hat.

Trudy introduced each of us. We nodded and smiled, and the chief commented and inquired of our families and our homeland. Suddenly our visit was interrupted by the ringing of the chief’s cell phone.

On our way out of the courtyard, the chief’s son, Zanobi, invited us to his place. He was a bubbly, outgoing man who welcomed us into his freshly swept courtyard and seated us on couches in his neatly kept house. Mama Biti was quiet and smiling; their young daughter Biti (short for Beatrice) delighted in the girls’ attention.

Mama Glanti cooked fish and ugali for our supper. We all ate from the main dishes while sitting on a mat in Trudy’s courtyard. Trudy showed us how to roll the hot ugali (corn flour dough) into a ball, indent it with our thumb, and then use it to scoop up the fish and broth.

In the evening we went to the village square for chai and mandazi. We sat on backless benches, loud music drumming through the darkness. It seemed all of Ivuna was out, young and old, eating their supper, dancing and drinking pombe (homemade beer made from corn.)

As we ate the fried, unsweetened donut and sipped the sweet, hot tea, I silently prayed for the people around me. “Oh Lord, may they long to drink of Your Living Water and hunger for Your righteousness!”

Afterward a few ladies joined Trudy for a late evening Bible class.

The next morning it rained again. After a quick breakfast, we piled into the guta and headed to Lake Rukwa.

The lake was beautiful. Peaceful. I pictured Jesus near such a lake, stepping into a boat, pulling it off shore a ways and preaching to the multitude.

We posed for pictures and watched two fishermen pulling in their nets. To get to the water’s edge we walked across a sandbar, the wet sand sucking our feet in up to our ankles. The young and spry played tag on the shore.

Andrew and Matt walked so far into the shallow lake that they were only specks in the water. Later Noel asked why we’d let them swim there–alligators and hippos live in that lake!

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6

The Colour of Missions Part 4

Saturday afternoon a group of men came to Trudy’s door who’d been in a pikipiki accident.

“Hodi!” (Hello) they called.

Trudy quickly ushered them into her living room and got out the medical supplies she had on hand. One man’s foot was badly cut, dripping a trail of blood on the cement floor.

Everyone’s blood runs red. And everyone needs the crimson stream of the Son of God flowing in their life. In God’s eyes no culture, no skin colour, no people group is superior. God loves all and died for all.

Hannah built castles in the courtyard sand with the little ones.

And somehow right under my nose, Trudy and the girls prepared a special meal for couples night. They planned to eat supper at the mission house and watch the children there for the evening. 

Jake and I showered, dressed up in our Tanzania best, and walked back to Trudy’s place where we joined Noel & Sarah and Johnny & Matilda. In the gazebo the lovely table was set with a feast, music playing from a nearby window.

We sipped lemonade and ate baked potato bar with all the trimmings, coleslaw, pudding topped with mangoes, bananas, and coconut, and brownies.  Once in a while a herd of goats scurried by on the other side of the matika fence, or someone called out and Sarah answered something in Swahili.

Then each couple shared their story of how they’d met and fallen in love.

Morning quiet time

The Sunday morning church service began with singing. Pastor Apolenari preached in Swahili, and Zack interpreted.

The testimonials were translated also.

“Each of us has something we can do for God. I want to be faithful in what God wants me to do.”

“I am asking God for rain. I am not asking the witch doctor. God is the One Who sends rain.”

“I am worshiping the Lord. I am following the Lord Jesus because I love Him.”

We rested in the afternoon. The best place to rest was in Trudy’s breezy courtyard on a reed mat instead of indoors sweating on a mattress and pillow.

I’d learned it was wise to follow the good example of the village women and lay down for a rest in the afternoon when it was warmest. One afternoon especially I felt hot and tired and so very far away from our three children in Canada. I wanted to go home! But after a rest I felt much better. Likewise in the faith. When I am weary, I must go to God and rest in His love. Everything will be brighter!

At 4:00 we gathered on the mission house front porch for an afternoon church service. More lovely singing and then a teaching on the sacrament of baptism.

For supper Kayla made delicious crepes with pudding, bananas, and canned mangoes. After some more visiting, we went to bed early.

We switched off our solar powered bulb and propped the door open so a breeze could flow through. Lying under the mosquito net, we shone our flashlight around to hunt down any mosquitoes that could attack us while we slept. Then we talked on the phone with our children who were just finishing their lunch hour at home.

My heart overflowed with love. I was at rest; my Heavenly Father was holding my world in His hands.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. Romans 5:8,9

The Colour of Missions Part 3

In the afternoons, children gathered on the mission house front porch for singing and a Bible story.

Friday afternoon we visited Trudy’s good friend, Mama Glanti. The parents are named after their firstborn child. It took me a while to remember that my name was Mama Andrew and therefore respond when they called me that. Jake was called Baba Andrew.

I thought, It’s a blessing to be named after my Heavenly Father’s Firstborn–little Christ, Christian.

Agatha, Michael, Matilda, me, Mama Glanti, Trudy, Jeshua

We also visited Mama Susana, who was dying with HIV. She lay on her mattress groaning in pain, unable to respond as Trudy talked with her and prayed for her. She was so thin we could see the ball of her hip and bone beneath the blanket. She had told one of the Christians that she knows Jesus has forgiven her sins. She passed away into eternity the day we flew home.

Let us pray that the glorious gospel will set aflame in the hearts of the people of Ivuna. Let us continue to pray for those who are sharing the good gift of the gospel. It is our call; it is our part of the work, and God’s work is not in vain.

That evening we had a hot dog roast in honour of Trudy’s birthday in Noel and Sarah’s courtyard.

After we ate a special supper of hot dogs, coleslaw, punch, chai and cake for dessert, we each shared how Trudy is a blessing in our lives. We sang in English and in Swahili, the most enthusiastic voice being that of Pastor Apolinery.

We first met the Pastor in Mlowo at the bus stop. Jake said that immediately he’d seen a light in his eyes, an openness, a clarity of conscience. He was heading to Ivuna as well, to visit Zack and Matt (stepoutonthewaterblog.wordpress.com) and had planned his visit in conjunction with the Canadians’. On the bus he sat in front of Andrew and Megan. He speaks some English and a conversation ensued. He bought salted casava through the window from a vendor at one bus stop and shared some with us.

By this time it was dark, and the light of the bonfire cut through the blackness and reflected on each of us as we sang, “Ni Salama rohoni mwangu.” (It is well with my soul.)

We all need a Fire burning in our hearts, cutting the darkness, brightening our eyes, blazing a purpose for our souls. 

While we tidied up the yard and cleaned up the kitchen, we sang,

“Shine, Jesus, shine
Fill this land with the Father’s glory
Blaze, Spirit, blaze
Set our hearts on fire.
Flow, river, flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth your word
Lord, and let there be light.”

The song became my prayer.

Saturdays the clinic is closed, so after a breakfast of stretchy porridge and yummy natural peanut butter, we hung around Trudy’s place, the men hauling water to give the parched garden a drink, and we womenfolk doing a bit of housekeeping and cooking.

Each day I’d been drinking a cup of water with 2-3 oregano drops in it, hoping it’s anti-parasitical properties would take effect. I made a cup for my daughter as well, since she’d been complaining about a tummy ache first thing in the morning. (Ironically, the last thing she’d eaten was Canadian hotdogs!)

“Oregano burns like fire in your throat, so be sure to have extra water on hand to gulp down afterward,” I told her and dutifully continued washing dishes (which we did in cold water.)

Megan told me later that Agatha had seen what a hard time she had drinking the oregano water and graciously offered to dump it out the window. Megan had readily agreed.

Johnny, Matilda, and Trudy walked to the dry riverbed. It was usually flowing at this time of year.

Trudy said she hoped it would rain soon.

His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. Revelation 19:12

The Colour of Missions Part 2

The bus ride from Mlowo to the village of Ivuna (E voo’na) lasted over 4 hours. In Canada, a bus in its condition would’ve long been hauled to the scrap yard, but here it still served well and was even graced with a name–Richie Richie.

The rickety bus heaved over brown hills and revved through gullies to a lower altitude and warmer air. It bumped and rattled and made grating sounds that made me wonder if poor Richie Richie would make it over the next rutted incline.

“Always room for one more!” seemed to be the motto. The bus driver stopped often to pick up more passengers, who simply set down their packages and stood in the aisle as the bus lurched forward.

The man who’d been standing in the aisle beside me from the beginning of the ride, seated himself on my arm rest. Another motto seemed to be “Your space is my space.” I leaned closer to Jake and to the reddish-brown dust blowing into the open window. It was rainy season and the corn was waist high. Mountains in the distance reminded me of the mountains in Chihuahua, Mexico, where we’d visit my grandmother when I was growing up.

Finally we reached our stop, but alas, one of our totes was missing! A crowd gathered around as Trudy, the driver and three or four men discussed who was responsible for the missing tote, and whether or not the transportation of our luggage had been paid for.

About twenty minutes later we were unpacking our dusty luggage and settling in our room in the mission compound of Noel and Sarah Ornelas. You can read about their lives at cheeryochatter.wordpress.com.

Trudy’s open gate welcoming us into her compound.
The next morning I woke up at 5:00 and couldn’t go back to sleep. It was afternoon in Canada. The Lord was going to turn me into a morning person yet!

Hannah, Megan, and Matilda made a special breakfast of cinnamon rolls and egg casserole for Trudy’s birthday.

Megan cooking on an outdoor brazer.
Then we walked with her to the clinic. It looked like rain so we carried our umbrellas.


Mwakata uli!”


Trudy and the villagers called Sichela greetings to each other across the village paths. We imitated the foreign words; then curtsied and clapped and shook their hands.

Karibuni Tanzania!” (Welcome to Tanzania.)

Asante.” (Thank you.)

They roared with laughter at these mzungu’s bumbling. “You should teach them Swahili,” they told Trudy.

Jake, me, Trudy, & Agatha outside the clinic.
At the clinic, Trudy thought aloud in English and diagnosed her patients in Swahili.
One of the patients was a little girl who had sprained her knee. She put her hand on my head in the typical fashion of a child greeting an older person. “Shikamoo,” she said politely.

While Jake massaged her knee, the poor little girl wailed and cried.

Pole, pole,” (sorry, sorry) Trudy sympathized as we bandaged her leg. When it was all over, she gave a reluctant smile as she clung to her mother.

Jake loved the children! And they loved him.
The clinic was closed in the afternoons, but often people had walked a long way or it was an emergency, so they came to Trudy’s house, and she served them, giving up her space and time.

Jake and Johnny watered Trudy’s garden and planted more seeds in the parched grey sandy soil. There was less rain than usual this rainy season.

I sorted our laundry, filled an empty tote with cold water and hauled it into the shade.  Mama Wawili paused her scrubbing and held up our socks, chattering in Swahili to her helper. With sweat pouring down my face, it was hard to imagine we’d worn them only four days ago.

As I hung the dripping clothes on the line, I thought of my nifty appliances back home. How do I spend my time while my washer and dryer clean our clothes? I determined that it would be time spent serving in God’s kingdom.

Serving Him involves the gritty discomfort of putting our own needs aside, being hidden like the seeds in the soil, accepting that the fruit may not yield while we’re there to see it. The timing, the space, the glory belongs to God.

Several times during our visit Trudy said to us, “Thank you for coming to see my life here.” Indeed the privilege was ours, watching her live out the colour of missions, humbly serving her Lord and the people of Ivuna

 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. 2 Corinthians 4:5


The Colour of Missions Part 1

We flew through time, and after a 13-hour flight on Ethiopian airlines, reached Sunday 8 hours before our people back home. When we exited the airport in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, a pressing heat wave hit us. Two taxi drivers loaded our 14 totes, numerous suitcases and backpacks into two vans. Our taxi driver, a tall thin Tanzanian man, sat behind the steering wheel on the right-hand side of the vehicle.

I guess in Tanzania the invisible traffic light always shines green. With a sharp horn alert, he moved into a seemingly too-small opening in the stream of traffic and expertly drove us the ten minutes to our guest house, clicking his tongue at vehicles, pikipikis (motorcycles) and pedestrians who passed inches from the van window.

After a supper of roasted chicken and ugali, we fell, worn-out, into our beds. I felt a tad guilty sleeping in an air conditioned room; we were in Africa after all.

In the morning we had a short flight and then descended into the green-quilted countryside of Mbeya.

Here we met up with our dear missionary friend, Trudy! It was so good to see her again!!

We were transported in a land rover to the home of Tim and Sheryl Zeiset of Harmony International Missions. (Trudy and Tim & Sheryl will be characters in the third book in The Fehr Family Series.)

A hearty lunch of rice, beans, and bananas and warm fellowship welcomed us. Mbeya’s higher altitude affords cooler air, bright sunshine, lots of greenery and flowers, and picturesque mountains in the distance.

This is where the village missionaries come for rest times. And no wonder, with the warm hospitality and refreshing atmosphere, it felt like we were at the Porter’s house in Pilgrim’s Progress, for surely “This house was built by the Lord of the hill, and He built it for the relief and security of pilgrims.”

Trudy needed medical supplies for the Ivuna clinic. We took the shortcut to town–up a hilly path, past growing bean plants and banana and avocado trees. We had left a dismal, overcast Canada so all the green and sunshine was invigorating.

In the evening Trudy took us to a coffee shop. We had brought our umbrellas, and sure enough, a blessed rain fell while walking back. Suddenly a Tanzanian man joined Agatha and me under our umbrella. He chattered on and on in Swahili. Trudy, who was ahead of us under her umbrella, commented briefly. Finally he disappeared into the darkness. I asked Trudy what he’d said. “Oh, he was just telling us about his day,” she replied.

Then Trudy opened her totes. I watched her delighting in the many gifts and blessings sent by family, friends, and the home church. And I thought…

…we are all called to be part of God’s team in sharing the good gift of the gospel. Jesus gave all of us the green light, the go-ahead, the “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.”

We don’t wait for perfect—not in ourselves and not in others. We pray, we give, we speak, we teach, we encourage. We GO!

We stayed in Mbeya another day, resting, shopping and visiting. The next day we were heading to the village of Ivuna, so we packed up and were ready to GO!

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15

Introducing my books: Fingerprints; Bits and Pieces of Motherhood

While this is not technically my book, I was privileged to contribute to it.

A few years ago, I participated in a survey for Anabaptist women writers. (Darletta Martin and Sheila Petre later compiled this information into a writers directory called Vignettes; Anabaptist Women Writers.) Included with the survey was an invitation from Lucille Martin to contribute to a book for moms called Fingerprints; Bits and Pieces of Motherhood.  

Motherhood is a full, full-time job, brimming with both earthly and eternal responsibilities. You will identify with these moms as they tell about the joys and challenges and, of course, about the countless fingerprints on almost everything. You will be inspired to seek another set of fingerprints in your life and home–the fingerprints of God!

May His fingerprints be evident in our lives as mothers, helping us, enabling us…so that we may one day bring His precious children back to Him.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1,2


A Winter Wish for You

May the Lord give you traveling mercies on icy roads,

and thick coveralls if you work outdoors.

May you have a kind neighbour (or son) to clear your driveway,

and may your front steps and sidewalks be salted.

May large snowflakes fall on your eyelashes,

and all your snowmen stand stately.

May you share warm drinks with friends

and make the best snow ice cream you ever tasted.

May your ice skating be invigorating,

and your sledding hills high and slick.

When you’d rather wear gloves than mittens,

may you have a patient big sister to help you put them on.

And may you, like Job, know God’s work and the great things He does this winter season.

 God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend. For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; …that all men may know his work. Job 37:5-7

Introducing my books: More Trouble than Trouble Creek

When Andrew was 9 years old, he caught strep throat and couldn’t seem to get rid of it. Roughly from his birthday in April until the end of the school year, he was on the mend from recurring strep throat infections.

Around that time (and maybe some time before that) I couldn’t help but notice our children squabbled–often! So much so that Jake and I became convinced that something had to be done about it. I bought the book Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends by Sarah, Stephen, and Grace Mally, studied sibling rivalry with my church sisters, and with God’s help, Jake and I began implementing a plan to bring a greater level of harmony to our home.

This would make a great book! I thought. I’ll call it Andrew on the Mend. (OK, so I’m not that great with titles.)

 From my calendars and journals, I began listing events in our children’s lives that would add to the story. We loved exploring the woods behind our house, and Andrew was into woodcarving. Both became a big part of the story.

Daddy on the Mend has a loose plot; I wanted this book to have a more complicated plot. In order to achieve that, I had to change or add some details or move the time frame of some incidents. For example, losing Andrew’s woodcarving at the library actually happened a year or so after the story takes place. Also, Grandma’s character is a combination of both of the children’s grandmas. My mom lives closer to us so she is able to babysit more often, and my mother-in-law is into natural remedies.


Tips on helping siblings get along.

•Help them see the need for harmonious sibling relationships. Study God’s word together, especially noting Jesus’ example of loving and serving others.

•Do a “d0-over.” When a sibling conflict has occurred, discuss what went wrong and how each person should have acted. Then re-do the scenario with loving actions and words.

•As parents, it’s important that we exemplify harmonious relationships.

•Pray for them and pray with them, asking for a willing heart to show the love of Jesus to their brothers and sisters.


A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. John 13:34