Speaking in Berkeley

Blog 1569, 23 June 2018, Saturday

Dear friend,

Thursday was the long day I dreaded but thanks to friends, we survived. Don and Karin drove us the two hour trip to Berkeley from their east Sacramento home, and back again to pick up our car in northwest Sacramento. That generosity of their endurance that enabled us to drive to Grants Pass, getting in about 9:30, bleary headed and stiff of body. But, know this, the day was worth it. We spoke to only ten people of whom ten cared deeply for Africa, especially Tanzania. All but one had been to Tanzanian, all had supported students and projects. They were with us there but we knew their hearts were in Africa, as are ours. It’s really hard not to be interesting when everyone loves what you’re talking about. It’s a subject for the heart and a whole lot more.

Friday was our drive to Crater Lake. I know now why I never visited there, it’s not on the road to anywhere. But it is lovely and consistently so. As with every other step of this venture (or series of adventures), it was the people who made the day. Jim and Pam are almost our age, the day was sunny and warm, and it was good, including the pie break at Beckie’s at the Rogue Gorge, a 500-foot canyon sliced through the rock of the mountain, 25-feet wide at its narrowest, with an average water flow strong enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in one minute.

It is Jean’s hope that we’ll get up at 6 this morning (it’s 3:30 a.m.) and be on our way by 6:30, making the 6½ hour trip and being home by 1. That doesn’t seem possible, actually being at home with only a few miniscule ventures planned for the rest of the year; also, it sounds really good. But then, so does losing weight and other good-sounding but clearly unattainable goal. Since January when we went to Africa, then Europe, and now California with our few days home centered on various dental visits (and one more, July 2nd), we’re going to re-establish our life style of not moving every other day. We do have two camping outings and Jean has a week in Minnesota planned in early August for the Wahlstrom Invitational Golf Tournament, but we’ll be around generally. Nothing is planned for fishing, but I expect good things will still happen on those waters. Home, that’s a good thought! Love,


Summer 2018

Blog 1568, 21 2018, Thursday

Dear friend,

Congratulations to us, we made it to summer. Officially at 3:07 a.m. PDT the sun reached its zenith in the sky, nadir if you’re in Australia. For us in the north, days now begin to grow shorter, warmer, and this may be our favorite season for most of us. It’s our summer solstice, a word with Arabic roots that implies that the “sun stands still.” It doesn’t, of course, the thinking is that if you’re driving north and turn south, at some point you must technically have stopped before you can begin driving in the other direction. By the way, if you’re on the Baja Peninsula or just south of Havana, Cuba, the sun is directly overhead today at 23.5 degrees North lat. At 38.5 degrees North lat., Sacramento (where we are) is still hot.

Yesterday we visited some local sites, Folsom (where that 10,000 home development is being considered and where Johnny Cash cried about the train), Placerville, and other local sites. Don and Karin let us take a leisurely morning, we didn’t leave the house until 1 in the afternoon. The high was in the mid-90s but Friday and Saturday they’ll be in the 105 range; we’ll be gone by then. By their willingness to drive us to Oakland and back, they’re reducing our driving distance from 500 miles to a moderate 325 miles, a gift to us. Literally, they’re doing 1/3 of our driving today. We do not mean to take advantage of our friends, sometimes it feels like we do but we don’t, good things just happen. It’s part of being blessed. We assume our blessing is not their burden.

We have no idea to whom or to how many people we’ll be speaking today. These are people who have been involved in Africa long before we showed up, we bring sort of an update based on our February visit to Tanzania. They sponsor several students, both at the Girls School and others, and we bring the latest news from the political/economic pangs the country is going through under their new president. Jean will do most of the talking today (act surprised) because of her involvement with various organizations. I do, as I often do, take in as little data as possible and then write about it. Even though there are two of us and two is an even number, we’re still a little odd. With that, and with our love,

The Grizzly Bear

Blog 1567, 20 June 2018, Wednesday

Dear friend,

I’d never been to Lake Tahoe. I’d driven by it on I-80, on various trips I’d driven around it, but never actually seen the lake before. Yesterday with John and Trisha, we took the two-hour trip from Sacramento to the lake. It is one of the twenty oldest lakes in the world, they’ve estimated it’s over two million years old. If I were on line I’d tell you what the oldest is but I’m not so we won’t know.

The highlight, except for being with friends and lunch and the scenery, etc., was seeing a grizzly bear. It wasn’t a close encounter, maybe from 50 feet when we were in a car and it, a year-old, was scrounging near some rocks, apparently looking for something to eat but only a couple of hundred yards from a campground and a hundred feet from the bike path that apparently runs around the lake. It had longer hair on its shoulders, silvery. It’s the first (and it’s OK if it’s the last) grizzly I’ve run across. But isn’t it an appropriately named bear: grizzly. Grizzly, as in I came upon an airplane crash site, what a “grizzly” scene. Or, I got my grades, utterly “grizzly.” It’s OK when you run across a black or brown or cinnamon bear, those are simply color adjectives; but when you hit descriptive words like “grizzly” or “killer” bear, move away with timidity and haste. The trip was wonderful, scenic, and I promise myself never to drive on Highway 50 during the tourist season again, a season that lasts New Year’s Day to New Year’s Eve, annually.

We’ve changed settings, leaving Heritage Park for El Dorado Hills. They’re both considered suburbs of Sacramento but this one is much drier and, probably, hotter. I heard a rumor that someone is planning a 10,000 home development here to the east of Sacramento. When asked where the water was coming from, they said, my paraphrase, “Oh, we’ll use the water that the other conservational efforts have saved.” Where we are now, there are no lawns, the only plants you can have outside are desert plants with minimal water usage, and the community is 70% self-sufficient electrically.

This is our last full day in California this time. We expected to drive here today, then drive to Oakland tomorrow to speak. Instead, an issue of our convenience and not our hosts, an utterly wrong philosophy, we’re here carless and we’ll get our Kia after speaking, thus saving us about four hours of driving. Gas is not an issue, personal energy is. We go into today without a plan, we’ll just be adrift, seeking any current to carry us away. That’s the makings of a good day. With love,

A Frenzy of Friends

Blog 1566, 19 June 2018, Tuesday

Dear friend,

Because we’re heading back to Grants Pass after we speak on Thursday, we called to see if they could move the meeting time up a little to give us a bit of a head start. That’s when we learned that it’s not just St. Paul’s Lutheran that we’re meeting with, but also “several other” churches. Clank! We’re locked in. We’ll do the best we can and we’ll be at the meetings representing the Plaster House, the Girls School, missions work, etc. The die has been cast. We’re speaking from noon until 2 p.m. on Thursday, then heading north. We’ll do it their way.

When we leave John and Trisha’s, our plan was that we’d head to longtime friends Don and Karin’s. Now as fate would have it, both couples have been touring all the housing developments around Sacramento and both recently bought homes here. They almost know each other, so last night the six of us sat down and ate and chatted briefly until the sun went down, about five hours later. What’s going to happen is that the four of us are driving up to Lake Tahoe today, a two-hour drive, on the way back John and Trisha will drop us off and we’ll spend the next two nights with Don and Karin. On Thursday Don will drive us to Oakland where we’ll speak, then returning home they’ll pull off the road a little and drop us off at John and Trisha’s. At that point Jean and I will transfer all we have with us to our own car, say goodbye to everyone, and leave about 4 p.m. for Pam and Jim’s in Grant Pass. If you just understood all that, I’d suggest you stand up slowly and get a drink of water until the dizziness stops.

This feels like those old days of missionary church-visits. There is an intensity to this semi-gypsy life that is totally exhilarating. It makes life at home pale in comparison. We are blessed to reach back in time and have another week much like those twelve years offered us back then. Every time we land, we’re with friends. How good is that? It’s like falling in love again, day after day. It’s dizzyingly sweet. We are all blessings to one another to another, aren’t we? Love,

Long Talkers

Blog 1565, 18 June 2018, Monday

Dear friend,

Truly, the drive to church in Palo Alta was two hours each way to attend University Lutheran Church. The foyer was filled with unused name tags, inside we numbered about thirty, the low number had a lot to do with most of the Stanford students being gone, the rest were graduating that morning, and the pastor being a campus pastor. The visiting pastor had attended University Lutheran as a student some sixty years before. After the service and snacks, they let the odd missionary couple from Africa speak. I’m sure we exceeded the old record of how long speakers spoke, but the audience was full of questions and interest, no one looked lost or restless. We spoke for an hour and a half on a Sunday afternoon when other speakers had probably spoken for twenty minutes.

John and Trisha drove us that far to let us speak, that and the fact their grandbabies were there. I think we were the second reason. It was so good to start telling stories about Africa and about the projects we’ve been or are still involved in. We’ll be in Oakland on Thursday for another chance to make fools out of ourselves and to share the joy that still wells up within us when we speak of our time in Tanzania. Next time, I think we drive. Afterwards it’ll be a six-hour (non-stop) drive to Grants Pass, OR. That will be a long day for a couple of old duffers like ourselves. The term “non-stop” contains frequents stops at rest areas and for switching drivers.

I know it’ll get hot here in Sacramento later, like 106 on Friday but we’ll be in Grants Pass and twenty degrees cooler, and later with a high of 70 and a low of 39 at Crater Lake where we’ll be on Friday afternoon. And Saturday back to Bellevue, I’ll let the temperature be a surprise. But today, the morning’s weather could not be any finer. Love,

Bound for Stanford

Blog 1564, 17 June 2018, Sunday

Dear friends,

Sacramento was always a mile-marker on the map, that place we’d turn to the Bay Area on our pilgrimages down from Seattle. Yesterday it became a point of interest. Named for the “Blessed Sacrament,” it’s the state capitol. We toured Old Sacramento with its 50+ “old buildings” and then wandered through the capital building. Both houses have chairs in front for the king and queen, chairs no one ever sits in but which presence is to remind Californians that it was from the kingships of the world they have escaped. The Senate is painted in a pinkish color called “red” to represent the House of Lords in England, then the state House is in green (mind green) to represent the House of Commons. They don’t have a king but have maintained those obnoxious class names and colors. The docent was informative but not especially humorous when it came to my interpretation. The tour was better than I’d have imagined. Like Texas, California was once an independent nation, for 24 days (or was it 28?). I didn’t remember or know that!

We had a windy day. Warm air when moved by strong winds actually feels cold, so even when Jean swam in the clubhouse’s heated pool, getting out was not pleasant. I tried to type outside but the wind wouldn’t cooperate. Now, as I type in the morning, it’s calm and 58 degrees. The high will be 80, then five degrees cooler when we go to the Bay Area. We’re doing a bit of a show there after the service, showing our February Tanzania pictures and regaling them with missionary stories. This is a new audience, we get to tell our best and worst missionary stories with the blessed assurance that we’re not coming back. I’ll be speaking with Jean, alas, and she’ll keep some sense of reality to the program. It’s University Lutheran at Stanford and there’s something going on campus that might distract from our show, it’s called Graduation. Even the pastor won’t be in church today, but we will. We’re going because John and Trisha love their church, its pastor, and its members. They want us to see what they found, it’s a two-hour drive each way and eventually they’ll switch membership, but they’re hanging on to a good thing as long as they can. I love people who really care about their home church.

It’s time for me to dress and get ready to go. Blessings to you, this Sunday and always. Love,

Sleep-Over Two

Blog 1563, 16 June 2018, Saturday

Dear friend,

The further south we go, the later sunrise happens. Is that physics or calculus? As we approach the summer solstice next Thursday, Jean and I have descended the great latitude ladder from a high of 59 degrees north down to 38. That’s nearly a quarter of the distance of the hemisphere, or one-sixteenth of the way around the Earth. We’re not going any further south, we’ve found summer. Not meaning to brag, but currently it’s only 54 in Seattle and we’re 53 here. What? Tomorrow’s high in Seattle will be 83, here we’ll soar up to 80. Yup, that shows how smart we aren’t.

But we do find good people at the end of our pilgrimage. Except for family, I think we’re the first visitors they had in the five weeks they’ve lived here. All the houses in the neighborhood have high ceilings and ceiling fans and I think, ‘Oh-oh, hot weather.” I love walking into their entry hallway, I feel like a hobbit walking into the Dwarves’ Great Hall in the Lord of the Rings movies. If this were August, I probably wouldn’t leave the house in the daytime; but this time of year, it’s lovely here albeit not as warm as Seattle. Next week, it’ll be warmer here; in two weeks, hot. By then we’ll be back in the Northwest.

Adult Sleepovers, Part 2. When we were in Arizona, we touted the idea of “Adult Sleep-overs.” We had some friends stay with us, but not enough. Today, we’re continuing that idea. It’s one of the great ways of getting to know one another. We spend enough of our lives being surface friends, but sleep-overs deepen those insights. Waking up at John and Trisha’s place presents us as we are, and we like who we find beneath the surface. We are a deep people, a quality that I’m certain that God loves. Share you depth, have a sleep-over just like the kids do, but without the pizza and pillow fights, maybe. Wait, keep the pizza idea. Love,

On the Road Again

Blog 1562, 15 June 2018, Friday

Dear friend,

Just north of Roseburg we ran into an old friend called summer. He said he’s heading north and will be there soon. It was wonderful, off went the vest and fake-wool shirt, pant legs were zipped off and sent flying, and we were in the warmth. By the time we hit Grants Pass, we had the air conditioner on for the first time this year. It’s as warm here as Sweden was, which generally wouldn’t sound too warm but this year it was.

It’s good to be back on a road trip. We drove down in four shifts, two for her, two for me; she drove for five hours and I drove for three, keeping things even. The trip was wonderfully uneventful, unblog-worthy, and fun. We’re experienced at this: we know only the one not driving can take a nap, that any rest area not considered for stopping will come back and haunt you, and that if you stop at them all you can keep passing the same truck many times. Every rest area has someone who needs gas money, sort of like every intersection has someone looking for the same thing. In this last category I’d like to think this old heart has mercy but it apparently doesn’t.

Today we’ll drive to Sacramento and see former Saint Andrew’s members John and Trish. John’s aunt spent years with us in Africa and she is forever wedded to our African souls. They just moved into their own home to be nearer family as they head toward retirement and we aren’t willing to let them slip away, out of our lives. It’s like where we stayed last night (we’re still here, maybe that shouldn’t be past tense), Pam and Jim laugh with (and at) us, we’ve shared the missions field (Nepal), LBI, and the hilarity of the willingness of serving God. These guys have a bulletin board in the kitchen of people they pray for, Jean and I are on it; what’s so special is that on their board, we haven’t grown any older. Their board is like living in a house without mirrors, if I didn’t see that old and crinkled face in the reflection, I’d be happier and pleasantly misled.

As I conclude this blog, there is a cross-stitched message over the kitchen sink that tells more of a story than I can express. It says, “Semper Gumby.” It doesn’t sound Christian but it really is. I take it to mean always stretched, always stretching, and always able to match the need. Lovely. And, simply, with love,

Seattle to Grants Pass

Blog 1561, 14 June 2017, Thursday

Dear friend,

The reason there’s no apostrophe in the noun phrase Grants Pass is because the government decided it was easier to make maps without them. Your driver’s license has an apostrophe, but not Grants Pass. The missing apostrophe is one of the lesser reasons why we’ll be there tonight, a far greater reason for going there is because of the chance to spend some time with friends.

Last night (Wednesday) we were at Holy Spirit Lutheran Church talking about their upcoming trip to Tanzania. They’ll visit the Girls School, Plaster House, Nursing School and the Arusha Medical Center so we’re good people to talk with. Also, we’re speaking twice this coming week but these speaking events are in California. Like Grants Pass, we going because of friends but taking advantage of the situation to spread a little good cheer about the work going on in Africa. Not surprisingly, there seems to be less interest in hearing about Paris, Madrid, or Uppsala, and I haven’t even offered any dental stories.

The good news about this trip is that we’ll get out of damp and cool Western Washington and go the warmth of central California. The sad news is that on the day we leave, the rains are lifting and the temps will be in the 80s here by the weekend. I would be so content to stay home for a couple of weeks but I married an itinerarist, a word used to describe someone (think Jean) who likes lists and itineraries and continues to include me in her Adrian Monk/Monica Geller behavior pattern. And, insult to injury (or visa versa), it’ll probably be 100˚ down there. Fortunately for me, Jean is on jury duty the following week so I’ll be able to get used to sleeping in my own bed. I think I’ll like that. Blessings to you. Love,

Rebecca’s Story

Blog 1560, 13 June 2016, Wednesday

Dear friend,

That last blog demands an apology from the author. Many of you don’t know the whole Rebecca story and yet I asked for money for her. We had to wait until we got permission from our church to act as a depository of the funds that Rebecca needs, I jumped mid-point into the story and only the few who know her would understand what I was talking about. So, this blog is Rebecca’s story. If questions come up, feel free to ask me for clarification. Here goes.

When we came as rookie missionaries to the Girls School in 1998, there was mild pressure on us to hire this girl named Rebecca. People who knew her said she was great, the farm manager said he’d given her work to do just to hold her so we could hire her. She was 19, mother of a three-year old, spoke remarkably fine English, and said she’d be glad to work for us. We hired her as the “house-girl” which meant she’d wash our clothes, cook some meals, and keep the house clean. Twelve years later, we left but by then she was no longer the house-girl, she was the most stable part of our lives.

Not wanting to leave her with the house-girl status, we arranged for her to spend two years in a cooking/baking program. By then she was our sister/mother/daughter/colleague. Without her, we’re not certain we could have survived those dozen years. By 2008 she was starting to have trouble with her right leg, an open wound (which I often inaccurately refer to as an infection—it wasn’t one) near her ankle refused to heal. Surgery and skin grafts didn’t solve the problem. We left in 2010, she was working for a politician—her career was on the rise but her leg hurt.

In 2013 we returned to volunteer four months at the Girls School. Rebecca’s right leg had gone bad, she couldn’t stand up to work, could barely walk. She’d had to quit cooking for the politician. Later that year, they amputated her right leg below the knee because the open wound wouldn’t heal. She had a birth defect in her veins that wouldn’t let the blood circulate; the only way to relieve the continual pain was to remove the leg. She got an incredibly awkward artificial leg. Unable to work for others, she established a bakery in front of her house and with some help from America got a self-sustaining business going. And then the other leg went bad.

She fought for years to keep it, but in May of this year they had to remove the second leg. The general role for a Tanzanian without legs is to become a beggar or to remain hidden while their family takes care of them. That would never do for Rebecca. We are now trying to raise just over $4,000 to make alterations to her house, enlarge her bedroom, and provide ramps to get her to and from the bakery. She has two employees who she trained, the business continues but the profits would never enable her to make the necessary improvements to the house. We need help to raise the money, so we ask those who knew her or have heard her story if they’d help.

If you’re willing to help, our church, Saint Andrew’s Lutheran at 2650 148th Ave. SE, Bellevue, WA 98007 (phone 425-746-2925) is handling the donations, simply write “The Rebecca Project” on the memo line of the check. The money will expand her bedroom, bring water to the house, put a handicapped toilet in, and enable her to reach the bakery in her wheelchair. Someday we hope to get new prosthetic legs, but that’s way down the road. She’s our Rebecca, we’re not going to let her fade away. She’s special. She’ll be 40 this coming December; that’s too young to stop living.

Thank you. I should have told the story before the request but the timing of things is unpredictable. Love,