Saturday, November 30, 2013

Just Another Day...

Today was just another day.  At 0900 this AM I showed up at the wrong venue for a freshman orientation.  Fortunately, I figured out where I should have been and got there only 5 minutes late.  Not to worry, hardly anyone else was there even at 0905.

We waited around about an hour, and only a handful of students showed up.  The Head of Department made the wise call to postpone the orientaiton until next Tuesday when all the Freshmen would be in a core course.  We would use the first hour or so of the class, but hey, no worries at least they would all (well a lot of them) would be there.  It will conflict with the first hour of my own class, but that's OK.

When I got back to the Main office I had the MOST mail in my time here.  I had 4 water bills , plus, I had an invitation to a party at the American embassy.  The newest bill was for the month of April and it was 16 August.  fortunately I had pre-paid our bill well in advance so no problems.  The party was at 4 PM on 27 June.  I courteously RSVP'd that we regretted we could not attend, despite our strong desire to do so.  We couldn't attend because the event occurred almost two months earlier!  Oh well, what are you going to do?

That is a spiritual problem alos.  As the Chinese say it, "We are too soon old, and too late smart."  The concept of old age sneaks up on us.  I remarked to an older friend the otehr day,  that I cannot imagine how older pagans cope with the idea of impending death.  My young students pretty much think that they will never die.  But people get to be my age, and surely they realize that our days are indeed numbered.

As I related in a blog post several months ago, we are all destined to take a long journey in death.  The question is, What preparations have we made for this journey?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Old Timers Now

With the recent arrival of two more new Fulbright Fellows, Brenda and I have been magically transformed into the "veterans" by virtue of being here 6.5 months longer than they.  Here are our new American friends.

It is nice to have someone to talk with who has a lot in common.  It also nice to be able to answer questions and provide some help.  It makes us feel useful and knowledgeable.  That doesn't happen that often for us.

The acculturation is interesting.  We feel much more comfortable here now, we can get around to most places without getting too lost, and the greatest thrill is running into people we know.  It's nice to be a bit more relaxed too.

From running on campus most days, I have gotten to know it's geography pretty well.  But again the nicest thing is to see people I know and to hear them call my name, "Beeshoop".

I wonder if we will ever get used to heaven?  Will it be continually new?   I think not.  I think the nicest thing in heaven will be to see Paul the Apostle and chat about some of his letters.  I think it will be nice to run into Joshua, or Caleb and I will recognize them, and them me.

Of course this is all speculative, as I don't know what heaven will be, I am just sure it will be good.

But if it is right, won't the greatest thing be to stroll around and see The Christ Jesus, and be able to sit an eternity in His presence.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Simpsons in Botswana

What are the odds?

Listen to this unusual tale, that is true, or at least as true as anything else I write on this blog...

0n 10 October, Anna and Ben's 4th wedding anniversary, I happened to notice that all those premium TV channels that are usually blocked, suddenly came alive.  Channel 125 was... Fox!  Wow!

Actually a double, no quadruple Wow!.  There were 4 episodes of the Simpsons on tonight, all of which were new to me.  Now comes the strange part.

The first Simpsons was the one where Homer directed the Super Bowl halftime.  At one point during the show four or five countries were listed with a map of the country.  What are the odds?  Botswana was one of those countries.  Why Botswana?  of the over 250 countries of the world, why Botswana?  Who in the USA even knows there is such a country as Botswana?

Strange things happen, things that defy the odds, but this really seemed extra special.  How many episodes of the Simpsons, though they number 532 now, mention Botswana?  A little research shows that this episode was called "Pranksta Rap" and originally aired on 13 Feb, 2005.

So here are the things that came together:
  1. We could see Fox network for the first time since I left USA on 14 Jan 2013.
  2. The Simpsons was coming on.
  3. I am a BIG Simpsons fan and have missed seeing it since coming to Africa.
  4.  I didn't forget to turn back to Fox at the right time.
  5. The Only episode out of 532 that mentions Botswana (I am guessing on this one) came on.
  6. We were sitting in Botswana watching.

Go figure!

G^d is good even in the small things.   G^d is good whether things go well or not.

Thanks G^d for your manifold Blessings!


In Spanish, "tia" means aunt.  In Botswana, TIA means, "This is Africa", and it's used several different ways.  Most often it is used to remind people that this is a different continent and things here are really different.  That can be positive and it can be negative.

On one hand, people are important here, more important than schedules and starting times.  On the other hand, because people matter more than schedules the people who are punctual will likely wait for those who are not.

TIA means that broken things may NOT be repaired quickly, but TIA means that there is no point in getting overly excited about things not working, they will work again one day.

TIA means that people may not be in any hurry at all walking down the street, but put them in an auto/truck/combi and they will pass anyone doing less than racing speed...even if the passer intends to turn in another 100m.

TIA means that everyone smiles and waves at me a stranger, if I wave at them.

TIA means that flowers bloom in abundance year around, there are beautiful trees at every turn, that beef is cheap (at least here in Bots), that utilities are cheap, that there is an abundance of labor available.

TIA means that there is construction all around, but in some countries this is over-matched by destruction.

Living in Africa has been a tremendous experience that few people can enjoy.  All of us are so richly blessed in so many ways...

TIA means "Thankful in Africa."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Joys of Packing it In

We are entering our last days in Bots.  It is time to start packing to see if we can haul all this stuff back to the good ole USA.  There is a certain joy for me in wrapping up one phase and anticipating another.  For some reason, "closing out things" gives a satisfaction unparalleled.

Here are some of the things we are doing to "pack it in":
  • Shutting down all utilities- no more queues for us!
  • Eating up all our food- makes for some unusual meals.
  • Packing our bags and trying to bring home all these gifts.
  • Doing a lot of things, "for the last time."
  • Spending all money that won't work in USA.
  • Anticipating arriving back home in USA.
  • Trying to recall how to drive on the right side of the road.
  • Giving away lots of clothes, plants, dishes, odds and ends.

One thing we have learned in our time here, is that WE ARE NOT AT HOME.  Not just  not at home in Africa, but not at home anywhere in this world.

14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.  Heb 13:14
11-12 Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.  I Ptr 2:11-12.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fulbright Friends

When we arrived at UB, there were two Fulbright Fellows already in residence.  One fellow, Bill, we barely got to know, but we became good friends with Denise and her husband, Alan.  I just read someone's essay that suggests that every ex-pat becomes a friend in a foreign land.  That is close to true, but some are better friends than others.

We hit it off well with Denise and Alan, and we were delighted to make contact with the two new incoming Fulbrighters even before they arrived.  Dr. Kelly Phelan is a Tourism prof from Texas Tech, and Dr. Mike Avoseh is an Adult Education prof from U South Dakota.  As a Tourism prof, Kelly has traveled extensively and lived in West Africa for a while, as well as our favorite foreign country, Alaska.  Mike was born in Nigeria, and lived in Canada and the USA.  Kelly lives just a few doors down from us, and Mike's office at UB is only a few doors down from mine in the same "block" (we would say building).

We were amazed to learn that both are... Christians.  Wow! Two faculty from state universities and both are Believers, that is unusual, and only someone working in this environment will understand how unusual that is.

We have enjoyed getting to know both of these fine people and have been able to spend time with them. it seems a bit strange, but it is also kind of nice to be the "experts" and share what we have learned about living here.

The nicest thing is that both of these folks are just terrific.  They are thoughtful, considerate,  positive, and pleasant. Hard to beat.  It is extremely comforting to have two people who we can count on in a pinch.  Which reminds me of John 15:15, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

But I would be remiss not to also mention John 15:13- 14, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command."

What a friend we have in Jesus!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

So what exactly is a STINT?

 This is the new Bots STINTers in Gabs.  We were able to fetch these fine folk from the airport, and have been able to house the guys for a couple of days.
This team raised a chunk of money to be able to leave the comforts of the USA to trek over to Botswana to assist the local CRU group in thier work on our campus.  Rachel, Melissa, D2, and Brandt come from the eastern USA.  Three are university grads and one is taking a break before finishing at the U of MD.

They have already had their share of trials and tests of patience, but they have already had their share of ministry success too.  If you want to find out more, and keep up, visit Botswana STINTers on Facebook.

As missionary Jim Elliot said it, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."  These young folks are giving of their time, their energy, their money, their lives to impact some Africans for eternity.  I suspect they will be impacted more than anyone.  And the impact will be an eternal one.

What are we giving up?  What are we doing day by day?  Will it be ultimately lost?

Wouldn't it be dumb to spend a lot of time and effort on something temporary?  Ooops.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Independence Day! Bush Braai!

Ahhh, independence!  In the USA we are independent to a fault.  We won't even ride public transport on the UA campus becasue we want to come and go as we please, when we please, and exactly where we please.

Independence day in Botswana was so big that it took two days to celebrate.  Monday and Tuesday were both public holidays.  There was a big football (soccer) match against Burkina Faso on Monday.  We wanted to get a feel for the festivities but we didn't ahve tickets.  In the USA, shortly after half-time the ticket offices close and you can get in free.  When we got to the National Stadium, just outside the University, the guard said he would let us in for 50P each.  Fortunately I knew that the highest priced tickets for the entire game were only 50P, so we declined.  Instead we went on campus and picked lemons.

The STINT team seemed to really enjoy that.  We aren't sure exactly why, but they did.  It was fun, and Brenda made some delicious lemonade from part of our harvest.

On Tuesday our friend Bob G put on a "bush braai" which was a cookout 20 km down the road in the wilderness.  There were over 30 people who attended, with the majority from Flying Missions missionary group.

There were folks hitting golf balls, folks, playing cricket and bocce ball.  There was an open fire, and Brenda and I cooked some delicious porterhouse steaks.  They came out perfect and flavorful.

Independence is something to celebrate indeed, but independent for what?  Independent from what? That is the question.

Friday, November 22, 2013

How They Faked the Landing on the Moon

One of the places we wanted to visit before we moved away was the Magadikgadi Pans in Central Bots.  On our way back from Kasane, we had an opportunity to stay in Gweta, near the Pans.  We booked a tour, and it turned out to be just Brenda and I.

The pans are a bit over 40 Km from our lodge, and that is a long, rough and dusty trip.  It was very, very hot when we set out around 1400, but we didn't reach the Pans until after 1600 due to our visit to the meerkat colony.

The pan is dead flat and mostly featureless.  Our driver said leaving the road was risky and told several stories of the foolish and how bad it was to be stuck where there is nothing to winch against.

It is so featureless that our guide did an interesting (to us) demonstration.  He set two markers 50 steps apart.  We blind folded Brenda and had her try to walk to the target.  She was very good missing only by a few feet.

I took up the challenge.  Over 50 steps, I was 31 steps AWAY from the target to the left.  Wow, am I imbalanced (no shock to you, eh?)

The surface of the pan was amazing.  It was white with a think crust, and not much else.  There are NO landmarks to speak of in most directions.  They say the baobab trees along the edge served as navigation aids and I can understand the need.  Heck you can hardly walk straight without a reference.

The place is so dusty and barren it could WELL have been the location for the "moon walk" that the conspiracists believe.  It was definitely different from anywhere we had ever seen including the deserts of Jordan and Israel.

It is a dried lake bed (really two) formed when the geological plates shifted and suddenly dammed three rivers.  Later, another plate shift cut off the flow of water and the lakes dried leaving the Ntwetwe and Sua (or Sowa) Pans.

Sunset was magnificent, and my vertical leap abilities astounding (note Brenda is only about 8 feet up).
The austerity of the place is part of its beauty.  It is an amazing place and we feel Blessed to get to see it.  G^d certainly had great creativity.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bishop's Not-so-Familar Quotations

There is a once popular book, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (1855, now in 18th edition).  I have scarcely heard it mentioned since my childhood, but it would be neat for someone to do a version with more recent quotes.  In my profession and hobbies I do a LOT of writing. I enjoy most of it.  I like words, and a well-turned phrase is "like apples of gold in settings of silver" as described in a phrase I coined (actually stolen from Proverbs 25:11).

I have several files of collected quotes.  Mark Twain and the usual cast of characters are well represented, as is the well known biochemist, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi ;).

Here is a small sample of my favorites:

"If we could but show the world that being committed to Christ is no tame, humdrum, sheltered monotony, but the most exciting, thrilling adventure the human spirit can ever know, those who have been standing outside the church and looking askance at Christ will come crowding in to pay allegiance; and we might well expect the greatest revival since Pentecost."  Dr. James Stewart of Scotland

“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.”  Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.”  Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid.” Francis Bacon
“Those who are lifting the world upward and onward are those who encourage more than criticize.” Elizabeth Harrison
“May you have the hindsight to know where you've been, The foresight to know where you are going, And the insight to know when you have gone too far.” Irish Blessings

“It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.”  Bertrand Russell

“Housework is a breeze.  Cooking is a pleasant diversion. Putting up a retaining wall is a lark. But teaching is like climbing a mountain.”  Fawn M. Brodie

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”  Napoleon Bonaparte

“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”  A. Einstein

“Bureaucracy is the art of making the possible impossible.” Javier Pascual Salcedo

"Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most."  Mark Twain

Chinese Evangelist writing from prison:  “I am not afraid of being looked down upon by people, because, when I look up I see the smiling face of God.”

“Learning without thought is labor lost.” Confucius

Knowing when to quit is an art lost on me.  P Bishop.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Message

A few weeks back I wrote about getting not one, but TWO traffic tickets in one trip.  I have consequently become a very, very cautious driver.

Our last long trip was to Kasane, and our return was on the longest public holiday of the year, Independence Day, which fell on a Monday.  For some reason, Tuesday was also declared a public holiday, which meant from Friday PM quitting time until Wed start of work was a nice long holiday.

The Botswana Police seem especially caring about our safety, so coming out of Nata, just after 0840, we are stopped by the first Police roadblock of the day. They want to brief us on tire safety and other safety issues.  It is nice that they are interested enough to stop us.  Really it is.

G^d likewise is interested enough in our well being that He will stop us on occasion to tell us what we ought to do.  But, we have to listen.  We can ignore good advice, but we do so at our own peril.

How are your tires?

What is G^d telling us?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Hide

One of the neatest things we have seen is the elephant hide.  It was built at a Kasane Lodge by a Nikon Photo company.  Apprently for a few hundred dollars, you can book a camera, a good long lens, and an opportunity to make some great pictures.

Part of that opportunity sometimes involves a trip to the lodge.  Once there, for the price of a beverage, you can go down a little opening that resembles a phone booth.  The opening leads to a little underground passageway that leads to a little room with ground-level windows overlooking a waterhole into which fresh water gets pumped.  It was neat, and with patience you surely could get some very interesting pictures.

The angle is neat.  At Elephant Sands you see animals very close, but here you see them from a low angle, which gives a neat perspective.  It is quiet and it is neat to have this comfortable place from which to watch G^d's world go about its business.

We saw elephants, banded mongoose, baboons, and warthogs from this spot.  It was a peaceful place, sort of a modern Garden of Eden.

We are Blessed indeed.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Real Missionaries to Africa

As we have noted, we have met a LOT of great people around the world. On our recent trip to Kasane, in NE Bots, we met 3 missionary families.  Our Missionary friends in Gabs had insisted that we contact Keith and Robin.  They had access to this neat photography hide that we describe in another post.

They had JUST returned from a missionary conference, and were a bit hard to reach, in part because they had 3 families staying with them temporarily.  Despite all this, Keith volunteered to pick us up, and we had a great time getting to know him.

When we were done with our outing to see animals, Keith insisted on dropping by his home, where we met the other missionaries and where Robin insisted we stay for a terrific curry dinner.

The above is a bi-vocational pastor from Jonesboro, AR, who always wanted to visit Africa.  Beside him is a young missionary couple who recently moved to Malawi with their two very young children (oldest is 2.5 years).  They are the only people from their mission group there.

We also met another missionary family from Swaziland.  He teaches at a Christina Bible College there.  How many folks do you know fromSwaziland?
This is Robin and her new son-in-law, Rob, a biologist studying elephants.
This is Keith, Rob and Keith and Robin's daughter Elise.  She teaches first grade in Kasane.

One of the things we have learned in living here is that our calling is as domestic missionaries, not as foreign missionaries.  BUT, we have an even greater appreciation for those who G^d has called to the foreign field. 

G^d has made us all differently, and called us to different tasks.  We don't have to understand His calling, we only have to obey.  We can do a LOT worse than being in the place to which G^d has called us, be that Tuscaloosa, or Swaziland.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Little Humor with your Food

One of the places we have come to enjoy is the Bull and Bush Restaurant near the CBD (Central Business District).  The menu regales you with the elaborate tale of who has owned the restaurant.  The last Saturday of each month they have a market there with people selling various wares.  We have become friends with a lady who sells jewelry there and look forward to seeing her.  She, Jane, has a great sense of humor, so that makes it even more fun.

On market day they write something somewhat humorous on the blackboard as above.

You don't usually think of a restaurant as a source of humor, but the B&B is just that.  And why not?

We can make a lot of things a lot funnier, and a lot more fun if we try.  Indeed I think even the Bible has some good gags for those with open eyes and who read with some care.

He who has ears to hear...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hitch Hikers?

We leave the small rural village of Gweta to travel almost an hour and a half to the salt pans.  When we are about 30-45 mins out of the village we come up behind a donkey cart with about 5-6 people.  One of the people there hails our driver.

I am not sure what language she is speaking, it doesn't sound like usual Tswana, but the guide driving us understands her perfectly.

She speaks no English, but seems both friendly and cheerful.  Brenda notices that she has perfect straight, very white teeth. 
We drive her many miles before we find her herd of goats.  She tells the guide that she wants to get out with her goats, even though we are still a km or so from her home.  The donkey cart was at the end of its route, our guide tells us, so we saved her a very long walk.

We marvel at this, but on way back from the pans, it is pitch dark, and about 1900 (7 PM).  As we drive through the bush heading west, we hear someone shout.  A young man is walking from his home to the village.  He hails us, and the guide happily stops and picks him up.  This man is miles and miles from the village in the total dark, without so much as a torch (flashlight).  He tells the driver, in another language, that he is happy we came along because he was afraid of running into elephants in the dark.  Hmm, I never have thought of that as a hazard, but clearly that is a common concern here.

We haul this guy much farther than we did the lady.  When we enter the village he tells the driver/guide where to drop him.  He hops out, probably two hours earlier than if he had walked all the way.

This is clearly a different mindset.  Apparently hiking a few kilometers-- in daylight or darkness-- is not anything particularly noteworthy.  It's just another day at the office I guess.

I am reminded again at what a soft, pleasant, safe life we have been given by G^d.

Thank you L^rd that we don't have to worry about elephants running over us in the dark.

It's the many small things for which we ought to be grateful.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Leopard’s Bum

In Africa, the big deal in wildlife is the Big Five:

  • Lion
  • Leopard
  • Rhino
  • Cape Buffalo
  • Elephant.

There’s also the little five:

  • Rhinoceros beetle
  • Buffalo Shrike
  • Elephant Shrew
  • Ant Lion
  • Leopard tortoise.

We have seen many, many elephant, Buffalo, and rhino.  Last May when Andrew and Kelly were with us, we saw 3 lionesses.   We had  been skunked only on the leopard, until… today.

On the Morning game drive at 0600, the first thing BIG we see in a lioness on the prowl.  It is only a glimpse as she snakes her way through the bush.  An hour or a little less later, she, or more likely another lioness, is asleep under a bush only 60-70 m from the dirt road.  We can’t see her well, but there is no doubt.

We are getting close to quitting time, and I am praying for the last chance at a leopard.  We round a corner and there it is… not a leopard, but a crowd of safari vehicles, which means something is showing itself.  We pull up, and there it is, in a tree some 150 m distant is a… leopard’s bum.  The long tail, and it is surprisingly long, wafts gently in the breeze.  Through the binoculars, or even through the camera zoom, it is clear that we are looking at the rear end of a grown leopard sleeping in the first big crotch of a tree. 

We watch for several minutes, but nothing happens.  The leopard is sleeping so comfortably that it scarcely moves.  But there it is.  Thanks be to G^d who Blesses us far beyond anything we could ask or think.  IT is hard to express how satisfying it is, the Big Five.

Thank you Lord.