Two Letters And A Poem

3.1.13 Post Script
Scrolling through these                           
"5 Years Ago Posts" 
is lighting a soul fire ... Seriously, maybe God gave us words and pictures as Time Travel.  The machine has already been invented!
  It does surprise me though, 5 years later and you still can't  drag and drop blogger photos.

From Julee Ann's Journey Apr '08

Winds of change are blowin'
‘Cross the desert of my soul.
Things that used to taunt me
I surrender my control.

Gentle rain of healing
Bitter tears are swept away,
Truth reveals a wasted life
Too long if just a day!

Substantial snow now melting
Cannot hide my moldy blight.
Felt like someone came to,
                                       Help me shovel in the night.

The storm was my own making
Selfish plans I now subdue.
My head believed the truth
My heart took longer, to.

Transgressions oozed throughout
My self-built feeble maze.
There were sunny days, no doubt,
But I took all the praise.

Life’s seasons slowly turning
Old soul begins to crack.
Heart’s operation has begun
My crusty core attack.

Branches strong, fruit galore
I bow down you reign supreme.
Make me like the robust tree
Along the quiet stream.

Embers glowing burst to flame
Wade into the living water
Breath like wind from heaven
Gone the Prodigal daughter.

I choose to repent and turn
His will, I'll do my part
He calls me from the cold, and
Writes His story on my heart.

We're HERE!  It's still not real.  We walked down the stairs to baggage claim and saw a crowd of people with signs on the other side of the glass. We saw one red sign bouncing around in a sea of white ones that read: hh Babies home! Laizer saw us and was jumping around and blowing kisses! We got our stuff and ran out to greet her. The first thing she told us was that this was all God's plan and timing because the peace agreement has been signed while we were on our way over, Praise HIM! Then we arrived at hh and took a little tour...most of the babies were sleeping (tucked away in their cribs covered with mosquito nets) But a few mischevious ones were awake and excited. We walked down a little hall where we saw a door cracked open and a tiny little face staring back at us from his crib. We peeked in the room and met a few of the toddlers who didn't want to sleep. One of them (my favorite already) name is Steven and he's a little spitfire! he was running around his crib like it was on fire! We left the hh and met our  family and got situated at our homestay. The first thing we did when we got to our home was circle around the living room and thanked God for our safe arrival, and prayed for our stay here. They are incredible.
Today we were picked up by Wally and he took us to the market. Then we headed back to the valley and stoped to take pictures of the view.......they will NEVER do it justice.......you'll just have to come here sometime and see it with your own eyes! We just got back from a tour around the campus and tonight we will eat  in the village and have a "real" African meal.
We will try to call you on amy's card tonight but if you get this before that could you email us back with the phone numbers for both Mars Hill or that new church we go to and Crossroads. And we're wondering if you signed amy up with the embassy and if not, could you still do it?
We love you and we are so Happy to finally be in AFRICA ! Tell dad we love him and EVERYONE else!

Talk to you soon! Yours girls

Dear Mom and Dad, Tone Balogne, Ben, Annie, Friends, Family, and Random Blog Readers,

Yesterday, Dad you would have crapped your pants. We videoed some stuff and can't wait to show you when we get back. Wally took us to Crescent Island to "walk with the animals" They haven't had much business since all the violence so they were happy to have some people around. We were the only people on the WHOLE Island. We saw Hippos, and impala, and wildebeast, and zebras and gazelles, and GIRAFFES! Even a baby giraffe. Melissa got the closest to the giraffe...about 8 feet! We got sun burned even with sunscreen :) But it was worth it. The Island is gorgeous...just what you think Africa would look like. Big Acacia trees and everything.

Today was even better than yesterday. We got up this morning to go to the Maasai tribe where Wally preaches every first Sunday of the month. This is the most primal living I have ever seen! When we pulled up the little children ran up to the car and were so excited to see us (Melissa convinced me to leave the bag of beanies at hh and I was a little ticked!) They held our hands and asked us to take pictures of them (which I gladly did!!!!) They were already worshipping when we got there and the worship service continued for another 3 hours! They had all the age groups sing a song and dance. Then Melissa and Amy sang Amazing Grace and at the end, the rest of the people sang alleluia to the tune of Amazing Grace. I videoed that so don't worry!! Melissa forgot the extra tape so we had to tape over some of our airport shannanigans (I am about to hurt her!) Not really....Then some women got up and gave testimonies in their own language then the pastor spoke for a little bit and then Wally spoke. Oh yeah we had to get up and greet them and give them greetings from our families and churches. They said to send our families and churches love and prayers and they asked us not to forget about them! I about died. 

Then after the service (it was frickin hot by the way) we had hot rice and potatoes in Simon (the pastors) mother's hut. His wife served us. It was so hot and so filling that we could barely shove it in. Then they served us steaming hot chai. Just what you want when you are sweating to death! They laughed at us for wanting cold things. Simon (the translator..there were two Simon's) said he hated ice cream when Wally had them over once. He said "how can you people eat cold things?" And we were wondering how they could eat hot things on a day like today! 

Then it was time to say goodbye but we had to cram about 6 more people in the car to drive them places so they didn't have to walk 10 miles! The roads are crazy here! Wally said he's had to change his tires ten times! We road up the mountain like a chevy commercial...only he said American cars barely last a week here! 

Ok I hope that was a good update. I miss you guys so much. I love you Tone and hope you are having a good week! It feels like it's been 3 weeks already not three days! Wally and Donna have a dog named Buckeye (yeah Dad Wally keeps ragging on you by the way!) and she makes me miss Franklin a lot! Love you all Melissa is asleep so I will say hi from her! 

Love Jen


Back when I used to write ... (sigh) 

Inspirational Nonfiction
890 Words

Darkness blanketed the ground outside her window of the 747. Runway lights soon came into view at Jomo Kenyatta Airport. One bounce and the pressure of jetliner brakes told Melissa she had finally arrived in the land of red dirt and dreams.
Not many years before, she dreamed of this night; recurring dreams.
 “I had the most beautiful dream last night,” she told me while filling her cereal bowl.  It was the first day of school, and she was entering sixth grade.
“Tell me about it.” I tried to use the same phrase every time she mentioned her dreams.
“You ‘member Mr. Tanis’ from 5th grade, well I was in his classroom ... but it didn’t look like my school at all ... then I was floating in the air and everyone was like---whoa, Melissa you can float ... then the moon came out ... but it looked like a globe and it just kept spinning and stopping ... and everything was so beautiful ... and then it stopped spinning and guess where it stopped?” Melissa grasped for air and the milk carton.
“Africa,” I said, knowing for certain it was the right answer.
Every so often I try to recall a time when her heart did not beat for Africa.  Her elementary Paper Mache project was shaped like Mt Kilimanjaro. When it was time for country reports she had to wait through the whole alphabet, fearful someone else would choose Kenya. Her worries were unfounded.
 “Why can’t God just send down food from the sky to feed the starving children?” Her questions came out of nowhere and always as her older sister was drifting off to sleep.
“I know, Lissy,” Jen would whisper. “Maybe we can go to Africa someday and help them.”
It was the fall of 2007, when I knew for certain, she would make her dream a reality.  She was touring the country with a cast of young Americans. Their group held 3-day workshops for 3rd-12th graders, with intentions to keep the arts at the forefront in public schools.
 “Maybe I’ll try to take a sabbatical and travel to Africa next spring," she told her Australian born director.
“No more 'maybes' luv," her director-friend said in her lazy Aussie accent.  “Stop saying words like ‘maybe’ and ‘try’, the time is now.”
I spent the next few months scanning the Internet for tickets, while Melissa started, from scratch, to find a place to serve.
“I’m still worried about you going alone,” I said.
“You shouldn’t,” she said and then proceeded to quote back to me a slew of Psalms I had made her memorize.
“The safest place for me to be is in the center of God’s will and guess what?" She reassured me, "Jen is thinking of going with me."
Great! Now I would have to worry about both of them.
By the time the leaves had fallen, orphanages were chosen, references checked, and reasonable tickets were on hold. The leaves obeyed, why was it so hard for me to let go? On the eve of finalizing their journey, my weak faith stumbled, as my daughters’ grew stronger.  I wanted to let go.  Or did I? What if they got hurt? Or worse? But then a small still voice spoke to me. What if they did not want to live passionately? Or follow their dreams? What if I was the one to stand in their way of being abundantly blessed? What if their creator designed them to hold helpless, abandoned babies, and I tried to persuade them to stay safe and comfortable?
What kind of mother wants the status quo for her children?  I would take the leap.
Thanksgiving was bittersweet. The tickets, in hand, read Chicago to Nairobi January 30 through March 28, 2008. The prayer before turkey dinner was laced with tears and grateful hearts. The family pictures were taken and framed.
Two days after Christmas, the unexpected happened. The national presidential elections were held in Kenya, the most stable country in Africa. For the month of January the world, and my girls, watched as yet another African country descended into the depths of their man-made hell.
We hoped and prayed for the best, but for me, the 'not knowing' became almost unbearable. Melissa and Jen's faith never wavered.
By the middle of January, Northwest offered them a one-time 'civil unrest' change to their tickets.  With heavy hearts, they pushed their departure date to February 27, 2008. They would spend one month in Africa instead of two.
By the end of January, Kenya grew quiet. In fact, after January 30, the original departure date, not once was Kenya on the front page of the BBC. My fears started to seem manageable and the girls remained undaunted.  Prayers went up and the baby supplies rolled in.
I hugged them hard at Terminal 5 and promised not to cry. The simple Northwest text message came at 11:30am on that cold and gray Chicago morning.
Flight 8611: Departed.
My promise forgotten, I cried out to God.
On February 28, 2008, while their flight was in the air somewhere over North Africa, a peace agreement was signed by Kenya’s opposing political parties.

Just yesterday my cell phone rang and interrupted a quiet
summer reverie on the porch.
"Hi," Melissa said. “I dreamed of Africa again last night.”


5 Years Ago Today ... Episode 1

I’m not sure I can remember a time when Jen and Melissa’s heart did not pound for Africa.

Late Winter ’06 - Melissa was speaking with her YA director and mentioned that she might try to go to Africa the following spring.
Maybe February ’08.
Robin (the YA director), "Melissa, now is the time. No more maybes!”

Late Summer ’07 - After speaking for quite some time on the phone with each other, newlywed Jennifer hung up and told her husband of Melissa’s plans.
Tony (the husband), “You should go with her!”

Fall ‘07 - While sitting around in our living room after the YA’s had performed at their Alma Mater, Jordan M. suggested they hop on Kayak.com and look for some airplane tickets.

Christmas '07 - After many hours on the Internet, it was finally decided and the tickets were purchased for January 30 – March 30.

December 27, 2007 - Elections are held in Kenya and for the month of January ’08 the world, and my girls, watched as yet another African country descended into the depths of their manmade hell.
EVERYONE involved hopes and prays for the best, but the “not knowing” becomes almost unbearable.

Middle of January '08 - Northwest offers a one time in change to their tickets and with heavy hearts, itineraries are delayed until February 28 – March 27. They will spend one month in Africa instead of two.

End of January '08 - Kenya grows quiet. In fact, after Jan 30 (you’ll remember the original departure date), not once was Kenya on the front page of the BBC.
When God calls He will always provide. The plans proceed. Prayers go up while the baby supplies roll in.

February 27, 2008 - I hugged them hard at Terminal 5 and promised not to cry. The simple NW text message came at 1:20pm on that cold and gray Chicago afternoon.
Flight 8611: Departed.

I cried out to God.

February 28, 2008 - while in the air, somewhere over Northern Africa, a peace agreement was signed by Kenya’s opposing political parties.

And so their story begins…