Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Moving on

Tomorrow I leave Liberia, this time (more) permanently. I expected this to be a melodramatic time, but it really hasn't been. Am I sad? Not really. Going to miss it? Sure, absolutely. Ready to go? Definitely. An excerpt from my journal last night sums up my mood:
tomorrow's my last full day--
end of an era feelings
are finally setting in.

it's easy to see and cite
all the ways Liberia's changed--
what i hope is just as plain
is all the ways i have, too.

in many respects i've gotten
everything i came for
and so it's time to go--
adventure, service,
discomfort, spiritual straightening-out,
not least of all my partner for life.
but in every respect
i'm only now beginning

and so it's time to start.
Just one sign of the times: my next door neighbor, in July of 2007 (l) and 2010 (r).

Sunday, 4 July 2010

You call that a plan??

Most of you know, some of you don't: Brenda and I are moving to the Seattle area later this summer, as I'm continuing to work with ORR there. As such, I have to immigrate to the U.S. -- quite a process, but I'm thankful to say it's been much smoother so far than I'd feared. Until now.

Photo: The Free MarketeersThere's one last document I need before I can leave: my police clearance from Canada. To process a clearance from overseas (ink prints), the website says it takes four months. I'd hoped, initially, that meant up to four months. Turns out, it means at least four months. Which would mean I'm stuck in Liberia until early October, or two and a half months beyond when I'm supposed to start work in Seattle.

The alternative: electronic fingerprints taken in-person, in Canada: three business days.

Am I really considering flying for 60 hours to be on the ground in Toronto for just a week? Yes. Am I made of money? No. (If you're reading this and you are, please get in touch. :)

Nothing's for sure yet, so please hope and pray with us that some simpler, cheaper way presents itself. I'm going to price out a ticket this week, but I'm expecting $1600-2000. How much is it worth to me to get on with the next chapter and not be separated from my wife for two months? At least that...

Thursday, 10 June 2010


Sometimes there seems to be nothing to write. Other times--now times--there's too much, it's overwhelming. Or--no, let's be more specific: it's not that it's overwhelming, it's just that it doesn't all seem to link up into one cohesive thought--read, blog entry.

However, without resorting to bullet points, I'll give it my best shot.

I'm married. That's a good start. And married life, I'm here to tell you, is good. At the risk of sounding like a love-struck honeymooner, it's just fun. Brenda and I are having a great time being domestic and dorky and generally ridiculous. If there's a downside, it's only that I don't make as much time to write as I used to. But sometimes it's good to put down the camera and make memories instead of recording them, right?

Well it struck me just now as I was trying to fall asleep that the very name of this public journal has a lot to do with my getting married.

Or at least, it did...until I got married.

For my entire life, as long as I can recall, getting married has been my number one. (I don't know what it was so early in life that made me idealize marriage so, but I confess I proposed to my first girlfriend when I was five. Yep, it was so much fun I did it twice.) Not that marriage was ever just something to accomplish or check off the list, but more like I was away from home, eager to return. And so I've arrived in that sense. But I'm still
arriving, and I plan on constantly arriving...but never stopping. There's always the Next, right?

I don't need to remind you of all those too-true clich├ęs about the journey, not the destination. I'm all about that. But I want to be careful to cultivate the discipline of discomfort, too.

I remember I had this neighbour, a sweet old widow, maybe eighty years old. She told me she does one thing every year that absolutely terrifies her. How fantastic is that? Some years that meant bungee jumping, others picking up the phone and calling so-and-so. (There's another blog entry here about the correlation of marriage and bungee jumping, but I'll save that one for a rainy day.)
Photo credit: Ciara N McKenna
To that end, in the spirit of dear Edna, I'm committing to write every Thursday. There may not be a blog entry every week, but I'm going to keep the pen moving at least. And to go along with that, I'm going to try and develop a train of thought through the course of the week. I feel so scatter-brained lately, it's driving me nuts. So as I'm driving, as I'm not sleeping--both of which I seem to be doing plenty of these days--I'm going to try and focus on a problem, a question, some sort of trajectory. And then I'm going to write about it. This goes hand in hand with a broader intentionality across the board. Like not leaving my dirty clothes on the floor. So far so good.

Hey, speaking of which, I was just reading something really interesting about intentional socializing this morning... See you next week.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Meet the future Mrs. T

Brenda Pigeon, the future Mrs. T.

...Along with two more of my favorite people.

...And she loves my kids too!

So there aren't many details to report yet, but I didn't want to wait to tell you all that I proposed to my beautiful Brenda last night, on a certain bit of beach that already meant the world to me, under a gorgeous panorama of stars and lightning. And (after asking REALLY? about a dozen times), she gleefully said yes, making me the happiest, luckiest guy I know.

Thursday, 4 March 2010


This isn't one I want to write. Nor do I know where to begin.

Last week I was waiting to pick someone up from the local hospital when I was approached by a man reading the side of the car--"Orphans?". He worked at the hospital, and told me about a little ten year-old girl inside that he and his wife had informally adopted as their own. Mina, he told me, was "a true orphan -- no ma, no pa. HIV positive." The orphanage at which she'd been living dropped her off at the hospital but didn't come back to check on her. So he would visit her when he had the chance, and asked me to look in on her too.

This was one of those times when I'm tempted to be too busy, to brush it off. Then I thought, Well, why not. Maybe I can encourage her a little. And so I walked into the paeds ward and immediately saw her way at the back, sitting hunched over on her bed. Her face didn't brighten when she saw that I was coming to see her, nor did she respond to me except to murmur. The head nurse came over and asked why she wasn't eating, why she wasn't talking. Nothing.

I've never seen such a discouraged child, no matter how sick. And Mina was definitely sick. So I consulted the American doctor handling her case, to see what her outlook might be. I was told she'd be in the hospital for a good long time, but that she needed to start eating and taking her meds. The doctor's biggest concern, though, was her attitude--that she was severely depressed.

Got a call that little Mina, with no parents or siblings, died over the weekend. She just gave up.

This is Africa. This happens. There was nothing that could be done. All of these are inappropriate. No, ridiculous. No ten year-old should, for lack of love and care, no matter what the prognosis, give up like she did. It was staggering.

I'm not angry or sad about this, I'm just...disappointed. And I'm trying to leverage that disappointment into a new commitment. I don't expect more than a handful of strangers have even noticed her passing, but now you can join me in remembering her.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

What's next

Back in June of 2007, getting to the end of my first four-month stint in Liberia, I had a one-on-one with our president, Tim. I had joined the organization before it had really gotten started, which was great because I got to be a part of its formative stages. But Tim and I had taken a big gamble on each other, and we were meeting to settle our bets, in a sense.

For him, he'd taken a big chance bringing in a non-Christian he hardly knew to help start this faith-based organization. For me, I'd agreed to six months in close quarters with a bunch of Christians I hardly knew, or didn't at all. Were they going to try and convert me? Judge and condemn me? Both of us had to trust that we were pursuing God, pursuing truth with passion and abandon, and that we were willing to learn from each other. We'd had some mind-boggling conversations, really challenging each other's core beliefs, and over African chicken chow mien, celebrated that day how those first months had gone.

So he asked me for a three-year commitment--to the organization, and to Liberia. I agreed, almost as quickly as I had agreed to drop everything and move to Africa in the first place. It just seemed right; I had found the job, the lifestyle, that fit.

Well, those three years are almost up, and Tim and I had another meeting not too long ago. This time it wasn't so easy to decide--I'm getting a little older, I'm thinking of other things. Not that I don't still love my job and life here in Liberia; I'm overwhelmed on a daily basis by how spoiled I am, despite the lack of 'little' things. I just didn't want to stay automatically, because it had become familiar or comfortable. I wanted to make sure I was still 'called' to be here.

After about two weeks of tormenting myself with the question, with the angles and the implications, I've renewed my commitment to ORR without a time limit. However long I need to be here, here I shall be. These last three years have been, hands down, the best of my life--where they haven't been the happiest, they've without question been the most fulfilling. To watch this nation grow, these children grow--and looking back, to see all the ways I've grown!

The most important thing, however, the most important reason I'm here, is to grow closer to God. I realized the other day, in the midst of a conversation, that if I hadn't joined ORR and stayed with ORR, I wouldn't really know God today.

That's a powerful statement on many levels. Let me try and unpack for a moment all that that means to me.

A small group of committed Christians gave me the space to be un-Christian, to look for God irreligiously. They demonstrated a key distinction I'd never made for myself, in all my years of looking for God in different ways, different world religions: the difference between abiding by, investing in doctrine and practice, and building a genuine relationship with Deity, allowing Creator to also become provider, friend, father. I still have some personal hang-ups with labeling myself Christian, to be honest--not because I'm ashamed to follow Christ, but because of the stereotypes (some justified) and abuses and jerks and utterly human foibles that have also been stamped with the same label. And the more I learn about God, the less I know. I still don't have all the answers.

And that's precisely why I'm sticking with ORR, my family and my friends, my mentors and confidants and partners in crime. I'm continuing to pursue God most of all--the best and most important thing I can do, the thing which, undone in a day, makes it a waste.

What's next? Who knows! The future is wide open. I only know that I need and desire more than ever your love and support along the way. All of you. I long--and I suspect you do too--to know and be known, to love and be loved. Come and challenge me, too--and let me challenge you.

I hope, most of all, that you'll seek and find the Root of Joy, the one that allows us direct access to a real, personal, interactive God.