Thursday, June 2, 2016

Paula’s Ponderings, May 2016: TWO WEEKS…

Two weeks in the past…

Two weeks – to finish our school semester and turn in grades, update and turn over all our files and documents and to inventory equipment.

Two weeks – to pack up the house, decide what to squeeze into our bags and what to leave behind and how to distribute it, to make lists of furniture and other household goods left behind.

Two weeks – of trying to grasp the sudden changes in our lives and ministry, of crying and beginning to grieve the loss we were feeling. There were no good-byes. We simply packed our bags and quietly slipped away…

Two weeks in the present…

Grandpa and Eli catching up...
Two weeks – since arriving back in our “home country”, including a short stopover to see the most adorable grandson ever! Two weeks to begin to process the changes and losses. Two weeks of divided souls and feelings as we catch up with family and friends and mourn those left behind.

Two weeks – of what-ifs: what if we had said something different, or re-acted differently? What if our pleas for help had not gone unnoticed and unanswered? What if we had known or had a better grasp of thoughts and feelings?

Two weeks – of wondering where we will go, what we will do and what the future holds. Two weeks of trying to understand the inevitable changes coming our way. Two weeks of accepting our current reality: we are in our 50’s, unemployed, and living with my parents.

Two weeks ahead of us…

Two weeks – of debriefing, retreat, meditation and, hopefully, beginning to heal. Two weeks – of continuing to hold on to each other.

Two weeks – of continuing to cling to His words and pray His promises and desperately trying to remember that He loves us, He knows us, He is in control, and He has plan.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Paula's Ponderings -- April Endings

April – it usually evokes images of new life: trees budding, flowers blooming, baby calves and colts in the fields…

But for me, the month of April marks endings…

Grandma Stroud
April 19, 1995: My Grandma, Letha Eunice Stroud, was called Home to her eternal reward. If the date seems familiar, it was also the day of the Oklahoma City bombing. Some say that the Lord knew there would be children arriving in heaven that day as a result of the bombing. And so He called Grandma, who loved everyone, but especially children, Home to help care for them. I’m not sure how theologically sound that is, but I do know that Grandma always ministered to others and always saw the good in others. And above all, she loved her family and her Lord. I am the person I am today due in large part to her influence in my life, her unwavering belief in me, and her unconditional love for me.

April 24, 1992: We lost our unborn son, Alexander Robert, just 9 months after losing twins. Losing Alexander also meant letting go of the dream of having more children and holding on, even more tightly, to the two sons we have – Nathaniel Philip and Christopher Paul.

April 24, 2011: My father-in-law, Rev. Robert D. Troutman, stepped from this life into the next.  He was a respected teacher, churchman and editor. And he was the proud grandpa who, at the birth of his first grandson -- to carry on the Troutman name -- sent me a bouquet of blue flowers with a card that said, “I told you so!” (I had been teasing him saying that the baby would be a girl, but he said it would be a boy!)

April 2003: Our missionary career was called into question, which prompted us to take a leave of absence so that Phil could pursue a Ph.D. and give us time to search ourselves, re-evaluate our calling and seek the Lord’s guidance in finding a way forward. And after ten long years, we finally returned to Africa in November of 2013.

April 2016: Through a series of difficult events our missionary career has come to a sudden, unexpected end. Our lives have come crashing down around us, and as you read this we are once again packing up our lives, our dreams, and our calling, and leaving Africa for the last time.

April, the month of endings … They have been hard to bear and impossible to fully understand. As we have faced these endings, the questions have been many and the tears have flowed freely. In our struggle to accept and deal with these endings, we have frequently been overcome by grief and self-doubt. But step-by-step we have learned to lean on Him, trust in Him and hold on to His promises. And we will go forward, because we have come to believe and accept that just as He is the Lord of endings, He is also the Lord of beginnings. I think Grandma would agree.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Paula's Ponderings - Outside My Gate

The morning does not start off well – I had trouble going to sleep, so have to drag myself out of bed…
I can’t decide what to wear…
I get things together to take to school: water bottles (frozen and cold), a Coke Zero for Phil, some leftover chicken for our lunch, computer and charger, clean towels for the restrooms, a canister of sugar for the students’ kitchen, and I must be forgetting something…
I’m running out of time, so I grab my travel mug and fill it with coffee…
Time to head out the door: Outside lights on, inside lights off, water pump off, door locked, gate locked…
Driveway gates – two sets – opened…
Driveway gates – two sets – closed… No, wait, the one where the welds have broken at the hinges won’t line up to close so that I can lock it. Phil comes to my rescue after backing the truck out of the driveway…
Hurried. Harried. Frustrated.
Then I see her…
So thin. Legs like toothpicks. A baby bundled on her back. A hoe in her hands.
Receiving instructions for chopping up the grass and weeds in front of the house across the street.
She doesn’t look like she could possibly have the energy to do that kind of hard work. In the hot sun. With a baby on her back.
And I feel shame for complaining when I am so blessed.
Remorse for thinking my life is hard.
Compassion for someone who has so little.
I rummage around in my bags for my purse.
Bom dia, Mãe”, I say. (Good morning, Mother.)
She turns around. I place a couple of bills in her hand.
 “Buy some food, something to eat”. And I gesture eating with my hand.
She looks at me. Uncomprehending. A questioning look on her face.
Then she understands. Claps her hands enthusiastically. And says thank you. Over and over again.

As we drive way, she smiles and waves. And we smile and wave back. And whisper a prayer.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

More Joyful Singing!

I am listening to more joyful singing this morning!* This time it is coming from the classroom down the hall where our Bible Institute students are starting their first class of the day.

We praise Thee, O God! For the Son of Thy love,
For Jesus Who died, and is now gone above.
Hallelujah! Thine the glory. Hallelujah! Amen**

We do praise Him this morning! The sun is shining after yesterday’s rain, and everything is green and beautiful! What a joy it is to see our students’ smiling faces as they come in to the building to start their second day of classes! Our current enrollment is eleven students and there is the possibility of one more.

For this first seven weeks, our students will be taking Panorama of the Bible, Orientation to Ministry, English 1 and Portuguese. I was also thrilled to see them in the library as soon as it was open yesterday afternoon! (And also wishing we had more books!)

Please pray with us:

For our students–
·    That they will continue to be enthusiastic and apply themselves to their studies
·    For the safety of the off-campus students as they travel back and forth to classes
·    For the well-being of the on-campus students as they live in less than ideal conditions

For faculty and staff –
·    Pray that we will have wisdom and energy as we prepare, teach, and mentor.
·    For this first seven weeks the professors are: Pastor Sebastião da Silva (Panorama of the Bible), Pastor Mario Rocha (Portuguese) Paula Troutman (English/library/record keeping), and Dr. Philip Troutman (Orientation to Ministry/Academic Coordinator/General Problem Solver!).

For finances –
·    Angola is currently in an “economic crisis” in which prices are rising and simply surviving is becoming more difficult which makes paying school tuition a financial burden at best and a financial impossibility for many. Although some of the students have received sponsorships, others still need help with their tuition. Due to economic difficulties we have lowered tuition to 5000 Kwanza (approximately US$33) per month for full-time students.
·    We are finding that a major expense that is not being covered is the cost of feeding the 6 students that live on campus. We want them to have good nutrition, but we lack the necessary funds especially in light of rising food costs.
·    We would love to be able to add more books to our library as well as supply our students with additional resources.

Thank you for reading and for your prayers.

 -- Please contact us if you would like more information on how you can help with these needs. -- 

*Referring to our blog post and newsletter “Joyful Singing” of 1/27/16.

** “Revive Us Again” by William P. MacKay