joy, pain, and the things that redeem

A little bit by my husband Seth.


I did the drive by shooting of the man with the Mozambican mango and he did not feel the clip.  He was forever frozen in the dust, having already pulled the fraying fiber from the half-eaten fruit flesh.  When the picture was developed, the scene was blurred by too slow of a shutter speed.  You could not make heads nor tails of his face, save to say it was a face, but you knew more than anything that he needed redemption.

There were these men in their middle ages, teenagers really.  They worked in the meat section of the market, a place where more flies gathered than people.  The cow head was sitting on the table, tongue out.  I pointed to it with my camera and one of the boys reached down and moved its lips up and down as if puppeteering; the cow asked where the rest of its body went.  The tongue slid from one side to the other when the lips were raised.  The boys laughed and put e coli clad hands on my shoulder, shaking gently as a sign of solidarity.  We all laughed.  Third world jokes can be visceral.

There was this little girl in the video that Mike sent.  She was in a crib.  She was two and she only moved her eyes, ping-ponging between the lens and some off-camera western wife who was wondering whether it was okay to reach out.  There were too many cribs and not enough workers, I think.  I cannot be sure because I have never seen that orphanage.  It was only a video and people can do so much with trick photography.  Photography can be so tricky.

The tailor and I traded.  He gave me two ears of corn.  I gave him a “thank you” in English.  He laughed, in Portuguese I think.

The shepherd died two weeks after I returned home.  He was caught in the electrical crossfire between a storm cloud and the ground.  He went up thankfully, like the Southern Cross.

Kristin has this picture.  The little girls, the dark black ones with the skin that reflects true sun, were braiding her hair.  Their fingers were gentle and I expect that Kristin never wanted to lose those braids.  But she did, because everything that salves homesickness is so temporary.

 The matriarch, the old one with the gap in her two front teeth, showed me a smile that seemed to span from Lichinga to Nampula.  She made me bean greens and told me that they would certainly be better than Amber’s.  She was right.  Amber only makes collard greens and she generally makes sure to rinse all of the sand from them.  Even if the matriarch gave me a parasite, a small one albeit, she did it in love.  Those are the moments when you’re happy that everything is temporary.

People tell us that we should stop talking about Africa so much, that there are more important, or at least less confrontational things.  We have these responses, the silent ones that are both unhealthy and cynical.  But we swallow them hard and keep praying.  We’ve all spent such little time there, Mike, Kristen, and I.  I can’t speak for them, nor can I speak for the Mozambican, the Kenyan, or the Ethiopian—I wouldn’t want to.  But what I can share is this:

there are only a few things worth talking about and the things that redeem you are the greatest among them.

About me


Reply July 19, 2010

Don't stop talking about it. Don't. We need to hear it, even when it hurts a little.

    Reply July 20, 2010

    Dear Erin,

    Thanks. We'll gather more stories and keep sharing them.

Reply July 19, 2010

I love doing life with you, Seth. This post made me laugh and cry - something we've been doing a lot together lately, huh? Especially that one time you ...

[Insert one bawling emoticon and then another one laughing hysterically]

Reply July 19, 2010

I'm always made to think by your posts about Africa. My perspective is always changed for the better. Please keep writing.

    Reply July 20, 2010

    Dear Joy,

    I hope we all find perspective shifts. I am so prone to wander... Lord, I feel it.

We are THAT family
Reply July 19, 2010

That's it- it's what redeemed me. I
Africa rescued me from wealth- how can I stop talking about it?
This was beautiful, Seth-poignant , honest- like coming home. See y'all tonight!

JD in Canada
Reply July 19, 2010


Ann Voskamp
Reply July 19, 2010

The Haines are meeting up with THAT family?

I am smiling... smiling, smiling, smiling... I only wish I was a fly on the wall.

That Rock House of yours -- I think it holds some of the finest words I've ever read. You two are quite the one.

Please keep writing Africa. Your words here redeem much... bits of me. Keep taking that shovel to where they need and hoe the rows, write the lines. I'd like to follow you all and Kristen....

Warmest regards and highest esteem...

    Reply July 20, 2010

    Dear Ann Voskamp,

    Did I ever tell you your my hero? Your everything... well, you get it. If ever a word spoken could redeem half as much as those from the Canadian farm, well then... we'd be gett'n somewhere.

Dawn Carter
Reply July 19, 2010

I loved reading your piece about being in Africa. I've only traveled to Tanzania, but it has produced an inexplicable homesickness in my heart.

Please keep sharing about your experiences. You're a brilliant storyteller and we need to hear it.


Dawn Carter

    Reply July 20, 2010

    Dear Dawn Carter,

    Tanzania? Did you drink the tea? We had some last night... just because. I've never been there but I was really, really close.

Reply July 20, 2010

I love when you write about Africa.... as a transplant to South Africa from good ole' Amish country PA (am SO not Amish myself, no worries), I feel like the more this red-dirt-stick-on-your-heart place is written of, the more Jesus will wipe away fears that linger, hard.

Coming here to just live out Jesus, hold and hug and teach and start a school is what I would do in the states. Meeting needs in front of me, as best as I can, for as long as I am called here. To just live Him here. Not that being "sent" from an organization is wrong, but its not right, for me, right now. Course, my home church is sending me since my wee ones and their families have no monies... anyway...

It's been a year I've called this place home, this place of 11 national languages, and where I have blue eyed boys sitting and learning next to chocolate eyes and natural dancers. I haven't spent enough time here either. But keep writing! Keep telling Africa stories. I will keep reading...

    Reply July 20, 2010

    Dear bekah,

    Can't wait to hear more about what you are doing. I'll jump over to your place in the next couple of days.

Reply July 20, 2010

Thought I'd share this here. Since this is my post, I suppose I'll take the liberty.

Laura@Life Overseas
Reply July 20, 2010

Loved reading your heart for the globe. I am continually learning that there is a much bigger picture going on here than what I once believed. A bigger picture of poverty and injustice and the role WE play in being Jesus--even in the tiny corners of Africa.

Thanks for reminding us. And keep speaking what God is speaking, please.

Jane Anne
Reply July 20, 2010

I read this yesterday- sort of quickly- and then I kept coming back to it in my mind off and on all day. Thank you. These kinds of testimonies remind me that there's much more to living than the life I am living.

To Think Is To Create
Reply July 20, 2010

What a beautiful journey this was...thank you.

Reply July 20, 2010

Our church Women's Group just did Lysa TerKeurst's, 'What Happens When Women Walk in Faith'. Did you recommend this.....? Yes, I think you did. I love how she talks about how our dreams were God's dreams first. He shares with us His dreams, His burdens, the desires of His heart. Don't quench the Spirit; don't let anyone pour cold water on His fire in you. It is not about whether or not there is an ending, or that all the 'dreams come true', is it? It is about Him loving you, revealing Himself to you, trusting you with what burns His heart, laying it bare to you, knitting Himself together with you. May He bless you with ever-increasing measures of His heart, and an equal measure of strength to bear it.

Reply July 22, 2010

First, the last sentence of this is SO AMAZING. Truer words were never spoken. We should all speak more openly about what is Real.

Next, I read Sarah's post about pornography the other day, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about this place, The Runamuck. So, I need to say:

On the random occasion that I stop by here, I am unfailingly pierced to the heart by such diverse, authentic substance. It is as cathartic as it is comforting and I find myself leaving refreshed, invigorated and full of thought. Although, I'm certain I'm a minority here, in that I don't count myself a Christian; I do have a very strong relationship in my heart with the Spirit. And I do believe, that this Spirit that I know and love; that has sustained me from birth, manifesting in faces and forms, religions and ideologies, arts and sciences, and nature, guiding me back to Love all the way; dances here in your words, peeling back the illusion and revealing your readers to themselves in the mirrors we are to one another.

To seek and reveal the Truth is the greatest gift one can give to the world. I want to say thank you to Amber and Seth, also to Sarah and all the others passing through: for being those truth seekers and for sharing yourSelf here, helping me discover mine. You have my deepest gratitude and humblest appreciation.

This place is a lighthouse. Keep up the Good Work.

Reply July 22, 2010

I've been thinking about give from my poverty...isn't that the hardest kind of giving? The kind that HE wants?
What does this mean for me...I don't know.
Keep writing about it, because there's something important about poverty...and you might have put your finger on it.

Katy Stone
Reply July 31, 2010

Thank you for this. I'm covered in goosebumps and may have a few tears. My husband and I arrived in Africa two days ago to begin a 1 (but most likely 2 or 3) year commitment here. We've been here before, never for this long, but it's the things you wrote about that have brought us back. Keep telling your story.

Reply August 1, 2010

Beautifully written. The stories need to be told. It is was brings us together around the world. It is what unites us all and makes people real, rather than sublime stories or pictures that tug a heart string for a moment and then you move on with real life.
I love the last sentence of the first paragraph, "but you knew more than anything that he needed redemption." Isn't it so for all us? Isn't that what we have been called to? And it cannot happen if we don't personalize it. What you have seen, what your eyes have taken in and your heart has experienced, is for you to share with others and not keep to yourself. Then others too may know, and be moved to compassion, or action.
Grace and peace. Thank you for sharing.

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