Being Married to a Visionary

by Jess Cropsey

When John & I took the Myers-Briggs personality tests during the employment process for the Post-Residency Program with Samaritan’s Purse in 2009, the results did not come as much of a surprise to us (although it was slightly concerning to our evaluators).  We always knew we were pretty much opposites about everything, so we weren’t shocked when he came back as an “ESFP” and I was an “INTJ”.  Different in every single letter.  

John is a natural leader and has always been a visionary.  Being a very practical person who likes to have a plan and be in control, I often find myself wanting to burst his bubble.  “Have you thought about X?”  “What about Y?”  “Are you sure about Z?”  I’d like to believe that I’ve grown a little in this area and have learned to keep my mouth shut more often.  When we were at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, I often had my doubts about some of the things he was planning.  “Really, you’re going to start that program?  We’re only here for 2 years.  What if the long-term person doesn’t want this for the eye clinic?”  “Wait, you’re going to do what?  We’re leaving in two months!”  But, when I look back at the many things that God allowed him to bring to fruition during those 2 years, I am humbled and amazed.  Sometimes, instead of planning every detail out for weeks, months, or years, what’s really required is a simple leap of faith.   

In a recent blog post, John shared some of his big vision for bringing eye care to the Great Lakes Region of Africa.  In my mind, this has always been several years down the road at least.  So, you can imagine my reaction when I happened to glance at his computer the other day and saw this screen shot:

Wait….what?!  My husband is looking at military-grade boats to cruise to the war-torn land of Eastern Congo on a lake infested with crocodiles and hippos?!  Is he serious or is he just dreaming here?  His response is that if he’s going to be chased by someone (or something) on the lake, he wants to be the fastest one out there.  Well, at least that’s a little bit of forethought, right?  (Meanwhile, I’m thinking I better get my teaching certificate renewed just in case and make sure his life insurance policy is up-to-date.)

To my relief, John often quotes a line that was shared with him many years ago:
A leader is one step ahead of the group.  A visionary is two steps ahead.  A martyr is three steps ahead.  

Not sure if that’s exactly how it goes or who said it first, but you can pray for this INTJ to be a good partner to my visionary husband in helping his God-inspired dreams and visions to become a reality in this little corner of the world.  John is moving forward with exploring plans to start a pilot eye clinic in Congo.  There are still lots of unknowns at this point, but you can pray along with me that the Holy Spirit would guide his plans and give him wisdom.  And that I would know when to speak, when to listen, and when to just pray! 

And if you have any good ideas for a name for this new outreach along Lake Tanganyika, we could use a little help in this department.  The current front runner is “Crocs & Cataracts:  Taking a Bite Out of Blindness”.  Need I say more?  :)


More African Children's Books

by Rachel

Several years ago, I posted a very short blog on some of our favorite African children's books.  Maggie was just starting to get interested in reading, and we had a total of 4-5 books with a Swahili/East Africa theme to them.  Over the past several years, we've acquired a few more but there don't seem to be a ton of children's books featuring African countries or themes.  Lots of books about animals, I suppose, but not so many on African kids.  Well, Jess has been doing some research on good African books to use in our home school curriculum next year.  Since our family was state-side with access to an awesome library, we were the guinea pigs who were sent to check out the books and see if they were appropriate to use or not.  It was so fun!  And now, several months later, I feel like I've probably read over 75% of all the books in print in this category. :)  Here are some of our favorites if you want to check them out with your kids.

Africa is not a Country  I love this one because it really highlights the fact that there are over 60 countries on the continent of Africa, and talks about a typical day in the life of a kid in many of those countries.  Nice pictures and maps, and serves to educate people in a fun way about Africa's differences, not just similarities.

Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folk Tales  This one is also great...a collection of folk tales from many different countries in Africa, assembled by Mandela.  The audio version is cool and award-winning, read by such celebrities as Samuel Jackson and Whoopi Goldberg.  And as with many African children's books, the artwork is fantastic.  I liked the fact that the stories came from all over the continent.  There are lots of collections of folk tales out there, but this is one of the best.

Wangari's Trees of Peace  My mom got us this one.  It's about a Nobel Peace Prize winner, a Kenyan woman (Wangari) who got Kenyan village women to start planting trees in order to improve deforestation.  Good message, good awareness of a problem and the woman who found a simple solution, and good artwork.

Mama Panya'a Pancakes  This is a cute story about how generosity leads to more generosity.  In other words, a little boy invites all his friends and neighbors in a small Kenyan village to eat pancakes with him and his mother.  His mother is worried they won't have enough food.  But when their friends show up, everyone brings some food along and they have a fun time together.

There are also many stories I found about the perseverance and ingenuity of children in a variety of contexts and countries.  In particular, I enjoyed Galimoto (A Reading Rainbow book about a little boy  in Malawi who makes a toy out of wires),  Yatandou (the story of a girl in Mali who helps her village rent a machine to grind millet), One Hen (how a boy in Ghana used a few coins to buy a chicken and eventually an entire farm), One Plastic Bag (a woman in Guinea who recycles plastic bags/trash to make crafts for sale), and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (the inspiring story of a boy in Malawi who made a windmill to power his family's farm by looking at a library book).    It was great to check these out, and I look forward to another installment of books written for the 9-12 age group.


A Tale of Two Communities

by Rachel

It's hard to be away from Burundi.  For the past eight months, we (the McLaughlin family) have been state-side and our teammates have been mostly in Burundi.  This is the first time we have been on separate continents since we formed our team in 2007, and I was a bit unprepared for how it would feel.  Our team has really grown together over the years, in a way that only shared experiences can do, and it hurts to be away during this difficult season in Burundi's history.  We look forward to being reunited soon.

But in the meantime, our season in the US has also been a tremendous blessing.  It's been a chance for us again to remember all the many people, prayers, and support that send us and keep us in Burundi.  It's a reminder that the work we do at Kibuye as a small community is only possible because of the help and sacrifice of a huge community back here.  And it's been our privilege to live amongst that huge community these past months.  Our family, our friends, and our church have welcomed us with open arms, supported us, and have asked us probing and informed questions that have helped us to share and process our time.  It's been refreshing to return to a community that KNOWS us, that understands what we are doing and why we are doing it, and follows along with all the news and stories we share.

It's been a reminder and beautiful demonstration of how the body of Christ is supposed to work.  Not all are called to leave home and move to Africa.  Not all are called to be doctors or teachers.  Not all are called to learn new languages and cultures.  But we are all called to bring God's kingdom, and that happens most beautifully when we work together.  Part of God's work of bringing redemption to a broken world is healing the sick and sharing the Gospel.  And part of God's redemptive work is growing and strengthening relationships, loving each other, praying for each other, supporting one another, sharing joys and sorrows, sacrificially giving.

We were welcomed into this community in the US so well, bringing greetings and stories from our team in Burundi.  And now, this same community is sending us out in love and prayer to return to our team and hopefully be a blessing to them.  One body, one work, all around the world.  Thank you, friends.

"Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!"  --Psalm 133:1

"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  -- John 13:35


Song: Man of Dust

(from Eric)

"Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven." - 1 Corinthians 15:49

We are back in Advent, and thus we are mercifully reminded again of the importance of promises.  

We are reminded of promises given, and what it is like to live in anticipation of their fulfillment, even as we wait.  This verse in 1 Corinthians 15 is a promise set in a whole chapter full of promises.  

It is just what a promise should be.  It starts with "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust..."  I hear those words, and they are describing me.  They are describing my reality.  They are naming the world in which we live.  I need that acknowledgement, if I am to trust what follows.  I need the verification that the distance between where we are and the fulfillment of the promise is that great.  In other words, I need recognition that the promise is just that audacious.

Without it, the great reticence says:  "You think we can be taken from A to B, because you don't understand how far we are from A.  We will never reach A, must less B.  We need the kind of transformation that could take us from A to Z!"  But the image of the man of dust?  Yes, that is where we are.  I bear it every day.  We all do.  We bear it in our frailty, in all we cannot do, in every way that we wound each other, half-intentionally and half-unintentionally.  We bear the image of the man of dust.  Yes, you understand.

What's that you say?  We are just as sure to bear another image?  No longer the man of dust, but the man of heaven?  The image of Jesus?  Can it be?  As we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.


One of my projects during our time in the US has been to record a batch of songs written during our time in Burundi thus far.  One of them was "Ubuntu bw'Imana", shared a few months ago.  So here is the "second-fruits" of the project.  Hopefully the album will be done and ready to share around the end of the year.

Man of Dust 
(click here for download of mp3)

It wasn’t what I wanted, and maybe you would say the same
But our intentions at the start didn’t survive
For we flung our words like water we felt slipping through our fingers
meant to assuage the thirst that was inside
This is the way of things,
but we’re not satisfied

We have borne the image of the man of dust
in all our sorrows, and in every time we fall,
we have carried it through it all, over and over again -
But as we have borne the image of the man of dust,
so we will bear the image of the man of heaven.

Down through the ages of our fathers before
there is burned into our bones a mark
and the choices that we make and the way we fumble fear
show us all to hold a common heart,
This is the way of things,
here in the dark.

We have borne our tattered garments over hills and over boulders
under a sky that has no mercy shown
and our feet have beat a furrow deep into the sand and clay
an ancient highway worn
Yet there is one who remains and remembers that we are but dust...

And behold, there is a mystery to tell
There is a promise, that when these dusty windows fade
Our eyes will finally see into the finally light of day
and our hearts, all scarred and weathered, will finally love and rejoice...

(22 July 2014 - Kibuye and Greece; 1 Cor 15)