Growing Pains

Growing Pains

As I think about the time I will spend at immigration tomorrow, checking to see if my residency permit has gone through, I am reminded of the frustrating aspects of living in Botswana. I have spent six days at immigration so far — arriving before 6am to make sure I am early enough in the queue to be served before lunchtime. The immigration computer system is appalling — on a good day, they usually can input one person’s paperwork every 30 minutes. This is just one example of a bureaucratic battle we have been fighting since coming here.

I just read the 2014 Gates Annual Letter, which is Bill and Melinda Gates’ update on the state of international development. It reminded me of what an incredible country I live in, in spite of these frustrations. 50 years ago, Botswana was one of the poorest countries in the world. Now, things have changed dramatically. Here are quotes from the annual letter which directly address Botswana:

“Here is a quick list of former major recipients that have grown so much that they receive hardly any aid today: Botswana, Morocco, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Thailand, Mauritius, Singapore, and Malaysia.” 

“In 1960, almost all of the global economy was in the West. Per capita income in the United States was about $15,000 a year. (That’s income per person, so $60,000 a year for a family of four.) Across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, incomes per person were far lower. Brazil: $1,982. China: $928. Botswana: $383. And so on.” 


“Since 1960, China’s real income per person has gone up eightfold. India’s has quadrupled, Brazil’s has almost quintupled, and the small country of Botswana, with shrewd management of its mineral resources, has seen a thirty-fold increase. There is a class of nations in the middle that barely existed 50 years ago, and it includes more than half of the world’s population.” 


“Of course, these regional averages obscure big differences among countries. In Ethiopia, income is only $800 a year per person. In Botswana it’s nearly $12,000.

Kagi’s grandmother, who is about the same age as my grandmother, didn’t finish primary education. She was never taught to read (I’ll have to tell you her amazing story of how she can read now someday). She gave birth to six children, and only three of them are still living. She is lovely — quick-witted, very intelligent, and a strong leader in her community. Even though she doesn’t speak English and I still don’t speak Setswana she is one of my favorite people to be around here in Bots. The Botswana she was born in, with its expectations and opportunities, was nothing like the one we live in today.

In contrast, Kagi’s mom is a qualified nurse and midwife, and he is a pharmacist. The same government with which I have so often been frustrated was organized and disciplined enough to pay to make that a possibility. Healthcare is freely available to all citizens. Public education is free, and most (if not all) children go to school. Those with the ability and drive go to university, and the most apt among them are sent abroad for professional degrees (usually medical or engineering-related).

As a result of this and other factors, there are stories like this:

In contrast to the previously abysmal child mortality rate, my mother-in-law told me about a baby born in her hospital at around 24 weeks gestation who is now healthy and home with her family. This outcome may not be as common as it would be in the States, but that is pretty great any time it happens, and I doubt it is very possible without the services and equipment found in a hospital.

Botswana still has one of the highest AIDS rates in the world (according to Wikipedia it’s about 23.4%). Kagi has been working in the dedicated HIV/AIDS units of the hospital for the last two months. In Botswana, because antiretroviral drugs are free, there is no reason someone with HIV can’t live a virtually normal life — including average life expectancy, the ability to have HIV negative children, and pretty much normal health. The goal is for the next generation to be HIV-free, and they are serious and making progress toward that goal.

Thinking back to the completely undeveloped Botswana of 1960, this is really amazing.

I am very proud of Botswana. In my frustration about bad systems and inefficiencies, I forget that these are growing pains. What an amazing opportunity and privilege it will be if God allows us to be a part of the continued growth and development of this beautiful country.

Kagi with two of his best friends from childhood. Victor is on his way to the UK for his medical residency, and Lesh is a police officer.

Class This Week

Hi Friends!

It has been a long time, I know. Since I’m now living in England, it’s hard to think of good things to write that would be interesting for you guys. My dad and I were talking and he suggested I share a few of the stories I told him about teaching this week, so here goes. I will try, also, to do some posts in the coming week — during which six of my very good friends (OK, I will be meeting two of them here but am confident we’ll become friends) will be adventuring through Ireland and England, celebrating Thanksgiving, and doing some other fun things. But first, some stories about classes this week.

First, I was at Bible English on Wednesday where a group of us teach mostly asylum-seekers (called refugees in America) English and use the Bible as our text. It is an interesting class with a wide spectrum of English levels and abilities. I ended up with an Afghani lady who has a lot of trouble understanding in the class. It is doubtful that she has ever had formal schooling and it is really difficult to help her understand basic concepts. I admit feeling frustrated as we went through our lesson and prayed that I would have help to love her better.

As the lesson wound down, she started talking to me out of the blue, and was able to communicate quite a bit in English. She told me about the difficult situation her family is in because they are not allowed to work here and the money they are given by the government is not enough for her to buy coats for her three children. It is cold here so I understand this would be a major concern! They can’t go back to Afghanistan and don’t have much hope for getting different papers any time soon.

The next day, I was at the other English class I help with. This one is a general TESOL class and is made up of about 20 ladies, mostly Pakistani, who live in this city. Many have been here for over ten years and don’t speak much English. They are wonderful and enthusiastic learners, and a joy to work with.

For the first time, my friend Elizabeth and I were asked to take a group of the more advanced students upstairs in the church we use for the classes to work on the computers. We were to start making a CV (like a resume) with them. I knew in my head that they didn’t know how to use computers. But I wasn’t prepared…

When we got up to the room and each lady sat in front of a computer. I asked if they had ever used computers before, and they all said no, NEVER. One said that her family has one, and she has never used it.

I started working with one of the older ladies who has lived here for over 30 years. She speaks English very well but is just learning to read and write. She worked in a school in Britain for 25 years as a lunch lady. This was clearly her first time working on a computer. It was amazing to teach someone what a mouse is — it seemed as difficult to her to learn how to maneuver it as it would be to learn to drive a car! And things like how long to push a button to make it register once, not 8 times, were terribly difficult.

Anyway, these experiences this week have me thinking more about the immense need within the refugee and immigrant communities all over the world. I also realize more how difficult it is to be a teacher (I admire my teacher friends so much), and how blessed I am to have had opportunities for education. To be able to read and write in itself is a blessing I take for granted all of the time. And it is wonderful to get to work with these incredible women who, although they have not had the same opportunities, are fun, loving, proud of their families, and have amazing life stories.

Bradford, Day 16

Today was really, really crazy! We were at the school again this morning, and several of the girls surprised me with cards and little gifts when they saw me again. It was so surprising and really really sweet.

After the school, we had a meeting with some local Muslim leaders. It was a really insightful discussion about the teachings of Islam as they relate to terrorism and other challenging issues.

Then we did some training for the work we’ll be doing for Healing on the Streets on Saturday.

Directly following that Ben and I (a British friend) went out to follow up with people about the Jesus DVD project, which we have been helping a local church with. Families in the neighborhood have been offered the DVD and if they wanted to follow up with someone we are going around to do that. We ended our time at one of the little girls from school’s house, and had a great conversation with her mom and aunt. They were really so kind and warm!

Following that project, we went to the pastor of one of the churches’ house for a Jamaican dinner. It was really nice and we had a wonderful time laughing with the family.

I am looking forward to sleep and am just really thankful for these great experiences!

Bradford, Day 15

Bradford, Day 15

Whew, today has been really busy:-)!

This morning I got up kind of late and had to rush to get to the church where we met on time. Once there we prepared for our day and then headed to a local elementary school which has a great relationship with my friends here. We put on a skit teaching about peer pressure and then went by twos to individual classrooms to tell about America. It was good but a little stressful since neither my partner or I have much experience in an elementary school classroom.

After the classes we went to lunch and recess with the kids. I had a following of year 5 girls, who were quite a bit cooler than me, talking about their favorite designers, celebrities, and cars. They were super-sweet. I have pictures but am not sure if I should post them, so I’ll check and maybe put them up tomorrow. We’ll be going back to the school then.

After being at the school we met with a local Muslim woman and had a wonderful conversation about holy books, true faith, and issues of modesty and women’s dress. We Christians have quite a bit to learn from Muslims as we seek to honor God. Let me know if you’d like to talk more about what I mean by that.

Then we went to a local Madrasa, or Muslim school which children attend after school. It was great to meet some of the teachers.

Our dinner tonight kept the inter-faith dialog going. Bob and Kathryn invited some local Muslim men and women to join us at a nice restaurant for an “evening of sharing.” It was great to get to talk about some serious Muslim/Christian issues today with Muslims who take their faith seriously.

When I got home I got to spend some quality time with my host family. They are really wonderful.

There is the update! I wanted to note on here that I’m sorry my updates tend to be sterile. There is much more going on in my activities and what I am learning, thinking, and feeling, but because of the time constraints I’m under and out of concern for the privacy of those I’m traveling with and to, I would rather not post too much detailed information in this public forum. I hope that, if anyone wants to follow my trip, this at least gives a good basic understanding of what is going on. But if you would like to know more just ask… I’d be happy to fill you in on the other stuff!

Here is me with some friends in the Madrasa.

Bradford, Day 9

Hi Friends,

Today was the last before I am part of a team coming from the states to do join in some projects we have been preparing, meet people in the international community here, etc. I will be moving tomorrow to stay with a local family. I’m really looking forward to staying with them — we went over to their house for dinner last week and they are really fun!

This morning I enjoyed my run. I took a little different path and ran through more woods and less road while listening to a Matt Wertz album. It was quite fun. Thanks again to Emily for the wonderful gift of my iPhone arm band which makes running and listening possible!

In the afternoon, I took a bus into the heart of the city! Even with as much public transportation as I have taken, it still makes me nervous the first time I travel somewhere. I went and met Olau, a friend who works in Conflict Resolution, and attended the University of Bradford for a degree in that subject. I am very interested in entering that field and it was wonderful that he was willing to show me around the school and tell me all about it!

In the later afternoon Bob, Kathryn and I worked on some final preparations for the team. Then we had dinner and watched a little Magnum, P.I. (a first for me) before heading to bed early!

Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up daily updates after my move, but I’m not sure what the internet situation will be at the new house. I always love hearing from you!!!