Friday, October 29, 2010

Journal Entry

Sounds of Maasai children singing and laughing in the breeze.
Hands on hips as I stand on the porch, turning orange with the setting sun.
A shooting star that looks more like a comet.
Singing 'round the campfire.

What amd I missing? Why am I a loose cannon, a rollercoaster of emotions? Have I walked from the light into darkness? Are You letting me experience darkness so I remember the light? Lead me to Your light. I'm missing something, and the hole is You-shaped. Show me real ways to put You back in.

Ay ay ay ay ay. I'm unhappy with my behavior.
Sugarcoat me.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just Do It

I've spent too much time avoiding the wrong things, and not enough doing the right.

 As a third-grader in the one-room church school, I prided myself on never refusing to offer prayer for the class when asked. I never declined a request to take out the trash or raise the flag. Even the boys' bathroom got a cautiously thorough scrub when the teacher asked Jessica to clean it. A good Christian girl, I thought. It wasn't until high school that I found this:
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. (James 4:17, NIV) 
I can avoid killing, stealing, murdering, coveting, and adultery by locking myself in a little sin-proof bunker, but what good does that do anyone? What has been accomplished? Why should I wait for someone to ask me to do something I know needs doing? 

"Do what God's word says. Don't merely listen to it." (James 1:22, God's Word)

Just do it.

Looking Away

I saw a man walking barefooted through the trash-filled ditches, carefully picking through the rubbish, tucking plastic bottles safely away in his dusty down jacket, likely to exchange them for just a handful of shillings.

I saw a man crawling painfully over the dirt-packed sidestreets, his legs crumpled uselessly beneath him, holding his tin cup toward the hands of passersby and his eyes toward their unseeing ones.

I saw a man with a college degree roasting maize on the side of the road, selling it for just 20 shillings ($0.25) an ear.

I saw a man as he approached a fellow mzungu (white person) exiting the Tuskys supermarket, asking for "Just a few bob! Just a few bob!" and walked away empty-handed.

I saw a man peer out from his rusting corrugated tin home in the Kibera slums.

I saw a man look at me in pleading.

I looked away.

I must have a vision problem, for I only saw a man. I didn't see who that man was.

I saw Jesus walking barefooted through trash-filled ditches.
I saw Jesus begging on the dirt-packed streets.
I saw Jesus selling maize.
I saw Jesus asking for money.
I saw Jesus in the slum.
I saw Jesus' pleading gaze.

I saw a face the mirror, unsure if I saw Jesus in the eyes that looked away.

"'Whatever you [do] for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant [they seem], you [do] for me.'" (Mt. 25:40)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Journal Entry

I saw a man...
How can I change anything?
I've lived my whole life sheltered from the outside, non-SDA world. Even now, as a student missionary, I live in a gated compound that aims to keep thieves and animals out, but serves only to keep the "flock" and the "lost" separated. Am I striving to seek and save the lost, or am I content to remain in the fold? He shouldn't have strayed anyway...

When we hear about Noah, we read about those who scoffed at him and his ark-building. But what about those who simply ignored him? What about those who avoided wrong, but didn't do right? They didn't make fun of the boat, but they didn't get on it, either.

Am I content in my own salvation, but unwilling to sacrifice self for the benefit of the Kingdom? Would I bear the audacity to keep this gift to myself?

But how do I help? How do I change the world?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Life in Africa: #2

Kenya. A land where the slugs are bigger than the bananas.

That's life in Africa.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


I was reviewing my measly journal entries from the past year or so, and stumbled across this:
Monday 8/24/09
I've been questioning myself. A lot. Could I really be a caring SM? Would I have what it takes? Would I be a vocal/visible/obvious witness for Christ? I feel less and less sure. I'm ready to be sure of something.
I'm finally sure I've found the answers to these questions.
Mmm, gumdrops. They look so good! But once you chomp down on them, they're really disappointing. The pretty colors, the cute bite-size shape, lining them up like little people...I'm pretty sure no one would even look at them if not for their tantalizing, sparkling, diamond sugar coating. I mean, anything covered in sugar has to be good, right? But the inside is awful. How many kids suck on gumdrops until the sugar coating's gone, then spit them out again? (How many adults wish they could?)

I'm pretty awful inside. Gooey, tasteless, and a lingering stuck-in-your-teeth nuisance. I might be proud of a vibrant reputation or the perfect shape to fit the task, but it becomes more and more apparent that I need to layer on the Jesus sugar coating daily. I don't want students and faculty to see me or to get a taste of how human I can be; I want them to taste and see Jesus. The longer I wait before dunking myself into the good stuff, the thinner the coating gets and the more likely the disappointing parts are to show through.

I want to make Jesus proud of His gumdrop buttons.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. [Ps. 34:8] 
Fo shizzle.

I can't be a good SM. But I know Who can cover up my bad spots and make life sweet.

Get your Jesus on.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Journal Entry

A vulnerable communion service. I long for one I know will always be my partner, but feel guilty for that longing. Maybe it's just tonight. I looked for someone close to m e to share this moment with, and found my choice was taken. Have I been wrong in not allowing anyone here as close as those I love at home? Or is it none of my choosing? Oh, how I long for an earthly bus buddy. Why can't I simply take You as enough? Let me know that You're near me (check); let that be enough.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tale of a Seed

The Nantucket Humane Society: You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.
Christ’s Object Lessons, pp 86-87: “All who would bring forth fruit as workers together with Christ must first fall into the ground and die.”  
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” [John 12:24]

A green acorn sits high above a shaded glen in his mother oak’s branches, swaying gently in the breeze. He’s grown faster than all the other acorns, and everyone’s praising his bright future. A private growing academy followed by a full scholarship to Yale School of Sprouting is the perfect path to becoming CEO of his branch of the forest. He looks down at the forest floor below, scoffing at the ancient leaves rotting in the mud. Ah, yes: the life of a young oak seed. The world is before him.

Seasons pass.

An especially breezy day leaves Young Acorn a bit queasy and distracts him from his lofty dreams. He clings to Mother’s branch more tightly, feeling shakier than ever before. As he has grown, he’s become larger and heavier, and the hot summer sun has tanned him to a deep brown. It’s time to let go, the wind whispers hoarsely. The squall is unrelenting, bobbing and swaying and twisting the oak branch, wrenching loose an acorn that has grown too heavy for Mother’s twigs.

Not-so-young Brown Acorn feels himself vaulting up and away from his branch and plummeting toward the earth below. He lands with a thud, rolling with a bounce away from the base of Mother Oak, sliding through muck and coming to a rest half-covered with the stuff.

If acorns could cry, he would have.

What now? What does the future hold for a small, brown, far from spherical seed buried in sludge? Why couldn’t he return to the company of fellow acorns who looked and thought like him? Why did he fall among the scum of the earth?

Day after day passes for the Acorn, each blurring dully into the next. What purpose is there to think of the future? He feels his husk becoming softer and weaker as he lay in the mud, but has no power to stop it. As the days and weeks pass, Acorn doesn’t notice that his surroundings continue to encourage his growth. He doesn’t notice the bulge in his hull where it has softened. He doesn’t notice much of anything until a sharp pain splits his side, bringing a seedly grimace to his non-existent face. Well, that’s the end, I guess, he thinks. It’s about time. He lies on the earth, looking up at his branch far, far above, waiting impatiently for death’s final blow.

Acorn wakes in the morning, wiggling his toes and yawning. He smacks his absent lips while gazing up at the sunlight, feeling a little bit…Toes? Since when do I have toes? He cranes his stout neck to see what this new appendage is and sees nothing but dirt, though he now feels the cool soil beneath him. Days later, he feels the warmth of the sun as he never has before, rejuvenated as his leaves unfurl toward it.

Seasons pass.

A wizened oak tree grows high above a shaded glen, fondly remembering the day he died and rose a new creation, and gently rustles his young batch of acorns.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Life in Africa: #1

I looked for the sun that was warming my shoulders as I walked to the cafeteria for lunch. I looked left, right, turned a full circle; no Sun. I stood, perplexed, wondering where that big burning ball of gas in the sky could be hiding.
Ze shadow at 12 noon. That's all of it. Whoa.

I looked straight up. Aha! Thar she glows!

That doesn't happen north of the 45th latitude.

That's life at -1ºS.

That's Life in Africa.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Emerald Glasses

Today, the preacher preached.
Today, Jessica listened.
Today, Jessica heard. (Jessica usually listens, but doesn't always hear)

The preacher preached, preaching about the first items the trapped Chilean miners were given upon their rescue, including dark sunglasses. "You see," he preached, "They'd been underground for so long that they had become adjusted to the darkness. The light was so intense, it was beyond that which their eyes could acclimate."
He preaches on: "CNN claims this was the world record for longest survival underground. GHW - God's Holy Word - proves otherwise. 6,000 years, in fact. We've been living underground. Adam & Eve caved to sin. We cave to sin."
Here's Jessica's favorite part: "I think the first thing we're going to get when we get to heaven are a pair of these (preacher pauses preaching and places shades on his nose). The sun isn't light! The moon isn't light! GOD is light. And we can't even imagine it."
Preach, preacher.
Heaven's gonna be a cool place.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Journal Entry

Yesterday's town run was epic! Seriously. Amazing.
Odd how I wasn't super excited, though. It's kinda hollow...
I keep finding that I wish I had my friends here to share these experiences with. I'd almost trade a trip to McD's for a shake with Marlyn & Hannah & Kristen & Leah for a drive through Nairobie with baboons on the side of the road. Sad, really. Why can't I just be friends with the SMs here? Is it okay to block them out of the gaps my friends at home fill? Should I make new "holes"? Should I seek more than acquaintances?
I don't feel very generous with the volunteers. I feel judgmental and nitpicky and easily irritable and not quite myself. I'm quieter in most situations...which can be a good thing.

Life's pretty lame without someone to share it with.
I'll bet that's how Jesus feels without all of His friends in heaven.
Let's join Him there, yah?

And I need to be more focused/motivated. I'm easily distracted and I squander my time. Am I the only one? I keep considering SMs "perfect" people. I know they're not, but I need to infuse more mission in this student life.

Let the first, the last, the only song I sing and live today be praise to You;
Let my smile and kind words show my praise! and encourage others to sing along.
Let the melody of Your love linger all day long, stuck in my head.
Let it be so "stuck" that I can't help but hum it unconsciously.
I want You stuck in my head.

I was emotionally exhausted again after lab today. I tire of giving away, being generous, and having the generosity thrown back in my face, or unacknowledged and snatched up greedily. I lose the desire to offer it.
How deep the Father's love for me, that His mercies are new every morning, and He'll never stop wanting to give them to me. God rocks.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I have a problem. I'm simply doing what I'm asked to do. Nothing more, nothing less. I'm doing a satisfactory job. But who am I serving? Am I serving the students of Maxwell Adventist Academy, or am I serving the heavenly Headmaster  of the school? Will He say to me, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" or will I be greeted with, "Simply done, mediocre and so-so employee." Why should I aspire to the goals of men? Why not excel, as if serving the Lord Himself? If Jesus were in my class, would I teach and plan and grade differently?

I don't feel much like a missionary.
I'm neither canoeing down croc-infested rivers nor applying herbal poultices to open ulcers. I'm neither manuring my dirt floor by day nor holding evangelistic meetings by night. I'm not passing out Bibles and literature or clothing and shoes. I'm not doing much of anything different.

I'm still going to school. I still take a hot shower in the morning and eat potatoes and eggs in the cafeteria for breakfast. I still sleep on a mattress with sheets and a duvet. I still use the internet, and still have a cellphone.

Nope. There's no invisible barrier rising from the Atlantic that magically transforms you into a missionary when you penetrate it. And as far as I've noticed, there's no, "Poof! Ah, yes. I am a missionary now." moment. Nope.

How does one become a missionary?

First, what is a missionary?

Wikipedia: A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to carry on ministries of the word, such as evangelism and literacy, or ministries of service, such as education, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin missionem (nom. missio), meaning "act of sending" or mittere, meaning "to send".

Ok. So I need to be a member of a religious group. Check. And be sent into an area. Check check. And carry on ministries such as education. Check.

Ok. Let's break it down (weeka weeka!).
Things that are sent go, right? Right.
So if something is told to go, it's really the same as being sent.

"Go, therefore, and teach all nations..."

He told me to go. He told you to go.
He sent me. He sent you.
I am a missionary.
You are a missionary.
(Yes. I realize that this isn't the best logic; just because mail is sent and so are we doesn't mean that we're mail. I mean, I'm sure there's some sort of analogy that can be drawn from mail, but we'll get to that later. Back to the sending...)
Funny. I've been "sent" all sorts of places and carried on all sorts of service for all years of my life. I've been sent to the restroom to scrub the sinks. I've been sent to the food shelf to pack food packages. I've been sent to ask to borrow a couple copy boxes. I've been a missionary.

Dear Missionary:

Brighten the corner where you are.

With love,
-He who sent you

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Sixteenth Minute

October 6, 10:30pm: Jessica laid in her bed, dreading the dawn of the following day. She clutched her pistachio Petzl Tikka Plus 2 headlamp in one hand and her green faux leatherbound Walmart journal & burgundy Camp Wakonda pen in the other. Why am I dreading my birthday? she thought.

15 minutes of fame. What does the sixteenth minute hold?

One day of birthday. What does October 8 hold?

I dreaded something special because I feared what the aftermath would entail.

It reminded me of something I wrote in my journal a couple nights ago:
Why do we call friends when we know we'll have to hang up?
Why do we visit when we know we'll have to say goodbye?
Why do we make new friends when we know it leads to more farewells?
Why do we embrace when we know we'll have to let go?

Isn't it all sort of self-defeating?
Yes. Perhaps it is.

Fellow Oct 7 baby, Kesly (she's on the left)
I stumbled out of my bedroom at 6:21am and nearly squashed a neat pile of a couple cards and a granola bar. Egg and biscuit sandwiches waited tantalizingly in the cafeteria, and halfway through my biscuit, the cafeteria erupted with table banging and a loud rendition of "Happy Birthday Ms. Jessicaaaaa!!!" I subbed for the seniors' English class and listened to a lovely tag-team duet of the birthday song as interpreted by Joy and Navo. The ocean grew wider. I enjoyed a mid-morning S.S. quarterly study and snooze with SmartWools on my frigid feetsies and a blanket and purring roaring kitten on my lamp. I received an email from Dad setting up a phone date. The ocean grew wider. Lunch brought some amazing chickenless pot pie. I received a heartwarming text from a sister more than 8000 miles away. The ocean grew ever wider. Nearly the entire student population belted out an echo-y Happy Birthday in the gymnasium during PE (twice) and promptly offered a gift of leaving so we wouldn't have PE (more than twice). Senior Sabrina attempted to teach me to dance on the sidelines of the football field while 4th-grader Larissa tugged my shirt sleeve, willing me to continue our football-hiking game. I entered the cafeteria late for supper and sat down with a satisfied sigh. I sat down again, this time at my desk in my apartment. How strange that a birthday causes the ocean to swell and push home farther and farther away. I looked over inverse functions with Sabrina and reviewed Irisse's math homework. I retired to my bedroom, dialing a familiar number and hearing Dad's voice on the other end. I enjoyed a beautiful birthday chat with my favorite parents in the world. Then hung up.

Calling and hanging up, hellos and goodbyes, friends and farewells. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain [or goodbyes or hang ups or farewells]. Rev 21:4

That's a reactionless action I'm looking forward to.

Postscript: October 8 dawned bright and sunny, with a heavy downpour of blessings for Jessica Mae. The sixteenth minute is almost better than the first fifteen. Thank You, Waitress, Life Preserver, and Time Keeper.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


Jessica M. Stotz, infant.
94 years since the most lopsided college football game in US history. (1916: Georgia Tech 222 - Cumberland University 0)

55 years since Yo Yo Ma first had the opportunity to stretch out his talented fingers, and
53 years
since Michael W. Smith first exercised his vocal cords.

22 years since Jessica Stotz first complained. (it's cold!)

8 weeks since Jessica Stotz first arrived in Africa.

Today's a big day.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Drawing the Line

One of the things I've found most difficult this year has been finding the line between self-preservation and selfishness. Many of my former SM friends – friends that were formerly SMs, not SMs who were formerly friends – warned me that I'd have to learn to say "no" before going abroad, or I'd be worked into the ground under a load of 76 hats of responsibility.

I fear I've taken the "just say no" a little too far. Then again, maybe I haven't.

Welcome to the battle raging in Jessica's mind.

When do I jump in? When do I say no? When have I crossed from preserving my sanity to hoarding my talents for myself?

Perhaps I should approach life at Maxwell in a different light: Just Say Yes. I've got a pretty handy Life Preserver who's looking out for the best interests of more than just Jessica. If I get rid of self and its ishness, He'll take care of the preservation. (Sans formaldehyde.)