Tag Archives: childhood

Destined to edit books for the church in Africa

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Our missionary family “prayer card” – about a year after my salvation

Last month, I moved into a new associate acquisitions editor position at Oasis International. Over the weekend, I realized that God has been preparing me for this for twenty years!

I moved to Tanzania as a two-year-old and grew up there as a missionary kid. When I was four – exactly twenty years ago this weekend – I decided to follow Jesus. I don’t remember it, but my dad recently unearthed his old journal and came across the night I became a Christian. Earlier this year I noticed the file on my computer, realized this would be twenty years, and decided to celebrate my “re-birthday.” So I read over what my dad had written:

October 22, 1996        Hannah is 4

Dear Hannah,

I want to write this now for you to read later so you can remember what happened tonight. Tonight at bed time you wanted to read your Swahili book and they you wanted to read a book that your Sunday school teacher at the PEFA church next door gave you awhile back. (We had never read it before.) It was in English even though he only speaks Swahili. It was about heaven and hell and a little African boy named Mutu having salvation explained to him. You and I had talked about heaven and that Jesus died for us and what that means.

My dad writes that he explained the gospel in four-year-old terms and we prayed for my salvation.

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Mutu’s story might have come from this Christian bookstore in my hometown in Tanzania

I shared this story with a friend, who noticed, “Books have been part of your story from the beginning.”

“Wow, I never thought about that. This was even before I was reading on my own. But I guess they have!”

And as I thought about it more, I realized that it wasn’t just any book. It was a Christian book written in English, contextualized for Africa, distributed to me through a local pastor. It was exactly the literature that Oasis creates and distributes! Jesus saved this little American-African missionary kid through the same work that I do now!

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Editing Christian literature for Africa from my office in Nairobi, Kenya

From there, God weaved the rest of the story together: The second-grade teacher who told me I’d become a writer. The pastoring grandparents who always gave me Christian books for my birthday. The many childhood visits to village churches. My preteen years on a seminary campus where my friends biked to the bookstore for candy, browsed the shelves, and made our faith our own. The last-minute English major in college and the unexpected call to ministry. An Oasis job opening after graduation asking me to move back home to Kenya – literally to my parents’ house. Getting sick of Pulitzer winners and discovering African fiction. Multiple people randomly telling me last summer that I should go into acquisitions editing.

How does God do it? Not only saving me and continuing to affirm our relationship as I grew up, but designing the way I was saved to chart my destiny? I’m so in awe. I felt like I stumbled into this path, but what a comfort that God has known all along where we’re going!

So all I do is echo Ephesians 3:20: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”


Farewell, Imaginary Friend

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Farewell, imaginary friend
for years you’ve kept me company:
I taught you in our school pretend
and mapped your house and family,
by candlelight a letter wrote when both of us were 93,
“I miss her every night” – I quote
my poem when you were lost at sea.

Strange that my memories of us
are searches – like you wouldn’t stay.
Like all my other friends you must
have always been going away.

One day I’ll find you incarnate
as I described in listing song.
I’m sure I’ll know when we have met
because it’s forty-four lines long.

Gray days, you, rainbow, promised love.
You had no substance, shadow, scent –
the real I felt unworthy of.
Our game began as innocent.

‘Til wanting me possessively
you clouded sight aggressively.

I polished you to gaze upon
my image in your idol’s gleam.
With your ideals you blinded, conned –
my other friends less perfect seemed.

I tried to recreate them in
our image, squish them to our mold.
Ignored how people are within –
they hurt from hammers, unlike gold.

So from flawed people I withdrew –
you said it proved only you cared.
I tried to leave, came back to you
‘cause being alone made me scared.

Dear – wait, I never knew your name!
So please, still at a distance stay.
Today I leave you and our game,
declare my independence day.

Imaginary friend, goodbye.
Our friendship was as fake as you.
Bye, mobile home in castled sky –
so lonely ‘cause it had a view.

I’ve found a friend who’s down to earth.
He’s heaven-sent – Emmanuel.
He’s known me since before my birth
but never left. None loved so well.

He laughs, “Oh honey!” at mistakes,
chats over tea around the hearth.
He shards into stained glass remakes.
He died of love and gave me worth.

I’ll sing for him who gave me voice,
whose image I reflect adore,
in rainbow promises rejoice,
and over all his letters pore.

But all affection I give free,
this love was unearned from the start.
The Son makes all my shadows flee,
dwells in the flesh of muscled heart.

This is his home now, see his crest?
So leave us be, unwanted guest.