In June 1987, our daughter Brandee left with Teen Missions International’s Tanzania Team for a 5 week construction mission. Today TMI teams have the benefit of multiple satellite connections, so updates on the team’s arrivals and departures are available. Not so in 1987, we got one phone call when she left TMI Boot Camp in Florida to travel to JFK International in New York City. So, we did not know the team missed the flight intended and were divided at JFK or that our daughter and the remaining team members with leader got on a plane that had turned back to NYC due to engine problems to fly to Frankfurt. Looking back, probably best I did not know.
Brandee loved Africa, so I developed a prayerful concern for the second largest continent with its complex history, tribes, and diverse cultures, religions and politics. Even before she served there for 5 weeks in 1987, my in-laws had lived in Cairo, Egypt for 5 years as expatriates with an American oil company. Then in the 1990’s, our friends, Jeff and Rita Osborne served with United World Mission in the northwestern area of Kenya, working with and coming to know the Turkana People. My view of Africa widened as my eyes opened to the stories and pictures from the teeming streets of Cairo, the pyramids, the desert of Egypt, to the mountains of Tanzania, the Serengeti Plain, and then the arid land of the Turkana people in Kenya. My prayer world expanded and then almost evaporated.
There are a few frightening words in this life that I have heard more often than I would ever have chosen. Cancer is one especially when followed by Terminal. In 2002 on a visit to supporters in the United States, Rita received that diagnosis. Electing to stay in the States near family, both Jeff and she settled temporarily in South Carolina. I was able to visit them a few times before her death in March 2004. My final visit was in December 2003. At that visit, Rita gave me the necklace you see in the picture. When she gifted me, she told me to wear it to always remember to pray for the Turkana. I promised and have done that, and yet that too has expanded to include the work that Jeff and his wife Lucy are engaged in near Nairobi,
Ibukun and the country of Nigeria,
and now a second generation TMI team member, Rita’s granddaughter, Joy who is in Zambia building a bridge this summer.
The chain of silver around my neck
A filigree charm of Africa
reminds me of the times on your deck
laughter, tears, chats about heaven,
about the time you would have decorating my mansion
cramming in talks, relieving the tension
more tears, more laughter, too little time
And a chain of silver from you to me
Africa in silver filigree
The chain of silver hangs around my neck
and I finger the silver charm
as if somehow it connects us in some respect
promises made, laughter, tears, arm in arm
In heaven, girl, my mansion next to yours for sure
No talks now, so let me say this to assure
I am praying for the Turkana, for Kenya, for Jeff,
for his new wife, Lucy, who you would love
For Nigeria and a young woman named Ibukun
All these and there is more
Your granddaughter, the delightful Joy
This year in Africa, like our daughters went
For all these I pray
because I wear your chain of silver
Africa in a tiny sliver.
It is more than silver, more precious than gold
For it reminds me of my promise to always pray
And so it expands, God’s growth unfolds
For me, for Africa, for the Kingdom of Heaven