Thursday, November 30, 2006

Noah's a tough guy. The story goes that when he hurt his thumb badly enough to go to the hospital and the doctor wanted to anesthetize it before he repaired it, Noah told him not to bother. The doctor insisted, though, so Noah told him, 'If it'll make you happy.'

The doctor started pushing a needle into the callus of a welder's hand, and told him he would inject pain killer when he started to feel it. But Noah never felt a thing until the doctor had to push so hard that it popped out the other side of his thumb. 'That hurt.'

This week Noah's been in the hospital for a different reason. My sister, Charity, is recommitted with unexplained bleeding. She's had such a rough go of it with lupus, but Noah has been by her side through thick and thin. The nurses say they want to clone him because most patients don't get such attentive support. Noah's tough, physically and spiritually.

I talked to my mom today (Skype!'s like a Baptist hymn, 'free and marvelous') and she couldn't stop bragging about Noah. When we were home this fall he worked on our borrowed and injured car until it ran. It's just easier for him to be helping someone, sensitively noticing what needs to be done, than not.

Hopefully Charity will be out of the hospital within the next day or two. Please join me in prayer for this young couple (married the beginning of April this year) as they walk through this dark valley.
When we were in L.A. we stayed with Andrew and Suzie Kabbe, who grew up on various mission fields (including my home church) and have been friends of the Gunderson's since forever. Suzie's taken it upon herself to host a Christmas party to raise funds for the little children's home. She wanted some group pictures, so here are the toddlers (left to right): Pearl Nicole, Antonia, Nika, Tyler, Mary Gem, Michael David, Deborah, Freddie, Marianne, Auden, Senon, and Vicki.

Here are the infants we could manage to keep awake and happy at the same time (clockwise from noon): Alvin John, Katherine Joy, Sheila Mea, Maria Lyn, and David. Absent (sleeping) are Mark Joseph and Angelin.

And I just couldn't resist this one particularly cute 'orphan.'

Saturday, November 25, 2006

We're back in the Philippines. Deborah's passport came through without a hitch. Almost shocking to people used to living in the developing world. Only thing was, we had to wait until Thanksgiving Day to fly.

But that's not so bad; we got a few extra days with Joel and Jena and Paul, and used the opportunity to call up my dad's uncle in Vancouver whom we've never met before.

We were anxious down to the last minute, expecting something to go wrong. But it was all smooth sailing. Thanks for praying.

Monday, November 20, 2006

We would very much appreciate your prayers. We were supposed to fly out on Friday (11/17), but there was a computer glytch on our tickets that took several hours to sort out, and we missed our flight. Then, we were scheduled to fly today (11/19), but they've found another problem.

The Philippines has changed their policy on travel documents. It's always been that you should not travel on a passport that will expire within six months--unless your country has an embassy in the country you're visiting. Deborah's passport expires in January, and we had planned on renewing it there, like we have her last two passports. But now we are not allowed to travel until we have a new one.

So, we'll spend the night tonight with the Teagues in Olympia, to be within striking distance of the passport office in Seattle. Hopefully we'll get a passport tomorrow, and possibly even fly the next day. But, obviously, there are alot of things that need to come together between now and then.

Thankfully, we're in Portland with Joel and Jena and Paul, so we're being well taken care of. But Deborah has an important birth to get back for, and we're just apprehensive now of 'what will go wrong next?'

Sunday, November 12, 2006

In San Francisco we visited Josh and Jill Wait. My sources of pleasure are pretty predictable, so Josh took me to a bookstore off the Berkeley campus. He knew I appreciate Czeslaw Milosz, so he bought me a copy of The Captive Mind.

I haven't read a book like this for a long time: turning pages like a Tolkein adventure. I'm usually a very slow and meticulous reader, but Milosz is special. His message seems to come from somewhere inside of me as I read, so that it's easier to read on than it is to put it down.

The Captive Mind is an apology for free thinking. He portrays the appeal of communistic control in the context of events that give birth to it, and then writes seemingly coincidental incidents that have distanced him from communism. Toward the end of the book, in a hurry and without explaining how it springs the trap of convicted communism, he renders the redeeming image of a family.

"In my wanderings at the beginning of the Second World War, I happened to find myself, for a very short while, in the Soviet Union. I was waiting for a train at a station in one of the large cities of the Ukraine. It was a gigantic station. Its walls were hung with portraits and banners of inexpressible ugliness. A dense crowd dressed in sheepskin coats, uniforms, fur caps, and woolen kerchiefs filled every available space and tracked thick mud over the tiled floor. The marble stairs were covered with sleeping beggars, their bare legs sticking out of their tatters despite the fact that it was freezing. Over them loudspeakers shouted propaganda slogans. As I was passing through the station I suddenly stopped and looked. A peasant family--husband and wife and two children--had settled down by the wall. They were sitting on baskets and bundles. The wife was feeding the younger child; the husband, who had a dark, wrinkled face and a black, drooping mustache was pouring tea out of a kettle into a cup for the older boy. They were whispering to each other in Polish. I gazed at them until I felt moved to the point of tears. What had stopped my steps so suddenly and touched me so profoundly was their difference. This was a human group, an island in a crowd that lacked something proper to humble, ordinary human life. The gesture of a hand pouring tea, the careful, delicate handing of the cup to the child, the worried words I guessed from the movement of their lips, their isolation, their privacy in the midst of the crowd--that is what moved me. For a moment, then, I understood something that quickly slipped from my grasp."

Friday, November 10, 2006

We're in Davis, California with Oliver and his new family. They're delightful folks and we've had a great couple of days together. This morning we were at the park and played in the sand. This afternoon, Karla and Deborah went shopping and I stayed home with the boys.

Oliver and I had a great hour or so together before Auden and Aubrey woke from their (longer) naps. We had a great time playing in the sand and collecting leaves in his bucket.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Halloween is fast becoming the most prominent holiday in America. The traditions that Deborah and I have been raised in have always resisted the spookiness and secularity of this almost meaningless holiday. But when we were in Phoenix this year with Deborah's cousins and aunt and uncle we saw a whole other side of Halloween.

We started out across the street at a block party and had pizza and other fun food. Already there was an air of camaraderie and good spirits, with everyone trying to make things special for the children.

Then we set out for trick or treating. None of our family had ever done it before, but it was something entirely different than what we were expecting. Because the weather was so nice, most people were sitting out in front of their house in lawn chairs with their baskets of treats. Neighbors sat together to pass the time between pods of tricksters.

Some of the homes had really gone all-out, with barbecues and haunted houses. Everyone was so friendly, and practically begged you to join them for a hotdog or hamburger.

I thought, 'When else in the American calendar do we invite complete strangers into our house for food? What other strategies do we have for bringing neighborhoods together like this?' Maybe the absence of baggage we have around a holiday like Christmas can be a resource for the kind of peace and goodwill we try to promote under the more doctrinaire 'holy days.'
Aubrey turned five on October 28. We were at Mary's place in Martins-burg, WV. She's a very special aunt and took great care to make is big day special.

He baked gingerbread cookies with his mom, and we spent most of the day in the park. It was a simple day, but very caring and honoring.

In L.A. we stayed with the Kabbe household and Drew, a former navy photographer, bought him a snorkel and mask. They had a small, heated pool and Aubrey couldn't wait to try out his new equipment. As soon as he put it on he just took off and swam for the first time, but as though he had always done it.

These pictures are from our time there at Venice Beach. It was so beautiful. So relaxing. So good you didn't want to leave.

Everything changes when the wind blows. Mary's house-sitting / renting an old house built in the Civil War era. A lot of character, not a lot of heat. It was cold, but we thought that was mostly an economical issue since the thermostat was set at 50.

But then a storm came in. And when the wind blows, the plant in the bathroom moves. There's just no way to keep that place warm; I don't know what they're going to do as winter sets in.
Mary does crisis relief work at a place called Shalom Center. Our good friend, Marti, drove us out there from D.C. and dropped us off. Before we even got out of the parking lot we felt we'd stepped into a tempest.

Mary's passion to help others in need is almost feverish. What she does is, when someone is teetering on the brink of homelessness, she finds a grant or a community service, a job or some kind of program to help them pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads. When she talks about the people needing their help she gets teary with emotion.

We hadn't been there five minutes when she told us about the petition they're fighting with town council. Some neighbors and local businesses object to offering services that will bring "those kinds" of people into their neighborhood. From Mary's perspective, it's a community responsibility to care for the down-and-out.

If you'd like to know more about what they're doing, you can write to Mary at