The Meeks and their Travels

•November 24, 2014 • 2 Comments

Wow. What a whirlwind! It’s amazing that our new born is already almost 8 weeks old and we have traveled through 5 different states in the last 4 weeks. We have been so thankful for the time we have been allotted to visit supporters and family. We thought we should give you a glimpse of our travels.

 

We enjoy singing along together to our Toddler's Songbook as we travel in the car.

We enjoy singing along together to our Toddler’s Songbook as we travel in the car.

So far….we have traveled to Ohio to have a quick and packed visit of 6 days having constant meals and visiting times all day/ every day. We were so blessed by the conversation and encouraging words of those with which we spoke. We were also so thankful for all of the questions and the interest in our work and lives in Tanzania. We felt very loved and cared for. We then had a quick weekend trip to visit Kristina’s sister and brother and their families in Michigan. Being so far away from family we miss out on each other’s lives and our kids miss out on cousin time so it has been fun watching the cousins play together…..and learn how to get along at times. It was really special because 3 out of the 4 of Kristina’s siblings have moved recently and it is nice to see each other’s homes and really be able to picture what life is like for them.

 

ENjoying making fun memories with cousins in Michigan

Enjoying making fun memories with cousins in Michigan

Amidst our travels, the internet has made it possible for us to have meetings not only with our team, but at other times with our missions committee using skype so that we could have meetings no matter which city we have been in. Next we traveled Nashville for Caleb’s brother’s wedding. It was special for us all to be a part of that special day. Caleb was able to be there to play the role of best man and even Aletheia and Jeda played their part as one of the flower girls and ring bearer. We then headed on to North Carolina to have a quick visit with Kristina’s other sister and her family. Again, getting to see a new home and having some special cousin time.

 

Aletheia and the other little flower girls.

Aletheia and the other twin flower girls. Can you tell which one Aletheia is?

Exploring a fun science museum with cousins in North Carolina.

Exploring a fun science museum with cousins in North Carolina.

We are currently back in Tennessee. We were able to visit some individual supporters and two churches during our time around Karis’s birth so we are able to have some time set aside for family around Thanksgiving, which we are so thankful for. Of course, we can’t help but hope for some snow as well.

 

This Saturday we will head for Searcy, Arkansas for a couple of weeks where we will have some more supporter time. We are looking forward to reconnecting with the church and committee and a number of individuals there. Kristina and the kids will then make their way to Texas to be with family while Caleb continues with some supporter time. We will finish off our trip in the States by spending the week of Christmas with Kristina’s parents in Texas and then we will be back in Mtwara by New Year’s Day.

 

We are thankful for Burger King at 7am who supplies our car ride with pancakes and crowns.

We are thankful for Burger King at 7am who supplies our car ride with pancakes and crowns.

It seems as though everything has been happening so quickly as we move from place to place and yet there is still so much left to do. We can say that all of this traveling is becoming tiresome, especially for our kids. We ask for prayers as we go through this last month in the States. We love being with family and feeling so loved and supported by people. The challenge comes with the lack of routine and not being in our own space, our own home. We just ask for prayers in these last weeks.

 

We thank you all in the support we have been given. We have felt it. We feel so loved. Blessings to you all.

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Karis is Here!

•November 3, 2014 • 4 Comments


Baby Meeks #3 has arrived! Karis Elizabeth Meeks made her way into the world on this side of the womb. She was determined to have her birthday on the 3rd of October when she was born at 11:57 pm. She was 7 lbs 9 oz and 20 inches long. Our beautiful baby girl surprised us with her full head of dark brown hair. We thank God for a smooth delivery with no complications. We know that is very much a blessing. We chose Karis as we not only liked the sound of the name, but the meaning comes from the Greek, meaning grace. (which matches Aletheia which also comes from the Greek meaning truth) Elizabeth comes from Kristina’s grandmother on her mom’s side.


IMG_9851 IMG_9837 IMG_9842It has been fun to watch Aletheia and Jeda with their new baby sister. They are full of love and kisses. In fact, we fear suffocation at times because of how much love they want to show to her. We have also been very blessed to not only have help from family, but the joy of watching family love on our kids. That is probably the thing we miss most about living overseas is the interaction that not only we miss with family, but that our kids miss. It has been a joy to watch them play with Bibi and Babu and Oma and Opa. What beautiful relationships God invented between grandparent and grandchild.

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We have begun our travels to visit supporters outside of Tennessee so we are getting our first real taste at a family of five. With that we want to thank our supporters for allowing us the opportunity to have our babies near family and we have the extra blessing of all being able to be here for the wedding celebration of Caleb’s brother, which we would not have had the opportunity to be a part of, but the timing worked out. Thank you for your support. We are truly blessed and taken care of.

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Receptivity and the Milky Way

•August 19, 2014 • 2 Comments

One night we climbed up a hill behind the old historic German fort in the port village of Mikindani. At the hill’s crest sat an old crumbled stone lookout where you could catch glimpses of the night fishermen’s lamps out on the bay. Our eyes were cast upwards though as we discovered a stellar current flowing across the night sky. So many stars that instead of individual points of light it appeared as a glowing swath of light strewn across the infinite dark. “What makes it look that way?” asked a friend. “Like pixels in a tv screen they are just individual points of light but seen together they become indistinguishable and a greater meta-picture emerges.” I said. Well, I didn’t say it that well but you get the point. There is value in a single star beyond its own weak light. Each point of light is part of a greater story.

A few days ago I was feeling down because Facebook had just told me the world was a terrible, unjust, sad, and deeply broken place. I was swinging Aletheia on our tree swing and she asked me for a story. Feeling a bit melancholy I threw together a sad story to fit my mood.

There were once two boys; one sad one happy. The sad boy asked the happy boy, “Why are you happy?” The happy boy answered that he didn’t know. That night when the sad boy looked up at the night sky he saw the vast distances between stars. “So much darkness.” he said as he pulled up his blanket and turned to the side. The happy boy looked at the night sky and murmured to himself, “So many stars.” as he snuggled up and fell asleep.

I can’t say I agree with the message of this story but I felt it held some insight even if incomplete and painfully simplistic.

This afternoon I will meet with a young man who wants to know God and to study the Bible with me. I will spend this afternoon and, I hope, many more seeking to understand and obey God with him. I do not know how long I will keep meeting with him but I am guessing years. Already there are others who I have met with for over a year and a half. He already knows as much as most Christian’s raised in Sunday School, perhaps more. He has yet to be baptized or specify that he is a follower of the Messiah except that he continues to study with me and I hear the desire to know God in his voice. He is receptive.

Islam has had over a thousand years to become ingrained in this people and it shows. When I am tempted to do the math and figure out how many people I can study with in the next six years I quickly see how small of an impact I will make here. That is to say, if I think I am in a vacuum, I do not believe in compounded effects, and believe the power of the Holy Spirit, then I will see my impact as small.

Is the sky full of darkness? Yes.

Is the sky full of light? Yes.

Is it receptive here?

Maybe a better story is that of a third boy who looks at the darkness and grieves, “So much darkness.” Who looks also at the stars with thankfulness, “So many stars.” And who looks at the milky way and sees the Creator’s hand crafting a meta-picture. Such a boy could grieve, give thanks, and remain faithful with the stars he has been given.

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Theology of Pain

•July 21, 2014 • 2 Comments

(This is an essay from our quarterly family newsletter. If you are not on our newsletter list please give us your email so we can add you!)

There is something built into reality that demands a price paid in pain for growth and transformation. The physical pain experienced by an athlete reflects that of those who are undergoing spiritual formation. Like a good coach encourages and challenges us while preparing for the day of trials, the Holy Spirit leads us through painful experiences in a way that can strengthen and transform us.

In a place where literacy is a hurtle I find that some of our studies look more like drills then theological elucidations as we work to memorize the fundamentals of a story so that it can be passed on to others who are unable to read. Often when studying in the warm afternoon eyes being to drift shut lulled by reading aloud. When this happens we get on our feet and begin energetically acting out whatever we were studying. Other times we will simply repeat an important phrase back and forth with more and more emphasis until it has stuck. A couple of examples of key verses are:

“Jesus said, ‘I have not come to abolish the law or the prophets but to fulfill them.'”

and

“God promised Abraham, ‘through you and your offspring I will bless all of the peoples of the world.'”

At times disciple making feels more like coaching than preaching or even teaching.

When the time comes to study the cost of discipleship and Jesus calls us to choose him over family, over security, over all we have known and to accept pain I see students daunted by the Herculean challenge before them. The hard truth is that we are promised many good things but among them Jesus promises pain.

In that moment, when the room goes quiet after the call to the cross, I wonder that anyone can follow. It is truly by the grace of God that anyone is enabled to die to self and accept shame, loss, pain, even death on the cross as we follow the Messiah. In that moment I have to believe that the pain is worth the gain and that our coach really knows what he is doing.

Interns ’14

•July 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

After a few years of anticipation and nervousness wondering what it would be like to have our first group of interns, the time has come. The time is now. We actually have already had our interns here for about 5 weeks now. Life has been a whirlwind, but we have enjoyed having this group here so much!

 

There was something nerve racking about thinking of having people live in our homes for such a long period of time, basically analyzing our lives. Not in a bad way, mind you. In fact, our whole team did the same as we have all gone on our own internships in college. It is such a life changing experience seeing others lives in such different contexts and encounters everyday. However, knowing there were people coming to see our lives and then processing what they saw made me a little self-conscious. Especially as there have been things about our lives, whether tasks, or pace of life, etc. that I have had to get used to and I was nervous what others might think of this in a short time setting.

 

We have been so pleasantly surprised with this group. We feel they were very well prepared and all of them in such a great mindset ready to experience all that they have seen and done here. What a blessing and encouragement it has been to have them around. We had definitely enjoyed the fellowship and conversations and we have been so impressed with all of the questions they have had. What a dynamic group!

 

Some of the things we have been able to do with this group have included:

Sending them off on a bonding trip for the weekend

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Studying the Bible with some friends

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Celebrating Jeda’s 2nd birthday

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Enjoying chapatis in a breakfast hut

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Visiting friends in the village

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Introducing friends to interns and showing them local homes and farms

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Trips to the beach

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A 4-day survey trip to Tunduru

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Fun on fourth of July

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The interns have two weeks left here in country which includes their final days here living with the families in Mtwara, a survey trip to Kilwa and then a de-briefing time with the all of us here. We have really enjoyed their time here and only hope that, as they continue to process after they go back to the States, they will allow God to reveal Himself to them and guide them in their future. It has been such a blessing to have this group here and makes us look forward to interns in the future.

Little Adventures (Photos)

•June 17, 2014 • 1 Comment

This has been a pretty eventful month with lots of little adventures back to back to keep us busy. We have had a number of visitors over to study the Bible…

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…and lots of coffee to fuel our studies.

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Another exciting development has been having interns and getting to connect with Tanzanian friends as we show our interns our world.

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There have also been opportunities to enjoy family time even while visiting friends.

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In our spare time we have enjoyed projects around the house.

Kristina has been working on roman shades and curtains for our guest room.

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Caleb has made progress on a play-kitchen for Aletheia.

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And a fun RC boat project.

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Caleb has also been working with a local carver to develop new carving designs that incorporate seashells. (Let me know if you want to order a pipe like this… I will be able to bring them around September when we have our baby in the US.)

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Every once in a while we also take time to blog. 🙂

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We thank God for good health, full days, and for providing encouragement and fun as we share our life here in Mtwara with our interns.

Strawberries with Cream, and Manna

•April 30, 2014 • 2 Comments

Disclaimer: This post is for fans of strawberries with cream and/or the Lord of the Rings.

Sitting there on the fiery slope Frodo and Sam are utterly spent. There at the end of the journey Frodo can not go on. Samwise, his faithful friend, knows that he cannot carry Frodo’s burden for him, and so they sit together on the brink of failure.

“Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo?” Sam says through tears, “It’ll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they’ll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields… and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?”

With a far-off and forlorn look Frodo stammers, “No, Sam. I can’t recall the taste of food… nor the sound of water… nor the touch of grass. I’m… naked in the dark, with nothing, no veil… between me… and the wheel of fire! I can see him… with my waking eyes!”

With hobbitish inner strength Sam sets his jaw and replies, “Then let us be rid of it… once and for all! Come on, Mr. Frodo. I can’t carry it for you… but I can carry you!”

Anyone who has seen the film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King remembers that moment. I remember watching it and being surprised that I teared up not only at Sam’s heroism but at his description of the Shire; especially his description of strawberries with cream. Why did that resonate with me? I have missed strawberries among other things while in Tanzania but not enough to cry about them!

Occasionally, us guys on the team take an evening to make Chai over an open fire and enjoy eating any hobbitish fare we can scrounge up while reading Tolkien. Our readings usually spark long conversations about the nature of song, or creation, or a story, or simply leave us star gazing as we tend to our own thoughts. One such night I realized why the idea of strawberries with cream is so poignant to me. Cream is the epitome of what is nurtured in creation. Even the Israelites talked about milk in the promised land. In Zion milk will flow! Not only will milk flow but honey too. Honey, for the Israelites, was not cultivated or nurtured it was discovered and enjoyed. If you have ever gone strawberry picking you know that those little juicy gems are hidden (often under straw) and must be discovered before enjoyed. Strawberries with cream, milk and honey, the best of what was nurtured and the best of what was discovered in creation.

This concept was re-solidified for me when I recently read a great article about farming and space travel on a website called http://www.rabbitroom.com. The author was wrestling with the seeming conflict between their fascination with a simple agrarian life while still being in love with the idea of space travel and exploration. One commenter eloquently pointed out that these two interests spring from the same source; a love for creation. Creation that is nurtured and creation that is discovered!

I was smugly satisfied in my discovery until just the other day I was once again surprised by a passage in The Return of the King. In it Sam and Frodo were trekking up the face of mount doom.

“The lembas had a virtue without which they would long ago have lain down to die. It did not satisfy desire, and at times Sam’s mind was filled with the memories of food, and the longing for simple bread and meats. And yet, this way bread of the Elves had potency that increased as travelers relied upon it alone and did not mingle it with other foods. It fed the will, and it gave strength to endure, and to master sinew and limb beyond the measure of mortal kind.”

Whether Tolkein meant it to or not, to me this sounded a lot like the manna from heaven that sustained the Israelites in the wilderness. When the Israelites first began to eat manna they complained that they wanted meat. Eventually an entire generation grew up eating manna with only childhood memories of milk or honey. For the believer manna is a picture of God’s miraculous sustenance in the wilderness. The wilderness is a place every follower of Jesus must travel. In the wilderness hunger, temptation and trials refine us beyond the measure of mortal kind, but God sustains his people with manna.

God never meant for the Israelites to stay in the wilderness. He had intended and designed for them a land of milk and honey that they would inherit after being refined by the wilderness.

This is good news to me when I look around and I see that what I have nurtured has withered or what I seek has gone undiscovered. In those moments I want to give up.

What gave Sam the strength to carry Frodo even though he had lost hope of returning to the Shire is what makes me wake up in the morning and choose to faithfully nurture and discover even when I can’t see the fruit of my labor. It is what makes me hope for and cherish the days of milk and honey, of strawberries with cream, of the best of what I nurtured and the best of of what I discovered. How is God providing you manna in the wilderness? What good thing have you nurtured and enjoyed? What good thing have you discovered?

For me they are simple and subtle: a pumpkin vine that started to grow all on its own in our compost, my child’s face smiling up at me, the quiet of the morning, the words of a song, truth in the word, a smile from a stranger, the camaraderie of a friend, a shared smile with my wife, an answer to prayer, the smell of lasagna in the oven. These are my strawberries with cream, and manna.