December 31, 2010

Ringing in the New Year, Tanzanian Style.

Well, Brian is in Arusha! 
I just got an e-mail update from him about all he's doing and experiencing, and it sounds like the trip is going really well.
He's there with the founder of Samaritan Village, the president of the American board, and a few other people who also joined them on the trip.  It took a while for him to e-mail me because they are trying to get a new computer that was just donated to the Village hooked up with internet access.

Brian says:
It's almost 5pm here, and all of the people here are working hard preparing for a new year's party.  They are cooking a goat.  Yes, a goat.  That was alive this morning.   They are expecting over 400 people.  I wish I could just type and type and type, because I want to share with you how everything is going, but I don't really have time, so here is a chronological summary.
I took a ton of pictures on the way back, it took us about 1:15 to get back to the Village from the airport at Kilimanjaro.  The first thing I got to see when we arrived was the dorm, where we are staying.   It is huge!  It's built like a condo or apartment complex, with two floors, two units on each floor (left and right) with stairs to the second floor balcony in between the sides.  Each unit has three bedrooms, three baths, and a 250 sq ft living/dining/kitchen area.  The rooms are a decent size too.  The bathrooms aren't all the way finished yet, the shower is just a shower head sticking out of the wall, no pan or curtain.  Only the first floor is finished, and even then the kitchen area only has a sink right now.
I got to walk around and meet everyone shortly after that.  The kids are beautiful, and so happy and smily all the time.  I will have a lot of pictures, but I'm really really really wishing I had remember to bring our video camera!! 
From the front porch of the main building you can see Mt. Meru (MAY-roo, I got that wrong), and it is stunning. It is so beautiful here, the weather today was a little cool when I first went outside (maybe 65-70 degrees) and it warmed up to 80 this afternoon, with a cool breeze under partly cloudy skies.
Last night we went (along with some of the kids) to a Bridal send off party. (For the fiance of the father of the orphanage)  The best way to describe it is a combination of a wedding reception/rehearsal dinner/bridal shower.  It was at a banquet hall (the large back room of a place called "The Police Officers Mess Hall".   There were about 150 people there, and the party lasted from 6:30 until 11:30.  I will tell you more about it when I get back and show you the pictures, but it was really neat to get a glimpse of their culture.
We got home at midnight, and slept soundly...until 5:30am when the Swahili praise music started blaring from the chapel, and I heard Josephat preaching loudly for the morning service.  So sleeping in wasn't an option.
This morning I had pancakes (pan fried corn-flour sweet thick tortillas) and a banana fresh from the market for breakfast, then I spent some time journaling, walking around taking pictures of the place, and helping out a little with cleaning up the grounds.
This afternoon we went in to Arusha to do a little shopping; we went to a handmade craft market and I bought small gifts for you and sylvie.
Oh honey, there's so much here that I want to tell you about, so much that I can't even fit it all in this email.  But there are two things that I haven't mentioned yet that you need to know.  1) I haven't seen a single mosquito, even last night as darkness fell and I was standing in the parking lot of the police officer's mess hall.  and 2) the well water here is safe to drink!  I have been drinking it for 24 hours now and I still feel fine!
I'm feeling well, though a little tired.  I am glad to be here in this beautiful place, and I really need to learn swahili.  That phrasebook and Tanzania book were very helpful to me, as I already had the basic conversation pieces (hello, goodbye, how are you, good, fine, yes, no, please, thank you) down before I got here!
I love you, I miss you, and I have already taken 350 pictures. kiss and hugs to you and my beautiful daughter!

I can't tell you what a blessing it is to get these e-mail updates!  It is also such a blessing for him to get to go there to see Arusha, the orphanage, and to meet the people before we actually move there.  God has given me so much peace about all of this, even just through this one short e-mail.

Anyway, just wanted to share the update!  Hopefully there will be more soon, and of course lots of pictures when he gets back.  You're prayers are so appreciated!

December 17, 2010

I’ll try to make sense.

I’ve been hesitant to post much about my thoughts and experiences thus far about going to Tanzania.  Mostly because there has just been so much going through my mind and heart that it is hard to sit down and put any of it into much of a discernable post.  But, while part of my motivation to blog is to have memories to look back on, I also don’t want to blog in vain – so a lot of my motivation is in hopes God would use it to be helpful or encouraging, or even a warning of what not to do!  That’s been my motivation blogging through our fostering experience, and it’s my motivation now.  Looking at blogging through fostering, I think it’s been the most helpful or encouraging when I’ve been completely honest.  So I’ll try.
And God will use it if he wants.  And if not, well, that’s His prerogative.

Brian is leaving in just ten days to go to Arusha, Tanzania.  Possibly the place we will call home in just a few months.  Maybe not home.  Not right away.  Home is here, and we will be there, and for quite some time after we arrive, we would just be travelers.

My feelings about it continue to fluctuate between excitement, nervousness, and full blown fear.
The excitement and passion is from God.
The fear is from my flesh.

But Lord, what about my children?  There are so many risks there, so many diseases that I don’t know.  So many unknowns.  Lord, this love you’ve given me for them, it’s unrelenting.  Even for this one in my belly that I’ve never met.  It is a savage, intense, raw love.  I just need to know that I can protect them.  What if, what if, what if.  How do I let go of this?  I know you won’t take us anywhere that is not best for us, and for your glory, but, BUT…
I hear it in my heart – what I’m really saying.  What I’m really saying is that I need

But there is a quiet whisper back, ‘Maggie, are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside of my care.   Even the very hairs of their heads are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; they are worth much more to me than many sparrows.  I love them more than you can understand, with a love much more fierce than your own.  Remember, they are my daughters too.
You  can  trust  me.
You have placed your trust in other things.  You have placed your trust in yourself.  You have placed your trust in your insurance card.  You have placed your trust in Brian’s job.  These securities are only an illusion.  They are all from my hand.
I am their protector.  I am their provider.  I am their shelter, health, and breath.
And I love them even more than you do.
And, I am God.
You  can  trust  me.

He has been consistent to calm my fears and to remind me that what the world may see as crazy, He sees as obedience. 
The reasons we would go are pretty well summarized in this book and also in this one. (Both very good.)
Also here:

  I guess lastly, to finish up this completely indiscernible post (I warned you.) I just want to say that I really, sincerely hope that nothing I post about Tanzania (or about fostering in the past) comes off sounding self righteous.  If anything, I want to post to show that God uses people who are otherwise useless.  People who do “radical” things for Christ are not to be held up.  If any of this has taught me anything it is just more about how incapable I am without Him.
I am scared.
I am untrusting.
I am cold.
I am selfish.
And anything good is His work.
Just wanted to put that out there.

December 13, 2010

I suck at Project 365.

And I did so well for so long.  But, I’ve completely fallen off the wagon, so I figured I’d just post some pictures to appease the Aunties out there.  Maybe even a video.



Sylvie has started mimicking everything we do.  (I almost typed ‘mocking’, which will probably be appropriate in a few short years.)



While we were babysitting for some friends, we figured out that we should just buy her a box.  So much better than any toy.  And if I didn’t put a door – it would be a great babysitter. 


I could even put Brian in there with her and then the house would stay really clean.

(I’m kidding.  I would put a door at least big enough for Sylvia to get out of.)



Oh the drama.  This kid’s got that market cornered.

But she’s still pretty cute, even when she is being dramatic.



Sylvia giving kisses to our friend’s 5 week old baby.  So sweet.

We’re prepping for #2, so far, so good.



We were trying to catch Sylvia’s ‘excited face’ on camera.  It’s hilarious.  She gets so excited that her whole body starts quivering.



And these ridiculously rich, wonderful, chocolaty pieces of goodness are the peanut butter balls and chocolate dipped oreos that my husband made.  And then left in the fridge.  While I’m at home all day.  By myself.

And then he got upset when I ate some of them. (or half of them…)

Could someone remind him that I’m pregnant?

December 7, 2010

Decorating and Celebrating.

We put our tree up last weekend, which was really fun (and really challenging) since Sylvia is old enough now to ‘help’.  Last year she pretty much just sat there and looked cute:

 2009-12 195

I don’t remember X-man being quite so much ‘help’ last year – but Sylvia is a decidedly active child, so she added her personal touch everywhere she could.



All bundled up and ready to pick out a tree!




The perfect one!  (or the one that most quickly seemed to fit the bill in the freezing cold.)  We figure we’ll start a tradition of actually going to the tree farm once Sylvia is old enough to know the difference.



It basically went like this:

Mommy puts an ornament on the tree.

Sylvia takes an ornament off the tree.

Mommy puts an ornament on the tree.

Sylvia takes an ornament off the tree.

If she weren’t so darn cute, it would have been frustrating.  But we just compromised, and therefore don’t have any ornaments on the bottom three feet of the tree.



Of course, she had to pause to make the occasional phone call.  This one was particularly serious.  She said she was calling Nana.





Of course, we couldn’t leave Popp Secret #2 out of the decorating festivities! 


I mean at 20 weeks along she’s practically here!

And she is officially a she!

We were actually told at an ultrasound at 15 weeks that it was probably a girl, but a 20 week ultrasound confirmed it!  Sylvia will be a big sister (just not very big) to a little sister!  We are so excited and cannot wait to meet our second baby girl.  Of course, at the rate this pregnancy is flying by, it will seem like she’s here tomorrow! (Which I’m ok with.)

She looks to be perfectly healthy.  10 finger, 10 toes and all that.  She was just as active as her sister in the ultrasound, so we could have our hands full in a few months.  She was also a little shy, so we didn’t really get any great pictures of her profile or anything, but I hope to post the pics we do have soon!

December 2, 2010

How we got here.

Errrrr, how did we get here?
Well, let's see, I guess we should go back to somewhere around one year ago right now.

Coincidence 1:
Brian was joining me in my hometown via train.  When he got in, his ride was running a little bit late, as was the ride of the woman waiting next to him.  In completely typical Brian fashion, he easily struck up a conversation, and after some small talk, come to find out, Mrs. M (I don't have permission to share her name on the blog.) is the president of the board of directors for a small not for profit.  As you could guess, the not for profit was named Samaritan Village, responsible for an orphanage in Tanzania, Africa. 
Before leaving the station, Brian asked what needs Samaritan Village had, to see if there was any way he could help.  At the time they needed help developing a website (which Brian thoroughly enjoys doing), and so he got her contact information just in case he was able to help.  After we discussed it, we decided that we didn't really have the resources to help in that way at the time.  So, we never called Mrs. M, and never really thought about Samaritan Village again.

Fast forward to just a couple of months ago.

Coincidence 2:
  It was becoming clear to Brian and I that God was getting us ready for a transition.  Brian's job is going to be coming to a natural end point sometime early to mid 2011.  We also had not received any calls for foster placements that we could take in 3 months+.  (For the other foster parents that read, you know how crazy that is.  A house licensed for four kids, sitting open for months at a time?  Doesn't happen.)  We had been planning, since moving here, to eventually move back toward my hometown.  
  So, we took advantage of the upcoming transition opportunity, and started planning for moving to my hometown.  (Started getting the house ready to sell, looking at houses there, planning for birth of baby #2 both here and there, etc.)

Coincidence 3:
  Simultaneously, God was planting a burden in my heart that I could not shake.  Through many, many avenues including, but not limited to:
-This blog - a family that up and moved to Haiti, blogging their experience.  It is incredible.  Seriously.  Read  it.
-This blog - a girl not much older than myself who moved to Africa at age 19, and has 13 children that she takes care of while also running an incredible ministry.  Incredible.  Incredible.
-More recently this sermon series has been wrecking us.  I seriously recommend listening.  But you've been warned.  I mean it is wrecking us.
-This post

...I think you get the idea.  Everywhere I looked I was bombarded.  And it hasn't stopped.  It got to the point that I was praying, 'God, I get it, I get this burden you're giving me.  But what do I do with it??  If there is nothing I can do, please take it away.'  But he didn't.
This was about the time of this post and this one.

Because of all this burden, about three weeks before we found out about the overseas opportunity, I actually asked Brian over lunch one day, "Bri, have you ever thought about if God asked us to move overseas?"  To which he promptly replied, "No."  To be honest, I was relieved, there was my answer - U.S.A. home sweet home!
But then he kept bringing it up.

Coincidence 4:
  While we were preparing to move to my hometown, we had several conversations that were all pretty similar.  We wanted to make sure that we were not so focused on moving where we wanted to move, that if God had something different for us, we ignored it.
  But, every convo ended the same way.  If God has something else for us, he'll show us, the end.

Coincidence 5:  (When we realized they weren't coincidences at all.)
  Do you remember Mrs. M?  Well several weeks ago, Brian could not get her off his heart.  He couldn't even remember her name, but God had placed her on his heart, and she was there to stay.  After a couple of days Brian looked at me and said, "Maggie, I have to call her.  We really need to call her."  He describes it as - as sure as he was that the sun would be up tomorrow, he was sure he needed to call her.  We got home, and he got out his journal and looked up her contact info, and I was all, "Oh, you mean you're going to call her right now?"
So he called her.
The conversation was exactly what you would expect.  'We just wanted to call to see how things are going with Samaritan Village and what the organization is doing.'  Mrs. M filled Brian in on how they are fundraising to drill a well so that they can really begin work on the second orphanage and how they are adding on to the first orphanage to make room for more babies.  All the while, running through my mind is 'phew.  This doesn't sound so much like something God is calling us to - this must not be what he's been preparing me for.'  Toward the end of the conversation Brian asked what service opportunities there are and how we might help Samaritan Village.

That's when God began to chuckle.

Mrs. M said, "You know, we've been praying that God would send us someone to go to Tanzania who has some administrative experience and who knows a little about the construction industry...."  She continued to describe the skills that they had been praying for, it was as if she were describing Brian himself.  (I'm in the background shaking my head thinking, "Oh no, God, oh no - I knew this was coming!")

 Moral of the story? (If anyone is even still reading at this point! Ha!)  There is no such thing as a coincidence.

So we've been praying about it, talking with people much smarter than ourselves, and trying to map out what this would mean for us.  And we haven't felt anything but confirmation that we should go (amid rampant bouts of fear and doubt). 
Not that we haven't talked to a few people who think we're totally insane - we have.  But God isn't backing off on this one, it seems - and we feel so blessed to be in this place, with this opportunity, with God giving such blatant purpose to our burden.

  Brian is going to Arusha, Tanzania in December to check it all out. 
When he gets back, unless God points us in another direction, we will begin raising support and trying to make a plan out of all of this craziness!

God is good.  All the time.

December 1, 2010

The Pearl.

Well, I realize that I’ve not been around here much lately.  God’s been busy around the Popp house creating some waves that are beginning to look a little more like a tsunami.  To us anyway.  To God it probably looks like we’re splashing in puddles.


Do you remember this post?  I talked about how I knew in my heart that God was preparing us for something, but that I had no idea what it was.  I knew the wind was picking up, but I had no idea where this tsunami was going to come from.


Well, God was faithful in revealing the pearl he has for us.  As if I should be surprised.  Looking back on that post, it is still a mystery to me how God works.  How he put a desire, a longing, a burden on my heart to prepare me for what he would ask of us.  (This post leaves me in awe of His planning as well.  And this one just seems a little ironic at this point.)


God has presented Brian and I with an opportunity to take our family to Tanzania.  To live.  There.  In Tanzania.  As in,


africa map

We would be serving as administrators for an orphanage there called Samaritan Village in Arusha.  We’d also be working as communication between the board of directors here, and the board of directors there.  (This requires learning Swahili.  No big deal, right?)  There is such a huge need for this there.  The orphan crisis is doing nothing but growing, and if these babies don’t have somewhere to go, then quite simply, they just die.

The organization is also working on building a second orphanage about an hour away that we would help with as well.  All of the other people who work at the orphanage are locals, but there are a few other Americans in Arusha serving as missionaries in different ways. 


So yeah.  It’s looking really, very possible that we will be moving to Africa.  We’d likely go sometime in late summer of next year.  Between now and then we would have to sell our house, sell our cars, have a baby, raise financial support for our time there, put all our stuff in storage, and move.


This isn’t something that we pursued, which is one of the reasons it is so evident to us that God is orchestrating all of this.  We were surprised.  He is not.

I’m going to try to put into words how this all came about – but it will take some time, so all  that for another post.  I’ll also try to share more about the orphan crisis and the need there, and about why in the world we would move our family to the other side of the world. 

So far this has been one of the most blessed, scary, awe inspiring, humbling, and challenging experiences we have faced – and it’s certain to not get any less so in the coming months!


So there you have it.  When God is preparing you for something, hold on, cause he might just send you to Africa.


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