Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hello? Anybody there?

I am not sure if anyone still checks my blog; it has been quite a while since my last post. I suppose my Portland/west coast friends may have my blog on an RSS feed - while my Midwest friends are wondering what my blog has to do with Nascar.

So much has been happening in my life these past few years. God has truly blessed me through my family and Sarah and Tommy to be able to go back to school. More specifically, to be able to spend four years of deep and intense study of our beautiful Lord and what it means to follow him. I hope that I can share some of this blessing with you all. To this end, I think I will start blogging again.

But before I start blogging again, I must fulfill a year and a half old promise. My previous post promised a funny Todd story. So here is a Descriptive Essay from my writing class last semester. It is dedicated to the 2009 Mali EDGE team who leaves for Mali in 3 weeks! Yay! Read carefully because this bike is being stored for your arrival! Enjoy the story, more to come.

My essay:

Click, clack, kerplunk. My motorbike sputtered dead as was customary when coming to a stop at a red light. As I hopped off of the bicycle-like seat, I looked to my left and right, taking note that I was smack-dab in the center of four motorcycles, two compact sedans, and a minivan. Handlebars and side-view mirrors held hands as we all crammed into three unmarked lanes. The light changed and engines roared leaving me in a cloud of unregulated carbon emissions. I sprinted through the intersection with a firm grip on the handlebars while revving the throttle. As I neared a full sprint, the bike hiccupped back to life, and I dove back onto the seat just before it drove off without me. Dozens of Malians packing the corners of the intersection had watched the whole event. Many erupted with laughter while others chanted “Tubabu! Tubabu!” – which loosely translated means, “Whitey! Whitey!” As I sped away from the scene in utter embarrassment, one thing was clear: my scooter was a dilapidated deathtrap.

I had purchased the motorbike from a missionary whose house-help had previously used it to commute to work through rural village streets. The crater-sized potholes that infested those rock and dirt alleyways had acted like sledgehammers on its body. Its feeble, rod-like frame appeared to be steel pipes, haphazardly welded together to resemble an oversized bicycle. It had not been operational for at least two years, in which time its job had been to store dust and grow rust. Only the occasional speck of flaking blue paint could be found amidst the pervasive rust. For fifty US dollars, it was mine. But there was one small problem; it didn’t run. After a week of arduous labor, costing only five dollars, one of the questionable mechanics who sit on the side of the road got my new kitten to purr. However on the ride home, and each subsequent outing, different parts of the bike began to tragically fail.

One of the first things to go on the bike was its ability to idle. If the speed dipped below five kilometers per hour the engine would choke and die, leaving me vulnerable at stoplights. At which point I had two options: 1) pedal thru the intersection until I got up enough speed to revive it, or 2) prop it up on its kickstand and pedal start it in place. The problem with the latter is that the kickstand was contorted so that it was holding the bike up by the carburetor, chronically causing it to bleed until the gas tank was dry as a civ. Each time the wound could be temporarily bandaged by the nearest mechanic with a little corrugated tin snipped from his roof. However, both options soon became functionally impossible. With a crack and a ping, the left pedal snapped into a position that was offset from the right pedal at ninety degrees. Thus when one pedal was swung around the other was not in proper stepping position, making pedaling unfeasible.

The muffler system had long since broken off. The hole where it had once been attached now spewed a palpable charcoal cloud. Many times the bike tried to suffocate us both in the garage, attempting to end its pathetic existence. To counteract its smoking problem, it required a special cocktail of gasoline and oil concocted by a random man along the roadside. He would shake up an ounce of oil with a liter of gasoline in dirty glass bottles and label it Mélange. The motorbike was an addict. With each bottle its shaking would intensify, as if begging for one more drop while its insides became coated with tar.

People always seemed to know when I had arrived somewhere. I was never quite sure what tipped them off first: a combination of the deafening ping of the lawnmower-sized engine and the scraping rattle of the chain, or the pungent smell of Mélange leaking from every orifice and evaporating off the red-hot engine.

Needless to say, the motorbike never finished me off. While it did get the best of me in numerous ways – ground up or stained many of my clothes, ran me into the back of a sedan, and got me sideswiped by a small bus – I was able to escape the country and leave the decrepit death-machine to another unsuspecting victim.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Well, it has been a long time again since I have blogged. I think most of you have heard one way or another what has been going on in my life. Let’s just jump right in to it.

The end of May I headed out to Mali, West Africa with a group of students (about 12 in all) from Grace University (the school I am attending in Omaha, NE). Over the course of 6 months we will take 5 classes all centered on learning how to function cross-culturally while applying it. Mali and the US could not be much more opposite cultures. The way we communicate, view life and relationships, and a mountain of other things that we don’t even think about, make understanding each other very difficult.

We are almost halfway through the trip now. We are back in Bamako, the capitol city, after spending nearly 2 months in a small town called Bougouni (boo gun knee). That experience was extremely difficult for me. Perhaps sometime I will outline some highlights for your enjoyment.

Most of the time we spent in the Boug I was ill. The worst was most definitely the malaria. When I was in India a couple of people on the team got malaria. I’d never heard much about it. It’s like a flu times ten, I heard. You get bit by a mosquito, and a bad flu, get better, that’s it. I wish.

There are 4 types of malaria. The type that is found in sub-Saharan Africa (where I am) is called Plasmodium falciparum. Falciparum accounts for half of the cases worldwide and 95% of the deaths.

It started with a few days of a pounding headache till night one I had a fever of just over 100. At this point I was unable to keep down food and my eating ceased. Even water made me a little queasy. Each day I got more nauseous and my fever rose. By day two I could no longer drink water. Since I was the first of three on the team to get malaria, it went undiagnosed and progressed much further than I enjoyed.

By day four my fever was over 104. My stomach was in a knot so tight Houdini wouldn’t have been able to escape. I laid perfectly still knowing that the slightest movement would bring on another bout of endless convulsing over a bowl in an attempt to throw up water that I hadn’t drank for days. Completely dehydrated, my mouth was dry as a bone and cracking and I was unable to salivate. Just a drop of water to relieve my mouth would often send me back into convulsions.

I laid alone in my cement room in an empty house in the middle of Africa for what felt like any eternity that day. Unable to call for help and longing for the hospital. I don’t recall the details of what happened after that but that night the doctor came and hooked me up to an IV with antimalaria meds. After three days of IV treatments I was feeling much better. I began eating and drinking again. It was several days until I was able to eat normally again and the fatigue brought on by the massive annihilation of my red blood cells lasted a couple weeks. After about a week I was able to start doing normal tasks myself.

The rate at which my temperature was advancing and the length of time it had been since I’d drank anything without throwing up more than I put down, I have no doubt that I was hours away from a coma. The onslaught left me in a deep psychological depression for several weeks. Just walking into my room would upset me.

Yesterday I received from my mom the July 2007 issue of National Geographic that featured Malaria. It was a very informative article and I recommend you find it.

Malaria threatens half of the world’s population. Nearly half a billion of the world’s 6.5 billion will contract malaria this year alone. Over a million will die; most under the age of 5; 90% in Africa. In Africa 30,000 children die every day, one every 30 seconds.

Malaria has killed leaders and crippled armies likely since the beginning of human history. It killed a million Union soldiers in the US Civil War. National Geographic states that “some scientists believe that one out of every two people who have ever lived have died of malaria.”

So why do I have no idea about this epidemic sweeping the world? I’m glad you asked. In 1946 the US founded the Centers for Disease Control specifically to combat malaria. They drained millions of acres of wetlands where mosquitoes breed and sprayed hundreds of thousands of homes with insecticide. We could afford it. By 1950 malaria had ceased in the US. In 1955 the World Health Organization launched the largest international health initiative ever to eradicate malaria. Though much was accomplished, the campaign was too ambitious and financing ceased and the program abandoned by 1969. Malaria had been nearly eradicated in many areas like India but came roaring back. Most of sub-Saharan Africa never saw the campaign really get started.

It was at this point that the “world” forgot about malaria and it became another burden of the poor.

I am often reminded of a conversation I had with JD before I left Omaha. JD is someone I admire because he is several years down a road that I would like to follow. He has a heart like Jesus’ that aches for the poor, needy and dying all over the world; even Omaha. He said it is important for people like us, who are able to go to places like this and have experiences like this to relate it to the church in America.

I believe knowledge is the first step to solving problems. This problem got out of hand because we forgot about. It’s not that we don’t care; we just don’t know.

I hopefully I haven’t turned in to the fanatic that always talks about the dying kids in Africa while everyone rolls their eyes and walks away. The children were the last thing on my mind when I was lying in my bed dying. I guess God just keeps throwing me in situations where I’m forced to care. Hopefully I can convey that without the annoyance factor.

I will try to make the next blog a funny Todd story.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

This is for all you whiners out there. (you know who you are)

Update (with the dramatic voice of the guy from Unsolved mysteries)

This is what Todd has been up to:

First is school. Lots of that. Its going wonderfully. I almost have the whole bible figured out and memorized.

I've been playing at Coram Deo, my 'home church' I guess. I've also been playing at this college group at some mega church. Its fun to play there cause the sound system rocks my face. But its a college group at a mega church so im sure you can guess my sentiment.

Ive also been playing for the class im in called 'Worship Band'. Lets just say I get a credit for it so its worth it. We are leading at chapel for the first time this coming Monday.

So far the worship chapels have mostly been horrendous (this word is a terrible understatement). There is a serious lack of anyone with a gift of leading people in worship at the school.

I have also been in contact with Invisible Children and setting it up for them to come to the school and speak at a chapel and then show the movie at night. That will be in March when they make it here.

I have also been looking into going to India, Feb 5-15. Its quite possible as I have a conference the week of the 5th instead of classes.

I may also go to Mali, Africa next year for a term.

I'm also playing on a soccer team. That is fun. Tommy and I are on a running schedule. That not so fun. My body is starting to hurt. So far the longest run has been 7.5 miles. We have an 8 miler this Saturday.

that's what ive been up to. I'll update again in a few months when your whines fill my glass.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Yay! I made chapel band.

Thats another credit hour. so now i'm at 19 hours.

The chapel band director guy asked me to play at his church this sunday. but i said no cause im going to go visit my brother joel in St Louis for the holiday.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I jammed with the worship kid at Coram Deo today. We rocked it right if i do say so myself. Hopefully he thought the same. Hes pretty good. He has a good voice and has some good acoustic skills. Hes out of town the next couple week but after that i should be playin. it feels like its been forever already. He asked if i wanted to lead sometimes too. I swear, people just assume i can do stuff. I always get tossed out there. I told him i'd like to wait a little while till im familiar with the church.

I just wrote my first speech. So far thats been the biggest hurdle. If you know me you know im shy and dont like speaking in front of people. ugh.

Friday, August 25, 2006

School started Wednesday. I'm already learning a ton and its pretty cool. My favorite classes so far are Theology of Church Mission, Old Testament, and hermeneutics. And this is just my first year classes.

The thing I'm looking forward to the most is for part of my major (Intercultural Studies) I have to spend 6 months overseas. There are 4 different places I could go. My top 2 at this point are Asia(Taiwan, Japan or the Philippines) and Kenya. Maybe I'll see you there Ash.

I've always loved Asia. I love those crazy japanese. And maybe i could see my kid in the Philippines and bring him home with me.

Being away from Portland and my routine there has really helped me remember my dissatisfaction with life in America. Its easy to get caught up in routine and before you know it times gone by and youve gone nowhere. I finally feel like I'm moving.

I tried out for Chapel Band on Thursday. He just asked me to play something, impress him. I was like... uhh... thats not really what i do. It was very awkward for me. I dont think i had much competition though.

The worship guy at the church I'm going to is pretty solid. I think he probably sounds a lot like me vocally and whatever, just a little better and more experienced. He said i can play with him, we're gonna jam after church sunday. I think we can get some cool stuff goin.

Thats basically it for now. Oh I've been getting in shape too with Tommy and Sarah. And cutting my Caloric intake down to 2000 or lower. I feel skinnier already.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Nathan and i arrived safely in Nebraska Tuesday night after driving 11 hours monday and another 11 on Tuesday. We had a little Omahanian fun.

I just dropped him off at the airport. It was sad. Nathan tried to make a move. That was sad too. I already miss his jackass comments and our constant fighting.

Heres to old friends and good times.