Wednesday 21 November 2012

Manaiakalani Trust

There was a short piece on Radio New Zealand National this afternoon about the Manaiakalani Trust: an organisation that Hapara (where Martin now works) work with.  They make it possible for kids in a group of very poor schools in Auckland to have access to their own computers, and then use various forms of e-learning to help the kids catch up to their educational year-level and beyond!  It seems like the systems Hapara is developing really could give kids like those Martin grew up alongside in Thailand opportunities a bit more like those that his Kiwi connections gave him :-)

Thursday 1 November 2012

Anti-life activities

On Radio New Zealand Nation yesterday morning there was a report that the SAS are intending to hunt down and kill those Afghanis responsible for the recent deaths of New Zealand soldiers.  The Prime Minister has denied these reports, but the RNZ reporter appears to have had two somewhat independent sources for his story.  Couple that with the (necessary) secrecy around the work carried out by the SAS and I'm far from confident that the report is untrue.

I've just emailed the Minister of Defence (Dr. Jonathan Coleman) about this situation.  I feel very strongly that the New Zealand forces must under no circumstances be involved in carrying out such extra-judicial killings.  Should those suspected of killing our soldiers be found, they should be tried in an appropriate court.  Killing people because we assume them to be guilty of an offence against us is never appropriate.

I feel that this is an important 'pro-life' issue - up there with abortion - so I'm posting it here in the hope of drawing some attention to this matter.  So far it's only a rumour, and it's the first I've heard of New Zealand being accused of intending to do such a thing, but the New Zealand military really musn't get involved in carrying out extrajudicial killings.  The Afghanis who carried out the killings on NZ soldiers (along with any other Afghanis who are suspected of having done so) are made in the image of God.  Their lives were given to them by God, and we should only take them from them (if at all) in fear and trembling.  Our laws were developed in this understanding, and we should not lightly set them aside.

Should you wish to email the Minister of Defence yourself, his email address is

Saturday 27 October 2012

Floating wick oil lamp


My parents gave me this pretty little candle jar for my birthday.  It was intended for use with a tealight, but that left the lower part of the jar in darkness.  So instead, I decided to burn oil in it, using a floating wick.  I made the wick following the instructions in this pdf and, after a little tweaking to stop the cork portion of the wick stand from burning, I think it's working rather well :-)

I've found that canola oil gives a very smoky flame, grapeseed oil is a bit smoky and olive oil is barely smoky at all.

My thanks to Anna and Aunty Elspeth for helping me test the lamp while Martin was away.

Sunday 30 September 2012

Should churches marry members of the public?

Recently I heard an interview on Radio New Zealand National in which lawyer Grant Ilingworth discussed some of the legal implications of the Marriage Equality bill currently before parliament.  His view is that, as churches marry members of the general public, they wouldn't be able to refuse to marry a couple on the grounds that they were of the same sex.  Institutions that offer services to the public are covered by the Bill of Rights (IIRC), which states that such institutions can't discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.

His view doesn't appear to be uncontested, but regardless, it led me to what I suspect is an important question.  Should churches be marrying members of the public (as opposed to only marrying people within our own church communities)?

The disquiet in the Christian community at the prospect of same-sex marriages seems to hinge on the idea that such marriages are unbiblical.  However, is it only same-sex marriages that fail this test?

An opinion piece in a recent edition of The Baptist included this sentence:
Ephesians 5:22-33 provides us with the Apostle Paul’s pattern for how this male/female marriage is to function as an outworking of a man and woman’s mutual confession of their sin and faith in Christ, which forms the glue to their convental commitment with one another in marriage.
When I got married I was conscious of making a covenantal commitment in the presence of God and my community.  However, many of my married non-Christian friends don't even believe that God exists.  They certainly haven't made a "confession of their sin and faith in Christ" at any point, nor were they calling on God to bear witness at the time of their marriage.  It seems to me that their marriages aren't any more Biblical than a same-sex marriage.

Hence my question: should the Church solemnise such marriages?  Especially if we are unwilling to solemnise other marriages on the grounds that they are unbiblical.

Such a policy would mean that all marriages conducted by churches would have to meet whatever conditions the Church (or church) thought necessary in order for the marriage to be genuinely Biblical.  It is highly unlikely that such a policy would prevent clergy from ever being asked to marry same-sex couples, but it would mean that they would be able to respond to such a request by discussing its Biblical merits.  Potentially even by asking the couple why they felt that it was appropriate for them, as Christians, to contract such a marriage.

Were we to refuse to marry any couples from outside of the Christian community, that would presumably also have the handy extra consequence of preventing us from falling foul of the sexual orientation discrimination provisions in the Bill of Rights as we would no longer be an institution offering a service to the public.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Chronic pain following use of a Mirena IUD in a person with CFS (also called ME or CFIDS)

NB: I'm not really posting this for my regular readership but so that this information is available on the internet should someone one day come looking for it.

Nearly two years ago I had a Mirena IUD inserted.  Within days of the insertion I developed a uterine infection that caused such severe pain that the Mirena had to be removed after three weeks.  The pain resulted in me developing a condition known as central sensitisation.  Whilst I had the infection, nerves that normally send other kinds of signals had been commandeered to send pain signals in order to convey to my brain the severerity of the situation.  Once the infection was eliminated, these nerves didn't return to their normal functions as they should have and instead continue to send pain signals.  This means that, even though I no longer have an infection, I continue to live with significant pain (although that pain is now reasonably well controlled and I am hopeful that it will eventually be eliminated altogether).

I am sharing this story as I believe that my severe chronic fatigue syndrome made an infection following the Mirena insertion a near-certainty.  It also seems that the resultant central sensitisation was much more likely to occur in a person with CFS than in a healthy person.  I in no way blame my GP for not realising the risks involved in giving me an IUD, but I wanted to put the story on the internet in the hope that other women with CFS would be aware of these possibilities!

Likelihood of infection
As mentioned above, I have very severe CFS/ME.  For the past nine years I have had around 15% of the energy I had before I became ill.  I am only able to be out of bed for a total of three hours per day; I use a walker to walk within the house and a wheelchair for any trips outside.  My muscles are thus extremely deconditioned.  It is this that both I and my gynaecologist now believe made a uterine infection almost inevitable once I had had the IUD inserted.  Once the (tiny!) weight of the IUD was added to the weight of my uterus itself, my deconditioned pelvic muscles were too weak to continue holding my uterus in its proper place.  The Mirena thus bore down on my cervix such that it was pushed very close to the opening of my vagina.  At this point infection became inevitable: the strings attached to the Mirena, whilst only 3cm long, were from time to time pushed right out of my vagina to regions where they would have come in contact with bacteria.  These bacteria then travelled up the strings into my uterus where they multiplied and caused me such severe pain that several times I thought I might pass out.

Likelihood of central sensitisation
I am much less confident that my central sensitisation was a consequence of my CFS but it does seem that this underlying condition may have put me at higher risk of developing such a condition.

According to Dr. Ros Vallings' report from this year's "Invest in ME" conference in the UK, people with CFS have abnormal pain processing systems.  In particular, Professor Maria Fitzgerald's paper apparently noted:
In CFS/ME there is altered CNS processing.  Fibromyalgia (FM) patients perceive greater intensity and greater temporal summation.  Sensations increase in magnitude, and the CNS winds up more and more. There is alteration of endogenous pain control.  FM patients lack diffuse noxious inhibitory control.  Normally there is ability to inhibit pain (endogenous opioids).  There is altered cortical pain processing in CFS/ME.  Numerous areas of the cortex are involved. There is activation of the limbic system (anterior insular-based ganglia and cingulated cortex). The CNS is acting very differently.
So it seems that there is something abnormal in the way people with CFS process pain signals.

In addition, Professor James Baraniuk is reported to have made the following observations about fibromyalgia patients:
There was increased sensitivity to deep pressure in FM. There was also increased sensitivity of proprioceptive and stretch receptors on nerves innervating the joint capsules, tendons etc. There maybe loss of the anti-nociceptive system, and loss of norepinephrine release, which normally regulates responses, and initiates autonomic responses. It is as if “the light is on but no-one is home”, and the brain is in a default mode pathway.
He looked at pain dolorimetry – pressure-induced thresholds, and did frequency analyses.  Central sensitization starts in the periphery – there maybe peripheral sensitisation such as by hay fever. Spinal sensitization leads to hyperalgesia and allodynia.
 I don't really understand what he is saying beyond that he mentions something about central sensitisation occuring in fibromyalgia patients.  As he was speaking at a chronic fatigue syndrome conference (not a fibromyalgia one) I presume he means that similar things are also observed in people with CFS, although there is no indication in Dr. Vallings' notes that he actually said as much.

These snippets make me wonder if central sensitisation following severe pain (as described in Dr. Woolf's paper linked to above) is more likely to occur in someone with CFS as our pain processing systems are, apparently, already not working properly.

If your CFS isn't as severe as mine then I suspect that the above scenario is unlikely to happen to you.  If, however,  you are very inactive and your muscles don't always hold your innards in place like they should then please be aware that it is a possibility!


--Heather :-)

PS, if you'd like to know more about any of this, please put a question in the comments or email me.

Saturday 8 September 2012


Last week, Martin took this photo of one of the first blossoms on our quince tree.  I think it's beautiful :-)

Ros Vallings on National Radio

There was an interview with Ros Vallings, my CFS specialist, on National Radio this morning.  You can download it from here, should you wish to listen to it.  It's about 30 minutes.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Thoughts from Isaiah

Over the last couple of months Martin and I have been making our way through the book of Isaiah in the Bible's Old Testament.  As we've read I've been struck by Isaiah's contemptuous dismissal of idols and of those who put their trust in them.  Idols are described, in essence, as 'gods' in which people put their trust, but which are actually so powerless that their worshippers look after them, rather than the other way around.

Isaiah is talking about literal idol statues: 'gods' that rely on people to make them, to carry them from place to place, to put them down carefully so they don't fall over etc.  Not many 21st century Pakeha worship such gods, yet we still put our trust in things that require us to tend them.  Money is a common one - requiring us to invest a lot of time and effort carefully making it grow so it can later protect us from hard times.  Houses can be this way, too, when they become more than shelter and morph into a repository of 'equity'.  Reading Isaiah this morning I realised I've allowed Martin's income protection insurance become such an idol.  There's an exclusion on the policy for a medical problem he's had in the past.  If by July 2013 he hasn't had the problem again, the exclusion comes off.  I realised that I've become anxious about that deadline: concerned that the problem musn't come back, even wondering if he should go to the doctor (and hence admit to it) if it does.  I realised today that I've been carefully managing the insurance so that I can put my trust in it, rather than just having insurance but putting my actual trust in God.

Our God is quite different from the idols.  He's not just more powerful, He's also more 'willful'.  Take this, for example, from Isaiah 45:

“Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker,
    those who are nothing but potsherds
    among the potsherds on the ground.
Does the clay say to the potter,
    ‘What are you making?’
Does your work say,
    ‘The potter has no hands’?
10 Woe to the one who says to a father,
    ‘What have you begotten?’
or to a mother,
    ‘What have you brought to birth?’
We are the clay, God is the potter.  We can't question how he chooses to act - even if He chooses to act, as He is here, through an army who is raping and pillaging their way across the landscape. In a way, Isaiah presents us with a simple choice.  We can put our trust in idols, who might look like they do our bidding but who really don't do anything at all; or we can put our trust in God, who will do what He wants rather than what we want, but who is, at least, all-powerful.

It reminds me of this bit of Psalm 115:
Why do the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven;
    he does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
    noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
    feet, but cannot walk,
    nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
    and so will all who trust in them.
You can put your trust in the God who does whatever He pleases, or you can be as blind, deaf and immobile as an idol statue - how's that for a choice!

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Hero rats

I've just enjoyed listening to an interview from National Radio's This Way Up about one of my favourite charities - Apopo/Hero Rats of Tanzania.  They train African pouched rats to detect landmines in fields in Mozambique and Angola.  More recently, they've also be training these rats to identify patients with tuberculosis by sniffing sputum samples.

The rats they use are enormous.  Look at this one (image taken from Wikipedia).  Good thing they're socialised from an early age to see people as friends!

Thursday 9 August 2012

Sofa slipcover

We have a wonderful sofa that we inherited from Martin's grandmother.  It's super-comfortable, long enough to spread out full-length on and turns into a remarkably comfortable bed.  I've been wondering for a while, though, about getting it recovered as the fabric looks rather worn-out and some of the tufting buttons have come out.

Then a friend gave me some gorgeous woolen fabric that looked like it'd be big enough to make a slipcover from.  Surely cheaper than proper reupholstering and hopefully a fun project :-)
I've been working at it off and on over the last month or two and yesterday it was finally finished!

I'd started by attaching cords to tie to the front legs of the sofa, with the cords attached to pieces of tape to spread the strain.

Then I'd sewn the front corners, in the process cutting out a roughly square piece of fabric from each.

Next came a cord to keep the fabric snugly in the groove between the seat and the back.

I cut the fabric in line with the cord at each side so that it could sit smoothly on both the seat and the back.  I filled the V-shaped gap thus formed with fabric that, had I not cut it off, would have been hidden under the wood that supported the arms anyway.

Lastly I needed to tidy up the back.  The fabric wasn't quite long enough to go over the top of the sofa so I attached some black calico to extend it.  This actually took about as long as the whole rest of the project as it involved lots of hemming!  Once attached, I stitched in the folds on the top corners of the sofa, in the process stitching the squares I'd removed from the front corners onto one of the sides (it turned out I hadn't attached the fabric to the sofa as symmetrically as I'd thought...).

All done!

Saturday 4 August 2012

Marriage equality bill

In New Zealand, a members bill is currently being debated in Parliament which, if passed, would extend marriage to homosexual as well as heterosexual couples. My instictive reaction has been that, on the whole, I would like this bill to be passed - i.e., I'd like NZ to legalise same-sex marriage. This doesn't appear to be the common Christian position, but my thinking on the matter has been significantly influenced by reflecting on the situation of a young family who used to live over our back fence: a family made up of two adult women and one preschool girl.

As I came to care for them, I began to be concerned about how one particular part of NZ law affected them.

Under current NZ law, children can only be adopted by either single people, de facto couples or married couples.  As only heterosexual couples can be recognised as being either de facto married or actually married, that means that gay couples cannot adopt.  One member of a gay couple can adopt a child on their own (as singles can adopt) and they can then raise that child together, but legally, only one of them is that child's parent.

In general, that could be fine.  But, if the legal parent is away from home on business and the child suddenly has to go into hospital, the other partner isn't that child's legal next of kin.  They can't make decisions about the child's care, they can't visit them and reassure them in intensive care etc. etc.

That seems to me to be hugely contrary to that child's wellbeing.  As I read the Bible prior to the last election, trying to work out what kind of rulers God appeared to be in favour of, again and again I found that he wanted rulers who watched out for the concerns of the weakest members of society.  Preventing both of a child's actual parents (at least from the child's point of view) from being recognised as their legal parents appears to me to be harmful to the interests of that child - one of society's weakest members.

At first, one might think you could shore up this situation by preventing adoptions by single people.  But of course, single-person-adoption isn't the only way a homosexual couple can end up raising a child.  All a lesbian needs to get pregnant is a syringe and a cooperative friend.  (I guess that's all a gay man needs, too, although in his case the degree of cooperation required is somewhat more substantial, and adoption law still comes into play once the baby is born.)  However, when that lesbian woman gives birth, there is currently no way in which her partner can be recognised as a parent of that child.

So, in a world in which it is so easy for lesbian women to have babies and for them to raise them with their partners, is it just to deny those children the option of being legally adopted by their non-giving-birth-to-them mother?

Of course, allowing homosexual couples to marry isn't the only way to resolve the situation outlined above.  But I expect that most Christians would have a similar level of distaste for extending the right to adopt children to homosexual couples (whilst still preventing them from actually marrying) as they seem to have for 'marriage equality'.

That said, the folk at 'Protect Marriage' raise a few points that give me pause for thought.  For example, it does seem plausible to me that 'marriage equality' could lead to more heterosexual divorces and fewer heterosexual couples choosing to have children, and neither of those are outcomes that I'm in favour of.  But I keep on coming back to the wellbeing of our little former neighbour, and I think that 'marriage equality' for her parents really would be in her best interests, at least.

Sunday 13 May 2012

A delicious discovery

Many years ago I learnt to make quince pâté/paste: a delicious concoction that you can serve on crackers with cheese or simply nibble on on its own.  Then a year or two ago I purchased guava paste - the same general idea, but made from tropical guavas.  Right now we're in the middle of a major guava glut so I decided to have a go at making guava paste with our own strawberry guavas.  The result was delicious.  We've simply been cutting it into cubes, rolling it them in caster sugar and eating them like jubes although think it'd be nice on crackers with cheese as well.

Should you like to have a go at making your own guava 'jubes', it's very simple.

1. Simmer guavas until soft with a small quantity of water (just enough to stop them burning - we used about 1/3 cup water to 2 litres guavas).
2. Pass through a mouli to remove all the seeds (you could force them through a regular seive if you didn't have a mouli, but it'd be a bit of a pain).
3. Put the pureed guavas in a wide pan with an equal volume of sugar (we used our big preserving pan and the high sides were great as they meant that the splatters were contained as the paste was cooked down).  You only want about 2-3cm of puree/sugar mix in the bottom of the pan.
4. Bring to the boil and cook, stirring constantly, until the mix has reduced to about half the volume and you can draw a wooden spoon right across the pan before the trace fully closes up.
5. Pour into non-stick containers to about 1cm depth and leave to cool (which will take hours - it holds its heat amazingly).

Store between layers of baking paper in air tight containers.  Should easily keep more than a year.  Yum!

Wednesday 9 May 2012

TED talk on energy

A few weeks back Martin and I watched this TED talk entitled 'People, Power and Area'.  It's by one of my heroes - British physicist David Mackay who not only wrote the program I use to type using only a mouse but also wrote the wonderfully informative book Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air.  I appreciated his clear explanation of why we can't just switch to renewable energy and otherwise carry on living 'business as usual'.  I was also stunned to learn that the UK and Saudi Arabia both had the same amount of fossil fuels under their soils (one in coal, the other in oil) before extraction started.  I hope to be able to direct people to this talk in future as a good, clear explanation of where the world is at in terms of energy availability.  To be honest, I do find a clear explanation of where we're at kind of scary, and it drove me to pray - thanking God that He is in control and pleading for his mercy in this dire situation.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Over the last couple of months I've been working on my latest piece of writing for ANZMES, New Zealand's national support organization for people with CFS.  Martin's now put it up on our website and you can read it here.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Living the Proverbs

In our Bible reading Martin and I are currently going through the book of Proverbs.  It's a bitty collection of sayings but, when you put them together, the overall message seems to be that the wise person lives a faithful, disciplined and humble life, caring for other people and not seeking either riches or honour.

At the same time, through the season of Lent I'd been doing a daily reflection/self-examination* that includes praying through the list of the 'fruit' that God grows in the lives of those who follow Jesus:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Suddenly, something dawned on me. These character traits that God grows in his followers are exactly the kind of character traits you need in order to live the kind of life described in Proverbs.  In other words, God himself actually gives us what we need to live the kind of life he requires of us!  I found that really exciting and encouraging :-)

*In case anyone's interested, my Lent reflection was based on two of the exercises from this study from Lyfe in the UK. Most days I spent about 15 minutes going through the following:
Spend some time with God each day, ask him to purify your heart and mind through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Be willing to surrender to God.

You may want to ask him questions such as:
- What words have I used that have hurt others?
- What actions or activities have I engaged in that are unhelpful or block my relationship with you?
- What ‘fruits’ needs to grow in me: characteristics such as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Holiness grows out of prayers like these.

Looking to tomorrow, take time to consider who or where God might want you to serve.  What opportunities might arise where you can resist being the first, best or most important person?  Are there situations at home, work or in everyday life where you can serve others tomorrow?  Are there times where you can allow others to be first?  Pray for the grace to be able to lay aside pride and take the place of a servant.
 I found it a really helpful and productive process.

Sunday 1 April 2012

Medical Aid Abroad

The charity that my mum volunteers at, Medical Aid Abroad, was featured on National Radio today :-)  You can download the audio here.  My mum is the manager at MAA and her name is Tony.

Saturday 24 March 2012

A pincushion filled with sand

A while back I came across the idea of an emery pincushion: a pincushion filled with a fine abrasive powder that sharpens your pins and needles when they're poked into it.  Sometimes you find emery pincushions 'as is', but more commonly they're tiny pincushions stitched onto a bigger pincushion: the small emery one for actual sharpening and the larger one for storage.  Emery is both heavy and expensive so you don't want to use more of it than you have to.

I hate waste and I do a lot of handsewing, so I liked the idea of not having to throw out a needle every time it went blunt.  Unfortunately I couldn't find a source for tiny quantities of emery but I did, eventually, find an excellent alternative.

It turns out that any very fine, very hard powder will do the trick.  Sand grains are not only very hard, they're also very easy for most Kiwis to come by :-)  Also easy for many Kiwis to come by is muslin, which can be used as a very fine-meshed seive.  Bingo!  So I took some well rinsed and dried beach sand, poured it onto a piece of muslin and squeezed it a bit until a half-teaspoonful or so had passed through.

To make my pincushion I then sewed the sand into a double-walled fabric pouch and sewed that into the centre of an ordinary pincushion.  In the year or so that I've been using it I haven't had to throw out any blunt needles :-)

My original pincushion, with sand in the brown bit in the middle. I do like wrist pincushions!

A sand pincushion I made for a friend - the sand pouch is under the centre of the red fabric.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Masculinity - Two Links

I ran into an interesting post from Mark Sayers today, when I failed my lenten challenge to forego my news feed.

Sayers describes the historical choice of evangelicals to promote a gentler masculinity, and the context which prompted it, to argue that rather than simply looking back to some hardened 'machismo' we should again seek to recentre from biblical principles.

This historical perspective has never featured in the many articles I have encountered on how the church suppresses my manhood, and I found many points still resonated. The world is not so rough and tumble as it was, thank God, but power and dominance are still key temptations men face. The Invitation is still daunting:
In coming to Christ, hardened men were forced to leave their pride at the foot of the Cross. They were invited to follow a Messiah who shunned all of the world’s ideas of honour, who could have struck back with the force of an army of angels, but who chose to die a death that was shameful in the eyes of the world but that brought eternal glory.

I wonder if I Sayers has read this resource, subtitled "A Church Manual on Men as Partners: Promoting Positive Masculinities". I haven't read it yet, but am intrigued that two major organisations (World Council of Churches and World Communion of Reformed Churches) have set out to build new understandings of masculinity.

As I may have said elsewhere, I personally think that the big noise about men in church is misguided.* I am therefore very pleased to see other voices which seem to build positively but still critically on our history, rather than optimistically reaching for a golden former age.

*David Murrow's recent comment that the church's 'core product' has changed from salvation to relationships may explain why he says that men lack 'risk, challenge and adventure'. Not only is he confusing Sunday services with the Church, but he has lost the whole Change the World element! What bigger challenge and adventure does he want?  Sorry for blowing out my two-link title once I got my rant on.

Thursday 1 March 2012

An unlikely intercessor


God shows His sense of humour again

As mentioned earlier, I've never really 'got' intercessory prayer, although I have recently started to pray for a list of people in a systematic and disciplined way never-the-less.  Two recent happenings suggest to me that praying for people and situations may well be a much more significant part of the work God wants me to do than I would ever have expected.

I've been praying for the situation in Syria for some months now and recently I wanted to see if there was anything we could actually do about it as well.  So I went online and found a list of charities that were doing aid work in Syria (or with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Turkey) as well as contact details for various political bodies who I could perhaps try to lobby.

As I was musing about this one lunchtime and asking God what we should do, I sensed very clearly that what I should do was pray!  It felt so preposterous to me: terrible things were happening and all I should do is pray?!  I guess that shows, yet again, how little I really believe that prayer can change anything....

Then, a couple of days ago I was reading through newsletters from a couple of organisations that send missionaries from New Zealand to various foreign countries to tell people about Jesus.  When I was 16 I felt called by God to be such a missionary and when we got married, such a life was what Martin and I were expecting for ourselves.

My illness has thus far prevented us from going overseas (although we remain open to the possibility), but sometimes I wonder about that sense of call.  What does it mean that, despite it, 20 years later I'm still living here in New Zealand?

I was musing about this as I read those newsletters, and a certainty grew in me that God wants me to pray that people will come to follow him.  Not just the people on my prayer list that I know personally, but people in foreign parts.  For now at least, that is the missionary service he wants from me.1  So as of yesterday that's what I'm doing.

It seems that God may want me - someone who doesn't even really believe that praying achieves anything and only does it out of obedience - to be an intercessor!  I find that somewhat stupendous...

1This reminds me of something I read a while back in the biography of St. Therese of Lisieux (also called St. Theresa the little flower). She was a Carmelite nun, living in the cloister with no contact with the outside world beside occasional visits from her family (all Christians), yet she saw herself as an evangelist. She spent hours a day in prayer, including praying for the salvation of condemned prisoners and other specific individuals she suspected were living apart from God.  Maybe that's the kind of foreign missionary God would have me be?!