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Mehls Posted by Jason and Louise Mehl on Fri, 27 Jun 2008 | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

Twenty years ago people few people would question a missionary woman who’s only stated role is “wife/mother.” Things have changed. Even if the expectations don’t come from individual supporters, the existence of a big white space on the information form of sending agencies give the impression that it should take more than a few words or even a few lines to adequately describe the separate roles of both halves of a missionary couple. And even if the expectations don’t come from the sending agencies, the definable roles of many wives in the field create expectations in the missionary/ex-pat communities. Here at UCU, there are wives with Master’s Degrees, PhD’s (both African and ex-pat) who are teaching, heading departments, preaching, home-schooling, serving on committee’s. Even if none of these good women ever put pressure on Louise (and they don’t), the environment exists and it’s easy to self-examine and feel like you should be doing “more.”

I’m writing a little about Louise to tell you that she does “more.” I’m writing this because, like many people, she’s not good at telling other people about the “more” she does.

Before Louise and I met and married and had Lily, Louise was running projects in Uganda for the charitable organization (Ignite) that she started; she was working as office manager for the Fields of Life office in Uganda – visiting schools in villages around Kampala and sometimes as far away as the Congo border and Kenya border. Louise has many more miles behind the wheel on deadly Ugandan roads than me, and more than any other missionary working at UCU. Now, Louise gets her road miles once or twice a week with grocery shopping trips to Kampala – sometimes with Lily in the car seat, happy or unhappy, and gets the rest of her miles with Lily in her walker chasing Louise around the house holding a wiffle ball bat, or taking Lily on walks around campus in the stroller. To me, this is enough—definitely more than I could handle. But Louise is always doing more, though the more is hard to define.

Here’s an example of a recent week full of Louise’s “more.” Sunday June 1st. Lousie hosted the 2nd monthly Bible Study for missionary women. I took Lily over to my parent’s house (my mother and father are here working on a 2-year assignment) to hang out with Grandpa (Grandma passed us on her way to the Bible Study). Louise hosted women from the US, UK, Germany, Canada and Sri Lanka (all working in the various capacities mentioned earlier) and facilitated the discussion of the 1st Chapter of Ruth. When Lily and I came back home at the end of the evening, it was clear that people had been touched by God and Ruth and Louise. They wanted to stay and hang out, for the same reason Lily and I were happy to be home.

A few nights later, Friday June 5th, I came in from basketball practice at my usual 8:00. My parents were over for dinner (my father just started a 2-year stint as the UCU Bursar, my mother also does “more”) waiting for me to arrive to eat. The electricity went out right as I got home. Grandma had Lily, and I went into the dark kitchen lit by a single candle and asked where our other candles were. Louise said, “There’s a wee bishop staying in the guest house so I gave him some candles. Maybe we should invite him for dinner.” Turns out, the wee bishop was/is Bishop Mouneer Hanna Annis, Bishop of Egypt and North Africa and the Horn of Africa, visiting UCU as the speaker at the 9th Graduation Ceremony the following morning. A missionary priest friend of mine, Paul Gordon Chandler, has been working with/for Bishop Mouneer in Cairo since 2003, so we had some common ground and found more as we talked and ate. We stretched food for four to feed five. We were fascinated to learn that Bishop Mouneer is also the President Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East—a wild place to be a church leader in any time in history.

The next day was Graduation. Ceremonies are a big deal in East Africa and they need to be marked by parties. Graduation is no exception, and since we had six basketball players graduating, and two of them are orphans and the other 4 happen to be far away from their poor families, Lousie and I decided to throw one big party for them and all the players. 50 people, 200 burgers, 80 sausages, 200 hamburger buns, 4 crates of sodas, 20 orders of fries from the canteen, tables, chairs, 2 grills, 3 decorated cakes, plates, forks, napkins. I had to go to the ceremony and be present and watch the guys and one girl (Sara from Soroti, who received some financial help a few semesters ago by some Christ Church folks) walk. Louise stayed home and organized everything else. I took a few photos after the ceremony, then ran home to fire up the grills. I cooked for the next three hours, and Lousie ran back and forth from the kitchen to the yard with meet and buns and everything else—smiling, congratulating, hugging, and laughing, and making sure whoever was holding Lily was doing o.k.

Huge stuff. Not easy to categorize as anything other than “valuable.” More. Louise does more. Thanks for staying interested in what we’re doing out here, and for helping us to keep doing it. You guys are also doing more for us than you might realize.