Monday, May 16, 2016

TOWER GARDEN Planted once again - 4/10/16

It's time for the little 'hatchlings' to take their place in the tower!

Fred putting them into their new pods 4/10. Grow grow grow!
They grew grew grew!!!! 5/17!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Parachuting Naked & Off to Mexico!!!! 4/9/16

Just over a half a year has passed since my last update. It’s amazing how time flies when you’re figuring out what to do with your life!

In this issue of Joy’s Journey I’ll catch you up to date with life since I left Tanzania and share what I know is ahead in the next few weeks & what I think is ahead more long term. I write to a very varied audience… the length of my epistle is for my retired friends & I’ll cater to those whose time is less their own with bolded bits for you to breeze through to grab onto what gets your attention. All right here goes:

Leaving Tanzania:  Soon after I sent my last update to you my brother, Peter, his wife, Tammy, and I drove to Kenya to visit my niece, Sianna, and nephew, Leighton.  They attend a boarding school called Rift Valley Academy (RVA) which was a rival school to the high school I attendedJ! The border crossing was long, but no snags. The road was OK. We took a shortcut that was pretty bumpy yet got us there without having to go through town. It was good to be back in Kenya where I had lived my 8th, 9th, 11th& 12th grade years. Some was the same, but so much had changed. On Peter’s birthday we took some time visiting our old houses and the International School of Kenya (ISK – Go Lions!). That school has become a fortress! We weren’t sure if they were going to let us in to walk around the place. A lot of ambassador’s kids & diplomat kids attend so security has to be pretty high. I’d like to say that it was a blast to the past, but so much had changed that I didn’t recognize much.

I left Africa from Kenya – got a taxi ride to the airport. Longest-ride-for-the-distance EVER due to the crazy traffic in Nairobi. Landed at LAX one tired “pooch”! Able to crash at Fred & Margie Stocks place in Duarte while they were in Thailand for a family reunion. They have become like my parents on earth. I now have a set in heaven & one on earth = nice.

It was nice to be back in Duarte with space to rest up a bit, but soon it was time to work on getting the items in my 10 X 10 storage unit dealt with. Suzanne, my long time friend, graciously came down for an intense few days of 'cleansing'. My, the items we keep that we don't need. Others helped me re-pack boxes and shift them multiple times. (THANKS, you know who you are!) Then, with the help of Armando - Mom's 'canary man' - who bought up what was left of the items I was ready to let go of, my earthly possessions were then jammed into a 5x7 & the monthly fee brought down considerably! Feels good to have more of a grip on what I truly own.

After getting the storage unit squared away and a check up with my Doctor, I headed up north. You would have enjoyed seeing my car STUFFED to the gills with 13 boxes of family pictures and treasures to go through with my sisters. Had a lovely THANKSgiving at my sister Alice's home. Good to dip into her, her husband, Mark, & their son, Logan’s life in Carson City, NV.  What a help Alice was in weeding out a lot of the pictures. Still flummoxed as to how we can throw away bags and bags of stuff and still have so much left! 

From Nevada I headed to Richland, WA with an overnight in Redmond, OR (Thanks Nygrens!) to Suzanne & Mike Caron's abode. I was scheduled to take care of the dogs while they went to FL. This is where I finally crashed!!!! My body didn’t want to push anymore so it rested and took me along for the ride. It was good to have space & a place to do that. It wasn’t fun to be in a hazy funk, but my body needed it. It helped to have the dogs to take care of otherwise I’d probably still be sleepingJ!

I was able to drive up – thanks to generous loan of an all wheel drive Subaru … (lots of snow) – to my sister Beth’s place in Mission, BC, CANADA. Where she lives with her husband, Mark. Good to rest – some more! - and have some breakthrough in the deeper recesses of my being. Was struggling with moving forward & why I was putting the brakes on in certain areas of my life. Fun to spend Christmas with them, Jonathan (nephew), Scott (nephew) & his wife, Kami, and their sons Elias & Theodore. This was my first face to face with Theodore who joined us back in October. My sister, Jennifer, was able to come up from California and join us the day after Christmas. We had some good times diving into old 8mm & super8mm movies. (Anyone have a good connection to digitize them?)

From there I back tracked to Mike & Suzanne’s and then hit Alice’s again in Carson City. She needed to see some of those home movies. It was mid-January when I landed again in SoCal.

“What now” specific point of view? I’ve been given the gift of a mission trip to Copper Canyon, MEXICO. I’ll be heading out this Monday, April 11th and returning the 1st of May. It’s a working mission trip down in the depths of Copper Canyon – which I hear is deeper than the Grand Canyon! We’ll be finishing up the 2nd Teacher’s apartment at a school/orphanage for Tarahumara children. The 1st apartment was completed last year by a team from the same church – Mike & Suzanne’s church in Eastern Washington. This is a gift as the teachers without the apartments are living in with the kids. I’ll be arriving early to help Mike & Suzanne take a supply run down. 10 hours to Creel & 5 hours to Guacaivo Boarding School the next day. Then on April 22nd we’ll head back down with the rest of the team. They’ll be 12 of us in all.

This has been a good ‘trial run’ for the traveling I’ll want to do in the future. It is helping me to figure out how to deal with no internet, power & fresh “veg”! Beans, rice & tortillas will be the meals. Things I haven’t eaten for a year. I know it will all work out & am rather excited about it. Here is the schedule:

El Paso, TX
El Paso, TX – Pick up team
Tarahumara Ministries, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Creel, Mexico
Creel, Mexico
4/24 - 4/27/16
Guacaivo Boarding School
Guacaivo Boarding School
4/28/16 - 4/29/16
Creel, Mexico
Creel, Mexico
El Paso, TX 79925
4/16/16 - 4/21/16
Tarahumara Ministries, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Fly El Paso, TX to LAX

“What now” global point of view? I’m feeling led, from the One who made me, to ‘home base’ here in SoCal. I traveled to three different countries and sense that is what I am meant to do. To have a place to launch from for a mobile hospitality ministry. What does that mean? So glad you asked – it means taking myself & my skill sets overseas to missionaries, coming alongside them and helping as I can. The bottom line goal is to be an encouragement to them and to leave them a little bit refreshed.

In light of that I am diving back into life here:
-into my Church and the various groups there
-signed up to help with Audio Visual once a month at church
-helping my 80 & 90 something friends with clutter & computers
-getting into a weekly rhythm of Farmer’s market, laundry and all that ‘normal’ stuff

I’ve been keeping busy with my side business, “Joy Russell At Your Service”. Mainly been helping people sort, toss & organize. I love it!

I’m hoping to find a place in Duarte or near it.  My heart still abodes at Westminster Gardens where I lived with my mom – love those peeps; I have a great Life Group that meets weekly in Duarte and I know the area well. My ministry will be here as well so I’m dreaming big – a two bedroom so I can have guests to be hospitable to.  So, if you know of a place or a good connection let me know.

I’m in the application process with a mission organization that, hopefully, will be the ‘umbrella’ under which my ministry can thrive.

My health: I am doing real well. Over a year ago, February 2015, I started a new way of eating (whole30) and have been feeling well overall. Basically most of my plate is vegetables with a palm size of good protein, good fat (coconut oil is my mainstay) & fruit for dessert. LORD helped me reach my goal weight while I was in Tanzania. Though my overall health is good my head & eyes are still having issues. The shingles came back – I’m not even sure when – and there is now a scar in my left eye that affects my vision a little bit. It’s like a little piece of saran wrap is in there making things fuzzy. I’m amazed at how the other eye picks up the slack. I’ve wrestled with headaches as well, but those seemed to have gotten under control.

Naked parachuting:  Nice of me to make you read to the end to explain the subject line J. Parachuting in speaks to what it's like for someone coming back to the US of A from an intense dip into another country. Feeling pushed out of a plane at high speed, figuring out as you're ascending what the target is AND hoping you hit it with your feet up. Oh, did I mention it's at night :-). The 'naked' part was added on this trip as I didn't have my own place to land as I did when I was living with my mom. I'm happy to say that my God has helped me to hit the target pretty well & have gathered my 'cultural clothes' to wear! As a Third-Culture-Kid* the concept of settling down in one place is foreign to me & yet appealing. Growing up we didn’t have the same home to return to when we came back to America so I’ve ‘parachuted’ a lot, but not many times naked!

In conclusion – JOY & PEACE: It’s been nice sharing with you. I wish there was some way to put into words the joy, peace and excitement for life I am feeling these days. There is a freedom to my days as a result of truly believing that God will never leave me or forsake me.**     That Jesus is not only with me every moment of the day, but has pre-planned purpose for me. I am able to lay down my striving & let Him lead as I gratefully trust. It is awesome to have what has been head knowledge for so long move to my heart and become reality. What an amazing and wild ride!

Thanks for ‘listening’, Joy

*Third-Culture-Kid = one who grew up in a culture different than their parents. Not really a part of their parent’s culture nor the culture where they are living so they create a ‘third culture’ so to speak.

**Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 New International Version (NIV)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

East Africa Pictures August & Sept 2015

Repaired windmill going back up. 
Archer Leighton

Happy motorcyclist upon their return.

Archer Sianna

Leighton, Sianna, Tammy & Peter on their land

At the Prayer Tree honoring Tammy's Mom's on the 1 year anniversary of her death

Peter & Tammy 'chalking' out future home
(didn't end up at this location(

Cabinets arriving for the kitchen

Taking picture for my Kenya visa


Lillian prepping veg!

Keeping those rafters clean!

Peter & I in front of our old house in Nairobi, KENYA

Tammy watching over Sianna as she spins a pot.

Saying good-bye to Peter & Tammy. Thought I'd leave George's finger in for fun. 

George my weary taxi driver post our drive
across town!

Have trunk will travel!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Less than 1 Week left in East Africa

Greetings once again from Tanzania, East Africa (it’s another long one - smile smile):

In this 'issue' of Joy's wanderings I want to give you an idea of what my day to day is like here now that wedding events are over and I’m almost on my way back to the US of A. 

On August 6th the last guest, besides me ;-), departed. That was Tammy's dad who winged his way over here for the wedding. We took a few days to figure out what gear we should be in for the next month. The Twins were home for the month of August from school which meant the gear was more centered around time with them & having that teenage type of fun. Including:
  • watch all the Star Wars movies in chronological order. That means not watching them in the order they were produced, but #4-6 & then #1-3, It was good to be reminded of those classics and I am now ready for the new Star Wars movie that will come out this December!
  • learn how to fly a quad copter - a small remote chopper with four blades and two controls. It takes more finesse and patience than I have, but it was fun to crash it a few times :-).
  • Go out to restaurants to celebrate various occasions: success of wedding events; twins 18th birthday or the occasion of not needing to cook J
  • Had a blast celebrating my birthday at Arusha National Park. A game reserve just over an hour from Peter & Tammy's place. 
  • while Peter & the twins would:
  • go on a piki ride (piki is motorcycle in Ki-Swahili)
  • archery around the land with their father, my brother, Peter
  • work on various crafts – leather; fletching arrows & sewing
  • mow the land with the tractor as well as creating new walking paths
  • Tammy & I would:
  • Catch up on computer work
  • Cook
  • Walk
  • Shop (this is not like shopping in the US! It is takes more energy, creativity and is filled with social exchange with shop owners. Creativity is getting the items back home not full of dust or bruised – see driving below.)

It was fun and tiring being a teenager again. I found myself going to bed and getting up earlier than them :-). It was great to be able to get to know Sianna & Leighton better.

Being here in Tanzania is a study in contrasts & comparisons for me. Let's see if I can paint the picture for you. Some things are easier here as compared to the US of A. while other things take more time & energy. There is a beauty here of country & people. That part of me that grew up in countries focused on people rather than tasks is revived while that part of me that loves efficiency is frustrated up the ying yang. You'll see people walking everywhere here and they are so quick to return your wave with a deep smile and wave, thumbs up or peace sign. There is also communication with the chin and eyes that would go unnoticed in the United States. It says, “I see you, we've connected and have a good day.” Your courteous honk as you're passing someone communicates, "I'm here and going around you now.” and is appreciated rather than seen as an angry / aggressive act. Blinkers are used to communicate if it's OK to pass or not. They drive on the left here so if the blinker indicates that they're turning right - across traffic - that means it's NOT OK to pass (or they're turning right :-). If the blinker indicates that they're turning left it means it's OK to pass – (or they're turning left). Flashing your lights at an oncoming car trying to turn right - across traffic - indicates that you're going to let them turn in front of you. Flashing lights as they're passing you, which I think we used to do in the USA, most likely means there are police out up ahead. 

EATING:  Eating can be much the same items as in the US, but it takes longer to prep food as you’re doing most from scratch. Items from the US are available at a price. Large bag of peanut M&M’s was selling for $45! Don’t worry it was not bought only amazed by the price. The local food consists of rice and meat/ vegetable stews. There is a lot of corn grown and consumed as well, in corn meal the consistency of mashed potatoes called Ugali & they also eat the corn in roasted form. I’ve been able to keep to my new way of eating – palm size of protein and the rest of the plate vegetables. Really enjoy the freshness of what I’m eating. The other day we ate some wildebeest that had been shot by a friend of the family. Can’t remember the last time I ate meat and knew when it had expired!

Eating in the form of dining out has a wide range of options here in Arusha. You can go to a restaurant that feels like you’re in the US from the d├ęcor, food and service. Then you can go to the local food spot (they call it a hoteli) for a 1/10th of the price for some local fare. There is an Ethiopian, Chinese, Italian, Indian, Mexican & Greek dining options here in Arusha.

SLEEPING: I have two locations where I lay my head to rest. One on a twin bed in my tent on the land. I am able to adjust the temperature by unzipping or zipping up the side canvas panels. There is special netting on the door and windows that allow me to look out yet those on the outside cannot see in. This is true during the day, but at night I need to be cognizant that if I have a light shining then those on the outside can see in J. Very impressed with that design that allows vision through a net one way and not the other! My light is solar with three different settings able to be charged by the sun (thus the name J) and lasts for hours. It’s nice to be able to read in bed and simply reach over to my bed stand & turn off the source of light that is not plugged into any source of power! It’s nice to be ‘outside’ though I must admit I do wake up when the tent ‘thwacks’ as it’s sent to dancing by the wind. Another source of wonderful noise is all the birds! More than 100 species have been spotted. Nice to wake up to their calls.

The other place I lay my head to rest is at the house/ office in town. It is called Amani House (Amani means peace). I have another twin bed – it’s a four poster with a mosquito net. I sleep overnight here at least once a week when I need to have solid internet access.

DRIVING: As mentioned the driving done here is on the left side of the road which puts the steering wheel on the right side of the car. I’ve slowly been driving more and more. It helps that I learned how to drive in Nairobi, KENYA which also is a country that drives on the left and a little bit crazy. My brother describes driving in town like being in a video game as you don’t know what is going to come from where and need to be ever alert. Town is strewn with motorcycle taxis that choose to go anywhere they like including coming at you down the wrong side of the road; on the ‘walkway’ beside the road or passing you. Alert is the name of the game.

Most of the roads in town are paved, but when you get out of town it’s various grades of dirt road. To get from the Wild Hope land to Amani House it is 13 kilometers (little over 8 miles). Two-thirds of the journey is dirt and the final third is paved with speed bumps. Dust is a given no matter where you’re headed. Along with the motorcycles going every which way there are public transport vans called a Daladala – the name derived from a transformation from the original cost of the ride: dollar; carts pulled or pushed by men; pedestrians, tractors pulling wagons; and goats, sheep, chicken &/or cows (on the dirt roads).

INTERACTING: It is a pleasure interacting with the Tanzanian people. They are hesitant to be the first to wave or greet me, but when it is extended by me there is an instant response. Walking in town reminds me of growing up in Kenya and standing out due to my color. It’s a bit hard to blend in. There is not a negative reaction to me, but I don’t necessarily enjoy being the center of attention just because of my skin color.

I’m enjoying interacting with those that are on staff with Wild Hope. Lillian & Mage (pronounce like Maggie) help in the kitchen. It is fun to joke with them and get them to laugh at my mild attempts at communicating in Ki-Swahili and getting them to talk in English. Lillian has been working with Peter & Tammy since 2006 and is like family. She is cooking, cleaning and making sure things are in order in the kitchen. Mage is Philemon’s wife. Philemon is Peter’s right hand man. There are also carpenters, masons, general workers and managers that work on the land. Lillian and Mage go back & forth from Amani house to the land for their work. Though it will be less & less at Amani House as more things shift to the land.

SHOPPING: Shopping is as varied as the restaurants. You can step into a supermarket much like those in the US with a wide variety of choices or go to the local duka (store) and outdoor shop that specializes in something: vegetables; clothes; minutes for your phones, etc. I had a blast going with Tammy & Sianna to a metumbo (used clothes outdoor market) where you could snag a nice long sleeve shirt (it’s been colder here than I planned for) for 50 cents.

ELECTRICITY & INTERNET: This has been one of the more frustrating sides of being here due to the inconsistency of the electricity and power. It has to take its toll on the Tanzanians as they do not know when the power will be on and those that depend on it have to work their schedule around an unknown. You’ll see wielders sparks flying late at night as you drive by as that is when they’re able to work as the power has come on. Before the company would have a schedule of when the power would be out, but now it happens randomly. Fortunately there is a generator at the Amani house that is hooked up to run power through the house though you need to stay away from using appliances – like a hot water pot – that pull a lot of power. One learns what appliances do pull a lot of power. Something we don’t need to figure out in the US.

On the Wild Hope land it is a whole different scenario as they are set up with wind and solar power. A windmill charges 10 batteries – they look like car batteries - & that gives power to the entire place. The wind flows through the land well coming off the plain below so the system is able to keep up pretty well. If the wind and sun have not been real active for a while then there is a generator backup on the land as well. When I first got here it was being used a lot, but found out that was due to the windmill needing to be fixed. It’s pretty nice to be able to come out to these 27 acres and have a consistent power supply.

The internet on the land, as of now, is less reliable than the internet at Amani House though I’ve been having troubles of late. The internet on the land is run off a cell phone sim card!!!! It’s pretty amazing technology really though not always wanting to work.


Well, that gives you a little ‘glimpse’ in words of the surface what it’s been like for me here. There is a whole other layer of comparison & contrast for me as well – a deeper one. There is something very special about this Wild Hope land. I’m not saying that one piece of land can be more ‘holy’ than another, but when it is set aside for the express purpose of people to come away and hear God speak to them it does become special, safe and a place of growth. Like the tent I mentioned above I’ve been granted the gift of entering some deep places that I haven’t been able to see into and yet once inside I’ve been amazed at how clear things are and what an amazing view it is from the inside to the out. In August a regular rhythm of prayer was started - Monday through Friday at 10 am & 6 pm. It’s low pressure, as you can make it & such a pleasure to join with the staff – 10 am is in Swahili with them and 6 pm tends to be in English with ‘us’ residents. God has been speaking to me about how He’s gifted me, how He can use me and what He has ahead for me. It’s in the incubation stage right now and getting ready to be birthed. Stay tuned for another update J.

For those of you in the Southern California area Joy L. Russell at Your Service will be up and running the week of October 5th. So let me know if you have any tasks around the house I can help you with:

-computer help
-organizing a closet / room / kitchen
-window washing
-pet care

I’ll be leaving Tanzania tomorrow with Peter & Tammy - Friday, Sept 25th - to go to Kenya to see Sianna & Leighton’s ‘school world’. Then I fly out of Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, Sept 29th arriving at LAX on Wed, Sept 30th. So, if you don’t hear from me right away it’s because I’m in travel mode and unable to get access to the internet.

It’s been a wonderful 3 months. Thanks for journeying with me,


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Birthday Fun - August 20th

Greeted in my tent by Peter, Tammy, Sianna & Leighton. Coconut oil = HUZZAH!!!

At Arusha Nat'l Park. This big brute stepping on my toe! Fortunately he was a stature or I'd not be doing so well!

Nothing like the majestic Giraffe to get you in an African mood.

Fun to see & be a part of this tree you can drive through. It's a fig tree.

Leighton could have made it all the way up with all those handholds, but we had a picnic to get to.

GORGEOUS flowers out for me at the picnic falls!

Food getting prepped.

Writing my annual birthday letter AT the falls!

Another perspective of my letter writing
Can you see the triangular spider almost in my mouth?


It's hard to see, but I scored lovely gifts that matched my still painted toes.

 So good to be back on African soil - my birth place - to celebrate. It had been over 20 years!