Friday, July 24, 2009

An Interesting Friday

Lots of days missionary life is not super exciting. I clean the house, cook food, go shopping, teach classes – fairly normal stuff. It does have some different wrinkles, being in a different language, in a strange place, but the things themselves are not extraordinary. But, every once in a while, I have a day that reminds me that I’m a missionary. Friday was one of those days.

Friday morning started with a princess beading party. Wade and Katie’s daughter Abby had her 10th birthday and for her party she wanted me to make necklaces with her and her friend Anna. So on Friday morning I was in my kitchen with beads spread all over the table teaching two little princesses how to make lovely necklaces and bracelets to accent their royalty. We were having a good time when I looked up and there was a woman with four little kids and two bowls standing in front of me.

I knew that she had probably come to ask me for something because she was holding out empty bowls, but she was using a word that I didn’t know so it took me a little bit to find out what she wanted. She was from the islands and she was going to return there the next day and she wanted me to give her some food for her children.

It’s really normal in Guinea-Bissau for people that we know to ask us for help when they need something and almost every time we do help them; however, it’s not really that normal for a Guinean to come into the house of someone they don’t know and ask for help, so I was totally thrown off. Sometimes people come to the Youth Center for help and then when they see me they ask me, but since our house in the back of the Youth Center people never really come into the house to ask for things. Every month we give money to the Youth Center’s giving fund and then when people come that we don’t know we refer them to the guy at the Center who’s in charge of that fund. That helps us a lot because they know way better than we do if someone is trying to scam us and they also know how much help is appropriate.

For some reason in this case I was caught really off guard. I asked her to wait and came upstairs to talk to Jason. As soon as I walked in the door tears welled up in my eyes. I was really feeling the weight of this woman’s problem and I couldn’t figure out why it was so heavy and overwhelming on my heart. Jason talked to me for a bit then I went back downstairs talked to her a little more and then took her to William. As William started talking to her I left because a friend of mine stopped by to talk to me. The cool part of this story is that when William was talking to her he felt like he should share Jesus with her. He did and she accepted right away. He made it really clear that we were going to help her out and that accepting Jesus didn’t have anything to do with her getting money for food from us, but she told him that for a long time she had had questions about her life and no one had ever told her the story of Jesus before. She wanted to become a Christian because when he was explaining it, it all made sense.

Wow. When William came back and told me that I was amazed! Then all my feeling of uncertainty and the weight of this woman’s problem made sense. Satan knows when someone is in the right place at the right time and the last thing that he wanted was for someone to share Jesus with that woman. When I realized that, I was so convicted. I’m the missionary, right? Shouldn’t I always been on the lookout for people that need to hear about Jesus??? I’m so glad that William decided to share with her, but if he hadn’t she would have spoken to two Christians and walked away with her heart still searching for answers! I prayed right then that God wouldn’t let me miss another opportunity.

Don’t you love it when God answers your prayers right away? Well, that’s what happened to me…

Right after that Katie and I went to the market to buy some black lining material for some bags a friend of mine is working on. While I was in the little shop buying the material a Muslim man sitting outside turned and asked me if I was buying it to make myself a burka. Obviously the man could take one look at me with my uncovered head and tell that I am not a Muslim, so he was just trying to provoke me. I thought about what he said for a minute and then I was reminded of my earlier prayer.

So, I took a deep breath, got myself mentally ready for a good amount of Creole, and answered him – no, I wasn’t going to make a burka, I was going to make some purses - and as long as we are on the topic why do Muslims put such a weight on their wives to have no identity and be so hidden away from the world? Well, that sparked a conversation about Islam in general and I was able to explain to him that the way I see it Islam is a very heavy religion for its followers. They live everyday of their lives with the uncertainty of never knowing what’s going to happen to them after they die. When they die they believe that all of the good that they’ve done is added up and weighed against all of the non-good and that decides their future. I told him that I only know of one person in history who could pass that test, Jesus.

We talked about that for a while and he agreed with me that it is a very heavy thing. Then I explained to him that the reason that I’m a Christian is because God knows that no one is good enough to get to heaven on their own, so He sent Jesus Christ to come and die for my sins. When I accepted Jesus as my savior He came into my life and cleaned away all of that sin and He continues to do that everyday as I walk with Him, so the life of a Christian is a life of freedom and relationship.

He said that Jesus was a great prophet and that he believes every word that Jesus said even though he hasn’t read the Bible yet. I told him that he cannot believe every word that Jesus said and be a Muslim because Jesus said that He is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. We talked for about 15 minutes and in the end he told me that if someone brings him a Bible he will read every word of it because he wants to know more about Jesus!

As Katie and I walked away from that conversation we were both amazed. It’s not very often that a Muslim man will listen to the words of a woman, let alone a Christian woman! It was just so obvious that God was at work in the situation. His name is Zakarias (Zachariah in English) and I would appreciate your prayers as I go back and take him a Bible.

All that to say, my eyes are peeled. I’m ready. I’m pumped. And, I can’t wait to see what God is going to say through me to the next person :-)

Monday, July 13, 2009

New Veggies!

This past month and a half has flown by!!!! It's been fun, stressful, strange, familiar, and good. We really are so blessed to be here with this opportunity to really make a difference!

A lot of things have changed in Bissau since last time! One very exciting change is that there's a new store!!!! They call it a super market, but it's just a little room with some shelves and refrigerators. The thing that's exciting about it is that on the last day of each month they get a shipment of vegetables. You may ask why I'm so pumped about veggies, but wait, you don't know what kinds.... This month they got red peppers and (drum roll please) frozen broccoli! That's right I found broccoli in Bissau! You have no idea how excited I was. I bought a whole kilo!

That's not all! After I left that new little store I went to another little store that gets cheese sometimes and they had cheddar cheese. There are no words in the English language to convey my shock. I seriously almost passed out with joy!!!!! It was only like double the price of not-on-sale cheddar in America so I snapped up the three little squares that were there. Then I found the manager and told her that as long as they kept ordering cheddar I would keep buying it. I actually told her several times because I was just gushing. I think she got the point :-) The thing is here just because a store has something once that doesn't mean they will ever have it again!

So with the broccoli and cheddar powers combined I was in heaven for dinner that night. I had Jason take a picture so you could share in my joy :-)

Before Eden and her family moved to Dakar we had a Kool-Aid party. Like a tea party - little cookies, little crackers, little tea cups, but with Kool-Aid which is much better in Africa than hot tea :-)

Me, Eden, Abby, and Anna
When we first got here I got a bad rash from the heat and the mango trees so after lunch I would take a shower, get a pack of ice, and sit in front of the fan with the ice on my rash. It was my own little homemade air conditioning. I liked it so much I thought that Sydney might like it too, so one day I got out the ice pack and cooled her down. She liked it :-)
Sydney in the "AC"

Sydney is actually doing really well here. She doesn't really seem to mind the heat - she's hardly ever panting and she's full of energy.

So, that's the latest from around here :-)

Monday, July 6, 2009

a few thoughts about a bad day

You know how some days you just have “one of those days”? That was yesterday. I woke up feeling totally off, and it seemed like everything that happened was more frustrating that the last thing. I ended the day thoroughly soaking my pillow with a steady deluge of tears (my most effective stress reliever) and finally falling asleep completely and utterly exhausted.

I woke up this morning wondering, how do I start over from a day like that? I’ve done it before – cried myself to sleep and then woke up thinking, ok now it’s a brand new day. But this morning I didn’t really feel that way. Everything was still off. I cracked open my Bible and turned to the Psalms. I started reading without really noticing what Psalm it was. As I read just one chapter themes started leaping off the page – “I will praise the Lord at all times” “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and He delivers them” “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them” Then I got to verse 16:

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

It was one of those moments when everything else fades and the Bible speaks directly to you. I closed my eyes and just prayed. I confessed my selfishness and bad attitudes that had made every problem bigger than the last yesterday. I praised God for so many things that He’s done in my life and I thanked Him for the promise that He is close to the brokenhearted.

As I did that my breathing got slower, like the air cleared, and I knew how to start over. When life gets tough (like yesterday) I have the tendency to grit my teeth, buckle down, and power through. The only problem with that is I don’t actually have the power to do it. Believe me, yesterday I tried and you see how well that worked out for me and my soggy pillow. God reminded me today that life isn’t about how much I can cram into it, it’s about how closely I can walk right next to Him. There were a million times yesterday when I could have dropped everything and focused on God. I could have gone to Him when I started struggling instead of waiting until my spirit was totally crushed. Today I’m going to take those opportunities.

When I finished praying I read the chapter again, Psalm 34, and I realized something that made me laugh. In level three of our English program here at the Youth Center (the level that I wrote the curriculum for and have taught to six different classes) they memorize Psalm 34 in the Message translation. They do a couple verses a week over the three months and by the end they can say the whole thing. It’s funny because I’ve taught that chapter so many times I could quote it at any moment. Today I was reading a different translation of the Bible, but all of the themes and even some of the phrases are the exact same. If I had looked at the Psalm before I started reading it I might have moved on to another one, because after all, I know that one by heart… Sometimes I forget that the word of God is living and active and that God uses even the most familiar words to continually challenge and change us.

So, it’s about 11 am and I think I’m ready to start my day. Thanks God!!!!!