Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What is life without adventure?

So, yesterday, what started as a morning excursion, ended up as an all day adventure in the bush of Guinea Bissau.  Thank you Jesus for Chacos, a water bottle, and a sense of humor.

A few days ago, my friend Domingus's daughter asked if I would accompany her to school in a nearby village.  I agreed.  All day building relationship with a future friend?  Of course I'll go!  Well, the day came (yesterday), and let me tell you... I did a whole lot more than accompany her to school!

We arrived by car to a neighboring village and started walking.  A little while in, we stopped to visit her sister who is currently living with another family.  "Barraka - i ka moitu lungu" Rosa (Domingus's daughter) told me as we started walking again.  Mbe!  Let me just say that I am glad I had good shoes on.

We walked on tiny little paths, jumped over streams of water and through some brush to get to this village - eating wild fruits and snapping leaves along the way.  At one point, I fell off the log that we used to cross an irrigation dike and ended up in nearly waist deep water in the bilania (rice field).

We walked a total of 1 1/2 hours to get to this village.  I set my backpack down, and we started off again to go see her school and visit her sick grandma.  I really couldn't help but think of the Christmas song "Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go."... only there's no snow... just 80 degree weather and high humididty.  We walked for another 45 minutes until we reached the school.  I met all of her friends, jumbai-ed (English-Creolese for "hung out") with her grandma, and returned to her house.

I watched some of the boys of the house slaughter a chicken in my honor.  Later, I enjoyed a snack of chicken intestine and much later, had bianda (rice) with chicken meat.  This was the family's only meal of the day, (and it would have been just plain rice) but because I was there, they went all out and slaughtered a chicken, and bought oil and pepper and garlic for cooking.  I was honored, but felt guilty at the same time, knowing that they over-extended themselves financially to feed me this meal.  After the bianda was finished, they brought out the "extra" chicken meat and insisted that I eat it all by myself.

We spent hours jumbai-ing on the veranda, watching it pour rain.  I was beginning to think that I might have to stay the night, when the rain stopped.  Many people accompanied Rosa and me for about 45 minutes of our journey back.  I fell off the same log into the bilania again.  Everyone laughed and then left Rosa and me to finish our voyage.  It was about 6:45 when I returned to Catel... with tired legs, a full mind, and a happy heart.

Thank you Jesus for the surprise adventure, and for the flexibility to enjoy my adventure.  

Many details of my adventure have been lost to the depths of my head, but here are some pictures that I will share with you all so you can get a sense of where I was.

This is my friend Rosa and me at the beginning of our journey.

One view of the bilania as we were walking.  The path here was like a foot wide.

Some kids walking just ahead of us to go harvest rice.  The path that we were on eventually led us to the thick bush you see ahead.

We are still walking...

On the way to the see the school:  These kids came running when I pulled out my camera.  Maybe you can spot the others far in the background.

And.... They've arrived!  Forget smiling.  They just wanted their picture taken.

Lastly, here is the compound where Rosa lives while she comes to school.  The girl in the picture is Rosa's cousin or niece or somehow related.

And that completes my adventure!  Te lugu!

October 19th - Live, Laugh, Love

Bah!  Some days I'm not sure whether to laugh, cry, or be really angry.  Mostly, I try to laugh at the situation because if I get angry all the time, I would get burned out really quickly (and also be no fun to hang out with).

So yesterday (Oct 18th), I came back from market, and needed to start cooking pumpkin for supper.  A little while into my supper preparation, I heard our neighbor boys fighting outside our house.  This is nothing out of the ordinary, but they had been especially mischievous today, so I decided to go out to see what they were fighting about.  There were three of them there who wanted to take a bath, but they could only find two of our wash basins.  It's fine that they take baths at our house because they don't get baths with soap at their own house.  I am very glad that I was blissfully unaware that this was not their first shower of the day, but their 2nd or 3rd (or 4th)... because of what transpired next.

As I marched outside to discipline whoever was in the wrong, I noticed that they were fighting over my basin.  The basin that, just 20 minutes earlier, held my clothes that I was in the middle of washing.

I must pause my story to tell you that ALL my clothes are in the wash.  ALL of them.  And they've been in the water for 2 days now because of the chor (funeral).  {See previous post.} I have been spending all my time over at my friends' house, caring for their needs, etc, and doing other "household" chores (like, for example, going to market), and trying to keep up with my farm work.  My wash just keeps getting neglected.    Also, I must tell you that I do my laundry on the back veranda where no one can see me (and ask for me to give them every single article of clothing I pull out of the water) AND where the neighbor kids are not allowed to go.

Okay, so if the neighbor boy is in my basin, where are my clothes?  I raced to the back veranda, only to find that my clothes had been dumped.  The clothes that I was so closed to be finished washing... dumped out for me to start the process all over.  Bah!

I went racing out to the front yard where the boys were taking their baths, a stream of Creole flowing out of my mouth.  "What did you think you were doing?"  "In what world is it okay to take someone else's clothes (that they are in the middle of washing) out of the basin and use the basin to bathe yourself?!?"  "You didn't ask me if you could have it - you didn't even ask if you could go on the back veranda for that matter!"  Oh, I could have smacked their bare little bottoms!

Those three little stinkers lounged in their little tubs like naked little kings and laughed at my rampage.  After I was all out of steam, I marched inside the house, shut the door, and had a good laugh myself.

October 17 - truth by our actions

As I listen to the wailing that has started already this morning, my heart is torn and hurting.  They have no hope.  They don't know you.  Death must be a very awful experience if one never knew you.

"Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. " 
1 John 3:18

There's a lot of death here.  Hardly a week goes by when there's not a death in the village.  Sometimes it's an acquaintance; sometimes it hit close to home.

In the last 2 days, there have been 4 deaths.  One of them was my best friend Domingus's younger brother.  Though he had been sick for awhile, it doesn't make it easier on the family.  His wife Augusta is only 18 and together, they have two young daughters who will never know or remember their father (ages 1 1/2 and 1 month).

I sat with the family almost all of the day yesterday.  Domingus and two of her brothers are the only Christian lights in that house.  Their father is a strong, practicing animist, and the mother is a witch doctor.  Despair and heaviness filled the air as I sat there.  The father walked around the house blaming their "angel" (demon) for not helping his son.  Many women showed their despair by doing somersaults in the sand.  Hundreds sf people came - even from far off villages.  Many wailed.  Their wailing continued late into the night and started before the sun was up this morning.

As a Christian, how do I show love by my actions in this?  The family knows me well 0 in the past month, I have spent hours there every day.  I can't wail like they do to "appease the spirits."  Hugs are not always acceptable.  I don't want to say the wrong things or make cultural blunders in a time like this.

I hug Domingus anyways.  I sit with her as she grieves.  I pray for her and with her.

God, may my actions speak love and comfort to her.  May your words be my words, Father, and Your actions be my actions.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What's been going on in Catel?

I have so much to tell you, hence, the two blog posts today.  A quick update on what happened since the last picture blogpost...

I got my hair braided like African women do... but that's not the important part.  I really wanted to show you the woman who's braiding my hair.  She is probably one of my best friends here.  Her name is Mai.  The next picture is of her daughter Mariama.  Sometimes I go out to work in Mai's rice fields with her or go drink warga (concentrated green tea) at her house.  Yes, she is a very dear friend indeed.

The next picture is going to be a plug for a project we have starting here in Catel soon.  There are several men from the village who will running a cashew processing project.  Chad and Sadja were installing the solar panels that will run the shelling machine once it gets here. I was diligently climbing trees to take pictures of the installation and was the “go for” on the ground (Go for this, toss that up on the roof, etc).  If you would like to contribute to the work of the cashew project, you can visit this link for more information http://emm.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=943 

I wanted to introduce you guys to Lia as well.  She is also on our team here in Catel, but works through the CHE program rather than EMM (the organization that I work for).  She is a very busy lady, and will soon be starting to teach Catel’s preschool.  Go Lia!

I have many little buddies in the village.  These are just a few.  I was sweeping our wrap-around veranda one day and this herd of kids decided to "help" me.  After we were all finished sweeping, I got my ukelele out and we sang some Creole songs.  Though these little ones were a big distraction from the farm work I needed to do that day, I enjoyed having the opportunity to invest in their lives.

We are headed out of the wet season and into the dry season.  This was probably one of the last really hard rains that we will have for a long time, so I needed to take a picture of it and share it with you.  The camera seriously does not do justice to the rain's might and power!

I mentioned in my other post from today that the YES team is here (woot woot!  I have roommates!).  I have been occasionally planning activities for them.  For this activity shown below, I split them into two groups for a scavenger hunt.  They were sent all over the village to find clues, and even had the opportunity to try out their budding Creole skills to get some of them.  What an adventure!

Because the YES team leader Peter (left) knows Creole, and the Gambian, Sang (right) knows his way around the village, I gave them both handicaps for the scavenger hunt (Peter couldn't talk and Sang wore duct-taped glasses as a blind fold).  Andrew and I concocted a final challenge for this team to finish the scavenger hunt.  The blind Sang had to find a verse in the Bible by listening to his teammates sitting across from him (not in the picture) telling him directions according to mute Peter's hand motions.

And finally, the news that I am so very excited about…. I planted my demo plot yesterday!  Yes, I did!  It has lots of good things in it like okra, bell peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, onions, and carrots.  Later today, I would like to plant lettuce, amaranth, and bajiki (a local green).  I hauled the neighbors cow manure over here for fertilizer and used grasses as mulch.  You can put a farm girl in a remote part of Africa, but let me tell you - she can’t keep her hands out of the dirt!

Te lugu (until later)!


Dwelling in the Word

This morning, I led the YES team (a group of young individuals ages 18-20ish) in a devotional.  We dwelt in Psalm 24.  It's quite possibly my favorite Psalm, but it particularly struck me anew this morning, and I had to share it with you.

The earth is the LORD's and everything in it.  The world and all its people belong to Him.
For He laid the earth's foundation on the seas and built it on the ocean depths.
Who may climb the mountain of the LORD?  
Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, and who do not worship idols and never tell lies.
They will receive the LORD's blessing and have a right relationship with God their Savior.


Open up, ancient gates!  Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter.  
Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty; the LORD, invincible in battle.
Open up, ancient gates!  Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter.
Who is the King of glory? The LORD of Heaven's Armies - He is the King of glory.

God is in control.  Everything belongs to Him.  All the people of the world belong to Him and He longs for them to turn to Him.  In a culture where animism and spiritual warfare is heavy, we know that God has already won the battle.  He is invincible.  He is calling for the ancient gates of animism to break open and for the King of glory to enter in His rightful place.  May it be so!