Saturday, April 14, 2012

Journal Entry from Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday, 2012.  This was by far the hottest Easter that I have ever experienced.  As a matter of fact, Gin said to me when I woke up, “Donna, this will be the hottest day of your life.”  But it was definitely the greatest Easter I have ever had.  Many things happened to make it wonderful, including the fact that we ended the day with a baptism! However, church was the highlight because it reminded me again why I’m here.  Because I had forgotten.  And God allowed me to remember.

Worship service lasted for two hours.  I danced with the women as I always have and then joined in with the children, laughter bubbling over from some place that God fills only with Africa-joy.  Laughter swelled into shouting – head back, grinning so hard my face hurt as my eyes tried to keep up with the swirl of colors and the drums of dance as I thanked God with all my heart, with all of my being for bringing me to this place - just to this very place, with its dripping sweat and its 108 degrees outside that was easily 125+ inside, with its suffocating dust and its brown tap water and its heart-stopping traffic and with its wicked sunburns and its horrifying We just passed a man with leprosy.  And with its people.  With its wonderful, beautiful, I-love-God-with-all-my-heart people.  With its people who are beating those drums in the corner so hard and so fast until I’ve just realized the cadence has become my heartbeat.  With its people who have so little but offer to share their food without hesitation.  With its people who are so loving and generous and affectionate and whose faces crinkle so easily into that smile…that African smile that is faster than lightning and warmer than sunshine.  With its children, who every Thursday run to greet me, giggling and chattering in French and Moree and wrapping 40 sets of arms around me, sticking flowers in my hair and inclining chubby cheeks for kisses. 

God didn’t warn me about Africa.  He didn’t warn me about the heat or the dust or the ever-present disease.   He didn’t warn me that there were times that I would get insanely lonely and frustrated with French.  He didn’t warn me that I would struggle under the weight of culture shock.  He just said, “Go.” But you see, God also didn’t warn me that I would fall in love.  He didn’t warn me that I would leave such a huge piece of my heart here.  He didn’t warn me that my very soul would ache when I look in to a tiny coffee-bean colored face and know that I might not see it again. God didn’t warn me about Burkina Faso.  He just called me here.  When God said, “Come to Africa,” I did not realize that he was saying, “Come and fall in love with Africa.” 

And so I have come to worship God here.  Here, as I join in the dizzy parade of dancers, swirling, ducking, spinning, swaying in an ever-widening circle that can’t decide which brilliant fabric should dominate the color scheme.  So it gives up and becomes a blur of violet and lemon, rose and indigo, scarlet and aqua, vibrant blue blending in to bright orange, elegant green, fuchsia, plum, until I have to sit down, exhausted.  But I can’t sit long, for a new song starts and we begin once more, sweating and breathing in dust and tripping over children.  And I love it.  I love it all.  So if the threat of culture shock, constant sweat, broken air conditioning, loneliness and language barriers are the price that I have to pay, then so be it.  I will pay the asking price.  I secretly think that Africa is God’s favorite place…or maybe it’s just his favorite place for me. 

My parents used to tell people that I have a heart for Africa.  But I no longer believe that’s true. I prefer to believe that I just have a heart for Jesus.  And Jesus has a heart for Africa.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rushed Update from a Dying Computer

Last few weeks...

Woke up covered in sweat. That's become a daily thing now.  Drank ice water form breakfast.  Got a flat tire.  Discovered I can't learn French in 115 degrees.  Danced in a worship circle with six other women.  Bought grain.  Delivered grain to a widow in our church with a courtyard full of kids.  Didn't know she had so many.  Sang in French.  Danced in a worship circle with two dozen other women.  Ate something African. Got incredibly sick.  Rode on a motorcycle behind an African woman.  Held on for dear life.  Told 30 children about the birth of Jesus.  Led them in a play of the Nativity.  The next week, taught the same 30 children about the beauty of the resurrection.  Gave candy for memory verses.  Upped my water intake to several liters a day.  Bumped along through a jungle of huts to go and pray for a sick elderly woman.  Taught my 30 kids the story of Esther, of Jesus feeding 5000, of Jesus healing lepers.  Tried to explain the power of prayer.  Made plans to buy more grain and go on grain distribution in the villages to the North.  Sat huddled in front of a computer screen waiting for CNN to load updates on the uprising in neighboring Mali.  Had an early morning prayer meeting with 15 Africans to plead with God for his protection of their family in Bamako.   Discovered that what I thought was shiny, healthy skin was in fact just a continual sheen of sweat.  Broke down and turned on my expensive air conditioner. 

Went to an orphanage in the bush.  Cuddled babies.  Held a three-pound three-week-old little boy.  Silence on the way home. 

Abandoned a nap and ran outside at the sound of thunder.  Stood outside laughing in delight at the first rain I've seen in months.  Stood in the rain until it passed.  Got sick when the storm dropped the temperature from over 100 degrees to below 70 degrees.  Prayed over a map of Burkina Faso.  Lost too much fluid in sweat and tears, stood up from praying, and nearly collapsed.  Burkinabe woman had to hold me up.  A little embarrassing.  Found the washer broken.  Wrung my clothes out by hand.  Bought strawberries from a woman's head.

Loved it all :).

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I love him just as much as I love you.

Wednesday night I lay awake, sweating and too hot to sleep, and wondered what in the world I was doing here.  Thursday morning I stood in a refugee camp looking in to a pair of Tuareg eyes, hungry for a Jesus they didn't know, and God reminded me, This is why you are here.  I love him just as much as I love you.  Don’t let my children die without me.   And as I sank to my knees in the African dirt and wrapped my arms around the nearest child, I remembered the night that I sank to my knees on a dorm room floor so far away and wept in the presence of God and cried, God, if it costs me my life, I will go.  I will go to Africa.   

So now I pray again –
Oh, God, forgive me for my selfishness.  Forgive me for thinking that I am entitled to air conditioning and pillow-top mattresses and cute shoes while your children are starving to death without you all over the world.  Forgive me for being so thankful that you died for me that I neglect to acknowledge the fact that you died for them.  Forgive me for choosing to love my neighbor only when he speaks my language and showers every day.  Don’t let me forget that you reached out to touch the leper, stinking and covered in open wounds.  That poverty and disease do not scare you, although they surely make you sad.  That you died to save an entire world.  Don’t let me forget. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Snapshot Update

So Burkina Faso eats computers.  And indeed, my computer is on its last leg.  It won't hold a battery for anything, but I decided to do a few quick snapshots.  Maybe I'll be able to post an actual snapshot next week.  Who knows.  Anyway, a few highlights from the past couple weeks:

-Two weeks ago Sunday.  Watched a packed church come forward once, twice, thrice to give to the work of the Lord not out of their abundance but out of their poverty.  The money was to be split in to three groups - two groups to build two new churches and one group to go to foreign missions (yes, foreign missions!) to send pastors to surrounding unreached people groups.  The money was counted on the spot and I joined in the celebration dance when we discovered that the total came to over $300 - an exorbitant amount for the third poorest country in the world.  So humbled.

- Not long ago.  Drove by the dump.  I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the hot car window to say a prayer for the two teeny girls that we just drove past...both barefoot and in tattered dresses, both carrying bags of food scraps that they had scavenged from the trash pile of the city dump.

- Yesterday.  Old man - could have been the peer of either of my grandfathers - tilted his turbaned head as he begged for money or food.  I swallowed a sob as I handed him all the change I had, resisting the urge to throw my arms around him and give him a kiss as I would my grandfather.  Wished I knew enough of the Malian languages to tell him about Jesus.

- Yesterday.  Thursday School.  Screaming with laughter (along with 30 other voices) as my girls strut and primp in front of the little boy playing King Xerxes, each one trying to be chosen as Queen Esther.  According to the statistics of the country, only 13% of them can read.  But all of them know their memory verse.

- This morning.  Jumped in surprise as a man about my age appeared out of nowhere and glued himself to my side as I walked with Kate in the heart of the city.  He spoke very good English and informed me that his name is Hakuna Matata - not kidding.  He followed me for many blocks and across quite a few highways.  He told me all about his music and his work and I told him about a man named Jesus. 

- This afternoon.  Was was walking back from the market.  Remember walking past a woman sleeping on two collapsed cardboard boxes.  Later biking past a man in a Tuareg head wrap carefully picking food out of the trash can.  Hating myself because these images make me whisper a prayer, but they no longer make me cry.

- Today in a taxi.  Kate asks, "Hey, what do those boxes say?"  So I lift my sunglasses and squint to look at the one-person truckcar in front of us.  "They say, USAID.  From the American people."  Then I lean forward excitedly.  "Hey, that's the seal of the President on the bottom!"  I search the box until I see the words, "President's Malaria Initiative" just above the symbol for the Center for Disease Control.  I have no idea what the President's Malaria Initiative is, but in my imagination it has something to do with that new breakthrough malaria vaccine just released that is expected to cut infant mortality rate in Africa in half.  The vaccine that made the researchers cry when they saw the statistics. 

- Every single day.  Jesus is awesome.  I am so humbled to be here. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Day at the Market

I’m a little bit nervous.  I decided not to go yesterday, put it off yet again.  I don’t want to not go.  But I’m still nervous. Communication is going to be a huge hurdle.  I could choose to stay home again.

I think of the words of St. Francis Assisi, “Preach the Gospel to the whole world.  And if necessary, use words.”  And I think of my nightly ritual whenever I go to see my niece and nephew.  I kiss them both good night as I leave and Joshua immediately falls asleep grinning.  I turn and look Paisley in the eyes and ask, “And what must we always choose?”  She solemnly replies, “Always choose for love.”  “Good girl.  Always choose to love.”  I take a deep breath.  I can love without words.

And anyway, I need apples. 

So I head out.  I wave goodbye to the guard at the gate as I stroll past him and on to the street teaming with pedestrians who immediately greet and wave, giving me courage to do this – to walk to the market by myself.  It’s over 100 degrees outside and the Sahara sun seems to have singled me out as a tasty rotisserie.  It’s taking a bit longer than I had anticipated to get to the market because you’ll never meet an African who won’t greet.  The ‘road’ is very wide and completely dirt, except for the thin pavement of trash and broken glass.  I dodge bicycles, motos, and donkeys and wander up and down tiny Grand Canyons and Mt. Everests disguised as potholes and dirt piles.  I pass the most fascinating shops – there must be hundreds of them – all dilapidated shacks of tin, dirt, and concrete crammed together and hiding behind beaming shop owners who wave and shout hello to me.  I pause to wait while an ancient car passes me, filled with grinning Africans who perch precariously on the broken seats of the vehicle that appears to have nothing more than good luck holding it together.

Finally I see the entrance to the market.  I dodge more donkeys and follow a much narrower dirt path as it snakes between two shack shops held erect by termites and possibly some duct tape.  Behind the shops the path widens to reveal a busy scene of color and life.  I stop and look around with huge eyes, completely enchanted.  Every kind of fruit, vegetable, herb, and spice you could imagine is piled, hung, and draped along vendor stands almost as far as I can see.  Large colorful pieces of fabric, cheap jewelry, and traditional clothing are also laid out for purchase.  Hundreds and hundreds of men, women, and sometimes-naked children weave in and out of the stands, all laughing and grinning, chattering away in what sounds like a zillion native languages. I walk slowly through the scene.  A white woman in Western clothes and a pair of sunglasses is definitely out of place here, but no one seems to mind.  Soon my arm is tired from waving back and my face hurts from returning grins and replying, “Ca va bien, como ca va?”  My hands have got to be filthy from rubbing the soft heads of the kiddos who hurry to walk near me, often pushing a younger brother or sister towards me to shake hands first and make sure I’m not deadly. 

It smells like the fair, only better.  Every few steps a new aroma excites my senses.  Something fried, something raw and ready to be fried, fresh fish, strange green spices that I must never have sampled, newly sliced fraises, bright red mystery meat, yellow-orange fruit juice and deep blue berries.  I walk on and on, entranced in the magic.  Finally I turn a corner and, to my delight, see the exact same scene.  I could get lost in here, but I don’t care.  This new dirt path is much narrower and more crowded.  Everyone is coming from every direction and trying to go every direction, but not a soul is unkind – no one pushes.  In fact, one lady’s moto sputters to a stop and a dozen hands immediately reach out to help her lift it to a safer parking spot.  Bumping in to someone means an opportunity to have a conversation and, of course, to laugh.  I stop to watch and turn at a stroke on my arm.  A smiling lady is selling a strange exotic fruit that can’t decide if it wants to be vibrant green or lucid orange or a beautiful mixture of both.  A few sentences are all it takes to prove that I speak very little French, so all the surrounding ladies jump in to help, but none of them speak English, so it gets loud and confusing and strikes us all as hilarious, and we succumb to the kind of friendship that is born of laughter.  My skin stings with slaps on the back and affectionate arm-rubbing from my new friends.  I buy a bag of the fruit, tangelos they seem to be, thank the lady and wish her the blessings of God, which she wishes back. 

I walk on, each turn bringing only a slight variation of the same beautiful scene.  I’ve learned quite a few new French phrases by the time I decide that I need to get my translucent skin out of the sun.  I find the edge of the market and emerge back on to the huge dirt/trash road carrying a bag full of tangelos and no apples.  I turn towards home, flanked by two beautiful children who have taken it upon themselves to accompany me all the way back to my gate, giggling every time I make eye contact.  But before I start walking, I turn and gaze back at the market.  I smile and close my eyes.  “If this isn’t the greatest place on Earth, then the greatest place on Earth does not exist.”  But I’m not quite sure if I mean the market or Africa herself.  Love can happen without words.  Love can happen across language barriers and culture boundaries and country borders. In fact, it just did.   

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Children's Crusade in Bobo-Diolasso

It was over 110 degrees...but I LOVED it!  Jesus is awesome!

Daniel 7:14

So you know that book, Where the Sidewalk Ends?  That’s where I live :).  The pavement ends, then the road continues on in dirt for a few more meters, and there I am!   Or there we are, rather; that’s the entrance to SIL.  The guards are all wonderful and by now have discovered that I don’t speak French, so they just greet me and ask where I’m going and what room is mine.  And then inside the compound is beautiful because it’s green, which a nice escape from the desert.  Almost all of my neighbors work for Wycliff, working on some stage of translating the Bible in to local languages. 

One of my neighbors, a lady from Switzerland, said that she has lived and worked in Burkina Faso for 30 years (I’m so jealous!) and has been writing the Bible in one of the languages in Banfora.  The best part is that she said they just finished typesetting the New Testament, had it printed, and the first load of New Testaments are in trucks and on their way to Burkina Faso right now!  She said that the tribe will receive the shipment on April 14th.  I was soooooo excited!  Ever since I heard about Wycliff, I’ve thought it was a wonderful organization.  And now to see it in action…it really is amazing.  Imagine – a goal of having the Bible printed in every one of the 6,912 languages in the world.  I keep thinking about how different my life would be if I had grown up without a Bible to read in my own language.  I look in to the eyes of these sweet children and desire with everything inside of me that they could have a Bible all their own to read, also.

I remember many many evenings when I was growing up, sitting around the fireplace on the living room floor with my sister and leaning against my dad as my mother read to us from the Bible.  Even though I was sometimes bored and wanted to read a novel instead, I know now that those times shaped me in to who I am today.  As a matter of fact, everything that I am today is shaped by the Biblical influence that I grew up with.  I think about how blessed I am because of that.  And then I think about the 13% literacy rate of Burkina Faso.  Eighty-seven percent of these precious children don’t get to have the Bible read to them at night. Did Daniel not say, "All people, nations, and languages will worship Him?" ( Daniel 7:13,14).  That therefore must include every one of the 1000+ languages on the continent of Africa.  Oh Jesus, send workers to the harvest field of West Africa. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lundi, le 13 février

This morning it was harder than it has been.  I hadn’t been able to fall asleep until very late, and so I woke up very tired and overwhelmed with culture shock.  I walked around getting ready, not trying very hard to fight off the feelings of, “What am I even doing here?”  “I feel useless.”  “This is pointless.  I can’t even communicate.”  The missionaries warned me that I would get to this point.  I felt terrible, and I felt guilty about feeling terrible. 

So I hit my knees.  “Oh God, help me.  I’m sorry I’m giving in to these feelings.  I’m being selfish.  I know you brought me here and that this is your will in my life.  I have no strength today.  Be my strength.  I can’t do this alone.  I need you.  Help me today to love you so much that it bubbles over and embraces those around me.  Walk with me.  Please.  You’re all I have.” 

And then I got up and rode my bike to Bible college.  And now, at the end of the day, it’s strange…because it’s not that I really feel any different.  I still feel inadequate.  I’m still struggling with trying to make my heart and my mind reside in Africa, rather than my heart in Africa and my mind in Arkansas.  I still feel like I’m walking on the edge of failure.  But I smile at how amazing God is…because he taught me today.  He taught me how to feel beyond it.

I can still feel the overwhelming contentment of standing in the heat with Demanta and Rebekah (the two women at the Bible school) as they run my braid through their hands, patiently correcting my pronunciation.  I feel the excitement of knowing I had a whole conversation with them in French/English/sign language as I struggle to communicate with them just a little more than yesterday. 

I feel the laughter that the ladies and I shared when Pastor Jack stopped dead in his tracks at his first sight of my hair this morning. 

I feel their hugs as they wish me goodbye and safe journey and please come and see them tomorrow. 

I feel the wind cooling me down as I zip past the market, breathing in the scent of fresh fruit, and the sun scorching my neck as I stop at a stoplight with two dozen other bicyclers, all smiling at me and greeting, “Bonjour!”   

I feel my bike start to wobble as I let go with one hand to high-five a group of school children who are running past me, shouting, “Nasalla, Nasalla!  Sa va?”  (‘white person, white person!  How are you?) 

I feel the calloused handshake of my ‘favorite’ person here at SIL as he grins that huge African grin and asks me to please turn around so he can ‘be mystified’ by my hair. 

I feel the coolness of a Coca-Cola in my hand as I stand talking to the guard, speaking slowly in French and looking at him expectantly to fill in the gaps of my sentences with words I don’t know. 

And I feel the familiar creases of my Bible cover as I open it and read about Jacob, who left behind his home and his family and the comforts of an established way of life to travel alone to a strange land and new people.  He had no one but God.  I read of Jacob and I think of that day so many years ago when I first knew the draw of Africa…and I feel at home.     

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Universal Language

They say that music is the universal language.
Well I've never understood language barriers like I have since I got to Burkina Faso.  It frustrates me because I'm chatty and I want SO much to talk to all the people who surround me when I ride my bike across town.  I want to ask them about themselves.  I want to invite them to church.  I want to explain why I'm on a bicycle trying to hard to be like them, to be a part of them.  At first I thought we weren't communicating at all.  But this week I began to see it differently. 

At church last week,  the pastor began service by saying that he was thankful for the missionaries, Ken and Gin, and that he was thankful for the new young missionary lady that was visiting from the States.  Because he was talking about me, Gin leaned over to translate.  He said, "We are thankful for our new friend, whom we love already!"  I turned a huge smile to the congregation as the all clapped and cheered in agreement, and he continued, "And we can tell that she loves us, too.  And it is obvious that she loves our children.  We have been observing her as she watches our children, and we can see that she loves our children very much."  And then he asked me, via Ken as translator, to "come and speak to our children."  I had nothing prepared, but as I walked to the group of children and looked into their beautiful faces,  I decided to tell them the story of Samuel, how he was a great prophet who was called of God when he was just a little boy.  I told them that God loves children and he speaks to children.  I told them that God loves them, that I love them, and that I want them to love God with all their hearts.  As I spoke, I couldn't help but reach out and run my hand over their heads and caress their sweet soft faces, smiling without even realizing it.

When I sat down, one tiny little boy ran over and threw himself in my lap, saying not a word but looking up at me with laughing eyes that said, "Hi! I like you, white lady!" I laughed and kissed him and told him that I loved him.  He toddled over and took his sister's hand and brought her to me, as well.  On the drive home, the three little boys who ride with us took it upon themselves to give me a vocabulary lesson in French and in Moree.  They made me repeat after them until I sounded just like them, and squealed in laughter when I pronounced something incorrectly, sometimes collapsing into giggles and patting my arms and hands.  When they got tired of that, little Robert silently took my hand to hold in both of his and laid his head on my shoulder.  I decided that there wasn't another place in the whole world that I would rather be. 

They say that the universal language is music.  I disagree.  I say it's love.  

Monday, February 6, 2012


I was shivering cold when I woke up this morning, which I thought was an odd, if welcome, surprise.  I opened my apartment door and blinked in further surprise.  I frowned and whispered to no one, "Is it foggy?"  The air had that dense, hazy look that comes with the thickest of fog that sometimes rolls in off the Arkansas River.  And was cold. And dark.  The air was so thick that it seemed to have texture to it.  In total confusion, I walked out in to the courtyard where other people were walking around.  I looked closely - they were all wearing masks.  "Holy cow," I thought, "it's dust!"  Sure enough, what had appeared to be fog was in fact sand from the Sahara so thick that it was actually blocking out the sun.  It was obviously daylight outside, but the dust was so thick that it looked like a heavily overcast day.  When I got in the missionaries' car, Gin greeted me with, "Welcome to Harmattan!" and laughed when I told her I had though it was fog.  Everyone we passed was wearing some sort of cloth mask over their nose and mouth, and the dust continued to block the sun all day to the extent that I was actually cold during my French lesson.  When I got back to my apartment, I decided to make a cup of coffee to warm up.  I tied a bandana across my mouth and nose and walked next door to the kitchen, where I found some neighbors cooking lunch, each one also wearing a mask to block out the dust.  I laughed when I saw myself in the mirror.  "I look like a bandit.  And I'm here as a missionary."  Every time I took the bandana off, no matter if I was inside or outside, I noticed that everything smells like an old, dusty closet that has just been opened for the first time in years.  Ive had to squint when I walk to protect my contacts.  I thought of the stories mamma used to tell about blizzards in Alaska, and I think that Harmattan must look somewhat like those white-out conditions...African style :).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fighting Language Barriers

“I do NOT want to learn French today.  I do not.”  That was my first thought as I closed my Bible and put away my coffee cup on Thursday morning.  I hadn’t been able to sleep the night before until after 4 am, and now as I waited for Ken and Gin to come and pick me up for Bible School and a two-hour French lesson, all I wanted to do was lay back down.  French took too much brain power.  One-on-one language study is VERY intense because you can’t hide behind the other students if you don’t understand.  And Pastor Abel is determined that I will learn.  Too hard today.  Nope.  

We got to the Bible College, and some of the pastor’s children were there since schools are out on Thursdays here.   Ken handed me a coin and said that on Thursdays he always bought the kids candy, so why didn’t I take them down to the little stand on the road and get them some candy.  So I took hold of a little brown hand and we started out.  We walked through potholes and over trash piles until we got to the end of the road, and then turned right and walked through more potholes and over more trash piles, bicycles and motorcycles whizzing by greeting us happily,  until we started passing stands with odd collections of things to buy.  Twice we passed a stand and I looked down at the adorable little girl beside me and asked, “Ici?  Pour bon-bons?” and she shook a braided head with a soft, “No.”  She led me to the correct stand and I squeezed past all the people standing talking and laughing outside until I found the owner.  I held up the coin and said, “Cinq cent pour bon-bon pour les enfants,” and indicated the girl and her tiny little brother, chubby-faced and already covered in dirt as only little boys can become so early in the morning.  The man nodded and handed me over four suckers, but then asked me a question in French.  I blinked at him.  A lady standing near saw that I didn’t understand and came over to explain that to the owner, talking rapidly in French.  A few other people came over to help out (people here really are very friendly and helpful) and they were all touching my arm, occasionally throwing out an English word, and chattering away in French at 100 kilometers an hour.  Then they all decided to help until it seemed that everyone who had just been outside was now inside, leaning in close and trying to tell me how to make change.  Finally they got it all figured out and handed me back some small coins, and as they continued to chatter at me and at one another with encouraging smiles and handshakes and shoulder pats, my heart swelled with love for these strangers and I changed my mind.  I DO want to learn French today.  Oh, how I want to learn French today.  I want to talk to these beautiful people, to join in the conversations must always be terribly funny because they are never not laughing.  I want to speak with these delightful children, and be able to tell them in French instead of in English that Jesus loves them as I kiss their coffee-bean-colored foreheads.  I don’t want to be an observer here.  I want to be a part of this life, this pulse of Africa.  I want to be a part of Burkina Faso.  I want to learn French today. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Getting used to African nights.

I heard him before I opened my eyes.  Actually, it was he who awakened me from that pleasant state of just having fallen asleep.  He sounded like a helicopter in my room.  I amazed myself with how quickly I reacted.  Without even opening my eyes, I came fully awake and yanked the covers over my head.  DANG IT!  A mosquito.  I was so certain that there weren’t any when I turned out my light.  I laid there for a minute and then sighed and dragged myself out of bed, found a flashlight to guide me across the room, flipped on the light and stood looking around sleepily.  I sighed again and began the laborious process of untying my mosquito net from the ceiling and tucking it securely around my bed.  I then realized I was thirsty, so I unlocked my door and went around to my kitchen (next door) and found some water in the fridge.  By the time I got back to my room, I was already dusty.  Earlier in the evening, my sinuses decided that they just could not handle Harmattan anymore and rebelled against me, leaving me in a pile of tissues.  I turned out the light and used my flashlight to get back to my bed. I ducked under the mosquito net and lay there in the heat thinking.  All of a sudden the humor of it all struck me.  I mean, I don’t even speak French!  Here I am, in the middle of Africa all by myself, I don’t know the language, I couldn’t find my way around my neighborhood if my life depended on it, and I’m laying under a mosquito net because malaria medicine makes me dizzy.  I’m hot and dusty, and…and I don’t even speak French!  What was I thinking? I’m crazy.  I laughed aloud into the darkness.  This is so far from my life in a sea of cubicles, with Starbucks down the road and high heels on my feet.  Sometimes the contrast of it all strikes me as completely surreal – is this really my life?  Am I really this lucky that I get to do this?  To lay here, covered in dust from Sahara’s Harmattan, hiding from malaria, trying to sleep in the heat of a West African evening and knowing that tomorrow I get to wake up to the sound of African laughter and face a day of a dozen hugs and the constant clutching of little black hands?  Did I really just buy a bicycle so that I can bike over to the market and across the neighborhood to Bible College?  How did I get to be so lucky?  Again it makes me laugh, but with a heart bubbling over with thankfulness.  Thank you, God.  When you called me to Africa I never knew…I never knew I would love it as much as all this. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Africa, Take Two: West Africa!

Burkina Faso is much different from Uganda, but it is still so much the same.  The people are super sweet and friendly.  Then language barrier is frustrating because I just want to sit and talk to all the sweet people that I’m meeting.  Not one person has been anything close to rude, not one.  Even when they realize that I can’t speak French, they just smile huge white smiles and nod encouragingly at me.  I love them already :).  We went to a wedding on Saturday!  My first African wedding.  It was excruciatingly long; we were only there for about six hours, but apparently it went on from ten in the morning until midnight.  People kept getting up to sing to the new couple and speak to them, and then there was a very long sermon, and that whole part of it was terribly boring because I don’t speak French and because I was sitting in the front, so I had to look like I was paying attention.  But the first part of the wedding – that was amazing!  Hands down the best wedding I’ve ever been to in my life.  There was dancing and singing and laughing and more dancing…not slow sad wedding dancing like in the U.S., but like tribal dancing!  And it was beautiful.  If ever I marry, I want the ceremony to be just like that: drums beating almost loud enough to drown out the chattering African languages, people dancing, dressed festively in bright colors, wearing head wraps that may or may not match their respective outfits.  Enormous white smiles flashing against dark faces.  Dust kicked up and swirling in the air as thick as fog, sweat running off of every brow, and dozens and dozens of tiny brown faces crowding the doorways and windows, their black eyes shiny with jolly laughter.