Monday, March 08, 2010

The Wall!

Many of you that are runners are familiar with this term.  For the rest of us, myself included, let me explain a little bit.  I have heard that when running in a marathon, after a certain amount of time you hit "the wall" and your body gets VERY tired and sometimes it can be so bad that you want to stop before you are finished.  You have to determine to push yourself and keep going and most times as you clear the wall, you feel relieved that you do.  Living overseas can be the same way sometimes as a "clash of cultures" start to take place, even if you have been in that culture before.

We have lived here in Senegal before and knew about the culture and what to expect and we also knew about THE WALL!  Unfortunately, knowing things only helps to a certain extent when the wall comes at you like a ton of bricks, pardon the pun.  This cultural wall tends to hit somewhere between the 6th and 10th month in a culture that is not your own, and yes, you guessed it, we are in our 6th month here.  While things have been generally good, and we are making some good strides here with our language, and have our previous language to fall back on when we need to, are making some good friends and have gained some amazing team-mates/friends through our company, THE WALL has hit us still the same.

I will not go into a negative rant at this point, but suffice it to say that between things in the culture, language challenges, working through a few team things, learning to live with a 6yr old and a 4yr old (who are ALWAYS around), Spiritual battles, the heat, missing friends and family back in the States (you will notice I did not say back home - we DO feel like this is home), the heat, electricity issues, dealing with policy changes that are different than expected/during our last term here, the heat, communication issues and a few other things, the wall is here.  We are learning to persevere through most of these things, although the heat and power cuts can be difficult at times, the Father is good and has been helping us get through them.

We have longed for a time of refreshing and rest, and life can be tough sometimes here, and that has not been afforded us just yet due to a variety of reasons.  We are learning to take some day breaks and are planning a trip to the capital for a week for our anniversary.  Part of that time I will try to use as a sort of Spiritual retreat and plan on having a REAL date with my wife and take the kids to the beach a day or two.  Please continue to lift us up as we face this wall and find other creative ways to deal with some of these issues.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A quick update

Sorry it has been a while since I have updated,but it has been non-stop action here with little time to catch our breath.  Let me summarize the end of December and January.  Christmas was not as merry as we would have liked, because William was sick and Lisa was still suffering some from morning (all-day) sickness of the pregnancy.  But it was nice in that we quietly celebrated this happy occasion with just our family.  Thank you for all your prayers as we celebrated our first Christmas away from family and friends.  also thank you to those that sent us cards, care-packages, e-mails and phone calls.  WE HAVE VONAGE- IT IS A SHREVEPORT NUMBER!! Ask us for the number if you want it.

On New Year’s Eve we heard that our crates had arrived in country 2 weeks early and we were waiting for them to arrive!! The next week they arrived at our house, but we did not know they were on the way here.  We were a little unprepared but we had lots of help from a few friends.  We spent the next week trying to get things unpacked and finding a home for everything, which we are STILL trying to do.  That next weekend our teammates arrived in country, and then they arrived later that week in town after an adventurous trip down.   We took a week off from language to help orient our new team members, and Mariama suffered from a stomach illness but is now feeling much better.  She has learned to not drink the water here, and that includes the bath water.  This last week found us back in language full force as we prepare for our approaching language evaluations.  

That is a short, quick glimpse of our lives this past month.  So what is going on in your life??

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A funny thing happened on the way into town today.....

     First, let me start by explaining “going to town.”  The city I live in is a fairly good sized one, but it is a medium – small town.  There are about 15,000 people that live here and when you say “I am going downtown” it actually means you are going into the heart of the town, which is the large market and all the shops and boutiques that surround said market.  It is a VERY active place and usually has a lot of people buying and selling, catching taxi's, waiting to get on a rapid (small bus like vehicle) to take them to one of the smaller  towns or villages that surround the town or getting on a bus to go to one of the bigger towns several hours away; So as you can see, it is truly the “heart of the town.”

     Back to my story; While walking through my neighborhood on my way into town today, as usual a child saw me and called out “toubaco” which means white person.  Now I know what you are thinking, how rude, there is no way we would just call out something like that in America.  Well here, they do not see to many white people so that is what they do; and therefore it is ok to answer back “baleejio” which, as you guessed it, means black person.  Having learned this term recently, I thought I would try it out.  I had just passed a guy before coming upon this child sitting outside a door to a compound.  When the child, maybe 4 years old, called out, I responded, much to the child’s surprise, as evident on his face and not knowing what to say next.  As he sat with a VERY shocked look on his face, the guy I just passed started laughing….HARD!  He entered the compound and started to tell what had just happened, and for the next 5 – 6 houses I could hear the laughter as he retold the story several times.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hand crafted!!!

I have recently had the privilege of visiting some very interesting places.  The first place is a wood workers “shop” which is where we bought our furniture.

Every thing you see here is HAND made.  That means NO electrical equipment AT ALL was used.  Just hand saws, tape measures, hand planers, it was routed by hand using planers and a piece of sandpaper as well as ALL sanded with a piece of sandpaper and their hands.  This is all truly a work of art to watch and to see the final product.  An interesting side note is that while I worked at Kirkland's Home in the States, I sold a chair similar to this, but for a LOT more and not near as nice as these.

I sat for over an hour and watched these guys hand measure some wood while looking at a diagram and mark up the long plank to be cut.  Then, in order to "clamp" it down, they had a boy sit on one side, near the work table as they started to cut the wood.  No big deal you would think, except that they were trying to cut the plank down the middle, lengthwise.  The guy cutting it was standing at the end he was cutting and carfully watched every stoke of the hand saw as he pushed it through.  I watched another guy, the guy whose shop it is, as he carefully hand planed the edges off of a stool that he was making for us.  He did not rush, but rather took his time and payed close attention to every pass of the planer. Only after he was satisfied with the smoothness of the edges did he grab a well worn piece of sandpaper and start to use it, followed by a finer grain of sandpaper to finish it all off.  After seeing the attention he paid to the details of a stool, I was even more impressed with the beauty of the furniture that we got.  Then of course there was the hand carried delivery they offered as they carried all 4 pieces to our house a block away.

This reminded me of Eph. 2:10 "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."  The attention that these guys paid to the things they were making is NOTHING compared to the attention God paid when He created you and me.  If He is going to pay that kind of attention to something, you can rest assured that he did not create no junk AND that he has a purpose for you in this life.  He gave all of Himself to ransom you and He has not stopped working and perfecting you or me.  He has called each one of us to give Him our all and to be used for His glory.  Our chairs, while they are beautiful to look at, if that is all we did and never sat in them, they would not live up to their full potential.  You are the same way, if you shelve yourself rather than "getting into the game" and never share His love with anyone, than you are not living up to your full potential either.  Remember, If you are a Believer and a Follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, than you ARE called to be a minister no matter where you work, what you do, have done or will do. 

Be what God has crafted you to be!!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Same....but different?!?!

   WOW!!  I expected things to be different, but I am not sure to what extent I thought they would be the same.  We have been here now for one month and already our lives have been VERY busy.  We have been studying hard to learn a new language; this language is known as one of the hardest to learn in West Africa.  We are at least making some progress!!  We have also been trying to get set up in our house, meet neighbors, learn the market and what is available locally.  Being in a more remote part of the country this time it is different than what we had available in the capital.  There seems to be more fresh veggies here as this is the region they are grown in, but the prices seem to be different.  We also are finding that there are some things we have not seem before, as well as noticing that the imported stuff from France does NOT make it down here.  So that means that we have had to learn where to go to do our supply runs, which is 5 hours away, so we go every 3 months!!  Lisa has been getting home-school started and we have tried to learn all we can from our co-worker before she leaves on the 10th of November for 2 months.

     It also is MUCH quieter here than in the capital.  There, people would be walking the streets outside our bedroom window all hours of the day and night.  Here we are in a neighborhood and while most people walk everywhere and there are taxis, the neighborhoods are MUCH quieter as most people seem to go in for the evening around 10pm or so.  Then there is the sounds of the call to prayers.  Before, there were places on almost every corner and they seemed to compete with each other to be heard, and then there was the Thursday night services that could be heard rather loudly from certain brotherhoods.  I have heard the call to prayer here a few times, but they are not near as loud as in our other home.  Also the brotherhood that has their night on Thursday is not as well represented here, so Thursday nights are quieter as well.

     Our house here is different than last time; it is much bigger here inside, but our courtyard is smaller.  Last time we had a 3 bedroom 1 1/2 bath house with a small kitchen.  It was the top floor of a 2 story building and we had the whole 2nd floor and our courtyard was on the roof.  The sun rose in the front of the house and passed over the house and set on the backside of the house therefore it heated several large sides of the house and made it rather hot!  Now we are in our own house with 3 bedrooms, 3 bath house with a larger kitchen (still smallish though) an we actually have storage room for a pantry.  The sun rises on the side of the house where there is a large tree with shade and passes over the house and the side it sets on is another house (we share a common wall).  So while it still gets hot here, the house is cooler than last time, the celing fans we have that we did not have last time make a differance as well.  Our courtyard this time though is on three sides of the house and rather small though, but the side has shade and the front has shade.  The kids play out in the dirt road that runs in front of our house as we have almost no car traffic on it.
     The spiritual darkness here is just about the same here though.  We are living and working amongst a people that are wandering about in darkness and have not heard the truth, or else have heard it and reject it.  They follow what they have been taught by their religious leaders, or family members and most of the time they do this without questioning them.  The team here has been telling God's stories from the Bible for several years, with the help from volunteer groups from the States.  There are villages that have asked us not to come back and tell these stories as they do not want to hear them.  Some though are starting to listen and even asking questions about what the truth is and some are hearing and responding as well!!  The Spirit is drawing people here to Himself and people are responding.  There is even the beginnings of a local gathering happening here!!  We believe that the time is ripe and the harvest is plentiful and we are trying to be faithful harvesters.  It is our desire that after our first term that we will have to start to look for someplace else to start working due to the calling out of locals and them taking on this area themselves!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My oldest brother and his wife came to visit us in January, yes it has been a LONG time since we have blogged! He, Jurgen, and I were outside talking and William started playing with Uncle Jurgen and then Jurgen caught William. So we started playing catch with him and he had a BLAST!!

Stay tuned for more stuff soon!!!!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Our trip to the village part I

Following our trip to a few villages this last weekend, I thought that I would write about our experiences here rather then take up a whole newsletter. I am VERY glad that we asked you to be praying for us, because as it turned out, we would need your prayers more then we ever imagined, especially the first day of our trip.

A little background information on Islam here in Senegal will help you to understand some of what I am going to tell you. Here in Senegal there are several sects of Islam and the biggest and strongest is called the Mouride brotherhood. The Mourides started from their founder who was persecuted by the French for his work in liberating Senegal from the French government, and he was banished to the southern region of Senegal, which back then was VERY under developed with swamps and few people. He was from a town called Touba, and he is buried there, and the Mourides have a big pilgrimage their every year on his birthday (most will say that if you go to Touba enough, you do not have to go to Mecca). They are very syncretized with traditional African Religion that listens more to their religious leaders then to traditional Islam and are very big into charms, religious incantations for protection and worshiping of their dead religious leaders. Theirs is a dark religion full of fear of the spirits, while trying to control those spirits for their own use. They also are less open to toubabs (white people) and their religion then other sects here in Senegal.

My friend A, whose village we went to first, is not only part of this sect, but his whole village, of @ 1000 people, is a Mouride village. I knew he was, and in spite of that, we have formed a sort of friendship and he has been a big help during our time here to become familiar with the culture of Senegal. What I was unaware of was that the whole village was Mouride. As we entered into the village, the first sign that things were going to be different was that almost nobody came out to greet us, even in the family compound. This is NOT normal anywhere in Africa!! Normally white people are followed by a group of children and when you get out of the car you are surrounded by them, followed by the adults that you are their to visit and their friends and family. Instead we had family members keeping their distance, other than A’s mother and a few others. His father did come to greet us, but did not stay around long, nor was he around almost the whole time we were there, instead he laid on a mat right outside the compound.

This was the way that the rest of the visit would go. There were even times that my friend left us alone while he visited briefly with a few friends or his religious teacher. While normally, children will almost fall over themselves to play with William and Mariama; his main playmates the whole time were the chickens and the goats that he chased after. There was one boy who played with him after we pulled out his soccer ball, but that lasted all of about 20 minutes, and then William was seen kicking the ball by himself. When we went to visit A’s friends, we always had to pass by and greet his religious leader, where you could cut the spiritual darkness with a knife. That night, we did not sleep well due to the spiritual activity. Actually, after fighting with sleep for about 5 hours, I asked God to have our prayer warriors praying for us and covering us with prayer, only then did we get any rest that night. So thank you for the coverage and protection.

That next day we arraigned to meet our friends in the next place we were going to a day early. The whole time we were there, both kids were fussy and did not sleep well, not even a good nap. We were only about 2 minutes out of the village before Mariama fell asleep and slept for over and hour, William lasted about 30 minutes before sleeping for about an hour. We later realized that this village is about 1 hour west of the town of Touba. The spiritual arena in this whole area is VERY active and very dark. This was one of the darkest places I have ever been to.

Thank you for your coverage, and if you were one of the ones that God impressed to pray for us on Thursday evening, especially from about 9pm central time on, I would be interested in knowing that. Thank you for your prayers. To see how the rest of our trip went, see part II below.