Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Plastic Bags

I’ve been told that a main reason we hire house helpers and gardeners here is because we have the means to provide people with jobs, so we should. But even though we provide them with work, my goshhhh, they provide the rest. I come back to my home twice a week and screamthink “THANK YOU, JESUS, FOR THIS BLESSED WOMAN WHO DOES MY LAUNDRY AND MY DISHES AND SWEEPS MY FLOOR FOR ME!!!”…(sometimes cleaning bores me).

Not only that, but I have the angel house helper. Rumor has it she is very much in love with God, and it shows (literally, in my house). While everyone else’s laundry is still hanging on the line after lunch, mine is not only taken down, but neatly folded in my room. Every dish and plastic bag of mine are not only washed but put away. She cleans my stove and mats when I don’t ask her to, including an outside doormat…(what is dirtier than a doormat here?!).

The crazy part is that as she weekly goes beyond the requirements, she hardly ever sees me to get praise for it. Even if she does, she knows that (with my little Hausa) I would not be able to thank her with more than one line.

So in efforts to say “I think I’m in love with you” against a language barrier, I always leave her items that I’ve heard are appreciated. Usually, I am gone before she arrives at my house, but today she came early and all I had was a plastic bag of extra chicken meat and bones.

She looked in the bag, gasped, and then looked at me and said “na gode” (thank you)…

She then proceeded to look to heaven, tear up, slap her hands into a prayerful clasp and say thank you twice more, this time to God.

I was shocked. Even now I recap and hope that my mouth didn’t drop open.

The biggest and most obvious shock was that something I wouldn’t think twice about, leftovers of a scrawny chicken, would be needed enough to cause such a reaction.

But for those of you who weren’t there to see it (aka everyone), it was such a shock to see her heart be so immediately overwhelmed with thanks to her Giver. I mean her face shone “CURRENTLY WORSHIPPING“.

Much later came the realization that my house also cleanly shines "currently worshipping" every time I step home. Whether by washing plastic bags or receiving them, being thanked in person or noticed by only One, this woman makes her daily steps an act of worship. And the overflow of that has been blessing me!

Are we all in love with her now or what?! Permission granted for you to start collecting camels too.

Galatians 1:10
Am I trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Friday, November 25, 2011

when America's adventures meet Africa...

You think I would've been really homesick on Thanksgiving, but no, I am homesick the day after Thanksgiving…the day where I join two of my most favorite females on the planet (my mother and sister), wake up in the middle of the night (huge fan of night expeditions), and then do some bargain hunting…all in the name of Christmas gifts for the five excited children left at home. OH THE PAIN OF MISSING OUT ON THAT ADVENTURE WITH THEM!!! I would place it just below how much I miss McDonalds and just above how much I miss watching Bears games (should i not admit to missing those things?).

So in honor of this day, I recruited a couple women to celebrate with me at the market…and bargain like we’ve never bargained before.

I am pleased to say that I almost got the full Black Friday experience.

The parking lot was full....

the crowd could get overwhelming...


                           Snag a deal at Payless...?                      ...or Forever 21...?

Anyone up for a little snack of locust?...
....or a stop at Mcdonalds???

        (...but seriously, this is the guy I buy my meat from)

And then head home with a full car...

 ...or atleast with somethin'.

...(mom and Chel...I have no doubts in you.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Party in the U.S.A?!

At a team meeting last night, a woman said that as we are praising the Lord, the enemy is not going to want to stick around. Thanksgiving seems to be quite the part-ay to remind us of that.

So even though we celebrated here a couple weeks ago (between the U.S. and Canada holiday), I’ll have you know that my heart will be partying hard right next to you Americanos tomorrow!!

And my heart’s been warming up because I’ve recently been rejoicing more THAT…

…one of my modes of transportation is not riding on camels cuz they are so slow and they make my thighs sore for days.
 …I still get ‘Party in the U.S.A.’ stuck in my head.
…God appreciates all my prayers even if I’m only saying things like “nice” or “good one” or “really??!!!”
…I get to be the child and He is the Father.
…my mom made me bring a sewing kit because I am shredding clothes fast. Thanks, mom!!!
…despite troubles and joys, God has taught me to add ‘just as it is’ after thanking Him for my life or a situation or a person.
…I don’t mind bugs or snakes too much (my neighbor would disagree) but that some others do, because watching them freak out is quite the supply of hidden laughter and entertainment for me.
…God created senses of humor and they can get you through a lot more than just a comedy movie.
… God breaks my heart for what breaks His.
…‘break and bake’ exists, even if not here.
…I have received no judgment for the recent peeling by my hairline that gives me bad dandruff.
…I’m not surrounded by  “good people” but people who know God’s goodness, and yikes that is more enduring.
…I get a wintry feeling when my Nigerien second grader shows up to school with gear I would wear sledding (because it’s “so cold”?!? in the mornings).
…kids say the darndest things.
…the lines between needs and wants are getting less blurry.
…I don‘t want to fall in love with my life, I want to fall in love with Jesus.
…my closest two neighbors said they don’t mind when I blast my music (probably will live to regret it).
…God DOES make His presence felt. He DOES speak to our hearts. He DOES show us His goodness.
…I haven’t taken my malaria pill in quite some time but I still don’t have malaria (…I’m gonna get so much heat for this, I’m SORRY, I’ll start today, I keep forgetting!)
…I have the movie “The Proposal” and every short term girl who has come and gone has loved its entertaining relief and I’m pretty sure it’s Kelsey A.’s and this is how she is finding out I have it….
…the smallest thing “can make my day” or, even better, make someone else’s day.

Or better said, “Give thanks in ALL circumstances for this is GOD’S WILL for you in Christ Jesus”!  1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

M-r-s Degrees

Quick shout out to Taylor University for preparing me for all the marriage talk that takes place in this country.

I have had more than one proposal (can’t wait to pull  a few comments like “eh, I’ve had better offers” whenever I get a guy that I actually like to go down on one knee).
(translated from French ):“Tell your friend to marry me.”…(then in English to me): ”I have three camels”.
Me: “Oh, sorry, my dad wants 5,000 camels?”
Few moments of silence: “Five or five thousand?”
Me: "Five thousand."
Man (laughing): "I don’t have!"
And we both said smiling farewells….so needless to say, if you make the right jokes, they take rejection pretty darn well.

A few hours later, at the church youth night (which is also known as ‘singles group' and I was warned to not speak to the boys if I wanted to make friends), we learned that their Christmas skit was about a young woman who had an arranged marriage but she didn’t marry for love and divorced. I am still open for suggestions as to the moral of the story and what it has to do with Christmas.

(Added story: I was horrified when I nudged the Nigerien girl next to me when they were taking volunteers for the main part and she said “no, YOU” louder than my “you”, and then the group proceeded to try to get me to do it. Thank goodness “no Haussa“ got me out of that one pretty quickly.
…I guess they don’t need the typical angel or wise men parts, but maybe I’ll still get to be a flower girl or something.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Top Three Screams

I have accumulated many great 'Why is This Kid Screaming’ stories, but here are three favorites:

1.      A kindergartener, who I work one on one with every day often has trouble remembering my name. His mom told me that he prays for me every night, but after struggling, can only refer to me as “the girl”. I started asking and reminding him of my name every day. Finally, he came into the classroom, ran right up to me, and said, “hi”, and then as loud as he could…“auntie JENNNAAYYYY!!!!” His mom told me that the first thing he proudly proclaimed when he got home was…”I remembered the girl’s name today.”

2.      I do a little thing called “after school squeezes”, where I give each kid a hug after school. With a classroom full of mainly boys, I usually have to chase them down to fulfill the rule. I mentioned it one day when I was amongst a large group of kids, and while all the boys were scrambling around in circles, I heard a voice from the middle of the group scream, “I WOULD LIKE ONE!!!” I looked over and saw the youngest of the clan, a four year old (not even in school with us), standing in the center of the room with his arms squished by his sides, eyes squeezed closed, and chin up, ready to take on his hug.

3.      In church, because I don’t understand the language, my eyes often wander. This particular time, they latched onto a toddler who was in the back of the room, standing alone. I watched him wander down the aisle, looking down each row, and when he arrived right below the preaching pastor, he swiveled around, planted his feet, and screamed, “MAMAAAAA?!!?”.  Others quietly motioned to a corner of the room, where one voice reacted. Of course, I had to spend the next thirty minutes trying to distract my thoughts from the event, with my hand clasped over my mouth to stifle any escaping laughter.

Who woulda thought you could enjoy kids screaming?? The more I hang out with children, the more pumped I am that God wants me to be “humbled like a child“ (Matt. 18:4) so that I can
rejoice in my small victories instead of  saying “took me long enough” and beating myself up the days I forget.
…proclaim at any random moment during my day, “I WOULD LIKE ONE, LORD!!!!!” and then stand there, not doing anything to deserve it, and receive a hug.
…be authentic enough to stop, look around, and admit not just to myself  but others around me, SHOOOOOOT!!!...I'm LOST. so I can get directed back to my Parent.

    (Me: “Why is it taking you so long to start journaling about ‘one sport you would like to be good at’?”
    Student: “I can’t think of one sport that I’m not already really amazing at!”
     …question is does God roll His eyes after we give Him a good laugh too?… )

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

a walk through the village...


these boys are faithful little companions and so cheerful.

don't you wish you were invited?! did i!!
just cuz i'm in love with her.

proof of the beauty in the desert!

Monday, November 7, 2011

New Investments

Something I wasn’t expecting coming to Galmi: there are a lot of people that come and go. And so far, in my personal opinion, it has been mainly ladies my age. Great part is that the understanding of both the laughter and trouble here brings people together quickly. Bad news is: friends leave!

Since arriving a month or so ago, my time has been enriched with many wonderful women from all over the world…a swiss medical student, a romanian pharmacist, a swiss nurse (find reason to travel to the Alps…check), and a surgery resident from the U.S.

Then one by one, week by week, I found myself helping a different friend prepare to go back home.

The past two weeks, I was blessed with yet another incredible woman, a confident yet humble emergency doctor from North Carolina. We shared laughter, struggles, prayer, food, then today, I hugged her goodbye.

It’s a strange feeling to watch your friend take off to the familiar then realize you are still standing there. And whether they stay two weeks or two months, I find myself sobbing or at least in tears when they leave.  I don’t cry because I want to go too but because I will sincerely really miss them.

After another emotional hug, a long term missionary came up beside me and asked if I was okay.  I replied with a tearful “I guess it’s worth it”, and without me having to explain, she wrapped her arm around me and said confidently, “yes it is, because it is an investment in their lives.”

I hadn’t thought of friendship as an investment...but the feeling I get when people leave is quite the confirmation that it is. Though the time, food, and emotional investments are temporary… yay for the awareness that Christ is being modeled for each other and the growth that comes from that, the eternal investments.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dear Africa...

Dear African heat,

Today you beat me to the ground. Literally.

First, I woke up this morning two hours early because your stinkin’ temperature made it too uncomfortable to sleep.

Then, I was so tired from waking up before the crack of dawn (and had plent-ay of time) that I made instant iced coffee. You knew that would dehydrate me. And I walked around woozy at school despite downing many a nalgene bottle.

And THEN, when I got home, my filtered water spout had only the tiniest drip coming out of it, probably because the gardeners were out and about watering the veggie gardens you dried out . Also, I burnt just about every finger trying to light the stove …that part’s not your fault but whatever.

Clever of you to make the power go out for a longer amount of time today, so that the fans weren’t working, so that I would feel you more.

Way to then trick me into thinking I would be fine because, even though it was constant, I was only sweating a little.

All this led to your real victory when I got up from my chair and splatted on the ground in a dizzy spell, which you’ve pulled on me many times before, but this time blacked out and woke up with my friend freaking out and asking if I was alive (even though she is a medical student and was hopefully aware that I was still alive).

Dang you, African heat. Today you win. But I’ve already chugged a nalgene and placed a full water container in my fridge. Let’s just say, I’m so ready to own you tomorrow.

Bring it,

P.s: Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of the paper fan I just made.

2 Corinthians 12:30. If I must boast, I  will boast of the things that show my weakness.  
…but it’s still on, Africa.