Wednesday, January 25, 2012

how are you

Ever had someone ask “how are you?” and you said ’good’ and then they asked “no, really, how are you?” and then you broke down crying?….no? just me?…(like seven times…since I’ve been here….).

Ever had someone ask how you are and you say “good” even though you had been in tears minutes ago?… as your daughter was being taken to the hospital because of progressing cancer….and your two year old granddaughter was taken to a different family member, because your son-in-law had already died two years earlier.

The usually smiling woman that sells fruits and vegetables (with her spunky daughter in tow) was now hacking up fluids into a bucket in her room and unable to talk because she could hardly breathe.  And though the situation of “dying” continues to break my heart, what haunts me is remembering how her mother, though clearly burdened, had answered “well” when walking back to the hospital with us.  I wanted to step in and say “um no, actually, she is not doing okay, her daughter is dying, thanks for asking“.

But that is the typical answer here…even if your family isn’t well, or you’re exhausted, or incredibly sick, and you are in one of the poorest countries in the world, you still answer “healthy“…”not tired“…good.

But when I think about why it’s so haunting, I remember that I do the same thing.

It’s after spending time with people who explain their hearts with authenticity…they're holding patience by a thread, batting away doubts, they felt like they blew it, they’re tired as heck… that I remember it’s not the “I’m a good person” that is encouraging or allows someone to support you, it’s the humility of the honest.

Then I think that we don’t realize how big a problem that is…to not be honestly, humbly real…how it affects fellowship for those who need an I-can-understand-that door for conversation…or our witness to those who assume they have to get well to come to Jesus. Who knows, maybe Jesus wants to butt in sometimes too and say “um, no, actually, she’s not doing okay, I was just crying with her…”.

And since we can share our struggles with the unwavering truth that "My grace is sufficient for you" and "My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9), the people around us can sense the sweet aroma of Christ as we do.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

So as long as we‘re on the subject of true confessions, here are a few…
If I saw that a blog was this long, I would never read it.

People ask me all the time if I’ve figured out what to do next and I still don’t know what to say…I guess eventually you just jump when you reach that crossroad (as in leap of faith, not as in off a cliff).

I miss being able to talk to my mom whenever the heck I wanted (am I supposed to grow out of that?).

Even though I hate having ants all over my counter at night, I like to switch on the lights and practice being a mom yelling at my teenagers for having a house party while I was away.

I like the head wraps because I can wash my hair less (…sorry, too honest?).

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What do you get when...

What do you get when you combine... enthusiasm for spontaneous dance parties
+  the 'teaching you to move it, move it'  skills of my friend, the occupational therapist
+  the missionary women of Niger at a SIM conference?

You guessed it!!!…A FLASH MOB.

If we can find a reason to let loose and shake it in the desert then everyone else around the world should be more than able to whip out their spirited and spontaneous moves...take it as a challenge, people!!

...check out more juicy details from my partner in crime herself.

I will leave you with this  spontaneous-dancing little dude who will be supplying next year's moves.
(...and since I live in Galmi, I will only allow myself to be inspired between the hours of 1 and 5 am because we all know that you tube sucks up way too much internet and I don't want to be shunned...)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Never thought I'd thank God for the language barrier...

Andi, the swiss I'm-in-love-with-you-please-don’t-leave nurse here, and I exchanged a 'we have friends' high-five the other day when a nurse who lives in Galmi invited us over for dinner.

(Side note…Last time, we had these two Nigerien nurse friends over to Andi’s house for dinner...and:
...I ended up in the middle of the room without my skirt as they taught me how to wrap it correctly.
...They ate two bites of their food and then said “oooh, SOOO GOOD” and pushed it away.
...They both finished eating and left two minutes later…I’ve been told its cultural here to linger longer BEFORE eating and leave right after eating.)

So although we joked about only eating a bite of THEIR dish and then leaving, our experience was quite the opposite.

After getting lost on the way there and being fifteen minutes down the road (who knew it was only two minutes from the hospital!!), a young girl, who turned out to be M.'s niece, came up to us out of nowhere and said she would take us to the house.
(Wonder how that conversation went at home: “Go find the only two white people on the street and bring them back here").

Our idea of it being best to leave after we ate was shut down when M. popped in a movie from Nigeria. Well, we thought it was a movie. But four discs later, I was starting to think we were watching an entire season of the Nigerian 'Desperate Housewives'.
(Don’t get me wrong, I was really into it…even though the whole in-English film was being explained to me…and our friends only speak Haussa and French).

But about five episodes later, my system started to reallllly feel that ‘I don’t know what I had two helpings of instead of two bites of'’ delicious meal and unfiltered water. And yes, I was thanking God for my first language when I started telling Andi…"I’m not gonna make it through this”…"we‘re gonna need to go“…and with continued explanation, she realized that I really did need to the bathroom.

So we had to leave before the season finale, BUT we were invited back to finish it.

So we still have confirmed friends! And thanks to language barriers…our exit was still lookin' classy.

Someone told me that God has a sense of humor and we're too afraid to laugh.
…just to clarify, Lord, it wasn’t laughing I was afraid of!

***This will not happen to everyone that eats the food here...I have discovered that my fragile digestive system is best suited for sour patch kids.***

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sweet Applause

I watched an old woman learn to walk today. Although she was old enough to need a walker, she was learning to use one because she no longer had a right leg.

She strained for minutes to lower herself out of bed and finally grasp a contraption she had never seen or probably even heard of before.

Then, she shakily and slowwwwwwwwwly moved the walker in front of her a couple inches.
…And with enthusiastic patience, the occupatonal therapist cheered.

And with pain and great struggle, she slowwwwwwly hopped an inch on her one foot.
…And with joy, the o.t. threw her approving hands in the air.

Once more, and then she took a rest on a stool before trying to move her leg again.
…And the o.t. sat down next to her, clapping and hollering.

I felt God whispering…“That’s how I cheer for you. When you’re getting frustrated and thinking ‘what is this!! and by the way, am I even moving?!’…I’m beside you…applauding”.

No wonder people meet Jesus in this hospital.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

No Skirt Day

I was able to visit my friend who lives in a village (even more remote than Galmi) north of the capital the past see her and another couple’s ministry.

the clinic!!
As I learned about doing ministry in this village, I was also thrilled to see how the simple act of getting to know someone can change your perspective and make the foreign more familiar.

But seriously, my friend lives without power and running water and makes it work!! The outside of a mud hut may look like something you’re not used to living in but on the inside it's quite homey (note: when God hands you a mud hut, paint the inside).  It's much easier to relate to the villagers when you’re sitting with their family in their compound talking about how windy it was yesterday. The couple who started their own clinic and church in the village (awesome, right?!) seem like superheroes until they start fake photo shoots for putting on chapstick, make you chase their van for a ride home, and hysterically laugh in the New Year with you…then realize that they’re secretly really fun, normal people, as well as superheroes.

J. with a healthy baby whose survival she
 prayed for just a few months earlier...

...J. falling off a mountain...
(send in your support!)

But one of my favorite 'things are not always as they appear' stories is when a girl,that I had played duck-duck-goose with the day before showed up with no pants on the next day.

When asked where her skirt was, she replied with “I left it at home!! I DON”T WANNA WEAR MA SKIRT!!” (this is in French but, when I imitate it for people, I prefer to do it in my best 'kid with attitude' English accent). If I could’ve translated ‘you go, girl, this is Africa, run around without cho pants!” into French, I would have.
playing games with some younger girls.
(please see girl in the front of the line)

So even though I don’t want to underestimate the severity of the poverty here, and most of the dusty kids are wearing their only set of clothing…now when I pass a pantsless child, I will always wonder if they own pants or if I should be congratulating them on their day of freedom.

some girls with skirts.

Either way, I am now in the capital (might as well be having culture shock) for a conference with the SIM missionaries of Niger… and guess what phrase I’ve been yelling at my host (/friend) as we get ready every morning?