Tuesday, February 28, 2012

So you want to see what missionary life is like, eh?

This blog site, and this blog specifically, would never be written by a Senegalese.  The Senegalese tend to be surfacey (?) and not always open up very easily.  They say things are OK even if they are not.  To them, it's impolite.  To me, it's inauthentic.  I just can't personally do it.  I don't like putting up a facade when things aren't going well.  I guess when it comes down to it I'm a soft, mushy Westerner.

Let me just drop the bomb:  I found out on Monday morning right before school that my Grandma Ruth (on my dad's side) passed away.  I got wind of her deteriorating condition on Sunday evening and it didn't sound good.  She would probably pass that night.  I fervently prayed against it.  I selfishly wanted to see her again, hug her small frame just once more, and see her smile...just once more.  That wasn't meant to be.  It's been a tough pill to swallow.

Don't get me wrong, I know death is a fact of life.  On top of that, I know she lived a good life...a very good life.  She was the typical Midwestern farm workhorse that put in a good day's work outside (and then some) and cooked well and looked after her own very, very well.  She was morally impeccable.  A woman of her word that couldn't fathom somebody saying they were going to do something and not doing it.  That type of behavior just wasn't on her radar screen.   And her death was a beautiful thing...she had her 2 loving sons at her bedside as she peacefully passed in the night...asleep.  If only all of us could be so lucky.  I could (and maybe should) be celebrating her life.  And I am to a certain degree.  She was a wonderful woman.

But something inside me stirs.  I never heard her mention the name of Jesus once, nor think she believed in Jesus at all and knew Him as her Lord and Savior.  She lived a good life.  She was a good person.  But I am unsettled.  I don't think "goodness" is sufficient.  Jesus said there is no way to the Father except through Him.  I believe that.  And I don't believe that is restrictive.  To me, the door is wide open to all who want to walk through it, and I also believe God willfully allows us to accept or reject that passageway of Christ.  That is what stirs me.  Don't get me wrong, I don't know where she is at.  She may be in our Creator's loving arms.  I don't know.  Thank goodness it's not my job.  Somebody has tried to console me saying, "God has got to love her."  And I believe that, too.  God loved my grandma so much He gave her all her gifts, talents, abilties, blessing her with a good family that had very good means.  And above all, He gave her Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross as payment for her sins.  All she had to do was believe.  Not just be good.  Being "good" is not good enough when you're looking at a holy God.

I don't know?  Maybe it's different...but this is what I can gather from God's written word He gave to us (John 14:6 and Matthew 7:13-23 stick out in my head).  I'd like to believe otherwise.  Maybe C.S. Lewis is on to something in "The Great Divorce" and that is a better picture of heaven/hell than "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (whatever that means) and singing songs all day.  Maybe Rob Bell is right with "Love Wins" and God would not allow one of His creations to choose against Him and He will overpower every person with His love.  I don't know.  It's tough to deal with.  I can tell you that.  And I do believe in a loving, merciful God.  But He is a God of justice as well.  We must hold them in tension.  And we must search out God's word to see what it says, not just what makes us comfortable. 

Something that does console me is the fact that I loved them enough to have a tough talk with both my Grandma Ruth and Uncle James close to 6 years ago.  It wasn't easy, but I at least wanted to shoot them straight, and tell them what I believed was true....telling them the gospel and the necessity of Jesus.  I am not certain what kind of soil that seed fell on.  Maybe it was received and personalized and believed.  I don't know.  And for all of the people reading this, I would encourage you to have those conversations with loved ones.  They are hard.  It may not always be comfortable.  But in my case, I think both my grandma and uncle knew that it came from a loving heart and they respected that.  I respect them both greatly.  I realize it more now that I am away.

So...we wanted to see how missionary life is here in Africa during the year while we're here.  We're finding out:  It's tough.  Unbelievably tough.  The cross can sometimes be too heavy for me to carry.  One of my goals was to deepen my dependency and prayer life.  Well, I guess you get what you pray for...at least I did in this case.  The missionaries that I have talked to say losing loved ones is one of the toughest things about being away from home.  I would wholeheartedly agree.  Unfortunately.

Now...I don't write this for sympathy or anything like that.  I write this to encourage.  To light a fire maybe.  Tough conversations are good.  Please have them...in a gentle...respectful ...and always loving way!  Thank you for your prayers


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This Is Africa (TIA)

so...long, rough days happen anywhere.  had one today.  this is part venting, part "typical Africa experience."  Let me explain...

First, flexibility is the name of the game out here.  It sure came in handy today. 

-11:15 -  4th hr.  class is almost finishing up.  the girls soccer coach comes and asks if I have a minute.  I say "sure," because really, who doesn't just have a minute.  she proceeds to tell me that the team that they were supposed to be playing in their senior night game after school at 4pm backed out (for the 2nd time) and they needed an opponent.  Input the middle school/Freshman boys soccer coach (that's me fyi).  She wants to know if we can field a team. I say, "Let's find out."
- I call an impromptu lunch meeting to see how many guys we have.  find out we have 5 "yes"s and 8 "no"s given the short notice.
- start asking kids around school at lunch who hang out near my room to see if they want to play.  we find 8 ready participants.  That makes 13. Game on! We can make this work.
- 3:05 I walk out of a meeting.  Find out that the girls' preferrred opponent just called our AD and backs into the game for the 3rd time. they are on their way.  Game over for the boys. (which was fine by me...as I didn't want to have to put forth the effort to do this)
- 3:15 rolls around.  ding-a-ling!!!! school's out.  The guys are amped up to play the varsity girls.
- 3:20- I tell the eager boys as they are warming up we probably won't play despite the team saying they are on their way.  you never know, though. hang around and we'll find out.
- 3:24 - get wind of the team pulling up to the school.
- 3:25 - break it to the guys that the other team is here and it's for sure now we won't play.  much disappointment displayed but they go their separate ways.
- i put the jerseys and everything back.  get ready to head home to finally see faith, charlie, maeve.
- 3:30 - I run into the asst. coach.  he informs me the school sent their guys' team, not the girls team (which has happened 2 times already for them over the course of their 8-game season)...and yes, our AD speaks very good French.  anyways, you know what that means....game on!
- 3:35 - I round up the boys, get the jerseys, game is back on.
- 3:38 - I check out a car, go home, get the girls so they can get outside a bit. drive back.
- 3:57 - I run onto the field.  Coach a game with a ragtag bunch of boys.
- 6:05 - I go home mentally and physically exhausted.  TIA

Sunday, February 12, 2012

another one bites the dust

thankfully 2nd semester has been steadier than the 1st semester.

the heat is gone.

 we know the area and how to get around.

we are involved but not overwhelmed.

stability is a breath of fresh air. 

fresh air, on the other hand has been hard to come by this week.

the harmattan winds are upon us.  what is harmattan you ask?  ...well let my good friend encyclopedia brittanica tell you:

harmattan, hot, dry wind that blows from the northeast or east in the western Sahara and is strongest in late fall and winter (late November to mid-March). It usually carries large amounts of dust, which it transports hundreds of kilometres out over the Atlantic Ocean.
harmattan. (2012). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/255457/harmattan

tuesday was to be a school 5k race but  it was post-poned. no one wants to run in a stagnant cloud of dust. good call administration.

Dust taken on Monday last week (thanks, Stan, for the pics)

same vantage point taken on Friday last week