Saturday, October 3, 2009

African TIme Management

I feel like I had my day hijacked yesterday. Interruptions and change of plans are a part of life in Niger, but it is one thing when you don’t have a lot on your agenda and different when you have lots of things planned. Early in the week Dave came to me and asked if we could talk through the events of the coming week because it was going to be a very busy one. So we looked at the calendar and made some plans. Thursday is the day that I have the car to do what I need to. I usually take the boys to school so that I can stay for the Mom’s prayer meeting and then go on to a meeting with my accountability partner. In addition to that, I had made arrangements with a Nigerienne friend to go shopping and had a meeting scheduled for later in the afternoon. Dave usually takes that time to have some extra study time, write his devotional for the bible study that he has been leading on Thursday evenings and I thought that he would really want to guard that time yesterday because he would be reviewing his class notes for Friday morning (this week he starts to teach his class at the bible school again). But no, he decided that he needed to go with me so that he could get some work done for his class on Friday at the school (the bible school is next door to the boys’ school). However, instead of getting the photocopying and things done that he had planned on while I was in my prayer meeting. He got distracted with talking to various people. Now to his credit, part of the problem is that the photocopier at the bible school wasn’t working, but 2 ½ hrs later after I had had both my prayer meeting and my accountability meeting Dave still hadn’t done his photocopying at the boys’ school or anywhere else.

Needless to say, from there on I was about 2 ½ hours behind for the rest of the day, which thinking about it in retrospect is typical for living on African time (however that means I completely missed my afternoon meeting which was not being run by Africans!). African time means that you take the time for people because the relationships are much more important than anything else. So when you show up late for an appointment or have an “African rendezvous” (as my Nigerienne friend calls it, when you make an appointment with someone and they don’t show up) that is just accepted. I guess I am still wrestling with my North American background, because I am slowly coming to terms with things starting late and people arriving late (Dave has helped a lot with that because he has lived most of his life on African time, without knowing it!), but I still have a hard time when I am the one who is late or misses the appointments. It reminds me of some things that I read a number of years ago about time management. I am not sure who the author or original speaker was, but they said that if you find yourself over worked and unable to cope with all of the jobs and roles that you have, you need to stop and ask what am I doing that isn’t God’s will for my life because God promises that He will provide if we are in His will. Often there are many good things that come along that we want to do and that can seem like the right things to do, but if they aren’t God’s will they can become a burden or a distraction from what He would have us do. In this way, my African brothers and sisters have their priorities right because they put people first, but I am still not sure when I have a day like Thursday which was mismanagement/ lack of communication on my part and which was God’s rearranging my will to fit His.

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