Saturday, June 26, 2010

The butcher's counter

I had and experience today that reminded me of an old friend whom I dearly love and respect. I was standing at the butcher’s counter in the grocery store, trying to figure out what I knew how to cook while Jenn is away. The guy behind the counter with whom we’ve chitchatted at various times looked at me said, “You teach music don’t you.”
“No,” I replied, “I have taught math on occasion but mostly I teach theology.”
“Oh, you mean like the Bible.”
“Are you protestant? I have a bible somebody gave me a long time ago, and I like to read it but you know sometimes Jesus says things that I just don’t understand, could you explain it to me?”
I now have an appointment Sunday afternoon to visit him and his wife to talk about the Bible. That unexpected moment took me back to some debates that happened in my former church. When I first started there, our denominational handbook suggested that pastors should make 15 visits a week. (It was changed a year or two later.)None of the pastors I had known made that many calls in a week and the pastors I knew seemed to suggest that it was a ministry model from a bygone era. However some church members figured it was “in the Manual” and ought to be done. After all, Rev. Knoll did it.
At that time, John Knoll was a retired pastor participating in our church. Early on he’d taken me around to meet people in the community, and prayed with me weekly. I appreciated him and still do. During the time that I was wrestling with the issue someone commented to me, “Oh yeah, if John sees someone in the grocery store and says “hi,” he counts that as a visit.” I’ve never asked John how he “counted” his visits but I can see something like that being true. You see Rev. Knoll is someone who always lives “on mission.” I can believe John would have taken notice of a chance conversation at a grocery store, because he is always looking for opportunities that the Lord is putting in his path, takes every opportunity to follow them up. That’s one reason why I respect him.
I know there are times when I’m ready to retreat. I’ve punched in my time card and my shift is over and I want to just check out for awhile. But being a Christian is not a nine-to-five job, and often God puts opportunities where we’d least expect them, including the butcher’s counter at the grocery store. I don’t know where this opportunity will lead but I’m trying to stay, “on mission” regardless.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The weekend from Ouaga...

It’s been the weekend from … Ouaga. (Pronounced “waga”—kind of like Fozzy Bear on the Muppets—‘waga-waga’). It was a last minute impulsive decision to get away for a weekend. Jenn’s going to Germany to study. For a couple of weeks at the end of the month and I’m hoping to road trip with the boys to Ghana in order to find a beach. Thursday morning Jenn suggested we take off after I finishing teaching Friday to Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina. It’s about a 7-hr drive to a little step up the development ladder. The guest house is cheap and we could hideout and read books and maybe watch a DVD on the laptop. Someone had told me there was a new go-karts place in town too. It might be our only time away this summer as a family.
Friday morning Jenn tied down a few loose ends while I taught my class on the General Epistles. After the last of my students cleared out, I pumped up a soft tire and we were on the road. The road isn’t that bad, only a couple of rough spots with pot holes but they seem pretty good at fixing them up regularly. We’d pick up Visas the night before and so the border crossing was relatively simple. I made good time doing 100-130 km/h on the road with the occasional slow down as we came into small communities. The country side got greener almost as soon as we crossed the border. We were almost there, about 20 minutes from our destination and Bessie decided the grass was greener on the other side. Lumbering up onto the road, she seemed oblivious to my horn honking. At the last minute she seemed to clue in that something was coming but instead of stopping or turning around she bolted into my lane as my tires squealed. The cow’s nose caught my front signal light and her horn caught my windshield. My car slid to a stop, and with my side mirror dangling, I looked to see the large bovine lying in the road behind us. I sat there for a few moments not knowing what to do. In Niamey, I’d heard that owners sometimes expect you to pay for the animal if you hit it on the road. (Later in the weekend, a friend told us the local law stipulates that owners are responsible to keep their livestock off the road, and that in fact the herder had probably hid in the bushes when he saw the accident.) A local on bicycle off to the side just stood staring with his mouth open. The cow wasn’t his but no one else seemed to be around. First the head came up and then Bessie, with the wobbly legs of a new-born (re-born?) calf, stood up and lumbered off the road once more.
Saturday we did some light shopping, picked up some books for the church library, and borrowed some scotch tape to patch up the windshield and mirror. We never did find the new go-karts place but instead were directed to an old dilapidated kiddy amusement park where most of the rides didn’t work. Ben decided to try the blow up bouncy house and was having a great time until he landed the wrong way on his foot and started to wail, “I’m paralyzed! Help me! I’m dying!” A cold coke seemed to help the hypochondriac get over his ailments enough to try out the paddle boats.
Monday morning he did not fare so well. Around 5 AM I heard a yell and rush for the toilet followed by the telltales that this was no imaginary illness. After that none of us were sure that we were feeling alright but so far have done alright. Ben however has been “roaring at both ends” as my brother would say, and it looks like we may need to post-pone our trip home a day. At least Jenn was able to buy a pair of “Leo Poldo” underwear that were marked XL, but looked like they might barely fit Ben at a nearby street vender to help with some of the “roaring”.
PS. In hanging running errands in Ouaga today, I noticed a popping noise every time I turned. I popped the hood with another missionary and discovered that power steering fluid was missing its cap and was probably missing fluid as well. I don’t know how long that has been the case but it’s probably better that I didn’t drive home with it in that condition. For that we are thankful.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sunday Surprises

We had a really interesting start to our week this week, around 4:30 am Sunday morning I woke up and decided that I needed to check that the door to the roof wasn’t locking the kids out. They had decided to sleep on the roof when the power which had been off most of the day still wasn’t on when they went to bed. I got to the door when I thought I heard a hard rainfall, only to realize that it was the shower flowing hard. I took one step out of my bedroom calling Dave while I realized that I was standing in an inch of water. Our water had quit about the time the power had gone off on Saturday morning and Dave had thought that it was starting to come back on in the night. So he had set up the big garbage bin that we use for a water reservoir in the shower to fill, but went to bed forgetting that the tap was on. Some time in the night the water had come on again and had flooded most of our houses (in some places an inch deep), by the time that I discovered it. Dave and I bailed out the house for the next two hours and there was a part of me that wanted to get really mad and blame him for the situation, but all I could think of was “of course this has to happen on a Sunday morning when Dave is going to be training some leaders in the church to teach and preaching in the evening and I am going to be teaching Sunday school!” It must have been the grace of God all around because despite going to bed miserable about the electricity and waking up to a flood the boys were actually in good spirits. Cole even encouraged me by saying “you know mom, with all the water that will be evaporating because of this the rains should come again sooner and we have been praying for rain!” He was right but this wasn’t what I had in mind. Thanks to all of you that have been praying for us through this difficult hot season, it could be easy to get disillusioned and discouraged, but you have carried us with your prayers and we are reminded over and over that these circumstances are temporary.

This was the last week of school for the boys. So it was marked with a special Gr.6 banquet (Gr. 7 is the year that the students move over to the high school building) that was Cole’s farewell to elementary school. They also had an awards ceremony at the year end assembly where the boys each received bible memory verse awards. They are looking forward to sleeping in now that they don’t have to be up at 6am to get to school, but I’m not sure that they are looking forward to the extra chores that they will be responsible for now that they will have some free time. I have the opportunity to start my masters through Philadelphia Biblical University’s satellite campus in Kandern, Germany this summer (I was granted a 50% scholarship!). This is a MS Ed that has a lot of international education components, which I am hoping will help with our ministry here and bible components that I need for satisfying my ministerial candidate requirements. So I will be going to Germany for three weeks from June 18-July11. Please pray that I will be able to make the most of my time there and that I will be able to get the pre-course work and assignments done without too much difficulty. Also, pray for Dave and the boys, they are planning to go on a “road trip” while I am away and are going to see if our car can make it to Ghana and back –hopefully in one piece. Also, please pray for a team that is supposed to be coming from Canada at the end of July as they have been having some difficulties.