Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ramblings from an African Recluse

I’m hiding out tonight.

An idea of what it means to hide out in Africa:
1. Sneak away from dinner to go lay down while the room is empty
2. Get asked (very thoughtfully and genuinely) if I’m ok by 4 different people.
3. Start sweating as windows are closed for the night and room fills up with people.
4. Get called out of bed for a meeting to prepare for class tomorrow.
5. Sneak away after productive meeting to take a walk.
6. Have conversation with guard who doesn’t like the idea of me taking a walk at sunset.
7. Return from walk being greeted by teammates asking what we should do tonight
8. Report that I’m having a hermit night and go searching to find who borrowed my iPod
9. Pick up crying baby and carry her around to talk to everyone on base until iPod is found
10. Finally come to hide out in room with a book and a computer
11. Again, room fills up with people and a rousing discussion about chocolate, the Princess and the Frog and the endless entertainment of the one and only Pinkie.
12. The room finally calms down for a few minutes – except for Pinkie’s entering, exiting, announcements and blowing kisses 5 times in a row.
13. Wheeeeeee! Rebekah just came in and announced that they are showing a movie in the classroom. She’s currently describing the movie in our room to Lisi, but there is promise of an hour or so of being ALL BY MYSELF!
14. Wait… Lanie just came in and I’m pretty sure she’s talking to me. Pausing iPod.
15. Ahhh…. This-Is-Africa

Coming up on the one-month mark here in Africa! I left Jan 12th and arrived Jan 14th. I can’t believe how time has flown by. Sometimes it feels like I’ve always lived here.

Most days, I’m both amazed and incredibly entertained at how much I’m learning about different cultures as each day goes by. With every day I become increasingly more aware of how much more there will always be to learn.

This week I had to laugh as I was trying to read one of our assigned books, Foreign to Familiar by Sarah Lanier. It’s a book comparing aspects of “hot- and cold-climate cultures”, comparing relationship-oriented cultures to task-oriented cultures by discussing different dimensions, including communication, hospitality, time, etc. The pages were coming to life as I read in Africa, the “hottest-climate” culture I’ve ever been in.

I stayed on page 79 for two days! It’s not that page 79 was full of big words or so interesting I had to read it over and over again. It’s that people always take place over “task” when living in a “hot-climate culture”, especially here on base where there is no space to be by yourself. (I think this is the first time I’ve ever been in the room by myself – and since I’ve been writing, 2 other people have already come in to chat.)

Before the first paragraph of page 79, I had been joined poolside by a girl who wanted to share a grapefruit and chat. Then the pool filled up with children wanting to play monster. (You have to play monster.) Hours and ½ a paragraph later, another girl wanted to take a walk and pray together. Before I even picked the book up again, we had to carry jugs of water across base. Tried to pick up at paragraph 1 ½ the next morning, but was offered coffee (you always say yes to coffee). And so on, and so on…

What better way to absorb the information than to be experiencing it as you read, right?

I am really and truly delighted to be here in a culture that simply just could not describe their day based on time slots in a planner, but based on conversations and interactions. I’m a very relational person, but it’s definitely a lot to get used to!

Some of you know that, when I’m in the States, I “run away” with Jesus at least once a week. I love to go places where no one knows where I am – my mountain rock, my secret Jesus beach, or even just a long drive. I like to sing REALLY loud. Sometimes there’s dancing. And cartwheels. Journaling. Reading. Crying. Rejoicing. Anything goes on secret Jesus dates.

Not having time or space to get away has been a real adjustment, and I think I’m just now getting to the point that I feel overwhelmed by it sometimes. I felt a bit "off" all day today and, for once, I think it wasn’t actually the food, but just feeling… too much. Is that a feeling?

I’ve noticed that I feel more tired than normal without the solo recharge times I’m accustomed to.

This is no sob story though, people… because what’s been even more significant to me is remembering that in the States I would often run myself ragged trying to maintain community and stay connected in a society that thrives on individualism. I’m learning about myself and balance here.

I really, really LOVE being surrounded by these incredible people. I get to read a bedtime story every night to the girls from the Jesus Storybook Bible that Erin gave me; I don’t think I’ve laughed so much since the red couch Couchercise days in the Chang; and Marcella is always ready to give a hug. And does it get any better than being in a breathtakingly beautiful country surrounded by people all seeking to know Jesus and make Him known… and that’s life here!?! It’s all we’re here to do. As I adjust, the pros always outweigh the cons and I always come back to reflecting on gratefulness, joy and the value of the experience.

Our daily activities start at 8am and I’ve been getting up at 5:30am each morning to have a little bit of quiet time before others on the base wake up. I don’t have much time alone, but it’s more quiet than normal until about 7am, and I’m thankful for that.

Just think, we’re only one month in. By the time I go back to the States, I will be driving all of you crazy with my African-sized relational needs. I’ll be trying to hold your hand, eat your food and will make sure to always be in physical contact with you no matter how hot it gets. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Please pray for me as I continue to adjust to cultures, languages, experiences, food, and especially space. I have truly felt your prayers here, and I’m thankful that you’ve taken time to come alongside me and read my blog.

I’m excited about our speaker this week and will be posting more (and a movie night suggestion) this weekend.

Also pray for an opportunity that may be coming up for me to do some play therapy with a couple of highly abused children living in foster care at a ministry down the road. Pray for healing communication without language, and that the children begin experiencing the healing and restoring love of Christ.

One last prayer request is simply for mercy and provision in details. My mom was given the gift of a trip to come visit me here before leaving for Zambia. (Amazing, I know!!!) Please pray that the details work out on both ends and that God will come before her, with her, and behind her, creating a life-giving and transforming experience for everyone involved. Also, continue to pray for our leaders as they continue giving and setting the details for our outreaches to Zambia and Jo-burg.

Thank you! I love you!


  1. I'm praying for some quiet time for you and Jesus! Don't be surprised when it's the time you least expect it. This is Brittany Ginn's mom. I'm so proud of all of you!!!