Coffee along the way

Coffee along the way
Coffee along the way

September 30, 2014

Africa





Africa can at times be such an assault to the senses.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Africa.  In fact I was born here and have lived most of my life here.  But still, outside of my own country, way down in the South and my own culture, it can be quite pleasant but up here??  Up here, Africa attacks the senses.
Take this morning for instance.  We live in a very small village in the North of this country.  The police do not even know the name of our village.  Immigration has no idea of our village’s name and we just put our place of abode as the larger one of these small villages which they might have heard of but never have visited.  Even our road running through the village only connects us to other smaller villages going nowhere.  Actually the road ends after 2 hours of driving.  In two words; small village.
Picture by Christiaan

So you would think Peace and Quiet.  Nope.  Wrong.  No Peace and no Quiet.  Lots of noise and shouts and screams, parties and what-nots.  Sometimes All Night long!
This morning I was listening to the just-returned swallows as I was opening my Bible for my Quiet time, when suddenly extremely Loud Music filled the air. Ah, Campaigning!!   And this at 6 o’ clock!  Loud music screaming in my ears about going all over the world and I think something to do with an ache in the back and there was also a mother in there somewhere…..an attack on my ears for sure!  Haha my Y sure has improved if I can hear some words in the songs they play!  But be that as it may, it wasn’t encouraging to me at the time. 
Smells, people bustling all around without any thought to a personal space, bright light and strange tasting food.  They go all out for all 5 senses! 

So this wonderful Tuesday morning we are trying to do school with surround sound!!  Oh and did I mention there are now two sets of songs going on at the same time??  Try and do Math or Science or even fill in a cross word puzzle with all this going on!  My youngest actually made his Math way more complicated than was ever asked for! 

Here is another example for you….some might feel a bit homesick for Africa right about now, I guess, but I long for clean lines, quiet, orderly dust free surroundings.  But back to my example….

We went on this adventure, where we used a huge ferry boat on Lake Malawi going to an island.  An island without a dock.  Boarding was quite uneventful.  We just walked up the gangplank.  No problem.  It was getting back to shore where the problem lay.  In Africa they do things quite strange at times.  This is how it is done - the life boats are lowered , on which it says very clearly, only 22 persons (sic) and then everyone jumps as fast as they can onto it with 50kg bags of corn, dried fish, flattened cardboard (for more fish) bread, drinks of various flavours and alcoholic percentages, suitcases etc.  When the lifeboat is quite filled up with people and stuff (many more than 22) they make for shore.  Just above water level.  Don’t rock the boat gets new meaning.





When the ferry’s own boat leaves all kinds of little boats pull up to the side of the rocking ferry and whoever is either dumb enough or desperate enough can then jump on and are rowed to shore for a price, of course!  But to get into the boats there lays the trick – even the ones you need to pay you have to be strong and definitely NOT claustrophobic as I found out!  You push your way down a small staircase with people going up and down sometimes over your head!!  Then onwards to a tiny opening, climbing over bags of rice, corn and fish down a hanging swinging ladder fighting your way through the owners of said corn, rice and fish.  Frantically hoping I will not lose a child in all of this pushing, shoving and jumping and maneuvering into small spaces.  Oh and of course you have to do all this with your backpack and stuff in your arms (food mostly, as adventures in Africa always require food).  Luckily for me, my children are quite tall, so one formed the front and with a tall frame opened up a way for us while the other tall one covered the rear and the youngest talked me through it all. A party of 4 weary travelers.  I was totally freaked out by the time we reached shore with all the shouting, shoving and people sitting kind of on top of me.  But it was not over yet.  On shore we had to all jump on the back of a small pick-up truck with 10 other people and all our stuff, bumping along the road to our destination.  I was lucky here as I sat in the front listening to the scratching of gears and feeling how the poor vehicle scrapes the bottom of many rocks.  So many attacks on one’s senses.

But I guess therein lies the beauty of Africa.  On a good day when I drive through our largest town and see all the confusion, dust and dirt it looks kind of nice.  Nothing is ever predictable here.  Rules are there but no-one really adheres to them.  The sun shines with extreme brilliance.  There is little order except in endless paperwork (probably left over from the West in any case).  People come and go at all hours in and in all manners of transport – inside and outside of the minibus.  Shops are everywhere – markets are held mostly on the main roads with no regard to cars.  Laws of nature are mostly disregarded but it seems many do survive this despite really dangerous contraptions – like in the case of electricity or extra diesel tanks feeding the truck while driving from the back……I can go on, but I guess you get the point! 

Too much of a good thing ….  I long for order, neatness, quietness and cleanliness.  J  But I live in Africa.  And it is Wild here.  Loud and noisy.  And I guess I like it, even if it does tries my nerves at times to the extreme!  :)  Africa, somehow or the other, it gets under your skin and you can’t get rid of it even if it is a pesky thing.

Bella, I think I might plug my ears for a bit and close my eyes too and sit far from anyone.  :)

September 18, 2014

Thirst...


A picture in my mind….
I am looking out of the window and I see a dry, dusty land – Africa in the Dry Season.  The few green plants are all covered with a greyish paleness.  All the trees have lost their leaves.  It is the dry season and there are still a few months to go before the rains comes.  Dry and dusty. 

River beds only have a suggestion left of where the water once flowed.  The wind picks up the dust and blows it over everything.  The dead leaves aimlessly follow the wind.
And there I am with my little plastic orange spade, digging for water.  I bend down, lick the ground – nothing!  I dig a bit deeper - find a drop and very carefully scoop it up with a teaspoon and place it gingerly in the cracked teacup…where it all leaks promptly out into the thirsty soil!  I frantically lick again at the cup’s chipped edge – nothing!  I try again, dig, dig, dig.  My plastic spade hits a rock, not even big, and disintegrates into handle and a few orange splinters.  I look at my teacup and see a drop of liquid.  I tilt the cup as far as I can without losing sight of the drop and try and aim for my parched mouth.  A single drop, tainted by dust and dirt and it sticks in my throat.  Not quenching the unbearable thirst, only adding to it…..

Meanwhile in the background there is this rushing sound.  Kind of wild and full of Life.  I turn my stiff neck at last towards the sound.  It is Water!  But not just Water – it is a gushing, rushing, wild current River!  Right there next to my little hole and empty cracked teacup!  The wind that blows over it smells sweet – like things are about to change, smells of Life and Green!  I stand up and stumble over.  I fall on my knees and stick my whole head into this wonderful rushing stream and I am drinking, washing and laughing all at the same time! 

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the Spring of Living Water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13
In real life, how do I get to this water?  Practically, I mean?  Here I am, totally given out.  Totally used up and at the end of my rope with still a few kilometers of cliff to go down!  What do I do to get to this Spring?
There are no 5 Easy Steps to this plus, I hate books that say The 3 easy steps to (fill in the blank)!!   

But for me, for today the 1st step is that I have to come to God and say “I am thirsty!!!  Help me!”       I have to admit and say “Here is my little plastic spade, here is my cracked teacup.  I lay them down.  I open my mouth and I trust You, the Living Spring to fill me up.  Without it I am a gonner.  I need You.  I cannot do it myself.  I come to you in dependence and hope.  Quench my thirst, fill me, and cleanse me.  Give me new hope for every day.  Let me lie down in green pastures, by quiet waters.  Restore my soul.”

Bella
“The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” 
Isaiah  58:11

September 03, 2014

Ironically .....




I am hiding behind the curtains again.  I just made myself a nice cinnamon cappuccino and was going to sit at my desk to read further in my new book ‘Expectations and burnout”.
And here I was skulking behind the curtain because one of our workers was watering the flowers right in front of my window where my desk is.  I felt so annoyed!  Man, I love my flowers but I was NOT ready to have someone stare at me while drinking coffee and reading a book!

Well, I rest my case.  I obviously seriously needed to read this book!  Talk about culture stress.  I was in it and in it up to my neck!  I was tired, sick of living in another culture, desperately in need of a break and the timing was all wrong…

This is one of life’s really weird ironies – one which no-one could prepare us for at all.  We have worked years to come to this point in presenting the Gospel in the mother tongue!  Whoohoo, we made it!!  Well, truth to tell I am not There - I am cheering my husband on from behind the curtains (again standing there??).  In any case, we are one so I guess I can say in all honesty that we are There!  But the irony is that being There was turning out to be extremely exhausting!!  The lessons occur twice weekly and that means that there need to be lessons ready and translated to be then committed to memory as much as possible, then these need to be practised over and over and then presented, all to start anew the next day!  In between the translation keeps going on as well, so as not to run out of material.  In a word – exhausting! 

Talk (or rather read) about expectations … We have looked forward to this day for so long.  I saw in my mind’s eye the whole village sitting very calm and peaceful and clean (?where did I get that idea?) listening to every word.  No-one looking at a bicycle go past or no-one running off when the election campaign guys strode into the village and most certainly my dear husband would not be working himself nearly into a coma!  People seem to think we lead an idyllic life out here – we see each other all the time and get to spend all our time together.  Well, yeah, I guess if we both pull up chairs in front of the computer we would see each other all the time!  The reality is, is that we don’t keep regular hours.  We try though, but it is tough being out here with so much to do and only us to do it, so we do it all.  Or think we can at least give it our best shot.

And so I am reading "Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission” and hope I will survive this!  The timing is extremely ironic!

A few difficult points….
At the Bible lessons half of the kids enjoy the luxury of the straw mats and roll around, the other half turn away from the teacher and stare open mouthed at me and the boys.  We will make great celebrities – we can ignore stares just fine.  (I am lying through my teeth here!  My youngest crosses his eyes at them, scowls at them or pulls funny faces in reaction to their staring – in which they don’t even blink!) 

Out here in the bush we have gotten used to the idea that we don’t have much of a schedule expect for school hours of course.  So, afternoons we are free to do other stuff.  Language learning, visiting, riding bikes, playing, etc.  Now we are faced with a twice a week lesson that takes 2 hours all in all.  We need to sit on straw mats and hope all kinds of bugs do not climb up, crawl into or bite us (well, actually it is probably only me that has these worries!), we need to adjust our time to fast cooking (no take outs here!  Tuna is my fast food!) and generally go through a lot of culture stress.  But we looked forward to this day and now I am not so sure how I feel.  I mean, I can relate to old Jonah very well!  It is probably a good thing that I am not the one teaching as I might also like Jonah, just throw it at them!  For example – the one day they sit and listen to God’s Word and nod their heads in agreement and the very next day they are in these extremely suggestive dances and up to who-knows-what in the nights with the initiation ceremonies!!  Running the dico with the petrol we sponsored because we need their sound system!  (Irony is just adding up here!) It breaks my heart!!  I know it is still early days, but it is very upsetting if you realize just how bad things are here….

But in all this, what does God want to teach me?  Obviously He has something in mind, otherwise I would also sit serenely on my mat with my pencil stub ticking off new words and smiling at all the stares, which I am not!!

How far am I willing to go for my fellow man?  Do I like my little luxuries more than seeing them grasp Salvation?  No way!!  What are my expectations and are they realistic?  What are God’s expectations of me in this time?   How can I grow and not shrink in this extremely busy time?  Do I really Believe Him?  He called us here, He chose us and He has a plan for us here.  At times it seems so impossible that these people (for whom I gave up everything, well technically I gave it up for God!) will actually accept God’s love – but if God can, by just speaking, create Light, stars, the sun and moon, every kind of animal, fish and bird then what is impossible to Him?  Am I willing to let go and really, truly, trust Him for all I need?  That all this will not be in vain?  Am I willing to trust Him for all they need?  Most of my culture stress at times are, that I am scared that I will not make it and ruin God’s plan and of course, my husband’s work!  Or that they will reject it all.  I lose sight of whom God is and that He knows my needs, yes, even the silly ones!  I am in His Hands.  I pray that I will rest in that!  That I will rest in God’s wisdom to know when to take a break, when to work our hands to the bone, when to sit back, when to smile and when to cry.  Trust. 



For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
(2Co 4:6-18)
 

I am not sure if this blog makes much sense to you, I guess I had to get some stuff out.  I would rather be real than put up a front. 

Bella, holding onto I Am.


September 02, 2014

Going through the motions.


Have you ever gone through a time where you just go through the motions of loving?  You are caring and kind, you are there (but not totally), you do stuff but without any passion.  Or maybe not.  Maybe you have never gone through a time like this.  Well, I have and I am actually. 

This morning, I realized with a shock that I am here but not with all of myself.  Let me explain a bit…..

I obey God, yes.  Just look at where I live – who in her right mind would choose to live here??  So, I have obeyed.  I am loyal.  I never discourage anyone from following God to the ends of the earth – although sometimes I am tempted to ask if they really know what they are getting into??  But loyalty wins, because God is ever faithful even though at times it might be hard for us we know He is there and will never leave us.  So, obedient and loyal.  I am also faithful.  I try and do God’s will as best as I can.  Ok, now we have obedient, loyal and faithful.  Pretty good, not so?  But something is lacking, I just know it. Where is LOVE?

I am going through the motions, but I have no passion.  I guess this might be shocking to some who are always so stable and never deviate from the middle ground, sorry, I am not like that – either up or down.  Passionate or totally dead.  And I hate it when I just go through the motions.  Make the coffee, put supper on the table, read the Bible, pray, clean up, say good morning or goodnight, help a few sick people; there but not there – all without that passion.

I was reading the blessings and curses that God set before the Israelites when they were about to enter the Promised Land.  (After God made a Covenant with them – serious stuff to say the least!)  Well, as I read you have to do this and do that one thing stood out – I have to LOVE God.  Not just obey, not just be loyal or faithful, I must LOVE Him with my Whole heart.  My whole heart.  With Passion.  Which was lacking Big time in my life @this moment.

Recently a friend asked me to pray with her (over Skype mind you!) and she asked me a weird thing.  She said “As you close your eyes and get ready to speak to Jesus, where do you see Him?  Are you standing close to Him?  Sitting on His lap?  Where is He?”  Well, that brought me up short.  Where was He?  He was far off.  This morning I saw Him like one sees the speaker on a platform in the rows where you don’t pay much for your ticket – way back and I mean way, way back.  I could just barely see Him.  If it wasn’t for the big TV screens (I have a very vivid imagination!) I would miss His facial expressions …..

I was far from Him.  Where did my Love go?  I was a clanging cymbal, an empty old tin trying to make beautiful music and failing miserably. 

Why did I stop loving God.  Loving being in His presence?  Loving Him for who He is?  I think one reason was that I was looking at all the stuff around me.  Believing the lies of the enemy that God doesn’t really care about me, as a woman out here in the sticks.  The fact that I rarely have any conversation about God or what He is doing in my life with anyone else except the 4 people in my house has been quite hard on me.  Usually it's just me and my husband and our 3 boys or me talking to The Blog.  Sometimes weeks or rather months would go by without one conversation with other believers.  Dry wilderness times.  But these are all just circumstances.  And I was looking at that.  It made me look away from God and just loving Him.  I let Stuff get in the way.  Just like in a marriage relationship we at times let Stuff get in the way of really loving.  We look at all the things that are not right or that we don’t like and instead of loving we just go through the motions.  No passion.

Rev 2:2  says, "I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. (yip that's me!) I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men (most certainly not!), that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. (Ok maybe a bit weary here!) Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love."  Ouch. I am so sorry Lord, may i truly Love you again.
  
Love is a choice.  This morning as I sat there in my economy row looking down on Jesus, far, far away, I realized that this is what I choose.  This is not what He chose for me.  He loves me Passionately.  He wants me close!  I can get out of my seat and go right up on the stage, hold His hand, look Him right in the eye.  He has That kind of love for me.  God doesn’t love halfway.  It is all the way all the time.  But I have to choose to look above all other Stuff and keep loving Him.  I need to bring my hard heart to Jesus again, to be made soft, to allow His love to find me again.

To obey is good, to be loyal is good, to be faithful is fine, but to Love is by far the best.  I need to Love again.  To feel that passion, to live in that Love. 

Bella, beloved.