Thursday, June 14, 2012

How to make fried mzungu

I suppose the blog was a bit quiet for awhile there. I'm sure you were gnawing your nails in anticipation.

The truth: It's fair to say my mojo was thrown a ways off course, for a whole host of reasons. Somehow the reasons I'd like to give you sound
a) like excuses,
b) like drama,
c) like whining, or just
d) lame.

But for those of you who are praying for us, here's the few things I think I would want to know.

Ministry opportunities here are rich and meaningful. The challenge is far more what not to do.

Secondly, there are a lot of needs at work. We're so thankful to find meaningful ways to plug in here. We laugh about the 10-15 hats that John wears at the office. And I actually have been learning a whole new skill here: design. Because I am the publications and haircutting department here, I got Adobe design software installed, and have been working pretty late into the night on my first two big projects, hybrids of design and writing. It's been a steep learning curve, and I have a lot to learn. But it's been really fun, too. 
So (for humor, not pity!)--
1. Cream together lots of poverty-related needs with work-related and staff-loving opportunities to help.
2. Mix in plenty to do at home; our school year just ended last Friday, and for two weeks we've been delighting in our first American visitor.
3. Blend in a three-year-old who's experimenting with whining, fit-throwing, and general obstinance.
4. Marinate in lots of jarring cultural components.
5. Observe 24/7 through the eyes of local staff.  
6. Add a pinch of a tendency to overcommit (or maybe a heap of pinches), especially a high degree of obliviousness until it has already happened.
7. Fold in a couple of close calls, like almost being hit by a lorry with all the kids in the car, or thinking wallet with American license had been stolen.
8. Omit adequate rest (OPTIONAL), particularly as you search for ways to truly rejuvenate in this strange new world.
9. Sprinkle in infestations of local insects, a few guys who'd like to line their pockets with the amount you're being overcharged, and various shortages on infrastructure.
10. Mix every ingredient thoroughly with sin nature, i.e. martyrdom, lack of faith that empowers one to say "no", etc.
11. Bake four and a half months.

Yield: One overcooked mzungu.

As intimated above, I probably didn't quite realize my degree of stress until my hair started falling out again, which it only did when we were moving. Here and there missionary friends, a friend from the U.S., or even family would ask how I'm doing, or how I'm replenishing. My mind would respond blankly--or more often, with vagueness or silence. Where do I find the energy to convey to you all of this that I have a hard time understanding, but less communicating?

The takeaway: I'm on the upswing. I'm typing to you! But I realize this blog isn't just about the intriguing or hilarous aspects of culture and ministry in Africa. It's about a real-life, valley-and-mountain, godward adventure. Sometimes that adventure is just hard.

(Side note: It is good that when things feel "hard" here, I have a lot of people down the street dealing with much more basic challenges to life--much more profound, lifelong stress. It also helps that I am reading a book about a guy who survived being lost at sea for 46 days and then two years in a POW camp. Good grief. It doesn't mean that my experience isn't real, but it does give a wee bit of perspective.)

This week, I've been thankful for some small, well-placed oases that fall in the "good and perfect gift" category: A free VBS for three of my kids in the morning, with all their friends. A date night by a fire built on Lake Victoria, with a man who intuitively understands me in ways I don't even understand myself, i.e. my husband. Friends who cart me away from my to-do list for some good conversation.
If you will, pray for wisdom on how to live well and sustainably here, and for some clear fear-of-man/pride issues that get me into messes like this. Pray that we'll do the good works God's prepared in advance for us (Ephesians 2:10)--no more, no less.

Crispiness has its lessons.


Sarah said...

I love this "It doesn't mean that my experience isn't real, but it does give a wee bit of perspective."

It is much about balance and being able to ask for help and to find rest when needed and also about being honest - this is my real experience - in the midst of humor and gratitude - at least i am not lost at sea.

Thanks for your words. :)

Mattgrove :) said...

I'm guessing that you're reading "Unbroken." I read that recently too..I couldn't believe that the 40+ days adrift in the Pacific wasn't the worst part!