Hangin' Out in Karongue

Hangin' Out in Karongue

Friday, January 30, 2015

730 Days in Senegal

Two years spent in Senegal translates out to 730 days. Just for fun, we tried to quantify what that experience was like. While some of these numbers are estimates (I mean let's be real, who actually counts how many mornings they eat bread?) we feel like this is a pretty good reflection of the...how shall we say it..."it's not bad, it's just different" nature of life here in southern Senegal.

So, here is two years/730 days in southern Senegal by the numbers:

690 mornings that we ate French baguettes. Yea, I am sure that some of you are like, "Wow, I would love a French baguette for breakfast!" Sure, baguettes are good, but try one for the next 100 consecutive days and get back with us!

3 times eating indoors in the village. Life is lived outdoors and we, like our Senegalese neighbors, eat all of our meals outdoors. So what were the three special occasions that kept us inside? One time we were all too sick to go out. Another time we were watching a movie on the computer and kind of hiding out. And the last time, well, we had something really good for dinner that we did not want to share!

9 malaria tests taken. Since we are nowhere close to good medical  care, when someone shows symptoms of malaria that seem to linger we give them a home test to be able to rule out or confirm malaria.  

0 cases of malaria in our family. Praise God all 9 tests came back negative! Which meant that we then had to break out the "medical manuals" to try and figure out what was going on.

18 cases of "mystery rash." Yea, it is as weird, and maybe as gross, as it sounds. And everyone of us have gotten it at one point or another, although certain teenage boys among us seem to be the most susceptible. Thankfully, after a week or so, and some oil and cream being rubbed on it (and one time some fresh garlic; sorry Ez, we were trying our best!) it has always gone away.

520 days that we have eaten rice. (There was a lot of debate on this number with some family members arguing that they were sure the number was closer to 720, but we safely settled on 520.) Yes, we eat a lot of rice.

3 traffic tickets. One for talking on a cell phone while driving.  Guilty as charged. (I also should have received a ticket for stupidity as I did this as I drove directly in front of the police station in Ziguinchor!) One for too many people in the truck at one time. Again, guilty. One for running a red light. Yea, I'm not so sure about this one. I am still amazed that there was actually a red light in Senegal that worked that I was able to run!

Too numerous to count: times we were harassed by police and threatened with a ticket. Suffice it to say, life can sometimes be a bit...complicated. I can now boast that I have seen the inside of numerous police stations in Senegal and the neighboring country of The Gambia.

0 bribes given to police. Hence, the reason why I am well acquainted with the interior of police stations!

1556 meals prepared for guests who have eaten with us. Yes, we always have someone eating with us. We are convinced that there is some sort of high-pitched signal that can only be heard by Senegalese ears that goes out right before we are preparing to eat alerting those around us that "soups on!" Good Senegalese hospitality, which we try to practice in abundance, says that when someone comes over and you are eating that you feed them as well. So, most days we have someone with us when we eat. Not to mention the weekly times when Gayle and the girls cook for all those attending our Bible study.

1 mattress eaten by termites. I know, this sounds really weird, and believe us, it was.

Way too numerous to count: insects killed, cold bucket showers taken, "different" things eaten (monitor lizard may top the list), times a member of our family who may or may not be joyfully skipping through menopause complained about the heat, gray hairs accumulated, times I honked the horn before nearly hitting a person, another vehicle, or an animal, and smiles and laughs shared with Senegalese friends.

730 days of God's continued faithfulness. "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed; Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23). Praise God, this is a number we can count on each day!

Two Years Ago Today...

Two years ago today our family arrived in Senegal. We arrived to a new life, a new ministry, new challenges, and new adventures. We arrived holding loosely to our "plans" for ministry, anxious to see where God would take us and how He would get us there.

And two years is a long time that seems like just yesterday. But, conversely, two years is just a blink, that some days seems like an eternity. Such is the paradox of life and ministry in Africa.

This morning over breakfast we all talked about the things that, by God's grace, we have seen and experienced over the past two years. In some of those moments we laughed. In others we cried. There were times of awe at the faithfulness of God.  And other times of frustration and confusion. And everything, truly every other type of emotion, in between.

But for the last two years we have shared life. We have shared life with one another in our family in a closer way than ever before. (There is something about a living space of less than 400 square feet that can really bring a family close!) We have shared life with our Senegalese friends, neighbors, and brothers and sisters in Christ. We have celebrated with them, mourned with them, danced with them, and walked side-by-side with them for the last two years.

But this journey has been shared with the God and King of the universe who promises to walk with His people. We, like Moses, dared not go out into the unknown in a foreign land without the presence of God, saying, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here" (Exodus 33:15). But God has intimately been with us saying, "I know you by name" (33:17). Jesus does not simply send His people to go and do His work and accomplish His purposes; Jesus goes with His people as they are sent by Him. His is not an invitation to ministry, but rather an invitation to journey with Him and share life with Him in new ways. This, more than anything, has been the sweet grace of the past two years.

Only God knows what the future holds for us. We pray that it is full of continued opportunities to share the love and truth of God among a people who are without the hope of Jesus. But we are assured of one thing: the Presence of God will be with us. And that sweet manifestation of His grace to us in Christ is enough.