Hangin' Out in Karongue

Hangin' Out in Karongue

Monday, April 4, 2016

Less and Less Clumsy

Before leaving Senegal to return to the US for our several months of Home Ministry Assignment we began preparing ourselves for “reverse” culture shock. Culture shock is the initial “shock” that you feel when you enter a new culture where things are new, different, and, well, “foreign.” You are shocked because you don’t really understand how life works and how society functions so you begin to feel a bit overwhelmed and lost. And culture shock, to one degree or another, is almost inevitable as you move to a new country, especially one as different as Senegal is from the US.

But “reverse” culture shock happens as you return to your passport country after several years abroad. While living cross-culturally for several years your heart, mind, and body have been busy (maybe even consumed!) with adapting and fitting in to your new culture. New sights, new sounds, new tastes, new routines, and new experiences begin to take root in your life to the degree that when you return to what used to be home, you find that “home” feels a bit foreign; a bit more foreign than familiar.

Etiquette is different, social norms and expectations are different, personal interactions are different. You come back “home” and find that you feel a bit clumsy as you go through the normal paces of life. Everything takes a bit longer to process and you always feel like you are a step or two slower than everyone else around you.

And oh the choices! Every menu seems like a Webster’s Dictionary after living over three years in a place where most things aren’t available. And it’s true that the   cereal aisle at Wal-Mart can almost make us break out in a cold sweat as we stand face-to-face with the towering wall of breakfast options. (And by the way, a big “Thank you!” to whoever invented the touch-screen soda machines! That one really threw us for a loop! But seriously, does anyone really need that range of options just to get something to drink?)

But overall, we are doing great. We are loving seeing family and friends that we have missed while in Senegal. We are loving connecting with local churches here that love the Gospel and have a heart for the nations. We have truly been loved on by these churches in ways that have deeply touched our family. And Hosanna has finally stopped asking if each place that we stay has hot water (“Yes, honey, they have hot   water here at this Holiday Inn.”). And day by day, by God’s grace, our family is becoming less and less clumsy here in America. 


Monday, February 15, 2016

Lessons Learned

Certain truths are “known” at a certain level in our mind: we affirm that yes indeed these things are true. But then, after having been forced to live and lean on and rest on and seek shelter in these truths, they become “known” in a deeper and more profound way. They are not any truer than they were before, it’s just that lived truths have a way of etching themselves more deeply on your heart and soul.

All of the lessons that the Lord has taught me in Senegal I already “knew” before we ever boarded the plane three years ago. But after our experiences these truths have taken on a greater depth of meaning in my life.

  • People are more important than time.
  • God will oftentimes give you more (even much more!) than you can handle so that He can teach you to trust Him.
  • Loving is hard, but it’s the most important thing.
  • We live in a very, very spiritually dark world.
  • Lost men are blind men.
  • The enemy’s greatest weapon is fear.
  • God is not in a hurry and He is always at work.
  • God’s common grace is evident everywhere.
  • Home is a place yet to come.
  • Reaching the world with the Gospel takes everyone.
  • Wisdom that comes from God is priceless.
  • Dependency is horrible; interdependency is precious.
  • Acts of love communicate fluently in any language.  
  • Ambiguity in our life drives us to walk by faith.
  • God wastes no detail in our life in forming us into the image of His Son.
  • Everything is always grace and grace is always sufficient.
  • Security and safety are only found in Christ and never in our circumstances.



Friday, January 1, 2016

Football, Fist-Fights, and Fitting In

It’s not easy being a teenager and trying to fit in, no matter where you find yourself. But it is particularly tricky when you are the only American boy in a village of several thousand. Soccer (or football as it is known here) is a HUGE deal, especially among the youth. Ezra, who is now 14, began playing soccer about a year-and-a-half or so ago in an attempt to bond with the boys his age.

While he began playing in front of our house with his friends, he gradually got better and more confident and began playing at the big field in our part of the village. This, however, did not always go so well as this put him around other teenaged boys that did not know him. And teenaged boys are not always the nicest, especially towards those that are obviously very different. Most days Ezra would return home from the field having nearly  been in a fight and having particularly been preyed upon by a group of boys from another people group who seemed to thrive upon harassing the “toubab” (white person) at the field. But each afternoon Ez would put on his cleats and leave for the field to train and to play. And his parents would pray that God would protect him and teach him what it meant for God to be his defender.

In God’s providence, the village organized a tournament for the boys aged 15 and under. The coach of the team for our corner of the village asked Ezra to join the team after the first game and Ez was more than excited to do so. When Ez told us the news we did not know whether to cheer or to throw-up. We knew it was a great opportunity for our son, but we also knew that it would come with a great deal of criticism as he would be playing in front of several hundred people.

When the day of his first match arrived we were all a bit nervous. His coach put him in to start the game and for his first game he played okay. But each time that Ezra got the ball there were audible cries of “white boy” in the local language and any time that he did anything less than perfect he was met with laughs and mocking from the large crowd that had gathered to watch the game. After the game Ez was discouraged, but vowed to train harder for the next match. His parents, while supportive, half wished that he would quit. We shared what had happened with one of the Diola believers here and he said, “You know he is really easy to spot on the field: 21 black players and one white boy!” 

The important next match would determine if his team would be seeded first for the semi-finals and it was against the team with the boys that gave Ezra the most trouble. Ez did not start the game, but was put in at the very end of the match with just a few minutes to play with his team down 1-0. After about 45 seconds, Ezra scored the tying goal that assured his team of the first seed! And when he scored the goal the sidelines cleared out and everyone ran out onto the field to celebrate with Ez. And in that moment he was no longer the “white boy” on the team, but was just another teenaged village boy. And his parents praised God.

Ez’s  team made it all the way to final game where they would play for the championship. In the second half, with his team up 1-0 but with the other team playing very hard, Ez scored the “but d’assurance” that assured the championship for his team. And when he did once again the sidelines cleared and even the organizer of the tournament ran out onto the field to celebrate. After the game, Ez’s coach gave him the captain’s armband and asked him to receive the trophy for the team. And everyone was happy for him to do so.

Now, everywhere we go in the village or even in the surrounding villages, they know Ezra. He is known as “Le Buteur” (the goal-maker) and has become quite the celebrity. And, after a lot of courage on his part and a lot of grace on God’s  part, he really fits in. Now, he’s just one of the neighborhood kids; no difference at all. And we all stand amazed at the grace of God!