Everything will change. A Ministry of WorldVenture.
Okay. It has been a while and there are a lot of things I could talk about. I will try to include enough details to give you an accurate picture without making this blog too long.
Two mondays ago (12/6) we went in groups of two into the Campement, which is a large semi-continuous grouping of residencies in the bush that are within walking distance of the campus. You have to keep telling yourself that people enjoy strangers dropping by unexpected and spending the whole morning with them. It even matters little how much you say, just being there is important. This kind of visit is obviously not something that is often appreciated in the United States. The goal was to practice French and observe the food/hygiene of the people through sitting in their courtyard for a few hours and talking with them. I did not learn a lot about hygiene or food preparation, but the young man I talked with gave us a very long diatribe on the political history of Cote d’Ivoire. He spoke a little English, but as he began talking politics he began speaking very fast French, and if I had not already known some of the history I would have been completely lost.
That same week we went in two small groups to a Gula courtyard along with a few of our leaders. Again this was part of a weeklong study of hygiene and we were shown were water is stored; how the food is prepared; what sources of water are potable; where garbage is moved out of sight; and other daily things.
The obvious next step after visiting several Iviorian homes was to spend the weekend with an Ivoirian family. As I mentioned in a previous blog, this was planned for the weekend of the fourth, but we pushed it back until the weekend of the eleventh. Jason and I went to M. and Mne. Soro Ali (Soro is the surname and Ali is the husbands name). They are a newlywed (April) family from the church. They lived in a one of a series of identical small 2 bedrooms houses with their own courtyards, but all the doors opened into a common courtyard. After we arrived that Friday afternoon, we visited/met the neighbors and joined the men of the houses for some tea and French Uno (uno with a normal deck of cards). Even though that game is just Uno, imagine trying to learn any new game without being able to understand what is being said to you. The tea was good, but it was strong and you slurped it rather quickly from a communal shot glass.
We played for a while then stopped for dinner. I do not remember the last time I had that much to eat, but the hilarious part was taking my first bucket bath before dinner. It was very refreshing and the water was warm, but it felt awkward doing it for the first time and not knowing the “accepted” procedure. Going back to dinner; the men of the household sat at the table and ate together. While I never saw his wife or the other young girl that helped her around the house eat, I assume they ate before or outside while we ate. This is based off the minuscule amount of leftovers, due to a complete cultural misunderstanding. Apparently when you are full in Cote d’Ivoire you leave the table, instead of sitting there in conversation with the others. As a result I tried in vain to explain I did not what a third mounding helping of food. This continued until the food in the serving bowl was gone or fell over into a food coma. After dinner we went back outside and played some more cards and drank some more tea. When we finally went to bed, Jason and I had too much tea and despite being on the precipice of sleep I just could not drift off.
Saturday morning started off a little humorous. Before it was light I woke up to something on my face, so I sat up and watched some bug crawl between the mattress and headboard. When I got out of bed I remembered the bug and lifted the mattress to see if it was still there. To my delight there perched on the bed frame was a little cockroach. Then during the morning bath, my bar of soap launched out of my hands and plopped into the toilet bowl. The water looked pretty clean so I just plunged my hand down in there and pulled it out. I stared at it for a few seconds then just picked up where I left off. As a side note, the toilet bowl was a luxury we did not expect, but you had to pour in water to flush it. We traveled to visit the houses of two of his brothers, before coming back for lunch. After lunch it was a little more of the same routine (tea and cards) until Ali drove me to church on the back of his moto to meet up with the group and hang out for a few hours. On the way back I really felt like a burden on the family; we were not helping with anything; we were just playing cards and drinking tea; and language was definitely a stressor. I would survive the weekend but I asked God to really bless our time together and help with communication. After dinner that night we sat around the living room with the family and talked about this and that, but what brought us together was listening to each other read the other’s Bibles. Ali’s wife was the one who first asked to read my Bible and then asked if I had another English bible for them. I actually found a used one today on campus that I hope to give to them. They were both pretty good at reading English, I however was having difficulty pronouncing their Senafole Bible; I still do not know how to pronounce two backwards c’s.
Sunday morning Jason rode with Ali on the back of his motorcycle, while I had the privilege of riding in a baka with my baggage and a guitar case. A baka is for most situations and overcrowded minivan-taxi that sometimes has more than double its height of luggage strapped to the top (no joke, I will try to get a picture). It is a fun experience. You really get to see and smell Africa in a new way.
We all came back to campus after church and it was a hoot seeing everyone again, even though we were separated only a few days. That Sunday lunch definitely had the highest decibel rating: Everyone was telling stories from the weekend and laughing together at our mistakes.
Last Thursday and Friday we went to different service opportunities in town for the morning. Myself and two others went to a home for mentally handicapped persons called L’Arche. Others went to orphanages and a center for former prostitutes that utilizes a lot of artistic expression. Thursday we did not get to help much. We spent most of our time meeting the residents and staff and touring the facilities. The next day we joined the staff for their morning prayer and meeting. Somehow I missed the amen, everything is in French, and just kept my head bowed for a while after the prayer ended. I was able to pick up a few words and concepts, and I just sat there wondering why they kept mentioning todays date and other odd topics for a prayer. After about an hour of listening to only French, we split up a bit. Alyssa and I went to pick green beans while CJ went to help in the kitchen. It started off just Alyssa and I, but slowly the residents became more friendly and helping us. Which I believe was the hope of the director. The funny part is I knew I was picking green beans (Haricots) but both Alyssa and I kept hearing Alloco (friend plantains). This seems impossible unless you consider the French pronunciation and remember that their enunciation is not perfect. The whole thing gave CJ quite a laugh when we asked her if she knew what was going on.
Saturday we invited all our host families and the director of L’Arche for lunch at the campus. My Ivoirian host family was unable to come, because they were hosting a visiting pastor from Torhogo. It was still a great time. Most of the people on campus were there and I was able to meet many of the other families.
This week we are starting classes on Bible Study Methods and Theology and Doctrine. The teachers are not set nor are the subject materials, but we have several seminary grads on campus and resources in the church. This was brought on by a common interest expressed by the group, and we are excited to learn together although we all have a wide range of experience in this area.
This week the director of the Bible College in Korhogo, Kao, (also a longtime friend of Rod) is teaching us everything we need to know about Cote d’Ivoire; the history; the political/government structure; the economy; and etc. It is interesting to hear the political history and how it relates to the current situation. But the most humorous part is learning how different their government functions as compared to what is in their constitution. Kao will be coming back in January to teach us the history of the church in Cote d’Ivoire.
Currently there is another missionary family on campus: Bill and Diane Grudda and three of their sons. It is fun having some other people on campus, although to them we are the visitors since they have been here since it was a school. Yesterday we played some sweet soccer and today we played softball until the French military decided to land a helicopter on our field.
The plans for Christmas include an all-night fête at the church on Christmas Eve and a pot-luck lunch with all the families on campus. Next Monday we are splitting up for Christmas vacation. A majority of the group is driving north to visit Korhogo and visit the numerous sites and missionary projects there. I initially was not sure what to do: I wanted to see more of Cote d’Ivoire but I did feel like taking a vacation. Yesterday, Rod asked if I wanted to go with him to put a roof on a church that week. Rod made a crane/winch that we need to use to lift the one ton A-frames into place. Let’s just say every engineering neuron in my brain was firing when I was talking to Rod. I am glad I get a few days here on campus and have the opportunity to rough it in a village for a few days.
That takes us to today. I hope it was not too long of an exposition. Anyways, God has really been blessing us as a community in spite of some stress. I have also been feeling challenged in some areas of my life and would appreciate your prayers as I walk in this.