Everything will change. A Ministry of WorldVenture.
As the final days rapidly approach, I have the chance to reflect on my 7 months here and realize how much of a home this has become. As we crossed the border from Burkina Faso into Cote d’Ivoire (see last blog), Rod greeted the Rebels (AKA Forces Republicaines) with a traditional Senoufo greeting, turned to me giddily and asked ‘Isn’t it GREAT to be back home in Senoufo territory?’ I grinned widely and excitedly agreed with him. Even though my Tymbara (a Senoufo dialect) is lacking, I do feel at home in the Cote d’Ivoire, especially in my little apartment 8B at Village Baptiste, Bouake.
Today at church I realized that I have integrated, too. I knew all the songs we sang in French (even one in Bambara, a dialect similar to Dioula) and their dances. I caught the words of the Senoufo song and was able to sing along with that (side note – there is no electricity in our church, so to know a song is to have memorized all the words). I laughed along with the jokes during the announcements. I knew the guest speaker and could tune out just a little and still understand what was going on. I used to marvel at how my mother knew my father’s sermon was almost over and close her Bible within 3 minutes of his closing remarks. Well, today I did the same with Nanu, a Bible school student who preached at Belleville today. During one of the songs, Grace, the 4 year old daughter of the family hosting two Journeyers in Belleville, ran up to me, hugged my legs, and begged to be picked up during one of the songs. For all you ADHD sufferers out there – the kids run around in the aisle of the church and babies are passed around during the entire service. After church, I stood in a little circle with my friends to talk about life and their newest English class assignment. I greeted a few of the French-speaking women and they asked how my travels were this week, and mentioned that I skipped out after church really quickly last week. I responded that since last week’s church service was 3 hours, we had to get back quickly to eat lunch and return the Journeyers to their host homes.
These may sound like really little things to you who church hop weekly or have never been to another church. Cross-cultural church is tough, challenging, and not as nourishing as your average Community Church setting in the US. Churches are small here, we sit on wooden backless benches for two hours, most of the songs are in languages I don’t understand, and without a bulletin, you never know what is coming next. But those are small compared to the joy in the building, the fun dancing we are encouraged to worship with, the relationships we build with fellow believers, and the better understanding of the gospel as we take off cultural baggage.