A Place Not of Your Choosing
Lake Malawi was perfectly calm this morning. The waves were not even breaking on the shore line. The young Peace Corps volunteers who partied until the wee hours of the night had already, like Elvis, "left the building." It was refreshing and beautiful, but the German speaker and I both agreed, it was a long way to travel for a short bit of refreshment.
We spoke on the cultural differences and practices that may have landed us here. As the cool breeze blew across my very white skin, I remarked how Americans communicate changes in the schedule. When the days of the conference were discussed, Matema was added as a place of spiritual renewal when the teachers conference concluded. The German speaker, Pastor Lumwe and I would travel to the Lutheran Center while Sabina conducted a regional meeting for disability facility leaders. It translated well through email, however, something was definitely "lost in translation."
It was my understanding, this place was "not very far." After the TWO 12 hour days of driving, "not very far," was a hopeful foregone conclusion. Like all good Americans, I wanted, no, I needed, information before I put any suitcases in the car and committed to the "safari." My first clue "not very far," was an inaccurate assessment came on Wednesday afternoon. At tea time (4:00), we (the white ladies) said, "We'll be at the lake by this time tomorrow." Pastor Lumwe hesitated and said, "Well, maybe."
I've never been that great at math, but when you are told a journey will take three hours, and you leave at 8:00 am, I AM "As Smart as a 6th-grader" and know that adds up to 11:00 am. What was this uncertainty about our arrival BY 4:00 in the afternoon?!
Oh, foreigners can be such a problem. What is mission lesson one? BE FLEXIBLE
I thought when the original duration of the second meeting changed, WE (meaning the white ladies) should have been given additional information (like the REAL time it would take to arrive) and WE (white ladies) could discuss perhaps a different option. Enjoying the scenery really only goes so far.
I would have suggested we stay closer, enjoy the refreshment of not traveling, and then, when the second meeting concluded Saturday afternoon (a day early), we would be on our way driving the 24 hours back to Arusha. Instead of adding an additional EIGHT HOURS on some really bad roads!
I'm just saying.
But that would be me (and perhaps the other white lady).
"I don't think the way you think. The way you think isn't the way I work. God's Decree. "For as the sky soars high above the earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think." Isaiah 55:8-11 The Message
Slowly, the villages surrounding the Lutheran Center began to come to life. The children encountered earlier in the morning (chasing a mother hippo) began to approach the ladies under the shade of the thatch hut. The German spoke to them in fluent Kisswahili about the sighting. One asked for a cookie, another for a Bic (ink pen). She politely refused, they shared a laugh and went on their way back to their village.
A few moments later, a solitary boy, looking to be around ten, came near. He engaged us with the familiar "Where are you from?" Most likely assuming he would be answered in English. When my companion offered a Kisswahili answer the conversation took a whole new dimension.
Soon he was kneeling down, drawing maps in the sand. He drew Germany first, and with his fingertip made a deep well for each of the cities he knew and their location. Then he drew the surrounding countries, while spouting off foreign cities that at the time seemed so random. How could this young boy know all this? He looked up at me with questioning eyes and said, "American?" I nodded, and added, "Texas."
Moving over to complete his "world" map, he quickly etched out the United States, and pointed to Texas in the outline. "OO-stone?" "No, Dallas," I replied. Then as he drew, he said, "Dal-las, Oo-stone, Sin-Antoni" while correctly placing them in the state. Wow - that's not your standard classroom education anywhere.
My friend engaged him again while speaking of various places in the world and questioning his knowledge. She asked if he went to Sunday School and he said yes. Then she asked if he had seen the maps of Paul's journeys. He shook his head no, and continued sharing his sandy geography. She asked if he had a Bible, but this time when he said no, she got up and went to her room to retrieve her Kisswahili copy.
When she returned, she opened it up to the maps. She pointed out the northern portion of Africa on the map of Paul's "safari." That word in their conversation, I have come to know and understand in a whole new light.
Without hesitation, I can easily commit to travel to another continent to be about the Father's business, and yet I was agitated by a car ride? In the short time we had been outside discussing the merits (and mistake) of coming all the way to Matema, I felt the sweet subtle whisper of my Savior. "I BROUGHT YOU to Matema, look at this bright young boy who is walking back to his home with his first Bible."
Chance encounter? I think not.
"Let me tell you what God said next. He said, your my daughter, and today is your birthday. What do you want? Name it: Nations as a present? Continents as a prize? You can command them all to dance for you..." Psalm 2:7-9 The Message
And dance they did
And smiling I am
Happy Birthday to me
For the Word of God to be planted firmly in this young boy's heart
For safety on the road for the next THREE days
For the Sunday services across the region where new ideas learned during the seminar will be put into action!
On a personal note: for my daughter Gianna who is struggling with the decision to put her beloved cat of 8 years to sleep
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