A FRESH START
The smell of mold is what first struck me as we walked into the concrete room with ten foot high walls which did NOT reach the rafters looming above, home to their own tiny residents. We had been given this “house” as our home for the next two weeks. My thoughts began swirling with anxiety over my allergies, the sandy floors, and the creepy crawlies that were sure to assault me while I attempted sleep. We had been told that we were “renting a house.” Our minds had very different definitions of what that phrase meant. I wrestled with my thoughts as as I laid down my damp, moldy-smelling foam mattresses on the floor. I turned over each fear over to the Lord and continued to do so each day. This “house” was more like an apartment complex. It had eleven rooms —each with their own padlocks. Each room was rented to a different family unit. There were four other units rented out besides our three. We all shared a common squatty potty outhouses and shower room.
Being the first day of the seminar meant that everything was new and dependent on others. As a team we brought our teaching supplies, water, and snacks over to the church walking along the interconnecting sandy paths. Many people would just stop walking and stare at us. I think that we may have been some of the first white people that they had seen—especially the children.
It was harvest season for a type of corn grown there called maize. It seemed like every little yard had a sheet, tarp, or blanket laid out with corn kernels drying in a single layer under the sun. Walking the half mile to the church definitely wasn’t the only thing that made us sweat…just getting up and brushing our teeth could bring on the droplets of perspiration…. and the bugs! Actually, they weren’t as bad as I thought they might be. However, the mosquitoes were relentless, day or night. Bug spray was our closest companion next to our Bible, of course!
Worship by the host church began each day’s seminar. The first day you could feel the anticipation for the week ahead! People arrived pretty close to “on time” for which we were pleasantly surprised. One of our jet lagged leaders, Chris, presented the foundation for the teachings to come. Each biblical character that we were going to study included a look at their background, what experience with God they had, and their response of obedience to God that developed their character. Chris did a great job in conjunction with our translator and former YWAM Madison staff Elisante.
There was a lot of energy to go around. Sitting there trying hard to stay awake after traveling for 39 hours and going from -10 degrees to easily 85 degrees Fahrenheit plus 100% humidity, I asked God to deposit in me his heart for this people. And he did! A spirit of thankfulness welled up within my heart. I felt so honored that God had brought us to this place to partner with Him in instilling biblical principles about leadership. Each day this feeling grew like a tender shoot of grace.
THE RHYTHM OF LIFE
We soon found our rhythm both in our nightly routine and in our teaching regimen. As we walked to and from the church we heard shouts of “Muzungu!” (which means “foreigner,” but is synonymous with “white person”) and squeals of laughter as the children became more familiar with each of us. There was “princess” who often had on a Disney princess nightgown as a dress. Also, because we didn’t understand the families in our housing unit, we had given English names to some of the children, “Precious” and “Dimples.” There was the “little hut” family that had multiple generations staying in a 10′ x 12′ building. Both adults and children waved from their seated perches on tiny stools or “picnic” blankets as they hand-picked the corn kernels from each stalk.
On most mornings we had breakfast and then team time where we shared openly and honestly what God was doing, what we were struggling with or having victory over, and prayer requests. Then we prayed together as well as for whoever was teaching that day. Our leaders were amazingly sensitive to the needs of each person. I aspire to be like them when I grow up! Following our team time we would split off into different things. Some of us had our personal devos, some prayed and prepped for their teachings, and others did laundry by hand. The things that had first appalled us were losing their sting: women carrying their four 5-gallon jugs to get water and then carry it back to wherever they lived, not being able to wash hands after using the restroom (hand sanitizer was a must), stray dogs or cats wandering into the church—and even chickens.
We learned different phrases on how to greet people, but I don’t have my daughter’s knack for languages, so I resorted to “mambo!” (which is a more of a slang greeting among friends but inappropriate for strangers or those older than you) or just my English “Good morning” or “good afternoon.” Lots of laughter. Lots of blank stares. Mostly warmth wherever we went. This was to be our temporary home.
It was harvest time spiritually and physically. Here we were, the “sent ones.” We weren’t alone. Those doing the “sending” were with us in spirit through their giving and their prayers. God was with us and He was at work!