Friday, November 30, 2012

Adding another country to my "been-to" list

Last weekend John and I visited a neighboring country.  The people groups in West Africa often spill over from one country to another, since borders have been artificially drawn.  The people group we work with can be found in four countries.  So we wanted to see how close this group's language is to the language we know.  Specifically, John wanted to observe their music in local churches and to interview some Christians.

Enjoying a break before the bad section of road
I have no idea how this happened!
The first half of the trip is fine, but the 2nd half is on terrible, terrible roads. Just before we hit the really bad part we stopped for a picnic.  They are re-paving the road, but in the meantime it is pretty crazy. We finally got to the border and went through customs on both sides.  One of the officials was so slow in writing down our information and seemed to be new on the job.  There were also literally hundreds of used cars that are shipped into that country from Europe and then driven up here to be sold in the used car market (that's how we bought our car which came from Switzerland and which has snow tires on it!).  We tried to call the missionary we were visiting, but couldn't get through.  Meanwhile he was getting really worried, but couldn't get through to us, either.  We finally arrived a little later than we had expected, but without any problems.

Our little guest house
There are two missionary families living on the compound and a dry season Bible school with about 16 students on the same compound.  We ate supper with one of the families and then headed to bed.  They don't have electricity, though there is power in the town.  In fact the power line comes right up to the edge of the mission station, but I don't think they're in a hurry to connect since the houses are hooked up with solar power.  They also run a generator from 6:30 to 9:30 each evening.  The little guest house didn't have solar power, so we just had the generator. Friday night, when we arrived, I went to sleep the minute the generator went off and slept until almost 8 a.m.  I haven't slept that much in ages!  Thankfully it was cool enough at night that we didn't miss not having a fan too much.


Jack the jackal
The monkey and the dog playing together.  I can't say I'm a big fan of monkeys!
I told John he can get me a duiker for Christmas
On Saturday it was great to just be able to spend a little extra time with the Lord, read my book, and take a nap (napping wasn't so great though as it was a bit hot in the afternoon without any fan).  John did some interviews with some guys.  We had lunch with one of the missionary families and later I explored the compound a bit.  I loved their menagerie of animals....two duikers, a jackal, a monkey (who loved playing with one of the dogs), a parrot and a parakeet, a cat, two dogs, two tortoises, a baby crocodile, and a civet cat.  I totally want a duiker for a pet!  They are a small antelope. This one was so tame it liked to be petted and would follow us all over, even into the house.  They are a quiet pet and so beautiful. 

The village
 Later in the afternoon I went for a walk in the village.  The houses look quite different from the houses here, I think mainly because they have pitched roofs whereas our houses have flat roofs.  Also here people in towns have mud brick walls around their compounds, but there, while some had mud walls, many had grass mat walls or no walls at all. It just felt more open somehow.  I was also very surprised to see pigs running around and to be served pork and to find out that the people of this group actually eat pork!  While here we have chosen to not eat pork because it is so offensive to the people we work with.  There were also a lot more really tall trees than what we have here.

That evening we ate again with one of the families and then played a game with them.  Some of their children were not feeling well at all, one with an asthma attack which brought back a lot of memories of getting the nebulizer set up for Suzanne and trying to prevent an attack from turning into a full-blown crisis.   Again, the lights were out by 9:30.  We read until 10:00 by a battery lantern, but I got about nine hours of sleep that night.  I think I slept so well because I knew there wasn't anything I had to get up to do.


A village church
On Sunday we went to a village with a church.    We were surprised to find this sister-language group with a really vibrant church in the village we visited and several church plants in other villages.  Of course, in comparison to how many are NOT Christians, it is still a largely unreached group.  But compared to this country, it was pretty amazing.  We worked 16 years among this people group.  Other missionaries before us worked with them.  While we were in the town where we used to live, other churches tried starting church plants.  Today there are maybe five or six believers who meet for worship.  And all along the road there is village after village with no gospel witness. So to see any churches at all was encouraging!

The church we visited had about 45 adults in attendance and was packed.  They have a pastor and their choir did a great job.  Of all the churches we have visited, this was the only church that did everything in the mother tongue.....music, prayer, message.  (Of course I am comparing capital city churches with a village church.  Here in the capital it seems every church has quite a bit of French mixed in.  I also know that the Hausa churches seem to be more one-language churches.) I was also surprised at how many women had Bibles and were able to read them. 

We could understand most of what people said and I think they could understand us.  I asked some kids where their house was and they stared at me blankly.  So I asked the question another way and still got blank stares.  I framed it a third way and they all started talking at once!  I told a little girl to blow her nose and she did so I think she understood that!  John understood a lot and was able to start figuring out the patterns to which pronunciations are different.  He's amazing that way!  

Sunday night we again ate with one of the missionary families (they were both so hospitable!).  Again, lights out by 10, but then we got up pretty early in the morning to head home.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention that I did wake up early every morning with the call to prayer and reading of the Holy Book.  The prayer place was nearby and they had a good loud speaker and we had no fan to block it out!  Thankfully I was able to go to sleep as that was probably some time between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m.


The road hadn't improved at all on the way back.  The only improvement was that we were moving across the border early in the day so we didn't have all the car import traffic to deal with.  We spent half an hour in a large town looking for a church there.  We finally found one church, but we're not sure if it's the one we were looking for or not as there was no sign on it.  It was siesta, so the pastor wasn't around.

It was great to visit another country, but even better to come home again!  Unfortunately, on Tuesday John woke up with a terrible cold.  He hasn't been this sick for a long time.  He still sounds terrible, but isn't as bad as he was on Tuesday.

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