"For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God." (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Random Catching Up

Sorry for the silent stretch there.  We finished up our language study time in Diapaga last week and moved back to Mahadaga on Tuesday afternoon.  It's kept us busy and I haven't had a chance to sit down and catch you up until now; that, and I was running out of things to tell you about when we were still in Diapaga "doing language study".  There are only so many pictures of yourself sitting in front of the computer or a book you can take before it just gets boring.;)

So, a lot of random little things have happened in the last couple of weeks.  I'll try and bring you up to date.  When the pastor of the church we attended in Diapaga realized we were just about done with our language study time in Diapaga, he was quick to ask Dale to preach his last Sunday in town.  Dale agreed.  Despite the 3 months of language study, he did not attempt to preach in Gourma...3 months of interrupted language study like we've just had is not nearly long enough to be fluent enough to preach in another language!  Still, it was a nice opportunity and we appreciated the gesture.

Dale preparing his sermon - no printer meant he had to hand-write it all; I would post a picture of him actually preaching, but I lost my nerve when it came time to take pictures in church - didn't want to make such a spectacle of myself!
So what did Dale preach about? He started by telling about an interesting cultural experience he had a while back while going out on a visit to one of the Center's clients.  I thought it might be interesting to tell you about it, too.  While visiting one family with a handicapped child, they ended the session like usual - by sharing the Gospel with the family and praying with them.  After listening respectfully to what the case worker shared, the father of the family said: "I know that what you say is true.  But you see, I'm a fortune-teller by trade.  If I choose to accept what you say, I can no longer be a fortune-teller, and then how will I make a living?  If you can promise me that I will still be able to make money following your God, I will be happy to accept."  Dale scrambled to find a way to respond to this man, but at the moment came up blank.  Later on, however, he ran across 2 parables that Jesus told that reminded him of this man's story.

Jesus tells us about a man who was working in the fields (probably someone else's laborer) when he accidentally stumbled across a great treasure.  Recognizing the treasure for what it was, he quickly buried it, and went home, sold everything he owned in order to buy the field.  Jesus goes on to tell us about a man (a merchant?) who sought and sold pearls for a living.  One day as he searched, he found one pearl that was of greater value than any other he had previously seen, and he went and sold his entire fortune in order to obtain this one pearl.

Dale pointed out - in one case, the man stumbled across his treasure (truth) by accident (much like the fortune-telling father); in the other case, the man had dedicated his life to searching for treasure.  Regardless of how they found it, though, both had a choice to make once they found the treasure - what were they going to do with it?  Both men chose to sell everything else in order to get the treasure.  The challenge?  Yes, salvation is free, but do we recognize it's worth to us?  Is it valuable enough that we are willing to leave everything else to follow the way of salvation?  What we're called to "sell" for the sake of the treasure may be different for each of us, but we must all be willing to leave it behind - reputation, family recognition, friends, riches, success, etc.

Sunday after church we decided to "treat" ourselves as this was our last weekend in Diapaga.  We were running low on food supplies anyway, and so we thought we'd splurge for supper and go out to eat at one of the local restaurants we'd seen at a "nicer-looking" hotel.  Dale even went out on the moto ahead of time to check in with management at the restaurant and make sure it'd be open on a Sunday evening.  "Yes," they assured him.  "We're open 'til 11 this evening."  At 6:30, the Johnson family climbed in the wonderfully air-conditioned car and made our pampered way to the nice restaurant in Diapaga.  Upon arriving, we were the only customers there for the moment; we seated ourselves (out door seating only) and the waiter, who'd been lounging around outside, walked over to take our order.  "Umm, do you have a menu?" asked Dale.  The man just shrugged and looked quizzical.  "Well, what can we order?" asked Dale.  Again, a shrug and a quizzical look.  By this point, both the boys were pounding on the table and hollering "Fanta, fanta!" at the top of their lungs, so I looked at Dale, shrugged and said, "let's just order drinks to start and then we can try and get past this awkwardness."  So we ordered a round of sodas, the waiter brought them, then sauntered away.  "Is he planning to come back?" I asked.  "I don't know," Dale shrugged.  "I'll try and flag him down again."  Actually, the waiter had simply gone back to his perch at a nearby table, obviously bored to tears.  "Excuse me," Dale called again.  "What can we order to eat?  Will you take our food order now?"  "To eat?" the waiter looked up surprised.  "The cook doesn't work today."  So that was the end of our attempted splurge in Diapaga.  The waiter must've thought us pretty odd to be bringing 2 kids to a bar on a Sunday night!;)  But in defense of ourselves, the sign outside DID say 'restaurant' and Dale did ask if the 'restaurant' was open (not the bar).

The boys clink their glasses and say "cheers!"
In all fairness, though we didn't care for "big city life" too much (we prefer our comfortable home in the country!), there were a few conveniences in Diapaga that we will miss: namely the local "boulangerie" (bread shop) and the nearby "campement" (hunting lodge) that had a nice pool (and did offer meals, but they cost an arm and a leg).  We managed to spend our last 3 weeks in Diapaga without "interruption" - that is to say, we actually stayed in one place without travelling!  It was nice to take a break from the constant packing and running around, and it was much more ideal for language learning, but unfortunately this "stay-at-home" period came at the end of our language study time instead of the beginning.  By then, we were getting tired of the temporal conditions of our lodging situation and were really ready to just move back home.  The rising heat and humidity didn't help much, either, but we finally did get some reprieve when we had rain 2 nights back-to-back and a couple of cloudy days.

We were excited to see little green grass heads poking their heads up already after our two rains in Diapaga; the land is quite thirsty and eager to come back to life given a little water!
 This past Monday Dale took advantage of a last-minute opportunity to ride along with one of the Center's case-workers, Julien, who is based out of Diapaga and oversees a rather large region of clients from there.  On this particular day they visited 6 different cases, all of them children with cerebral palsy.  Upon returning from the outing, Dale said it was one of the best language-learning activities he'd done all 3 months (too bad we didn't think of doing it sooner!).  At each compound, Julien would spend time with the child, asking him or her to do simple tasks repeatedly; what a great way for Dale to hear certain words being used over and over again!  I personally have yet to have a chance to go out on a home-based therapy outing with one of the case-workers and see the work first-hand, but this particular time when Dale came home and showed me the pictures and told me stories from the day, I was touched once again by the reality of the work we do.  It's easy to get discouraged by the mass amounts of work we face, the extremely simplistic, rudimentary tools we have to use, the limited resources, etc, etc.  But there's something captivating about realizing that each one of these children has so much potential!  They may never recover the full physical or mental abilities they might have done had they access to more advanced medicine, but that doesn't change the fact that given a chance, even a very small one, they can still be someone.  They ARE someone!  God loves each and everyone of these "incapable" children so very much!  And He chooses to use such as these to change this world, to display His love and help us understand His kingdom values.

Julien tells Oumarou a Bible story while he spends some time in a verticalizer, a therapy contraption designed to help the muscles grow accustomed to an upright position and to carry the weight of the body.
Seven-year-old Natani became a cerebral palsy patient after she contracted a cerebral strain of malaria when she was 4.

This little boy had the biggest grin for any praise given him.  Julien was working with him on his fine motor skills, asking him to pick up a lego piece and hand it to various members of the family, then get them back.  He LOVED the special attention he was getting and, like any other little boy, showed his mischievous side as he played.

I was especially struck as Dale talked about one of the little girls who is about 4 years old.  She's a newer case and when Julien first found her, she was practically a vegetable.  The last time Julien visited her, she was still not crawling, but Julien continued to work with her, encourage the family, and teach them how to care for her and help her progress.  When they arrived at the girl's compound Monday, Julien was surprised to find the little girl walking with a little support from her older sisters!  What a great example of what is possible when there is family support!  It was exciting to see the girl's progress and realize that she has a chance to develop further in life than most handicapped children in this region do simply by having a supportive family.  As it turns out, this family has 4 daughters.  The youngest has cerebral palsy, but the 2nd oldest daughter is also disabled - she is deaf.  We're hoping to enroll her at the Center's school this fall so she can start learning sign language and get an education.  She should've gone last year already, but she was ill when school started and so they delayed her for another year.  But as Dale continued to tell me about this family with two disabled girls, he also mentioned, "Normally we'd also send her younger sister, the 3rd daughter, to the Center school with her so she would have someone in her family who could also speak sign language and interact with her.  Unfortunately, we just can't afford to take her."

My heart broke as I looked at her picture and thought about the implications of all of this.  I wanted to beg Dale to make an exception - it can't be that expensive, right?  This family, like the majority of the families who send their children to the Center's school, can't afford to send any of their daughters to our school, so the Center is already "overlooking" the unpaid school fees for over 120 children.  Can one more child make that much of a difference to that bottom line?  No.  But it's never "just one child."  There are so many that are in a similar predicament, so many who "deserve" to go.  How do you choose?  Where do you draw the line between wanting to help everyone you can and needing to be fiscally responsible in order to avoid going broke and not being able to help anyone at all?  The Center has currently set school fees at $25 per school year per child.  This, of course, doesn't cover all of the true school costs.  If everyone paid their school fees, the income generated would cover about one fifth of the total costs to run the school.  The rest of the school costs are funded through donations.  Unfortunately, only about 1/4 of the students are actually able to pay their school fees.  It struck me that over the course of a 6-year elementary program, each child's school fees would amount to $300.  That breaks down to $25 per month for one year.  And as I thought about all this, I had to hope.  I feel so inadequate to raise large sums of money for good causes; I know that most people I know are already giving to so many good causes.  But I have to hope that it's possible to find a few people out there who would be willing to become a champion for these kids - to send $25 a month for just one year, or $50 a month so that Sister can go to school, too, and learn how to relate to her disabled sibling.  Does that really seem like too much?

Pictured are the four-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and her deaf sister.  In the background is the oldest sister in the family.
We made our "big move" back to Mahadaga on Tuesday afternoon.  Dale rode his motorbike the 35 miles back to Mahadaga while I followed along behind.  Somehow we managed to stuff everything we'd brought with us to Diapaga into that one car load.  It was nice to be back in our home and know we were going to be staying this time!  There are always times, of course, when we wish we could get away - but really, we just want to get away from the pressures of work.  It's nice, though, to realize and appreciate how much we've come to love this home and to feel at home in this community, even if we probably will never really "fit in" as I was reminded on Wednesday afternoon.

We had planned a meal together as a mission station for Wednesday afternoon.  I've been trying to train a friend, the wife of one of the Center employees, to cook some "Western" meals in hopes of having her help when we have visitors, so I decided to teach her to make enchiladas for this particular station meal.  As I wanted for her to arrive to work on the meal, I had a visit from a few of the local young Fuhlani women.  As per usual, they'd spotted a "strange" car and assumed there were "strangers" in town who might want to buy their woven grass mats.  Unfortunately, our visitors were not really "strangers", so they didn't make a sale (though they tried hard to convince me to buy something instead!).  They made themselves comfortable on my front porch for a while instead, and having a few minutes to spare, I decided to indulge them.  It's always a cross-cultural experience "chilling" with the Fuhlani girls and, I have to admit, not always one I'm feeling up for.  Wednesday afternoon, though, they amused themselves (and me) by discussing my hair.  I usually get my hair cut when we go to Ouaga, but we haven't been in Ouaga since the end of January, so it's been longer than usual.  I had my hair pulled up in a bun, but they insisted that I let it down so they could see how long it was and what it looked like.  

After they were done discussing my hair and whether or not I should cut it and how I should wear it, they proceeded to discuss how many children I have and whether or not I was pregnant (or should be).  I've long since given up trying to argue with anyone here that I only want 2 children.  They just can't understand this concept.  So I gave my usual reply: "If God wants..."  "But you have to have a baby girl now," they insisted.  "I can't control that," I replied.  And then I made the mistake of trying to explain that in America it's common to have only 2 children.  I tried logic (my logic) - that we think that if you don't have too many children you can focus more attention on the ones you have and give them more resources in life.  "But you have enough money for at least 4 or 5," they argued.  

The conversation was mercifully cut off by a request for water (a common hospitality courtesy here).  Most people don't have power in their homes, and so they don't have fridges to keep cold water.  This means they are not used to cold water.  But they know I have a fridge and I have cold water.  So, despite the fact that they're not used to it, they always insist that I give them cold water to drink (I always offer to just get tap water, but they won't hear of it).  Then they spend the next 10 minutes grimacing through the drinking session - it almost reminds me of a drinking game at a bar as they dare each other to drink the most cold water and giggle at each other as they can't handle the cold.  Really, the water's not THAT cold...it doesn't even have ice  in it!  Last but not least, they begged me to take pictures of them.  And now you know why I'm even bothering to tell you about their visit...I wanted to have something to tell about the pictures!;)  We had a young woman from New Zelanad named Anita visit Mahadaga for 2 months a couple of years ago.  She's the daughter of former missionaries to Burkina Faso and grew up here from age 2 to 16.  Her parents worked with the Fuhlani people in the northern part of the country, and so she speaks the Fuhlani language fluently.  Needless to say, she was a big hit!  

And so, Anita, if you happen to read my blog by some random chance, know that these pictures were taken by strict order of the Fuhlani girls of Mahadaga who wanted me to send them to you.  Unfortunately, I can't seem to find your email address!

I have to admit, I wasn't too unwilling to take a picture of this adorable baby!  There was another baby in the group as well, but he was scared to death of me and would only scream and cry if he had to sit and face me.  Oh, well.
Kumbo (in the green and white shirt) is the baby's mother.  Her older sister, Binta, was my first Fuhlani friend.  The girl in yellow is Ai, another Fuhlani friend who usually sells me milk and talks me into buying all kinds of woven grass handicrafts.
And that concludes a rather lengthy and random update of the last couple of weeks.  Hope you enjoyed getting caught up!  Hopefully things will settle down a little now and I'll be a little more regular on here.

Yeah, right!  Who am I kidding?!  Life is never dull when you're on adventure with God!  

Until the next blog adventure!

1 comment:

  1. what a great update, thanks so much. i always enjoy the details of your life there...i always find it interesting the similarities to life in Nicaragua...for example, your talk about having more kids. the nicaraguan women in the country usually have 10 or more kids, so I've had that same discussion too...they kept asking when I was going to have my girl :) it's funny how there are so many things we take for granted in our culture...like drive-thru atm's for banks!