Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mid-point reflection

      For those of you that don't receive our newsletters, this was one of our articles from our May update:

        We have reached the half-way mark! As I reflect over the last six months I see how much we have grown and changed in how we live, how we relate, how we see the world, and what we consider "normal". Six months ago we stepped off a plane into a new and unknown country and culture. We left the airport in the dark passing through towns that would look completely different come daylight, and wondering how far we would have to travel to get to the village of Pirang. As I smelled the smells and saw the small shops, memories of Bolivia flooded back to me, but I would quickly learn that even though we were in a warm climate culture once again, Gambia would be very different from Bolivia. 
Our first month was spent in Pirang where we adjusted to life without electricty and the world of hand washing clothing. I began to learn to become more creative in cooking without an oven and with limited meat. Shower time was my least favorite time of the day as I dreaded stepping into the cold stream of water. I also adjusted to wearing a skirt nearly every day.
As month two rolled around, Elias and I moved to Brikama making our own new "normal". Little by little we began to find new goodies in the market that one month ago seemed so huge and scary. Our days were busy with language study and trying to move past the fear of venturing out to some of the villages, that we would be soon traveling to every day, to develop relationships. 
We then went through another change of ending our time of language study and beginning our work with youth. We had to readjust our schedule once again to find what worked for us and the different groups. 
        With our new ministry came more use of public transportation and bicycle riding along with the challenge of preparing weekly lessons in both english and kiriol. Also throughout this time, I began experimenting more and more new recipes trying everything from my own mayonaise, which didn't turn out so well, to making homemade bagels, french bread, yogurt and granola bars. 
Things that once seemed so foreign and strange have become quite normal for us now. I now find myself not thinking twice when I step into a cold shower, even though I still rather enjoy a warm one. Laundry day comes once a week, and while Elias is counting down the numbers of time we have left of hand washing, and it gets done in a couple of hours. Each day I wake up and even if I'm not going any where I put on a skirt and one of my ribbed tank tops. We both know that we are only allowed about 3 outfits per week, no matter how sweaty they get, for the sake of laundry. Three days a week we hop on our bicyles, and yes many times I do ride in a skirt which was quite strange and frustrating at first, and either ride to the bus park for public transportation or straight to the village we are working with that day. Then one day a week we walk to the bus park, hop onto public transport and ride to and from our other study. I know that grocery shopping comes once a week meaning that we need to decide if two meat meals for that week will be ground beef and chicken, ground beef and fish or fish and chicken. The rest of the week our meals consist of meatless meals that we have grown accostomed to such as cheese quesadillas or cheese and veggie pizza (cheese only makes one vegetarian meal per  week since it is costly). I also have to think about what will fit into our dorm size fridge. 
Each day we mix up powdered milk unless we splurged on some real milk. We drink water only from our filter and heat up water to wash our dishes. We have come to acccept that no matter how many time we sweap and mop our floor it will never be truly clean and the dust will just come back later that day or the next. We groan when the power goes out once again and praise Jesus when it comes back on. I know which fellowships have "nice" pit latrines and which ones I would prefer not to use and I no longer worry about how I smell because I just blend right in. 
No matter where we go and how strange it is, life does become "normal". I put normal in quotation marks because what really is normal anyways? Everyone and every culture lives life differently, but for them that is just how life is lived. We have had to adjust to a new way of living that has challenged us, but has forced us to grow. We know what we appreciate from home, but we also know what we can live without and that God will be faithful through it all. We have learned things about ourselves and each other that we would have never known without this exeprience. 
Every day God continues to form us into the people He has made us to be. We just have to be willing to let Him. We see how He is working in us as individuals and as a couple and we like what we see. However, we are exremely thankful that He's no where near finished with us. We are excited to see what else He has in store for us this second half of our journey.  

Also, a quick puppy update. Unfortunately all 7 of our puppies have died due to infection and poor mothering from our young and inexperienced mother. We are saddened by this, but it may be for the better since they wouldn't have been cared for in this culture.

-We have made it half way!
-Our ministry is going well, the youth that are involved seem quite interested
-We were able to take a short retreat to regroup and rest

Prayer requests:
-That we will have open doors for opportunities with non-believers
-That we will know how to mentor our leaders into their leadership positions
-For Elias' parents and sister who will be coming in less than three weeks! That they will not have trouble with visas, that their travel will go well and we will have a blessed time with them.

Thank you for continuing to follow us and being part of our work here in Gambia!

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