Monday, August 30, 2010

How quickly we forget

          "I will never take _____ for granted again!" How many times do we find ourselves either thinking this or saying this when we have something that we have missed for a period of time. I can't even begin to count the number of times since being here that I have used that phrase. It usually comes at the time of a cold shower, or the blessing of a warm one, that I think or even verbalize that I will "never" take hot water for granted again. Recently it has been electricity as power outages have been more frequent and for longer periods of time. We can almost expect each night that our electricity will go out between 6-8 p.m. and not resume until sometime throughout the night, leaving us in the dark, breezeless night with the humidity settling in around us like a heavy blanket. This is more of a frustration and inconvenience than anything else, but unfortunately we do rely on electricity to keep medications cold and with temperatures like ours, our little refrigerator has trouble keeping the cold in, or even getting cold for that matter when we do have electricity.
          I also tend to think about this phrase when it comes to rain, the cold, always having running water at our fingertips and having the convenience of a vehicle. But the biggest event that triggered this thought recently was the use of a washing machine!
          A few days ago, we were blessed to once again to have family here in Gambia. My (Jessica's) parents came to visit for 9 days. We decided to take a couple of days in the city to enjoy some A.C., a pool, satellite tv, hot water and much to my delight: our very own washing machine! Usually if we go somewhere with a washing machine we have to pay someone to do our wash for us, but at this particular  place we were able to do it ourselves. You may find yourself laughing at this, but after washing clothes by hand for 9 months, it is amazing to use a washing machine and to realize how dry clothes get when spun rather than hand rung! Elias and I actually made the 30-40 min. drive back to our house just to get the rest of our laundry so that we wouldn't have to do it by hand later in the week.
          As exciting as this may be, it got me thinking about how may times we say that we won't take something for granted ever again and then in a matter of weeks, or maybe a couple of months if we're fortunate, we have forgotten and begin complaining about the very thing we were never going to take for granted! Even I have to admit that before I know it, I'll be complaining about having to take the time to put the clothes in the washer, let the machine do the work and then take the time to hang them on the line. Or I will be stepping into the hot shower, because I have to without even thinking about the hundreds of cold showers that I had to take here. When we experience the infrequent power outage at home, it will most likely be followed by surprise and possibly groans if it interferes with our daily routine.
         I then began to think about how we even do this with people, especially our families. After having Elias' family and then my parents come to visit, we were reminded how nice it is to have time with family and how much we do actually miss them. Yet when we get home, we may find ourselves getting irritated with the very people that we missed so much while here. I would love to think that I will never take the blessing of family for granted, but I know that all too often that is exactly what happens. And as I thought about how quickly we take for granted our immediate family, I began to think about our church family and how this so easily happens with the body of Christ. Rather than recognize the gifts that others have to offer, we argue about our differences. Or rather than complimenting our pastors on all the work they do, we nit pick and complain about what they aren't doing.
         Which then brings me to think about how often we take God himself for granted. In times of need, we cry out with all our being, and when He answers, we promise to be more faithful, make more time for Him and never take for granted how He provides for us and blesses us. Then things get better and we find that it has been days, weeks or even months since we sat down and read our Bible or prayed to the One who carried us through our time of suffering. We forget all of His blessings such as the blessings of food, shelter, clothing, work. We forget to thank Him for our families and lift them up to him, especially when we're irritated with them. We forget to thank Him for the body of Christ and how He made us each unique yet in His image so that we can show others, who our God is and bring His kingdom here to earth. This is coming from personal convictions that I know I have to work on, but I think that it is all too common in most of our lives. My prayer is that we can strive to remember all of our blessings, big and small, and truly not take things for granted rather than just saying that we won't.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Anniversary Vacation

       From August 3-10 we went to the city for a week of vacation to celebrate our anniversary. Overall the week was pleasant and restful, only after following a few days of stress which God used to bless us in the end. We chose a hotel with self catering apartments on the beach so that we would still be able to cook our own meals while enjoying the ocean that we rarely see at home.
       The first day that we arrived we found out that we had to supply our own cash power which is basically like phone credit but for electricity. This was a little frustrating, but we went out and bought our cash power while getting groceries with the team and all was well...until we got back to the hotel that is. Upon entering our cash power into the meter we discovered that the meter was broken and since the power can't be transferred from meter to meter our money would either go to waste or the meter had to fixed. We opted for the meter being fixed. So for the first few hours we had no electricity until they decided to wire our meter to another meter to use the left over cash power on that meter until our meter was fixed the next day. We readily agreed to this arrangement which in the end provided us with just enough cash power for the week.
        The next day however we woke up and discovered that our computer cord had been fried by the power outages and flipping of breakers the previous day and throughout the night. Unfortunately, while we love our Mac laptop, finding Apple products in Gambia is like finding a needle in a haystack that may or may not even be in the haystack. We did find one man who said he could get a cord in a couple of days, but then we found another man who thought he could fix the cord. So we left the cord and agreed to come back the next day. This took about half the day which also added to our frustration, but it was turned around into a blessing considering we were in the city where we were able to easily check about power cords and return in a day where as if we had been in Brikama the travel would have been even more difficult and stressful. We were also happy to arrive back at the hotel and find that the satellite TV had been fixed and we were able to enjoy some different shows that we have never seen or at least not in about a year along with some of our favorite movies that were playing.
        So once again the next day we set out and discovered that our cord could not be fixed, but it could be spliced to another power cord until my parents arrive with a new cord. We also discovered that the man that would "repair" our cord had an Apple cord but it was 24 V instead of 16 V which would have fried our computer. With this knowledge we decided that rather than wait another day for the other place to get an Apple cord which may also be 24 V we would trust these men who actually knew what they were doing to provide a temporary fix. This was a success and the rest of the week went quite smoothly!
        The rest of the week we were able to enjoy swimming in the ocean, see a sea turtle be set free that had been caught in a fishing net, just relaxing and of course celebrating our two year anniversary in West Africa! We decided that the hotel we went to wouldn't be our first choice for another vacation, but it served it's purpose and God was faithful!
         Here are some pictures from our time in the city:
kitchen/dining room area

living room



View from our balcony

enjoying the ocean

Apparently every Sunday during the off season until Ramadan there is a beach party where thousands of Gambians go to swim, eat, dance and just have a big celebration. We were unaware of this initially when we went swimming on Sunday, but Sunday evening after going out for dinner we decided to walk back to our hotel along the beach and this is part of what we saw. The picture doesn't do it any justice compared with how many people were really there. It was really nice to see this though since Gambians don't get too many opportunities to enjoy the beach. 

Prayer requests:
-My parents will be leaving on Monday the 16th and arriving on the 17th. We would like prayer for safe and easy travels and just a blessed time with them here.
-Our teammate Lori leave on Sunday the 15th to return to the States. Please pray for all of her travels as well
-For rain! We need a lot of rain this month or there will be problems and it is actually very dry!

-We had a wonderful vacation overall
-We have met a new friend who is a Peace Corp worker, but lives in the Methodist Mission here as well
-We will once again be able to enjoy time with family!