April 20, 2010 :: 5:10pm
Outside my Door
There are not a lot of simple answers when you live in and amongst poverty, particularly when it has been presence for a sustained period of time. Each day my door lines with stories big and small. School, food, health care and shelter are all worthy causes and essential to breaking the poverty cycle. Of course it is easy to ignore (or be unaware) when you aren’t there. However, when the reality of a needy situation has a name and face and is standing at your door it is hard to hide from the it.
Life in the developing world is raw, it is hard to understand until you really come and visit. Dad decided come be one who would want to understand. I had the joy of picking him up from the airport last Wednesday. Some early highlights include playing bass on a recording of traditional music, learning to navigate the concrete labyrinths between compounds, leaving him on the side of the highway with two non-English speaking locals and long father son bonding walks as we push the motorbike home.*
One of my favourite new experiences for him may have just been the wedding – particularly because it my first chance to take him to visit some of my friends from my first visit to the Gambia in 2005. Kola nuts, crazy dancing, fancy dresses and the endless display of cultural idiosyncrasies are all things I’ve explored and experienced over five journeys to West Africa. My dad saw them on his second day. I’ve honestly been trying to take it easy but it is hard to do.
For a new comer, living in community in Africa is a take the red pill or blue pill type situation . Parades of social interaction from the locals creates an overwhelming wave of new names and language phrases to learn. Each new experience grows new questions, new answers breed new questions which normally don’t have answers but only further extend the beautiful chaos that is African life through the Westerner’s eye.
All said “Dad, You are highly welcome.”
Redeeming Long Days
Some days are long and trying but somehow God has a way funny way of redeeming them. When you drive 20km to spend 2 hours collecting scattered scat in the 35oC open bushy field, because you miss interpreted the cultural meaning of “I have a pile of manure ready to pick-up” may just come to realize how patient and tolerant people are of your own misunderstandings.
Or when the kids have curiously filled your rocket stove with rocks and used the pots to make mud pies which are set to bake on your chairs they will later turn around to leave of priceless portrait of you on the wall outside your door right when you were thinking about packing your bags and going home.**
We live in a broken world but there is a hope there is purpose in life and life in the right purposes – some days it is obvious other days it seems to vanish but each day I must believe this is true.
I pray all in well with each of you. Thanks for all the emails and notes I wish I respond each of them. Miss you all.
*I’m just writing this now because I know the stories will come out when he gets home.
** The label "Mike Camera" above my portrait is not a reference to the number of pictures I take but more so my African last name which should be spelt Camara but that wasn’t really important at the time.
I didn't quite understand Pastor's genius until I was 20 mins out of Brikama*; they don't call the place H.ouse o.f W.isdom for nothing. Louring me with the thought of a weekend away and a chance to drive his sweet Toyota Land Cruiser** to the E.C.G.*** Easter conference. How could I refuse? Granted at the time there was little mention of the 20 kids that would be loaded in the back but, it was too late to turn back all I could do was admire the brilliance.
Hot and "rustic" Kampant is Africa turned up a few notches. Although the Easter retreat is a family camp this year many parents chose to stay at home and elected instead to send all their kids as representatives. The foreigners were indited to manage the chaos.
The kids run wild juiced up of Cashew fruit and free of pants and parental control. With the heat and number of Gambian men who snore sleep is found in the back of the Land Cruiser or outside on open walkways. Meals test one's survival skills; 20 large bowls appear in the eating area, a prayer is said then 4 hours arduous cooking is turned over to the wrath of 300 mouths with right hands as utensils. It is really a germ-a-phob's worst nightmare****. However, all said as with most things African, the camp runs remarkably smoothly and everyone enjoys themselves.
The highlight of the weekend for me was the baptisms in the Gambian River. A 2km walk through the river flood plains, the community broke into song as 5 people gave testimonies and publicly declaring their dedication to Christ, a decision that often comes at a huge cost. It is a humbling example to see people with such strong virtue and conviction.
After Sunday service and lunch we packed 20 kids into the old Land Cruiser and followed the sun back to the cool ocean breeze of the Kombos.
Back in S.ukuta this week we are putting our hands back to work - the retrofit of the banana irrigation project is completed and we are trying to a to germinate over 1000 mahogany seeds that we gathered from the bush over the weekend.
Thanks for reading and for all who have sent notes sorry I don't always have time to write back. I miss you all.
* Brikama - The last major city before leaving the Kombos (South River Coastal region)
** the Land Cruiser served many years as the WEC's Sibanor Clinic ambulance. On the way home it decided to re-visit its history as two of my passengers fell quite ill. I'd like to blame the roads as opposed to my driving but regardless I made up for it when I got home by making a few calls and a special run to the only open pharmacy in Banjul to get full prescriptions for an abscessed tooth and an epic case of menstrual cramps.
*** Evangelical Church of The Gambia
**** If Norwalk or H1N1 ever made its way here... I honestly believe it is the grace of God that keeps everyone healthy in Africa.