elixir of life: normality
Or as Mark
puts it to Diane (who begs to differ), “No experiments, no excitement.
Boring is Good.” Well, life is good in Chageen, if not exactly boring
– translation, kids, radio, women, clinic, pastors – it all goes on
with no crises to make it “exciting”. Here then are some incidental
features of our life as we find it.
come to our compound, stand in front of our door, and respectfully clap
about three times to get our attention, and then sit down on the bricks
which line the walk to await our appearance. They are the dozens of
young Kwong boys who come to borrow our soccer ball or play with our
Legos, and listen attentively to any and every bit of wisdom we wish to
impart to them. In short, they are the future of the Kwong tribe and we
cannot help but be humbled by their attachment to us and openness. We
keep wishing that someone more gifted than us would work with them, but
failing that, we do our best to take some time with them before sending
them off for their own version of the World Cup.
accountants and imposters
the closest thing to a crisis we have to report. In a fit of unwarranted
optimism or outright delusion, our colleagues on the Chad field of TEAM
elected us to the post of field treasurer. Mark bears the title since he
does better in the field-council meetings that come with the job, but
everyone knows that Diane has the accounting gene and are no doubt
counting on her to keep Mark from completely screwing things up. So, for
the last several weeks we have been introduced to the cynical world of
“higher” accounting where a negative sign is a good thing and
positive sign a bad thing. Mark still isn’t convinced. (Though
Washington seems to have embraced the notion on its own terms.)
Meanwhile, we have also been endowed with the task of configuring a new
software package and sorting out a long-running currency exchange mess.
Moral of the story? The missionary endeavor needs REAL accountants and
business people, not experts in an obscure African tribal language to
keep track of its money.
last technological frontier
reason our colleagues could even entertain the desperate notion of the
V’koois keeping track of their money was on the odd chance that we
would have affordable, reliable internet access – something they
didn’t know for sure would be the case when they voted us in last
December. As it turns out, that access materialized in the form of a
data-capable cell tower 22 miles to the south of us and a nifty
USB-2-cell adapter which brings us about 60 kbps service (which is to
say slow) for about 30 cents a megabyte – a real bargain compared to
the $5/Mb we used to pay on the satellite phone. 22 miles is a long way
for a cell signal, but we were able to purchase a repeater from another
missionary and the contraption works admirably well. At these slow
speeds, we can’t watch videos, or even Skype, but email is easy and it
is a special treat to pull up a current satellite picture of Africa from
weather.com and have some idea about what kind of storms are coming down
the thickest, most tangled, aggressive mass of crabgrass roots, and then
imagine that it is under a foot of water and that you need to plant all
the food your family will eat for the coming year in this mess and that
the only implement at your disposal is a hand hoe. That is agriculture
Kwong style – at least until now. Beginning a year or so ago, all that
changed with the introduction of Monsanto’s “Roundup” herbicide.
Now for about $60, or 15% of a farmer’s annual harvest, he
can spray his fields and avoid thereby weeks of grueling labor to dig
that crabgrass out by hand. (And no, we don’t own stock in Monsanto.)
It goes without saying that the Kwong have fallen in love with the stuff
and buy hundreds of packets of it at our weekly market. So far it
seems pretty benign, and we can only hope that it doesn’t prove
someday to be another Agent Orange.
Too much too fast
those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews
among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were
being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.(Acts 6:1 NIV)
translated Acts 6 into Kwong a couple weeks ago, this verse proved to be
a case of drinking from the proverbial fire hose. Way too much
information comes way too fast in too few words. With nothing in the way
of introduction, and in an apparent effort to economize on parchment,
Luke plunges ahead on the assumption that his reader (Theophilus
initially) is cognizant of Grecian Jews, Hebraic Jews, and the daily
distribution of food to widows. It is likely the assumption was fair for
Theophilus, but nothing could be less true of the Kwong. Here is how we
slowed down the fire hose, making three sentences out of one.
that era, when the number of disciples was multiplying, among them were
certain Jews who spoke Hebrew, and others who spoke Greek. And at that
time, the disciples had a tradition of giving their widows some food
each day. But as it happened, the Greek widows were overlooked in the
distribution, so the Grecian Jews began to complain to the Hebraic Jews
concerning them. (Acts 6:1)
this sounds a bit stilted in English, it has a very pleasing cadence in
Kwong – a cadence which matches (precisely we hope) their ability to
assimilate new information.
the Kwong people with new information in ways that they can assimilate
it easily is why we live and work here. Whether it is a verse about
underfed Grecian widows, a Sunday School story about Elijah reading Ahab
the riot act, a lesson for women about a Samaritan lady who finds living
water, or 10 minutes with a bunch of soccer nuts, we seek by every
possible means to help the Kwong understand the power of God and glory
of His Christ. Many thanks as always to each of you who stand with us in
their parents complained that the kids weren’t helping in the fields
as they should, the boys would play soccer from early morning until
sundown. When the parents complained, we restricted them to afternoons.
taking advantage of a captive audience to share some words from the
Bible before the boy abscond with the soccer ball.
antenna pulls in the cell signal from 22 miles away and gives us both
telephone and internet. Our phone number is (235) 6647-9232 between
about 1pm and 3pm Chicago time (7pm to 9 pm Chad time).
– the magic potion which is transforming agriculture in Chageen.
Acts 10, the story of Cornelius, on August 12th. François, left,
Joseph, center. The guys had a field-day coming up with vocabulary for
the sheet being let down from heaven.