Crazy Furlough Stories

I have some and I’m sure you have some too.  Please share them! 

15475_1_other_wallpapers_world_continent_map   I came to a church I’d never been to before and went straight to my host home.  The next morning, Sunday, we went to church. My hostess showed me where to set up my display and then took me to the pastor’s office.  On the way in, I noticed the secretary’s trash can and realised I should spit my gum out before I forgot and spoke in front of people! 

    As I took my gum and and went to toss it, it stuck to my fingers!  Just then the pastor walks out of his office and offers me his hand.  Do you offer a hand with a wad of gum stuck to it or do you offer your left hand? Here in Africa we would offer our forearm if our hand is dirty.  I had to sheepishly apologize and try to get that gum off my hand.  How embarrassing when you first meet someone!

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How about the time when we were at a mission conference and all the other candidates were new to the field so I had seniority! Crazy when I feel so young yet.  Right when they were talking about that, my phone rang in my coat at the same time I was invited to greet everyone.  Oops. totally a senior moment! 

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One time another missionary and I were asked to help during an AWANA program. We knew this meant sharing during group time and maybe playing games with them or teaching them a song in our language.  We showed up and were setting up the powerpoint when we noticed all these kids and very few adults.  Come to find out we had the entire 2 hours and most of the teachers were heading to the sanctuary to hear another missionary speak to the adults!  What! talk about communications mix up.  50+ kids with only 2 of us for almost 2 hours?  Even if we had some cultural games up our sleeves we still needed leaders to help out.

   We ended up getting some to stay back and help and we pulled it off.  I was running out of songs to teach the kids by the end of the time though!

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Another story is about a places I’ve lodged.  We can tell you about so many different unique places.  Hospitality is a fading practice in the States.  As missionaries we get to see it more than most though.

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I admit I was shocked once, when I visited a small church.  They put me up in a motel and took me out to dinner.  I found my own breakfast in the morning.  In an entire congregation, is there no one that has room for just one?  Here in Africa my friends would throw mats on the floor and squeeze 20 people in their tiny homes before they would send someone to a motel!

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One place I was given and the host wasn’t home. An elder let me in and said they had arranged this with the owner.  I walked in and the floor was covered with dog urine and their was dog hair all over.  We had to quickly open a window to get some fresh air in. The owner had obviously forgotten that she’s agreed to host someone in her absence.  All the beds were unmade and a mess. There were dirty dishes in the sink.  I had to find a clean towel and make up one of the beds.  I put down towels before sitting at the couch and ended up going out for breakfast the next morning.  I did feel bad for that owner who would return and figure out what they had done and feel awful about it.

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My friend once was given a place to sleep on the son’s floor.  The son was always curious about missions and that was exciting. But one night he lay down and then the sister yelled out, “Where is so-n-so?” and they all woke up looking for their pet rat.  My poor friend barely slept that night on the floor as he was afraid of the rat cuddling up with him!

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One couple I stayed with was super sweet. They had never hosted someone other than family.  They treated me like a grand daughter.  Each night she would go and take 10 of the 16+ pillows off of the bed for me and turn down the bed telling me it was time to turn in!  They gave me a great tour of their historic town and I learned a lot, but I have never been told when to go to bed or take a nap before, nor have I had my bed turned down for me!

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Some people are so sweet and you love staying with them! They treat you like family. Others are new at hospitality. One friend went to dinner at a young couple’s home.  They greeted them at the door and stood chatting in the cold for quite a while, never inviting them inside. Yet they had sent them a dinner invitation!

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There are some cool places too, like when I stayed with a masseuse! Or when my hosts had a hot tub! Or when we road horses or four-wheelers or walked along the creek bed in their property.  One of the greatest privileges we have on furlough is to meet so many members of the body of Christ!  Some are new Christians and need encouragement, others are former missionaries and love to compare stories. Some are elderly and lonely, others times there is a house full of kids who are up early in the morning! 

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Friends of mine tell of the time they travelled with their infant son.  One place they stayed kept the house very cool.  They turned down the thermostat when leaving and for the night.  When it is only 50 in the house at night and you have an infant, that is tough.  Especially when mom and dad are from a continent where it is quite warm.  They ended up buying a space heater for their week there so that their son would sleep well! 

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What about you? Do you have stories to tell?

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Friendships

The older I get the less I put into friendships.  I want deeper friendships, but after so many “Hellos” and “Good-byes” it is hard.  It is hard to invest in something temporary.  A huge part of me says, “Don’t even waste your time.”

I have national friends, but that can only get so deep because our customs and backgrounds are so different.  The only single women in this culture are young and still in school, or women with a “reputation”. 

I have friends from my home country, but we see each other so rarely.  When I do get back for furlough, my home base is not where any of my old friends live.  I make a point to visit them each time I’m home but a few days is hard on friendships.  There are a couple who do try. But between visits we are limited to e-mails. I live in such a remote area that even Skype doesn’t work.  They have never been overseas and there is that certain aspect of my life which they cannot understand. 

Where home base is now, I rarely stay. I am on the road so often that I haven’t made many connections.  The nature of my job is to work on Sundays.  I get to take part in church group rarely because I am travelling to speak in other churches when they meet.  Sometimes I fear that they don’t want to get too close either because I will just leave them for Africa. 

I have missionary friends.  Some are not on the field anymore and definitely understand me more than many, but they are always the ones that are too busy to e-mail.  Some of them just aren’t the type to communicate much. When we do see each other we pick up and enjoy great fellowship, but in the meantime I can only find comfort in that fact that they are praying for me.

Those that are on the field are co-workers. I can only get so close. We are like family as well as co-workers. Those relationships come with their own responsibilities.  I greatly respect them all and thank God for them, but they aren’t my close friends.

I have found that God is my greatest comfort.  He always has been. I know that and will never doubt it.  But there are times when I want a real life friendship.  I want to be content and most days I am.  But there are days when I want a friend.  All missionaries struggle with this. I know married women are lonely as well. Personally, I think that single missionaries have it a little worse because they don’t even have their spouse to confide in. 

harmony cross 1When you read books about being single they often talk about involving yourself in small groups, and events for fellowship, your church.  When you are on the mission field all those things are not options. Maybe more so in a third world culture that is so different from my home culture because of varying differences in education.  

It is the LORD who goes before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you or forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8

Several times I have asked friends to be my accountability partners.  Each time they agreed and then after one or two e-mails it ends.  We are still friends, but they don’t have time to keep in touch.  After so many trials and errors, I fear asking yet another person to be a spiritual accountability person.