I’ve finally done it. I’ve taken the plunge. I’ve joined the world of bloggers. You’ll have to forgive my ‘site’, but I’m still working on it. I really don’t know what I’m doing, so not even sure how it looks. I have been very lazy in my journal writing for a very long time. I’ve written it in my head dozens of times. And now that so much time has passed, I’m very annoyed that I haven’t done it. I’ve missed writing about so many great (and I suppose not so great) things. I continue to be amazed at how many people were interested in my journaling, and have asked why I haven’t been writing. So, I’m trying something new. I thought maybe if I used this format, I’d be more committed to my writing. I was actually inspired by my friend’s blog site – thanks Patty.
There’s no way I can catch up with all I’ve missed, but maybe as I write, past things will come up. But for today, I want to write about community.
I live in Africa. There are many misconceptions about life here. But one thing I think most people understand is that community is a way of life in Africa. By that I mean people’s lives revolve around each other. Not just their families, but their entire village. In Niger, a good majority of the people are born in their village, live there, and die there, never having gone further than the nearest market – on foot. Most ‘Westerners’ first response to that would be to think how tragic it is. But I’ve driven or walked through many of those villages. Though most of the people have been through at least one tragic event, tragedy is not what you see on their faces. They are smiling faces. Women laughing and chattering around the well as they pull up their water. This is where information is exchanged. I guess I can call it like it is – gossip! They pound their grain together – 2 pestles pounding rhythmically in the same mortar. They make the work look easy – even fun! Everyone knows everything about everyone. The good, the bad and the ugly. The men sit under trees weaving, playing cards and yes, gossiping. Children are everywhere – they are running, teasing, rolling old tires with sticks and making ‘cars’ out of tin cans. Baby naming ceremonies are huge events, with most of the village attending, as well as people from surrounding villages near and far. Same with weddings. But those who live in the developed world and visit a Niger village can see only what they consider to be sub-standard living conditions. They have to pull water from a well by hand, they cook outside over an open fire, they have their babies in their mud homes, they live in temperatures greater than 110 degrees much of the year – with no electricity to even run a fan, they eat from a community tray – with their hands! But if you look beyond all of this, you will see happiness on the faces you look at. This is their life. There is no doubt, they face much tragedy: most have had a baby or child die, disease is common, hunger is common, education is lacking-if not non-existent. I could go on. But in all of that, they have each other. The whole village is there to help them, and to just be with them in the situations they face. And then they go on. These things aren’t the reasons their lives are tragic. We are working to help them improve their living situations, but the biggest tragedy is the fact that most of them don’t know Jesus. (We are working to change that too!) Where will they spend eternity? Their life on this earth is short compared to that!
Today we had a wedding in a village, uniting the children of 2 of our pastors. It was wonderful. But the bride cried during the ceremony. She cried the entire 30 minute drive we took to her new husband’s village, and cried (sobbed, really) as the village ladies came by to greet her. You see, she grew up in her village. Spent all of her life there. Hannatu and Yahaya were very much looking forward to getting married, as they had been ‘promised’ for more than 2 years. But today, reality hit home. Hannatu was leaving her community. And it was hard. I was sitting next to her on the mat covered dirt floor, pretty much at a loss for words, as the women came to see her. I told them that she was sad and they should encourage her, as they understood how she was feeling. Many of them were transplants themselves. One lady said to me, “Don’t worry about her. She’s not sad, she’s really very happy.” What was I thinking? A new community has already begun!