Friday, February 3, 2012

Everything Begins at the Beginning

The time zone difference worked to our advantage, lopping five hours off the length of that first day, allowing us to get the sleep we so desperately needed within a few hours of arriving at Wade & Kate's home. But first there were introductions to be made, tours to be given, and instructions in how to flush a toilet with water from a bucket. The good news is, there was a toilet.

The home of our hosts is extraordinarily beautiful by West African standards. It is spacious, well furnished with a bed for every family member, and even a sofa and cushioned chairs in the living room. Kate has a gas stove and refrigerator, which is an extravagance to be sure, but which allows her to not have to spend all her time shopping and preparing food from morning til night. Oh, yes, and their house has 2 bathrooms because they knew they would be hosting many guests during their years on the Jovens Para Kristu Centru na Mansoa property. Wade built this home for his family with his own hands, a shovel, a wheelbarrow, a few thousand adobe bricks, some bags of cement, and a well full of water. And did I mention that he dug the 70 ft. well with that same shovel? Or that he cleared the space for the house and yard by hand with a little machete? Where there's a dream, a willing heart, and a clear call from God, there will be the strength and resources to accomplish just about anything.

The house, which has a twin sitting back to back with a narrow breezeway between them, has a wonderful tiled floor that stays cool no matter how high the temperatures soar. And, unlike the rough adobe brick houses that the natives build, this one is covered over with cement to make it smooth and paintable and to keep water from dissolving the bricks during the rainy season. So our accomodations were really very comfortable, and any of the luxuries we left behind in the states for ten days were not worthy of mentioning.

The twin house is home to two young African families with a total of 5 little girls, so there are 8 children living on the property along with a large assortment of chickens and goats, and a cat and dog. Lalas and Paulu are two godly young men whom Wade has been mentoring and training to take his place when his work is finished there and he and Kate return to the U.S. later this year. In addition to the 2 houses, Wade and his helpers have also built a wonderful pavilion with sleeping quarters where the 3-month pastoral training school classes are held for three sessions per year, and a House of Prayer from which eventually there will be prayers going up 24 hours a day all year long. And currently the last building for the center is under construction - a guest house which will be able to sleep up to 120 guests. It will be the first of its kind in the country, where Christian groups can gather for conferences or retreats, or where teams of short-term missionaries from other countries can come and stay as their base for outreach to the many people groups in surrounding areas. It was for this construction project that Eric had joined us for the trip.

With the tour of the property completed, and introductions to Lalas & Paulu's family members made, we were ready to get settled in and enjoy the cool interior of the house. We had just come from winter in America, and the contrasting temperature of winter less than 900 miles above the equator was already challenging our internal thermostats to make the necessary adjustments.

Tonya and I were given a bedroom to share, which had a window overlooking the chicken coop, the clothesline, and wild expanses of the African bush. Tonya's husband, Eric, was assigned a room in the pavilion for sleeping since the pastoral training school was currently not in session and those rooms were empty. While Tonya and I enjoyed a relaxed supper with Kate and the kids, Wade & Eric went into Mansoa to show the "Jesus" film on a corner near the local mosque. Mansoa is the seventh largest "city" in the country, with a population of about 7,700, located about two miles from the Jovens Para Kristu center. The showing of the Jesus film that evening drew a crowd of over 2,000, mostly Muslims, and afterward 18 came to them declaring their desire to become followers of Jesus. This was a huge breakthrough into the Muslim community, as the cost of leaving Islam to follow Jesus can be very high, and it is a decision that is not made lightly.

As I drifted off to sleep that first evening, grateful for a real bed (and the wonderful pillow that I managed to squish into my suitcase!), the sound of hyenas in the distance provided the perfect lullaby.

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