Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Lumu

Thursday around noon is Wade's usual time for visiting the hospital in Mansoa to pray for the sick, and I wasn't about to miss out on this opportunity to participate.  But before the appointed hour for that outing we had some shopping to do at the lumu.  Once a week a flea market comes to town, bringing all sorts of goods that have been purchased sight unseen in a giant bale or bin for resale piece by piece.  These loads of goods may come from the U.S. or Brazil or other countries that sell bulk lots of used clothing, excess wares from department stores, or other items no longer sellable in more developed economies.  Local people seen sporting jeans or other obvious western fashions have most likely found them at the lumu, and they are a hot commodity among the teens and young adults in the area.  Kate often finds decent clothing for herself or her family, or household items that are not available in the local markets.  So off we went into town for Thursday morning at the lumu, minus one important item in my bag. 

The single biggest disappointment of my visit to Guinea Bissau was the blinking message on my camera that the battery had consumed its last drop of power.  As this was a new camera, I didn't have the experience to have learned that I should have purchased a second battery to carry with me on a trip.  The charger for my camera battery was back home in the States, but it wouldn't have mattered if it had been in my possession since there would have been no place to plug it in anyway.  And so my stomach dropped to my feet when I realized I would have no means of taking pictures for the remaining days of my visit.  No pictures of the lumu.  No pictures of the hospital.  No pictures of the last two days of our Jesus Spa.  Oh, Lord, Lord, Lord, this was a bitter pill to swallow!  But I couldn't afford to allow myself the luxury of wallowing in this disappointment, as it would have severely detracted from the focus of our mission.  As much as I loved capturing every little experience with my camera lens, the truth was that I had not made this trip to Africa for a rare photo shoot opportunity.  I had come here to bring the love of Jesus to women who were born into an environment where evil has been in power over families for countless generations, holding them captive to lies and eternal damnation while robbing them even in this life of the most basic levels of respect and dignity and value that we take for granted.  How could I indulge such an insignificant disappointment in this context?  And so I gave that frustration over to the Lord.  And I gave it over again the next time it started squeezing my belly with anxiety.  And again when tears threatened to spill from the regret of inadequate planning.  And again, and again, and again.  My camera battery had coughed up its last bit of juice on Wednesday morning, but 24 hours later I was still having to give my disappointment back over to the Lord every few hours.  It was an embarrassing reminder to me of how coddled my life has been that this would even be an emotional challenge, as if it could possibly compare with the difficulties these Guinean women deal with every day of their lives.  How many children of mine have died from malaria?  How many times have I walked miles with tubs of heavy, wet laundry on my head so that I could spread it over some bushes to dry?  How many trees have I chopped up so that I could make the fires needed to cook dinner for my husband?  How many acres of rice have I planted with a baby strapped to my back?  How many times have I had an illness that needed a drug that is readily available in our country, but for lack of $1 I was unable to purchase it and had to simply suffer and hope that my body would be able to fight off the bacteria on its own?  No, I had no legitimate case for indulging my disappointment over lack of a camera. 

And so we scanned the goods at the lumu, scouting for items that might be of use to Kate or her husband in their home or at the YFC center.  She picked up a couple t-shirts for the boys, and another small item or two after skillfully negotiating prices with the shrewd sellers.  A white person in that setting might as well be wearing a neon sign wrapped around her body flashing, "Rich person here!  Exploit me as you wish!"  But Kate's practiced bartering skills, combined with her fluency in the language, serve her well in that setting. 

Tonya found a skirt that she liked, and with Kate's help she bought it for about $1.  We were all pretty happy for Tonya to have stumbled onto something that looked like it had been designed with her in mind, and she looked forward to wearing it soon.  With the limited apparel we brought with us, it was helpful to her to acquire another skirt.  When we met Maria back at the truck after our allotted shopping time was up, she was surprised to see that particular skirt in Tonya's possession.  She explained to Kate, who translated the story to us, that she had seen that very skirt and wanted to buy it.  The seller told her he would sell it to her for 350 CFAs, equivalent to about $.75, but she only had a 1,000 bill.  He told her she would have to go find her own change and then come back to buy the skirt since he had no cash with which to make change.  When she returned with the right change a few minutes later, the seller told her he had just sold the skirt to a white lady.  Ha!  He was going to sell it to Maria for $.75, but he held out for $1 from the white missionary!  We all had a good laugh over that story and the coincidence that of all the thousands of items for sale at the lumu that day, Maria and Tonya had their eyes on the very same piece of merchandise.   
Tonya with Eric, wearing the skirt loved equally by an American woman and a West African woman.
(Photo taken with Tonya's camera.)


  1. how funny that they both wanted the same skirt. strange to even think of a place where there aren't several of the same thing on a rack. the worst that happens to me usually is that i have to drive to a different target to find the item i want in my size. poor, spoiled me.

  2. It's amazing how easily we allow frustrations to drag us down into self-pity when our modern conveniences quit working or things don't go our way. Appropriately convicting. We have very little exposure to these non-stop harsh realities in America. I'm extremely thankful, but sure don't want to spend my life fostering an entitlement mentality. Lord, have mercy... Open our eyes and untangle our hearts!