When Your Heart is Really This Glamorous

Highlights of the week have included:

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Getting Pilot, or “Tubby” as I’ve been calling her. Hard to believe it from looking at her, but someday she’s going to be our guard dog for the property. Right now we have to keep her inside away from the hyenas that wander the hills at night and it’s like having a new born baby. I’m pretty much in love.

 

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Having to kill this baby cobra that snuck into our house Thursday night. I saw it first and before I realized what I was doing, I had the machete in hand and it was dead. We thought it was a black mamba (poisonous), but after some dissection we discovered it to be a cobra (still poisonous). Thank you, Jesus, for eyes to spot it before we went to bed.

 

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Continuing to teach bible stories to the kids Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons. We’ve learned “This is the Day” in Swahili, along with a few other worship songs and last Saturday we did our first memory verse, which was “coincidentally” Hebrews 13:5 that I mentioned last post:

Mungu mweneywe amesema: Sitakuatcha kamwe, wala sitakutupa.

             Waebrania 13:5

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Letting Alberti wear my sunglasses on the way home from chips mayai and a cold Fanta Orange in Maji Moto. He was unbelievably adorable and kept laughing whenever I caught his eye. His stomach has been bothering him for as long as I’ve been here, and he’d been sitting listlessly around our house for a few days (bless his little heart, he always comes to the house, no matter how sick he is), so I asked Tori if we could take him to the clinic in Mamba. After about four or five hours of waiting in a hospital (which is fast service for Africa, and was only that quick because I, a white person, was sitting with him), for one shot that made my sweet little boy sob silently while I stood by holding his hand, we learned he had hookworms and malaria. We got the proper medicine for him, but it was hard not to be discouraged. He will go back to his house where he got the worms/illness in the first place and it’s nearly impossible to monitor his situation 24/7. Cassian looks like he has a basketball in his poor little tummy, he has so many worms. His parents are kind people; his father sings in the choir at the Roman Catholic Church and wants to learn to read English, and I visit his mother a few times a week. I don’t want to overstep my boundaries by suggesting some new, cleaner ways of doing things. Pray with me for creative and gentle ways to help in this situation, because it’s a complicated one.

 

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Being told by Mama Venaci that being in Africa has made me become fat. Obviously, and especially by American standards, I am no where near being fat. Fat here simply means that you’re healthy and it’s a great compliment. I felt amazing because I’ve been so worried about losing weight and perishing altogether here. Finding that as miraculously not being the case, my faith is restored that God can work against your natural biology and save you (and your spindly, unfortunate arms).

I’m probably the only American girl that’s happy to be called fat. Praise be to the living God, everyone. I’m fat.

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Getting honest again, as I am committed to doing in this blog, adapting to the culture here has been really difficult for me. It would be easy to look at all my joyful (and completely sincere) posts about my babies and think that that’s all that’s happening. Our team is tri-cultural now: three Africa men as translators, three Asians and four Americans and with those dynamics the leeway for misunderstandings or good-natured laughs is huge. It’s been interesting to realize how American I really am and how I bring my cultural expectations into everything…and that others bring theirs and they’re different from mine.

For example, in America, from the time we’re small children to when we’re all old and gray, we learn to value independence. I did this, I worked hard, I earned this, I can do it and I did it without your help. We respect the pioneers of old who explored our land, and while that sense of adventure and exceptional effort is slowing evaporating from our generation, we still have this idea that help is for the weak. 

I myself have a horrible problem with pride. I don’t like owing anyone anything or feeling like I’m the weaker of two, which probably contributes to my having been single for so long. I like to be “wild and free” and if I can’t do something alone, I’ll probably not attempt it….and I’ll especially not ask for help. God has been pruning that out of me, slowly but surely, but I’m not going to say that it’s been fun or easy. Everything in me wants to give up when I try to kickstart the piki piki and fail miserably. I’ve had the blessing/misfortune of being naturally good at the little I’ve attempted in my life, so when I have to work at something I’m immediately looking for the nearest exit.

Unattractive, but true. I’m (wo)man enough to admit it. Jesus, Jesus, help me.

Enter the African mindset: We want to depend on each other. If you have something and I don’t, you should give it and I’ll do the same for you. If you do something alone, it’s terribly sad and it means that no one cares about you enough to do it with you. 

I’ve been so confused and jarred by the Mamas we’re friends with, because they’ll so bluntly just ask for everything. They won’t know what it is for but 30 seconds and they ask you to give it to them. When you eat in front of someone, you must give them some or it’s rude. All my kids shout, “Niepe. Niepe.” (Give. Give) over everything. When you visit people, they ask for you to bring them gifts. All I can think is Where is your shame? Why do you always ask for so many things? Then I feel like a horrible missionary Christian-person thing, because I do have more than them. So I give something lotion to a mama, who says, “Thank you, and now I ask for earrings.” 

Then I feel like I’m the mzungu being taken advantage of all over again and I’m angry.

Jesus help me.

It’s not as though it ends there though, because these same people will make special trips to our house to bring us mehindi, special trips to cook for us, give us anything we compliment right off their body (bracelets, etc). When we visit, they give us their only chairs and their only food, going without. From young, asking for things and for help has never been shameful, like it is in America. “You have not, because you ask not”, is a way of life here. They’re the most giving people in the whole world, who never stop asking for things. And I’m just over here, being American and wondering how such a paradoxical group of people exist and why I’m so unfortunately entitled with what I have here.

Then, praise God, a breakthrough of understanding:

They are trying to build codependency with us. They want community with us that comes from relying on one another. They’re trying to teach me, every day, to need them and that they want to need me. It’s valuable. It’s important above all else. And I realized the other day (mostly by Hillary’s noting), we never visit to give them things. They come to us and ask because we don’t offer, and I believe it’s honestly their way of teaching us how to live like they live.

When you ask God to change your heart and He actually does, but it means giving up your rights to doing it your way…it’s a good time.

I’m still failing often, but I’m looking for more ways to give of what I have and to just smile when I hear all the “Nomba”s and “Niepe”s (I beg of you, Give to me), and ask Jesus to help me to hear what they’re really saying, “I need you. Let’s do this together”.

The second thing that’s been an enormous struggle for me is watching how women are treated here, even by some men in the church who fervently love the Lord. I’ll be honest, whenever I see anyone post anything about how hard it still is being a woman in America….I can’t share what I really want to say. I recognize there are exceptions to the general population (such as spiritual abuse or cults, and it’s NOT okay), but how many of you have to sit outside in the hot sun when guests come to your home, while your husband visits and eats with them? How many of you are told that you need to eat the chicken butt meat because it’s the worse piece and reserved for you, as a woman? How many of you have men idly standing around, heads held high, while they look at the plates and food before them, waiting to be served? How many of you have to bow to groups of men when the food is served?

I realize I’m an American girl, who’s been privileged my entire life, but when I see things like this, all it brings me back to is the fire that burns in my gut when I think of modern-day slavery among girls all over the world. 

I want to serve. I love to serve. It’s good to put others before yourself. I want to be more like Jesus. I pray for it each day. I beg for it each day.

But I really, really, really don’t like submitting myself to the mindset that I serve men because I’m less than them. I can think of any number of scriptures about considering others better than myself and serving them first, but I want that to stop being applicable to me when there’s someone I refer to in my head as “the male chauvinist pig” waiting for me to serve him. 

Is the reality of my heart glamorous or what? Still impressed with “all the good work I’ve been doing”? This can be Chapter 7 of my autobiography entitled: In Which I Lose My Cool and Tell Off Someone Who’s Culture Taught Them Differently About Their Place In Life.

All I can say is that I lost my patience the other day and told off one of the guys for not respecting Cara. I felt his sense of entitlement and my gut was burning, with rage. The house was silent after my sharp rebuke and miracle of miracles, I actually felt bad. I felt how confused he was at not being treated the way he’s been treated all his life and I felt his frustration. And I felt God telling me I need to apologize, even though I feel like–and he may not be–right to have treated her the way he did.

Sometimes I really hate when I hear God talk.

But miracles of miracles continuing, I apologized and I meant it. And I was sorry. But not for standing up for what I believe to be right (and that which I’m used to seeing upheld in my homeland), but because I didn’t consider his culture and his expectations, and just expected him to know and adhere to mine, against all reason and odds.

Jesus, Jesus help me. 

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

          – Hebrews 4:15

Still clinging to Jesus, who I believe can save me from myself, my mindsets that bring death and make me more like Him. Pray with me that He’ll be honored, despite the cultural blunders I make on the regular.

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2 thoughts on “When Your Heart is Really This Glamorous

  1. The only comment that comes to mind after reading your updates, is “Wow, Stephani, you are amazing, we love you, we are proud of you, and are we are praying for you! Please keep the updates coming! Look forward to them!Love you, Auntie Dawn

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