And so, there we were, in AFRICA! It took a while for that to sink in, and life would never again be the same. Weird things happen when you start life in a new culture. Your dreams get strange and your cultures get mixed up. I could be dreaming that I’m driving down my hometown street and suddenly be transported to the middle of a village somewhere. Or be somewhere in Africa and find myself suddenly in the middle of Walmart. Learning language also takes on a special quality when you open your mouth to say something in your new language, and every other language you’ve learned in the past comes out. We’d just spent time in Germany on our way to Ghana where I was finally able to practice the 9 years I’d had studying that language in the US. Now when trying to learn Konkomba, German kept coming out. Since then when trying to learn both French and Maninka, words that I didn’t even know I remember from the Konkomba language come flying out! The brain is a fascinating thing!
Along with all those special adjustments, the culture shock those first years was unbelievable! Tim and I were both city people. He grew up in Detroit and I grew up in Queens. We knew nothing about the differences between a diesel engine and a gas engine; that there was 110v electricity, 220v electricity and 12v electricity; that food could be so, so spicy and people really enjoyed that; that when you buy meat it doesn’t always come nicely packaged on a styrofoam plate with plastic around it, but often is laying out on a table next to parts you didn’t want to know exist and with 4 bazillion flies buzzing around it; that there are areas of the world where it gets so hot your candles melt (never bring those anymore!) Or what it feels like to have someone babbling on at you with words that make absolutely no sense at all, then laugh at your for not understanding. I’ll never forget the first time I woke up in our house and had 12 pair of little eyes looking in my window. This was my life those first years. Honestly, I wished I was dead. I prayed to God that He would take me to heaven, because I was convinced I was living in hell. As I look back at the newsletters we sent out during those years I sometimes marvel that I didn’t write, “HELP!! Get me out of here!!” But I do know that through all those things God was walking beside us every step of the way. His Son left His home once and entered a culturally different place far more unpleasant that ours, and lived among people that hated Him so much they finally killed him. But it was all part of a much larger and more marvelous plan that no one saw at the time, not even those closest to Him. All those years I used to pray, “God, just give us the language! Why waste all this time in learning and not doing what we’re here to do??” Often we like to take the shortcut, don’t we? But God often uses those hard times to grow us a bit more. We didn’t know it at the time, but God was growing us in ways we couldn’t even imagine. He still uses those hard times to advance us in our faith and trust in Him.
For a glimpse into that time: click here to see our May, 1984 newsletter.