Sunday, February 17, 2013

Patty Wagon

Some of you may recognize the name Sandi Patty.  You might be more likely to recognize it if you were born circa 1956 or if you were raised by someone who was. That was me. I grew up listening to this woman.  Although I had no clue when I was little, apparently she’s an amazing singer who’s won a grammy and a bazillion Dove Awards. 

A month or so I got wind that she was coming to Sierra Leone. And not only coming to Sierra Leone, but coming to hang out with WMT. What!?!?  A celebrity? Here?  For me????  Normally I would have totally missed out on this, being that I live so many hours away from the rest of my team, but since I was going to be down with the rest of the WMTers preparing for my incoming teams, I was going to be right in the thick of things!!

Now, almost as soon as the hoopla began, I was called out. One of my team members (who had no idea who she was) said, “Emily. You are not really that big a fan. Name one of her songs.”  I’ll admit it. I couldn’t name one.  I knew if I heard one I’d know it…but maybe the super fan, I was not.  But I decided to play it up anyway.  Once I found out what one of her songs was, I started singing it all the time. I’d make comments like “When Sandi comes to dinner, I’M sitting by her!! I’m going to keep her napkin when she’s done with it.”  “Would it be too much to have her song ‘Love In Any Language’ playing on our ipod when she comes in the door?” “We should decorate the cars you’re picking her up in with signs and balloons. We can call give the car she’s riding in a code name like ‘The Patty Wagon.’ You know….like Air Force One.”  I was being ridiculous.  But I loved it! Mostly because several people on my team had no idea who she was and kept telling me how ridiculous I was.

The big day of her arrival came.  My friend Kaysie and I were making comments to each other like “What are you going to wear!?!?!?”  “Are you going to wear make-up? (Which is a rarely attempted feat here because you sweat it all off in 2.5 seconds.)  All of the sudden though, I started getting nervous. I’d been making a LOT of jokes. REALLY talking it up.  And some of the people (Ok, ONE person….John you are CALLED OUT!!) doesn’t have the best social filter.  I told Kaysie that I couldn’t dress up, I couldn’t wear make-up, I couldn't do any of it because I was afraid one of the guys was going to call me out.  After weeks of being ridiculous, in crunch time I decided to try and fly under the radar. Nice try.

Sandi and her family were coming with some guys from an organization called Water4 who is one of our biggest partners in well drilling over here.  And the whole team was coming to our house for dinner!  Feeding 34 people…a new record for the team!

Now by this time, John had been spending quite a bit of time with them and it turns out that the whole family is incredibly musical (go figure).  Every. Single. One.  So. Imagine my horror when, after all the introductions had been made and we were getting ready to pray before dinner, John says, “Well everybody, before we start, Emily has a song that she wants to share with you.”  Say what?!!?  “Come on Emily! You’ve been talking about this for weeks!!!” Oh. My. Gosh.  I tried to kill him with my death glare….but he just kept talking!!!  Then everyone started chirping in “Come on Emily! We’ll join you! Come one, come on, blah blah blah!!”  34 people. Staring at me. Waiting for me to start singing.  I know that the death penalty is controversial….but this one seems like a no brainer. 

Alas, I didn’t give in and they mercifully prayed and we started eating.  It’s been about a week now, 
and I’m still trying to think about how I can get him back!  What could I possibly to do humiliate in such a way. I’m definitely open for suggestions!!

Ironically enough, the next day I got a second chance.  The team came over for a few minutes and we were chatting. Sandi found out how much Mari likes "Hakuna Matata" so she started singing it. I was trying to get Mari to sing along so I started singing too. So.....basically I sang with a grammy award winner.  Which will be how I tell the story to my grandchildren. 

Beach Day with the Team.  I said "Oh, let's get a picture with Mari (aka Kadi) and Auntie Sand!"  Then one of my awesome friends said "Ok you get in there." Score! :)
We ended up spending quite a bit of time with the “Patty Team” and they were awesome. Such servants hearts and so eager to help the people over here.  And seriously so musical. It was incredible!  My final gift from her was a pair of her shoes. And when I say “gift from her” what I mean is that the whole team left a bunch of clothes and my feet were the closest fit to one of her pairs of shoes.  So….basically a gift.  It was a fun week! Oh, and also I’m not kidding about ideas about how to retaliate against my teammate.  Send them my way!! John….get ready buddy. It’s not going to be pretty!

Monday, February 11, 2013

To the police station....again

So if I was going to write my blogs in chronological order like I usually do, I should have written this one before my last one.  But I didn’t.  Oops.

I arrived in Sierra Leone on Jan. 21st but stayed near Freetown for about a week before I went up to the village where I work.  While I was in Freetown I got a curious call from my neighbor, asking when I was coming back up.  It seems that some people had broken into my house, stolen some things and were being held at the police station, awaiting my return. 

When I dug around a little to find out who it was, my heart was a little bit broken.  I had been pretty close to three of the boys before they left the village to go to Freetown.  When I had girls teaching me to cook, I would call these boys to come help me eat the rice.  After we ate we would all have game night.  We had a scoreboard on my wall keeping track of how many times each of us lost at Jenga and they were often at my house when the lights were on so they could study.  I’d thought we were close.  Definitely NOT the first thing I wanted to deal with when I got back!

Since I had a couple days before I was going up (and they were still waiting for a couple more boys to be brought from Freetown), I started thinking and praying about how I was going to handle it.  The neighbor who called me to inform me of this was devastated!! One of the boys was in his custody. When he called me he so angry he was almost in tears.  He said that he was not raising a thief and wanted to take this as far as it could go in the court system.  He was mad!!
I understood. What happened was extremely shameful for him in the eyes of the community.  He said that this boy was “trying to spoil my job here” and I later found out that this was because some people thought he should move on because if he hadn’t been there, the boy wouldn’t have been there and this wouldn’t have happened.  It was serious! 

But I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do.  One of my biggest pet peeves here is that it often feels like there aren’t any real consequences when a wrong is done.  People show up late for work or don’t show up on time and nothing’s done. Security guards sleep all night….nothing.  Policemen are constantly asking for bribes and everyone looks the other way.  It’s just constant. And it drives me crazy.  I tend to be a pretty black and white person (which can often be to my own detriment….I’m working on the balance) but this kind of thing is a never ending frustration for me. 
What to do, what to do.  Wouldn’t you know that the day after I found out what happened, I ran across this verse :  “To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?”

I had a few things stolen from my house. The biggest item was a computer. I was an idiot and decided to leave my little netbook computer at the house since I didn’t think I’d need it while I was home. There were also a few missing headlamps, a bag, an internet modem and some notebooks. (These were the things that were recovered….I have no idea if there were other things missing. I’m just that organized). 
When I was home, I saw Les Miseralbes for the first time. I didn’t know the story before I entered the theatre and I spent the majority of the movie near convulsions as I was sobbing so hard.  It was weird. It was really weird. Even after it was over I was so affected that I couldn’t stop crying.  So of course one of the first things I think about is the priest.  (Slight spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it!!!!)  That beloved old priest who gave food and shelter to a man who later stole all his silver. When the police brought the man back with the stolen silver the priest said, “No. It’s not stolen. I gave him that silver.  Here, you forgot these candlesticks.  There was no crime here.”  The man’s life was changed forever!

I don’t know what the right thing to do every time something like this happens. Obviously there have to be consequences when evil occurs.  But in this instance, I knew what I wanted to do. 
I arrived in the village and the next morning went to the police station with a couple of my friends.  My stomach was in knots, knowing I had to confront these boys and not sure how the community was going to accept what I wanted to do.  Bleh. I hate confrontation!

When I arrived I asked to speak to the boys.  The policemen were a little surprised but agreed to bring them out.  As everything here seems to go, there was very little privacy and I had about 20-30 people watching while I talked to them.  Oh gosh.

As the six boys filed out, the three that I had been close with wouldn’t make eye contact with me.  They stood in a line in front of me and I began talking.  I was nervous because they wanted me to try and speak Krio and in vulnerable situations like this I always want to speak English!! But I whispered a prayer for help and started muddling my way through.

I started by telling them that when I’d heard that someone had broken in and stolen some things from my house, I’d been angry.  I needed those things! I needed them to do my job, to communicate with my family back home, and to help others in the community learn about computers.  But when I found out who was involved, I became more sad than angry.  I reminded them of the times we’d spent together (imagine little gasps and “shame, shame’s” coming from the peanut gallery).  We’d been close.
Then I told them about the verses I’d read right after I found out what happened and how this had turned my thoughts to Jesus.  Jesus.  My Precious One who has forgiven me of so much.  How could I not forgive when I’d been forgiven of so much?!?!  It was inconceivable.  I talked our relationship with God that had been broken until Jesus came to restore it.  He showed us, he showed ME mercy and forgiveness when I was his enemy.  And that’s Who I love and that’s Who I follow. 

I pulled out the charger for the computer (that had been with me so they hadn’t taken it) and handed it over to them. I then pulled out the money that remained in order for them to be released from jail and gave it to the chief policeman.  And I told them it was finished.  They were forgiven.  The things they’d stolen were theirs to keep. It wasn’t because I didn’t need them, but it was because I love Jesus and therefore love them and want our relationship to be restored.  And as far as I was concerned, it was.  We were fine and they were welcome at my house any time (this is where I got the biggest gasp from the crowd.  Just goes to show you how they are more relationally minded than money minded). 

I told them that I recognized that what I was doing was dangerous.  There was a chance that they would come back and steal again.  There was a chance that others would hear about the grace extended and would also come to my house and break in, believing that there would be no reprocussions.  But Grace is dangerous.  The grace that God extends to us can be (and often is) not accepted, mocked or abused.  But I trust that God will be the defender of my rights.  If people keep breaking in and taking my things….God, who can do anything He wants, STOP anyone He wants doesn’t think  I really need those things.  And one day, God will make everything right.  Until then, I will trust Him to defend my rights.  So that was that. 

I’m not really sure how the boys took it. They didn’t say anything.  One guy piped up and said, “You see? This is the difference between you Christians and we Muslims.  We don’t forgive like this. We would never forgive like this!”  Of course that’s not true.  I know many Muslims who are very forgiving.  But I was so so SO excited to see that they saw Jesus in this, and not just my white skin!! So often the things I do are just attributed to my “being white” than to my “following Jesus” and I had been begging God to let them see Him. I was so glad that some did!

So that was that.  My little bit of village drama to start off my third year.  I was hesitant to share this because….it just feels weird.  But I was so excited about Jesus showing up that I couldn’t resist.  It’s such an adventure to follow Him!!  

Monday, February 4, 2013

It's a Girl!

Well, I'm back! Back to Sierra Leone, back at the hospital, back to blogging.  I had an awesome time at home doing cool things like watching my new nephew enter the world and going to the emergency room for the first time as a patient after accidentally chopping the tip of my finger off.  Although it was really really really awesome being home, I was glad to get back to Salone and get back to work!

A lot of you know, through my blog...or my mom (Mom, that is definitely NOT a reference to hem...propensity to share?) that before I went home I was asked to keep a little girl here, Kadiatu.  Indefinitely.  Yikes.

I spent the better part of my break thinking, and praying, and walking, and praying, and thinking, and thinking, and praying.....trying to figure out what to do.  I was torturing myself, and everyone around me,  going back and forth, back and forth, thinking through every single possibility, trying desperately to know what God wanted from me, and also trying not to screw up a lot of lives!

Although I told myself that I wouldn't make a decision until I came back....I definitely started leaning one way while I was home.  The Christmas presents I received from my family for Kadiatu might give you an inkling which way I was leaning.  I was seriously contemplating becoming a mom.

Now this would be a big step for anyone. A huge step! But for me, it was infinitely far from what I  imagined my life would be.  To be honest, I always secretly knew that I would end up in the middle of a war torn country, staying long after all the other ex-patriots left doing my nursing thing while the bullets flew over my head.  Florence Nightengale syndrome at it's finest.  I was well on my way to this aspiration by moving to Sierra Leone, where while we hope and pray for peace, we also know that things can erupt quickly.  I've already researched how to make sure they do NOT send in any Special Forces to rescue me if I decide to be an idiot and stay when things get bad.  So that was my plan.  Extreme Nursing.  Not this.  Not ever this.

I arrived back in country on Jan. 21st.  The rest of my team in Freetown was finishing a retreat so although I missed the majority of it, I hung around for a week or so to finish it with them and spend time with the visitors before I went up.  One night my team leader asked if I'd like to talk to the guy who led the retreat so I babbled and bawled to him for about 2 hours, still not sure what I was going to do. (Shout out know who you are. :))

At the end of the week I went back up to my village and stopped to see Kadiatu on the way.  She ran up to me but was shy and not chatty like she usually is.  Her dad wasn't around but I talked with her mom for awhile. My primary concern was to ascertain whether or not her mom REALLY wanted me to take her.  After talking with her for awhile, it became clear that she did.  Really did.  She said that she, her people, her husband and her husband's people all wanted me to take her.  Ok. I told her I would come back tomorrow or the next day with my decision.  It was clear that they were all expecting me to take her.  Someone even told me that her mother had a sick grandmother in Freetown and wanted to go see her but was waiting for me to come take Kadi first.

I was desperate to know what God wanted me to do.  Desperate!!  I didn't go back the next day, as I wanted to think and pray some more.  I've been dragging this on for months now. Back and forth, back and forth, wanting desperately for there to be some writing on the wall.  Or maybe some writing in the sky. Yeah! That would be awesome!  Skywriting from Jesus. I love it!

The morning I was to go back to the village, last Tuesday, I was spending some time with Jesus, still crying out to know what He wanted from me.  And I read this:

"Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord...The other things on the face of the earth are created for man, to help him in attaining the end for which he is created. Hence, man is to make use of them, in as far as they help him in the attainment of his end, and he must rid himself of them in as far as they prove a hindrance to him.  Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. The same holds for all other things. Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created."

I reviewed my attachments.  Was I afraid of what people would think if I took her? Was I afraid of what people would think if I didn't. Was I afraid her mother would regret sending her to live with me? Was I afraid her village would be angry if I didn't take her? Was I afraid of the future....with or without her?  The answer to these and so many other questions I asked...was Yes. Yes, I was afraid of ALL of those things. So I prayed and prayed and gave these things up. Yes, I was afraid of these things, but I want God more.  I want to do what I was created to do.  To praise, to reverence, and to serve my God.  I love my friends and my family, who all have varying opinions about what I should do.  But I love Jesus more. I love my life the way it is now, but I love Jesus more. I love this village and want to please them, but I love Jesus more.  And I love this little girl.  This sweet, precious, adorable little girl.  But I love Jesus more.  It's what I was created to do.  So as I was crying out to God that YES!! I choose YOU above everything, the thought crossed my mind, "So what is the best way to do what you were created to do, in this situation?  How can you best love me?"  And I love this little girl.  That's how I think I can love You and serve You best in this situation.  So I decided to go get her.  That was it.  I never got my skywriting, but I was satisfied.

That afternoon I went to the village with two friends of mine. We discussed everything with her family and with the town chief.  The chief gave an embarrassing little speech about how she had been close to death when someone (I say Someone) stepped in to help her. They said they were grateful I wanted to continue to help.  So after about 30 min. of speeches by the various parties, I picked her up and we left.  She didn't cry, but she was shy.  When we got back to my house we watched some of the videos I'd made before she left and she just started laughing.  You should hear it! Her laugh is just precious!

But I'll be honest.  I struggled!!  I thought I should have felt different. I should have been overwhelmed with feelings of love for this little one and instead I felt like I was going to suffocate by the enormity of what I'd done. Although I had literally been thinking, praying, mulling, agonizing for months, the full magnitude of what I'd done didn't hit me until she was actually with me.  And it was terrifying.  I just started begging God. "Lord! I have no idea how to be a Mom!! HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

It took about 24 hours for my decision to settle and I started feeling better about it.  It still feels really big if I think about years and years in the future but I find that if I focus on the one day, asking my Helper to help all along the way, there is Peace. And Joy. Lots of Joy! :)

It's been almost a week now. I've been trying to write this blog for a week but it turns out having a kid is a bit time consuming! :)  Kadi is doing great and is adjusting SO much faster than last time.  When she came she wasn't speaking any Krio anymore, but she's picking it up really fast and we're already starting to be able to communicate again.  She talks incessantly and I'll be excited when I know all that she's saying!!

So there you have it.  The "End" of the Kadi saga.  Or the beginning. Lord help me! :)
Love Love Love her smile!!!
She has a couple illnesses so I've been giving her medicine.  She decided her baby needed some too....what a good Mama!