When morning came, the children and I made pancakes for the first time since moving here. It was an exciting time! We kept hoping Daddy would make it back home in time to share them with us. He didn't.
We took a few pancakes and smothered them with butter and syrup. Wild Heart carried them down to her favorite guard. Later in the day, he returned the empty plate and asked us in broken English what we called the name of that food. "Pancakes!" we replied. He repeated it slowly and then a huge smile crept across his face. I knew his life would never be the same. Maple syrup changes people.
We spent the rest of the morning baking a cake for a lovely African neighbor we had met the previous day. She had, rather heroically, rescued some French words we were mercilessly torturing on our walk. Some would call what we were doing "practicing" French, but I think any French speaker with a hint of dignity would have been right to intervene as she did.
After our brief visit on the road, she had invited us to come to her home on Sunday and we had eagerly agreed.
So, we made her the best cake we knew how to make. (Thanks Betty) By late morning we were at her front gate with our offering. She was delighted and beckoned us to come sit in her yard. She led us to the shade of a mango tree where her aged mother sat cloaked in vibrant color. She was breathtaking. She spoke no English, but welcomed us with a warmth that supersedes language.
Our new friend Mary* quickly gathered chairs for the children and me and positioned them around her mother. We spent the next twenty minutes laughing and attempting to communicate through hand signals and small English or French phrases. I was grateful for the language barrier, though. If speech had been our primary communication, I would probably have talked continuously and missed out on the beauty of just sitting and enjoying their presence. If I had been able to tell them all about myself, I may not have even noticed all the things about them. My abundance of words would have taken my attention from the cool African breeze I noticed as we sat together. It was a wonderful visit. We didn't accomplish much. I didn't leave knowing much more about them than when I arrived, but it was rich and easy. When we left, I thanked her for her kindness and invited her to call on us soon.
We returned home for an afternoon of lizard chasing and gourmet mud-pie creations. By evening, everyone was decontaminated and we left to attend a gathering of missionaries we'd been invited to...repeatedly.
When I arrived in Africa, I was resistant to the missionary community. I have seen plenty of white faces, I thought. I just want to be with Africans. However, everywhere I went, I seemed to run into a different missionary and they would always invite me to their informal church gathering on Sunday evenings. So, after the last invitation, I finally surrendered.
I walked in a few moments late and sat at an empty seat in the back. As I scanned each head in the crowd, I felt honored to be sitting among these. It feels like I have had to sacrifice very little coming to Africa---but these beautiful JESUS lovers came here with no promise of a generator, or air conditioning, or running water, or a reliable paycheck. They came because they loved. There I was, sitting in a room with people who have given African tribes their first written language and their first Bible.
They give up everything to bring good news to Conakry, Guinea. I mean, really! How many people in the outside world actually care about Conakry, Guinea? Apparently, 40. (I counted.)
Make that 41.