What does a missionary do exactly?
Sure, we go and evangelize the world and all that stuff, but what exactly does that look like on a day-to-day basis?
Before I became a missionary, I had all kinds of grand ideas about how I would do this -- huge evangelistic campaigns, trekking through the jungle to new villages, going door to door for hours on end, holding amazing children's clubs for thousands of kids at a time -- to name just a few.
And then, reality hit....on top of evangelizing the world, I had to do normal day-to-day stuff, too! What!!!????!!! How was that supposed to work? You mean, I have to cook, and clean, and wash clothes, and teach my children, and take care of my family? Sadly to say, for quite a while I tried to ignore these callings on my life. Praise the Lord that He continues working in our hearts until we learn the lessons He has for us!
And then, an even bigger revelation hit.....evangelizing the world wasn't really about the big, exciting, fantastic things (although they are part of it), it was about people. It was about reaching one person at a time and teaching them about Jesus Christ as far as they were willing to go. It was about meeting people, and getting to know them, their culture, their ideas, their hurts. It wasn't about reaching THE PEOPLE or A PEOPLE GROUP, it was about reaching people, person by person.
So, to give you a better picture of the life of this missionary wife, I want to write about mebrabom (don't try to sound it out, using English phonetics it sounds really strange!), or my life. How I get to interact and reach out to these people on a daily basis.
Saturday is the day that Emily (my coworker) and I get to go on ladies' visitation. We normally head out around 9 am on Saturday mornings. We walk to the main road and jump in a tro-tro (like a mini-van with a whole bunch of people crammed inside) to get a ride to the main taxi station. At the main taxi station we join a queue (line) to join a taxi going to another taxi station near where our visits are. From there, we walk. It's good exercise!
This week was a bit out of the ordinary as Emily wasn't feeling very well. So, John, Carey, Ella, and I got ready and headed out to make our visits........
We arrive at Bismark and Matilda's house around 10 am. It is already very hot. To reach their house we walk past several wood milling companies, a number of semi-trucks waiting for loads, many trash trucks headed to the nearby city dump, and several herds of cows. Bismark and Matilda live in a wooden shanty. It is built from scraps of lumber, old rusted pieces of zinc roofing material, flattened cardboard boxes, and bits and pieces of plastic. The house contains one room with a small lean-to for a kitchen. Bismark and Matilda are happy to have this place to live -- they actually own this shanty and don't have to pay rent. Inside the room is a bed, a couch, and some bags and trunks containing their clothes and things. Bismark has quite ingeniously rigged up some light bulbs to a car battery so they can have light at night and listen to the radio when they want to. Bismark and Matilda have a little boy named Benedict, who will soon be three years old. Right now, Bismark's younger brother, Peter, has come from the north to stay with them and earn money to start a farm in his home village. Most nights, Matilda's older sister, Dora, and Dora's four year old son, Amos, stay there, too.
Today we've come to counsel Bismark and Matilda. They have both accepted Christ as their Saviour, and Satan is really fighting them as a couple. Matilda has been having terrible nightmares about people trying to pull her and Bismark apart, and when she calls out for Jesus' help, the people turn into demons. Of course, as a young Christian raised in a culture that places very heavy emphasis on the importance of dreams, she is afraid! She has been doing the only thing she knows to do -- she prays and reads her Bible. Sadly, her husband doesn't have that opportunity. He is illiterate. When he is troubled he can pray, but he cannot read. He cannot turn to God's Word for comfort and strength.
John sits down with Bismark inside the shanty, and Matilda and I sit down outside on a bench. We send Carey and Ella to play with Benedict and the children from the surrounding shanties. At first glance, there really doesn't seem much for them to do, as these children own almost no toys, but soon they've found some odds and ends of things to play with - an old hanger here, an empty tin can there, a scrap of lumber, a broken bowl, a piece of rope -- plenty of things to play with if a child has a good imagination!
Matilda and I begin to talk -- this is an adventure in and of itself as we use three languages to communicate: English, Twi, and FraFra. Somehow, we figure most everything out! Matilda shares of her struggles with her husband. Some I can understand clearly, as they are struggles every wife has to face sooner or later, and some stretch me, as they are cultural struggles, things that I've never faced and never will face. She shares the hurts and the misunderstandings she's struggling with, and I silently pray that God will give me wisdom in how to answer her. Once again I'm reminded of how good God is -- He has given us a Book that is above culture!
After a few hours, it is time to go. Both parties have stated their problems and John and I have hopefully given godly counsel. Now John and I will go home and talk about what each has said.
On Sunday John acts as the mediator between Bismark and Matilda. Playing the part of a mediator is a very important part of the culture, and it must be handled with great care. John acts as the "go between" for two of them, stating the problems and the advised solutions. They seem to be listening, and no one seems angry, but that is also the cultural way of handling problems. Now, we wait and watch.
On Sunday night, Bismark and Matilda are back in church. The preaching this night is on I Corinthians 13. They seem to be listening, trying to understand such a strange concept as bibical love. Now the sermon is over, and everybody helps to pack up the benches and such. Time for everyone to go home. I look for Bismark and Matilda, to tell them good-bye, but they are already on their way.... walking closely.... talking quietly as they head down the path in the dark.