Life is settling into a steady routine here at the baby home...no, wait...that's someone else's life! "Routine" is not part of our vocabulary, but "flexible" sure is! Although, I guess flexibility is becoming a routine....for example...
- We work between 40 and 50 hours a week at the baby home, all different shifts (night, day, split shift)
- We live in a house with...um...some people. I think I need to count because the number keeps changing. First, it was Alyssa, myself, Newton, Vanessa, and Auntie Linda. Then we invited Megan down for the rest of the week. Then she stayed longer. Then Joy moved in. Then Cintelle showed up a week earlier than expected, and moved in. Then Idelheit and Divine started spending the night after their shifts, sleeping in the bed of whomever was on duty overnight. Then Megan finished her volunteer time and went home (with application paperwork for the internship program.) Then Heather, Donovan, Eliya and Themba moved out (but they didn't live with us, they lived "upstairs" (the front house) at the baby home.) Now Newton, Vanessa, and Aya are moving out, to the Drews' home until Aya's adoption is finalized, then to Malawi to church plant. And Britt (who was an intern last year) is coming back as the baby home manager and is going to live where the Drews were. Also we got four new babies since I came. Never a dull moment, eh?
- As mentioned, the Chilingulos (sp?) are moving out. This means boxes. Lots of boxes.
So our house looked something like this:
Only now they're in the living room. I got to play Pippi Longstocking and walk across the living room without touching the floor, much. Aka, walking on the furniture. I'm going to miss them when they leave. Newton is very nice, Vanessa has been a lifesaver with things like helping us learn how to cook, defrost a freezer, etc. And Aya is just fun. (She helped me Skype my parents on Sunday.) Also incidentally our couch disappeared. I think it's upstairs or something. Not a big deal, just kind of funny to come home and wonder if it was under the boxes, or not!
I need to stop now - I'm falling into bullet point mode again! So, all of these things (plus some others) are making life interesting. Good, I hate being bored. No boredom here!
So, now that I've gotten sidetracked by what I wanted to be a pleasant opening sentence, I need to tell you more, deeper things about life here and how I am learning and growing (and occasionally freaking out, as the members of my Tuesday night cell group would tell you after tonight...)
One of the main things I am learning is how to love sacrificially. In the application they warned us that babies poop a lot, and cry a lot. No big deal, I think, I've taken care of babies before. I'm not scared of some diapers. Most people think of cute squishy babies when they think of babies. (Well, maybe most non-moms.) Warm happy fuzzies and snuggling and loving.
We do a lot of that! And I feel very warm and fuzzy when I'm holding a sleeping baby.
So, I guess the "lint roller of daily life" is kind of an inaccurate analogy. Because there are still warm fuzzies involved!
But what they neglected to mention is that the one thing babies don't do a lot of is sleep at night. (Not that it would have changed my mind or anything.) At first, it was a very real struggle to get used to helping with night shift! I would lie in "bed" (the short lumpy couch, the more comfortable long couch, or cushions on the floor [drifting apart...think your head and your hips going two different directions]) and think, Ach. A baby is going to cry again in about two seconds. I am tired. I want to sleep. I am not feeling warm and fuzzy. Dear Jesus, please let me never have triplets or I might just die...and other melodramatic thoughts.
Slowly I began to realize that THIS IS LOVE, even when I don't remotely feel loving, if I choose to love and act upon that love. One morning when I was rocking Double Trouble (Little Guy and Princess) unsuccessfully back to sleep around 4 a.m., I decided to check out Facebook. No sleeping was going to happen at that point! I started chatting with a friend from home...the conversation went something like this.
Friend: Hi! How's the life of sacrificial love going for you?
Me: I don't FEEL loving!!!
Yes, what an appropriate and timely conversation starter...for a conversation that helped put me back in focus, a lot. By God's grace I am slowly learning to take joy in serving the babies when I don't "feel" loving!
But they really are adorable most of the time.
Squishy = squishing
In other news, we started Awana on Friday. We do it at a local elementary school. Randy Clark, one of the missionaries here, began volunteering at the school and got permission from the principal to start an Awana program on Fridays. They have an after-school program Monday through Thursday, but on Friday the children (there are over a thousand enrolled, not sure how many don't go home right away) just run wild all over the school grounds. I'm not sure how many we had signed up for Awana, but probably in between 50-70 on the first week! This is a whole different dynamic than most Awana programs that operate out of a church. Usually it starts from within the church, with kids who have probably heard the Gospel before, and moves outward. We are starting with a huge bunch of public school kids and a handful of missionary/church kids.
Here is a sampling of the kids who attended.
Every other week, I lead groups, and every other week, I lead games. Think games for 70 kids. Think, I'm glad I was in camp programming. Think, I'm still way out of my comfort zone and have no idea what I'm doing! I think a friend is going to give me a crash course tomorrow. (The offer of a whistle may or may not have influenced my eagerness to sign up as co-game-leader. No, it really didn't. Not me. No way.) Whatever happens, it's going to be crazy, fun, and LOUD!
In all reality, I think I'm going to find it more stretching for me to lead small groups than to lead games. I'm not afraid, really. It's more like I'm in a different country, different culture, and I have NO IDEA what to say to these children (who are meeting with an unknown person from another country and culture who can't spell or even pronounce their names, let alone remember them...except for one little girl named Amy Smith, of all things.) I was sent an email today with guidelines for small group time. I think I may study that religiously. I think I need more practice. I think I may stretch and grow tremendously through this although it is rather uncomfortable right now. I found myself sitting in Africa's red dirt on a school field, with eight children, grade 1-3 (who had to leave whenever their parents happened to show up) and trying to get to know them...asking questions like, "So, how many brothers and sisters do you have?" "What is your favorite subject in school?" "What do you like to do during your free time?" "Let's try to memorize our verse. Who knows what 'eternal' means?" (to which one particularly honest youngster replied, "No clue!") Please pray for wisdom. Especially wisdom on my feet. I've mostly served as assistant, crew leader, etc in church VBS and Sunday School. Even when I taught Sunday School it was with one to four compliant church kids and I'd studied the entire lesson myself the day before. Like I said, I'm not terribly scared of it, I just have SO much to learn. Pray I don't hopelessly confuse the children in the process!
I've been encouraged to see even the tween/teen missionary kids leading the groups of schoolkids not much younger than themselves. If they can do it, surely I can learn!
Marissa and Katelynn...I think...still learning names!
Joy (who is not an MK, but our awesome Zimbabwean housemate who incidentally seems to change her hair on a daily basis) and Cambria
The Cooking Adventure Chronicles
I'm happy to report that cooking is one thing that no longer even threatens to scare me. Yes, I'm still learning, but I'm not starving and neither am I subsisting on PB&J. Today I made Caesar salad. The dressing wasn't really Caesar-y, but it was still pretty good. Yesterday I made pancakes. And steak with peppers. I think that may need a little work. But I was happy to eat red meat...I haven't been cooking meat much because I (still, yes, Mom) forget to get stuff out to defrost. Also, I forget to separate meat into small, portion-sized baggies. Thus, mealtime usually finds me hacking away at lumps of frozen meat with a kitchen knife until I conquer them. After I separate my dinner from the herd, it's relatively easy to kill...oops, I mean defrost...it. Our tap water gets intensely hot. Bad if you forget and turn the handle the wrong way when washing your hands (yes, I do this at least five times a day, and it doesn't help that cold and hot seem to be on different sides of every faucet, or maybe that's just my imagination) but very good if you want to defrost meat. It's generally choppable in less than ten minutes. Actually, I think it cooked the outer layer of my chicken before I could even fry it, today. (It's also nice if you need hot water for something...no heating it in the microwave here!)
Funny anecdotes from the last week...
- Lerato and Akani were trying to teach us SA words. I think I fail miserably. I'm mixing up "sho" and "sho sho" and "shop" and "shop shop" and still trying to figure out why you would call a baby a spider pie as a term of endearment...I don't even want to imagine how strange American English must sound to visitors to our country!
- Auntie Linda cooked fish with eyes. Then she offered me some. I try, I really do, to be polite about food. I just couldn't look at my dinner looking back at me. I found out later (from Heather) that she was teasing me and laughing about it. Ha ha. I also stepped on a fish (minnow size) on the floor. It squished. I think its eye popped out at me as well.
- I'm still struggling to talk at a speed that all my friends can understand. I've decided I'm just so good at talking that I can do it twice as fast as the average person. =P
- This is how you know you're a foreigner:
- Cintelle absentmindedly placed her name tag here after AWANA...
If you can't read it, it says "No Cintelle when babies are awake."
- And finally, this wins the prize for the oldest hand-me-down. I found it when I was doing laundry. That date on the front says "1978."
And seriously, some prayer requests...
- That I'd continue to learn to love sacrificially. And, get enough rest (but not too much! I keep oversleeping my alarm).
- That our babies will find homes, either adoptive or biological, and that they would be raised to know Jesus. Even though we love these kids with everything we have, it's heart-wrenching on a daily basis to hear their stories and even just see them NOT in a home with a mom and a dad. With Sunshine, especially, it makes my heart ache to see her longing for stable, constant parents, not just loving caregivers. The baby home assigns a primary caregiver for each child, but there's still nights, weekends, and times where others have to step in and help out (six babies is a lot - that's why there are interns to help!) and I see her confusion as her heart aches and longs for ONE mommy and daddy.
- For safety. As everyone is always telling me, "This is Africa!"
- That I'd build deep relationships with the people here.
- That my roommates and I would continue to learn to live with and love each other (and yes, they are pretty great. =) )
- That I'd learn to not fear. Every time I think I've got it under control (HA HA!) something I didn't ever even imagine I'd have to do, face, or think about comes up. And I thought the Ranch was stretching, growth-wise. (Ha!) Tonight, our Bible study decided it would be a good thing to do street evangelism (no, we didn't do it tonight, just talked about it). I may or may not have taken up biting my nails again, with vigorous enthusiasm, while I tried not to hyperventilate with little success. Street evangelism is not something I planned on doing. Ever. In this lifetime. I mean, I talk about Jesus to people I know - I'm learning to be bold in that. I sometimes even can see opportunities, say, when I'm stuck next to someone for a long plane or train ride (although I'm still learning in that scenario). But put me on the streets, be it Africa or in the States? I THINK I MAY DIE. To which my new friend Lerato was like, "So what?? If you die, you die..." or something to that regard. Of course she's right. But seriously, folks, pray. Some people may say, "Why would you go to Africa to do something you weren't doing at home?" Well, let's just say I didn't plan on this (note: ever) but apparently God did! So, I need like a gazillion times more boldness because not only is this not in my comfort zone, I don't even think it is in the same galaxy. My SA friends just laugh at me and say, "This is good for you. You will learn." They face street evangelism (whether during the day, or at night to prostitutes) as a matter of course.
- That doors would open for me to love on even more children and babies. I may have the opportunity to visit some other Christian children's homes while I'm here, and possibly even to volunteer in one of the government orphanages and hold babies, where there are many babies and very few caregivers. That last part is pretty up in the air - no one knows if I can do it for sure, but Heather and Donovan didn't say "no" when I asked them - they said they'd talk to the baby home's awesome lawyer, Karlien. Basically, I'd need a.) permission from the orphanage and b.) transportation. It's looking like B might be as hard or harder than A. As is oft quoted to me, "This is Africa." Aka few cars and many people. If there's less than 9 people in a five-seater car, it's not filled to capacity.
So, I promised less bullet points. I think, I may have failed. Hopefully this is enough news for you all for now.