Thursday, March 13, 2008

Challenged by "my" Pastors...

Today I spent some more time at the home of Elisabeth. She let me use her sewing machine to make my bag. Today we started a project of making a light weight with long sleeves so I can keep from getting sunburned too many more times.

Yesterday when I went to town I was looking for some lining material, in the shop I spotted a very nice pair of scissors for sale. I thought of all the sewing that Elizabeth does and how dull her scissors were when I was using them on my bag. I asked the price. Only $3?! I’ll take them! It will be a very nice gift for her and she won’t have to suffer with her others that hardly cut. If I hadn’t established a relationship with Elizabeth and her family, I might begin to feel guilty for giving her something so extravagant.

How could a $3 gift be extravagant? Mixtures of thoughts fill my mind. I have made a friend in Elizabeth and she has graciously hosted me for several visits to her house to sew or discuss possible projects. She has sewn several things for others here in at the school. She even has made outfits for her fellow teachers. Besides the price being a little high in terms of the local economy I start to reflect on an article Pastor Erik (Bethlehem’s missions pastor) just sent me of an interview with an African pastor. The pastor interviewed was mine when I lived in Nairobi before. I call to mind his words about how Americans arrive with certain strengths that turn out to be disabilities when they are here.

Pastor Oscar (Nairobi Chapel) goes on to say that Americans are problem-solvers. (Indeed, I answer to that title.) We want to solve all kinds of problems that Africans don’t even realize they have. In fact, we don’t easily live with a problem. Okay, now I’m really convicted. Who did I buy the scissors for? Elizabeth didn’t even see the problem with her others. I wanted to use better scissors! Of course I could have bought them and kept them myself, but I did want to give. Further conviction comes when I think of how uncomfortable it is here. I mean, it’s not horrible, but a few improvements would make it all a lot easier! Some organizing bins in my closet and a bank of hooks on one wall and I could feel a lot better. As I call all this to mind I feel guilty for all that I have and all that I think about, even if I’m not acting on it.

I try to put it all in perspective. If I were here for a couple of weeks – to help, my thinking would be all wrong. I should only be here to listen and learn. But if I am here for a few months, I need to balance my problem-solving abilities with the relationships I am establishing here. It’s okay to give a practical gift to Elizabeth. I just need to remember not to keep doing things like that every day. I need to ask myself what my motivations are in any thing I do here. I need to continue to build relationships above all else.


Anonymous said...

Bless you, Jan. You're profile reminds me of many of my own thoughts, experiences and aspirations; many of which I'd love to live out in a more tangible way. Thanks for sharing a bit of your life with us.

A fellow Campus Church alumn

Ibukun Olowu said...

Hi Jan,
I read that article too. I thought the pastor made a lot of good points. Glad to know you're well. How's language learning going?