culture survival [1].

these posts will serve as a look into Malian culture and some of the different things i have encountered. just so you know i have been in Mali for a week now woohoo!! And i thought today.. 'you know most people go on missions' trips for a week/two weeks and you have the mindset that oh i am going for a very short period of time and then heading back home to 'my normal life'...not that going on short term trips are a waste because i absolutely think it is important to get any sort of experience possible; HOWEVER, i realized today that from the day i arrived i told myself welcome home.' this is not a trip to simply dip your toe in the water.. nope! i'm jumping in. 
now that thats said and you have a somewhat understanding of how my brain is working: lets talk about this culture thing. 

number one: do not use your left hand, at all. ok, so i am left handed & their is one other girl on the team that is left-handed, as well. she immediately informed me about the actual use of the left hand, which would be your 'bathroom hand'. no one is left handed here. if you start writing with your left hand as a child, your parents will be sure to see that that's changed. anyways, so i was at the wedding on saturday, the reception followed the wedding immediately and guests were everywhere relaxing and conversing. Servers are going around passing out plates and bowls of food to people, which included a dish called 'toe' and also a huge bowl of rice. the lady hands me a bowl of rice and without thinking i start eating (with my hand of course because here in africa that is how you eat everything). yes, yes. it was with my left hand and i soon realize after i look around and see multiple africans' eyes dial in on me, as well as a smile that screams "oh you american!" all to say, they were all very sweet about it and i simply laughed at myself and asked the french lady to the left of me to help me with my technique of eating this rice with my opposite hand. lesson learned & relationships started. 

number two: Mali is a very poor country. trash everywhere. it breaks my heart as i stare out of my taxi, window down due to the extreme heat, as well as trying to ignore the stinch coming from the streets, witnessing the lives of the people before me with as little as they have working day after day. taxi drivers get paid the most (around 1500 cfa one way, which equals around $3.00) so you wonder how these street vendors make it... how many people a day really buy a pair of sunglasses, not to mention that there is another sunglass vendor right beside you. sanitization goes out the window and you don't think 'oh could i get dirty from touching this', but 'oh what disease or sickness could i have now possibly acquired.' 

number three: my personal living conditions. the apartment is great. well, at least i think so. no air conditioner, but a fan in every room mosquito nets, two bathrooms with running water (well sometimes) and a living room and kitchen. ok, cooking in africa. it is quite the experience. i want all of you out there who have ever told me i don't seem like the domestic type or i can not cook...you're wrong!!!! we all cook dinner once a week, as well as anything that we want during the day. oh yah and everything is from scratch!!! in my one weeks time i have made: stuffed peppers, eggs, a cake with cream cheese icing from scratch, peanut butter cookies, salsa (literally from scratch, africa style) and tortilla chips from pita bread. i have also eaten cheeseburgers, pizza, chili, and a variety of fabulous restaurants. remember, this stuff may sound american, but it all taste different.. believe me.. i am happy to say i have not had the case of diarrhea. (everyone gets it here, it just comes with the territory) lets see how long i can go till the inevitable happens. 

number four: the malian people are beautiful.sweet.kind.wonderful. i have only had one bambara class, but i am studying hard and in the next couple days i will hope to be able to have enough phrases learned to go out and speak with the neighbors. interesting. here, you greet and then it is cultural to ask how they are doing first of all (i ka kene?) and then after the responses, ask how their husband (if talking to a woman: i ce ka kene?) and then their children ( denw ka kene?) mother (ba), father (fa) and so forth. the language is very interesting and i am quite thrilled to get the opportunity to be taught three times a week for an hour and a half engaging in the culture. 

so much more on my heart. but God is working very creatively in my life & i love it. not only dealing with culture, but in my spiritual walk as a woman of God. please continue to pray for me, the team, the missionaries & the Malians.
i ni se folo. [goodbye] 



well. i have been in mali for three days now and i am still just in shock that i am here. how beautiful it was to finally be where God's plan had taken me! i was very encouraged to see all of the safer girls, as well as nate and the caswells and glen pick me up at the airport. everybody was such troopers for having to go to the airport at 1 am.  the process of getting my bags in Bamako was actually quite painless. fast and easy, although i do believe the malian men were fighting over who was going to take my bags out to the car. they spoke french and a little bit of english, so from the start i knew that language was going to have to be a huge priority when it came to scheduling. from the airport we headed to glen and karen's (who will be arriving tuesday) wonderful home, in Bacojikaroni ACE,  just right around the corner (literally) from where the girls' apartment is. We stayed for not even an hour till we decided to head back to the apartment and get some rest. now, remember all of this is in the dark, so i have not really seen  how anything looks- town, neighborhood, anything.
funny. i am not really a night owl type of person. well actually i am not at all.. i actually can be referred to as a grandma due to my sleeping habits. however, due to jet lag, and even after a long two days of traveling, i lay in my new bed thinking i will go right to sleep, but no i lay there till 4 in the morning. Well i had ""planned" on going to Gloria's culture coaching session with her at 9 am. i think you get where i am going.. no it did not happen. i ended up sleeping till 12 and lazily got up and ready for the day. i did, however, go to Bambara class with the girls to get my first glance at how transportation and language work in this new place i call HOME! so we leave the apartment and walk to the main road and call out for a taxi.. in America you get in, tell them where you are going and pay for however much the mileage was.. well in Mali.. you go up to the window tell where you will go and get in and talk about the price you will pay for the ride. calculations come to be that the girls pay around $2-$3 for a taxi ride one way really anywhere that they go. pretty cheap, and they said taxi drivers get paid the most. wow.  i was also very impressed with how they spoke Bambara to the taxi driver, that made me EXTREMELY excited to get started on classes!! we make it to class and we walk in and the teacher greets us and gets started. i told myself, now i cannot try to comprehend anything right now because these girls have been going at it for four months and if i try to learn today's work i will confuse the heck out of myself. so i simply just observed the girls and the teacher's style of teaching. well i must say. Bambara definitely isn't the easiest to learn, but i think once i get started and begin to learn the basics.. i know i will work as hard as possible to become as fluent as i can! after class, the girls took me to a place to eat called Le Ned (french for The Nest). i ate fish kabobs and fries. wow. it was so good!! day one ended with reflections at the smiths' house. day one was a success.
must i tell you that again.. i was up till around 3 am till i finally decided to take a sleeping pill to get some sleep. it finally kicked in around 4 and i didn't get up till 10am. i just couldn't handle this sleeping in so late. lol. i felt horrible! but i did get up and when the girls got back from class they(Nate tagging along)  took me to another place to eat on the other side of town called broadway. There i got a cheeseburger that was actually amazing! i couldn't believe it! (thats probably why they go there so much :) )  we head back to the apartment and just relax until later that night to go to the Caswell's to celebrate their daughter, Katie's, graduation. she is actually going to go to Evangel! pretty exciting she will be in springfield with me! let me tell you, that was such a great night. i was so honored to be at their house and i tell you why... there were missionaries and pastors there from all around the world.. to sit and talk and watch the interaction of all of these people who have sacrificed their lives, their family, their everything to serve the Lord, was just incredible. i am in Mali, Africa and conversing with theses heros. great opportunity and awesome food! thanks mrs. elaine!
today was another just great day. i really don't know how else to put it and for those of who you who know me, i am sure you can just imagine me saying all of this out loud. lol. but this morning i had the privilege to attend a Malian wedding at our home church. Cami and i got there around 9 and listened to the band practice, but the wedding did not start till 10. ok. so everyone knows that africans are NOT time oriented. so i will tell you that this wedding lasted, well till as long as we stayed, almost seven hours. yes we were at this malian outdoor wedding in the over 100 degree temperature for almost seven hours. but i will tell you, i loved every moment of it. there was a moment that i was looking around at these people and i knew inside that this is exactly where God wants me at this time of my life. i felt like crying, it was encouraging and motivating and a huge confidence booster! because you know,  i don't know the language yet and i have not been around, but three days, to learn the culture, but i know that God is going to strengthen me and keep pushing me along the way. thank you jesus!

i could really go on, but this post is getting a little long. i will explain more stories and emotions in detail next time. for now. in bambara you would say ne taara; in french je m'en vais & to all of my english speakers.. goodbye.



airports are unique. have you ever just sat and analyzed or watched the people that are all around? you see, the interesting thing about airports is that the reason for all of those people to be there is all the same. Everyone is going somewhere. and whatever the somewhere is it's an action of changing environments. for some its a familiar place- maybe a home or a past memory. For others it's a completely foreign area that may cause an uncomfortableness, at least for a short period of time. i am not sure of each circumstance by we all share the common ground- i am going somewhere, they are going somewhere, we are going somewhere. 
(soon and very soon) i am going to heaven. they are going to ___. Are they going to heaven? I am even more unsure and uneasy about that then the fact that i don't know their personal travel plans. that is a somewhere that i personally hold a security, but their somewhere may not be the same. Will heaven be a somewhere for them one day? 
Here i am sitting on this plane...listening...observing..the actions of the people that i am surrounded by temporarily, very temporarily- an hour and fifteen minutes to be exact. But will it be eternally temporary? i don't know. i don't know the spiritual state of not one human beings, other than myself, on this airplane. 
so what am i doing. i am traveling thousands of miles to go reach people that are lost, that may have never heard the name of Jesus. Those that are searching for an answer, a hope, something that will bring change to their current situation. A people that need a Savior. A place that is in deep hurting; a place where its wounds would take years to heal, but a Jesus like mine extends a hand of kindness and grace and can bring healing instantly. 
so what am i doing. i am traveling thousands of miles with people that are lost, that may have never heard the name of Jesus. People that are searching for an answer, a hope, something that will bring change to their current situation. A people that need a Savior. 
The difference between the two. a somewhere. a mali, africa is a somewhere in need of a Savior. An United Airways airplane in Los Angeles, California is a somewhere in need of a Savior. Nevertheless, the thing that makes them so different, makes them so much the same: both also have an eternal somewhere. An eternal destination that will end in life or death. 
the reality of it all. What did i do. absolutely nothing. i didn't strike up a conversation with the uptight business man that yelled at his secretary on the phone. i didn't share the love of Christ to the elderly man heading to Denver. Sure, i flashed a smile, but what did that show? the joy of the Lord. maybe. but how were they supposed to know that, if they have never experienced the kindness of our Father. 

Tomorrow is a new day. a new flight. 
and hopefully a chance to change someone's somewhere. 



Wow. i can not believe in one week from today i will be heading off to mali. i can't begin to express again the gratitude that i have from everyone's prayers, as well as the grace of God in my life and this opportunity to be used by Him.
to catch everyone up a little bit..& stray away from the topic of Africa for just a moment... i now live in altus, oklahoma. my dad has been re-stationed here to be the squadron commander of the reserve unit of AAFB (Altus Air Force Base). He has been here since january, while my mom and brother have been in socal finishing up school for the semester. after my short arrival in California (beginning of may), my family received the news of my grandmother passing away. My mama left the next day for the funeral (in Mississippi), while i stayed behind to take care of my brother. She came home after a week of emotional drainage and my weeks in beautiful california began dwindling faster. i began a 21-day fast-definitely not the most convenient time, but what about a fast is convenient. nothing. exactly. actually, when i think about it, the fast couldn't have been at a better time. a time where i was struggling to fight emotions, but hold my composure for my brother's sake. a time that i needed extra preparation for ministry in africa. a time that i needed to remove myself from this world and unveil a more intimate relationship between me and my heavenly father. if any are struggling and needing a boost in your faith, i strongly recommend taking some time to pray and fast, and if you need maybe a little bit of guidance, i read the book Awakening by Stovall. awesome read with great incite to prayer and fasting. be encouraged my friends :)
All in all my stay in Cali was extremely bi-polar. busy, bored, rain, sun, happy, sad... i think the drag of the three weeks being home and anticipating the move made my time in my ex-home a tad bit stressful. 
Friday my family began the long drive from temecula, california to altus, oklahoma. the two days of driving were extremely tiring, but we safely made it in Saturday night. Now i must say, Altus is no wine country cali, lol, but you know what its ok! life is constantly changing and how you react will hurt or grow your character. so i have taken an oath to stay positive and embrace my new home in the midwest. transitions, transitions! 

again, the time taken to pray and fast brought me through the season of transition. and guess what. its not over! the season of transition will continue as i am getting moments closer to stepping foot into my new new home in Bamako, Mali. WOW! i am so excited! please please, continue to pray for me and the team! take a little bit of your time and check out our blogs. (gloria hull, natali williams, nathaniel garcia, Ariel Ivey and Cami Woodruff). 
God is so faithful, i can not say it enough. he takes us through these seasons, and even when we can't see the outcome- he does and all he wants us to do is trust him with that. if we simply trust him, we will show himself true! love his promises. 

Ecclesiastes 3

1 For everything there is a season,
      a time for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die.
      A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal.
      A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
      A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
      A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
      A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear and a time to mend.
      A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate.
      A time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.
14 And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him. 15 What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.