Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Sunday Morning Musings from Africa

Things I observed at a church service this past Sunday in Benin, West Africa that most people probably did NOT see at their church service in America:

1 - one of the sincere worshippers, on her way up front to present her offering at the table, reached inside her bra and pulled out her contribution

2 - more than one of the congregants made change as they presented their offering

3 - at the conclusion of the holy sacrament, the communion presider shook out all the cracker crumbs on to the dirt floor of the thatch worship facility so that the couple of baby chicks hanging around the doorway could come in for a quick bite


- At a relatively new church plant, the one presiding over communion was in charge of making sure the glass of wine was kept full as the congregants journeyed to the front for partaking; I watched carefully as he made sure the glass never got below 3/4 full.  I was watching with interest as I saw the line come to an end; yet he continued topping off the glass (in Benin, we use the real stuff for communion).  Sure enough, while only two baptized believers remained, the cup ranneth over, so when the last finished, an almost full glass remained. Unsuspecting of his next move, I was rather surprised that the wine guy didn't try and pour the remaining back into the bottle; but rather, with total abandonment of everything-sacrilege, he "downed the hatch", slapped the glass on the table and headed back to his seat with a big smile on his face!

- A regular observation is one where these amazingly talented African Christian women will take their place at the communion table, bouncing a crying baby tied around her back, meanwhile holding another who is latched on nursing, with one hand free to grab the cracker and wine! Takes multi-tasking to a whole new level!

- At another church plant, it was the congrgation's first Sunday to worship together.  I was pretty new, too, and was not as confident yet that I wouldn't make a cultural error one day that'd get me kicked out of the village.  So I sat in silence and laughing to myself when I noticed from where I was sitting that a fly had landed in the communion cup (we are also one-cuppers).  No one knew what to do.  There was a fear of disrupting the holy wine, and as well a conscious perception that pouring out the wine would be too costly (one Sunday's offering is not sufficient to cover the cost of the communion wine).  So until one older unpretentious man finally reached in with his dirty farmer fingers and plucked out the pesky intruder, everyone else simply picked up the glass, trying their hardest to turn the cup to where gravity would pull the fly away from the point where their lips would sip the wine.  It was probably the funniest moment I'll always remember.

Rockin' Randall
Missionary - Benin, West Africa

The Fitted Sheet Conspiracy Theory

OK, who out there would like to revolt against the fitted sheet concept?

I have visited countless hotel chains across the world (maybe a little exagerated) where they just simply use a flat sheet on the bottm as well and fold it tightly under the mattress...seems to work just fine in place of the fitted sheet.

Is it a conspiracy with the elastic company as I suspect?  I mean, doesn't your fitted sheet's elastic always give out before your flat sheet does..but because of the former's deterioration, we are forced to buy an entire new set of sheets, or at least a new fitted one...and then who can find the exact same style, pattern, color as your existing flat sheet...of course, then you've got one new brightly colored fitted sheet with a faded dull flat sheet which then begs the homeowner to purchase a new flat sheet to match...just wreaks of conspiracy if you ask me.

I'm not sure if my mother ever really taught me the art of folding the fitted sheet?  If she did, I'm sorry to say I need a refresher.  Are you like me? (yes, I do help occasionally with the laundry).....I get all psyched up to tackle the goliath of all household chores, trying my best to make an elastic piece of cotton fabric have perfect creases, and then I just get frustrated, and just wad it up and try and make it the same size as the nicely folded corresponding flat sheet so it'll stack nice and neat in the closet.  I think our men and women in uniform must have to know the trick to this...can anyone help?  Or maybe I'll just start insisting that in our family, we will buy two matching flat sheets and use them as we please.  If I was a batchelor again (like I am now...Kelly and kids are in Texas for 3 weeks), I would probably just use the two flat sheets, then after a few weeks or so, I'd just switch them (how dirty does the flat sheet really get that you cover with?)  Seems like life would be a lot easier. 

Rockin' Randall
Missionary - Benin, West Africa


Friday, July 16, 2004

Power Naps

On CNN the other night, I saw a segment showcasing a new entrepreneurial effort offering people in busy NYC offices bed to “power nap” for 20 minutes…at a price of almost $15 per brief repose.  They office in high rises where people can rush in at lunch, or even on a break, pay their rather absurd fee, and lay (or is it lie) down on a bed and slumber to the sound of ocean waves.  Actually it sounds pretty cool to me (except the high pricetag).  I’m a big advocate of power naps and a firm believer that such mini-snoozes can revive a soul! (When I used to work at GTE back before coming to the mission field, I’d spend the majority of my lunch hour sleeping!)  I remember being a part of a focus group at GTE studying ways of building morale, and I had the audacity to suggest such “power naps” as a brainstorm, only to get laughed at (don’t they know the rules of brainstorming…therapy helped me get over that).
Well, the Lord in his sovereign humor, called me to serve him for a few years in a country, not unlike many cultures worldwide, where a 2-hour (not just 20 minutes) nap in the heat of the day is not just accepted, but encouraged!  Stores close down and you can roam the streets and see people laying out on car hoods, on straw mats under a mango tree, or even on nothing by the “cool” concrete under an overhang of someone’s rooftop.  It’s so awesome.  I’ve experienced a lot of culture shock and there are honestly things about this African culture that I will NEVER understand and likely NEVER appreciate, but the “sieste” (French) is one thing I’ve come to love!
I do wonder someday whenever my family returns to the U.S…..will I still get to have my naptime?  Maybe I’ll just start up my own “power nap” company and show ‘em how it’s done (what would I charge for a 2-hour nap?) 
Missionary Rockin’ Randall  -  4th and Final Blog of the Day (so busy blogging that I forgot my nap!)

Come Before Winter

Based on the biblical exhortation of the Apostle Paul to his faithful disciple Timothy, where the writer urges a visit “before winter” (2 Timothy 4.21), an amazing ministry has recently been in our country and even in our home.  The amazing leadership team of COME BEFORE WINTER and the other ladies rounding out the squad came to Benin offering hope, encouragement, equipping and renewal for women in ministry here in this part of the world (women came from Nigeria, Ghana, Togo and Burkina Faso, too).  You need to read their website, assist them financially, and wholeheartedly welcome them if they are ever in your country (writing to all you “international ministers” out there).  They are a fantastic group of ladies committed to ministering to women serving the Lord in ministry.  I got to host “Daddy Boot Camp” for Tori (5 yrs) and Timothy (1) while Kelly got to spend 5 full days at this “more-than-a-retreat”.  It was wonderful for her and a real treat for our family to host the CBW Team in our home in Aplahoue, Benin after the retreat.  We enjoyed a very festive 4th of July party surrounded by Americans in the middle of the African bush.  It was great fun.  Please support the Come Before Winter not-for-profit ministry.  Bless them for blessing so many others around the world (they're going to Germany soon and a return trip to Brazil next year; already been to Greece, Thailand, and Mexico).
My wife’s mother, Suzy Jeffrey, is on the leadership team and I’m not just writing this to please her….truthfully!  CBW is great and is worthy of your support and prayers!
DBC was fun….lots of mac-n-cheese, lots of videos, and one tired Daddy!
Missionary Rockin’ Randall - 3rd blog today!! (what a way to spend a few days off!...more to come)

Flood, AIDS, Martha & Cheney

Just heard on the news about over 75 young girls in a private school in India were declared casualties as a result of a fire which erupted inside their school cafeteria.  Some were as young as 4 or 5 years old (Tori’s age)  Incredibly sad for all the parents and siblings who grieve.  Also the floods throughout Asia are wreaking havoc on normality.  I’m meanwhile spending the afternoon enjoying much needed rest and am blogging as I look out over the gulf of Benin which leads into the vast Atlantic ocean.  Might even go for a swim and do some exercising (I always WALK, never jog or run….that “bad knee” thing).  Anyway, life on this earth is so hard and yet in other towns, other countries, life is normal, fine, and even peaceful.  I’m so thankful that my God is sovereign and has a plan of salvation for those who believe (I do!)  If not, I’d probably go crazy trying to make sense of all the inequities and unfairness of this harsh world.  I’m eager to head to my eternal home with Jesus, how ‘bout you?!
Also the International AIDS conference in Thailand is finishing this week.  Seems they don’t care much for the U.S. (anything new).  Even with President Bush’s $15 Billion AIDS Initiative announced in 2003, they are still not happy, wanting us to chip in even more.  I’m not sure $50 Billion would satisfy them.  They just think American’s don’t care.  Speaking of AIDS in Benin, many ask if we see it as rampant as in other countries.  No, not yet anyway.  Heard once that only around 10% of the population is affected.  Countries like Botswana and Nigeria skyrocket in comparison. 
Just heard Martha got 5 months in prison and 5 months “home confinement”  (is that like being grounded?)
Also heard on the news that the rumors are flying around about dropping Cheney from the Bush ticket…not going to happen.  Bush is loyal and Cheney is a great Vice President (great fund-raiser with the Republicans who like him).  They are even a better TEAM.  Heard Cheney say: 

 “I heard John Edwards was picked as Kerry’s runningmate because of his good looks and charm….how do you think I got this job!” 

 I think his sense of humor is great.  Although there could be names that could add a pizzazz to the GOP ticket, it wouldn’t show well of our Administration’s confidence in their own experienced leadership and would frankly look desperate.  Our family is a Bush family and expect Bush/Cheney to do well in November.
Missionary Rockin’ Randall  - 2nd blog today!

Bloggin' from Africa!

I've now got my own blog. Wow. Feel like I did when I got my diploma from Abilene Christian University on the night of commencement...proud to have a nice looking cover, but inside it was void of any content (it did come later, which is what I hope happens with this blog). 
I'm a missionary in Africa (Benin which is in West Africa).  Of course if you're reading this, you're either family or a friend who probably already knows that.  Of course I also don't like being defined by that title either...I prefer the title of "international minister" (too many stigmas with the traditional title).  I have no idea how I'm going to keep up with this blog...we have no phone at our house, at least not at the moment.  I'm 3 hours west of the capital city of Cotonou, where I am now sitting at a hotel on the beach with pretty decent internet access.  Maybe my blog will be a monthly entry, or even better a monthly inundation of all my daily blogs that I've written at my house where I didn't have an internet connection.  Who knows, maybe I'll just transform my entire ministry, scheduling all discipleship sessions, evangelistic meetings, and leadership retreats around my blog time.  If I want to keep getting my paycheck, I guess that wouldn't be the best idea.
Anway, back to the "missionary"'ll notice that I'll sign my entries with that title...that's mainly for any trace of shock value as you hear my thoughts on life, culture (both African and American) and whatever else...I'm wanting you to say, "wow, I can't believe he said that, isn't he a missionary?"  I don't pretend to be controversial or confrontative, but I do have some bizarre thoughts now and then that probably don't line up with your idea of what a missionary might think (or you on pins and needles, yet?).  And I'll probably be alot more bold on a blog than I would be in person.  Pitiful, hiding behind your blog, huh?
Of course, the latter part of my signature, which is also the title of my blog, comes from a nickname my friend and post-college roommates, George Neel & Chris Hamm, gave to me.  Basically, in describing my rather calm (maybe they were even implying "boring") demeanor, they named me "Rockin' Randall" (I think there is some connection to rebel country star Hank Williams Jr, too...of Monday Night Football promo fame).  As a postscript to the "rockin'" designate, George would say, "it's because you are anything BUT."  So I've never been described as "rowdy", "wild", "crazy", "unruly", "unleashed"... but being a missionary in a bush village in Africa should count for something.
Well, I better go...gotta write my next blog before I leave and head back into the bush where internet hasn't quite reached yet!
Missionary Rockin' Randall