Tuesday, May 29, 2007

We are getting very close to the end! We are packing up, moving sold furniture to friends’ houses, and this past Saturday, we had a village-wide yard sale! It was not your average, orderly, calm, browse-at-a-slow-pace Saturday yard sale. This was Aja style!! Kelly and I had thought it would be best (thinking like Americans) to have all the sale items in one room and file in about 3 people at a time so as to maintain order. Of course, we relinquished all rights to style when we told the church leaders that the proceeds would go to the church, so therefore the church leaders would run the sale. We provide the stuff – they sell it! When we talked about having the sale in one room with only a few people at a time, they all politely disagreed with looks like “have you ever done a yard sale before!” Again, they are thinking African-market style! This means, no private viewing rooms with a limited number of buyers. But put EVERYTHING in a 10x10 room and make it a free-for-all! So Saturday morning about 8:30a, we started moving the items into a small shaded area outside and the swarm of people who started arriving was overwhelming. It was humorous to my American view of a yard sale. But they were in their element – bickering, bartering, negotiating, shouting, tugging, laughing, socializing…all characteristic of an interactive African market! Aja style!!

The sale was finished just after lunch! (By the way, as entertaining as Kelly and I thought it was at first, we stayed most of the time in our house packing up boxes, preferring to hear the market in action from a distance.) The proceeds mounted to about $60…not a whole lot for the value and number of things in the “market” but the good thing was that a lot of people got a little something. This was the church leaders’ vision: not that they would make a profit, but that everyone who came could walk away with something valuable as a gift (at a very very small price). This was fine with us because at the low prices, EVERYTHING was gone by the end of the day!

Every day we spend much of the time packing away, cleaning rooms, and sorting certain household items that are reserved for special African friends. We can’t give a gift to every member of the church, but we do have a top tier of special friends who we want to bless. In a gift-giving culture, it is just as important HOW you give the gift as WHAT it is. While we’re trying to scale down to the bare minimum, we also must wait until the very end to give these special gifts so as to maximize their significance! This also may be a part of our delayed grief, too…it’s hard to look at these close friends and know we are weeks away from not seeing them on a daily basis. Today, I spent several hours with my favorite church leaders – the ones I will miss the very most. It’s hard to talk about exact departure dates – it’s a lot easier to use generic terms. It softens the edge of this finality. Just like in many cultures, a lot of Aja people don’t express a lot of sad, tearful emotion. A mother will not likely even be around the day her daughter leaves to go be with her new husband (we don’t have wedding ceremonies per se; just appointed days when the child leaves father/mother and joins her husband). She’ll say it’s too painful. Even one of the dear friends who we’ve known the whole time told her kids that she would not be around the day we leave – too painful. Fortunately, her children have encouraged her otherwise (we do hope she’ll be there as we drive off). This is the reality of the missionary cycle – 8 years ago we crowded into a small room at the airport almost a hundred teary-eyed family and friends who were deeply grieving our departure. We cried as we got on the plane to come to this foreign country. Now all these years later, our excitement about returning to our home state of Texas can overwhelm us…but in the same breath, we stare into the faces of friends who, while perhaps not teary-eyed in the same way, are deeply grieving this upcoming parting. We are, too, and it reminds me of the way Paul wept with the Ephesian elders. We have become friends, mentors/disciples, family. Now we say words that indicate our relationship is changing. Still we prefer “until next time” over “good-bye”. We will never forget our Aja friends!

OK – a week ago we wrote about our fingerprints and the pending FBI background check. Still nothing. We will now re-do the fingerprinting and re-send them back through. We have received very helpful communication from the higher-ups in the US Customs and Immigration office and as well from the State Department (US Embassy here in Benin). Everyone is working on it, but it will take some time. We have so many people praying about this, we are sure it will work best in time. That’s not to say it’s easy! We wrestle throughout the day with frustration, sadness, anger, disbelief and aggravation! But we keep coming back (often by way of reminder from a praying friend, thank you!!) to the reality that God’s timing is absolutely perfect! While we really wanted to leave Benin on a certain date, that is not likely to happen. Did we not pray hard enough? Did we not hear that date right? All are questions we have asked ourselves. But we know it’s not all about us – God has His reasons for this timeframe. Admittedly it makes no sense to us…especially as we ponder a 4th of July reunion of Jeffrey family members…surely we’ll be there, right?!!! We are praying so! But we don’t know right now when we will leave. Just one day at a time.
Just FYI: for security reasons, we will not be posting our exact departure date, nor our arrival date in Texas on this public blog. If you want to know more, please feel free and email us at rkvaughn@harvestfields.net and ask!



Brooks Inc. said...

Loved reading these thoughts...Would have loved to have been a viewer at the yard sale.

Love you so and we are prayign all the time about the un-disclosed departure date...too bad at this time its un-disclosed to all of us...:) The Lord knows and will reveal...hopefully soon!


Jennifer said...

I've been reading your blog for quite a while now...over a year for sure. I can't even remember how I stumbled upon it originally. I'm a Harding graduate and most likely found it through a blog a friend from HU has. I have really enjoyed the glimpse into your life in Benin. It is such an encouragement to me living all the way in Michigan. Yoru stories have made me laugh and just as often made me cry...as this particular post did. They have encouarged me to be a better and more active christian and I wanted to thank you for that too! I will continue to pray for your family as you make this change filled with excitement and also a sense of such sadness.

Take care!

Donny said...

Tonight I was flipping through channels on TV and I saw 3 references to cops/detectives talking about, scanning or viewing fingerprints. Seems so easy yet ironic on what I was watching!! UGH - that's all I can say. But continual prayer is what I'll do.

Love you guys so much!!

songbirdintl said...

I join with so many others in praying that God will open the doors and hand deliver those fingerprints to the right person so that He can bring you home in time for that reunion! I know it will be so sweet. Dear Lord, please intervene. I am praying for the transition and for peace for you and the friends and family that you will be leaving in Benin.

Your life is a testimony of God's work. I know that He will use this to His glory.

Don Box said...

Thanks for the update. We will continue our fervent prayers and look forward to praying together next week! Love, Don

Cheryl said...

I feel all this with you... During upheaval...I long to anchor to a definitive "something". Departure date...an event (family reunion) to look forward to...It's a point of hope that the Upheaval of my current circumstance...will end at some point.
I'm sorry the next step isn't concrete yet...its fluid...like water...
I'm praying our Lord who mastered even that...walking on the water...will be very VISIBLE to you as you are called to follow Him on the water,again, for now...My "sea legs" (:-)) aren't strong or sure...but I'm calling out to Jesus to make them so...
I feel so blessed to walk this life journey with folks like you...on water or land...I'm calling out to Jesus with you and on behalf of you.
Praise be to God...we are not alone.