Several mornings a week, after waking up and getting a shower I walk outside and cross the street to the bakery. The bakery on the corner of our street is one of many places that I can buy baguettes (a long, narrow loaf of French bread). We eat pieces of baguette from time to time but I mainly buy it for our nanny and our house help. It’s kinda part of our responsibility as employers to provide breakfast for them and the baguette is a preferred breakfast item. I have been crossing the street and buying bread from the same place for nearly 2 months. I see the same faces on the other side of the counter everyday. After realizing this for the first time about a month ago, I felt convicted to personally know the workers on the other side of the counter. There were three problems I faced in achieving this.
The first of these problems is the most obvious. Language. The people that live here speak Wolof and most speak french as a second language. Now, Cathren and I have been French students for a month and a half now, and the truth is I do know how to say “Hi how are you, what is your name?”. However, I still need to focus and think about it for it to come out right. Its one thing to say new phrases in the privacy of my apartment but its another thing to stand face to face with real Senegalese people and attempt to communicate with them. It can be scary! I already have gone into this bakery and caused much confusion when I say numbers wrong, cant say the name of another item I want, and don’t pay with the correct amount of money. Regardless of all this, I know how to say the phrases and it came down to the fact that I was afraid.
Problem two is, I’m tired. I’m not a morning person. Even after a nice cold shower, I’m a little drowsy and don’t feel like thinking hard or talking to people. Especially in French. Emery can still wake us up from time to time in the night and Iesley is very excited to wake us up at 6 am most mornings. All that to say, when I walk into the bakery in the morning, I am perfectly content looking at the floor until I’m at the register. Once at the register I am fine murmuring “good morning, one bread, thank you, until next time”. So, I’m not a morning person. Still a lame excuse.
The third excuse is actually somewhat legit but not consistent. The bakery can be a super busy place in the morning and you need to jockey for your place in line. People have places they need to go and the bakery needs to keep a steady pace to serve the flow of customers. Though from time to time I can walk in and it can be practically empty. Rushes must come in waves and these are the times I would feel the conviction the most.
Well, today I headed out and crossed the street. As I was walking I thought about how I wish I would man up when the opportunity came and get to know these faces I see nearly everyday. There is almost always one young man in particular that is at the register. He is the one that I speak to. He is the one that I stand face to face with. He is not mean to me but I would not say he is particularly nice. More then anything he seems curious. He, along with the other workers can pick me out of the crowd for obvious reasons, so they know who I am even though we don’t KNOW each other.
So I walked in and there was nearly nobody in the bakery line. The conviction set in so heavy but immediately I began telling myself that I was tired, that i didn’t need to be talking to people this early in the morning and they probably don’t want me to know their names. So I said the same thing to him i say everyday, payed him and said bye. But before i could turn and walk away He said something to me that was completely out of routine. I froze and stared at him. I shot him A universal look that communicates that I didn’t understand what he said and that he should repeat it. The look worked and he said it again. in a moments time I was able to gather that he was asking me if I spoke Wolof. I was happy I understood him but disappointedly told him in French “ no Wolof, a little bit of French”. No later then I spoke those words I remembered that i know some Wolof greetings. My eyes lit up, I raised my hand to the ceiling and pointed my finger and said Ah ha! and commenced to greet my captive audience in Wolof. they laughed and got a little bit excited with me. But then the man continued to speak to me in Wolof and I shot him another universal look that communicated that i don’t understand what you are saying. One of the girls that works there translated and said “what is your name”? I could barely believe it. Excitedly I told him my name and shook his hand. I was able to ask him what is name was just as a line was beginning to develop. He told me his name and then repeatedly said “tomorrow” with a big smile on his face as he turned to assist the line of people. I walked out feeling good about what just happened but then slowly began to feel sorry that it was not me that spoke up first.
I walked back into the apartment only to find out that class had been canceled. So after breakfast I sat down and Iesley brought a Bible story book over and asked me to read her the Jonah story. Iesley sat on my lap as I preached to her about how it does no good to run from the plans God has for you. I explained how Jonah was disobedient in trying so hard to not do what God was clearly telling him to do.
Needless to say, I felt like a pretty lousy servant after preaching it to my two year old. I was disappointed with myself, but I was able to praise God that He does not give up on teaching us and using us. If my spiritual growth was totally dependent on me I just plain wouldn’t grow. My disobedience in no way hinders God from working out what He’s working out. How awesome is that. I hate my sin but I love His sovereign all powerful nature. I love how He’s defeated sin and promises not to leave me in the condition I was born in. It’s enough to make me want to stay here in Africa and try to talk to people in French. Its enough to make me want to change.
Thanks for praying for us. We are not good missionaries. I don’t think there are any good missionaries, just a good God. So we will mess up some more and we will still get scared and even run from what God wants for us. But it wont change God’s grace and the building of His kingdom. I hope our inability doesn’t deter you from supporting us, but rather encourage you to be a part of what God is doing in parts of the world where the gospel has never been.