I didn’t grow up wanting to be a missionary. There, I said it. I had never felt called to Africa. There, I said that, too. They say confession is good for the soul, but usually it just makes everyone uncomfortable. So, I try to keep my confessing to a minimum…or at least to people who know my heart.
I had a roommate my second year of college that had a poster on our wall with the continent of Africa on it. I can remember waking up many mornings, hearing her crying and praying over Africa. While I didn’t necessarily roll my eyes at this, I wasn’t compelled to join her either. Africa for her? Cool. Whatever. But my mornings were not spent in intercession.
Fast forward fifteen years, add some unforeseen circumstances, a husband who had been a mission’s major when we met (should have been a clue) with a heart for the lost, and my little family of six was graduating from mission’s training and heading to...Africa. Now, mind you, as a side note, my former roommate was living in Hawaii while my kids were learning to eat bugs in missionary kid school (they really do that). But I digress…
Our first term was in a small, rural country in southern Africa. So what was that like? Well, in the winter it was cold. And in the summer it was hot. And there was no heat or air conditioning for either. It was so hot, I considered instituting Naked Tuesdays at our house...but people often stopped by and frankly, I’m not that comfortable in my own skin. I was homeschooling four kiddos and trying to figure out how to make tacos in a place that pronounced fajitas - FA-GITAS. One time in a church service I thought the pastor was dismissing our kids for kids’ church, but quickly learned upon exiting the building that everyone, EVERYONE, even the 17-year-olds, were just taking a potty break...right off the porch of the church. There was a learning curve.
I learned to touch raw meat without gagging, eat what I was served--no matter what, kill enormous roaches that would try and chase me down, and cook for teams of 40 like it was all in a day’s work…because usually it was.
I learned to spend a lot of time with Jesus. My support group, and I had a good one, was not with me. My husband got severely ill and has almost no memory of 10 months of our four-year term. Because of this, I often say I have spent almost a year here longer than he has. People’s lives in the U.S. were going by at normal pace while mine stood seemingly still. I quickly learned why they call it the long African day. Because it’s basically 47 hours. And that is why, when you see me, I will have aged 10 years per four-year term. It’s basic African math. And also, the sun is very intense here, so that isn’t doing me any favors either.
We now live in a much more developed city and that has come with its own set of things to learn. I can do roundabouts like a boss. I’ve only hit one car while parallel parking. And if you can’t beat the people stopping in the middle of the road so they can conduct some sort of business, then just join them. Sometimes we all need to stop in the middle of the road for some reason or another. Honestly, It’s kind of nice to have the freedom to do so.
I’ve learned when you see one monkey, there are many more on their way, so you better make sure the trash can lid is on and the doors and windows are closed. Also, natural deodorant can only get you so far in the summer with no air conditioning. I’ve learned that not everyone cares about their deodorant situation. So sometimes, if I can’t beat them, I join them on that one, too. There’s aluminum in deodorant, you know.
I’ve learned that in South Africa, they use paper cup koozies for cold drinks, not hot ones. So don’t ask for them if you just ordered a latte. Just let your hand burn.
I’ve learned that kids are adaptable and they take their cues from us moms. If we are alright, they usually will be, too. I’ve learned that laughing at things is way better than getting angry. And I’ve learned that truly, Jesus is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
This term we have planted a church. So the lessons continue! How to pastor cross-culturally can best be summed up by "nothing means what you think it does and you should do the opposite of what you’re thinking right now."
I’ve learned that it’s possible to love people on both continents so much it hurts. I’ve learned that it’s possible to physically ache at the prospect of saying 'goodbye' to one group of people while simultaneously being giddy to say 'hello' to others.
God takes us where He knows we are supposed to be.
I suppose there are plenty of ministry wives who didn’t see themselves where they are right now. Maybe in a good way, maybe in a bad way. I certainly never saw myself as sweaty as I am while typing this, but here I am, with only a breeze and my natural deodorant keeping me going. But to my point, God takes us where He knows we are supposed to be. He equips us to do the work He knows we are capable of doing. Be strong, my fellow ministry wives! If I can chase a monkey who stole my beach bag or butcher a cow with a dull knife on the floor of my kitchen, I am confident you ladies are going to rock your current assignments! You’ve got this!
The Long African Lesson is the first entry in Sanctuary's February 2020 series, A Journey of His Faithfulness featuring the work of missionary wives. Share one of your lessons learned along the journey of His faithfulness by posting below. Then take a moment and share this post with a ministry wife you care about. She might could use a little encouragement, don't you think?
Dezra Freeman and her husband Randy have been married for 24 years. They have served in full time ministry for 21 years. Together, they have four children ranging in ages 10-21. Their current roles are director of Urban Tribes with Assemblies of God World Missions and pastoring their two-year-old church plant in Durban, South Africa. In her free time she enjoys reading, baking and conversations on the patio with friends/family.