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New Header New Era

Ok… I DO plan to continue my blog. I have changed my header to a picture I took today in downtown Nashville to represent this new era of my life… and my blog. I hope to partially focus this blog on creative ideas, pursuits and experiments. Please pray for boldness and opportunities for me as I try to be faithful to God’s gift/calling of creativity in my life.

Quick update: I am working leading painting sessions at a place called Sips ‘N Strokes north of Nashville. I still feel very much in transition. I’m looking for ways to focus my life outside of myself.

Provision

I can not believe three months have passed since I was in Togo, west Africa.

As of six days ago, I live in Nashville, Tennessee. Most people who hear this assume I got a job before coming. Nope! I am job searching. Does this define me? It kind of feels like it right now. I “know” it does not…. Actually since writing that a couple days ago I’ve found two part time jobs to hold me over until I can find something better.

The last 3 months since being back have been such a variety of things I’m not sure where to begin! Emotional. Restful. Full of travel within the country. Random. Difficult in ways, but very very blessed. That’s what I want to talk about. I can see the Lord’s provision for every need over the last 3 months, and his gracious provision for me right now. I even consider the struggles he has allowed to be gracious. The “honeymoon”-like excitement at moving to Nashville is wearing off and my life seems kind of directionless and vast and potentially lonely. I feel like I should have a definite passion and career goal, but I don’t particularly…  I believe what God has said about struggles (that they’re for my good, that they refine my faith, that they lead to hope and joy and maturity, that I am never alone in them, that they are actually necessary for me to commune with Jesus). I can look back to see what he has done historically, and know that he will continue to be faithful and provide. Firstly, he has provided for me spiritually, bringing words of Truth and encouragement spoken by my precious brothers and sisters in Christ when I have desperately needed it. I’m especially grateful for my sisters, Nathanael Fatula, Nancy Oliver, the Rosses, a random girl named Marissa than came up and hugged me in a parking lot, etc. The Lord has continued to ground me and bring me back to the anchor of the Bible, the gospel, the core of who He is and what my faith in Him means. This has come through a couple books, some great sermons I’ve downloaded, and the Bible…  My sister had on her facebook page recently, “I don’t know. But I know the ONE who does.”

I praise God for some details of my situation that are small maybe, but blessings: There is free coffee that’s actually decent at the leasing office of the apartments I’m staying at. I have a very nice and cheap (to me) place to stay temporarily. I have a sweet temporary roommate, and she has a sweet dog and cat to keep me company while I’m here alone. I found temporary/part-time jobs quickly. There’s a nice gym at these apartments, which is especially great for me, because I can’t just go jogging for exercise like most people because of a retarded hip and hip surgery a while back. I have several friends in the city, which makes a HUGE difference in being new to a big city. Nashville has gorgeous green rolling hills popping up all over, which is food for my soul.

God has provided, is providing, and will continue gloriously. I’m grateful that he wants his own glory and intimacy with enough to not just let me be comfortable and unchallenged. That said, I appreciate your prayers.

Codhani

The last week in Kara, Tiffany Shanks (another missionary, not on my team) took us to visit this unique site outside of Kara. Codhani is a place where handicapped people work to make all kinds of gifty and touristy items, mostly out of fabric that they design themselves. We got to see where they work and how they design and create.

One of several buildings in the compound

They use stencils and wax and dye.

This lady works over an open fire dying the fabrics

Some, though not all, of the fabric is woven on sight

This is the type of iron they use, with hot coals put into the iron itself. This is also what we'd see at the tailors around town.

The outside of the shop where they sell the finished products.

Inside; This picture shows about half of the shop.

Home!

I’ve been home for about a week and a half now and have enjoyed seeing friends and family in Searcy, Arkansas. Now I am at my parents house in Milledgeville, Georgia relaxing a bit. My foot was somehow  injured during my trip home, so I’m trying to ice that and let it heal. I will be returning to Searcy soon to work on the next step, whatever that is. I hope to move to Nashville.

As this blog is called “Bethany in transit” and I am still in transit (and will be in a way for the rest of my life) I will continue posting on this blog occasionally. I have a few catch up posts to do from Togo, mostly pictures, so you can look for those in the next few days. Thank you to all who have followed this blog during my year in Togo for your prayers, comments, and encouragement.

I praise God for his sovereignty over our plans, his faithfulness to watch over us, his good work of sanctification, his presence and comfort. I praise God for Jacque, who has determined that we will do fun things with this time, like playing spoons and has lent me her jacket. I praise God that this air port is clean and does not smell bad and I feel safe here. I praise God that my mom was not mad when I told her I was late and missed the flight this afternoon. I praise God that Sarah is sweet and positive. I praise God that I have a family who loves me and is worth crying over not getting to see today. I praise God that this air port sells real milk, which I love and have not tasted in 9 months. I praise God that at the last minute I pulled my pillow out of my suitcase to carry on the plane. I praise God that they speak English in the country I’m stuck in. I praise God that switching our tickets to tomorrow was FREE. I praise God that it is HE who provides, protects, determines, disciplines, and loves me. And he who has caught every tear I have cried today.

Now I will back up and give a chronology of the last 4 days.

Friday: It was my last day in little Kara, Togo, and I was feeling very sentimental about leaving Africa. During the day I packed, sorted out stuff to leave for the missionaries to use, worked cleaning and organizing the school house, and went to the market for the last time. I marveled over the difference in my perception of the market between first arriving in Togo and the end of our time there. What had been overwhelmingly big, busy, smelly and unpleasant had become familiar, exciting enjoyable (though still smelly in places-mostly the meat section where butchered animal parts lay on open counters in the heat with flies buzzing around all day). I walked around thinking how I would miss the unpredictability, the variety and the richness of the market experience. Later that afternoon I said goodbye to 2 of my 3 students and one of the moms, cried briefly, and then went on to have a lovely last evening with the Kennell family. Nicole Kennell served chocolate moose pie and gave us each a very random kitchen utensil to eat it with, each chosen for it’s appropriateness to our personalities but not for eating chocolate moose. I ate mine with a metal whisk 🙂 because I’m “shiny and multi-faceted”. I’m not sure if “shiny” applied to my personality or my face sweating in the west African heat.

Saturday: Matt and Grace Hangen came at 5:30 am to drive us to Accra, Ghana to catch our flight home. We are extremely grateful to them for volunteering to do this, as it is an 11 hour drive on rough roads. It was very surreal to know how close we were to leaving Africa. I tried to absorb and remember as much as possible from the scenery passing by. Saturday was Worker’s Day in Togo, like America’s Labor Day. We passed several mini parade-type displays of people dancing and singing in the streets. When we arrived in Accra, it was as if Africa was already slipping away. Already it was so much bigger and more Westernized than Kara. That night in bed, as I tried to journal and pray I didn’t know what I was feeling or what to say. I just felt dazed. I asked God to speak to me if he had anything to say. He did lead me to some realizations and scriptures that were difficult, humbling and beautiful all at once. I may say more about that later.

Sunday: Our flight didn’t leave until 10:40 pm, so the day leading up to that point was mostly quiet. We didn’t have money to spend or much to do, and were very ready to just be on the plane and on our way home. We entered the air port with energy and excitement. We were really on our way! After two very long and slow lines, and several comments from the male air port employees along the lines of “you should come back to Ghana, you should come visit me, you should be my wife,” we were ultimately told that something was wrong with our reservation and we had to go back to the ticket office. That line was the slowest and least organized line I’ve ever been in. At least an hour later, we had paid $70 extra on each ticket but we DID have our tickets. Success! We were going home! I settled in for a relatively comfortable, but completely sleepless night on British Airways flight 227.

Monday: We did a whirlwind tour of some major sights of London, which included our first Starbucks in 9 months. Best Caramel Macchiato ever… Taking the Underground from Heathrow, we saw the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace. We snapped fast pictures and practically ran from place to place. All of these things were only at 2 different subway stops, but lots of little things combined to add unexpected time to our plans… Despite planning and watch-checking and determining to be back to the air port several hours early, we arrived at the security checkpoint in Heathrow 1-2 minutes later than their strict 40 min. cut off, and were not allowed on the flight.

Monday night, 11:30 pm: I am sitting on hard plastic chairs, stupidly divided by metal arms to prevent laying down. The Heathrow Airport is well-lit, but quiet, for an airport. Men drive small vehicles, waxing the floor. We were kicked out of the comfy  internet cafe/lounge area where leather love-seats tantalize us from a distance.  A female British voice reminds me repeatedly that unattended luggage will be “removed and destroyed” and I’m literally dizzy from exhaustion, and I’ve been freezing for 24 hours.

I actually wrote the first paragraph of this post after the rest. It is now the next morning and I DID sleep some last night and am very warmed by a hot Starbucks latte. I’m going home TODAY.

Last week started out rough, with the worst headache by far I’ve ever had. I was in bed for two days with spotty nausea and searing pain any time I moved my head or eyes. After the second day it got better pretty quickly and I was no worse for the wear other than having heat rash from laying and sweating in bed so constantly. I was especially glad to be better in time to go out to the village on Thursday to take pictures with Nicole. On exiting the truck, we were immediately bombarded by excited kids.

I expected to have a good time taking pictures but I didn’t expect the day to be quite so eventful. We started out by visiting a couple houses of people Nicole knew. Then we walked through some paths and hills that turned out to lead us across the border of Togo into Benin! I had no idea we were so close. Our guide, Jerome, showed us the place marked by rocks where the border line falls and I took a picture (not shown). Over the hills, we sat and talked with a sick lady for a while. Well, Nicole talked to the lady and her family in Kabiye/French. I sat and watched chickens roll around in the dirt. By that time, dark clouds were rolling in so we hurried back over the hills and to the places Nicole had in mind to photograph the elderly members of the village. I’ve always loved painting older people, I think the wrinkles and look of well-earned years gives a beautiful stateliness of appearance. There seems to be so much wisdom and so many stories in their faces and eyes.

At our first stop we met a lady who was over a hundred years old, was very smiley, had no teeth and was happy to be photographed. She was absolutely precious.

There were several people there, including Jerome’s father, on the left.

Then we walked to the compound where the chief  lives. When we got there it started raining, then pouring, and then hailing. We were stuck in this little  metal roofed room with about 10 other people.  This picture cracks me up because Nicole glows and the set up of the composition is such a perfect reminder of the classic Virgin Mary paintings, complete with the Byzantine head tilt. I call this “Nicole as Mary the Mother”.

After we’d been stuck in the little mud house for about 25 minutes I told Nicole if she wanted to ask them people to stand in the doorway one at a time, I’d have enough light to take each of their pictures. This first picture is of an old lady who exclaimed, shouted and clapped in excitement at seeing the picture of herself on my camera’s screen. That was a definite highlight of my day.

This is the chief. There wasn’t really great light, so I had to kick up the ISO. Sorry for the graininess.

Another cute lady.

I took some pictures out the door into the rain. The kids saw me taking their pictures and put on a show exaggerating their dancing and jumping around.

Eventually Nicole decided that it was time to leave in order to get dinner ready in time, so we braved the rain. I wrapped my camera bag up in a plastic bag and we dashed out of the house. A small but fast moving river had formed since we had arrived and crossing it with my camera made me a little nervous. Walking the rest of the way in the rain was extremely enjoyable actually and I told Nicole that the rain was like the icing on the cake to our fun day in the village.

We went on a field trip with the school kids last week to observe and participate in the well drilling that Dave Reeves and Matt Hangen, two of the missionaries, are working on developing in nearby villages. It is a cheap (everything totals under $100), easily reproducible process that gets cleaner water from a lot deeper in the ground than their other wells. They use easily found objects- pieces of flip flop for example 🙂 . They dig with a long weighted metal tube with a drill bit on the end pumped up and down by hand. Four men pull on the rope coming away from the pulley, and two stand working the pole. Both positions require strength and endurance. The water comes up the pipe as they pump and hits the corrugate metal you can see standing up behind the men in the first picture. This particular well is next to a school, seen in the background.


Below you can see Dave Reeves and his son, Elijah, pumping. People hall the water to the barrels from far away because it’s needed for various parts of the process.

This shows the water coming out of the pipe. Maddie Kennell is pumping in this photo; each kid took a turn. The man with his back to the viewer is throwing water on Dave and Maddie’s hands every 3-4 pumps because the mud gets slippery.

The men rotate pulling so the work can continue. I tried this part, which made me tired after about 2 minutes.

Aidan Miller found a very colorful cricket type bug. I don’t know if you can see the red on it’s face and legs.

It was a very fun and informative day. I have a lot of respect for the men who stay out laboring in the hot sun every day.