Adjusting to Our Village

July 6, 2016 – North Africa

Our country is 90% Muslim, a politically and religiously Islamic nation, yet here we are in a small garbage village that is primarily Christian. Kids as young as seven and eight drive in the crowded, tight, unpaved streets that I could never drive in; yet there are no accidents. The nicest building in the whole village is not a mall or a corporate office or politician’s mansion, but a ministry that provides teaching and care for the physically and mentally handicapped people. And even crazier for me, half of the people I am living with have never eaten at In-N-Out Burger (a popular burger place on the West Coast) before!

To say the least, it’s been an adjustment for all of us. Even before we start volunteering and serving in the community, we’ve endured the anarchy of many people living together in one household before we set up a cooking and cleaning schedule, the constant annoyance of flies buzzing around and landing on every part of your body, and the Great Water Crisis, where our guest house had no consistent running water for three days. But to put that all in perspective, 22 people in our guest house of six bedrooms, five bathrooms, a common room, dining room, and kitchen is the nicest living space in the whole city. While we are so conscious to close all doors and windows without screens, most buildings and homes have open doorways and windows, and are filled with stored trash. Flies can’t be avoided or worried about; they’re the least of the troubles here. And when the water was off, we just went out and bought water.

As we’ve learned to check our desire for comfort, privacy, personal space, security, technology, food preference and portions, and American excess at the door of the Guest House where we are staying, we’ve opened ourselves up to what God and this community has to teach us. We’ve learned some of this country’s Arabic language as well as the village’s car horn language (you have your hands positioned at 10 and the middle of the wheel because one hand has to be used for constant honking). We’ve learned how the community’s faith in God governs their everyday life as we have been joining their 21-day fast from meat and dairy. We’ve learned how the Coptic Christian Church, Christians from inside and outside the community, and above all, God has transformed this community and in 30 years helped the people to have running water, electricity, and a dynamic, passionate faith in Jesus. And finally, we have experienced firsthand the immense hospitality and generosity from a community that materially has so little that can only be described as of God.

If there is one thing I know after just one week here, it is that we all have the stories, moments, and relationships to testify that this little garbage village and every inhabitant in it is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) in God’s image.

Written by Wes