I was privileged enough to have spent the last week of my life in the company of some incredible new family in Togo, Africa. I made the trip to visit my sister Theresa, who (as many of you know) spent her entire summer in Africa and most of that time in Lome (the capital, pronounced low-may), Togo. She lived with the family of Macklann Basse, a pastor I met while attending New City Fellowship church in St. Louis, Missouri, and assisted teaching English at an elementary school which the Basse’s operate out of their home.
When Pastor Macklann Basse asked me back in the spring if I would be coming to Togo at any point during the summer along with Theresa, the idea was revelatory. But as God would have it, I found myself at O’Hare International Airport at 3am a week ago, being seen off by my wonderful Father and entering airport land for the next 24 hours bound for Africa.
I could be quite long-winded about the moments of the trip, and hopefully I’ll get to share more of them with you soon (preferably in person), but for now while I sit in the Lome airport, here are a few tidbits in the form of poignant lessons learned while in Togo.
1. Have you ever read emergency procedure literature that explains how to flush a conventional United States toilet should the power go out and the tank not refill? You can cause any toilet to flush by simply dumping a bucket of water into the bowl. I remember being amazed when I read that sometime in my childhood years. Here’s why I mention that: in Lome, while water is delivered to the house via pipeline, the toilets don’t flush. Instead, for most hygienic and other aquatic purposes, buckets are filled either outside or from one of a couple spouts indoors and are content to live unobtrusively around the house, ready to be utilized for things like showering or flushing the toilet. Flushing using a bucket (which takes some technique) or showering using a small bowl, a couple buckets of water at your feet, at once felt both slightly foreign and completely ordinary during my short stay. And I don’t think it was because I had the urge as a youngster to read some emergency paraphernalia I found lying around. I think our notions of “normal” and “comfortable” (and conversely our ideas of different, exotic, or foreign) are far too explicit. We fear arrangements different than we’re used to – and I think that causes us to potentially miss out on a lot of amazing experiences. Someday, try being in a locale where it is normal to use a bucket of water for your shower or to flush the toilet. I think you’ll be surprised to discover that it can become comfortingly “normal.”
2. It took me all of three days to hit a meltdown point regarding my desire to knew the schedule and exactly what or when would happen next. (Silly Lauren had clearly never been to Africa.) And that’s when it hit me. I waste so much energy being consternated about not knowing what is coming next. I have been doing a lot of complaining to that effect over the last year, God being the most constant inflictee. Perhaps that was why He sent me to be immersed in an African culture and family, to reveal exactly how little control (none) I really have over things and how that is ok. Not to suggest that I’ve been cured of this habit, but this trip opened my eyes and helped me see the futility of getting frustrated and what could become an enjoyable alternative practice: watching and waiting for God to lead and simply contributing or, even more revolutionary, enjoying the passing of time for a moment here or there without scrounging to find a way to stay busy.
3. Thanks to the patience of Theresa and everyone else I came in contact with, I greatly increased my knowledge of French – from the three words I knew when I arrived to maybe fifteen. By my last full day, I felt like I could respond in a fair number of interactions with at least one-word coherence. Progress!
4. Beware – the muffler on a parked motorbike can be deceptively hot. Even if it seems like a reasonable idea to allow your leg to brush against one while you’re walking through a crowded market, resist.
6. The Church in Africa is beautiful, filled with reverence, music, and tradition. However, it is also brimming with corruption, apathy, and care for worldly things rather than what God cares about. I will be joining my friends in Togo as they pray and work for revival within the body of Christ, not just in Togo but across the continent. Please do the same. (I hope I get a chance to write more about this soon.)
I have so many experiences I could share but we’re about to board. For now, thanks for reading and for your prayers. Togo is an incredible place and home of God-fearing people that are now newly a part of my life.
Now on to Italy! Until I write again,