Thursday, November 29, 2012

The last drop of "What's so magical about Maaza"

Though I felt better in my heart about my anger towards this injustice, I was now concerned about Mariama and the rest of the villages cultural perception of what had happened. I had never gotten upset like that in public, in fact I don’t think I had been angry like that at all, and I was concerned about how it would be perceived by Mariama, the village, and the chief!  I felt that maybe I should go apologize to Mariama and the chief, but firstly Mariama, and let her know I was upset because I care about them, just to make sure there were no misunderstandings.

I found Mariama on her normal spot, sitting on her dirt veranda outside their house, with Mamanjan wrapped tightly to her back, squatting down mashing onions and spices for the afternoon meal. Upon my arrival she smiled and greeted me. She quickly dismissed my anxieties and again stated everyone knows he hates the Fulani and that she thought maybe he’d listen to me. She told me to forget about it, no one would think poorly of me because of this incident and everyone will know I was trying to help her. I was appreciative of her forgiveness or understanding or whatever had taken place, but wondered a little if she really understood why I was upset, or if she would tell me even if she was upset with me. But what could be done? I had done my best to explain and apologize, now the rest was up to God.

~ * ~ * ~
Later that afternoon I made my routine trip to Tanu’s store to buy some bread for dinner. I looked around and didn’t see Fatimata, Tanu’s wife and my dear friend, and wondered what she, as the calm, collected, eldest Fula woman in the village, must think of this morning’s spectacle. I began again to worry about the damage this may have created to my witness there in Catel.  Just then Fatimata called me inside. That alone was nerve wracking because this is a culture that socializes outside. Inside is generally for sleeping or being sick. “Lord, how did I screw this up so bad?” I whined inside my thoughts, anxious about what was about to happen and worried I had screwed up months of relationship building with my Fula friends. As I entered she greeted me with a wide smile and told me to sit. She thanked me for helping Mariama take care of her son and told me I shouldn’t be upset by what had happened earlier. Then she said she had something for me. She pulled out an ice cold Mango Maaza and placed it into my hands.

The can immediately began to sweat from the intensely hot afternoon sun, and I found myself stunned. What just happened here? Fatimata had bought for me my favorite juice and had taken it upon herself to chill it in her water “puti” (clay water pot) with a piece of purchased ice since this morning’s ruckus at the immunization clinic. I opened it and offered her a sip. She laughed and politely declined. She said it was a gift for all I do for them, and because I am their friend. I took a sip and I couldn’t contain my sheer joy. Studying my face, she beamed at my delight, and for the first time in Catel, I knew my heart was understood. “They know that I love them,” I thought, “despite all the initial language issues and cultural faux pas I’d committed, they get it Lord, they know that I love them!”  And I savored every drop, knowing full well it was potentially the most delicious juice I’d ever drink.

For me, this simple gift that my friend offered me that afternoon will forever symbolize a turning point in my perspective as a missionary and in my relationship with the people of Catel. And that is what’s so magical about Mango Maaza J


** As stated above, this is and “old” story which took place at the end of April. I decided to publish it at this time to depict social aspects of West African culture that might otherwise be difficult to describe, because it’s a story particularly near to my heart, and most of all because, in hindsight, it was just 1 piece of a continuing revelation God is showing me that missions are so NOT so much about what WE do or don’t do, and is MORE about loving people as Christ loved us. What a huge relief! **


What's so magical about Maaza?

Part 2
I admit that this verse didn’t come to mind in the midst of this drama as we stood in front of the crowd in the shade of the cashew tree at the immunization clinic that hot afternoon. But perhaps it came to heart instead. Though Mariama is physically able to speak, she doesn’t speak Portuguese (the official language and the language of the educated), and her Creole isn’t that great either, so in the midst of all this emotion she’s stuttering and not able to get many comprehensible sentences out. Even if her linguistics were perfect, a young Fula woman isn’t exactly a voice of authority in a rural Guinensee village. I, however, am a white medical professional who, in their culture, automatically has some status and authority, and therefore my voice is sometimes able be heard for those “unable” to speak for themselves, such a Mariama in this given situation.
 I took a deep breath and began to explain that this is a woman who has a name. She has a personal identity outside of “Fula woman” and continued to insist that I happen to know them quite well, that I see her feed him every two hours or so, get her fortified formula and baby food to supplement his diet which she buys for him … and that’s where he cuts me off and begins verbally attacking her again. He rants that she’s lying to me, that if she cared about him she would have taken him to the nearest hospital for weights and nutritional information, and he’s going take her baby away. Here’s where I’d like to say that I was angel missionary and stayed very calm and collected, however, that would be lies.

By now she’s trembling and crying. I am frankly shocked at this blatant racism and completely unprepared for the situation which is now taking place in front of a growing crowd. I then became extremely upset, having seen her suffer all these months watching her son be so sick and now for someone to try and heap blame on to her was unbearable. Seeing all of the hurt and humiliation that this poor suffering mother, my friend, was enduring I less than calmly explained to him that I AM the nearest hospital, and she does bring him to the clinic for weekly weights, and he IS on a nutritional plan. Seeing my growing discontent, this medical professional assures me that he doesn’t have a problem with me, but her, and continues to personally attack her parenting skills and deems her unfit based on her being Fulani. Seeing that this isn’t going to get anywhere, we excuse ourselves and practically run across the street, where our friend Fatimata is waiting to greet us in front of her husband’s small store. Though she’d been watching, she asks what happened and I immediately burst into tears and am unable to produce any comprehensive speech. I think she understood the “doctor’s” name, Mariama, and Mamanjan, and that was about it. Fatimata explains this man is well known for his poor bedside manner, his frequent habit of not using anesthetics for painful procedures, and hate for the Fulani. I am irate at this injustice and embarrassed at my inability to hide these emotions, and perhaps for fear of not controlling my response to them, head back to the mission house. On top of everything that just happened I feel like a massive failure. I, the missionary, just “freaked out” on a local “doctor” in front of the chief and the rest of the village. “Certainly not winning any missionary of the year awards!” I thought to myself. 

After a discussion with another missionary, I recognized that I was not attacking this other healthcare provider, but was in fact was trying to give an audible voice to my friend, who was being ruthlessly attacked by people who truly knew nothing about her, purely based on the fact that she’s Fulani. As I attempted to process what had just happened, my good friend and co-missionary suggested that there is a righteous anger that that is healthy in unjust situations. That perhaps my anger for this injustice was rooted in love for these people.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak
 for themselves, ensure justice for
those being crushed.”  -Prov 31:8

Monday, November 26, 2012

What’s so magical about Maaza?

**A Story from April 2012 which I had emailed and journaled about but never had the time to compile and share with you all... until now **
It was love at first sip. I love mangos and I love Maaza’s mango sumu (juice). I love it so much that whenever I went to a larger, more developed village like Ingoré or São Domingos to buy medicine, I always stopped by a store, which had an ice chest/chest freezer, and treated myself to a frosty cold, or sometimes mildly chilled, Mango Maaza. Tanu, one of the store keepers in our village, stocks Maaza but has no refrigeration. Though undoubtedly more refreshing when chilled, even at room temperature of 80 or 90 degrees its delicious, and when I go to Tanu’s store and ask for “my juice” he knows exactly what I want.  Yes, it’s good juice, but would I blog about ordinary juice? No.
Mango Maaza won’t reduce your appetite, help you stay up all night, or get rid of wrinkles. It’s also not particularly cheap, in the US or in Africa! So what IS so magical about a cold Mango Maaza you might ask yourself? Well, ordinarily, nothing. It’s juice. As I explained previously, it’s quite delicious juice, especially with no Ocean Spray around, but there’s certainly nothing “magical” about it, in and of itself. But as I’m sure you know, many ordinary things in life are valuable due to their sentimental value. Mango Maaza is no exception.

~ * ~ * ~
It started out as an ordinary afternoon. I was in the kitchen at the mission house trying to figure out what I could come up for dinner, when my good friend Mariama appeared at the door with her young son Mamanjan. I immediately began to apologize because I had said I would stop over and was running late, but she interrupted me mid sentence and said the doctor wanted to see me. Now this was startling in and of itself, since Sean and I were the only medical professionals in the village.

It was a Saturday afternoon and I remembered that the people from Sedengal (a nearby village) had come to run their monthly immunization clinic. I asked Mariama if that was the doctor who wanted to see me. She said yes and, holding back tears, said that the doctor (which is term often used to describe any medical personnel) there wanted to see me. Sensing that something was wrong, I ushered her out the gait and we headed for the benches in the shade of a large tree, where they run monthly vaccine programs. By this time Mariama is blurting out something about him taking her baby and I’m confused, thinking that though my Creole was far from perfect, perhaps there was a huge misunderstanding between her and this “doctor” she was speaking of. Mariama is a young Fula woman. Fulani women, at least in our area, are normally uneducated and often don’t speak Creole well, or even at all. I was at a loss for what could have possibly happened here but was hoping I would be of some use sorting things out.

As we are approaching, a medical provider sees Mariama and starts verbally attacking her, roaring in a loud demeaning tone of voice, calling her an unfit mother and saying that Fula children always die because their mothers don’t take care of them. By now I’ve heard enough and attempt to introduce myself, but he continues. He is now addressing myself, insisting she’s lying to me and accusing her of not feeding  her infant son, pointing out that he’d lost 0.2kg (0.44lbs) since the prior month.  By this point, between his accusations, his tone of voice, and the fact that he has unjustly accused and publically humiliated my friend, this man has rather rapidly pushed my, actually I do know her. She’s one of my best friends.  I am at her house multiple times a day, and I know that she has done so much to try to help this poor child who is always sick and she does extra side jobs so that they can buy him supplemental formula and fortified baby food, so don’t you dare verbally attack her like that(pause to breathe),  button.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak
for themselves, ensure justice for
those being crushed.”  -Prov 31:8

to be continued...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

More than just Thanksgiving


life. filling. gratitude

Eucharisteo is more than just thanksgiving. Its life filling gratitude. The title of this blog is Eucharisteo. I read "A thousand gifts" by: Ann Voskamp not long before starting this blog and I was more than on board with it. I wanted this idea of Eucharisteo to permeate my very being. Now it's one year later and well, the first thank I shal give thanks for is grace, because clearly I'm still learning :)

It was after 1am, and I had been lying in bed sobbing for quite some time. I was safely tucked into my warm bed, in a house with my family, lying next to my phone which my friends were blowing up, and yet I felt so alone. Stranded even. As I began to respond to a friend's text, explaining that I'd be fine because I believe in God's promises, I know he'll provide, it suddenly clicked. Clear as day. Perhaps my dilema is less about all the things I feel I'm lacking right now. Everything that seems to be a mess and spinning out of control. Everyone I've left behind. Everything that was left undone. And to a degree this was true. I have bills, but no job. Ideas and hope for where God's calling me in the future, but no way to get there, the list goes on. But lying there trying to explain how I should be feeling the peace of Christ, to my non-believing friend, it became clear. Perhaps this deep distress of my spirit is less about all of these things, and more about the fact that I still haven't fully learned to be content in all circumstances.

What God has been showing me this week is that I really need to work on this, and that peace and courage in really stressful circumstances comes from Eucharisteo. From giving thanks. A deep sense of joy and thankfulness way down in your heart that says "God, I don't know whats going on here. It feels out of control and messy and frankly, bad. But Lord I am clinging to the truth that I know you are good. You have given me so much and I am thankful. You will continue to guide me to your will and through this, grow me into the woman you've created me to be, and Lord though it may be messy, unacceptable to the world, and wickedly painful, I give thanks, because of that there's no where else I'd rather be."
This is my prayer today, for you and myself, that we would continue on this journey of learning to live in Eucharisteo. That one day, like Paul, we would say "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation..."
One commentary's remarks on Philippians 4:11
Furthermore, Paul says that he had "learned" this. Probably by nature he had a mind as prone to impatience as others, but he had been in circumstances fitted to produce a different state of feeling. He had had ample experience 2 Corinthians 11:26, and, in his life of trials, he had acquired invaluable lessons on the subject. He had had abundant time for reflection, and he had found that there was grace enough in the gospel to enable him to bear trials with resignation. The considerations by which he had been taught this, he does not state; but they were probably such as the following:  that a spirit of impatience does no good, remedies no evil, and supplies no want; that God could provide for him in a way which he could not foresee, and that the Saviour was able abundantly to sustain him"

Sunday, November 11, 2012

In the ring with Re-entry

I actually feel some days as if I have entered a boxing ring with re-entry. Untrained & without gloves. I had no idea what to expect. Being on the mission field was cake compared to this! Okay, so maybe that's an exageration, but re-entry has been no picnic to far. Returning to the US has been a holistic punch in the gut...

ü  Physically feeling sick from drastic change in eating habits and obvious lack of mangos
Okay so small joke about the mangos, but the change in eating, sleeping, climate, and physical routine does leave one feeling, well, gross.
ü  Emotionally train wrecked. Leaving my loved ones in Catel, Guinea-Bissau ripped my heart out. Perhaps because they weren’t the family I was born into or friendships I made with classmates or co-workers, but relationships created between people so different (in ethnicity, clothing, language, food, culture, you name it) that only God could have drawn our hearts so close.
ü  Spiritually- our God is faithful. And praise Him that his promises never rest on anything we say or do. However, I confess that being home has also taken a toll on me spiritually. I  certainly experienced some culture shock from African culture back into American, but also experienced culture shock going  from living within this little bubble of Christians (like the 12+ other  missionaries who lived in our house) whose sole purpose and goal is to seek Gods will and show his love, back into mainstream US culture. It was devastating. On top of that, I never felt more who I was created to be in Christ, then when I was there in Catel. Therefore, I think that my spirit is reinforcing my heart’s yearning to return. The difference is my spirits say “return but have patience Terianne, let the Lord prepare you, He has it under control,” whereas my heart says “what are you waiting for!”
Is hasn’t exactly been pretty neatly tied up in a bow kind of re-entry experience, if such a thing exists. But our Father is faithful. He has good plans for us (Philippians 1:6) and He knows the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). Of these things I am certain. I can't make a lot of sense of my whirling thoughts or storms of emotions at the moment, but I will cling to the promises my heavenly father has given, and he will carry me. I know that re-entry, like all difficult things is an opportunity for God to be my strength and to grow me. I will do my best to welcome that and keep you updated on the journey.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Just wanted to post a short message letting everyone know I have arrived safe and sound here in Lancaster,PA with my family. Thank you all for your financial and prayerful support. So many of you whom I know even know have blessed me beyond belief, and I am forever greatful. I humbly ask your continued prayers as I readjust to western culture and continue to see God's will for whats next.