Warning: This is a long blog. But I believe that if you stick it out and read it, you’ll enjoy it. At least I hope so. 😉
So as you know, our time in the bush has come to an end, but a very fulfilling end. About this time last year, my blog posts were centered around the story of an incident that took place in the bush, one that I tagged as “The Pilongo Predicament.” (If you want to revisit that, then feel free by checking it out here: The Pilongo Predicament.) So let’s fast forward 12 months, just one day after we left last July for our week long bush trip, and it’s that time again; time to embark on another week long bush stay.
Nathan and I were talking about the trip near the end of the week, and he commented that this trip seemed like a “book end” of sorts. After talking and thinking about it, we were both convinced that it was just that, as if things were coming around full circle, except for the being taken advantage of part. 😉 Our purpose was the same: share the gospel and Bible stories, help in laying a solid foundation through the Spirit’s work, encourage the people to meet, and help in preparing the way for a future church to be planted. It was also eerily similar in the fact that we were running empty on gas as we came into town, just like last year. Overall, I guess it was just the feeling of everything that struck a chord within us that things were coming full circle. Then again, when you’re living in the bush, there really aren’t too many changes. Just sitting, talking, eating beans, sitting, listening, sitting, eating more beans, sitting, and sleeping. #bushlife (For all you hashtaggers out there.)
As to how the work went, God brought about great success. We spent three days in Ampotake, 2 days in Etoboiny, and 1 day in Ankilibory sharing stories, preaching the gospel, teaching against ancestral practices, and singing songs. Pastor Toria from Beheloka and our friend Noelle were a dyamic duo! Noelle played his guitar to draw in the youth and Toria spent much time pouring into the adults and youth, teaching them the dangers of visiting the ombiasy (witch doctor), the slavery that ancestral worship brings, and the freedom that Jesus offers. It was such a blessing having them with us, for they were very helpful in clearing up our words and fully explaining the stories and the importance of following Jesus. By the end of the week, many had agreed with our teaching, few chose to follow Jesus, and tons of seeds were planted. Please pray for your new brothers and sisters, the Spirit’s continued work in those villages, and for God to prepare the way for the follow-up efforts.
We also had several laughs this past week, mainly due to Noelle. After a couple days, he realized the effect that beans (which we ate almost every meal for a week) have on my body, something I guess he’s not used to. So one morning in his very minimal English, he said to Nathan, “Doug. Problem. Morning. Beans.” It was hilarious. He then began to make fun of me the rest of the week, saying, “Tea’ko beans!”, which means, “I like beans!” Because I really do like beans, but every meal for a week is a little much for me and my body. 😉 We all had a great time with one another.
On the way back home, we stopped in Besatra and Kilimary in order to say our last goodbyes. There were heartfelt moments and words shared as we said goodbye, gave and received words of encouragement, and told one another that we would not forget, but continue to pray for each other. It was definitely hard saying goodbye, knowing that I would never see them again.
So this last trip out to the bush, along with packing up the house and preparing to leave, has really made me think back on all the good times the Father has given me and all the things I’ll miss about living here in the good ol’ “Armpit of Madagascar,” also known as Toliara.
I’ll miss life in the bush. I’ll miss my friends in Besatra, Kilimary, and Andremba; tough men like Kalaha, Emanda (baddest dude [in a good way] in the south – just think “Bad, bad, Leroy Brown…”), Emora, Emasike, Etsima, Esamba, Tsifehe, Mandimbe, and countless others who I’ve enjoyed a majority of the last two years with and who have taught me much about hard work, life, and faith. I’ll miss our times of storying the Bible in each village. Although it was a constant struggle for me, there is not much like hearing men and women truly understand a story from the Word. I’ll miss the insane amount of time we spent driving on the roads, and really not getting very far due to the awful conditions of them (I’m pretty sure our jam sessions in the car made the time go by much faster). I’ll miss the crazy, goofy, and sometimes annoying kids with there snotty noses, dirty faces and all. I’ll miss chasing them around the village, staring contests, throwing goat poop at them, dancing in the middle of a circle as they all scream and laugh at the goofy vezaha, and hearing my name screamed countless times, “Dooglassy! Dooglassy! Dooglassy!” I’ll miss bush food; an assortment of beans cooked to perfection, chicken sauce, tons of rice, sweet potato, fresh watermelon picked from the field, goat steak and fries (my favorite), and to some degree even habobo (spoiled milk that looks like cottage cheese), just add sugar. I’ll even miss showering butt naked in the middle of a field with 40-50 Mahafaly men, women, and children staring at the literally foreign sight of a white man naked and taking a bucket bath! Those are just a few of the things I’ll miss from my time in the bush.
[Some things I won’t miss: fleas, getting callouses on my butt for sitting countless hours at a time, and sheep. Stupid, stupid sheep…enough said on that topic.]
I’ll also miss my life in Toliara, even though it took me a year to warm up to this place. I’ll miss riding my bike around town, despite the added obstacles that potholes, water puddles, cow poop, herds of sheep/cows/goats, people, and cars, bring to the road. I’ll miss my friends Johnson, Milson, Leandre, Justin, Fabien, along with my church family. I’ll miss the relationship and the special bond that I had with each of them. I’ll miss being able to visit a friends house (planned or not) and always being received so well, served food or coffee, and being able to just sit and talk. I’ll miss the extremity of Malagasy peoples’ understanding of family; America could definitely benefit to learn from the way these people love one another and literally share life together. It is so awesome! I’ll miss the ease of sitting down next to a person I’ve never met and sharing the story of Jesus with him (the lack of personal space and individual time is a benefit to us missionaries). I’ll miss my friend Mana and the times we shared out on the water; fishing, chillin’, and talking about life. I’ll miss my guard’s 4 year old kid and his incessant talking and questioning of everything I would be doing at a given time, which I hardly ever understood anyways. I’ll miss the simplicity of living in a place like this, where schedule and time are not king, but spending quality time with family and friends is. I’ll miss the lifestyle of, “We’ll get there when we get there.” I’ll miss my good friend Clemontine and stopping by her little shop, drinking coffee and talking about life and the Lord. I’ll miss the chaos that is our church service; people singing off key, the guitar being out of tune, children singing and dancing to worship songs, and kids peeing on the floor in the midst of it all. (I hope you’re understanding the uniqueness of this place and why I’ll miss so much about it.) I’ll even miss, to a degree, the bleating of a 200-300 pound pig being carted around on a pousse-pousse or in-between two guys on a motorbike (a hilarious sight). I’ll miss the feel of the small town where everybody knows who you are, what you do, and they even take notice in those times when you’re gone for a while.
[Some things I wont miss: the smell of fish and feces everywhere, the situation of being constantly stared at and called out because I’m white, the words “Bonjour vezaha!”, and walking the streets when they’re flooded after the rain comes (you just can’t ever be sure of what exactly your stepping in, especially considering the the road doubles as a bathroom).]
Last but not least, I’ll miss my missionary family. Although I’ve shared just 22 months of my life with some of them (less than that with some of them), they truly are family to me. It’s amazing the bond God gives us while living together in an environment like this. Looking at it all now, I feel like I have known everybody on this team for years. I’ll miss sharing life with them; struggles, victories and all. I never knew how close I would grow to each one of them, how each one of them would play such an important role in my life, and now that I’m leaving them how hard it is going to be to continue on without them. I’m very excited to see my family in the states, but sad that I’m leaving another one behind. I’ll miss our times of English worship with one another, and the awesome food and dessert that we have shared with one another (probably too much dessert). I’ll miss all the kiddo; Eli, Titus, Jude, and Ryleigh. I’ll miss wrestling with them, feeding them, taking them out for ice cream, and cuddling with them on the couch as we watched kid movies, Dora the Explorer, or Finding Nemo for the thousandth time. I’ll miss being “Uncle Doug.” I’ll miss my little sisters as well, the Hailes’ girls, who I didn’t get to spend near enough time with. I’ll miss the countless game nights, playing Settlers of Cutan, Risk, Ticket to Ride, and Telephone Pictionary, as well as NCAA Football 2011 for PS2. I’ll miss the love, fellowship, and common purpose that we all shared with one another. I think you get the picture.
I’m going to have to stop there, for I really could go on much longer. If you have read to this point, congratulations! For you have reached the end of this blog, as I have reached end of my time here in SW Madagascar. I’ll never forget the friendships and memories this place has brought. God truly has changed my life through this experience. I’ll never be the same, just as His grace, love, and faithfulness will never leave my side. I’m thankful to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for saving me, calling me His own, and leading me through this season of refining, testing, and growth.
Thank you all for following the journey, and praying along with us. You have played a truly significant role, and for that I am grateful.
As I leave Toliara today, I know I’m leaving behind so much, yet I also know what the Lord has planned for me in the future. One chapter is in the books, yet the next one is just beginning. These last days and moments in the bush and in Toliara have truly been a fitting end to an unforgettable journey.