Tatooine

Wow… where to begin. As I write this I am sitting in a cave in a massive hole in the ground called Sidi Driss. Luke Skywalker grew up here. Really. As I wrote below, we got up very early to catch the 0600 train to Sousse. It was a beautiful 2 hour ride from the far northern part of XXXXX to the central, east coast. Watched the sun rise over the olive groves. A funny thing happened on the way to Sousse. On this very bouncy, crowded train, B went up to get some coffee for himself and me. On his way back to my seat, the train lurched just as he was about to hand me the coffee, and he ended up dumping all over this poor arabic woman in the seat in front of me. B and I apologized as best we could, while trying to stifle a laugh since Cam was sitting beside me busting up. Poor lady. Anyhow, in Sousse we met up with CJ, another worker, and rented a small car to take us into the desert. It was a very tight squeeze, with 5 of us and our luggage. Sousse is cool, like a resort town on the ocean, very western, and far removed from the craziness of XXXXX. We headed south, through a billion olive trees on our way to El Jem, an awesome Roman Colliseum ruin, in the middle of nowhere. I bought some Coke bottles (to fill with sand from the Sahara) and a headress (see photo!) and handed out a few Jesus films and a bible. Ate lunch in...

Sleepless in North Africa

Got up real early today to catch the 0600 train to Sousse… wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t jet lagged and unable to go to sleep until 2:30am! Also, God had me pumped up last night and I couldn’t sleep because of what I think he’s telling me. Not an audible voice as much as a impression so strong I just can’t shake it. An impression so strong it has my heart pumping hard and adrenaline flowing fast. The last time I felt like this was in Kansas City, coming home from an orientation for new students at the Nazarene Seminary, when I had this strong impression God wanted me to change careers and go into full time ministry. No way would I have considered quitting software engineering for church work before that evening, but the impression was strong enough that my mind was changed. Yesterday we slept in and had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, lunch at a local patisserie, and B went back to the apartment while we shopped some more in the medina. Then we taxied back to Carrefour where we met up with B and “N” who gave us a ride to her home to meet the “youth group”. Not just the youth group for their small home church, but the entire country! There were only 7 of them at N’s house, but if they all showed up there might be 20. 20 youth in the whole country of XXXXX who are Christ followers. 20 youth who will some day be the leaders of the church. 20. Anyhow, we talked with them and...

Poverty and Contextualization

Yesterday we met a believer and another worker at Carrefour, which is like a Super Target surrounded internally by a mall. We hopped in “L”‘s van (first time we’ve gotten to all ride together in 1 car!) and went to a few of his humanitarian aid sites. We went to 2 schools that serve over 800 students each and have no running water or workable toilets. The toilets, sinks, faucets were stolen a few days ago and school starts on Monday. L is trying to raise money to repair them before then (hoping for something from us), but we had some reservations: Is the government using L to fix problems that is should be fixing itself? What’s to prevent someone from doing this tomorrow? Why were there people there working on washing the floors and paiting the walls when there was a serious health crisis that needed to be addressed? Why does the director of the school not delay the start a week? While we were at the 2nd school, someone there placed a call to the governor’s office, who, in turn, called L and asked to see him right away. We ran back to L’s house so he could get changed and dressed up to meet the governor, who was most suspicious of our presence at the school: 5 westerners walking around, taking pictures. L had to convince him we were with a humanitarian aid organization, and were not giving our photos/videos to the opposition party. From what I understand of their politics, it’s pretty much a 1 party system, and the president is pretty much a king....

Funky Cold Medina and other cool things

I have to start out with this photo showing the view from our hotel window. I’d like to say the 5am call to prayer woke us up, but it didn’t, as tired as we were. Anyhow, yesterday we woke up very late (10 am or so) and went down to breakfast which is nothing but croissants and strong coffee- which is pretty much all I ever need for breakfast, God bless the French! After breakfast, we walked a couple of blocks to the “Medina”, which means city in Arabic I guess. It really means the old part, I gathered, as the buildings and streets got really old and really narrow. In the center of the medina is the mosque, and spoking/spiraling out from there are a specific order to the shops. In this medina, there are 2 main alleys through it from the end of Ave Bourgiba. The one on the left is crammed full of tourists and vendors desperate for your business. If you go down the one on the right, you’ll probably be the only westerner there, and the vendors aren’t out for blood. Instead of trinkets, they’re selling clothes and shoes and sunglasses and stuff we get at the mall. Anyhow, this particular day we went the tourist route, and I have to say I’ve never seen anything like this place. Any touristy trinket you could hope for could be found here, everything from decorative metalwork to miniature “boubly boubly”, which I found out later is actually called chicha (again, more on that later). Anyhow, B left us there on our own, so that he could...

Day 1 continued…

Wow… I am so overwhelmed. I’ve never been anywhere where english isn’t spoken. It’s like a whole different planet than what I’m familiar with. Everything is white with blue trim. Cars are small and people drive crazy… running over curbs, scraping against other cars. The arabic language sounds like an argument. Even a calm conversation sounds like the participants are raising their voices and getting upset. Maybe it’s the 14 different ways to pronounce the “H” sound. After we landed in XXXXX we went through customs and I tried a little French small talk with the customs officer. They speak French in XXXXX, but I’m pretty sure the guy didn’t think I was speaking French because I learned French with a rural Illinois farm town accent. We took 2 taxis to B’s apartment (taxis are only large enough for 2 passengers, plus luggage), and since I was the only person in the group, besides B (who spoke arabic), with language skills (ha), I was doomed to always ride in the “other” taxi for the week. Just getting a taxi and negotiating a fare at the airport involved what looked to be quite an animated debate, that even involved the police. Somehow my taxi made it to the same place B’s did, and we arrived at his apartment around lunch time. These pictures are of the outside of the apartment (landlord lives on first floor, B’s apartment was directly above him, with access to the roof). Looking out his window, I could honestly say I couldn’t believe I was in Africa. Middle East, maybe, but not Africa. It is really...
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