Tag Archives: short term missions

Your Father Has No Goats

I’m not married, and it’s my father’s fault.

Many years ago, when I was in my late 20s, I took my very first trip overseas to rural Kenya. Yes, I’ve always been a big fan of “go big or go home.” See my needlework post, I “learn” needlepoint with a 13 x 18 inch tapestry using a Swiss merino wool/silk blend you can’t buy at Hobby Lobby.

I do not get along with Larium. That’s key to this story. One of those things where God definitely had a plan and used modern science to cut my knees out from under me. God has a sense of humor like that.

Larium is a drug that prevents malaria. But in me, it also causes dizziness, hallucinations, vivid nightmares, and in my case, insomnia and vomiting. By the time I got to Dose #2, while in the middle of a place called Tharaka, I was a basket case. So instead of doing the typical short-term missions team construction work, like everybody else in my group, I was confined to a cot, unable to stand without reeling from vertigo.

young woman eating banana

Me on Larium. Trying not to barf up my banana. #miserable #missionaryjumper #skinnywhitegirl

By mid-week, my body hit the drug’s downward trajectory, and I could stand up. But I didn’t feel well enough to do construction, so I helped prepare meals.   I shucked things and shelled things and peeled things surrounded by a half-dozen young Kenya women, hired to cook for our team.

We swapped life stories as we shelled peas. Most of the women were in the mid-20s to mid-40s. They were fascinated by the fact that I was 28 and unmarried. One woman began to ask me about my family.

“How much land does your father have?” she asked.

“Less than a quarter acre,” I replied. “We have a nice house but not much land around it.”

We shelled more peas for a while.

“How many cows does your father have?” she asked.
“None,” I said. “My grandmother’s family had dairy cows but now we have none.”

More shelling.

“How many goats does your father have?” she asked.

“None,” I replied.

A good five minutes passed.

I know why you are not married,” announced the woman into the rural quiet. “Your father has…NO.GOATS.” Picture this spoken with the vehemence with which Lucy spits out an invective at Charlie Brown, and he somersaults backwards.

Perspective

Inwardly, I laughed at the woman’s rationale, not wanting to diss her attempt at being relational.  I think I said something like, “In our culture, having goats isn’t important.”  Which of course left her even more confused because there was no explanation why I was educated, gainfully employed, and unmarried at the ripe old age of 28.

The other story I remember, perhaps from the same day, was showing the Kenyan women photos of the HEB grocery store where one of our team worked. There were photos of the bakery, including the artisanal bread racks in the store.

One woman near me shook her head.

“Why would anyone need so many different kinds of bread?” she said.

You know, there was wisdom there.  We don’t need several dozen bread choices.

These conversations with people I’ll only meet again in heaven some day, keep me grounded.  They’re among my most treasured memories.

God’s voice

On those days when I’m tempted to go travel down a road to nowhere productive, when I ask God, “Why am I not married?” God says to me, in a gently chiding voice that sounds like a Kenyan woman, “Because your father has no goats.” And it makes me laugh, and God continues, “You don’t need to have a reason for not being married. I love you just as you are, my precious daughter.”

Last week, I got a phone call from my HOA while I was seriously invested in a seminar that left me on a high, it was so good. I crashed down to earth when I was informed that my car was about to be sprayed with whatever the infernal chemical is that they spray on olive trees to keep them from olive-ing. “You didn’t move your car away from the tree. We put up a sign on Monday,” they said. “I was in Colorado Monday. It’s Wednesday. I’m still in Colorado,” I sputtered.

I finagled a neighbor to tarp my car to protect it. Then I spun into recriminations. I should leave my car key with someone even if I’m only gone two days. I should live in a place with a private garage. I should live somewhere with a higher-class property manager who gives more than 48 hours’ notice of maintenance requests.

Then I remember a gentle voice and a head shake. “Why would anyone need so many different kinds of bread?”

I have a roof over my head that I know, from experience, can withstand 60 mph wind gusts. I have electricity. My water is free of E.coli and comes in both hot and cold versions. When I call the cops they come within two minutes. I’ve tested it, unfortunately. I can sit on my patio like I did tonight, and watch an amazing Arizona sunset.

I’m so thankful for these voices from people whose names I regrettably don’t remember. Again, I take comfort in knowing I’ll see them in heaven, and because it’s heaven, we’ll recognize each other and won’t have any trouble communicating,  and we’ll say “Good to see you, my sister,” and I’ll share how they gave me lifelong perspective.