Asalaam malekum, and I’ve made it! As the sun set on Day 1 for me in West Africa, it was surreal to finally be here.
In my first week, I’ve felt every combination of relaxed (seriously, thanks to the welcome and hospitality of SIL International!), antsy, invigorated,¬†stressed, overwhelmed, and giddy with joy. Phase A of SIL’s Orientation Course has begun for several of us new orientees. This means appointments, meeting people, outings (with guides so far) — but all at a manageable pace. The idea is to take baby steps and acclimate — to the climate, the rhythms of life here, the tasks necessary for survival. The questions of what we will do and where we will go are intentionally (and sensibly) put on hold. Phase A will last for the next 4-5 weeks or so.
I was given an article to read on my first day entitled “What Missionaries Ought to Expect,” and it contained a list of 6 “attainable objectives” for a missionary’s first term:
- Learn the language.
- Adjust to the field.
- Learn about the mission.
- Understand the field.
- Find your gifts & place in the work.
- Confirm your missionary call.
This will be plenty; any other agendas or expectations will need to wait. I’m excited to dive in to all that I have to learn. So far, I’ve really just climbed onto the diving board. We’ve covered basic food preparation, introduction to local culture, health & hygiene, computer use in a semi-desert climate, brief history of the SIL branch here, induction into the city’s public transportation system. I’ve experienced my first bank transaction (lots more to that story), my first shopping excursion downtown, my first church service, and my first taxi ride (ever, come to think of it).
Besides all these adventures, there are lots of people to meet and get to know. We’ve entered the world of some 50 SIL colleagues spread throughout the country among various minority language projects. Before we can hope to discover our places in this mission, we obviously need to get to know the people who comprise it and the work they’ve been doing long before we showed up. Lots of names to remember, lots of conversations to be had.
And of course much more is in store. The refreshing part of being in West Africa for the “long haul” is that I’ve got plenty of time for everything. No need to rush; after all, I may have the rest of my life here.