|Robot dressed in red, yellow and green|
Intrigued by the grocery shelves before me, I hear a woman say, “I’m sorry.” I look at her and smile. Thinking to be kind I reply, “Oh, it’s okay. You’re not in my way.” She gives me a blank look, reaches in front of me to get the item she needed and turns away. Suddenly, I remembered. “Sorry” here in South Africa means “excuse me.” She wasn’t in my way…I was in her way! I’m sure as she walked to another aisle she probably rolled her eyes and thought, “Ugh…another American.”
Many words that we use as Americans mean something totally different in South Africa. If you ask the grocery clerk where the “napkins” are, she is going to send you down the personal hygiene aisle. We don’t wipe our mouths with napkins here for they are called “serviettes”. A line is a cue…a till-the register. We don’t send a text, but a SMS. Which by the way is less expensive than actually talking to the person, so to save airtime one sends SMSes. (Would that be the plural? I wonder.)
A restroom or bathroom receives a foreign look. Call it a toilet and you’ll get directed to where you need to go. (No pun intended.)
“Turn right at the second robot,” we were told. Wow, I was impressed. They had robots? Yes. Dressed in green, yellow and red…disguised in what we would call a spotlight.
We say “for here or to go?” Here it is “eat in or take away?”
Thank you is an easy enough word, though I am usually afraid to try to use it. It is dankie. Which is pronounced “dawn-key”, not donkey.
This weekend I asked where the concession stand was located. Blank looks.
“You know,” I explained. “Where you buy the snack foods at.”
“Oh, you mean the tuck shop,” was the reply.
“Tuck shop?” I laughed. “That would be the name of a plastic surgery place in the states.”
The greatest insult actually happens when we are at the border in Mozambique. Here they refer to Americans as “the Obama’s.” Just writing “American” and “Obama” in the same sentence makes me cringe. Call me anything, but please I am not an “Obama.”
We continue to learn and adapt to our new world. Some (Doug) better than others (me). Rebellion often rises up in me and I want to wipe my mouth with a napkin and have a seat in the restroom. I want to leave my groceries and flee when I can’t understand what the clerk is saying to me. I want to pump my own gas and not have to worry about conveying to the attendant “fill it up.” A missionary’s journey isn’t just about what opportunities one has to share about the Lord to someone; but it is also a journey of sanctification as God does a work in our hearts to make us more like Christ through the different experiences He places us in. Though there are frustrations and tears, if these experiences produce one ounce more of Christ-likeness in me, they are worth it.
So, I will smile and nod when I am called an “Obama.” There are few if any believers at the border post. These men need Christ and I’m not going to ruin our witness of Him by being rude. Through the language and cultural barriers, I will continue to commit my way to Him for it is God who is at work in me, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.(Philippians 2:13)
Have your way in me, Lord…have your way in me.