Today, we’re highlighting The Hundertmarks. If you didn’t receive their last update email, we wanted to share it below:
Wait a second…We have been living in the village for six months?
Yes! Does it feel like it’s been that long? Most definitely yes, but at the same time, no. If you’re reading this and you’re over 21 and have begun to get a grip on how slippery time is, maybe you know what I mean. So much has happened since the last update yet it doesn’t feel like enough. Certain aspects of living off the grid have been easier than we imagined while other parts have been far more challenging than we would have imagined. At any rate, it’s our pleasure to update you on the latest happenings out here in Guinea West Africa.
We moved back to our mostly finished houses back in November. You can see videos documenting that transition here. We left the houses in 2020 with many unfinished projects and construction equipment spread into every room. We had one little storage room that shared the space with the batteries for the solar power system. That room looked like a grenade had been thrown in there. Actually a grenade would have probably cleaned it up a bit. We couldn’t pick anything up and put it somewhere else without first rearranging five other places first. Our side porch became overflow and that quickly became a spectacle for the villagers. It’s an icky feeling having people who own very little, come over just to gawk at the stuff on our porch. Living off grid for years at a time as a family, doing what we do, requires us to have, well…stuff. Long story short, We built a carport/shed. The car needs a place to be out of the harsh elements here in Guinea. It has just been completed and it has changed our lives. After six months, we are feeling like we can breathe easier within our own walls. The negative part of this process is simply how long it took. That’s always the case when working with local workers. Time, and how it’s used is always an obvious cultural difference here. It has been good to be around the same two or three guys for the past couple months and deepen relationships, but it wasn’t without its moments of total frustration. As I said, the space has blessed us and we realize that we are blessed to have a team of financial supporters that allowed us to have the finances available to tackle a job like this. A big thanks goes out to you.
Formal language sessions took a big hit while work on the shed was happening. But you may not have even known that we started sessions in the local language. Talk about a challenge. We have been convicted to do as much as possible under the cover of village leaders. This is culturally honorable but a risky move since we lose a lot of the control. We informed them that we wanted to begin learning their language full time. The way the cookie crumbled, we were given the worst possible language helper. From their perspective, we are discussing an honorable position. It should go to the person in the village that has the highest education. They aren’t thinking about the fact that that person is missing half his teeth, has very poor vision, is very impatient, and does not like to discuss details. It was hard to accept but to refuse would have been a big offense. After a while we tried to play our cards and say that we needed multiple helpers for best results. We quickly found out that there were things going on in the background that we had no control over. People seemed to believe that they would be infringing on his job and were afraid. We prayed a lot and looked for God’s leading in the situation. It was delicate and we didn’t want to be acting out of our own will. Eventually God provided several occasions where I could make it clear that this position of employment is not something for anyone else to control but us, with the cooperation and guidance from village leaders. Praise the Lord, for his provision, we started with two other men shortly after. This has helped us to approach an already daunting task. The shed construction and the villagers working out in their fields has still made it challenging to get all our language time in for the week. The good news is, this is the first time we have lived in a place where we are completely submerged in one language. All other contexts up to this point have been mixed. Please pray that God would open our minds to this language. There are moments when we are gushing over with desire to communicate exactly what we are thinking with our friends. This motivates us to press on.
Ketchup & mustard, root beer & vanilla ice cream, franks & beans, (this is embarrassing) broccoli &… melted cheddar cheese? I tried. What can you think of that is beautifully paired together? I could keep listing all sorts of delicious, poisonous combinations but the point is that language is served best with an equal portion of culture. One without the other is borderline useless. Anyone of your friends that has attempted to function in a second culture for more than a month should be able to confirm this. I know our six months in the village has made that painfully obvious. So many times I think I nail the linguistic communication half, just to realize our worldviews are functioning in different universes! It’s like if you say to your significant other, “I love you”. Then, to show them you love them, you go to a monster truck rally, followed by a quick bite at a grease burger joint. Then you go to your best friends house to play video games into the night. The “I love you” would have landed, but chances are the actions didn’t communicate. Some of you guys reading this are thinking, “I don’t get it, that sounds like an amazing time!”. YOU are exactly who I’m talking too. Clear communication with other people, requires a certain amount of understanding of who they are. Right? This is as true for you in your context as it is in ours. Expressing love requires sacrifice. It will make you uncomfortable. This is where we are today in ministry. I need to ask, “how does a 35 year old married man situate himself in a community to be respected and have a voice that is heard?”. Pray for us as we process questions like this as a family and balance the changes and sacrifices we make while functioning as a family each day.
There are certain hardships that missionaries inevitably deal with. Some are daily nuisances while others are dreaded. I always knew that death was going to be more raw living in a remote location. In training I would think about how I would react to death, or helping with serious emergencies. I’m not a doctor or paramedic and my exposure to death has been so limited by our culture. Since moving here in November, we have participated in nearly 10 funerals. Almost all of them have been under the age of 50. I have transported several of the bodies myself. It’s a frequent reminder of the fragility of life and why we are here. Most of these people, we didn’t know well and were in other places and were brought back to their village of origin to be buried. Recently, the daughter of the man helping to build our shed became sick. We had no idea until he came to me one evening and asked me to take them to a clinic an hour away. It was urgent. I have never prayed harder or driven faster. She passed away in the back seat of our truck. The father fell into my arms wailing. This was one of those inevitable moments that I always knew would come. It was hard and I still wish it never happened but I understand that these things WILL happen and I know that God WILL work in these situations for Good. I don’t know how, or when but I know it’s true. Pray for wisdom to know how we can serve these people today while we ready ourselves to help them spiritually in the future.
We love living in the village for a lot of reasons. The more we settle into a routine, though, the more we see how much is involved in not just living here, but going about the many tasks of our job. Cathren said, “There are so many jobs to be done, It’s hard to do any one of them well. I feel like that sums it up. We are praying everyday that God would guide us and show us what the priorities are. Obviously we want to do every task well. Pray that we know how to adapt and become highly efficient in this context. It’s good knowing God works in weakness. It’s also good living a lifestyle that keeps us daily dependent on Him. Something tells me that this isn’t unique to us or our context though.
It rained for the first time this year a couple days ago. It lasted about five minutes early in the morning. The seasons are changing and at least for now, it’s hot, sunny and humid. We will start to get more rain as we go into June and by August it will feel like it’s raining more than it’s not. This will be our first full rainy season in the village. Its going to be a lot different than what we are used to and it will complicate being out with people. It also becomes a point of stress with coming and going on parts of the road that are still bad. Pray for health, safety and wisdom as we face these challenges in the months ahead.
Like Cathren said, there are so many things to do. It can be easy to go through a day and forget what the point of it all is. We didn’t come to West Africa to enjoy the luxuries of living off grid. We came here because we follow Jesus and this is where we followed Him to. If we are to have any victory in our day to day living, we will continue to follow Him from the time we get out of bed in the morning, until we lay our heads on our pillows at night. Praise God that we can have victory in this life. Pray that we can share that victory with the people here in Guinea West Africa and that we can be the hands and feet of Jesus in their lives today!
Hundertmark Get Set Go
-Praise God for his goodness to us during all the phases of our transition back to the village.
-Praise God for His provision over the past months.
-Praise God for His guidance as we continue to dig into language and culture study. Pray for patience, perseverance, and discipline.
-Praise God for reasonably good health so far.
-Pray for us as we head into rainy season. Pray that we know how to best use our time and for safety on the bad roads.
-Pray for an upcoming trip to Senegal the end of June. It’s a long trip that will be hard on us and the vehicle.
-Pray that we know how to best love these people right now in ways that impact their lives for the sake of the gospel.
-Pray for team unity as we face new situations everyday and make choices.
-Pray that we can make solid friendships and key relationships to be able to thrive here.
-Praise God for the opportunities He has given me to establish myself as a religious leader but also a learner.
– Pray for patience. Sometimes the cultural clash and lack of understanding on both ends can leave us frustrated.
– Pray especially for the kids as we adjust to life in Guinea. Pray that the kids are able to begin building wholesome friendships with the kids in the village.
– Pray for our children’s education. Homeschooling while juggling all the other tasks to live off grid in a new culture can be overwhelming.