You Know You Live in a Prosperous Country When (addition)…

I’ve posted once on this topic and ran across another one tonight that I had to let ya’ll in on.

I was listening to The Joy Trip Project, one of my newest podcast additions.  James Mills was interviewing the founders of Tappening.  Tappening is a foundation who’s main goal is to get people to stop drinking bottled water and start drinking tap water.  Tappening believes we drink tap water because of marketing, not because our tap water is polluted.

This brings me to my “You know you live in a prosperous country when…you drink bottled water when tap water is readily available.  How many people around the world who are not privy to clean drinking water even have such a choice: bottled or tap.

There ya have it.  Another prosperous country tip from The Davidson Mission.  Please add more.

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Ghanaian Food Cravings

Ever since being back in the US, some of the typical American food I eat and cook on a regular basis has been a turnoff for me.  It tastes fine the first time I eat it, but I have no desire to eat it a second time.

Admittedly, I miss the Ghanaian dishes and fresh produce typical of a tropical country.  I miss the groundnut soup (peanut butter based soup eaten with rice), red-red (black-eyed peas in a red sauce over fried plantains), light soup (red broth soup equivalent in Ghanaian culture to our chicken noodle soup).  All of these dishes are spicy, something I adjusted to and grew to enjoy.  I miss the street food and snacks that were so easy to get and yet so yummy tasting, like grilled plantains, kelewele (spicy fried plantains), groundnut cakes (similar to peanut brittle), and meat kebabs coated in a red spice.  Mmm.  Alan and I had a favorite little restaurant only blocks from where we lived.  They made the best rotisserie chicken and fried rice.  I enjoyed cooking new dishes in our apartment and having to be creative because of the limited and unique ingredients I had to work with.

I’ve tried making groundnut soup since returning to the US.  It was close, although not quite right.  We don’t exactly have all the same ingredients on hand here that were used there.  I’ve never seen the peppers they use to spice up the food except in Ghana.  However, my groundnut soup was close enough that I’ll make it again.  Alan’s favorite dish is red-red, which I haven’t attempted to make yet.  One key ingredient is red palm oil, which I’ve never seen in an American grocery store.

Yesterday, while out driving near Pine Hills, an Orlando neighborhood, I spotted something that caught my eye—an African grocery store!  I finished my errands for the day and backtracked to find this store.  I excitedly got out of the car and went inside, confident I’d find that one elusive ingredient.  Sure enough, AFIPA African Market carries red palm oil.  To my complete surprise and pleasure, it is owned and operated by a Ghanaian woman and her son.  She asked if I know any of the local language, and I responded “Ca cra, ca cra,” meaning a little bit or more literally, “small, small”.  She was very kind, even offering for me to call her at the store for Ghanaian food recipes.  This week I look forward to eating red-red, another of my favorite Ghanaian dishes.

Tywonn

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Giving Advice

As a counselor I get a wide range of people coming to see me. They come for all different reasons.  Some come because their child is causing problems in their home, their marriage is in tough place, or they are not finding enjoyment in their job like they once did.  Sometimes they are grieving the loss of the loved one.  Sometimes, in more serious cases, they are considering suicide or wanting to hurt someone else.

Associated with these reasons for counseling, are expectations about counseling.  Specifically, some people either expect the counselor to give advice or  the counselor merely act as a sounding board, a Freudian white wall. Even with my clinical experience, I miss the boat on the knowing what to do, whether to give advice or just listen.  Either I listen when I should be giving advice or give advice when I should be listening.  This happens to me in everyday life, as well.  I know none of you have experienced this.

This brings me to the part of the equation in which I give unsolicited advice when I should be listening.  I thought about giving unsolicited advice when I read a blog on The Art of Non-Conformity. Unsolicited advice does a number of things in a conversation, but I’ll list two.

  1. It creates a power barrier or an air of expertise.  Communication killer.
  2. It can negate what the other person is saying.  As simple as it sounds, giving unsolicited advice has the potential to quench the other person’s thoughts and emotions.

One way to offer advice without is suggesting something rather than telling it.  Suggesting builds rapport and trust in the relationship.  But the most important aspect to remember when offering advice is the relationship.  People want to know that you care, not what you know.

What other ways can unsolicited advice harm a relationship?  What other ways can advice be given?

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Does God Specifically Call Us?

I’ve been thinking lately.  I know, it can be a scary thought.  Is God involved in our every day activities or is He more of a macromanager?

Donald Miller brings this question to mind as it refers to calling. I, along with many of you, have been led to believe that God has a specific calling for each of us.  That God is sitting up there wondering if we’re ever going to find that distinct and unique task or job.  Miller posits that the Bible does not support this kind of thinking.  In fact, Miller goes so far as to say that probably 1 out of 100 people in Scripture have a specific calling. That’s 1% for all you nascent mathematicians.

Miller goes on to talk about how God has given us a box of crayons and has told us to draw, giving us the freedom to draw whatever we like.  This in one way is anxiety provoking because I have felt drawn to one thing for about ten years.  But on the other hand, I wonder what life would look like if life was a blank piece of paper.

Where do you fall on the spectrum?  Do you see life a blank piece of paper or as a map? Is God a micromanager or a macromanager?

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Two Big Questions

Just checking in here.  We’ve gotten two big questions over the past weeks: What are ya’ll doing now and when are you going back to Africa?

For the first question, we are staying busy!!  We just returned from taking a small vacation and visiting some partners in ministry in North Carolina.  Both were fantastic!  I am continuing in my missionary role, counseling Wycliffe missionaries who are home on furlough or who are stationed in the United States.  You wouldn’t believe how many missionaries live in the U.S. and make brief trips abroad.  Also, there are numerous other missionary agencies in the Orlando area that contact us for counseling.  Tywonn is working at a local hospital in Orlando because our missionary income was designed for Africa and not Orlando.  Tywonn is also able to keep her nursing skills current working at the hospital.

Now the second question is a little more difficult to answer.  We hope to make a decision about when and if we are returning to Africa in June or July.  At that time, we will email all of you about that decision and its impact on our future.

Thanks for keeping up with us on this journey!

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Play in the Lives of Adults

I was watching the NBA playoffs last night when a commercial for Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium came on. I remember watching this movie, starring Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman, on one of my many trips abroad. (Note: If you want to catch up on your movies take a trip to Asia.  You’ll watch more movies than you can remember.)  I put this movie in the same movie genre as a Hook and Jumanji.  All of these movies have to do with play; but not only with kids, but with adults as well.

That commercial last night got me thinking about play in the lives of missionaries, and even more broadly in the lives of adults. I find that adults often times become engulfed in work and family, both of which are necessary and good; but when they become the overarching and sole function in a person’s life there occurs stagnation, a stalling.  Listening to Krista Tippet interview Stuart Brown, I learned that little to no play in a person’s life can lead to rigidity, depression, and a lack of adaptability.

In counseling missionaries and, more generally adults, I see this phenomenon constantly.  These well meaning folks are off balance in his or her life, leaving play completely out of the life cycle. In times when I see a person who is lacking play, I encourage them to put work aside and go do something he or she enjoys.

  • Go to the pound and play with animals.
  • Take a camping trip.
  • Have a night out with the girls.
  • Go play roughly with your kids or your friend’s kids.

All of these things will begin to spur creativity and open neural pathways once petrified.  Acts of play will magnetize you closer to the heart of God: The maker of play.

What thoughts do you have about play?  Do you play enough?  What other areas can you play in that weren’t mentioned above?

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Discovering Your Fit in Your Work

I’m a huge football fan. When football is in full swing, I’ll usually watch football five out of the seven days a week, to my wife’s chagrin.  The culmination of the professional football season is the Super Bowl; and this year’s champion was the New Orleans Saints.  One of the stars on the Saints is running back Reggie Bush.

Bush, by football standards, is an atypical running back.  He is smaller and quicker than most running backs.  However, the Saints have developed a system in which Bush thrives. He thrives so much, in fact, that he wants $10 million dollars in his upcoming contract; and he’s worth it in the Saints’ system.

But what if Bush signed with the Chicago Bears?  Would he be worth $10 million dollars or only $2 million dollars?  The Bears don’t have the same system as the Saints and would be forced to use Bush differently, thus lowering his value. Bush is the same running back in both systems, but the system determines his value.

Many missionaries are like Bush in that in one position or job his or her value greatly increases, while in another position his or her value is compromised. Sometimes missionaries reach the field realizing that the system they chose to be in or the system that was chosen for them either increased or decreased their value.

All of us whether we are missionaries or not have struggled with fit. We all have worked in a job where we feel less than useful and feel worthless.  A system that instead of drawing on our strengths attempts to build on our weaknesses.  Donald Miller talks about fit in a recent blog post, although in a different light.

Becoming a skilled worker is vital.  But discovering a system that builds upon your strengths, I would argue, is more important.

Have you struggled with fit?  Do you think fit is more important than skill?

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