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May update

Posted by foley on May 29th, 2017 | Leave a comment

Dear Family and Friends,
Very warm greetings to you from West Africa! We are in the midst of hot season, but looking forward to things hopefully getting a bit more manageable temperature-wise before too much longer. I continue on with full-time language studies and have also been working towards getting my new house ready.

After last update’s discussion on local language learning, someone asked me the very good question of why folks who move here as IWs need to learn two new languages instead of just one. Others might have different philosophies on this, but my answer in a nutshell is that we need French in order to be respectable, and the local language in order to be relational.

Respectable: As our country used to be a French colony, the French language was introduced on a country-wide basis many years ago and serves as a kind of unifying agent (at least when it comes to communication) amongst the various people groups living here, who each have their own “mother tongue.” It is a generally-held expectation here that decently-educated people should have at least a satisfactory -if not better- capacity for understanding oral and written French, and for being able to communicate via verbal and written French. Lord-willing, I will eventually be working at a hospital here that utilizes French for charting and much other communication amongst its employees. French is also needed here for everything from reading street signs to applying for visas to paying bills to checking local news reports to speaking with the occasional people we meet who are from other parts of the country and don’t know the local language well. Basically, not knowing French would be very embarrassing and inconvenient- both for myself and for others!

Relational: Before I moved here, I imagined that I would basically need French for being able to communicate with my friends and co-workers, and that I would need the local language for being able to communicate with my patients (sadly, many women here still are not well-educated and don’t know much French). Rather soon after arriving, however, it became apparent to me that reasons for learning the local language actually run much deeper than that. Even with friends who had the opportunity to attend school and learn French, the local language is still their mother tongue and typically their preferred means for communicating about the things that are nearest and dearest to them. The local tongue is also utilized in various cultural phenoms here that everyone is expected to participate in, such as lengthy sequences of greetings or blessings and the rather complicated surname-based joking system that I’m gradually becoming more aware of. Not knowing this language would make me more of an outsider and not as well-equipped to build and maintain good relationships.

Not that I have this all figured out. Even typing this, I wince a bit as I consider how far I am from mastery of either language or of awareness of all the cultural nuances here. But I rest in the fact that I serve a God who is more than able to help me to improve my language skills and cultural acquisition to the point of being more respectable and relational, and who is still able to work through me in the meantime!

What’s been happening:
The past couple of months have been HOT! I was warned that this would be the hottest part of the year, but in some ways underestimated just what this would mean for me. 98 degrees and stuffy inside the house, even with the fans on in full force; heat rash; salt “stains” on clothing; having to let the “cold” tap water run a few seconds for it to become warm or lukewarm instead of hot; lying on my bed and having it feel as toasty as if it had one of those heated mattress pads; having to make adjustments with work-outs, as strenuous activity outside during daylight hours is practically impossible without heatstroke… Please note I’m aware that others have it far worse and I’m not trying to complain, just to describe a bit what life is like here on a day-to-day basis during this time of year. Several times folks have asked what I’ve been up to on a given day, and I find myself giving the accurate yet pathetic response of “sitting, studying, sweating!”. But this too shall pass : )

Of course, the effects of the hot weather do not encompass all of life here, nor do they stop some cool things from happening. Outreach events, church conferences, weddings, baby dedications, Bible studies, home visitations and such all still go on and I’m thankful for opportunities I’ve had to attend several events like these in recent weeks! In the midst of what can feel like a relatively isolated existence of language learning, getting out to group activities like these is a great way to meet new people and continue to make ties with those in the community. It is also very important here to show support via physical presence, and many times our willingness to show up and participate in things being led or attended by local believers (even if we’re still linguistically-challenged enough that we can’t do much) can be a great encouragement to them.

Recent weeks have also seen me spending lots of time getting things situated towards moving into my new house. Some of the many details, like getting kitchen appliances and furniture, are similar to what one would expect with getting ready for a move in the US; others, like securing guard coverage and making special “security” adjustments, are a little different. I’m also thinking about odd things like getting mats for my roof to help hold out the heat from inside the house, and raising a young puppy up to be a guard dog. I’m planning to move toward the end of June, so the next few weeks will likely continue to include plenty of time spent getting various needed aspects of new home occupation settled.

Updates on old business from last time:
—My teammate and I who are doing full-time language study together both successfully passed our level one exams last month. We’re now in the midst of level two, which of course has been a bit more difficult but enlightening. We’re simultaneously encouraged by our progress and also mindful of the fact that we have a long ways to go yet!
—The security situation here is thankfully without any major recent updates, but it is something we continue to monitor and covet your prayers for.
—Another thing that will likely be “continuing on for a while” is vehicle support raising. Thanks to those who have already donated! I will include the information at the end of the post for any others who would like to contribute.

Some ways you can pray:
–Continue to lift up those of us in language study, that we would have perseverance in our efforts and encouraging progress in our language acquisition.
–Several teammates will be traveling out-of-country over the next few weeks for everything from home assignment to French language study to special conferences; pray for safety and for their respective times away from West Africa to be purposeful and refreshing.
–Please pray for salvation for a young woman named Ma who is a seeker. Pray for wisdom for those trying to help her understand more about Jesus and her need for Him.
–As mentioned above, I (and various teammates who are helping me) have a lot of responsibilities related to getting ready to move into a new house. Pray for everything to be completed well and on time.
–I’m in the midst of a season of needing to renew all three of my medical certifications. There are lots of details to come together for this, and being away from the US and with sub-par internet service definitely doesn’t help matters logistically! Please pray for success with renewing all three of these items on time and without hassle.

Please do not hesitate to pass on to me any of your updates or prayer requests- I enjoy hearing from you!
grace and peace,
Sharon

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Vehicle fund information: Please go to www.cmalliance.org/give. Under “Give to International Workers and Special Projects,” type “Sharon Foley” into the search box. This should bring up multiple tabs including “Vehicle Sharon Foley.” That is the link for contributing specifically towards my buying a car for use here in West Africa!

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