I guess being a “Mazungo” (foreigner) has its perks. Yes, I stick out like a sore thumb. Yes, that sometimes means that merchants try to rip me off. But this week I had two encounters that made me glad I stand out.
After a women’s prayer time at church, Janie and I went shopping at the mall. And by "mall", I mean a ginormous, labyrinthine market with muddy paths and stalls made of bamboo covered in plastic for shade, where you could buy anything from hardware to baby clothes and literally everything in between. I bought some cups and a few Goodwill-reject t-shirts to turn into rags (if you ever wondered what happened to thrift store clothes that don't sell, now you know. They come here by the container load to be sold in piles at the "malls" around Africa).
After we found our goods and emerged from the "mall", a lady approached me. She was quite thin and her dress was dirty. “Please help me,” she said in a voice so quiet I could barely hear her above the traffic and hubbub of the market. I almost missed that she was talking to me. “Please, could you spare 10 mets so I could get something to eat?” (about 30 cents). Her face was so downcast, and my heart was moved. I asked what her name was, and her eyes brightened a bit that I cared enough to ask. “Dina” was the quiet reply. I told her God loved her, and gave her 20 mets. She smiled. I don’t know why I found it so hard to give last time we were here. It’s so easy to be generous above and beyond what people even ask. Seriously, I could make someone’s day with 60 cents. But it was because I look different that she came up to me. Because so many of the Mazungos are missionaries, she saw me as someone to go to for help. I’m so glad God has fixed my heart that I have compassion for the people who view me that way now, rather than getting frustrated at the constant requests.
After leaving the market we wound our way to the bus stop and climbed into a chappa that was still relatively empty, so we went all the way to the back seat and I squeezed in next to a man who was sitting in the corner. He immediately struck up a conversation with me that went something like this (in Portuguese, and I later asked his name, so I’ll use it here):
Sergio: Good afternoon! Everything good with you?
Me: Yes! Everything’s good. And you?
Sergio: Wow, you speak good Portuguese, (then we talked about language learning for a while). So, what are you here for? Do you work for a business here?
Me: No, I work with the Peniel church, do you know it?
Sergio: Oh, you’re a missionary! Is that the one with Pastor Mario? Yes, I do know it! Man, I need to get to church sometime. My life has lots of problems. I need God. When are the services?
Me: Sunday at 9:00 and 6:00, and Wednesday and Friday nights at 6:00.
Sergio: I’m going! I’m going this week! I need God. Do you have a Bible you could give me? I need the Word of God in my life.
Unfortunately I did not have a Portuguese Bible I could give him, so I made a mental note to try to find some and stockpile for the future. But seriously. Just by sitting next to him he got convicted and preached to himself about how much he needed God in his life. Needed no convincing. Needed nothing on my part but to know when to show up. I wonder if I’ll see him there next week. I was so involved in my conversation with him that I didn't notice when we arrived at our bus stop, but fortunately Janie saw it and we managed to get home. Jesus called us to be fishers of men, and it felt like the fish were jumping into the boat with no effort on my part!
Standing out can be annoying sometimes, but this time it was a blessing.