Out of My Comfort Zone by Sharla Miller

I hesitated to tell this story because I was afraid anyone considering a trip to Africa might be ‘scared’ off if you thought you had to do this, but let me just say, you are free to say ‘no’ to anything you just can’t stand the idea of doing…  So I could have said ‘no’…  But…

On the day we were out in the community around Project Canaan (PC), serving the families of the people who work at PC, and others in their community, we headed out to the home of a single mom.

Her home was in a pretty remote location, so we reached a point in our journey when we had to get out of our nice comfortable Quantam, (aka. Van), and all pile into the back of a pick-up truck to go off-roading!  I think a vehicle had passed that way before, but it was the bumpiest ride I’ve ever taken…  and the most fun too!  (There is a country girl just bustin’ to get out of this southern city girl!)

When we arrived at her home, we found we had a lot of prep work to finish before we could plant the garden.  We grabbed our rakes and pick axes and got to work.  At one point I stopped to rest for a minute (big mistake) and Anthony from Project Canaan, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet said, “You need to go into the manure pen and get some cow dung.”

Now I have a history of misunderstanding what people say to me whose first language is not English (I am NOT good with language), so I smiled, certain that I had misunderstood him, and got back to work…  ASAP!!  I was really hoping he’d mysteriously forget (or find someone else) and I’d be off the hook.

But no…  a little bit later my friend Sallie and I took a break and we were chatting (silly girls)…  Anthony came over to us and said, “Take the seedlings out of the tub and go into the manure pen and fill it with cow dung.”  I said, “Anthony is there a shovel?”  He said, “No, use your arms, scoop it, scoop it!”  Sallie and I looked at each other, our eyes big as wagon wheels, shrugged and said ‘ok’.  I think we were in shock…  surely we had entered another dimension…  two southern city girls were going to scoop cow dung?!  And then we started laughing…  and we couldn’t stop!

Thankfully Anthony must have realized he had asked the wrong girls and he sent another one of the PC guys to help us.  We raked (ok, I raked and Sallie who had gloves, scooped with something we found laying on the ground) and the PC guy scooped it into the tub with his hands!  For those who will know to ask the question, “Was it dried or fresh?”  It was both!

Of course I yelled for my mom to come get a picture…  I needed proof for my husband, and for myself too, for when I emerged through the rabbit hole…  or the wardrobe…  or whatever would take me back to my comforts I’ve become far too accustomed to…

We filled the tub and even managed to spread it in the garden, but I have to admit, I was a little ashamed a few minutes later…  Anthony didn’t send us back to refill the tub, instead a child, probably not more than 10-12, came walking up with a big flour sack that they had filled with cow dung, and emptied it into our tub for us.

I am such a soft woman…  I know it’s ‘city life’…  the culture I live in…  but I can’t stand that doing things their way…  is such a novelty to me…  I hate that bugs scare me…  I hate that the thought of a snake freaks me out…  and I hate that standing in a manure pen (with all of its smells) grosses me out.

A friend of mine wrote last year that his comforts are an idol to him…  I have thought about that all year…  and it was so real to me on this trip.  I did my best to ‘suck it up’ and experience everything, but I really did feel like a visitor from another dimension (and this was my 7th trip!).  And there were things I couldn’t let myself fully enjoy because of the things I was afraid of…

I am thankful for my comforts and I am blessed to have them…  But I need to find a way to stop letting the absence of them limit me (like what to do when you’re in a country that has no Orkin man)…  I have no idea how to make that happen, so I’ll just start with praying about it… (Ugh…  I wonder if that will turn out to be like praying for patience?!)

I guess we’ll just have to see what happens… Who knows, maybe I’ll find that country girl in me yet and learn to be a little more like the women who are quickly becoming my heroes… some of the women of Swaziland who are fearlessly, hard workers.  Women who don’t complain, but just do…  Women whose joy overflows, and their trust in God is unshakeable, no matter what the circumstances are…  Maybe in part because comfort is not an idol to them!

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