The other day -that was how this post was supposed to start.
The other week I went off the ship. My mother always asks me if I get off the ship, I do. We are docked constantly, gangway down, with the exception of the very occasional refueling maneuver or dredging operation. Leaving the ship is easy, just go up (or down) to deck 5 and scan out, walk past the Gurkha and down the gangway, and you're off. There's not all that much to do in Cotonou, West Africa's premier port. I have been privy to the discovery of the best food in town; Bangkok Terrace is a Thai place, they've got the vermicelli I so like, I'll try the seafood next. You never order seafood the first time. I also play Ultimate Frisbee pretty much every week. We used to go to the sand field at the police academy, a pretty safe place to play I think. That got kyboshed recently, so we occasionally pay to play at another sand field, the local kids cheer us along. So yes, I get off the ship occasionally.
The other week when I went off the ship it was to the fabric market. I had just finished a shift, or was just about to finish, when a trio of new girls on their first day off work showed up at the desk asking James #1 for directions to the fabric market. He was very hesitant, telling them it wouldn't be safe for just the 3 of them to go alone for the first time. I hear like a fox, and I offered to accompany them for navigational and security reasons, as soon as my shift was over. They waited and we went.
I took them by a back way, it seems James #1 is not great at giving directions, lol. The fabric market is near the "big market", apparently West Africa's largest open market. You don't go down there with a ratio = or less then 1:1 My eyes weren't open well enough I don't think, or maybe it was my heart. I only thought about it on the way back really, so into the security detail I missed it, no excuses. I took a picture to show you. Here it is:
The dude in the foreground ducked out of sight when he saw my camera out. I am thinking that he was under the impression that I was trying to steal his soul. Voodoo is fairly widespread here, and seriously I haven't done much looking into it from a research perspective, so I'm going on hearsay, but I think that might be related.
We were in a shop that I had been in before with a different group of ladies, I had bought something that time, to make a dress for my beloved. Such a wonderful fabric ;) And the floor manager obviously recognized me at once, how many white guys with this much hair are there in Cotonou after all? We talked a bit, both of us with our accents, and he asked about Mercy Ships. I told him of the humanitarian effort, the improvements to peoples daily lives that we provide. He asked a lot of questions, and I think by the end I hadn't ever mentioned Jesus Christ. Bonnie-Jean, one of the girls that I was escorting commented "Do we ever get to tell people the good news?" and I knew I had missed an opportunity.
That got me thinking (finally) on my way back to the ship, the shops floor manager was an obvious (missed) opportunity. But going back to the dude who avoided the photograph, how I might have ministered to him, just walked up to him and told him that Jesus loves him? Maybe he would have understood english, maybe not. Maybe I would have thought I was speaking english and he might have heard Fon, I don't know, but I was in the wrong mindset and I missed an opportunity to save an eternal soul/plant a seed/water a seed/show Gods love :(
This experience has stayed with me for so long and I am only now writing it down, but it has definitely changed my thoughts on ministry and where I might feel called. Jesus is relational with us, and that is where He beats out any spirit or deity any human could imagine. We need, absolutely need, to be relational with those we seek to save, or at least with those we seek to share our own salvation with.
My thought, that's it.
I'll leave with a couple more pictures, another of the selection of prints in the market...
And to show dj kosmotronix that I did make Nanaimo bars at Tamaras suggestion... (I had no bakers chocolate, so I used 3 Ritter Sport bars)
And one shot of that fabric I am so happy with from that first trip to the market...