Last day of seminars in Lomé

Trip Start Mar 31, 2009
Trip End Apr 22, 2009

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Last night was a bit difficult. I woke up periodically with stomach cramps and some gastro-intestinal adventures. That rather goes with the (African) territory as they say, and is certainly not uncommon. But it's still unpleasant.
I was well enough in the morning, though not 100%, to be ready to go by 8:30.  Today was our last day of seminar presentations and I didn't want to miss any if we didn't have to.
Mr. Fiaboé was solicitous of my health issues and asked what I had eaten for lunch the previous day. I told him I had the tilapia like everyone else. He told me that was probably the problem. The tilapia was actually leftovers from the previous day. He had assumed the ladies would know not to serve that to me, and I had assumed it was fresh (the importance of which I've explained to them before), but somewhere there was a communication problem. Most others had been served something else, but as the tilapia was a "better" dish that the new main course yesterday, I was served the fish out of respect....
They have no refrigeration; one cannot even count on regular electrical current. So the fish had set in a back room, partially open to insects and dust, in the tropical heat for a day, reheated just before being served. This is the way folks here live, and happy to get it if they can, so one of the girls helping out didn't see the problem. No wonder my GI system wasn't happy. But to express the situation in a rather indelicate way, as long as things aren't out of control (when that happens it's best not to go out), one simply gets on with it. So, on with the program.

On the way to the hall we drove through the usual morning Lomé traffic. At each stoplight, street vendors walked among the stopped vehicles trying to see whatever they had: water, fruit, clocks, belts, socks, handkerchiefs, calendars, tissues, maps, you name it. It's this way pretty much throughout sub-Saharan Africa. It's fascinating and sad at the same time.

First, we finished the presentation on temperament profiles. I was curious to see how the men here would react and whether they would feel the profiles were accurate. As we went through the slides, based on a PowerPoint presentation that David Register had prepared and presented in our pastoral training program as well as in other venues, I was intrigued to see smiles and hear some laughter as we worked our way through the Hartman colors (Red, Blue, White and Yellow). I asked the men whether they could identify with the attributes and whether they felt they were accurate. The response was overwhelmingly "yes." One or two men mentioned that they didn't feel they had an attribute stated for their primary color, but when we looked at the secondary color it could be found there. This has been quite a revelation to all of them, I believe.
One man told me with a laugh "that's why 'Mr. X' never understands me!" I teased him a little by suggesting that perhaps that was why he never understood 'Mr. X!' He and the others got the point right away. We tend to expect others to adjust to us rather than feeling a responsibility to adjust to them.
The men here were very excited about this presentation. It's not something to which they would normally be exposed, and as Christians with the desire to be at peace with each other, all the men said they felt this was very valuable.
We took a short break and then went back to another presentation on our fundamental beliefs. By the end, we had covered all but three of them.
We broke for lunch. My stomach was still feeling queasy, so I had a bite of vegetables with some vinaigrette (a good disinfectant) and a few freshly fried potatoes. French fries may be bad for us, but as they come fresh out of boiling oil, one rarely has to worry about any extra bacteria hanging on!
Mr. Ogoudéle left after lunch, so he could be back in Cotonou in time for the NTBMO, and to conduct services tomorrow. We all wished him well.
We had a 90 minute Q&A session before ending the conference. Questions were asked about how to organize the local congregation, Satan's ultimate fate and how he will experience it, why we don't have a sign outside our church hall in Lomé (we will soon), how the church preaches the gospel to the world (are we as effective as we could be?), how local Church funds should be used and who should decide, how we decided on our association's name, and many more questions. We finished a little before 3:00 when I decided we couldn't go any longer. Several men were drifting off. This has been a very busy three days, especially for some of the men who aren't used to such concentrated effort. Several of them come from rural areas where the pace of life is slow and deliberate. I brought in a Western pace so as not to waste any time, and I could tell it was rather exhausting for some of them.
 I still wasn't feeling well as we drove back to my hotel, so I asked Mr. Fiaboé to call before coming to pick me up. Tomorrow I have a sermon to give, several videos to commentate for the congregation and I'm supposed to go on live television tomorrow evening in a half-hour telecast that can reach all of Lomé, a potential audience of 700,000 people.  I hope to be at my best.
After resting a while at the hotel I still didn't feel up to par, so I called Mr. Fiaboé and asked him to make my apologies to the church members who will be eating together this evening. I'll rest tonight and see them tomorrow morning.
Slideshow Report as Spam


maryhendren on

Hi Joel,
We're sorry to hear you've been sick with GI problems and hope that you're feeling better, especially with all the responsibilities and potential TV presentation. It's hard to imagine handling the challenging food and water situations our brethren tolerate. It was fun to read about the mens' reactions to the personality profile, especially in the context of living peacefully with one another. You had an interesting list of questions in the Q&A. Thanks again for the photos.


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