Today was a good day a long day, but a good day. At times today I wondered if it was wasteful. I wondered if I could better spend my time doing something different, something more productive. God has been drawing me to Him. He has been teaching me about His Holy Spirit. I have been learning what it really means to live for God and how to search for Him as for silver and gold. But, today I did not spend my time sitting and praying for God to reveal Himself to me. I did not listen to any of my books about God and His Holy Spirit. I didn’t do anything; however, I did try to sit and pray this morning. By try I mean that it was a pretty pathetic attempt at prayer. So, I didn’t really do anything that made me feel closer to God today. But, God did reveal Himself to me today.
Today I woke up earlier than I wanted to. After having an inspiring day yesterday I planned on waking up this morning, going to the roof and praying to God. I didn’t want to pray a normal prayer I wanted something more. I wanted to connect with God. I wanted Him to send His Holy Spirit to me and work in the areas that I prayed for and show me areas I needed to pray for. So, when I woke up this morning I did as I planned. Half asleep, I went to the roof and sat there. I prayed the best I knew how, but apparently I didn’t really know how. I did the best I could up there on the roof, but it wasn’t what I had imagined it to be. Maybe I’ll get it right tomorrow. (I just killed a fly on my arm, that’s how brave they are here. I hate them.)
Cass and I had breakfast this morning and discussed the things that needed to be done in preparation for our trip next week. Cass made her list and I shoved it in my pocket then we got ready to head into town. Upon realizing that it is my birthday month I suggested, that rather than eating our usual African lunch (a well spent 20 Cents on rice and sauce), we should go to a restaurant so I could have my coveted chicken sandwich. After eating we started on that list.
Most importantly, we needed money to pay for the driver and the translator and the gas and the food; which adds up much quicker than one might think (Africa doesn’t mean cheap). Because I forgot all of our cash at the house we had to walk back home to get it so we could change it into CFA (the currency here). See, I had a lot of cash left over from the last time I changed money because on that particular day the bank decided that they only accepted $20 bills made in or after 2006. It just so happened that almost all of the money we brought was made in 2004, so I changed very little money that day. We made it to the first bank. After talking for a while they said that they had a lot of US Dollars already and didn’t want any more. Isn’t that some good reasoning? We didn’t even try bank number two, because they are the ones that didn’t like the older $20’s. We walked into bank number three just as they were closing and they informed us that they didn’t take US Dollars any more, but they did tell us of a bank closer to town that might help us. So, we jumped a bus and headed that way. An old Canadian lady was in the bank and translated to the man what we needed, he said he would call someone to change money for us. After some time had passed a man came in and pulled out a plastic sack full of money. I assumed that he would be a bank associate, but that was just me jumping to conclusions. Rather, he was a moneychanger from the street. He first through out an exchange rate well below the current rate, which would have profited him a couple hundred dollars, and I quickly called him on it, but he was hard to budge after that. If it had not been for Cass, I definitely would have lost some money today with that guy. We left him frowning and playing his sad game to try and make us feel badly because he didn’t cheat us as bad as he would have liked.
Next on the list was an FM radio transmitter for our ipod, so we would be able to listen to our books during our trip. We had seen a kid selling one and figured we might be able to find one somewhere. I stopped at the first place the seemed promising, but trying to explain an FM transmitter without any language really didn’t work out for me. I said to Cass, “We need to find someone who speaks English”. Seriously, as soon as the words came out of my mouth I recognized a man. His name is Ali and he was standing maybe ten feet from us. I knew him when I was in Mali before, but hadn’t seen him during this visit. He speaks perfect English. We had a round of tea with him and told him what we were looking for. He took us to his car and drove us to a pretty awesome electronic store. I didn’t even know Mali had those! (Neither did I know my friend had a car, very surprising) Within minutes I had what I needed.
We left the store and as African markets go, there were two guys waiting to show us around. One guy was very annoying and the other quiet. The quiet guy told me that he knew me. He said that he had seen me in Gao a few years ago. We never talked, but he had just seen me there. Gao is two days from Bamako and I was there in July three years ago. He walked with us for a while, and then we got his number and told him we would see him another time.
As we walked we found a clothing store. It was a French clothing store and as we entered the store we discovered that it was three stories and had more clothes than we could possibly look at. We stayed there for a while looking at things while being amazed and feeling that we were no longer in Mali. Cass even found a skirt that was just a little too big, so they tailored it to fit her right on the spot. When we left the store and got back on the busy street we almost immediately ran into they quiet guy that we met earlier. Again, we walked with him for a short time and then parted ways.
We walked towards a nice hotel to see a friend’s shop that was there the last time I was in Mali, but he was not there. So, we went to see the pool at the hotel and get a cold drink. After sitting for a while we decided to go through the hotel and see what it looked like (you don’t have to go through the hotel to get to the pool). We noticed a gym inside and schemed how we could come and use the gym while pretending to be guest at the hotel. We figured we could get away with it for a while. Then we went upstairs to see the lobby and we sat there for a short time to enjoy the air conditioning.
We left the hotel and visited a lady who sells vegetables to buy things for supper. We left her and tried to catch a bus, but because we were so close to the bridge and all the busses were heading to the bridge, they were all full. So we had to walk. We crossed all the traffic and got to the walking portion of the bridge and almost stepped on the same guy we had run into two other times! We walked a long ways with him this time. Cass told him what we were doing in Mali and told him that when we get back from our trip we would call him and come have tea and tell him stories.
After that we just walked a lot more and got some groceries and went home with our legs burning from walking all day. But on the walk home we realized how God had been in control of every part of our day. Think about it. In a city of about one million people, I ran into the one person I know outside of the Artisan. He just happened to be in that spot because he was waiting for a meeting that he had. He took us to find something that we were selfishly wanting. Which was were this other guy was. We selfishly looked at clothes for while, but left just in time to walk right into the same guy. Now think about that fact. The streets are covered with people, so if we had left a portion of a second, later or earlier, then so many people would have been between us that we would not have seen the man. Next, we selfishly went to rest and have a cold drink. We selfishly wondered through the hotel and sat in its cold air. Then we bought our food and couldn’t get on a bus, so we walked. We had to wait and wait for a gap in traffic to cross to the walking part of the bridge. Realize this; God even knew the distance between the cars so that we would cross the road just as that man walked right in front of us. Isn’t that amazing! God put a man that simply saw me three years ago right in front of us three times today and now we will get to share with him about Jesus. So, as I wondered if my day was pointless and selfish, God was controlling the traffic and the flow of people and our wondering around; so that He could put this man in front of us, so that He could further His kingdom. I wonder how many times this happens and we don’t even notice? Luckily, Cass was sensitive to God and told the man that we wanted to come visit him and tell him stories. Now we get a chance to tell him. It made me realize that we should always be looking for a chance to tell people, even when we selfishly go about our day.