Traffic Jams and Changing Plans

“What have you learned from living overseas?”

As we’ve visited different MAF programs around the world, we have asked and been asked this simple question many times. Can you guess what the first thing we and most other missionaries say? “Nothing ever goes as planned,” of course!

It’s always something. People don’t show up on time (or at all!). Things seem to break easier or cost more than expected. Stores are unexpectedly closed. Sometimes it’s actually exciting to navigate all these obstacles and say “oh well” when things don’t work out. But now and then, something I really care about gets cancelled and it’s harder to swallow this easy-going culture I’m experiencing.

Recently, we went with another MAF family to film them serving at a local ministry. There was a big graduation celebration going on in the area, and when we went to leave, traffic was backed up in every direction. Bad traffic is totally common here in the capital city of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (population 10 million!), where we’re currently based, but this was the first time we’d been this stuck. Our van eventually came to a complete standstill, and I thought, “But it’s Saturday! We can’t be stuck in traffic on my day off. I’ve got stuff to do!”

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But as one hour stretched to two, we had some good conversations with our new friends about missionary life and the struggles of living in a different culture. I began to enjoy our time watching life happen on the bustling street around us. People walked among the stopped cars selling bread and shoes and tissues, and I could see right into a little sewing shop where a woman was making a beautiful African print dress. A teenager used the reflective window of the van to admire his newly pierced ear. It was a funny way to slow down and experience a new place.

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Nothing ever goes as planned, but I’m learning that sometimes good stuff happens when you go with the flow (or the non-flow in this case!).