I read once that hurry is the enemy of peace. If that's true, then Africa should be an incredibly peaceful place, because NO ONE IN AFRICA IS IN A HURRY... EVER! (and everyone who has ever visited Africa said, "Amen!") In fact, it's quite the opposite of hurry. There seems to be an inordinate amount of time to do whatever needs to get done, whenever it happens. There is such a thing as "Africa time," which means that if I say I will meet with you in the "afternoon," I might mean 12:30... or 3:30...or even 5:30, and when it happens, we'll both be happy to see each other and no one will comment about the time. It also means that if I say I'll stop by at 1 and don't come until 4, everyone will be ok with that too. There are times when this impresses me. For example, when we visited Pastor Zach's church, the 10:00 service didn't start until 10:30 because the first service "wasn't done worshipping." I can be all over that, and was as happy as everyone else to stand outside and wait. Of course, I wasn't teaching Sunday School, or dragging kids along, or planning to be somewhere after church, like I am in the States.
My African friends have convinced me to stop wearing a watch. They say (about your watch), "Do you own that, or does it own you?" They also say, "Americans have watches. Africans have TIME." It's true. I think when your life is more about relationships, you're more willing to take/make the time.
There was a day, the week before I left for Africa, in which my entire day was scheduled almost to the minute. It was the last week of school, and there were end of year assemblies and parties and a couple of errands to run in between, and details to work out, and on and on and on. If you called me on that day, I likely did not answer my phone, because I did not have a spare second to have a conversation. In sharp contrast to that, I found myself one day last week sitting for almost 3 hours visiting with Pastor Steven, our driver for the week. We had left the orphanage about 2 in order to get some things done at the hotel administratively before we left. Steven has mentioned that the hotel's pork ribs were his favorite (?!), so I invited him in to have some. It should be noted that any order placed at the hotel restaurant involves a minimum of 45 min to prepare, so every meal is long at best. On this day, it was an hour and a half before Steven's ribs came. By then, we were deep into a discussion about mentoring marriages within the church. I had been riding with Steven for 10 days at this point, but in the midst of our travels, it never came up that he and I both have ministries to marriages. Marriages are so different, and yet so much the same in Africa that it was fascinating, enlightening, and challenging to have this discussion. More importantly, perhaps, it cemented my relationship with a pastor who I believe in and who is doing big things in his community.
So... I've stopped wearing a watch, but I'm pretty sure I haven't started making TIME. I'm sure of this because since I got back home, I've been busy again. (It helps that in Africa I don't cook or clean or do laundry!) I want to place more value on people and the time I spend sitting with them and listening... for hours, even, because I value relationships.