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Dear David,

Your weary body and your team have landed in the humid, wild coastal capital city of Dakar, Senegal. For that I am so grateful. My first waking thought this morning included calculations of what time zone you were in and how you must be feeling. I pray that you slept deeply on the trans-Atlantic flight. As you have told me before, your chaperoning duties are minimal during the unending airplane hours. “Where can the kids go? Their exit options are limited,” you remind me with a smile.

Seven hours ahead of MST means that your team must jump in to orientation and ministry this afternoon in a state of semi-consciousness. However, your message this morning assured parents that: “As you wake up and read this email you can breathe easy knowing that we have all arrived safely and without incident.  We are currently here at the Phare settling into our accommodations and we will be heading over to Dakar Academy for lunch and orientation here in a little while.”

I grin as I remember last year’s reports of “lunch.” On this first day, the kids are plied with a special African concoction known as Ataya.  According to the California Academy of Sciences, this steaming liquid is a green China tea prepared often over a portable brazier. The tea ceremony itself – shared with a local family – is known as “ataya,” but the term is also loosely used to refer to this highly-caffenaited, very sweet beverage. (See http://www.calacademy.org/exhibits/africa/exhibit/senegal/index.html for more information.) Hopefully, the kids can all stomach this intense wake-up shot.

Foreign sights, sounds, smells, and tastes are assailing your team’s senses today. The stench of trash hangs heavy in the air due to the city’s huge open garbage dump. A melee of bicyclists, street kids, buses, and women wearing the local psychadellic-colored sarongs fill the grimy streets. And, while the kids will be welcomed at the missionary boarding school with American fare, food will soon change to the more traditional rice and meat or rice and fish dishes. Surprisingly, the kids love the “cheb,” the red rice and fish dish containing chunks of okra, cassava, and yam that is eaten family-style from a common bowl. All who return rave about the savory sauces and filling meals. In the capital city, French fries are also a regular accompaniment to any meal offered by local vendors. In order to cater to tourists, these stringy potato crisps are wrapped in burritos, served inside of hamburgers, and tossed on top of pizza. “Hospitality” is certainly not lacking among the Senegalese people 🙂

During the long hours ahead of you before you can close your eyes in much-needed sleep, I pray that the Lord blow His cool breeze over your heated body, dissipating the oppression of the muggy temperatures. May you be filled with joy indescribable, as you do what you were called to do – lead and love. You are a courageous warrior, and I’m fighting for you back home in Denver. I love you with all my heart.

Your Crazy Girl,

Lauren

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