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Cash Flow Reality

September 8, 2015

We are rich.  We live in a country where we are very very wealthy.  It wouldn’t do any good to argue – most people in the city make between $1-$5 a day if they even have a job.  Obviously, we are far above that.

But the reality is, we aren’t swimming in gold coins or living it up.  The cost of living a Western-style life here is extremely high.  Why live a Western style life?  For health, for sanity, for safety, for progress.  If we came and lived in the housing of an average Kinois (KEEN-wah: Kinshasa resident), we would spend most of the day cooking, cleaning, and trying to stay healthy and safe.  There would be no margin for ministry and we would quickly return to the US.  The people of Kinshasa are in constant battle against the elements and fighting for their safety.  We are able to live safely, with our children, because we are rich.  Our wealth is distributed to keeping our home lives here sane and healthy and safe, so that we can perform the ministry to which we have been called.

We pay for things like household help and costly food.  Somehow, money is always passing out of our hands and it’s gone in a blink.  Not because we’re irresponsible, but because life is happening and it is busy here and something comes up every day.

If I have a busy day, I suddenly need more phone credits.  Matthew needed wood and cement for a project in the yard.  Our guard desperately needed a new pot for cooking and finally decided to speak up.  (This example can be a kicker – you might have household help who is constantly asking for things that are “needed.”  This is a favorite conversational debate between missionaries on how to handle it.  Pick your method, but we are very grateful to have guys who hardly ask for anything…their pot was a mess.)

Today, the prompting of this post, was the day-early appearance of my vegetable lady.  She and I have an interesting relationship – I rarely satisfy her need of selling lots of veggies, and I usually find that she shows up at the most inconvenient times.  Today I was sleeping…a much-needed midday nap.  Hello pregnancy tired!  But, she was a day early because she said she has to go to the hospital tomorrow.  Okay, I told her, but I don’t have any money.  I showed her the 1000 franc note I had in my purse.  It literally was my last bill.  I found 100 francs on the table near the door.  This equals just over $1.  I buy about $10 worth of veggies each week from her.

I accepted my weekly vegetable order – she must show me each item, going over my list in detail, and proudly displaying the high quality of her produce.  I must comment on each piece, or else there is an awkward question.  She also found an inexpensive pineapple and bought it thinking of me – it really was a fair price, so I agreed to buy it.  But, I don’t have any money, I reminded her.

I told her I would call my husband and have him bring home money to give to her next week, when she will bring today’s order.  She offered to come back by the house tomorrow afternoon.  Then she asked if we can go to my neighbor’s house to see if she had any money to loan me.  What?!  Thankfully, I happened to remember that particular neighbor had started back at school and was gone.  I also told her my baby was sleeping and I couldn’t leave the house.  Really, I was sorry.  I honestly didn’t have any money.

But, it really got me thinking.  This is not the first time I’ve needed some cash and been without.  The ATM is just down the street and I know I have access to cash if I need it, but the truth is, I can’t help but wonder if they believe me.  I wouldn’t believe me.  And I feel quite silly for saying, out loud, “I don’t have any money” when it’s obvious that, in comparison, I’m rich.

The proportions are different, but the reality of cash (or lack thereof) is not.  I do not know all of the cultural dynamics yet – and I’m sure I never will – but we don’t have bottomless pockets and we really try to make careful decisions with how we spend our money.  It’s hard to be a good example of that right now, because we are spending more than normal, setting up house and stocking the kitchen.  It is difficult to explain, but then again, no explanation is necessary.  We are here, and we are to be performing the work – Matthew is assisting the office and the director, I am home raising a handful of lovable goofballs – we are here because we have a team of amazing supporters.  Sometimes this comes up in conversation with our Congolese friends, that we are supported by people on the other side of the world, but I don’t think it’s very well understood.

So, pray for us to be light and salt, specifically in the sensitive area of money.  That we will be sensitive with appearances of money, but also that we can balance spending the money needed to be spent, and being wise.  And yet, not having a sense of guilt over our wealth – there is nothing wrong with being wealthy!  It is a privilege and a great responsibility – one we do not take lightly.  We must live life and give our children the best opportunity at a culturally diverse upbringing.  Cultural sensitivity and a sense of normal life is a balancing act every day.

This time of year is particularly difficult, because school began yesterday and school here is not free.*  People clamor for work or cash, theft goes up, and stress is high as people try to do best for their children.  Money is a constant battle.

Thank you for giving, supporting, encouraging.  We are grateful to be here and look forward to all the Lord has in store for us.

 

*One new trend is that Muslim schools are opening and offering free education for children of parents who join the local mosque.  (In some places, they are even offering free food and school uniforms – even cash!)  Obviously, this trend is quickly gaining ground – I have seen several new mosques that weren’t here our first year.  Pray that the local Church can continue to be a beacon against false teachings of all kinds.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Dawn Ham permalink
    September 9, 2015 0829

    Lisa, you’ve described your experience perfectly. I remember when I was in Tanzania feeling guilty for having the money I had, feeling rich as it seemed like so much, but hurting for the struggles of the people that live there day in and day out. It is a delicate balancing act you are doing and I will continue to pray for you as you balance. 🙂

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