Menial Tasks

Menial tasks, those tasks that are mundane, boring, time-consuming but necessary, seem to take up so much of our time. Here in Africa, even simple tasks that take a few minutes in America can consume a lot of time.
As missionaries, even though we are on “the frontlines” doing “God’s work” we are earthbound and part of the human race; thus, we have our share of menial tasks to be done.
Food shopping, for instance, takes up a good part of a day. There are no “super centers” or “one-stop” shops here. For fresh fruits and vegetables you go to a huge open market and you must barter for each kind of fruit or vegetable individually. You can never say, “I’ll take all of this stuff, ring it up”. Each item is sold at a different booth and must be bartered for, weighed and paid for one at a time as you twist your way through the maze of stalls carrying your straw market bag. If you pause or make eye contact, it is impolite to continue without greeting them and at least glancing at their wares.
Meat is purchased at the “meat market”; you must view the meats, choose your selection, tell them how much to cut off and wait for it to be weighed and wrapped and then pay for it.
Pre-packaged foods, are available though expensive. Often, you go to several little stores the size of a bathroom, before finding all the items you need. Not all items are available all the time so you must have a “treasure hunt” of sorts.
After shopping you arrive home and you must wash and soak all the fresh fruits and vegetables and while they soak you can cut up the hunks of meat into the appropriate amounts and place them in plastic storage bags in the freezer.
Canned and packaged goods are placed in the pantry; if you find a particular item that is hard to find in stock, you buy a number of them knowing it may be a long time before another shipment comes in.
Anything that is not in a metal can must be placed in a sealed container or tightly sealed bag to keep out any small living creatures that may seek to dine on your precious commodities.
Some items are stored in the freezer for the sake of freshness.
That’s just the grocery shopping!
We will pay bills another day. No writing checks or paying on line here! We go to the water company and then to the electric company and stand in long lines waiting for your turn to pay. Mail is collected at the Post Office in town. If you have a water problem or electrical problem that must be looked at by the appropriate department, you must drive to town, pick up the necessary personnel, take them to your home to deal with the problem and then return them back to their work place; they don’t have company vehicles to use for transport.
As I ponder these menial tasks, I stir the dog food that I am cooking on the stove; yet another menial task. Our outside worker is off sick for a few days with malaria and typhoid, both common ailments here, so I am cooking the dog food. It’s a mixture of ground grain flour, water and dagaa (small dried fish) that must be stirred while it cooks to avoid having it stick to the bottom of the pan; the aroma that fills the kitchen is not a pleasant smell.
These small, seemingly insignificant routine tasks are mixed in daily with the ministry tasks such as teaching at the Bible College, praying for the sick, writing college courses, holding crusades, etc.
All of this mixture makes up what we call “Life”; a blending together of the mundane and the magnificent.
Have a magnificent day!


1 thought on “Menial Tasks

  1. After reading everything you must do to just buy groceries, I will never complain about going to a super center again!I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to answer the questions for my blog. We are also sharing the answers in our youth meetings. It means a lot to the kids that a missionary would take time to write back to them. Thanks sooo much for everything you do!Scott Laurain

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