Thursday, September 12, 2013
“Flexibility has to be your middle name if you want to serve on the mission field.”
I lost track of how many times my husband, Dave, and I heard that counsel in our training, but the advice served us well. I reminded myself of that sentence for years to come.
Take, for example, the time Dave and I returned to Nairobi after furlough and set up a new flat with, among other things, a new iron.
Our third morning in town, I was scurrying to get ready for my new work assignment at West Nairobi School. Even though I was running a little late, I decided I had to iron my dress.
No problem, I said to myself, pleased—even a bit smug—that I'd purchased an iron locally so I wouldn't have to fuss with a transformer to convert from a 120-volt North American electrical system to the 240-volt Kenyan system.
I hurried into the spare bedroom, set up the ironing board (miniature by U.S. standards), grabbed the iron, and dashed into the bathroom to put water into it. But wait! Where was I supposed to put the water?
I looked everywhere but found no opening for it.
Hadn't I bought a steam iron?
I looked at the bottom—again. There were holes for steam.
I examined the whole iron again but found no place to put in water.
I knew where the iron's instructions were, but my reading glasses weren’t handy. I looked at my watch. I didn't have time to find my glasses.
"Well," I said to myself (feeling proud of my middle name, Flexibility), "today you will iron without steam."
I pulled the bed out from the wall and bent over to plug the iron in, but—Ooops! My new iron was a European model with two skinny round prongs rather than the three large rectangular prongs we used in Kenya.
Well, I knew it was compatible electricity-wise, and therefore safe, so I bent over and tried to ram those two skinny round prongs into two of those three large rectangular holes.
Then I remembered that unless the third hole is depressed by something, nothing can enter the other two holes. It's a safety thing, I reminded myself, glancing at my watch, which seemed to be ticking far too fast.
I needed something skinny and sturdy to stick into that third hole to release the mechanism that would allow me to insert the two skinny round prongs. Ah, I spotted just what I needed: the cap of a Bic pen.
I stooped over and shoved that into the third hole. What a relief to feel it give way! While holding that hole open with the Bic lid, I rammed in the two skinny prongs. Success! It felt so sweet.
In no time I was ironing my dress, mopping my sweaty face, and keeping an eye on my watch. And soon, voilà! I was wearing a nicely ironed dress. Even without steam.
I ran downstairs, where Dave was standing at our open front door, waiting patiently for me so we could drive to school.
“Sorry I'm late,” I huffed. “Remember how they taught us our middle name has to be Flexibility if we are going to be missionaries? I'll tell you all about it in the car.”