Apparently I created quite a commotion in Kasenga on Friday and Saturday this week when I went outside the compound to paint our security gates. We had purchased paint in Lubumbashi last month, and it was on my “to-do” list since we didn’t have the funds to hire out the work. Wearing a long skirt to climb the ladder was not appropriate for this job, so I put on a “neutral” T-shirt and a pair of loose-fitting Capri pants and hoped that I could complete the exterior wall as quickly as possible so as not to be on display!
I was on the ladder by 6:30am both mornings. People walking by would comment and laugh between themselves. Others would stop and greet me in French and start a conversation. Children would watch for a few moments and then offer a greeting of “Jambo” or “Good morning” in English on their way to school. I replied, and they giggled and ran off. A motorcycle “taxi” even stopped with his passenger in the middle of the road and started up a conversation to find out what I was doing! The District Superintendent from Mpewto stopped by on his way to the boat dock and asked to assist me, stating that I shouldn’t be doing this work. I politely refused, because he was wearing dress clothes and I didn’t want to be responsible for ruining his clothing. A few minutes later, D.S. Sylvain stopped by to say hello.
“You are being talked about, all up and down the road”, he said.” I was just at the hospital, and a man I know there said to me “Did you see? Your missionary was outside painting the gates today!” Sylvain just laughed, and replied “Yes, she is an American. Women do men’s work there and sometimes men do women’s work. It’s the difference between the cultures.”
Sylvain proceeded to tell me that he had also run into the D.S. from Mpweto and had received the story about the missionary woman painting the security gates. Many who passed Sylvain on the way from the hospital to NYM had the same story to tell. I was just doing what needed to be done, and didn’t realize that my atypical work would create such a stir. My only desire is to help people realize that God has gifted and empowered them to do whatever He has planned for them, no matter what the job. Who knows? Maybe one day soon I will see a woman in Kasenga painting!