International Ministries

I dream of Jell-O

August 17, 2012 Journal
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I sat down to dinner one night and the topic of conversation, much to my surprise, was Jell-O. One woman had just returned from her first trip to the US, where she had gone out to eat at several “buffet style” restaurants, and was beyond enamored with the neat cubes of Jell-O in the dessert buffet. Seriously! She just went on and on about the Jell-O. Then, to my even greater surprise, the man sitting next to me piped up and said, “I dream of Jell-O. I have these dreams where I am swimming and running and eating orange, and lime, and red Jell-O. It is glorious! I can’t remember the last time I had Jell-O. Maybe when I was a little boy.” At this point, the women interrupted exclaiming, “I don’t understand how they got the Jell-O so square and firm”. At this point, I wished I could change the topic. I felt bad for the man who dreamt of Jell-O and how the women next to him was being so insensitive that he would probably never have Jell-O.


I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand the dynamics of distribution of goods in here. It may seem insignificant to you, but it’s important in understanding the context of where I am serving. Let me see if I can illustrate.


The first order of business when I arrived was finding bottled water for me to drink. We went to more than 6 stores before we found some. Lesson learned: When water is running low, let someone know WELL in advance.


Fast-forward to Wednesday. I see my host walking out of a gas station mini-mart during one of our trips with a half a dozen bags of laundry detergent. When I asked why so many, his simple response, “we’re out and there isn’t any.” I didn’t really understand.


A few days later, in a different city of more than 200,000, my host asked if I wanted to run errands.  I decided to tag along. On the list was laundry detergent. After an hour or two of looking in at least a dozen stores, there was no detergent to be found anywhere. On the way home I told the story of the gas station detergent which had by then taken on a whole new meaning in my mind. The next day, on a road trip, we stopped for water at a mini mart and sure enough there was detergent. We bought 3 bags. Lesson learned: If you find it and have money, buy it.


A week later, when I arrived at the construction site that I helped with in Feb. of this year, I got a work update. The crew had worked non-stop since we left. Well, non-stop except for 2.5 months where the building material they needed was nowhere to be found. I just smiled and nodded.


I know I don’t truly understand the dynamics of distribution. I can’t express opinions or give a full analysis via this medium. But I share these stories to give you an idea of the creativity and extra time needed to obtain standard items like drinking water and laundry detergent. I ask that you allow these anecdotes to serve as a lens through which you read my next few journals on ministry here. And now, jump with me one more time.

Two days after hearing the Jell-O story I was at a store looking for cough drops. There were no cough drops, but I happened to see some boxes of orange gelatine. So I bought a box and took it back to my friend. That evening we enjoyed our Jell-O as we talked about men’s razors and batteries….


With you on the journey,