Cell phones in Africa still amaze me.
When we first moved to Ft Portal acquiring a land line phone was of top priority. Jeff had been going on about this new thing called “e-mail” and I for one, thought it would never go anywhere. Especially anywhere in East Africa. But Jeff had high hopes for it and knew the first thing we needed was a land line.
Phone wires and electric wires were delicately draped through trees, tied in knots around poles and, in many other ways, creatively strung all around our town.
But, there were a limited number of phone wires available. We applied for one of the wires and after several months of waiting were given one.
Jeff was with the phone technicians as they ran the wire directly from the phone office to our house. We celebrated victoriously when the dial tone could be heard.
We passed around our phone number and rejoiced in our new accessibility.
Expressed joy…that was only short lived.
Dialing was a test of patience. We had one other friend with a phone line and to call them might require an hour long dial-fest. Driving to their house took less time.
Calling internationally was impossible. First, each call cost a mere $8 per minute (ouch!). Second, dialing and redialing yielded little fruit. Many times, the call just would not go through.
When our families would call us we expected to be cut off numerous times. I would make a list of important points to share and then rattle them off quickly before we would get cut off.
Then came the phone line “issues”. Many times there was a fault in the line. We would call the phone company and they would send the trusty technician carrying…hedge trimmers. We watched in shock as the technician began to cut our line in pieces. His plan…cut and test the line to see where the fault existed.
We lost three phone receivers due to lightning. One of the strikes came through the phone and lit up the hallway. Thankfully we were not on the phone or in the hallway at the time.
Then there was the stealing. Jeff went to investigate the line for himself after a rather long period of phone deprivation…only to discover the entire line was missing. When he reported this to the phone company they only replied that people sometimes steal the wire and that we should just wait until they could secure more wire.
Sigh. Those were the days.
All of a sudden…and I don’t mean that as an exaggeration…
Cell phones. Jeff bought one quickly when they became available and we were shocked at its reliability and function. Eventually, our cell phones connected us to more reliable email services, better communication with our parents and friends overseas and to each other.
For years, when Jeff would head off to the village, I would watch him go, knowing there would be no way to contact me if he was delayed or held up for any reason. As more and more cell phone towers went up around the country, Jeff was able to make contact with me even from remote areas.
We still live in the third world... Which means that unpredictability and dysfunction creep in...always. The cell phone lines are now very over used and the connections can sometimes be the pits.
But the fact that a little piece of machinery with NO WIRES attached to it can somehow link us to people all the way around the world…astounds me.
Over the last few months, as we struggled through rough times, that precious cell phone was a life line.
Jeff and I would squeeze close with our ears pressed against the phone as dear friends and fellow warriors prayed over us and spoke His words of comfort, exhortation and peace over our heads.
One such call was from our Glenwood support team. It was a conference call full of debriefing and sharing…then a prayer.
Our entire family stood in a huddle in our kitchen. Jeff’s cell phone opened in the middle of our circle. One precious voice after another spoke to our Father on our behalf. With each voice we heard, Jeff and I would mouth to the children the name of the person speaking.
“Bill, Dewayne, Cynthia, Charles, Joan, Lori, Kyle, Jana, Jack, Tootsie, Scott…”
Big smiles would follow and nods…
The prayers spoke over many miles overwhelmed our spirits with strength, mercy and hope.
The gentle, peaceful tears flowed from my eyes for awhile after we had ended the call.
We needed what those prayers provided. Available to us, through the miracle of a cell phone.
We have come a long way, in these twelve years…
And I’m not just talking about the phones….