Do you remember that old nursery rhyme?
Girls are made of sugar and spice
And everything nice,
And boys are made of snakes and snails
And puppy dog tails.
Or something like that.
Well, sometimes I think that’s how missionaries compare America with their field of service. America has “everything nice” (including sugar!), whereas Africa (or ___ ) is made up of slimy, hairy critters. Some of us may serve in India or other spice-heavy countries; yet the creepy crawlies may overtake that benefit, invading our lives, bodies, and dreams.
I still remember one of my dad’s points when reminding me of considerations before deciding to commit to a relationship with my future husband. “You don’t like bugs! How will you do in Africa?”
I conveniently dismissed that point.
While I’m super glad, of course, to be married my awesome guy, and while I know that God has ordained me to be here in Africa, dealing with the bugs can be daunting at times.
Every missionary has to have some critter stories, right?
Here are some for fun:
Termites, oh the termites!
We had barely moved into our newly built, yet unfinished, house in the village. The most expensive part of the house was the kitchen cupboards. One night, my husband heard some chewing…yup, we’d apparently built our house right on top of a nest or two of the most turbo-charged, undefatigable, superhero-style termites in the world. They ate right through the back of two corner cupboards. Seth tried to clean them out, but after having some captains bite and draw blood on his arms and then seeing those trails right back the next morning, we told the lady who had made our cupboards.
“Oh!” she said. “If you have a breakout like that, you need to call pest control.” So we did. We were told that that breakout probably meant that there was a nest the size of our kitchen underneath the floor, and that the queen lays 18,000 eggs per day. (I have also read the stat “30,000 per day” on the internet.) Isn’t that horrifying?
You’ll understand then, when I had nightmares of the floor under our bed breaking up at night and our bed falling into a swarming nest of termites!
For the last eight years, we have fought an ongoing war with termites. We’ve had pest control out here 10 times to pump poison under our house or into neighborhood nests. We’ve bought poison ourselves before to pour down holes that drink endlessly. And no matter how many people tell us that termites don’t kill living plants, it isn’t true! They’ve killed our grass, trees, and flowers before. It’s unreal.
They also destroy the non-living things, even when it’s treated–baked in oil–so that the termites won’t eat it. Our entire fence fell over one day when certain treated poles had been eaten clean through. Same thing with laundry poles. We now have metal poles for both. Seth said never again would he use wooden poles for our laundry! Ridiculous! And we used a beautiful wooden door with wood frame for our front door…
Then there was the time our teammate came over to pray with Seth and just as he bowed his head, he observed some movement on some books in the lower corner of the bookshelf. Termites! Their cruel intent was noticeable on many books, but they did the worst damage to three books in particular—Seth’s favorite John’s: Holy War by John Bunyan, Charity and Its Fruits by Jon Edwards, and ironically Taste and See by John Piper.
Creeping right along in the crawly department, Ants:
Most of our ant pests have been the little ones, although we’ve also seen some bigger species around here. After the termite trails have been poisoned and lain dormant for a while, the ants crawl through. They come through the trails by our front door and feast on leftover toddler food under the table. They also like the kitchen counters.
They break out by our tub and lay thousands of eggs overnight. They crawl on my laundry lines, and more than once I have begun separating clean laundry into folding piles and found a bunch of ants with their eggs hidden in a towel or large T-shirt taken down from the line the night before. Not a nice surprise! They also break out on top of our grass after rains, which kills the grass.
It’s no longer a big deal to find a small ant crawling up and tickling my arm while sitting at the computer or dinner table. Just brush it off, and move on.
I’ve just begun to share my stories, and you’re probably already getting creeped out by this story crawling on, so I’ll save more for next time. Until then…
May my friends living in spice
And the land of “everything nice”
Enjoy their termite-free lives!