A Taste of Home

I have been pleasantly surprised that since moving to Africa I have missed very little when it comes to food. That’s not to say I never miss any easy-to-come-by food from home. But in general I am very content with the food I eat here. Traditional Senegalese food is very good (even if you are a somewhat picky eater) and someday soon I will write a post about some of the most common Senegalese meals…but today is about American food!

Before I even set foot in Senegal I had heard of the “American Store”…where desperate Americans go when they need Frosted Mini-Wheats, Betty Crocker cake mix, Starbucks coffee and other hard to find essentials. (Or if they just really love American brands and don’t want to buy a French brand of apple sauce from a local grocery store.)

The New “American Store”

Recently, while on a trip to the American Embassy to pick up my renewed passport we stopped in at the new “American Food Store”…which is just down the road from the embassy.

Here is what I found that couldn’t live without…

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Okay…I could have lived without all of this but it is nice to have a taste of home!

But when you live thousands of miles from “home” you pay the price to eat like you were still living there…

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The exchange rate here is around 500CFA to $1.00.

So here is what my receipt would look like in dollars…

A&W Root Beet – $1.20

Hidden Valley Ranch – $3.20

Reese’s PB Cup – $1.30

Gold Fish – $0.80 x 4

Borax – $8.20

Total – $17.10

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Tea & Scrabble

Last weekend I got to experience attaya, a strong, sugary green tea.  It was very good and we had it a few more time throughout the week, it definitely has the caffeine you are looking for when you are draping.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about attaya…link.

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I also recently played a game of scrabble in Wolof, the language I am studying here.  It was very challenging, but a good exercise! At least I got to use the dictionary.

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Gardening in Dakar

 

When I decided to start a blog I told myself I would never apologize for long periods of silence.  When I was young it seemed like every letter I wrote to family or friends far away began with…”I’m sorry it’s been so long since I wrote.”  I would feel guilty because I had intended to write and just hadn’t done it.

Sometimes it’s so easy to get busy living life, that making time to connect with people who are important to us gets lost in the shuffle.

This weekend I had a phone call with a lifelong friend and I was reminded of why I began blogging…I want to share my life with you.  I want you to know a little more about me as you read my posts.  It’s important to me.

Since moving to Africa you would think I would have lots of exciting things to share, but it doesn’t always feel that way.  My mornings are filled with my ministry and the rest of the day is spent in a variety of tasks…checking/responding to emails, doing laundry, trips to the grocery store, taking  naps – I don’t know if this really can be considered a task but it is part of some of my afternoons, studying Wolof, making dinner and taking care of my garden.

But while all of these things seem very routine to me, you may still find them interesting.  So I will try to give you a  picture of what my life in Senegal is like.

 

Gardening in Dakar

 

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This picture was taken in the beginning of June. We bought 5 bags of dirt to fill empty pots that we already had and bought 3 new pots to fill.

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Here are the cucumbers growing up their trellis and their neighbors, the basil plants. The basil is really liking the hot humid weather in Senegal!

 

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The cucumbers have put out so many blossoms…but sadly no little cucumbers.

 

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Our young carrots being protected from the birds who like our roof.

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A zucchini flower! I’m anxiously awaiting eating my first zucchini.

 

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Our volunteer tomato…we are hoping for a beefsteak. We planted cherry tomatoes from seed and they are doing well too. I love how fuzzy tomato plants look!

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We have been enjoying the beautiful purples of these plants we got from a teammate. The one with the light purple flowers are Russian Sage.

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God provided me with an unfinished courtyard that I decided would make a perfect garden…I named it “The Secret Garden”.  It’s small but things are growing!

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Green bean blossoms with white fly larva. (Any hints for getting rid of white flies? I would love to hear them.)

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Look! Our first green bean…we are going to cut it into thirds and share it!

Gardening is in my blood.

It is definitely different growing plants on a rooftop garden in pots and a small sandy courtyard, then growing a 1/2 acre garden in Minnesota with my family.  But I am so thankful God has given me a way to connect with Him through growing things!

While I was writing this I took a break to go water my plants on the roof and got to enjoy a gentle rain…such a long-awaited joy!

Thanks for taking the time to connect with me.

 

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Bougainvillea flowers @ World Venture Senegal’s beach camp

I’m so thankful for the way God uses His word to speak into our heart!  I wish that I could say that I always live my life rejoicing, praying and giving thanks…but I don’t.  But when I do, I always feel more at peace about God’s will for my life.

God has been so good to me as I have begun to make Senegal my new home.  He has given me such peace through all the changes of moving a world away from the familiar and has reminded me that being in the center of His will is my heart’s desire!  That’s not to say I don’t miss home (family, friends, my church, ministries, lakes, trees, my dog and all things familiar), because I do.  But even in the missing I am reminded…God called me here, to this place, at this time, for a reason!  He has plans for my life.  Plans I can only begin to grasp.  My job in life is to follow His will for me…and He will never leave me or forsake me!

As I sit here in my African home, my prayer is that you are seeking to live out God’s will for your life.  That together we are learning more and more to “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances”!

God’s Will

Toubab Cooking – Jewish Apple Cake

cake

Last Saturday I decided it was time to try my hand at some baking…just to make sure my baking skills were the same in Senegal as they were in Minnesota.  As of today I have been in Dakar for three weeks.  The time seems to have simply melted away.  Although it hasn’t been too hot, but it has been windy…so maybe I should say that the time seems to have blown away!

Here in Senegal it is hard to find good sandwich bread like we are familiar with in America and if you can find some it quite expensive…like — for a loaf! So making bread was high on my to-do list.  I was really hoping it would turn out good.  I was worried that the difference in climate and possible difference in ingredients would make it flop.  I used my recipe for Honey Oatmeal Bread and it turned out great!  The only thing I did different was I left out the wheat flour, as I couldn’t find it here.

I also wanted to make something sweet that we had all the ingredients for…so I made a family favorite, Jewish Apple Cake!  My Mom has been making this moist, cinnamon apple cake for as long as I can rem
ember.  But it was my grandma who first found the recipe in a local newspaper in the 1960’s.  The original recipe called for layering the cake batter and apples, but with having a large family and trying to save some time my grandma decided to simple fold the apples in instead!  As a young girl, I always remember my Mom getting complements  when ever she would make this cake for company…so it seemed like the perfect recipe to begin my time in Senegal!

I hope you enjoy making and eating this cake as much as my family and I do!

Jewish Apple Cake

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 Tbsp. baking powder

4 lg. eggs

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

1/3 cup Orange juice (I used mango and pineapple juice)

2 tsp. vanilla

5 apples

4 Tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup raisins (opt.)

1 cup nuts (opt.)

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1/4 cup sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon – mixed together.  Use for dusting the pan.

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Instructions:

– Grease a 9×13 inch pan and dust with cinnamon/sugar mixture.  This works great on a variety of sweet breads and cakes!  Save any extra to top the cake.

– Peel, core and thinly slice apples…I like to use a variety of apples if I can.  Mix cinnamon (2 tsp.) and sugar (4 Tbsp.). Toss with apples until well coated.

– In a large bowl add flour, sugar and baking powder. Mix.

– In another bowl mix together the eggs, oil, juice and vanilla.  Then add to the dry ingredients.

– Mix until thoroughly combined.

– Gently fold in apples and the nuts or raisins.

– Pour into your greased pan and top with any extra cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour

Enjoy!

Toubab – a Wolof word for white person. (Pronounced: to-bob)

Quick story…so last week I visited a local market for the first time.  There were lots of cute little kids running around many of them would come up to us singing, “Toubab, toubab! Bonjour, toubab!”  Many of them may have only seen a white person a few times in their lives.  They were so cute and polite, some of them wanted to come up and shake our hands!  It made my first time to the market a memorable experience.

 

God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

I’m sorry it has been so long since I have shared anything with you.  The last few months have been so filled with preparing to move to Senegal…and now I am here!  I arrived in Dakar less then a week ago and have already begun to settle in.  Hopefully, now that I have arrived I will be more consistent with posting.

Although I haven’t been writing here about all that has happened in the last few week, I have been updating family and friends through Facebook.   So I thought that for now I would share those updates with all of you!

The last few weeks in review…

Sunday, April 6th – “Today I experienced such an outpouring of love from my church family at Faithbridge Church! This morning started out with a commissioning service – to pray for me and send me out from the church body to be God’s hands and feet in Senegal. After church, some of my dear friends had planned a pot-luck to give me a chance to say goodbye to so many special people in my life. I am still in awe of all the love and encouragement I received today!!! Thank you all so much for your love and prayers…I will miss worshiping and serving with you in Park Rapids!”

 

Wednesday, April 9th – “FSM staff (Thanks for the memories Kim – Africa is not that far away, besides now that your planted in West Africa we can rotate our students over there, summer of 2015, right)” – Phil

My last night working alongside Patti and Phil (our youth pastor).

Friday, April 11th – “Today I said the last of my goodbyes in Park Rapids…now I’m on my way to the cities for some time with my family before I fly out on Sunday! A very emotional day, but I am so excited to be on my way!”

Sunday, April 13th – “Our girl enjoying a drink from Caribou Coffee!!!” – Mom

Here’s me and my Dad…waiting for my flight!

Tuesday, April 15th – “Sunday I said goodbye to Minnesota and my dear family. Thank you all for praying for us…although it was very hard to say goodbye I definitely felt God’s peace through it all! When I was checking in I asked if it was possible to get passes for my family to come to the gate with me (explaining that I was leaving to live in Africa for two years) and they said yes. What a great blessing!!! I’ve been having a great visit with family and fly out for Dakar tomorrow night. I’ll be sure to check in with all of you sometime Thursday or Friday.”

My older brother Mark and my niece Caelyn were able to come spend some time with me before I left…I’m so glad they came!

Thursday, April 17th – “Praise the Lord we just got a call from Kimberly Johnson and she is safe in Africa after a good flight!!! We will all continue to pray for you as this new phase of your journey with God begins! Love, Dad & Mom”

“God is so good! I have arrived in Dakar safe and sound! I left the airport in Washington, DC at 6pm last night and got here around 6am (the time zone here is 5 hours ahead of MN). It is a little after 2pm here now…I have had breakfast, a tour of my new home, begun to unpack, seen much of Dakar on a trip the a grocery store and taken a nap. Thank you all so much for your prayers! I had a good flight and was able to get some sleep.”

Friday, April 18th – “I’m still working on getting a short video put together…but it’s all new to me so it’s taking longer then anticipated. Today I got to meet many of my World Venture teammates at a team meeting. It was great to meet them and begin getting to know them all! It was 84F today…just a little warm for me! But tomorrow should be a little cooler.”

Saturday, April 19th – The first picture is of my new home! The rest are from the park and zoo just a short walk from home. I loved sitting by the lake with Denise today…different birds and a much warmer temperature, but it felt a little like MN! God is so good! Happy Easter! 


Sunday, April 20th – “This morning I enjoyed an outdoor Easter Sonrise service at Dakar Academy! It wasn’t quite like home…but the students did a great job with the choir and drama! In the afternoon I went with the McCarthys to another missionary couple’s home for Easter Dinner. Which included ham and lemon meringue pie! Happy Easter!!!”

 

So there you have it.  I hope that gives you a good picture of what the last few weeks have looked like for me!

“Here am I. Send me.”

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“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 6:33-34

2In January I spent 10 days at World Venture Headquarters in Littleton, Colorado.  During my first few days there I attended Pre-Departure training, which was filled with great information to help me prepare for this next chapter in my journey.  The sessions covered topics such as integrity, mourning, transitions, as well as logistical issues of moving to another country.

During my time in Colorado I also attended Renewal Conference, which is held annually for all World Venture missionaries on home assignment.  The goal of RC is to help us missionaries connect on a deeper level with God, each other and World Venture.  The first few days were spent in corporate and personal prayer, along with times of worship.  Later on in the week we heard from many of the World Venture leadership and missionaries, giving guidance and encouragement to each of us.

My time was blessed by all that I was learning and also by the friendships God placed in my life.  I was blessed by getting to know three other single ladies who are each on their own journey to locations around the world, it’s so nice to have friends who are headed down the same road you are.

I also got to meet the lovely ladies in the picture above, each of them have been serving God in Senegal for many years.  They were all so welcoming and encouraging to me and I can’t wait to join them in ministry!

 

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God has used so many different things to speak into my life and lead me to become a missionary.  For over a decade I have told God, “I will go. Send me.”  Now the time has come, God is sending me out.  If everything goes as planned the next newsletter you receive from me will be sent from Senegal!  It’s such an amazing feeling to look back on my life and see the gentle ways God has been directing my life and to see his faithfulness in getting me to this point.
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The question I have heard a lot recently is, “Do you have a departure date set?”  The exciting answer is that I do have a tentative date set.  It’s only tentative because I haven’t been given clearance to buy a ticket yet, but soon!

Another question I hear often is, “Are you getting excited?”  I have such a mixed reaction to this.  I am definitely excited for what God is doing in my life and I’m looking forward to seeing how he will use me in Senegal.  But, I also struggle with being anxious about all the changes that await me.  I know that moving to a new country won’t be easy and I don’t relish being away from my family and friends.  I’m so thankful to be able to look back at my life and see how God has provided for me and my family, it helps me remember that he will continue to provide.

Final Thoughts…

As I sit here writing to you it is 2 degrees outside, with big beautiful snowflakes gently falling and I am relishing the view.   As much as this winter has been cold and long, I know when I’m in Africa I will miss looking out my window in the winter and see the snow falling.  But I can’t wait to see what sights and sounds await me that I can share with you!

I truly covet your prayers over the coming weeks.  There are so many goodbye I must say, all with differing degrees of difficultly.  I know that God will see me through this step of following him, but I ask you to pray that those I leave behind with be reminded of the same thing!

 

One-time Expenses – 100%

Monthly Expenses – 90%

 

Thank you for your prayers,

Kim Johnson

 

 

Mac & Cheese Bites

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So…my brother and I both really like mac & cheese bites.  If you have never experienced these deep-fried bites of cheesy goodness you have to try this recipe!  For those of you who have had the opportunity to try mac & cheese bites I think you will be very pleased with this homemade version.  I used this recipe that I found on Pinterest as a springboard.

Mac & Cheese Bites (Makes about 35 bites)

1 box Kraft macaroni and cheese

1/2 cup sharp Cheddar cheese

Batter:

1 egg

3 Tbsp milk

1/4 cup flour

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp paprika

salt and pepper

Instructions –

Begin by preparing the macaroni according to the directions on the box.  After it is finished add in the 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar and stir to combine.

Next line a 9×9 inch pan with parchment paper.  (You could use a slightly larger or smaller pan.)  Pour the macaroni and cheese in to the pan, then use another piece of parchment paper to press the macaroni down.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Remove from the fridge and cut into “bite” size pieces, mine were about 1 inch squares.  Now put in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

Now it’s time to plug-in your fryer and make the batter.

In small bowl whisk together the egg and milk.  Then add all the dry ingredients and whisk some more.  That’s it, now you are ready!

Take the macaroni and cheese squares out of the freezer and dip each one in the batter before carefully placing in your hot oil.  I was able to fry 7 bites in each batch.

Fry at 400* for 3-5 minutes

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So good…I know you want to try one!

These really were simple to make and I’ve already been thinking of some add-in that might be yummy…bacon, pepper jack cheese, etc!  Let me know what you think if you try making these oh, so, good mac & cheese bites!!!

Happily Ever After?

I don’t know about you but I am constantly coming across great articles either on Facebook or Pinterest.  Sometime they are articles that educate me, sometimes they speak to my heart and encourage my faith.  Today I came across one such article that I really wanted to share with you.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!

The author of the blog has this to say about herself…

Me in a nutshell? Soccer All-American. Football pioneer. YouTube hostess with the mostess. // Bulimia beater. Suicide survivor. Car crash overcomer. // Inspirational speaker. Aspiring writer. Jesus lover. // Curious to learn more?

Visit her blog at www.moisom.com

Our whole lives we’re sold “happily ever after”, time and time again.

In the movies. On TV. On Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube.

I’ve heard talk about Prince Charming, “The One”, my “soul mate”. Even in church, I’ve been told that God is designing the PERFECT man for me. That there is ONE out there who will complete me.

And while I’ve always rolled my eyes at these concepts, I failed to realize how much they were etching their way into my thoughts and heart.

Read the rest of her story here

Beautiful Lengths

Ever since I’ve been little my Mom and I have had this contest to see whose hair is longer…

It started when I was around 6 years old; two of my friends got their hair cut…and it was very short.  My Mom and Dad really didn’t want my hair that short, but I thought I really did want it cut like their’s.  So…my Mom decided to make it into a contest.  My hair was longer then her’s, but if I got it cut she would be winning!   The funniest thing about this story is that it worked!  I gave up my desire to cut my hair and didn’t get my first real haircut until I was 10.  In the many years since then my Mom and I have kept up our little competition (although it’s been mainly just for fun)!

As I have been preparing to leave for Senegal one thing on my to-do list has been to get a hair cut and not just a few inches.  A few months back I asked my Mom and my sister-in-law if they would be interested in us all cutting our hair together and donating it to “Locks of Love”.   They said, “yes”!  Once our hair is cut none of us will get it cut again until I come back from Senegal.

When they both said, “yes”, I looked up “Locks of Love” online to find out their requirements.  What I found was enough for me to look for other places to donate our hair…

So after doing some research we decided to donate our hair to Pantene’s “Beautiful Lengths”.  I was very comfortable with their mission and reputation.  Here’s some info from their website

Beautiful Lengths is a partnership between Pantene® and the American Cancer Society®, the largest nonprofit health organization committed to saving lives from every cancer and improving the quality of life for people facing the disease. The role of Pantene is to help women grow long, strong*, beautiful hair and provide the funds to turn this hair into free, real-hair wigs for women with cancer. So far, Pantene has donated 24,000 free real-hair wigs to the American Cancer Society’s wig banks, which distribute wigs to cancer patients across the country. To see if you are eligible to receive a free wig or if there are wigs available in your area, please call the American Cancer Society’s Wig Bank Line at 1-877-227-1596.

Here are pictures of our pre-cut hair:

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Here are the new looks:

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So far I am really loving my new hair and I’ve been having fun trying new things that didn’t work with long hair!