I am an introvert. I prefer to let people come to me. That creates a small problem here in Ivory Coast, because visiting is a very important part of Ivorian culture. As a new comer, I am expected to go on these trips. Once we visited a local pastor. Another time we visited the family of friends from church. Every time, I say the few phrases I know in French and then just sit and watch what others do. Not too hard, but really kind of boring. It wasn't until this past Sunday that I understood why it was so important.
Phil, one of the leaders, invited me to come with him to visit Jahn, a beekeeper and one of the gardeners on the ICA campus. Everything was pretty standard.
- Bon Arivee (Welcome) Have some water.
- Thank you.
- What is the news?
- Nothing serious, just came to visit.
- Ah good. Please meet my mother, my wife, my daughters, and my son.
- Glad to meet you. My name is Drew. I'm a documentary film-maker.
This is where my French runs out and I begin to watch while straining to understand a few words of the conversation. But as the conversation came to a close, Phil turned to me and translated the last of what Jahn had said.
"I am very content at your visit. I am glad you came to see me and my family, my house and our garden. I am very content. Visiting is very important here in Cote d'Ivoire. When you come to visit it means that person is important. It gives them value. So I am very glad you came to visit me."
Value? What did I do? I sat here? Could it be so simple? Could something more be going on in these visitation? How do I give a person value just by visiting them?
In the car ride back, these questions kept rolling through my head. One of the main ideas that I want to covey through my videos is the value of the people here, that they aren't to be pitied, that they are worthy of more than just our gently used goods. I want people to see the value that God gave them when He created us all.
I'm still not sure how to do that in a video, but I'm learning visit by visit that somehow the presence of friends and strangers coming, talking, seeing you in your home brings worth and value. And I think that transfer of value goes both ways.