I’m sure just about everyone has had one of those “small world” experiences. You know, the kind where you go to the grocery store on vacation and find out the cashier was your mother’s cousin’s dog-sitter .  Since Tiffany and I have done a lot of traveling, we seem to often have these kind of experiences quite often. However, the one we had recently beats them all.

A few months ago Tiffany was spontaneously invited by a new neighborhood friend to a summertime free lunch for kids put on by the elementary school nearby.  This was at the same elementary school that I attended as a kid, by the way.  So as Tiffany and Joshua were eating and meeting people, she noticed a lady with wearing a skirt that screamed African. African ladies typically wear very colorful hand-sewn skirts, called pagnés, that are wrapped around and tied at the waist.  Tiffany studied her for a few minutes then finally couldn’t stand it any longer, she had to ask.  Obviously, this could be very socially awkward if the lady was not from Africa, but Tiffany decided to take the risk and use her skirt to start the conversation.

“Hi there, I couldn’t help but notice your skirt.  It looks like it’s from Africa.”

“Yes, it is in fact!  I am from Africa.”

“What country?”

“Togo.”

Tiffany then did what could only be described as “freaking out.”  You might not realize just how unbelievable this encounter was, so let me put it into perspective for you:

  • • Togo is one of the least known countries in the world (along with places like Bahrain, Eritrea, and Azerbaijan), with a population of only around 6 million people.
  • • Most Togolese don’t get far from home, usually never leaving West Africa.
  • • They didn’t meet in a melting pot metropolis like Toronto, L.A., or even nearby Portland.  This was a small elementary school in Battle Ground, Washington of all places (my hometown, thank you!).  To think that there is a family from Togo, Africa living in a rural town of 17,000 people is quite incredible!

After trying for a couple months to work out a time to get together with them, we finally went to their house (5 minutes away!) last Saturday evening.  Walking into their house was like being 7,500 miles away in an instant.  We struck up a conversation in Togolese French (which is much different from European French) and didn’t stop all evening.  It was so nice to speak French again!  Tiffany and I were both very surprised at how quickly it came back to us.

We learned that they came to the States as refugees after some civil unrest in the 1990s.  All their five kids have grown up here and consider this home.  But for Louis and Victorine (the parents), Togo is definitely still home.  They told us about how much they miss it, and explained their dream to return one day and set up businesses in Togo.

Oh, and I can’t forget the food!  I’ll be honest here, I really don’t like most of the food in Togo. I’ll force myself to eat just about anything (like dog, cat, and donkey) but that doesn’t mean I like it.

Plantain Fufu

Even the more “normal” meals in Togo are waaay down on my list of things I would choose to eat.  One of these daily staple foods is fufu.Joshua and Tiffany love it, but I find that it tastes like wet and dirty bread dough.  Here’s a good video that explains what fufu is, how to eat it, and some of the customs that go along with it.

The dinner we had on Saturday night came as a huge surprise to me.  I expected to choke down the fufu, but I found that I really enjoyed it.  She made two types of sauces to go along with it, a peanut sauce with chicken and a spinach sauce with shrimp.  Delicious!

We hope to see them many more times before we head back to Togo, and we are praying that God opens up opportunities for us to get involved in their lives by being the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus to them.