Like everywhere else in the world, we’ve watched fuel prices climb pretty steadily in Togo over the past few years.  Putting off the inevitable pinch, I had not put any fuel in our car since we returned from Ghana almost two weeks ago.  Yesterday I pulled into the local Total station with each of our Toyota Prado’s two tanks less than ¼ full.  I didn’t even want to think about filling both tanks, but I didn’t set a limit as the attendants at the station began pumping.  (There’s no such thing as self-service here, although there was one station in Benin where they would let me pump my own.)  I had them stop the pumping at 40,000 francs (about $75).  I had not even completely filled one of the tanks.

As the numbers on the new gas pumps clicked rapidly away, I noticed that the service station attendants were laughing among themselves.  I soon discovered what they were laughing about – they were just amused that, in a matter of seconds, I had spent more on diesel fuel than they made in an entire month!  I was humbled and even a little embarrassed by this fact.  These guys are not bums.  They have to be fairly well educated and are probably looked at by others as having good jobs, just by virtue of the fact that they have a steady income.  They speak at least two, but probably three or more languages.  But within less than a minute, I had spent what was to them a lot of money on fuel which, if I am lucky, will last until we sell our car in a week or so.

I’m not real sure what I’m getting at here.  We need our cars for our lives and ministries, or so we tell ourselves.  Even if I gave my car to the local brethren instead of selling it before I leave, it would be absolutely useless to them.  There is no way they could pay to operate it, much less maintain it.  But it does make me wonder why our needs are so much greater than theirs.

It also reminds me to reflect a little before I complain about paying for luxuries.  Thanks to generous supporters, I can put fuel in the car.  And if I couldn’t, like the Africans, I would find another way to live.

Maybe what I am learning is that I need to be more intentional about my lifestyle.  I have no idea what resources I will have to live on in the States.  I’m not even sure what I’m going to do for a long-term job, though I’m confident that God will provide.  When he does, it may be a little, or it may be a lot.  If it’s a little, maybe the choices will be easier.  If it is more, then I’ll need to think hard about what is needed and what is truly useful—what helps and what hinders living a full life.  And never forget those who will never have a credit card to swipe as they wince and push the “Fill” button at the gas pump.

 

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