IVEP fosters mutual learnings

Insight from IVEP hosts

A young man smiles for a photo with an older couple

Editor’s note: Norman and Carol Spicher Waggy of Goshen, Indiana, are currently hosting IVEPer Zozahbe Guy Kagonbe, who is from Chad. Top photo: From left: Carol Spicher Waggy, Zozahbe Guy Kagonbe and Norman Spicher Waggy. Photo courtesy of Zozahbe Guy Kagonbe

Riding on planes and trains, experiencing temperatures lower than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, learning how to use modern kitchen appliances, swimming pools and hot tubs, lawns and lawn mowers, canoeing, camping, and sailing—these are a few of the things that were new! We host Zozahbe Guy Kagonbe through MCC’s IVEP program, and we have enjoyed introducing him to many new experiences.

Guy is from Chad. We have been so fortunate to share this year with him. One of those serendipitous things that have helped our mutual understanding was our own experience of living in Nigeria for five years. It turns out that Guy’s village (Lere, Chad) and the one that we lived in (Garkida, Nigeria) are only 150 miles apart as the crow flies. So his descriptions of that village and his culture and lifestyle seemed very familiar to us, and he appreciates the similarity of our experiences.  

We have had many discussions comparing our cultures and have shared openly with him about our own family, our finances, our faith and our biases, telling him often that we are not the typical U.S. family because of our Anabaptism, pacifism and theological questioning of our wealthy lifestyle.

Travel is important to us, and we wanted Guy to experience other parts of this huge nation beyond the Midwest. In addition to day trips to Chicago and Indianapolis, we flew with him to visit Zion, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon national parks, as well as Hoover Dam and Las Vegas. He recognized that human-built Las Vegas is glitzy and beautiful, but the national parks show God’s awesome creation, which cannot be imitated. We are planning a trip to Niagara Falls, New York City and Washington, D.C., during his spring break, returning through Appalachia. 

Two men standing for a photo in front of a large canyon
Norm and Guy visit Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Photo/Carol Spicher Waggy

Guy is a teachers’ aide at Bethany Christian School and is appreciated there. They have asked him to teach French to some of the elementary grades, and we have helped him put together a recipe for a Chadian stew that they will cook in one of his classes. Perhaps his least favorite time is playground supervision in sub-zero wind chills when the kids ask for help tying their shoes or zipping their coats!

The cold has been an adjustment. When he first arrived, the school’s air conditioning was disconcertingly cold. Being from Chad, he thinks in Celsius while we, of course, think in Fahrenheit. But we found another way to assess the temperature: We use “Guy’s Jacket Scale.” For example, temperatures around 80 Farenheit and up may still be a 1-jacket day and those lower than 40 degrees are 4- or 5-jacket days!

Seeing through Guy’s eyes, we appreciate even more the seasonal changes in Northern Indiana. The lush green, then gorgeous colors giving way to barren trees and beautiful snowfalls are gifts from God we see anew.

Guy’s discomfort with leaving apples on the ground under a friend’s tree helped us discuss the fact that many people in Chad struggle to find food for one meal a day while many here struggle to avoid obesity. We made applesauce and pear jam from friends’ unpicked fruit trees, and we recognize the wealth that allows us to have lawns instead of planting vegetable gardens in every square foot available.

Perhaps the best part of our time with Guy has been our many discussions around the dinner table. We have borrowed many movies from the library and often pause to explain more about a phrase or reference. We all appreciated the discussion of tradition following “Fiddler on the Roof,” the U.S. political system with “Wag the Dog,” World War II with “The Sound of Music” and disabilities with “Rain Man” and “Forest Gump.”  We discovered that Guy did not know about the events of the World Trade Center bombing on 9/11, Elvis, Niagara Falls or the Beatles. 

A man and woman sitting at a dinner table with a young man
From left: Norm, Carol and Guy have a meal together at home in Goshen, Indiana. Photo courtesy of Guy Kagonbe. 

We are currently only halfway through the year but look forward to many more good experiences and discussions with our son from Chad. We are thankful that none of us will be the same at the close of this year with IVEP.