When I moved in with an African family two years ago, I expected that one of my weekly adventures would be washing my laundry by hand. I was wrong. Though Stephanie gradually taught me other chores, such as lighting a charcoal stove, winnowing rice, and cooking traditional dishes, she always insisted on washing my laundry herself, saying I wasn’t strong enough for the heavy labor. When I’d offer to help, she’d sometimes assign me to rinse or hang clothes on the line, but more often preferred to do everything herself.

Last year when I was away for a few weeks, Stephanie actually missed washing my laundry — so much so that she made up for it by washing the laundry of her daughter who normally does her own! Clearly, Stephanie relishes the opportunity to show her love for me by making my clothes sparkling clean. And I do mean sparkling clean. I’ve been repeatedly amazed by the miracles she’s worked on stubborn stains. I have never known a machine to wash my laundry as thoroughly as Stephanie does.

Nevertheless, for Stephanie’s birthday last week, I decided to show my love for her by giving her a washing machine. I’d discussed this plan with Bonifácio weeks earlier, but it was only the day before the celebration that we found time to shop together. Further, we arrived downtown just minutes before the shops closed for their two-hour lunch break. I felt frustrated as I dashed into a couple of stores to snap quick photos of washing machines that were smaller and more expensive than I’d hoped to buy. Here in Africa, there’s no guarantee of finding what you want locally.

But God turned the tables as only He can do. We passed another store that was still open, and found that it stocked many washing machines of a reliable brand that fit both my specifications and my budget ($500). With a thankful heart I bought one and took it home. Between supper and dessert, the menfolk carried it in from the car and presented it to Stephanie. Predictably, she was thrilled! She even managed to figure out what it was before removing the box top, because she read the foreign label, “Washing Machine,” which had been among the English vocabulary I’d taught her last year.

Our home was designed without a laundry room, but we found a spot for the machine in our kitchen. Bonifácio will call a plumber to install the connections necessary for it to function. Then I’ll teach Stephanie how to use it, just as I’ve taught the family how to use all the other devices I’ve brought into the home. Once it’s in use, we can see how well it measures up to the standard of cleanliness set by Stephanie’s years of diligent, loving handwashing of our laundry.

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