Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Friday in Africa

We sang with the kids at the school—for the last time for most of the team. Most of the kids showed up in their bright yellow hoodies. The LS kids presented a program to us as a thank-you and good-bye.

All the kids did a great job singing and dancing, but my favorite was an older girl who recited the 23rd Psalm. Her voice was strong and powerful, and very moving.

It was then time to say good-bye to the kids. It was a pretty emotional farewell. A lot of the Americans were either misty-eyed or crying, and some of the LS kids even broke down.

After piling in a big bus for our 5-6 hours journey to Lusaka, we waved good-bye one last time to the kids lining the rock pathway.

The rest of the day was spent sitting very closely to one another in the bus. Halfway through our journey, we stopped at a grocery store and bought groceries for lunch, since the restaurant we were going to eat at was too busy.

We picked out lunch meat, bread, chips, cookies, fruit, and yogurt. I am sure that our mob of white American was quite the spectacle in this busy grocery store, but it was an interesting experience.

Especially when a group of us had to go to the bathroom.

“Expect a very thorough pat-down,” David warned us.

He was right! Before using the bathrooms, we had to stand with our arms held out while a lady literally patted every facet of our body to make sure we didn’t have a gun or stolen item hiding in a crevice. I must say it’s the first time I’ve been through something like that!

However, while slightly uncomfortable, it is these experiences that are memorable and eye-opening to their culture.

After buying the groceries, we loaded back up onto the bus and created a lot of crumbs from the sandwiches and chips… enjoyed the sweet-tasting fruit and yogurt, and devoured the cookies. A lot of us talked, played Euchre, read books, or napped for the remainder of the trip. At one point, I was given the floor to administer a verbal Myers-Briggs personality assessment. I was so excited to talk about this with a bunch of willing listeners—it was like a dream come true! Personality types never grow old for me…

By the time we arrived at Eureka Game Park in Lusaka, it was around 5pm and getting dark outside. We wouldn’t have time for a game ride L but we did entertain ourselves for a few minutes with a giant pile of corn cobs.

We climbed to the very top and did some group jumping. Then, after one of the boys did a back flip, Luke decided to take a whack at it and literally almost whacked his head off. The top of his forehead hit a piece of wood while he flipped, and the read of his forehead was scraped and bleeding. After nursing his wounds, we ordered dinner and settled into our chalets.

The chalets were nice—some had several beds and others just 2 or 3 depending on who was staying together. We met up as a team and ate dinner, and then grouped up in one of the bigger chalets for devotions and share time. David Z. talked about evangelism during his devotions, and then we all had the opportunity to go around and share what we felt God was teaching us on this trip to Africa.

It was very encouraging to see how each and every person had something different they were experiencing. God is so big and works in each individual’s heart in unique ways, and it is always exciting to me to see how He speaks to us all personally.

For me, this trip had been interesting thus far. I wrote in a previous blog entry that while I was excited for my 2nd trip for Africa, I was hoping that my expectations from my previous trip wouldn’t be shattered when this trip was completely different.

I will say that this trip was definitely different from my first in a lot of ways. The first and most obvious was the fact that since I had been here before, nothing was new to me. The unique culture differences, the places, the faces, the kids… even the travel. I had done all of it before. And while it had been done before, you can’t recreate something that has already happened. This is neither good nor bad, but as a lover of new things, new places, and new experiences, this “newness factor” of shock and awe did not exist for me on this trip.

Furthermore, I remember from last time that I had to do a lot of processing. Seeing the church, the kids, the school, the compound, the living conditions, and hearing the stories of a lot of the African people had my heart in knots. I had to think through all of that and come to terms with the fact that different cultures operate in different ways. I had to examine my own life and consider that just because God had blessed me with food, clothes, and “wealth,” this was not cause to feel guilty but a call to responsibility. I had to look into the eyes of orphan children and instead of wanting to cry or shout that it is not fair, I had to hug them and love them and pray for their hearts as they grow in this country.

So without the newness of the culture or a lot of heavy processing, I felt a little more prepared this time for what was in store. In light of this, when David asked us to pray about what it was God was trying to show us on this trip, I felt a little bit at a loss until I realized all that God had done for me on this journey and what He was saying to me.

In the first place, when I told Sheila I wanted to make it work to come back to Africa on this particular trip, I was a bit hesitant because I knew I had to come out a few days later than the team and I was hoping for a travel buddy or two. She had just been to Arizona visiting, and had been hiking with my cousin, Stefanie, who mentioned her daughter might be interested in going.

Sheila passed this along to me. However, she said, “Your cousin is interested in going,” so I automatically assumed she meant my older cousin. I said something to her (Whitney), and then realized she meant her own daughter (Kailey) who is so interested in missions and travel. As it turned out, both of them were elated and excited for the chance to visit Africa! And they would be my travel companions.

I mentioned the trip to Heather, who was on my team last year, and she was excited to be able to work out coming along with us. She has been an awesome addition to our trip and really clicked and connected with my cousins.

I knew that this was such an amazing opportunity for my cousins, and I was so excited to share this experience with them. It’s awesome to see how God works it all out.

The other insight God laid on my heart was what I shared with the team—the fact that our VBS topic—being a TRUTH seeker—is rock solid, and as believers who BELIEVE it, why are we not more adamant in sharing it? A convicting truth to me lately is that if I believe everything I say I do, why am I not more concerned about all of the souls I know who aren’t going to Heaven?

We do not save; we do not having saving powers. Jesus saves, but we can be instruments. We can be lights. We can shine Jesus. And in a dark world, a little light makes a big difference.

Another area is trust and faith. In America, it’s easy to become self-sufficient to the point where we don’t “need” God. I have breakfast every morning, a car to drive to work, a job, and a life of security. Where does God fit into that? At what point do I rely fully on Him to meet my basic needs? Most days, I don’t… to my shame. I envy those in the far corners of the Earth who do not have food or water every day, because their Faith must always be strong.

Yet, that is no excuse. We are called to decrease so God can increase. I am called to diminish my SELF so God can be exalted and His glory may be revealed.

After share-time, we all walked back to our chalets for bed. Upon entrance, Heather just about had a heart attack when she spotted a huge spider on our wall. She promptly ran away to recruit some boys to help her take care of it. A team of 4 came to our rescue and exterminated the creature.

A few minutes later when I came back into the bedroom ready for bed, Heather had pushed our beds together.

“We’re sleeping close tonight,” she told me.

And we did.

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