Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Walk Through Malawi

This is the first trip I have been on, since starting my blog, that I haven't been able to post while out of country. It was a little weird.

And since this blog is as much for myself as anyone else, can I walk you through Malawi? K, thanks...

Malawi never made sense in my head. I signed up to go, not because it was logical, in fact, if you really thought about it, it was a pretty illogical choice. I didn't have enough money to go. It wasn't a strictly medical trip, which I had been saying I wanted to do. I knew that general area of Africa wasn't a place I had been particularly fond of in the past. It was only 2 weeks; I had loved going for longer periods of time in the past, and didn't really want to go back to being there for such a short period of time. I had trouble coming up with reasons to even sign up.

As I packed, stayed up until 2:00am, and drove to meet my team to head to the airport, my mind was never at peace with the trip. But my heart was, and that's how I found myself, almost 3 weeks ago now, on a plane, with 15 strangers and my best friend, headed to Malawi, Africa.

I stepped off the plane, half asleep, after maybe 2 hours of cumulative sleep over the 30 hour journey, and the first thing I noticed was the smell. Maybe I did inherit a bit of my mom's infamous supper sniffer, because that always seems to hit me when I get off of a plane. My first thoughts were of mixed emotions. A twinge of regret and longing washed over me. The smell was familiar; it was Africa. But something was missing... the salty sea and fish...I actually missed the smell of fish! Yes, my first thought was of Senegal and how I missed it and my life there. But that quick wave washed over me, and a second exciting and familiar feeling hit me... I was relaxed, I was set to a new pace, I was back. The deep, earthy, moist scent of Africa was again filling my nose. I had not one more regret from that moment forward.

We traveled to our compound and a welcome ceremony put on by the kids at a children's home that the organization we worked with ran. My team, most of whom were new to the continent, drank in the scenery, the people, the sights, the smells as we drove through the city. It was beautiful to watch their eyes light up as they experienced the place I love for the first time. I adored hearing their comments and laughter. I could almost feel their hearts opening to this beautiful country.

The welcome ceremony was beautiful. The kids sang and danced and were so happy to see us. The language was different. I knew it would be. It hit me then too; I couldn't understand these kids, and no matter how much I spoke to them in Wolof (oh and I tried) they wouldn't understand. I thought this would upset me too, but I was pleasantly surprised; I loved their little voices, their little hands, their smiles. I didn't care. I didn't feel like I needed my words. I loved not caring. We met the first of our special needs kids that day. "T" had a traumatic brain injury as an infant. Now, she rides in her wheelchair and needs help with just about everything she does. Except smiling. She loves music. Want a smile? Sing a song and she will light up. My heart melted as I sat down next to her.
This trip still made no sense in my head, but I wasn't following my head now. My heart had taken over, and it knew, HE knew, exactly where I was going and why I was there. He brought me to Malawi, and He always made sense...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Off again

As I find myself ready to leave for yet another trip overseas, I find myself often being asked, once again, the question I have struggled to answer each and every time. 'Which of my trips have been my favorite?"

I tell people, each time, that it is really hard for me to choose because they've all been so different. "but if you had to pick...?" they press.... Each of my trips have been so different, with such different trials, challenges, joys, successes, picking a favorite... impossible.

I usually end up picking the one I have been to the most or the longest, just out of familiarity and comfort with the culture and language. But I don't know that you could accurately call that my favorite... But then, the other day, my good friend, L, asked me about my previous trips in a different way. One with a longer answer, but one that I loved!

"Do you feel like you learned something different from each trip?"

Yes!! I loved that she asked that and I loved thinking about and answering it. Thinking back, there has always been at least one (often several) BIG thing I've learned on each trip. So, As I prepare for the next, I thank my friend, L, for causing me to reflect on these important, thrilling, and memorable times in my life.

Brazil 1- teamwork, opening eyes to the rest of the world

Brazil 2- Leadership

Canada- teaching, serving my teammates

Kenya- Overcoming fears, growing up

Senegal 1- spiritual warfare,  loving across language and cultural barriers

Senegal 2- Relying on Him alone, building relationships

Zimbabwe- serving, embracing unexpected opportunities

Malawi- His provision... and more to come...