Here we are again....almost 8 months later, after my previous post. I have indeed started multiple posts, about Kilimanjaro last May/June, about the end of my time in Madagascar last October, and about my processing journey since then, December, and yet finally here we are - 8 months later and I am sitting in Aweil, South Sudan having not ACTUALLY posted in 8 months.
I find it hard to decide if this should be a 'life update' in terms of life events or in terms of the mental and spiritual processing and growth. Hmm, can we include a bit of both? If you can bare it if I jump around a bit?
So last we left I was headed to Kilimajaro last May, right? right. ok. Great. It was great. really, really great. It was 7 days of walking outside on a giant, awesome mountain with only the handful of people in our group disturbing the awesomeness of God's creation and the highest point on the African continent and highest free standing mountain in the world. I was very thankful for my training that I had endured the months leading up to the trip. As well as the painstaking planning and preparation I had done to pack my bag with all the important items as well as to avoid carrying any non-essential items. This process involved many online orders being sent to CA where my parents helped me evaluate the orders (via skype tryon sessions), packed my suitcase, sought out specific items I requested and then sent it across the country to the parents of one of my work colleagues who were going to come and visit her and willing to hand carry mypiece of luggage with my things into the country to ensure (or at least make it less likely) that nothing was stolen in the process of me getting my items.
In the end it took a village to get me well prepped for the hike, and the hike itself was far easier than any aspect of the preparation. I LOVED IT. Except for how expensive it was, which is a major deterrent for doing the whole thing again. Yes, it was hard, yes, it took lots of time and energy to plan, book, get there and do it, and recovery time after, but how beautiful, peaceful, challenging, and rewarding an experience it was.
My favorite kind of experiences.
While in Tanzania, I was able to visit with and meet the family of a friend I met the first time I was in Tanzania in 2004 when I did a trip right after high school graduation. How fun to get to meet up with one of our translators from that trip, with whom I have remained in contact and get to stay with his family and meet his 4 kids and remarkable wife and other family members. I was also able to meet up with the missionary couple Harold and Connie who many of you may know and who started Hope of the Nations.
They are beyond amazing and had way more energy than I did when I was the one on vacation! I loved getting to hangout and follow them around for a few days seeing the awe-inspiring work they do and teams they have built and simply get to BE there.
Be still. Listen. Be. I ended up staying in a missions compound that was built for large visiting groups, big rooms with lots of beds, large bathrooms and joint kitchen and living area, made for western groups (i.e. with modern conveniences) of perhaps 30 or more in one building. I stayed there alone, with no internet connection.
Bliss. Pure bliss. No expectations, no disturbing anyone, no adapting to anyone else's habits or ''-isms''. It was movie night every night!! :)
Anyway, clearly you get the idea, my trip to Tanzania last spring was a lovely one. I returned for a matter of weeks to work in Madagascar before jumping back to the US for my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary celebration and family reunion. This was also wonderful and a very rare special occasion. Lots of fun times now that I have 4 nieces and nephews (though at the time it was only 3).
Thanks brothers for doing all the work of having and taking care of the kids and letting me play and have all the fun. :)
Then I headed back to Mada to complete my contract by early October and see where I might be headed next. The final months in the 4th largest island in the world, off the east coast of the African continent were not the best I have had in life. To put it simply and mildly, my time there was excruciatingly challenging in about every way imaginable. I am very thankful for the few supportive connections I did have there with indoor soccer and church, who I relied heavily on. I did finish my time with a great deep field trip visit, sloshing through deep mud and water as well as some fun travel with one of my friends and colleagues with whom I had worked in Afghanistan.We traveled up and down the western side of the island.
I also spent the last couple of month rather ill, hoping to make it back to the States for treatment I did little other than march on, until it was a bit much and eventually tried to get some in country treatment. I recovered somewhat in my final few weeks, and was more than ready to end my time in the sub-tropical land of Baobab trees and lemurs. (FYI lemurs are friendly. Too friendly. And they are NOT afraid of you. Guard all personal items and food with extreme care and at your own risk.)
And so, we arrive back to 'merica. To keep this part short...It was good.
Ok, to make it slightly longer.....from October 4th to January 12th I was no where for more than 2 weeks at a time. California, Montana, California, Cuba, Massachusetts, California (north), Montana, California (south), Washington DC, South Sudan. You get the idea.
I got to be around for my 2nd niece's birth in October, see many family members, have a GREAT trip to Cuba IN SPITE of (cough, cough --stupid America's) current political sanctions and blocks on travel to Cuba. It is not a trip to be expressed via social media (though I did do minimal posts) so feel free to ask me about this one when next you see me.
Christmas, time with family, and just eating and resting well,
The Lord has walked with me through all areas of my life and I have recently been moving through new territory. My recent working experience as I mentioned, was challenging to say the least, and watching where I landed when I came out of that was totally unpredictable to me. Ya know, sometimes you just know that you know something and it is relatively easy to advance in that particular belief.
Then, other times, you are faced with a choice of believing what you think you know based on your personal experience, OR believing that which someone else tells you is the truth of the matter. Well, if you know me, I am not exactly someone seeking other's opinions, a bit more apt to seek, ask questions, challenge, and find my own perspective on things.
Thus, one resulting question I was left debating after my 'character building year' (as I now refer to it) in said island nation, was how to reconcile what God says about Himself in the Bible with my perception of the experiences I had there.
Sometimes to grow, we have to hit our boundaries. I definitely hit an outer bound in the box I put God in. I will spare you my analytical mind, but all this to say, growing can be hard, and painful, but also very rewarding and exciting stepping into new territory. Thus, I have spent the last few months trying to understand how to realign my perceptions of my experience with what I claim I believe. Simpy put, getting what I say and what I do on the same page. I have not yet arrived at this place, but I feel much lighter after the 'house cleaning' God and I have done, and well prepared to step into the next 'thing' of life.
Having said all that, I just want to handout the encouragement to all of you to take the time for yourself every so often to BE STILL. To CLEANSE your mental, spiritual hearts and minds. Western culture does not place high value on these things. It only de-values you when you suffer the consequences of NOT doing these self-care actions. When you can't handle stress well, are easily angered or frustrated, not continuously in wonderful spirits, etc. But also don't kid yourself, all the best motivations, inspiration and perspective come from knowing and interacting with Jesus Himself.
Ok, so writing this from South Sudan, how am I here you might ask? Well, good question, I am still a bit in shock as from the time I became aware of the job I am doing to when I was boarding a plane was 7 days. From the time I was offered the job to when I was on a plane was less than 5 days. Fast. ya. To put it simply, as I am still in progress of this part of the update, I had planned to start a completely different job in early January, my expectations changed so that I contacted Medair to see if they had a short term posting I could help fill and volia, here I am. I also might add that my entry permit was the fastest one they have ever gotten (in less than 48 hours) when they have hundreds of rotating staff in the country, that is the Lord making away!
Ok, I would say that is quite enough for one update. More on my current location next time.
Warmest regards to all you back in winterland parts of the world from our 80F winter!
Please stay in touch and forgive any terrible grammar and spelling in this post. I just needed to get it out!
From your over analytical, slow postin - but fast workin',