I just spent my seventh Thanksgiving on the African continent. (note: yes, a previous post said eighth. unintentional math fail. apologies to every math teacher I ever had)
2011 Sierra Leone
2013 Republic of Congo
This is not the life I dreamed of as a little kid. This is not the road I ever imagined I would walk. Looking back at the twists and turns and surprises I feel nothing but gratitude. Maybe that is why I have made it back to the states occasionally throughout the last seven years for other holidays but never Thanksgiving.
So what is next?
If you remember this post in 2014 we were supposed to be in Guinea, and then in Benin, but ended up in Madagascar. This stunning country was never on my radar and while I still grieve for Guinea I am eternally grateful to have experienced this incredible place and her beautiful people, her beautiful beaches, her uniquely different culture and customs and weather patterns and personalities. The relaxed pace of life in this small coastal city is entirely different to the chaos of the large port cities in other countries. There are so many things to do and places to see and beauty to experience, it has been such a joy to be a part of this place for two years.
We will continue to serve here in Madagascar until we sail away in June, 2016, for a stop in South Africa and then onward to our next destination. Benin.
When I left Benin after serving there over two years filled with blood, sweat, tears, sickness, love, pain, and joy; when I said goodbye to the people I had loved on and lived with and poured myself into; when I flew away into the next adventure, I never thought I would return. I didn’t really want to return. And when we were scheduled to return in 2014 I was simultaneously sick with fear and filled with excitement. I left a piece of my heart in Benin, my first Africa experience, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. So after making peace with it all in 2014 and looking forward, after that trip was cancelled in 2014 I once again thought the return to the place that tried to take me out but only made me stronger was slipping through my fingers. I put all that hope on a shelf, wondering if it would ever be needed.
But here we are, pulling it back off the shelf and dusting it off, planning our next field service while entrenched in the current one; we are scheduled to sail into Cotonou, Benin in August or September 2016. I’m excited. I’m excited because much of what was so hard before – seeing so much need and not being able to do anything about it – won’t be as hard this time. I’m excited to visit my village and other villages and help make surgery and childbirth safer. I’m excited for $0.25 beans and palm oil sauce at Mama’s mud hut kitchen; I’m excited for beautiful fabrics, for Secret Shawarma, and Beninoise in a bottle; and most of all I am excited for the beautiful men, women, and children who will be able to experience hope and healing for perhaps the very first time.
It’s a privilege and an honor to continue on this path. Thank you for your support – financial, emotional, and physical – and encouragement as I continue to put one foot in front of the other and seek to honor God with every step.