We arrived at the Jinja Full Gospel Church on Sunday morning, and I have to say that I was quite excited about going to church. In fact, it was one of the things that I was looking forward to on this trip...sitting in church. I've missed a few services over the last three years and that's okay, but I thought this would not be an issue in Africa. I was wrong!
Go read Sumer's post here to hear how we "taught" Sunday School in Uganda. It was quite a hoot, and she forgot to mention the chickens that were walking around behind the children or maybe she didn't notice them, but I did. In fact, if I were a true southern baptist...I would have counted those chickens in attendance;)
I have to say that this was one of my favorite moments on the trip. It seemed so funny that God would bring us all the way to Uganda to do what we do every week. But in that moment I knew that God didn't want me anywhere else but standing on a concrete ledge with just a few children "teaching" Sunday School.
All this week, I have struggled with Africa. I'm not sure what to make of the place. I was expecting for God to give me a huge word and a big vision for a ministry that I would partner with there...I got nothing. I was expecting to love every minute of my time there, and I did not. I was going to have this huge mountain top mission trip experience, and I did not. Life in Africa is hard, and I have to keep reminding myself that God didn't send me to Africa to fix the place:) Today I looked back to see what I wrote in my journal for January 3, 2010 and it said this....
Met Nabukeera Mary yesterday, and then I saw a double rainbow...only God.
My friend Teresa decided to sponsor a child this past November through Amazima Ministries in memory of her daughter Rebekah. Her family does something special for someone else on Rebekah's birthday each year and they call it Rebekah's Rainbow. You can read the background here. Teresa received the information about her sponsored child just a few weeks before I left and sent me with a small package and letter to give to Mary just in case I met her when we went to Katie's house.
I mentioned to Katie early in the day that I was looking for Nabukeera Mary. I actually showed her the package with her name on it because I really didn't know how to say her name. She immediately knew who she was and started asking around for her. She wasn't there yet. I mentioned to her again around mid-day and still no Mary. We were nearing the end of our day at Katie's house and were getting things cleaned up. I had layed the package on the table, and I thought that Katie could just give it to her the next time she was there. I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to meet her because I knew that it would be a thrill for Lydia to have her picture.
And then Katie walked in the house and said, "Who was looking for Nabukeera Mary? She's here."
So I met Nabukeera Mary.
I read her the letter from Teresa. Many have said that she looks sad in this picture. I'm not saying she's happy, but I would just like to point out that I'm a crazy excited white woman with a package and tears.
Little stuffed bears and rainbow bracelets cross all language barriers.
We brought her in the house and sized her up.
And gave her a new pair of shoes.
New shoes cross language barriers too:)
We said our good-byes and I thought that was the end of meeting Nabukeera Mary. We left Katie's house and when we got back to the Kingfisher, our leader had reserved us a boat ride on Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria is beautiful and we saw lots of colorful birds and creatures. The sky was clear and sunny for most of that Saturday and about halfway through our tour of Lake Victoria, we saw this....
Rebekah's Rainbow in Africa...
He was speaking all the time, and I just wasn't listening.
Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
It was finally Saturday morning, and we would walk the dirt road to Katie's house a little early to get the 400 pairs of shoes that Soles4Souls had donated for Katie's Saturday program in some kind of organized fashion.
We weren't there long before we met Katie, and she informed us that she had not had power for the last two days...this is Africa:) She quickly found Sumer this really cool flashlight and we started unpacking the shoes.
We had some happy helpers along the way.
We had a footwashing station.
We had a shoe sizing station.
And we had a shoe fitting station.
I was a shoe fitter for a good part of the day, and I loved every minute of it. It was nothing but pure joy to put a brand new pair of shoes on a child that walked in the door barefoot. I sometimes had trouble getting these hard stiff shoes on their barefeet and often wondered why they had such trouble getting these shoes on their feet. I desperately needed a shoehorn;) I would say wiggle a little bit or push a little bit or stand up and maybe it will go on then. (Of course, they couldn't understand a word I was saying so I did the old tried and true method of JUST TALKING LOUDER.) Katie was sitting next to the chair and said these words, "I could just cry over these kids getting these shoes because most of them have never had shoes before."
And then it hit me...
They didn't really know how to "try" on shoes because they had never had shoes. They didn't know how to do the wiggle, push & run down the aisle and make sure they fit right routine. When you finally found a good fit and they were all done, some would thank me and some would just look at me like why is this crazy white woman yelling, "I need a size 8, can you get me a size 8 in black, this size won't work." And then there was the little girl that popped out of her chair, wrapped her arms around my neck and said these words with the most thankful and joyful heart...
Thank you, Auntie!
And I started the ugly cry because of her thankful heart. She was thankful for her ugly black shoes that looked like boy shoes that she needed to have for school. And I will thank my God everytime I remember her...Phillipians 1:3.
We arrived at the Entebbe airport and we stepped outside to find these little guys...
Monkeys at the airport...only in Africa;)
How many white people can you fit on a bus in Africa?
Not enough because some had to ride on the luggage truck.
Normally, I'm a ride in the back of a truck kinda girl but not in Africa.
We finally made it to the Kingfisher in Jinja.
It truly is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
It was time to check into our hut;)
Sumer & I shared room #1 in the hut and Tabby & Alicia shared room #2 in the hut.
We had a bed and our own bathroom.
and of course, we had our mosquito net. We got into bed and tucked our mosquito net in around the edges to keep the creatures out. Not mosquitos but frogs, lizards, spiders, etc. We laughed because here we were in Africa sleeping under a net. It seemed like it took so long to get to this place and we were so ready to get to the real reason we came to Africa...to care for orphans. It was almost time to go to Katie's house.
Finally! We had landed on the continent that I had been thinking about for so long, and I was anxious to get my first whiff of the African air...
but before we could smell the african air we had to wait.
When we got in yet another line of waiting it was then that Sumer looked at me and said for the first time, "This is Africa" and indeed it was. We were now in the land where no one and I mean no one is in a hurry to do anything. It took a long time to get outside and smell the air. When we finally got outside it was very dark, and I have to admit that I felt a little scared. Dorothy was not in Kansas anymore. While many think that Africa smells like I wood, my memory of the smell of Africa will always be of exhaust fumes and smoke.
We stayed one night at the Ethiopian Guest Home and the next morning we were on on our way back to the airport to take our flight to Uganda. By this time, I was feeling good and excited to get there. I was also feeling more comfortable about flying. The plane was not very full, and I even sat by myself so I could maybe take a nap.
Let's just say that I did not take a nap on this flight and by the end of it, I was white knuckling the seat in front of me and praying out loud in Jesus name for Him to get control of the plane...my comfort about flying was gone. Forever gone. I made it very clear to God that I wanted to go to Africa, I didn't want to die there.
I read this passage about Peter this morning, and I immediately laughed at my fear...
But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” 31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those who were in the boat came and[c] worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
It was now time for us to get our seat assignments so that we could leave on the one and only Ethiopian Airlines...
And I'm just going to be honest and tell you that I was more nervous than an Ethiopian lamb sitting next to Sumer Yates with a $50 dollar bill in her hand.
We were handed our tickets and the Lord allowed me to sit between Sumer & Alicia. He knew that I needed to feel the security of sitting between two of my best friends to make it through my first 15 hour flight. Sumer was always prepared to sit next to me during the flight because her exact words were... I prefer to sit next to the crazy that I know.
Mission Trip Tip #2-No one gets on a 15 hour flight without one of these handy dandy neck pillows. (Tracey-I washed it last night and it's all yours.)
And then it was time for our first taste of Africa. Sumer had mentioned earlier that surely they would not serve fish on the flight because oh, the horrible smell of fish would be trapped on the airplane.
This picture is titled: The chicken is finished, you must have fish.
Our tickets were booked at different times so Tabby's seats were not always close to ours. She had to sit next to a stranger and I felt guilty about this. (Tabby-God knew that you were more mature then me and more mentally stable.) Tabby would probably suggest that you make a "do not disturb" sign for your face because they don't care if you're sleeping or not, if it's time to eat, it's time to wake up and eat.
So you may wonder what you do on a 15 hour flight? Some read, some listen to iPods, some watch movies, some talk, some play games and some sleep. Jesse Lee took this picture, and I have no memory of sleeping in this position. Sumer would tell you that when I did sleep, I layed all over her and then she just had to figure out how to sleep around me. FYI-Alicia has perfected how to sleep in the upright position without touching your neighbor. You might want to consult her for a few travel sleeping tips.
I made it through this flight, and I was so ready to finally be in Africa. Little did I know that my first taste of Africa would be what Africa is really all about....
I know some of you are wondering how long it will take to get to the real reason we went to Africa. We really do get to work with orphans eventually. Your patience is appreciated:)
Well, I'm finally home from Africa. My big plans to blog along the way didn't happen, which is all kinda funny now. I had also checked with my cell phone provider and was assured that my phone would be able to send and receive text messages while I was there too...many phones worked, mine did not. I'm quite sure that it was God's way of cleansing me from my cell phone addiction so that I could focus on what He wanted me to do and see while I was there. It was quite freeing never having to keep up with that cell phone. So much so that I forgot to take it to church with me today:)
But I'm home now and it's time to tell the story of my time in Africa. It seems like we left so long ago but the time went by so fast. I'm going to try and write about this trip like I would anything else. I know many of you have trips planned in the near future so I hope to give you a little glimpse of what's in store and maybe you'll even get a few helpful hints along the way.
So, it all started with a trip to the airport...
Visiting Orphans plans trips all over the world and anyone can sign up to go on a trip with them. These are all of the people from the Nashville area. This is right before we got on our plane to DC. When I look at this picture now, I think everyone looks so clean and fresh. And my hair looks like it should...nice & poufy. It never looked like that again.
We got on our puddle jumper plane and headed to DC. We quickly scoped out the restaurant situation for lunch and dinner. We had lunch at Chipotle and then we spent a lot of time walking around the airport. I decided that I needed to buy a wedding ring because I had left my diamond at home and my hand felt necked.
Here I am buying a sterling silver wedding band for $20. Nothing says redneck like buying your own wedding ring in the airport. I also bought some Obama postcards for some special people. I hope the man at the Borders book store really mailed them like he said he would.
We were anxiously awaiting for Jesse, the final member of the TSC team to arrive. He was flying in from Raleigh so we decided that we would greet him at the gate. For future reference, it's a smart idea to take a 6 foot 5 redneck from North Carolina to Africa. He was just handy to have around. This man carried many bags for us and made sure that we were always safe. We ended up nicknaming him Papa Duck because he was always making sure we were where we needed to be and we followed behind him wherever he went. We spent the rest of our time meeting the other members of the team that were flying in and then we ate our last meal at Five Guys Cheeseburgers.
We spent the last little bit of time freshening up in the DC bathroom before the big 15 hour flight. Have I mentioned how clean the bathrooms were in that airport? I have a new appreciation for bathrooms and toilet paper wherever I go.
Mission Trip Hint #1: When they give you the list of things to bring on your trip and you see toilet paper...fyi- they really mean it.
Stay tuned for the next Africa installment as we find out who gets to sit next to me...the very nervous flyer.