Hey everyone! I'm back from Sudan, and I have to admit that I've kind of been avoiding updating my blog. It's kind of been a little bit of culture shock as I process the trip. I'm not entirely sure how exactly to put into words the things that I experienced and saw while I was in Africa. I will say that my 2 weeks overseas were life changing and eye opening, and I can't wait to to go back!
I decided that the best way to share my trip with you guys would be journal style over the course of a couple days. That way I don't bombard you with a super long post (although you guys know even my most random posts can be on the lengthy side) and pictures. So even though I'm home, safe and sound, I'm going to post excerpts from my journal as I wrote them while I was there.
Post 1:It's hard to believe that I'm really here, in Africa! What a whirlwind last few days its been! We arrived at Harvesters yesterday, and I am overcome with emotion as I write, just thinking about these beautiful children. I guess I'm getting ahead of myself though, as its been quite the process to get to this little place on the planet... We left Virginia on Saturday evening. Andy, the only non-Virginian on the trip, met us at Dulles and it was nice to finally have our entire team together for the first time. As we flew across the Atlantic ocean on our way to our first stop in Amsterdam, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and calm completely wash over me. I hate flying, but I could feel His presence covering me, as I tried best I could to prepare my heart for this journey ahead. There were so many things that were uncertain, so many questions I didn't know the answers to. I had no idea what to expect, as I've never been to Africa before... but instead of worry or fear, I felt excitement and peace, which contradicts my normal "must be in control" attitude. Praise God for that!
After a quick stop in Amsterdam (after our 8 hour flight), we boarded another plane headed for Nairobi, Kenya. The trip took another 8 hours, and proved to be a little bit more difficult than the trip to Amsterdam, where most of us slept a good portion of the way. When we arrived in Nairobi and made our way through customs, and down to the luggage carousel, it really began to hit me. An airport isn't the most exciting place on the planet, but already I began to see differences. Walking out to find our waiting vans, it was like walking the red carpet at an event. There were so many people there shouting, and waiting behind a small gate. Thankfully we didn't have to choose from one of the overly eager waiting Taxi drivers, as the guest house we were staying in, Mayfield had already arranged transportation for us. Tired, we hopped onto vans and made our way through Nairobi to the guest house that serves missionaries from around the world who make stops in Kenya.
Praise the Lord for seatbelts! Driving in Kenya was scary as all get out!
At Mayfield we got to check our email and let family and friends know we were safe, and then hopped into our wonderful beds. Oh glorious sleep seemed wonderful after 24 hours of travel... especially knowing that tomorrow we'd be traveling even more! Oh how I was dreading those plane rides, as we were anticipating our next 2 flights to be on significantly smaller planes. One of the planes was so small that we were restricted to how much weight we could carry in luggage. 30.5 pounds for 2 weeks. I sure hope no one overpacked! I tried to push those anxious thoughts from my mind, and to cling to the Peace that had washed over me on the first plane ride. Regardless of how scary the flight experiences might be the next day, I knew it would be worth it once we arrived in Yei, Sudan.
Early the next morning we departed Mayfield for a smaller airfield, and began the process of checking in. Our itinerary would be an hour and a half plane ride to Loki, Kenya where we would go through customs to get our exit stamp in our passports, and then transfer to a missionary airline that would take us the rest of the way to Yei. Our first plane held about 20 people, and wasnt as small as I thought... and surprisingly the flight was smooth and the landing in Loki wasn't bad at all. Flying over Kenya was beautiful, and my team was so encouraging to those of us who were afraid of flying on such a small plane. There really wasn't much to the Loki airport, and we were all eager to meet up with our missionary pilot to complete the last leg of our flight.
Once we finished all the necessary exit paperwork for Kenya, we made our way to a much smaller plane... a plane that could only hold 14 people! Holy moly.... don't cry Molly! No worries though, I held it together. We flew across Uganda, the Nile River, and into Sudan in a little over an hour and had a smooth landing on a dirt runway and a one room building that served as the Yei airport, and were met by Dennis Klepp who started Harvesters with his wife Lilly. Finally, we were there, and Harvesters was the next stop on this exciting journey. It was hard to contain our excitement as we crammed into a landrover and made our way to the compound.
As we drove through dust and giant potholes, our eyes were glued out the windows at the scenes we were passing. Women carrying jugs and baskets on their heads, children playing out in front of their huts, uncaring that they had forgotten to put on clothes that day :) , people waving and laughing. Many people we passed called out, "Cuaja" which we quickly found out didn't mean "Hello!" but meant "white people", making us laugh. Sudan and its people are beautiful, and it felt incredible to be there after months of preparation.
When we pulled up to Harvesters, a lump formed in my throat and tears filled my eyes. There in the yard was Mama Lilly, surrounded by 40-50 little preschoolers (as the older children were still in school), who immediately began running toward us, cheering, waving, yelling "hello", and reaching their little hands in through the windows. Before my feet even hit the ground, I had a little boy or girl on each finger, pulling me towards them. What an incredible welcome! Without really knowing anything about them, I already began to wonder how anyone could discard these beautiful little pieces of God's creation.
After our first dinner at the compoud (which thankfully consisted of not just rice and beans, but fresh bread, fresh fruit, and spaghetti), we made our way out into the yard where we were greeted by a wonderful welcome ceremony. All of the children gathered to sing, welcoming us with flowers and handshakes. It was another emotional moment... they all seemed so genuinely excited to have us there! It was a beautiful moment for sure.
Why did He choose me to be the receiver of so much love? Why did He pick me to be an ambassador for this place, to take a message of needs back to my church at home? I'm not entirely sure, but I do anticipate things to be revealed to me over these next 10 days. Today, we're starting our projects... Andy, Kate, Phil, Bill and I will meet with local pastors to start a 3 day pastoral conference, while Nick, Todd V, and Steve will try to provide some tools and resources to the teachers at Harvesters' school, and Buck, Todd P, Stacy, and Mary will get working on the classroom we're building while we're here. There's so much to do, and I really don't know how it's all going to get done... especially with 153 little distractions running around everywhere. God is good, and if the last few days are any indication to how the rest of the trip will go, I really can't wait to see what the Lord does and shows us while we're here.