Today I finished another journal. When I finish a journal I like to look back at the first page’s date and see how much time the journal covers. I like to think of one or two sentences or lessons that sum up each month (yes, this is further indication that I suffer from chronic literary-mindedness and think of life in book chapters). That said, the past 2-3 months were appropriately titled “Gypsy Living”. I plan to explain myself, and my absence, one post at a time. I’ve been in 7 countries, 4 states, and 12 cities in the past 60 days, so there is quite a bit to tell. Here goes nothin’
June 1-14, 2013: Africa
A few years ago my oldest friend, (I believe we’ve been friends for 21 years this summer) fell in love with a man who drills water wells in Africa. Right around a year ago my friend married this man and followed him to South Sudan.
(At Elle’s wedding August 25, 2013). When she left I told her I would come visit within the year. You see, when you’ve walked through 21 years of life together, things like continents and oceans ‘ain’t no thang.’
Conveniently, another dear friend Whitney had previously worked at an orphanage in Uganda (which is just below South Sudan, think AR and LA) and wanted to go back. So she and I hopped on a plane on June 1st and headed across the pond to see our heart friend. Here are some pictures from our time in Juba, South Sudan:
After 10 or so days in South Sudan, Whitney and I took a public bus from Elle’s place to the orphanage in Karuma, Uganda. (That bus ride was one of the most hilarious and terrifying experiences of my life, but that would an entire post in itself).
This particular Orphanage is neat because it not only provides a home, food and education for orphans, but it also employs widows in the community to come serve as ‘house mamas’. These ‘mamas’ essentially raise 8-10 children from the time they are brought to the orphanage until they graduate. That said, the orphans live in little houses with 7-9 other orphans their age and a ‘mama’, and this provides a sense of family and community for everyone involved. James 1:27 says, “ Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Cheers to Restoration Gateway for caring for both the widow and the orphan at the same time. Here are a few pictures from the orphanage:
Being called to a people group vs. a person:
I often hear people that live overseas say, “I’ve just been called to this people group.” The funny thing is that Elle had never dreamt of being overseas, and she would be the first to tell you that. Even though she hasn’t felt called to a people group, she adamantly believes that you can be called to a person, and that she’s been called to her husband Grant. I’ve never seen anyone work as diligently, faithfully and cheerfully as she has to serve him, care for him and pour courage into him as he stewards the gospel and lives out his dream in the Sudanese bush. I am so grateful, challenged and inspired by the way she approaches her new life in a new country. To read more about her story and life, click here: grantandelle.wordpress.com
The luxury of dreaming:
I had never considered dreaming much of a luxury at all until I realized that not everyone has the privilege of doing so. I got to interact with several African women and girls while I was abroad and one common question that I would ask is, ‘what do you want to be or do with your life? Or what do you hope for?’ comparing an American teenage girl’s answer with an African teenage girl’s answer would be comical. The average American girl would likely rattle off some sort of pending agenda including college, or some lavish job, followed quickly by falling in love with the man or her dreams, getting married and raising a family; time frame may vary, but these are the typical components to be expected. The African girl, I learned, is much different. She doesn’t hope to fall in love and be swept off her feet, she probably doesn’t even know what that looks like to let herself hope for it (no chick flicks to plague her mind with unrealistic expectations). Her hope is that her husband, or baby daddy, doesn’t leave her. College likely isn’t an option, so there’s no point in wishing for it, and a job is probably not something to be enjoyed—it’s work, means to and end. I watched women strap babies on their backs and head into the field to slash whatever needed slashing, and then go immediately to prepare meals for children… all day, every day. They don’t complain because they aren’t entitled to think that they are ‘better’ than that or that anyone else is.
I felt so petty talking with these women.
Typically, if I don’t love what I’m doing, I look for a more suitable job, or I go day by day viewing myself as a sort of martyr in the workplace. And since I was a child I have in some capacity thought of whom, if, I would marry, and what our love story would be and what sort of family we would raise (hello, what did everyone play with their Barbies growing up? Family). It’s sobering to realize that there are people in the world, more than I recognize, that don’t have time to dream about such things because they are thinking about their next meal, or how to feed their children, or where they will sleep that night. I haven’t quite decided who’s to be pitied in this scenario. Initially, I felt sorry for the African women—who seem to be deprived of such a luxury to imagine ‘what things could be like’. After further thought, I can’t help but think that I, or we, rather, are the ones to be pitied, because we are transfixed by what could be instead of what is, and we can slip into living more in the future than in the present; this ultimately leads to chronic discontentedness. How freeing is must be to have no expectations! I can’t imagine such a place.
I am so grateful that I got to experience Africa and visit old friends while making new ones.
Here’s to laughin’,