This year in my somewhat debatable either mid or late twenties, I have started feeling older. Really, like I am finally a grown-up. Now don't worry, this post is not for bemoaning my beginning gray hairs or wrinkles or need of a good solid night's sleep. No, the fact that time marches on is simply a reality I saw most clearly this summer, particularly in the children.
When I first went to Sierra Leone in 2008, I met cute little Mariama and our sponsor child Janet.
Mariama was almost still a baby. She wanted to be held all the time; she went through this phase where she wouldn't smile for pictures, and she didn't really talk in English. Three years later, she is a girl. A big girl, I might add who likes to assert herself and take charge in social situations. When I entered her village of Ngolala (pronounced Gwola like balla), she grabbed my hand and directed myself and the team straight through the middle of the village to her home. When we arrived, she bustled around and got all of us chairs to sit in (quite customary), passed out all the babies to the women (ditto), and then proceeded to change from her school uniform into afternoon attire. She also, I might add, directed who needed to take a picture with whom, making sure of course that she was in a plethora of shots. Quite the hostess with the mostess. And no longer that cute little baby I used to hold.
Then, there's Janet. When I met Janet in 2008, she was an incredibly cute 8 years old girl. She tagged along with me everywhere I went, held my hand constantly, and played ga-ga (a rock game akin to jacks) and hand-clap games with me galore. Now, she is 11. She is an incredibly, beautiful young woman. But as most 11 year old young women go, she is too old for hand-clap games and too young for serious conversation. She is, as well, maybe a little bit in that awkward stage. But I love her all the more and was glad for the particularly sweet moments we had toward the close of my trip. I was encouraged to here that she is going to church on her own, since 11 is such a critical age for such decisions of faith. She is on my heart and in my prayers as she continues to realize and decide who she is and what she wants to become. I have many fears and many hopes for her that seem especially pertinent given the fact that she is entering a new chapter of life.
Seeing these precious ladies grow is one of the things I am thankful for with the opportunity to see Sierra Leone again and again. For many people, visiting Banta once in their lifetime is an incredible experience that they (and I for them) are thankful to have had. To come once is to see God in a grander capacity at work across culture and to see new faces that you can call friends. But to come again is only that much richer. This could be another post in and of itself, but for now let me say that I am incredibly humbled and thankful that these girls do not stay stagnant on my fridge, forever frozen in time. Instead, they are dynamic, same as me. And as I change and God changes me, so He does the same for them. And I can bear witness to it.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I am back in Denver. Time in Sierra Leone was incredibly sweet and comfortable, and while I have numerous thoughts and stories to share, the process of where to begin seems quite overwhelming. So little by little I will go, but for today let me share with you the faith moment I had during my time away.
I am not one keen on emotional responses, particularly in situations or events where there seems to be an expectation to have one (say like in Africa). So I am often thankful when God works in the midst of my stubborn personality and brings me those moments in the mundane.
One of my biggest fears about leading a team was getting my team successfully from point A (US) to point B (Salone). I may or may not have had a few nightmarish dreams prior to leaving about losing teammates, and in all my previous trips to Sierra Leone traveling never went smoothly. So, while I and other prayed for 'travel mercies', I was not truly shocked to get to Accra, the capital of Ghana, and hear that they had overbooked our Kenya Airways flight and that we would be stuck in Ghana for two days. Of course we would. I was quite cranky but the fact that I had almost expected it made it worse. Throw in the mix that, in my quite limited opinion, Ghanians seem more equivalent to New Yorkers in their attitude of helpfulness as compared to their West African counterparts in Sierra Leone. A good reminder that Africa is not one country, but I digress.
My team left three weeks later and were of course all somewhat nervous about the return voyage via Ghana. In my clear-headed, logical course of thinking I had decided (hilarious) that if they simply got on their Kenya Airways flight on time that they would have no problems in Accra since the Delta flight would arrive and leave on schedule without massive overbooking. Thus, I got my team to the airport at an excessively early time to ensure they had seats and just in case gave a girl on my team calling card and contact information in case of an emergency. Good think I did. As I was coasting off to blissful sleep around midnight, I received a call that my team was stuck in Ghana for one day with still no confirmed flights for all team members. This time- Delta. Apparently the Delta employees in Accra decided they were tired and went home before my team could de-plane and receive their boarding passes. So while the Delta plane sat on the tarmac, a few hundred feet away my team was once again sucked into the black hole of Ghana.
Therefore, I had NO faith that I was getting out of Ghana without getting stuck and was quite premeditatively cranky about it. Eric had asked people to pray Stateside and I had petitioned all my Salone friends to pray for me too, but deep down I was already stuck in Ghana in my mind.
The night before I left as I was sitting in my little guesthouse room in Freetown, I realized (thank you Holy Spirit) that I didn't even have a mustard seed's worth of faith that I would make in through Ghana on schedule. And while the fact that I wasn't carrying seeds might please U.S. Customs, it definitely did not please or bring glory to God. It's funny once I stopped to consider my state of belief, since I realized that subconsciously I believed that Ghana was bigger than God. Which of course logically speaking is ridiculous, after all even singing vegetables know that God is bigger than the Boogie Man. But it is what I truly believed. How could I see God at work in a million ways in Sierra Leone or in my life but believe that God's power could not be made manifest in Accra.
So I went and laid my fears and doubts before the Father (thank you Jesus). And it was not a lot of faith that I was able to give. But I did feel strengthened and re-encouraged to depart.
If I say flights went smoothly, that would give most of you seasoned by American travel an improper idea of how things went down. But relatively speaking in the sense that I arrived on time for all my scheduled flights and had a seat on each, it did. This- is nothing short of the grace of God. And I am hear to tell you that indeed our God is bigger than Ghana. Thanks be to Him.
Incidentally, this is the kind of small moment, Big God story that might be shared during Testimony time at Church of the Nations in Sierra Leone. You would begin by saying, I wan fo tel God tanki. I have many of these moments that I am excited to share with you soon.
Posted by Nicole at 12:29 PM