I have been burglared, dealt with a rat issue, had a housefire. I’ve learned to navigate a totally foreign, kinda crazy city on my own. I’ve laughed a lot, cried a little, and sweat more than I ever thought possible. I’ve met some great people. And I’ve had to say goodbye to some of them already. I went from knowing absolutely no Arabic to being able to follow the words around me and engage in solid conversation. Still haven’t come close to mastering the language, but I’ve heard that takes 20 years anyway.
I’ve fallen in love with some of the cutest, sweetest boys. I’ve taught them drawing, painting, sculpting. Some ideas have worked. Some have not. I like to think I’ve helped them start to think more creatively. See potential in themselves, and in the beauty God has put all around us. I’ve seen great improvements in some of them. With a little inspiration and encouragement they’ve started making some pretty awesome stuff from what most of their culture would deem garbage. We’ve even been able to sell it. Hoping this will keep on and expand into something great.
I have been the recipient of much more grace than I deserve. Other ex-pats here have countless times, gone above and beyond and out of their way for me. I am still continually impressed by the grace and understanding that the Sudanese people bestow on me and other foreigners. They have to be some of the loveliest, good-natured people on the planet.
I’ve mastered the use of a squatty potty and how to eat even flimsy, slippery food with my hand. I learned how to wrap myself in a tobe–the colorful sheet of fabric that mostly married women use as everday wear. (Though I have no intention of wearing one out anywhere in the near or distant future). I can lead an activity in Arabic and navigate my way through the city by bus. I’ve learned to be a brave pedestrian.
I have a ducaan man. A fruit and a veg guy. Kids I chat with on the street. I laugh and joke with people that couldn’t be more different from me. I have a running rapport with my boys. I’ve made friends…and a life here.
I’ve gotten to see beautiful things. Safari in Kenya. Pyramids. The Red Sea. Street kids being changed by love. People hearing truth. Hungry kids being fed and doctored. Little ones try ice cream for the very first time. I’ve befriended young prostitutes. Held their malnourished babies. Watched them try to walk.
I’ve swam in the Red Sea, and the Nile. I’ve gotten really sick, but been mostly well. I’ve gotten lost, but am always found. I’ve felt uncomfortable, awkward, and occasionally offended. I know what it feels like to stick out all the time and have no sense of anonymity. For the first time in my life I have less freedom that men, simply because of my sex. I’ve made stupid mistakes. I have had lucky successes. I’ve been able to talk about my faith. Learned that He gives us the strength for everyday. And that He doesn’t waste a single moment or experience.
I’ve found ways to still feel like myself in the ever ebbing and flowing of the days here. I have held tight to the things that give me life and the fuel I need for the strength to get through the hard and stressful things. Time in the Word, journalling, cooking for myself, exercise (outdoors when I can!), creating. I’ve learned it’s not selfish to take the Sabbath and the time to do the things that fill your soul. It is in those things that we delight, that we delight in God. We can love Him through the things and people He has given us to love.
I miss the people I love back home every day. And little things there. I look forward to setting foot on US soil again, though that day is still very far off. I’m fine with that. There has not been a day that I have despaired coming here. Life is not easy. This is a hard place to live. But never a day that I have questioned my being here. Questioned myself and my own strength maybe, but not His hand.
In looking back over this year and what has happened and whatever I have accomplished, I’m reminded that it’s all part of a bigger picture. That the here and now is more than the here and now. God works through years and generations and history. And through obedient hearts. I believe that small things lead to big things and that sometimes the small things are the biggest things.
Happy one year Africa, I look forward for more to come.