I am going because I want to retrieve my things. I left with just my go bag. Also, Ethiopian Airways owes me a massive refund and, according to their less than understanding staff in their Nairobi office, I must do it from Juba.
I need to get the girls money sorted. I left it in a lock box under my bed when I left in a hurry and I sure hope it’s still there. I need to get a secure place for it, maybe a bank? The safe at CCC? I don’t know. I would also like to look into shops/other avenues where the girls could sell their handwork.
I would like to get a proper goodbye in with the girls. But I don’t know if that will be possible. They are in Yei now, about 5 hours south of Juba. Originally I was planning on taking a bus down to Yei and back to see them for a few days. But that road is no longer safe. Rebels and others on it and reports of robberies and assaults. Maybe in the coming months if things continue to settle down I can go back and visit them. I don’t know.
It is important for me to go back, wrap up loose ends, end well. Or as well as I can. But I can’t stay. This is not only a personal decision, but one made by my organization as well.
Juba, while currently under government control, is still unstable. There is still a lot of tension in the city, and rising animosities as well as robberies and other crime on the rise. The US Embassy there has shut down. If something happens again while I’m there I have no organizational support, as well as no embassy support. They literally can do nothing to help me.
Also, I am utterly exhausted. 2013 was a hard year. If you are reading this you know about my traumatic exit from Ktown at the beginning of 2013. From July I have been working full time with street girls, and also living with them. I have been “on” for the last 7 months. When my area leader came in November to visit she was concerned. I was exhausted, at the end of my rope. She basically said my living situation needed to change. I agreed. I loved what I was doing. But there was never time to rest/recover at the end of the day.
Then, in December, when Juba went under attack I was there for the 3 nights of fighting. Listening to gunfire with 37 girls. I was scared and I was tired. And I couldn’t believe I was fleeing a country for the second time in a year. It was an immense relief to leave. It was also massively hard. Leaving behind the girls, our staff. A brand new country falling into civil war again so soon. Devastating.
The following 2 weeks I spent in the UK with my boyfriend, meeting his family and friends, and trying to catch up on sleep. After that I went to Ethiopia for 2 weeks of conferences. Which were good, but exhausting. At the conference I was able to meet with our leadership as well as my Member Care people. People laughed and cried with me at the absurdity of the past year. Everyone was concerned.
We took some stress inventory thing. You mark by things that have happened in the last year and your stress level is assessed based on that. For the normal western person living in their home country, a score of over 200 places you at high risk for some sort of mental or physical breakdown in the next 2 years. The average well-functioning overseas worker scores about 600. This is because they generally have better coping abilities and a strong sense of call or purpose.
My score was 1024. Which is concerning.
I’m fine. I feel fine most days. But my capacity is limited. Tears and stress are simmering so very close to the surface. It doesn’t take much. I am craving routine, stability. I feel on the edge of tipping. All of my PI leadership has told me to rest. To take time to rest. To take it easy for awhile. I am not the type to back down from a challenge and I’m not one to be easily defeated. I hate feeling like a wuss.
So I am thankful for the people who know what they’re talking about, who care about my well being, telling me to take a rest. So much transition, so many changes, so much demanding work for the last several months, trauma on top of it. I want to live in Africa for a long time. But in order to do that, I need to take time to recover when I’m down.
So…I am in Nairobi, Kenya now. My org has people here, but, it’s time to be said, the main reason I’m settling in here for now is because of a boy. We met in Juba and have been dating. And it’s serious. And with our earlier-than-planned exits from South Sudan, his office has him working in Nairobi. So it looks like I’ll be settling in here for at least the next few months. (But things change so quickly, I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes again soon!)
The main thing I need to do right now is take care of myself. I need solitude, rest, nourishment in soul and body. Ideally I could do that in the States, but I can do that in some measure here I’m hoping. BUT, also, just another testament to the beautiful way God works, I’ve been approached to help with a project. And even in my exhaustion, I am really, really excited.
While at the conference another PI girl saw me doodling my notes. She whispered and asked if I do illustrations. I said yeah, I draw. And she told me how she’s been wanting to write a children’s book, applicable and culturally appropriate for East Africa to teach kids about sexual abuse.
We talked, we met with a Kenyan lady who is getting her PhD in Child Psychology, and once I get my art supplies from Juba, I’m going to start the scary and exciting process of illustrating this book. Which is perfect. Just perfect. It is still the realm of things that I care about very deeply and work that I am passionate about. But exactly what I need right now–work that I can do in quiet, that is much less intense than the work I have been doing the last few years. It involves my gifting and skills and also can teach kids, and hopefully help prevent some sexual abuse.
So that’s what’s going on for now. There is still much to decide and sort out and work through. But I need to rest. I keep reminding myself–I need to rest. I don’t have much to give now and if I hope to, I need to rest and refill my stores so I can be emptied again.
“Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wonderfully reigneth
Shelters thee under his wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!”
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
“You came near me when I called on you; you said, “Do not fear!”” Lametations 3:57