Monday, June 4, 2012

Aching for Africa

“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.” – Richard Mullin
With Tim’s most recent trip to Gabon and the next trip that he is taking with my husband in late May, it really has me thinking about Africa and our time there as a family last summer.  We spent a week in Libreville, Gabon and then another week in Kenya.  We worked with ministries in both countries and met people, that in one week, became near and dear to our hearts.
Africa is a magical place, full of great beauty.  We were so blessed to see this in Gabon and also in Kenya where we went on safari for four days in the Massai Mara Game Preserve.  The memories from that safari will last a lifetime, but what stays with me on a daily basis is not what we saw in these countries, but the people we met.
French is the language of Gabon and our family does not speak it (although we are starting to learn).  The most amazing experience to me was that we could grow so close to people who did not share our language (A few of our friends can speak a little English and we used Tim A LOT as a translator).  The kindness, friendship and hospitality that was extended to us was amazing – it was as if we had all known each other for many years.  Obviously a part of this is that Eric (my husband) and Jacob (who runs the OSPAC medical clinic and is a pastor) have been friends for 20 years now – ever since Eric spent a summer in Gabon while he was in seminary. That relationship started the foundation for the others as soon as we touched the ground in Gabon.
The most amazing piece of this all is that so much of what we felt and the relationships that we so quickly formed were based on one thing – Jesus Christ.  We had an immediate connection to all of our Gabonese friends because we share our faith in Christ and all do our best to reach out to others the way Christ would. We worshipped together at church, in homes and even on the grass in front of the airport.  The faith that I saw in these friends was so inspirational to me.  I want to live my life with the faith that they have and share it as openly as they do.  The contagious joy that I felt as I watched Jacob preach in French to a small village before we did a mobile medical clinic there, the singing and worship on Sunday morning at church, the singing and dancing after dinner in the homes of those who welcomed us – all examples of the strong faith shared in this community.
One of the most poignant moments for me (with my history of anxiety and panic over flying) was when we all circled around in front of the airport.  All of our new friends came out to see us off and as we held hands, they all prayed over us and for our journey.  Although I did not know what all they were saying – their passionate strength gave me courage to get on the next flight across the continent to Kenya.
In Nairobi, Kenya, the team that we worked with from LIA International ( did speak English, which was definitely helpful.  Again, the hospitality and friendship from Dr. Florence Mundi and Dr. Emily Obwaka was amazing.  The both glowed with the love of Christ for their people in Kenya and around Africa where they serve.  We spent only two days with them, and I know that we have made friends for life.  I have emailed with both of them and we continue to support the work of LIA through E4 now as well.  They were both wonderful examples of me of obedience to God.  Both of them are doctors and have the opportunity to make a lot of money, but instead have given their lives to God’s call to work among the poorest of the poor.  What an example they were to me (and our whole family) – I one day hope to have the courage and faith of these two women in serving our God.
One last comment regarding these relationships – we have been able to keep in touch with some of our friends via Skype.  Our older son, Ryan (age 11) has had a chronic illness since January and we do not know how long it will last.  It is called Post Viral Syndrome.  Last week, our dear friend Jean Romain, who we did not know before last summer, prayed over Ryan in French via Skype.  It brought tears to my eyes as my husband and I laid our hands on Ryan while Jean Romain prayed.  His prayer was full of the power of Christ and passion that we really don’t ever hear in prayer here in the States.  Although Ryan is still fighting this illness, it is so amazing to have friends across the world who love him and are praying for him.
I ask you all to pray with me for my husband and Tim as they travel to Gabon to work with the Engineering Ministry that is going to work with our Indigenous Ministry Partners at PK27.  I don’t get to go this time, because one of us needs to stay with the boys : )  - but we all hope to return as a family next summer.

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