I apologize for getting this e-mail out so late, as it has been about a full week since I've been back in the states. Ever since I've been back, things have been pretty non-stop and I seem to have come down with a pretty bad head cold. Though it's almost more unfortunate for those around me, as they have to listen to my coughing! But truly, other than the minor illness all has been well and I've loved being back in America. I've been able to enjoy cheeseburgers and steaks and soda with sugar and sugary foods=) (In Africa, they don't use nearly as much sugar in anything, including soda, and I had a minor issue with that...I missed my sugar!) Well, before writing this e-mail, I prepared for it by making a list of what all I wanted to be sure to include, as there is a lot to tell!
As much as I love being home, the trek back was not all that enjoyable. We had another layover in Paris, and on the plane from Paris to DC a flight attendant spilled 7up all over me, my seat, and my stuff. While the amount of napkins was a "comical amount" as my friend and one of my team members, Sara Mae, called it to clean up and that brought many laughs, I would like to point out that the clothes I was wearing would be the same clothes for three days and I still had another 5 hours on that same plane with all the soda. I was a little irked, but the amount of napkins that the flight attendant brought out (it almost didn't fit in my hand there were so many) and his profuse apologies made it all okay and a fun story to tell.
It was once we got to America that things, traveling wise, began to go downhill. Once we landed, it took a long while to go through customs and passport control. Two of the girls on our team were from Canada and had to go through a different line for passports. Because their line was incredibly longer than US residents line, and many of us had to catch another flight, that ended up being the last time we saw them, which was incredibly unfortunate. I rushed to re-check my baggage and literally ran through the DC airport to get to my gate for my next flight, which I arrived at just 5 minutes or so before boarding only to find out that my flight had been delayed for fifteen minutes. Enough time to get an American hamburger meal! Then it was delayed for another five minutes...then another twenty...we finally boarded the completely full flight after an hour of delays. Once we all boarded the plane and had watched the safety video twice, we were delayed for another HOUR. Due to that delay, my connecting flight for Phoenix took off before I even landed in Atlanta. I was moved to the 10pm flight to Phoenix, the time I was supposed to arrive in Tucson. Needless to say, I arrived home at 3:30am on Wednesday instead of 10pm on Tuesday. Looking back on the weeks spent in South Africa, thinking about the relationships made with Americans, Canadians, and the Basothos, I can easily say that the negative delays doesn't even come close in comparison to the amazing time in South Africa.
In South Africa I learned hundreds of things. I learned that African elephants have giant ears, that zebras aren't as ugly in person as some other animals are, and that rhinos really are huge. I learned how to sweep "Basotho style", how to wash clothes without a washing machine, and how to wash dishes without a towel, a sink, or extra water to rinse. I learned how to shake hands in South Africa and a few phrases (very few phrases) in Sesotho. I also learned the importance of knowing the Bible and learned that God moves in all sorts of ways. I learned that God is intentional and that He truly does love unconditionally.
In the Bible, there are a plethora of verses that I don't ever think twice about because they aren't as relevant in America. Verses about talking to the dead, witchcraft, slaughtering animals, etc. However those are the verses we spent a lot of time on when talking with people. I was reminded of how intentional God is. That each thing in His Word is important and that He knows the nations and hearts of the world far better than anyone could come close to.
It's hard not to love Africa, especially when you're there. It's a place where it was so evident that God's love overflows, that He has unending mercy and grace. That He yearns to have a personal relationship with those living in South Africa. He loves Africa and is the God of Africa, just as He loves America and is our God.
I also was reminded of how intricate He works. Our team, 14 people from all over North America (Canada, California, Arizona, Texas, Virginia, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma, Florida, Colorado), sat together in a remote village in South Africa. He molded us for that trip and once we were there we meshed ridiculously well together and built off one another. Back home, we are still being transformed but with the impressions of our team members. The intricate details that were revealed during our time in South Africa. The team was strengthened and detailed and despite the distance, we continue to uplift one another.