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Thoughts @ Africa

Let me start off with a big THANK YOU for participating in my African market fundraiser for the Shubins, the Masers, and the Waulks! We raised over $1,000 in conjunction with that night--so thank you so much!!

I've been wanting to share something my friend Jess wrote. She just returned a month ago from her first trip to Africa. She traveled with Adopt One Village. With her permission, I'm copying it here. Her thoughts remind me so much of how I felt after my first trip there. It was good to remember how it felt, because life gets full and crazy and crowded. And I am prone to forget. Thanks, Jess for sharing your heart.

africa// as deep as the sky and under my skin

A month ago I was in Africa. I have yet to write about my experience because I simply do not have the words. Every time I sit down and reflect I feel as if I am being torn in if my heart is being ripped from my chest because the desire to be back in the red dirt with beautiful brown children is crippling. I can relate it to my yearnings for Heaven. Earth is not my home but I feel like I don't belong here anymore. I ache for Africa. It's been a month and I still feel detached from my life here. I have been altered in such a dramatic way. Something is different. I can feel it in my bones and it radiates from my chest to my fingertips. I watch the video footage and see the photographs and I go numb. I can't breathe. Some days it feels like I have fallen in love for the very first time. Gorgeous, magical, pure. Some days it's like someone I love dearly has died. Devastating. Agonizing.

I have so much angst in my soul because I desperately want the world to understand what I have seen. I ache for you to really see Africa the way I saw Africa.

I found this quote which so perfectly describes everything inside my heart:

"Her stare encompasses everything around her, the mountains, the villages, the trails and the trees and rivers and deep misted-over valley, the hurt and the hunger, and the joy. She said, " I know what you think, but it's not... it's not bad.

"You just don't know," she said. "You hide in this little fortress behind your stuff and your comfort and you don't know. Sometimes I want to eat this place. Just swallow the whole country, the dirt and the death, I just want to have it there inside me. That's how I feel. It's like... this appetite for life. I get scared sometimes - lots of times - but it's not bad. You know? I feel close to myself. I feel close to my own body, I can feel my blood moving, my skin and my fingernails, everything, it's like I'm full of electricity and I'm glowing in the dark - I'm on fire almost - I know exactly who I am. You can't feel like this anywhere else."

She said it just like that and they all just looked at her with those big round eyes, not believing a word. They don't understand zip, it's like trying to tell someone what chocolate tastes like. That's the thing. You gotta taste it. She was there. She was up to her eyeballs in it.

She came over clean but she got her hands dirty and afterwards she could never be the same. It was like an unnamed drug. The needle slips in and you know you're risking something and though it hurts, you can't stop. The endorphins start to flow, and the adrenaline, and you become intimate with the danger and the devastation. Not bad, she said..."

- Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

It's just so perfect. Every word. The shock and horror of Africa. The overwhelming beauty you see under the surface. The disenchantment with the American dream. The addiction of being split open again and again as you stand amazed at the amount of love in your heart you never knew you had. The obsession of seeing black hands on your white skin. The flashes that bring you to your knees weeks later: tickle fights in the Africa dirt, a single mother with beautiful sculpted arms and a basin of water atop her head, a man who has not been paid for nearly two years yet continues to teach at the elementary school, a little girl peeing just outside the doorway of her kindergarten class, masses of children calling out your name as you walk through their village, pulling your face to theirs, running their finger through your hair, listening to their giggles and whispers in your ear...

You feel like the grinch at the end of the story...your heart grows 3 sizes in one day.

As we left the village for the last time, I found that everything I went to Africa to do and to give, was done and given to me.

I went to Africa to give hope and it was I who left with it.

I went to Africa to comfort the weary and it was I who found rest.

I went to Africa to love the broken and it was my heart that was healed.

and nearly 5 months after losing my mother....with my arms around a sea of motherless children, I was finally ready to let her go.

Someone commented on a photo and asked me how sitting in an ocean of African children changed me. I'm not sure. It has something to do with grace, with the way God reaches out through the wide eyes of children and pierces your soul. It has something to do with the hope and healing He gives through hundreds of little hands reaching out to touch you. It has something to do with the magic of children, the wonder and awe that radiates from their faces. The process of an icy heart melting after 5 months of grief and loss. The desperation to stretch your arms as wide as Jesus' arms were on the day He was crucified on the cross and make sure that every little heart never felt hungry, lonely or scared ever again.

I do not know what God is doing right now. I don't know what His plan is for my life right now. All I know is that my prayers are begging Him to let me go back.

Tim O'Brien continues:

"It made her glow in the dark. She wanted more. She wanted to penetrate deeper into the mystery of herself, and then that wanting became needing, and needing became craving and she had to go. She couldn't pretend she was the same.

She could look at you with this little smile in her eyes and she was lost inside herself. Lost inside the country and the people and the sadness and the joy. She was the poverty. She was the land. She was still that innocent bright eyed girl from a land far away. But now, she was on fire."

Africa has set me on fire.

Me, too, Jess. Me, too.


AGoodKindOfCrazy said...

That was beautiful. <3