So, here I am on the plane flying South African Airlines 14.5 hours to Johannesburg, South Africa. It really is crazy to me that I'm really finally going ot Africa and will be there by tomorrow. What an adventure!
I can still remember being at Windsor Hills camp listening to a missionary from some place in Africa describing his experiences as I prayed hard that God could send me anywhere else, just not Africa. God is pretty defiant :) About 6 years ago, while I was a freshman in college, I started to become completely fascinated with all the unknowns about the continent of Africa. It's so huge, but so rich in culture.
I cannot wait to see Zimbabwe with my own eyes! I'm sure some things will be absolutely beautiful and some things will be almost painful to look at. But, for a while now, I've been challenging God to challenge me. I've asked him to teach me to have courage, a desire to love everyone, to teach me to be patient, and to challenge me constantly so I may grow in strength and wisdom. Perhaps this is a foolish thing to ask God because of course learning is both scary and painful. But that's a risk I'm willing to take.
We are traveling 7795 mi to this totally crazy place completely across the world! I cannot believe I'm doing this!
Wow, what a crazy day! First of all, the flight last night was nearly unbearable! At around 3pm US time, it was about 9pm Zimbabwe time and lights went out. We attempted to sleep for HOURS. Literally until 7am we tried to sleep, but it was impossible to get any rest sitting up, having basically skipped a meal (since we entered the plane around lunchtime but were fed dinner), hearing the roaring plane engine and 2 screaming babies that cried endlessly ALL night long! I don't think I've ever been that uncomfortable for so long or ever experienced an inability to sleep quite like that. But, sure enough we landed in Johannesburg safely! I can say, though, that watching the tv screen display the progress of our travels felt unreal. Africa seems a world away on the map and then thinking about how many thousands of miles we traveled to get here was entirely surreal.
We landed in Johannesburg around 9am and wandered around the South African Airport until we got on our connecting flight to Harare. The second flight was much more bearable! I cannot describe what it felt like when we began landing, scraping through the clouds revealing gorgeous trees and green grass and thatched rooves all alongside a busy, crowded landscape of the Harare city. The airport was small and as the plane pulled up to the terminal it almost felt like I had traveled back into time with the looks of the buildings and technology. We thankfully were able to zip through customs, but had to wait a long time to see our bags. Many of the luggage were sealed with plastic wrap to prevent theft. We all were nervous we were missing belongings, but luckily nothing really appeared to be missing. As is common in Harare, the electricity went out in the airport for a couple of minutes until a generator was able to take control. It was our first glimpse of the uncertainty of Zimbabwean electricity.
Pastor Tuckey, Maria, Budd Jackson (one of the missionaries) and Mr. Everswick (another of the missionaries) were waiting for us patiently and brought us safely to the two vans to travel to our next destination.
The interesting thing about today was the lack of direction. We weren't usually told what was happening or where we were going, but rather, we just followed their lead. Zimbabwe is all about going with the flow. In the beginning, this was rather difficult for me to adjust to. I usually have a hard time when I do not understand what I am doing, why I am doing it, and when I will be doing something else. Something within me begs to know every detail of my day and likes things planned out. But I had to quickly learn to be more relaxed and just...go with the flow. By the middle of the week I became better at this, but at first it was quite uncomfortable. I had to trust in the people in charge and have faith that they had a plan and a purpose for where we were going and when.
We left the airport and began our short journey on the outskirts of Harare. There were patches of corn fields very sporatically placed. People were literally everywhere; walking all over, selling grilled corn on the cob by the side of the road with stacked fires. There were lots of gas stations, but they all looked as they were from the 70s. There were often pick-up trucks with people crammed together in the back of the truck or buses with people that appeared to be practically sitting on top of one another. I've never seen more people walking, bike riding, loitering, and clustered just hanging out on the streets. Some people even walked in the middle of the street to sell small Zimbabwean flags to place on cars. (I later found out these were political flags.)
We finally arrived to an area where there were homes after homes gated and surrounded by large walls. We pulled into one and were told that this was the Team headquarters. We reunited with the rest of the team who seemed already so acquainted after being there for a week before the rest of us. The house was definitely different from houses we have here. None of the houses were made of wood, because they had lots and lots of termites. Most houses were made of stucco-type material, bricks or cement.Window panes were made of iron (usually painted white).This house was surrounded by gorgeous flowers and trees and the unique architecture was so interesting. They had a pool in the back and a large kitchen as well as a couple arches and lots of opened doors since the weather was so warm.
We were all able to eat lunch and take showers to freshen up and I immediately became self-conscious about my clothes. I felt extremely immodest. It dawned on me that what feels modest in the US is NOT modest here at all. It's kind of amazing how just being in a different country can change someone's entire concept of what is modest and comfortable. Being in a new country means different food, different ideas on time, conversation, beauty and appropriateness. It made me feel really out of place in a wierd way.
After we showered, we headed somewhere else and again were not told where, just that we would be sleeping there. We entered another gated, walled up "estate" which was absolutely beautiful! We met a sweet missionary couple, Martin & Rosie. We soon found out that this was the Team hostile and Martin and Rosie are the hostile hosts. The house was beautiful--complete with a guest house and an inground pool. Actually it is common for anyone living in a home of their own to have a maid or a "care-taker" who usually stays in another house in the back of the estate. They had both a care-taker (a man who takes care of the lawn and property) and a woman care-taker...probably called a maid (she takes care of the laundry, dishes, and cleaning the inside of the houses).
The most interesting surprise was the dinner we had. We had pizza!! In Africa! We also had no electricity until about 6:30pm and still had a means to boil water for tea on a propane burner. They have to be prepared to be without electricity for long periods of time (most days 3-5 hours of the day, sometimes longer and sometimes even for multiple days at a time). They have a dog, "princess" and a beautiful garden with tomatoes, rosemary, lettuce, and various other plants. We stood for a while talking to Bud Jackson and saw a beautiful bright red bird and a black bird with a really long tail that the bird grows longer & longer.
We all ate together and talked for a while about the local church and the history of Zimbabwe. Then, their maid came to the door with bad news about her family. I did not hear all of it, but it included someone in her family dying, a sister who is very sick, and a family member in a car accident. It really struck me with emotion to watch everyone circle around her and pray for her. Then a couple of our team members hugged her. I didn't even know who she was and I began to cry because seeing everyone love her right there was emotional and beautiful. It really struck me how rare this type of interaction is where we live and perhaps even in Zimbabwe, but it was refreshing to see her loved and taken care of and supported not just as an employee but as a member of the family.
Afterwards, the whole team (10 of us) gathered in Rose Maria's room and practiced singing a song that we would sing tomorrow morning at church. We were all so exhausted that after a couple times, we were about to collapse and headed to bed early. I am so completely exhausted and at the same time, I still can't believe I am actually here in Zimbabwe right now! I have some serious emotion building up from somewhere within me, but I have no idea where it's from or what it's about. All I know is that I will most likely cry at some point on this trip because seeing God at work all the way out here almost at the tip of Africa is overwhelming and hugely powerful. Watching this couple just love us and others so willingly and so genuinely is such a perfect example of who I should be resembling.
Tomorrow the only thing I know so far is that we will be attending a local church and singing for them. After that, I have no idea! Should be another adventurous day!
the women when we met at the Team Headquarters:
RtoL: Bonnie, Rose, Alicia, Me, Maria
The Hostile and the trusty van that took us everywhere!
the Group relaxing for tea (which we had multiple times a day!) after we arrived
RtoL: Dan, Rose, Me, Maria, Steve, Jeremy
Martin & Rosie
A picture of Harare as we were driving around