Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The first days~Zomba, Malawi

This is the first of several entries documenting my recent Mission Trip to Zomba, Malawi, Africa. I will try to be as detailed as possible for I know that family and friends want to know what it was like.  These will be lengthy entries, so I apologize.  I am still so humbled that God chose ME to experience this.  This entry covers just the travel days and the emotions of just leaving my comfort. I hope you will stay tuned for more of what GOD revealed on this amazing trip.  I am feeling more foreign here in America than I did in Malawi.  It's quite the adjustment and I've only been back two days.

Day 1~ July 10th, 2011
Drive from Ohio to Washington, D.C.
The goodbyes were so hard.  I don’t know how to be without my 3 lovies.  No baths to give, meals to fix, arguments to dissolve.  No holding hands, no unexpected hugs or “I loves you’s”.  Wow, can I really do this?? 
About an hour after we left church in our 2 van caravan I began to feel better.  The images of Hallie, Parker, and my sweet husband are still very fresh in my mind and boy how I’ll miss them.  And then somewhere between the West Virginia/Pennsylvania border God answered my previous question with “Yes, Summer you can do this~I am with you!”  The most amazing peace has since come over me.  I’m sure that is from all those who are praying for me and our entire team back home. 
 I am so excited about what’s ahead in the next 14 days.  Some of the veterans on my van are sharing stories from years past.  Thus far I know to expect Gecko-type lizards in our cabin, angry attacking ants, aggressive hippos and crocs on the safari and the most yummy bananas in the world!  All that to say and all I can think of is, 
DAY 2~ July 11th, 2011 
In flight!!  On take off everyone put their hands in the air like they were riding a roller coaster...those in my row decided maybe they were worshiping God.  There are several group mission teams on this flight and it’s so awesome!  
Oh I need to tell you about a little girl and her dad who we met at the airport.  Her name is Hannah and she is such a beautiful little girl~well I say little, she’s 13!  Her dad noticed our butterfly shirts and stated a conversation about his own Christianity and began telling us his story.  Hannah had collected 400,000 pencils in her home country of Toronto, Canada to hand deliver to children living in Ethiopia~so she and her dad were traveling back to their native country to walk through the villages hand delivering those pencils.  Can you believe it??  That was a child with a heart to love on God’s children and a dad who will escort her to the ends of the earth to share in HIS mission.  Wow, that’s just two brothers/sisters in Christ.  Imagine was all 23 of us could do if we are willing to be used!
Let’s talk about how awesome God is....
Since January and the opportunity came about for me to be a part of this team I have been waiting for Fear.  Isn’t that awful~who waits for Fear???  Well, I have spent far too many hours of my life living in fear and I’m pretty sure God was fed up!.  Guess who hasn’t shown up on this trip~Yep, FEAR!! 
I trust in God so why should I be afraid?  Psalm 56:4
I’m sitting on a flight that if Fear were present would not be taking place.  God has graciously given me peace, courage, and excitement for something I never believed I could endure.
Still Day 2...I think...
As I look at my watch and realize at home my sweet ones are probably having dinner; the display in front of me says that somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean is it 12:37 a.m~crazy.  The flight attendants are trying to get us on their clock and so our “lunch” was actually dinner (@ 2:37 p.m. EST) and in 3 hrs (approx 4 a.m. local time) we will be having breakfast!  Boy am I confused.  So right now I am having trail mix and a Diet Coke to celebrate my American heritage and the Easter Standard Time Zone!
I never knew a dreaded 12 + hour plane ride could be so full of treasures!  We were able to watch the sun peak over the horizon as we approached the northeast coast of Africa.  If began as a slight orange hue peaking over the edge of the horizon an then the most vibrant shade of magenta burst onto the scene.  It was amazing.  What's not so amazing is how confused my body is right now.  As the bright rising sun shone through my window my body just wants to tuck into a deep sleep.  My row of seats has just completed a very well choreographed sequence of plane-seat exercises.  It really was refreshing and actually helped my numb bumb and aching back.

Day 3~July 12th, 2011 3:04 a.m EST, 10:04 a.m. Local Time
Whew~landed in Addis Ababa the very back of a very long line at our gate.  We didn't pass any vending machines, bathrooms or anything else I was looking forward to.  The airport was like a warehouse, a group of internationals were smoking in the corner, several groups of fully dressed Muslims were scattered about, and beautiful Ethiopian women wearing VERY strong perfume were passing in all directions.  So far my first impression of the continent of Africa was very fragrant and eye-opening!  Time to load back up for our second, yet much shorter flight to Lilongwe, Malawi!  

4:45 pm EST  10:45 pm Local Time
Time to play catch up!  
We landed at the airport in Lilongwe, Malawi with no problems and were anxious to rush to the luggage terminal.  Very quickly our bags began shooting off the belt line one after another.  The men of our team were tossing them off as fast as they could and then all of a sudden the bags just stopped coming.  Not because we had them all, but because we only had 23 of our 47 bags that made it onto our plane!  EEK!!!  I had gotten my personal bag but not my team bag of supplies for various activities while in country.  My packing partner, Amy had not received her bag, but she did have some items in my luggage so she would be fine for a few days.  So Chris and Pilira stayed behind for the night in Lilongwe to hopefully intercept the remaining bags tomorrow.  Despite the temporary detour from our plan we were not dampened in spirit too much.
As we were leaving the airport we saw Joseph, Pilira, and Pastor Erik waiting with full smiles and it was such a relief!  We had made it to Malawi!!  The men began pushing our luggage through the window of a very long, very tall bus. Most everyone fit on that bus but a few of us rode with Erik in a Pajero (Mitsubishi made SUV).  It was nearly a 6 hour drive to Zomba and I could never have been prepared for what I was about to see on the way!  Besides just taking in the scenery of beautiful mountains and plateaus, I was overwhelmed with the number of people all around!  One woman sticks in my mind, she was walking down the street on both her feet and her hands.  Her body was permanently stuck in an upside down "V" position.  She was wearing her shoes on her hands and seemed not bothered at all by the challenge of just getting from point A to point B.  Wow.  A little further down the road a teenage boy with a baby strapped securely to his back approached the bus in front of us with his hands cupped open begging for anything.  Pretty soon, we see 3 Twizzlers lower down from on our team members on the bus.  He accepted them, turned and as he walked away he passed one back to the baby he was carrying.  Again, wow.  
The drive continued on village after village.  Women with baskets on their heads and babies on their backs were everywhere I looked.  The people were seriously everywhere!  The main roads were paved (to my surprise), but according to my Western view, they were driving on the wrong side of the road!  This illicited more than one panicked breath from me as I kept thinking we were going to be driving head on into the on coming traffic.  The people walked in the road, on the sides of the road, and many took daring darts across the road more than once.  People, People, People!  I noticed one common thread: for the most part everyone seemed happy and peaceful.  We saw huts that had colorful flags flying and Pastor Eric told us they were witch doctors.  How sad (I didn't realize how much this would hit me until later in my trip).  
Every 5 Km there were Muslim Mosque.  Pastor Eric informed us that the Muslim philosophy/strategy was to give handouts enticing people in need and once they showed up at the Mosque they would begin building their following.  People would return time after time in order to get the things they needed and would just become part of the fellowship.  There were some Mosque that didn't even have a following yet~they are just waiting for the next weary person in need.  It was really sad.
After a very winding ride straight up the Plateau we made it to our cabins.  It wasn't until we walked in the door of the common house that it showed up:  FEAR in the form of FLIGHT!!  I wasn't afraid, but in one split second I was overcome with defensive emotions.  The realities hit me like a brick.  I am very far from home, I miss my husband desperately, I want to love on my kids, and I want to go HOME!  A couple of deep breaths and a few tears later I remembered that I was ALL IN, no turning back only trusting and stepping out on faith.  
We ate dinner prepared by Dyson (our cook).  Then we were escorted through the foggy woods to our cabin.  Seriously it was like a scene from Harry Potter~such dense fog it was hard to see one foot in front of the other.  Being led only by flashlight we had made it.  I chuckled as I wished Ryan could see me in the forest of Africa trusting each step only because I was all in, I think he would be proud.  Time for a good nights sleep hopefully waking up ready to DO THIS!

I will stop here for the first entry!  The upcoming entries will be packed full of emotion and blessings.  As I relive this it makes my heart long to be there tonight, only this time with my hubby and my loves by my side!

 Part of our bags waiting to be checked at Dulles for the flight to Ethiopia

 My quarters for the 12+ hour flight!

 My bed is on the right, it was pretty comfy!

Peter's Cabin (where we stayed)

 The walk up to our cabin