“I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.”
July 20, 2014
This morning we went to Farm church for our last Sunday here. Farm church is a house church about 20 minutes away attended by all kinds of farmers in the area. There are tobacco farmers, vegetation farmers, dairy farmers, you name it, they’re represented. Everyone there is white but they’re South African or Zimbabwean or native to Africa in some way. The house where everyone meets is on a plantation owned by Sam and Fiona. They used to only meet every 6 weeks or so but recently they’ve started meeting every week. Meagan said sometimes she’ll go and there will be a lot of people and sometimes she’ll go and there will only be 2. So when we pulled up today there were 6 people; 1 leading the service and 5 in the seats. It was funny realizing we nearly doubled their attendance. We got there and sang a little and then Sam talked about what he’d been learning from a book he’s been reading. I say “talked” instead of “preached” because that’s what it was. More of a talking discussion rather than a lecture. It was inclusive and simply an expression of the growth and refining going on inside of Sam lately. Really a neat way to do church.
His talk was about how the act of trusting God is a physical choice we have to make. To trust God means to deny your feelings and circumstances and choose to believe what you once believed to be true. Sam mentioned a number of people from their congregation, most of whom are battling cancer, and it just seemed like what church is supposed to be. Uplifting one another in spirit and in prayer. After he talked he opened up the floor for anyone to say anything they were wanting to say. A man who had cancer spoke up about how he feels like once you realize the purpose for pain, it’s as though bad times are actually considered good times. You relish them because you know you’re in a period where you have nothing but God. It was pretty incredible hearing a man talk about how if cancer is what ends his life, then hallelujah, but it’s not going to change the living he wants to do before he goes. I took a ton of notes.
We went by town to get some things for lunch and came back and made tilapia and vegetables. We ate and played a couple of games of Hand and Foot before going to get the babies for our one-on-one time today. Meag is letting us choose someone to spend the night with us which is so exciting. Aubrey got Biggie, River chose Petra, and I had Joel. When we went to the Havens to pick them up, the rest of the Haven 2 kids were (literally) barreling out of the Haven 2 gate sprinting into our arms. I picked each one up and squeezed the air out of their lungs hugging them so tight. It sounds crazy but I’ve missed them after only two days.
We brought the ones we picked back to Meag’s and decided to make a home theater and watch Beauty and the Beast. I sat Joel in our big chair while I went to get something to drink, and when I got back he was looking at me and patting the seat beside him, motioning that he wanted me to sit by him. Swoon.
We watched the movie and ate dinner all piled around Meagan’s dinner table. It was a full house and I loved it. We put them in their PJs and walked to Johnson church where Roy talked about marriage and how to keep from making Samson mistakes in finding a partner. Pretty cool topic and he presented it in such a hilarious way. He makes these slideshows with all these pictures of students from around the campus and some that are clearly from Google. Hi-larious. A guy wanted to be baptized and after Roy asked for his confession, Roy prayed and thanked God for open and receiving hearts. That struck me for some reason. I feel like I should thank God for that more often.
When we got back, we made a pallet in our bedroom floor for the babies since they all had already fallen asleep. We put them down and then watched 12 Years a Slave just us girls. Holy cow. That movie wrecked me in every way possible. It’s just a well-made movie first of all, and then the story behind it is absolutely incredible. I mean we all went to bed saying “Wow,” over and over.
Everyday since being really sick last week, has just been better and better. I savor every joyful moment. With the babies, with Meag, with living simply. I’m caught in between being excited to see my family and Daniel, and never wanting to stop being here.
July 21, 2014
This morning all the babies woke up around the same time as us. I was able to pull Joel into bed with me for a little bit before having to get ready. I love cuddly, still, morning babies. We fed them porridge before piling them all in the bath. Cute as ever.
Meagan told us this morning we don’t have to stick with what our scheduled Haven is for the week. We can spend time with whoever we want since we only have 3 days left at the Havens. I was supposed to be in Haven 3 this week but I was really happy she said that because now I don’t feel so frantic about only being able to spend short amounts of time with the kids as our last time.
When we got to the Havens each of us interns decided we wanted to be in language class. It was so much fun because they did all the fun songs that I love so much. I was able to film some of them, which are priceless treasures. Joel was so incredibly excited in class today like always. Since we’ve spent so much time together he truly realizes who I am whenever I’m around. Walking to language class this morning I came up beside him, grabbed his hand, and he looked up, smiled from ear to ear, squeezed his eyes closed as tight as he could, and kept putting our joined hands to his head and laughing. I love Joel more than I know to say.
We ended the language class with a parachute activity and the kids were beaming. They were so excited and everyone (but Vera, little cranky pants) were squealing with pure delight. It was a great moment being able to see complete joy on each of their faces.
After language class I went to see what the Haven 3 babies were doing and held Patu for a little bit. When I went into the little baby room, Meagan came in behind me and realized that Memory, a new 1.9 kg (4 pound) baby, had an incredible fever. She took her temperature and it was 104.9 degrees Fahrenheit. Meag took her to the clinic to see what’s going on straight away.
All the babies were heading to bath time so I went into the kitchen and helped sort through beans to pick out bad ones. It’s just as enjoyable to me being around the Aunties as it is the kids. Since all the kids in Haven 3 were bathed and being put down for a nap, I went to Haven 1 and sat with Aubrey for a little bit. I was able to start the goodbye process and hold a couple of the little ones that I’ve grown to really love. The big boys were so sweet and cuddly today and I’m happy to have that last memory of them.
I set up the hammock and Aubrey and I spent a couple hours with Biggie, Joel, and Seth. I played a memory game with Seth again and again while Aubrey, Biggie, and Joel were swinging. We were listening to music and all of them were in really great moods. Seth and I were doing shapes and we got into this silly game of yelling back and forth at each other what certain shapes were. It was so cute hearing that little voice screaming, “WHAT IS THIS?” to which I would answer, “SQUARE!” It was fun.
At 17:00 we left with Meag and went to check on our quilts again. They’re almost finished and I’m so excited to get them in the next couple of days. We came back, made quesadillas for dinner, and talked with Meag for really long time while playing games. She had a bad day today with things happening and missing her family and just the really sad parts of this missionary life. I hadn’t seen her cry like that in a long time. It pains me seeing her so sad but it’s important to see this side of this life too. I cry every time I think about leaving her and here and this summer. I am so excited to see my family but it doesn’t feel right leaving yet. Realizing that it’s happening in 3 days is beginning to shift a lot inside of me and causing a whole facet of emotions.
I’m not ready.
July 22, 2014
This morning Aubs and I walked the trail before brewing some coffee and packing our lunches for the day. When we got to the Havens I went straight to Haven 3 to spend time before language class. Tomorrow is our last day at the Havens but I’m really wanting to spend that day with Joel, so I’m wanting to say goodbyes to the Haven 1 and 3 kids today.
When I walked into Haven 3 I was greeted by all the big kids running around in the main room. Angel was speeding around on this push car and Kent was by the door when I walked in so I scooped him up and we chased Angel around and around. Kent was belly laughing and I could’ve cried. I sat with the big ones for a little bit before leaving for language class. Meagan had left for an emergency trip to Zimba for baby Memory. Her temperature is still the same so Meagan rushed her to the hospital to get blood work done and to see what’s going on with her little body.
Language class went much better than it did the last time Meag wasn’t there. The kids were happy and pretty participatory. I went to help with nsima time afterward and then walked over to Haven 1 to sit with the Aunties and babies there for a little bit. I was able to do some goodbyes. I fed Esther, rocked Zeke, and held little Oscar.
At intern lunch we had a full out picnic. We brought blankets and sat under this big shady tree in a field behind Haven 1. We were able to craft a surprise banner we’re making Meagan for her birthday since it’s tomorrow. We want to surprise her with a birthday celebration, so hopefully Memory will be doing better so we can have some fun with her on such a special day.
I went to Haven 2 and got Reuben and Ella and we read a couple of books and hit the swings for a good bit. We sang songs and laughed a bunch. I really love those two. They definitely are the most adamant about wanting to learn.
Afterwards I took them back to the buundus and sat with the kids making dirt sand castles. Joel and Vera decided to try their hardest to bury me alive by covering my skirt in dirt sand. They were just laughing and laughing and so was I. When they got their snack I sat with the Aunties for a little while. Ella managed to find my lap and we sang to each other. I love little Ellastic.
I stole Joel away for a while and we went to sit on the Haven 2 veranda and traced each others’ hands and drew in my notebook. I think he got bored because after a while he stood up and waved goodbye as he turned to walk away. I think that boy’s going to be just fine.
After walking with him back to the buundus I went to Haven 1 to help with feeding. It was really neat that today was the last day helping because usually when the babies are waiting on their food they’re screaming and crying but today they were all in a chorus of laughter. While I was walking back and forth, carrying the bowls from the kitchen into the main room all I could do was laugh to myself at how bittersweet these moments are.
Meag was still in Zimba once 17:00 came around so we walked back through the paddock one last time. It was just as beautiful as always. We got back and started cooking some potato soup and began packing some things. Meag got home and was extremely discouraged and ended up going back to her room to unwind until dinner was ready. I hate that these bad days are happening so close to when we leave. But I think the fact that we’re leaving could be one of the contributing factors to the sadness.
After a while Meag came back out and we had this awesome homemade potato soup and played some games afterward with Lou. It was a lot of fun but very obvious to all of us that it’s been a tiring day for Meag. When Meag and Lou went to bed we decided to go onto the containers to look at the stars one more good time. They’re just incredible.
When we got back we started decorating the kitchen for Meag’s birthday with the banner we made at lunch today. We finished making her gift, which is our favorite coffee mug with our funniest moments written on it. It’s just weird doing things like packing and saying goodbyes. These days feel so much like normal that I’m not ready to close it off. It just doesn’t feel right.
July 23, 2014
This morning River, Aubrey, and I woke super early to make a surprise breakfast of champions to start off the day for Meag’s birthday. We made biscuits, bacon, and eggs and she was totally surprised. She told us baby Memory made it through the night and finally broke her fever. Meag said her first birthday wish already came true in that baby girl didn’t die in the night. I’m constantly reminded of how different this world is.
We pigged out and she left right away to go check on Memory at Zimba Hospital. The other interns and I still had about an hour until we needed to leave so we packed a little and finished our gifts to Meag since she was out of the house. We walked to the Havens and made it just as language class was starting. The kids participated really well despite the fact that Meagan wasn’t there. After language class was nsima time and I fed Joel some before going to Haven 1 to say some final goodbyes. The Aunties told me to sit with them for a little bit while Katie and Oscar and Binwell crawled all over my legs. After spending a while there, Aubrey and I went back to Haven 2 and sat in the floor of the big boys room. All the kids were supposed to be napping but undoubtedly none of them were, surprise surprise except not at all. They were like swarming bees around us, all lined up on our legs from waist to toes.
Bina Franco came and got me and asked me to help her and Susan cook lunch. She put me in charge of the tomato soup and egg and we had so much fun laughing together. Aubrey joined us and we took a few pictures to remember them. I so appreciate these two women who have made me feel welcomed like a true friend. Bina Franco told us she’s sad we’re going and that she’ll miss us. It makes me feel even better knowing that we were a help to more than just the babies.
After eating lunch together, Aubrey and I got Biggie, Seth, and Joel and went to set up the hammock. Joel was in such a giggly mood to where he was laughing so hard whenever I would tickle him, he was wheezing. Love that sound.
|Joel and Seth|
|Biggie, Aubrey, Reuben (on Aubrey's back), Joseph, and Joel|
|Joseph, Seth, Joel, and Reuben|
We swung for a bit and Seth and I worked on letters and matching the cards with the actual plastic letters. Joel was our helper and liaison in handing Seth whatever it was he needed. Joseph and Reuben eventually joined us and it gave me joy seeing them enjoy the hammock so much.
Joel and I went to the language class veranda to have some one-on-one time. We pushed cars and played a throwing game with some beanbags and a basket. He’s so much more outgoing, talkative, and constantly requesting for things in his own way. I soaked up every second I could just looking at him and watching him be so big and strong. I took him to the buundus so he could get his drink and snack and then took him and a couple others to the swings. Once they were tired of it we went back to the Haven 2 veranda where we traced hands and scribbled. I wanted today to solely be for Joel. So I took every opportunity I could to be with him.
It was time to start the dreaded trek to Haven 1 to start saying goodbyes. I told Ba Pauline we were leaving and she said she was so sad and that we were such a big help. Those kinds of words mean so much and Meagan told us later that the Aunties wouldn’t offer a compliment like that freely. I found Mamma and thanked her for letting us be a part of this as well as said my final goodbye to Bina Mbombo, thanking her for everything. Farewells are just such a hard thing for me because I know it is quite possible that I may never see these people again. And it’s strange knowing that when you’re looking at that person in the eyes trying to convey what they mean to you. It’s just impossible when this place and the people in it mean so much. What do you say?
After the Haven 1 goodbyes I walked over to Haven 2 to give good last hugs. I picked each child up one by one, gave them tight squeezes telling each one I loved them. It’s so hard especially when you know they have no clue what’s going on and will honestly forget who you are in two weeks max. But I won’t forget them. I didn’t expect saying goodbye to Seth would be so difficult for me but it really was. He’s such a good boy and he kept kissing me on the cheek saying he loved me.
Holding and kissing Joel for the last time was just as painful as I thought it would be and nothing I can say about it will convey it.
I walked over to Haven 3 to tell Ba Cece goodbye. At first she refused to hug us because she didn’t want to tell us goodbye but eventually she gave in and told us how sad she was.
Pulling away from the Havens was like tearing off a Band-Aid super glued to your skin. It hurt and I tried my hardest to memorize every little thing I could about it as we drove away.
We went to Eric’s House to say goodbye to Jason and Cyn and the Merritts. We picked up our quilts too and then once we got back to the house we found Emmett sitting outside waiting to wish Meag a happy birthday. He gave her this super awesome hammock as a gift and we set it up for her to try. She loved it. We decided to make hamburgers tonight for dinner to celebrate and Emmett ended up staying to help us cook. We made our own homemade french fries and the whole thing was just so so yummy and comforting after a day like today. While eating, we hear this chorus of “Happy Birthday” beginning outside. Jason and Cyn and Kathi along with all the Eric’s House boys surprised Meagan with a cake. It was so sweet.
We said our goodbyes to Emmett and dreamed together about any chance we might have to see each other again.
|L to R: me, Emmett, Meagan, Aubrey, and River|
After he left we gave Meag our gifts and she loved them. We ate our Funfetti cupcakes we made for her and played our favorite games together. Aubrey brought some facemasks from the States as a fun thing to do so we used them tonight for Meag’s birthday. It was hilarious. We ended up packing the rest of the night, deciding what to leave for Meag and what to take.
I’m trying my hardest to push all of these feelings inside of me to the side and enjoy these last few hours we have with Meag. I want to stay. I want to see Joel again. I want to hear him laugh and see him get better and better at communicating. I want him for myself. I want all of these kids for myself. They’re so unique and unlike the other and every one touches such different places in my heart.
It’s like you tell yourself not to go places and do things like this because you know there’s an end. And you know it’s going to come fast. But I always go against my better judgment and I do just what I tell myself not to and I let it happen. I let myself experience what it’s like to love a child and the women who take care of them. I let myself become captivated by a four year old boy with cerebral palsy who will forget me sooner than I would like to admit. I told myself not to because I knew it would hurt but I did it anyway. And I was right. It’s just as bad as I told myself it would be.
July 24, 2014
This morning we all woke up, packed the last of our things, and said our goodbyes to Mati and Luyando at the house. Driving the Namwianga road for perhaps the last time was so saddening.
To get to Livingstone you have to drive through Zimba which is where baby Memory is, so we stopped there to check and see how baby is. She was looking so so much better. Her face looked fuller and they were talking about wanting to take her off of oxygen to see what her oxygen levels in her blood would do and see if she can still be stable without it. All great news.
We left the hospital and finished our drive to Livingstone. It’s hard to try and make your eyes soak in every last sight you can possibly see. All the unique trees, the people, the beautiful simplicity. We went to the hospital to check on Jonah’s biopsy results but to no avail. They still aren’t in. We drove to Kubu café and drank some coffee and talked together before heading to the airport. When we got our stuff inside we stood at security and hugged Meag’s neck one more good time. It took everything in me to keep from crying but I know I’ll see her again and I kept reminding myself that.
We cleared check-in and flew to Johannesburg with no problems. On the plane I was pleasantly surprised to be sitting next to Mr. Pippin who was on his way home from the Zambia Medical Mission. So ironic. Not to mention his house (called the Pippin House) is the one I stayed in when we studied abroad to Namwianga fall of 2012. Pretty neat. We talked a lot about Namwianga and how he became involved and how I happened to stumbled upon it. He told me I should return and be a practicing SLP at the Havens and help teach Aunties therapy skills. Maybe it’s just because I’m so fresh off of leaving, but that sounds really intriguing to me.
We waited for a few hours in the Johan airport before taking off to London and sat there for a few hours before flying to Chicago. We cleared customs with ease and were on our way to Memphis before we knew it. When we landed we got to the room before baggage claim and I saw my parents right away. It was so nice hugging their necks. All of our baggage made it (praise) and all of us interns hugged one last time before saying goodbye.
Dad and Mom and I went and ate at a barbeque place on Beale and talked a lot about some of the things that happened. I’m blessed beyond measure to have parents like I do. They want to hear my stories.
So now I’m laying in a hotel bed in Memphis, Tennessee.
And God how I miss Namwianga.
I cry when I think about the emptiness of my arms that once held Joel and Ella and Pri. I’m struggling to feel as though I can do anything that matters other than being back there. Being on God’s mission is more-so a state of mind than your location (or sometimes it very much has to do with your location) and I know this. But the state of my mind doesn’t feel right not being there.
I love these sweet reunions. I love my family. I love that I have people that anticipate my return. No ifs, ands, or buts. I just miss living life there as well. And I know these emotions will alleviate the longer I’m back. They always do. It’s just right now it’s so fresh, I don’t know if this sadness means I should do something to continue this path or just accept this summer as a good experience and leave it at that.
Only God can lead and craft my path in such a way that I’ll find the answer to that question. Until then, I’ll rest in my memories of what’s just happened and think on the beauty and darkness of my experiences. I couldn’t have done this without people who are generous with their money and prayers. I’m so thankful.