Saturday, March 30, 2013
This was my third trip over in as many years. It seems to have become a March tradition for me. I’m not quite sure what has made it happen this way, but I am happy to participate in this recurring journey to Africa. People often ask me why I go over there, what I like about it, and if I will keep going back. The simplest version of my answer is this: It helps me reset my perspective on life. And I think that with the life that I lead over here in arguably the most powerful country in this world (please don’t debate this with me – it’s for illustration purposes only), I occasionally need to press my reset button. I need the perspective of someone who doesn’t have everything that they need at their fingertips. Someone who has to think about where their next meal is coming from. Someone who dreads the rainy season because the floor in their home is dirt, which will quickly become mud. Someone who doesn’t know the privilege of taking a shower with running water, and may have to walk miles to get any clean water at all. Someone who’s only mode of transportation is their own two legs. But with that perspective, comes a greater acknowledgement of blessings. There is no expectation of convenience in life. There is no expectation of continual electricity or electricity at all. There is no expectation that water will be hot. There is no expectation of so many of the things that I take for granted every day that I wake up in my own country. And I am not saying all of this to create a strong emotion in my readers, or tug at your heartstrings, or make you want to go to Ethiopia (although I personally think that it would be a GREAT idea!) I am saying this because I get asked the question over and over again, and that is my answer.
I wasn’t planning on going back to Ethiopia this year. I had plans, and those plans changed, and I found myself seeking God and hearing Him say, “Lisa, go.” I try not to have expectations that I will go back every year as I know that life’s circumstances may not permit it, and I don’t want to be disappointed if it doesn’t work out, nor do I want to force it. But this was a clear, “Lisa, go.” So I went. And I went with the expectations that this trip would be similar to my past two trips. After all, I was planning to work with the same two organizations that I have worked with in the past, I was staying in the same guest house that I have previously stayed in, and there was no reason for me to think that this trip would be any different than the others. The problem with having expectations is that they resulted in me forming pre-conceived notions of what this trip would look like. And having those pre-conceived notions could have potentially set me up for disappointment.
God had something planned for me that was not at all what I expected. And I had to work through my expectations, my pre-conceived notions, in order to truly recognize and appreciate what He was doing. You see, I went on this trip by myself. In the past, I went with a group of people, which meant that there was very little alone time, a lot of activity, people always around to talk to, and great experiences to be shared. So in hindsight, I should’ve expected something very different for this trip. The beginning of my trip happened to overlap with the trip of one of the ladies with whom I traveled with last year. She was over there with a group of seven doing various things, but primarily focused around dentistry. They were kind enough to let me tag along on their visits and outings during the days that we overlapped. What an unexpected blessing.
What I envisioned as visits to the school that I have previously worked with and the neighborhood around the trash dump that I have previously spent time in, turned into pulling teeth at an orphanage and in that same neighborhood. What I envisioned as quiet nights at the guest house, turned into Phase 10 card tournaments and impromptu counseling sessions with my roommate, with her doing the counseling. Let me introduce you to my roommate.
I didn’t know that I was going to have a roommate. I was hoping to have one for a while to help share the cost of the room, but I didn’t know if that would be the case or not. I soon realized how blessed I was to have her to talk to every night before going to bed. She is 60, a retired nurse, and filled to hte brim with the Holy Spirit. Actually, I’m pretty sure she is overflowing with the Holy Spirit. This woman was such a gift to me. And when I look back on my expectations for this trip, it was not this. It was not her as a roommate. But God had something so much better planned. And I’m pretty sure that His instructions for me that said “Lisa, go” were largely based on me meeting this woman.