I’ve been meaning to write, but honestly, it’s been difficult. Those beatitudes that I mentioned. Yeah those? Well, they were tested. More accurately, my faith was tested.
Perhaps Africa just wanted to say goodbye and leave me with a few souvenirs before I returned to America.
During my final three weeks in Burundi, I suffered an onslaught of illnesses: malaria, amoebic dysentery, intestinal infection, typhoid fever. These came very nicely packaged with severe symptoms, painful treatments, and a delay in my travel itinerary.
The temptation to succumb to despair was overwhelming.
It’s always easier to give up than it is to persevere under trials. Nevertheless, I’ve been working on changing my attitude. So I decided to look for blessings in the midst of the mire; find a way to persevere. And as I gazed into the flames of a fiery furnace, I saw God’s presence by my side; His hand upon my life.
His presence was manifest through presents. Corny, I know. But that’s how I saw it. I saw eight gifts in eight days…kind of like Hanukkah in Africa.
Gift 1: Chicken soup
Olivia, an expat working with GLO in Burundi, became a very close friend over the past few months. Through Olivia, God gave me the comforts of home during my illness (running water, quietness, chicken soup, toast). Although my Burundian host family was entirely generous and caring, beans and rice aren’t usually on the menu of “comfort foods”.
Gift 2: Bedside medical care
Hospitals in East Africa are not the most cleanly, welcoming, or warm environment, if you catch my drift. And praise the Lord, I didn’t have to be admitted for inpatient care. God gave me Adam, a trained medical professional from South Carolina serving as a short-term missionary. Adam was willing to administer IVs and medical treatment at my bedside in Olivia’s home.
Gift 3: Get out of jail FREE card
Due to these unforeseen medical conditions, I was leaving Burundi a few days later than anticipated. I was leaving Burundi with an expired visa. I was leaving Burundi, a nation ranked as the most corrupt among all others in East Africa.
Departing with an expired visa has the potential of reaping severe consequences including steep fines or even jail. God gave me Sadate, police officer and friend of my host family. He was able to negotiate our way through the immigration offices and I was able to leave the country without any financial penalty.
Gift 4: Faces of Joy
Having finally left Burundi, I returned to the Amani headquarters in Kenya for a few days of debriefing. Upon arrival, I was surrounded by an exuberant group of women eager to see my face again. God gave me joy through reunion with these women who had become so dear to me a few months prior.
The women had been informed of my illness. They told me they had been praying for me daily. Knowing that these women—women who have suffered much more pain, illness, and devastation than I will ever know—have been on their knees for me was humbling. And encouraging.
Gift 5: Mini-safari
My final day in Nairobi was spent with some Kenyan friends exploring the 30,000 acres of Nairobi National Park. God gave me an up-close and personal view of His creation.
I have been forever ruined for American zoos. Caged creatures have nothing on animals in their natural habitat.
Animal Planet: zebra, wildebeest, eland, giraffe
Gift 6: Familiar Face
Returning to America was supposed to be straightforward: Uganda to Chicago. That was before the British Airways financial crisis which caused a mis-connect in my itinerary and an overnight stay in London.
One week prior to my departure, a former college friend who had relocated to the UK contacted me. Miraculously we were able to re-connect during my day in London to enjoy a lovely Italian meal at a quaint restaurant overlooking Windsor Castle. God gave me a friendly face in a foreign city.
Gift 7: Cleanliness
This may not sound like a gift, but for a girl who’s been bathing out of buckets (a.k.a. splash baths), this was heaven-sent. God gave me a hot shower at my hotel in London. Oh, the things we take for granted.
Gift 8: Reunion
Tonight, I got to see my family again. That was the greatest gift of all. The look on their faces at the airport was priceless. Friends decorated the house with signs and flowers to welcome me home. God gave me sweet reunion with loved ones. I feel utterly cherished.