Friday, July 30, 2010

What to say?

It is hard to believe I've been back in the United States for a little over a week now. It seems that a blog post is long overdue! That first week back was a crazy one: I was really sick the first two days I was home, followed by a few hectic days of packing and moving. I was SO blessed by friends who helped us move, let us borrow trucks and hand trucks, took care of our kids one day, and made us dinners! Thank you! Now we are starting to settle back into life and have had a couple days of just being a family again. The kids and I have been spending lots of time with Legos, Playdough, and books.

Now, I imagine that anyone who might be reading this is interested in hearing about my trip to DR Congo. What to say? What do I write about such an experience? I haven't quite figured that out yet. The total length of my trip was 14 days. It took 2 days to get there, and 2 days to get back. One day was spent in an exhausted, travel-weary stupor. That leaves 9 days worth of events that I should have lots to write about.

We spent 2 days at Kaziba orphanage with all the sweet little ones. They currently have about 30 kids there, all under 6 years old. We were able to spend lots of time holding the babies and playing with the little kids. We provided some basic training for the "mamas" at the orphanage: dental care, health and nutrition, and ways to interact with all the children to help their development. We were also able to donate cloth diapers and plastic diaper covers, formula, toothbrushes, toys, crib toys, and a Bumbo seat. We also gave a contribution to help build a wall around the orphanage that will help to keep the kids much safer.

It was hard to be there face to face with the reality of the kids' lives, and even harder to leave. The staff at the orphanage work so hard and truly care about the kids, but their tasks are enormous and make it very challenging to provide the kids with all the love and attention they need. I was torn between giving a few kids lots of time and attention, or treating them assembly line style and allotting each child a ten minute slot before moving on to the next child. To be honest, I did some of both. And I found that I could fit 3 kids at a time on my lap!

We spent one day visiting Panzi Hospital in Bukavu. This is a well known hospital for treating women who are the victims of sexual violence. Dr. Denis Mukwege, a recent Nobel Peace Prize nominee, spent half an hour talking to us about his work at the hospital, what he has witnessed in Congo, and his opinions about what needs to happen in Congo. That conversation warrants its own post (a topic for another day). We then toured the hospital wards of women recovering from surgery and those awaiting surgery. With tears in my eyes, I smiled and shook hands with many beautiful, strong, and heartbroken women.

Another day we were able to go to a small church and meet dozens of orphaned children who are in an unofficial foster care program organized by Mama Dorcas (the pastor's wife). Hundreds of Congolese people donate what they can, most often the equivalent of 50 cents per month, to help provide some food (2 or 3 meals a week) and school fees if possible for the kids in the program. The children and volunteers sang some songs for us, Mama Dorcas told us a little more about the program, and then they fed the children from a large pot of maize porridge. Many of the kids walk for miles to receive this simple meal.

This is a brief overview of a few of my days in the Congo. I'll try to add more as I have time to process. And eventually I'll take the time to figure out how to add pictures = )

Mostly I am reflecting on the amazing blessings in my life that are often so easy to take for granted, and wondering exactly how I am to best use these blessings to impact our hurting world. I am so thankful for my husband, my kids, our health, safe drinking water, electricity, great roads, education, my home, my country, safety, etc, etc, etc.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Today is the day!

Today is the day I begin my journey to Democratic Republic of the Congo! My first flight takes off at 10:30 tonight from San Diego. I will meet up with Cammie in Washington D.C. Then we're off to Ethiopia, then Rwanda, and finally to Congo. We are scheduled to arrive in Bukavu, DR Congo on Sunday morning. It all adds up to 2 days of travel, about 24 hours of actual flying time. Not looking forward to that part of the trip! But I'm sure God has plans for that time, too.

I can't wait to give hugs to my wonderful family in Congo and to hold and play with the babies and children at the orphanage. The biggest bags I've ever seen are packed full of cloth diapers, plastic diaper covers, formula, and toys for Kaziba Orphanage. 2 bags, 50 pounds each, plus a small suitcase and a backpack for me. My luggage is bigger than me and weighs as much as I do!

I am so blessed to have a wonderful husband who is supportive of my trip and able to help me get all this to the airport. Thanks Joel; I love you! How I will miss him and my sweet daughter and son while I am traveling. I love you my little "Tabby Cat" and "Baby Oliver"! A huge thank you also to everyone who is praying for me and this trip, all who have given donations and financial support, and to the kids' grandmas who are coming to take care of them when Joel is working. I love and appreciate you all!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The overflow of my heart

Just three days until I leave for DR Congo! I am nervous, excited, and a little overwhelmed too.

My heart has been very full lately. My thoughts and feelings keep overflowing. Unfortunately I haven't seemed to have words to express the emotions and changes going on in my heart. Instead this overflow keeps coming from my eyes. Oh how I hate to cry! Especially in front of people.

As I think of and pray for the orphaned children throughout the world, and especially in Congo, tears come to my eyes... As I think about the 2 weeks I'll be away from my own children and husband, tears come to my eyes... Helping in Vacation Bible School last week, I cried with the kids when they cried because their moms were leaving, and tears slid down my cheeks as I told a sweet little girl about how much Jesus loves her... As I talked to my kids about how blessed we are to live in the United States and celebrate our amazing freedoms, more tears...

Hopefully soon I'll be able to express more of these emotions, and the things God is teaching me, through words and actions, and not quite so much with my tears!