After a crazy first week, we were able to go on a Safari before our team leader and his daughter left for Kenya. We were escorted by Melody, a Cedarville grad who has been working for TLC for about 4 and a half years. After almost being charged by an angry elephant, chasing giraffes, and listening to the hilarious mating call of the impala, we ate lunch overlooking hippos bathing in water, and elephants taking an afternoon water break. Over lunch, Melody told us one of the hardest parts of being here was realizing you can’t be in two places at once, and accepting that this was her new home. This conclusion impacted all of us in different ways, but for me, it made me grateful knowing that I was in two places at once.
Week two was big for our team. Tuesday morning Kim and Brooke left, leaving the 5 of us girls our own team leaders. A new sense of accountability and encouragement has taken over, and bringing us all incredibly close. However, the biggest accomplishment the Cedarville team has made this week was being the first team in TLC history to go on 3 days of outreach in a row. That means 3 mornings of 4am departure times, incredibly exhausting days, and late nights. Very little sleep has led to a few of us getting sick, but they’re troopers. The bite count reached 35 this week, but we figured out a new system and no bites have occurred since. All of this to say, this week has been great, and I mean that.
We’ve reached more people than I ever thought was possible. Our third outreach numbered in the thousands. All of us have gotten way more medical experience than we probably bargained for. The Swazi team has become our family, Swazi food has become our comfort, and at the end of the night we can’t wait to get ‘home’. The Lord has made a crazy experience become a comfort, and I know it’s because we are in two places at once.
More than ever this week I’ve felt the power of prayer. Every morning of outreach we gather in a prayer circle, sing in Siswati, and are encouraged through scripture. But more than that, I feel the prayer of the church, of my family, and of friends, and it is needed. My heart is here, but is present there as well. It is never easy to leave behind what is comfortable, but as I said in the last blog, the uncomfortable is becoming our peace, and that is how were called to live as Christians because it gives us confidence. And that confidence is now what has brought us to a place where we decided on the first day of outreach that we were going to push ourselves, accomplish goals, and go above and beyond, because we knew that we were sustained by something bigger than ourselves.
My friends and family know how much I love starts, and in Africa, away from the city, the starts shine brighter than I’ve ever seen in the states. My favorite part about the stars here though is that were in a different hemisphere, so most of them are new. However, the most prominent constellation here is one I’ve never noticed- the southern cross. In the middle of the sky is a giant cross. It’s the constellation that my eyes are constantly drawn to.
The first time I noticed it at outreach was after the first day, when the village leader had brought an entire truck full of those who were lame, bed ridden, and too sick to make it to us on their own- and we gave them wheel chairs. Not only were their physical needs met, but a practical need that gave them the ability to move. There was a new hope in them, a new joy that we got to see, and I looked up and saw the cross. In that moment, after receiving the encouragement from Melody, I realized that there is a third component to being in two places at once, and that is a leading.
All of us were led here. Our hearts had over 20 years of preparation to get to the place where we were called to go to Swaziland. We prepared for months after we made that conclusion to actually believe we could get here, and then about two days of traveling to accept that we were coming. But we are here, and each of us has a different story of how God worked to get us here, and that story is the center of what has been driving us; it’s what continues to drive us. It’s what I remember when I look up and see the cross. When I feel like I can’t go anymore, when I have nothing left, I remember my story, and I’m overwhelmed with the prayer of believers that have also been led to strengthen us with prayers of power in Jesus’ name, and those prayers have been the spiritual and physical center of all we do. Leaving ourselves behind, following our leading, because we have an eternal confidence that sometimes shows up only in the darkest of nights through a cluster of starts put there long before we were led to look at a Swazi sky 8500 miles away from home.