So I have been backsince the 30th of July. We stopped in Paris for our debriefing and a couple of days of sightseeing and relaxing before heading home. Hearing about and listening to the re-entry/reverse culture shock back in to the States scares me a bit. Re-entry is always harder than culture shock into a whole new culture. Somehow it's harder to function here and care about the same things that the general American population cares about. Everything I've seen, learned, heard, experienced, loved is still in my heart and soul but now I'm in a new place. My new family and friends I made in Mali are not here with me, more than anything I want to be there with them. It's so hard to process and think about all of it without completely melting down. If I would have been done with school, I would have stayed longer. I dreaded leaving. The last week or so before we left I was up at 8am every morning wanting to be with the Malians as long as possible because the ending was coming, I especially wanted to be with my little boy Le Vieux. I miss him like crazy. I think about those nights where I rocked him to sleep by walking around the compound in the dark where there was no lights or noise. I think about laughing at him on those days where he thought every stinkin' thing was so funny. I miss holding him and seeing him sleep in my bed. I miss kissing his face. I miss feeling like a real momma, something that I desire so badly. I miss everything. Its so hard to concentrate on day to day things, when all I'm doing is reliving my memories and thinking of what they are doing at that moment. The hardest part is thinking everything through and processing all of it, because of the pain of being here and not there. It's easier to just put them out of my mind, in some ways, but I don't want to.
With only about 3 weeks left in Mali (less than three at our home in Bougouni) my attitude and perspective has changed alot. Now longer am I tired of our routine here or just want to go home. Instead I have really been appreciating every last experience we get. Right now I cannot see how this lifestyle has affected me, but when I picture myself at home, I picture myself feeling totally out of place and wanting to do things at home "Malian style" as I have learned here. More than anything I miss my family and friends, but thats it. Yes I do miss familiar things and understanding the language from every person around me (almost) but I don't miss it so much that I don't ever want to come back to another country. Through the difficulties here, I've become doubtful of where God has placed me. Satan has a way of using such situations to bring us down. But everytime I got through them, my heart was lifted again (by prayers across the ocean) and I was certain this is where God wants me. He wants me in Africa ministering to children. I don't know how yet. More than anything, I don't think I want to necessarily work in an orphange like I thought I did, but instead I want to buy a house and take children in who are abandoned and no one wants them. I want to be their example of Christ, maybe the only one they'll ever know. I want to empower them to be all they can be through Christ, that they are not worthless but they are worth everything in the Lord's eyes. I've been looking through AIM for what I can do after I graduate in one year. I know God has something for me to serve Him.
I've been thinking alot about my future and what I'm going to do, when my mom sent me a message that she had thought of me when she was doing her devotions. She gave me a verse in Hebrews that tells us to keep our eyes on Jesus only, not the path we are following or how we are going to get there but learn who Jesus is and stay intimately close to Him. I've heard this so many times, but at some moments some words just really hit you hard. Spiritually speaking, it has been rough here and I haven't given my time to God like I need to. I can feel Him calling me back to Him, which is where I'm going to start over again, now. Thank Jesus for new chances all the time.
Some people talk about hunger, but they don't come and say, "Mother, here are five rupees. Buy food for these people." But they can give a most beautiful lecture on hunger.
I had the most extraordinary experience once in Bombay. There was a big conference about hunger. I was supposed to go to that meeting and I lost the way. Suddenly I came to that place, and right in front of the door to where hundreds of people were talking about food and hunger, I found a dying man.
I took him out and I took him home.
He died there.
He died of hunger.
And the people inside were talking about how in fifteen years we will have so much food, so much this, so much that, and that man died.
See the difference?
I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time.
Just One. One. One.
You get closer to Christ by coming closer to each other. As Jesus said, " Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me."
So you begin.... and I begin.
I picked up one person.
Maybe if I hadn't picked up that one person I wouldn't have picked up 42,000. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if I didn't put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less.
Same thing for you.
Same thing for your family.
Same thing in the church where you go.
Just begin.... One. One. One.
At the end of life, we will not be judge by how many diplomas we have received how much money we have made how many great things we have done;
We will be judged by this:
"I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in."
Hungry not for bread - but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing - but naked of human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks - but homeless because of rejection.
Yesterday was Fatoumata's wedding. She has grown up living with Uncle Joseph and Tante Marte (as a niece) but has become basically their child because of a bad situation with her parents. I can't imagine how many feelings she was having Friday night and Saturday morning. She must have been excited and nervous and happy to get married but i'm sure sad to leave her family and place she has known for a very long time. The thing with Malian weddings is that when they get married they don't hardly know each other. He is from a village quite a ways away, so she has probably only talked to him in person a couple times. What we do in the States is ask a person to go out with us or date when we are interested in them. Here it's not dating it is asking them to marry and become a fiance. It is different. They cannot be alone together because it is a big temptation for both of them, as they say. I can understand that, but I could not imagine marrying a man I barely knew. The wedding was beautiful. The choir was singing for a while ahead of time. Then here comes a big long line of choir members, pastors, men beating drums, women singing, and Fatoumata in her wedding dress with the veil covering her face and Jeremy next to her. During the wedding, they sat up front next to each other with a best man/woman on both sides. They didn't hardly look around much but sit still look at the people sitting down and once in a while maybe smile. I could tell Fatoumata was really nervous though. So the 3 1/2 hour service was filled with preaching and singing and then finally Uncle Joseph married them with the rings, prayer, and a first kiss that I know she was taken aback by!
Le Vieux, my baby, ha, was dedicated in church today which was very exciting. I pray for him and that he would grow up to be a man of God and that by his parents growing closer together in love for each other, he would have a great example to follow.
This weekend was great! Not only was I feeling better after being sick for a while, but I could definitely feel the prayers coming my way as my mom had mentioned. By Thursday night I was very joyful and so happy I was still in Mali. Bad circumstances seem to make everything look bad. I'm so glad I don't make important decisions when I'm feeling so bad. Thank you to all of you. I am feeling much better and have most of my energy and appetite back, now I just need to continually eat more to gain weight back. We visited a couple of villages about 4-5 hours away and it was very good to go somewhere else and meet new people. We stayed with Pastor Marka and his family the first night. He graduated from IBR just last year, so our intern, Sharon, knew him very well. The second night we stayed in Bamako at the EEBM guest house (as we have before). We went out to eat that night and then found ourselves studying for our oral final exam with our professor for the next morning. Once that was finished on Saturday, we went to the Artisan in Bamako which is where all the African jewelry, boxes, canvases, paintings, etc. is made. I'm terrible at bargaining because first of all you can hardly look around without them bothering you, and then you have to literally leave the place for them to stop talking to you, even after that we had a drunk man following us and continually saying "What do you want? I am sorry. I will give you the best prices...you are my friend...blah blah." At the end of the trip, me and Christian had to ride in the hot trunk in the back of the truck to get home because it only holds so many people in the front. It was quite amusing and we had alot of people smiling and waving at us. This is something a Malian would do, not an American, typically.
So the past two weeks haven't exactly been a joyous ride. First I started out with a sore throat. It became worse and I knew I needed to go to the clinic because I could hardly swallow anything and my throat was full of red splotches and white dots. I still dont know if it was strep exactly. I went on antibiotics for a couple days and it was gone almost immediately. In another couple of days, it came back. I was a bit frustrated at this point because this was highly unexpected or needed. I went to the clinic again and they decided that they should give me antibiotics through an IV instead. I thought they were exaggerating for a sore throat but I let them do what they do. I did about three different dosages in two days for my throat. It took a little bit longer to go away this time and I was a bit worried, and a bit critical and judgmental towards the doctors here (or the Malian culture in general).
Fast forward to another half week later, I woke up and felt like i was hit by a truck. My body was so so exhausted and tired and I could hardly stand up and walk around. I wanted to sleep and lay down and couldn't wake up whatsoever. I took my temperature just to check and it ended up being a low fever. Uncle Joseph took me back to the clinic and they told me I had no fever (armpit vs. mouth). He said I was fine, until he took my blood pressure. It was 10/6 or (100/60). This is lower than normal especially for me. Apparently my body was very weak and that is why I was not able to move well or have any energy whatsoever. I hadn't eaten anything that day (it was just early afternoon) because I woke up late and wasn't hungry. They decided to put me on an IV for nutrition and other things. Even though my blood test for malaria came out negative, it can do that sometimes, there was a possibility I might have had a germ or so from that as well. So the assistant came to our house on the compound so I could lay on our couch and gave me the IV. The first two bags went really fast. The last one was big and only dripped every 3 seconds or so. It took all night to finish and I was sick of it. (Of course along with the IV I had terrible diarrhea, I know you wanted to know this!) Uncle Joseph made me eat, so I ate a couple bananas and maybe about an hour or so later I threw it all up. This wasn't the first time. They continually pushed me to eat because I had too much medication in my body and no food, but it frustrated me because even though they were telling me to eat because it was the right thing, I was still continually throwing it up a bit later! I was so miserable, and with no food in my body I couldn't even walk in the house by myself. When I immediately stood up, everything turned black and they literally had to haul me to the bathroom. At one point I blacked out and when I opened my eyes I was already down the hall and had puked all over my arm and the floor. How embarrassing in front of everyone. Uncle Joseph continually pushed me to eat as he would remind me about every 5 minutes to eat more, take more, put this in your mouth, you need more. Finally because of my throwing up, he went and bought me some medication to stop my body from resisting the food. It did its job but wow did that medicine burn in my veins! Marie (Matthew's mom) was there the whole time with me and she was so affectionate toward me. I feel like we have a great connection and it meant so much for her to sit with me on my bed and pull my hair back, rub my back, etc.
So the next day was Sunday. The assistant came at 9 to give me to the second dosage of meds but Uncle Joseph had called the doctor to explain what had happened last night. He wanted us to come back into the clinic, so we did. He did another quick physical exam on me and then gave me the anti-vomiting medicine again. It made me dizzy this time so I had to lay down. Then they checked me weight. Wow, I could not believe that I have lost 20+ lbs since February. Especially, off of my body, because thats the last thing I need. I have been very discouraged about this since. So I was given the same meds again through my IV and ate before they went through. This time things were going well. I had eaten chicken noodle soup, jello, small crackers...etc...then I had a drink of Fanta (bad idea) and up came everything I had just eaten. "Wow that was alot of work" I thought. "Now I have to eat all that over again!" The rest of the day sailed on slowly and I laid on my bed all day watching movies because I was so energy-less, my body was completely dead and I looked like it too. The next day I only went to the second half of class and then stayed inside much of the afternoon afterwards. Today I have felt so much better and I know its because of my family and friends in Christ i have on the other side of this planet!
Now I am just struggling with being content with where I'm at. Emotionally I am miserable and know Mali isn't where I will live in the future. Satan is good at taking me passions and desires and twisting them to make them look evil and miserable. How dare he! Mentally exhausted because of our homework and how hard it is to do in such a negative state of mind and body. Also, my body says "eat" but I say nothing sounds good, nothing tastes good (not even junk food), I dont have an appetite, blah blah, but I can't stand the fact that I've lost so much.
Thank you all for the support and prayer. (This is a bit detailed!)
On Sunday afternoon, a couple of us went to the soccer game over by the other church in town that IBR is with. It was great to be able to get away from our house and do something different. The game was between IBR and Torakabougou, but we lost again. But this time it was 5-2 because we were actually really loud and cheering for our team. These are just a few of the photos that I took that afternoon. It was super hot and exhausting so we sat in the shade under a huge tree, and drank their water when ours was gone (I hope I don't get typhoid again)! (ha) Since being in culture shock it has been harder to find the motivation to actually want to go out and do things so because I felt really good, it was a pretty darn good day. Then Sunday night, the electricity kept on going off and on and off and on. There was no electricity all night and therefore no fans. There are a few times where we actually slept inside with no fans, but we were tired of it...real tired of it, so we all piled our mattresses outside on our front porch and slept till 6 am and then moved inside and the fans were back on then. Last night, the same thing happened. Everyone was frustrated, even the students and Uncle Joseph. But we didn't bet it would stay on all night so we all tied our mosquito nets outside and moved our beds out too. It was so nice that night, except for hearing the donkeys and roosters right next to our porch! It's true that when you are use to something and don't have it, it changes alot of things and can be very frustrated...like electricity. Its hard when the water is turned off for a period of time as well. Then I remember how thankful I have it here when it is all back on.
Remember, to be grateful for everything you have, no matter where you live!
Photos above: Me, Abel, Michenzie; Courtney and Kadiatou- Court is trying to learn to drive the moto