Monday, March 22, 2010

Africa memories

Our plane touched down at PDX on Saturday, February 6. April is coming fast. I am settled back into my "home" and "work" routine. I do not wake up at 2:45am - wide awake - anymore. My jet lag is long gone. Any facial sun tan I brought back with me has faded. The sights, smells, and sounds of Sierra Leone and Guinea slip farther back into my memory bank. What memories now rise to the surface?

Life is hard for the majority of people in West Africa. Heat and humidity. Poverty and unemployment. Sickness and disease. The lack of clean water and consistent electricity. All are a daily reality. This is not to mention the struggle to find enough food to eat every day when you don't have a job or the job you do have pays you very little. People by the thousands live day-to-day, hand-to-mouth. And yet they march on, day after day in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. They find a way to exist and live. And many of them discover a way to live joyfully while surrounded by daunting circumstances. To put it mildly, West Africans are a resilient people. I am humbled by their perseverance.

My Africa team is the best (shown in the photo with the 5 Susu men we spent 2 1/2 days with on retreat in Guinea). We spent almost two weeks together under some challenging circumstances - jet lag and adjusting to a new culture, place, people, and food. And all of this without argument, conflict, or differences. Call that a miracle! We enjoyed being together. We helped each other when assistance or encouragement were needed. We laughed together more than I have laughed in years! We got to the place where we could begin to finish each other's sentences. We endured each other's jokes. We looked beyond our respective quirks. We found acceptance in our brokenness and weaknesses. We were truly a team.

We spent the majority of our time in West Africa at the "Sesay Cafe by the Sea." The home of Sam and Josephine Sesay in Lungi, Sierra Leone. They not only took us into their home; they ushered us into their hearts. They treated us like family. We felt like family. We shared space, time, food, conversation, laughter, and prayer together. The rhythm of African life worked its way into our daily existence. It wasn't so much white skin touching black skin as it was people from two vastly different continents and cultures touching each other at a below-the-surface level. The Sesay's are an incredible family. We are the better, I am the better, for having rubbed shoulders and hearts with them.

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