15 August 2012


I don't really know where to start, so I guess the beginning is my best bet.

When I left my house a month ago I thought I had a fairly good idea of what to expect, but looking back now I didn't know the half of it.  When I got to the airport I felt nothing but a calming peace.  I saw the smiling faces of my team surrounding me and I knew that everything was going to be okay.  We had met for a briefing a couple months earlier, but we still weren't too familiar with one another.  However, we hit it off right away as we passed time by talked about our excitements and apprehensions.  Before I knew it we were on a 17 hour plane ride to Botswana.  We made only two stops, once for fuel in Senegal and once in Jo-burg for a layover.  The journey wasn't so bad, but the anticipation of wanting to get to Bots was more than I could bare.  When my feet finally touched African soil it all started to feel so real.  Before that moment I didn't think it was going to actually happen; I still have trouble believing it wasn't all just a dream.  

We eventually made our way to our home away from home for our time in Bots, the Lolwapa Lodge.  Lolwapa was really homey and clean with character just bursting out of the walls.  The location couldn't have been more perfect.  It was in Gaborone directly across the street from the University of Botswana.  We were able to walk on campus for our meals everyday and when it came time for campus outreach we were really close.  Speaking of meals, we ate at a place on campus called the Curry Pot every day for lunch and dinner.  It was such a blessing to have meals in such an abundance, but we loved to joke about eating only chicken and rice twice a day for a month.  Everyday we talked about how much we couldn't wait to eat Chick-fil-a again.

One of our first days in Gabs we had the opportunity to meet various missionaries and hear what their main focus was.  They shared some daunting statistics with us.  75% of the population is below the age of 29 in Botswana.  And, 50% of the population is between the ages of 4 and 14.  That means that about 50% of the population isn't being reached, because children aren't valued in Botswana like they are in the states.  There aren't any Sunday schools or vacation Bible schools.  It's also one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world with just over 2 million people residing there.  Their nation is also plagued by high rates of HIV/AIDS.  There are very few people who haven't been effected in some way by HIV, whether it be by losing a family member or a friend.  It was really heart breaking to hear, but definitely eye opening.  From the first meeting with the men and women we would be serving in Bots for me it was love.  I could see Jesus shining through all of them and I couldn't wait to get to know them better.

The next day we went to the feeding station in Old Naledi for the first time.  As we pulled up in our vans the children exploded with excitement.  They were running around the vans before we even stopped.  I have never seen little ones so hungry for love.  I'm going to share what I wrote from my journal, because I don't think I could put my feelings any better now:
"We got out of the vans and the children swarmed us.  My heart skipped a beat.  It was such a blessing to see my team mates scoop us their little bodies and show them Christ's love.  We spent about an hour as human jungle gyms.  The kids were enthralled by our presence.  I have never seen a group of kids with such beautiful smiles.  I could see so much life in their eyes, even though they deal with so many hardships each and everyday.  They're masterpieces of God..." "...It's only been one day and they're already a part of my heart.  Their beautiful eyes are already ingrained into my mind.  I'll never forget the way they look at us."
As we started saying our goodbyes to the children, they kept saying "kamoso".  We were unsure of the meaning at first until one of the older kids told us it meant, "I'll see you tomorrow".  They had just met us and they were already anticipating the next time we would come.  From that day on we adopted the phrase and would said kamoso with every departure.

After we played with the little ones we went on a prayer walk with Matata.  He is the man that manages the feeding station.  I have never met someone so inspiring.  This man loves his community and God in a way that has me in awe.  He led us around Naledi and had us pray for different parts of the community.  He asked us to also pray for a little girl named Pearl.  She was born blind and needed to have eye surgery.  He told us he loved her as if she was his own child.  We were so blessed to have the opportunity to interact with her.

 (Above: Matata and his son)

(Pearl is shown above)

Over the next two weeks we spent a lot of time in Old Naledi.  Playing with the little ones and loving them to pieces.  Too much happened to share everything, so I'll just choose one story.  

From the first day at the feeding station there was one little girl that I connected with the most.  Her name was Precious and she had the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.  She would put her hands on my cheeks and say, "You're beautiful" and "I love you".  I would say the same back and she would just smile.  There was a big language barrier, because she didn't know much English and I didn't know much Setswana.  One day I had to work in the kitchen to help serve food and I told Precious, and her sisters that I would be back when I was done.  When we were in the kitchen distributing food they were at the front of the line when we ran out.  The feeding station only has enough food for the children that are registered, so every day there would be children waiting for food and not enough to give out.  Since the girls knew I was helping in the kitchen and I didn't give them food, they became very angry with me.  From that point on they wouldn't talk to me anymore.  I asked one of the locals to translate for me and tell them that it wasn't my fault.  But they didn't trust me anymore.  My heart was shattered.  I couldn't help but feel awful.  God showed me something through that situation though.  That no matter what I do, I can never meet the needs of those children.  He is their provider and comfort and I was only a tool.  I couldn't beat myself up, because I didn't have the power to fulfill them.  I love those girls so much and I know the only way I can help is to pray for them.

 This is Precious, just look at those perfect teeth!!  I love her dearly!

These are her sisters, all so incredibly beautiful!  I'll never forget them.

After our first week in Naledi we went to a village called Gakuto to show the Jesus Film.  We all fell in love immediately.  The pastor of the church, Mothusi, had been praying for some time that a group would come and show the Jesus Film.  It was such an honor that God chose our group to be the ones that would come.  Something that was really cool about Mothusi was that he was a childhood friend of Mutata. 

Spending time in Gakuto was one of the highlights of the trip for me.  I absolutely fell in love with a little girl named Stompie.  In Botswana everyone's names have really cool meanings and Stompie means little one.  She had the most infectious laugh and a smile that melted my heart.  She had a beautiful, silly, charming personality.  If I could have brought her home I would have done so in a heart beat.

 (Stompie in pink)

I'll miss her always and I can only hope that one day we'll meet again.  I don't even have words for how much I miss her.  It feels like there's a hole in my heart.  It pains me to think I may never see her or the other little ones again.  I just have to have faith that God is going to take care of them.  After all, He loves them more than I ever could.

Our transition from working with the children to working on the campus at the University of Botswana was interesting.  We had to have a completely different mindset going in, even though our mission was the same- to make Christ known.  Instead of playing games and singing songs with the little ones, we needed to be devoted to building relationships and having deep conversations.  To prepare for the weeks to come we took a two day rest to gain our energy back.  Our leaders planned an over night trip to a safari.  The coolest thing we saw was a whole herd of giraffes.  

After we hung out with giraffes we had a braai around a big fire.  For those of you who don't know, a braai is basically a cook out.  The food was amazing and gave us a great taste of the local foods.

Our much needed rest came to an end and we started getting together our materials for our upcoming time at UB.  The transition wasn't as bad as we expected.  We were sad to say goodbye to the children, but we were excited to spend time with the university students.  So much happened on campus, we showed films, did outreaches and made some wonderful friends.  I miss every one of them and can't wrap my mind around all that God did during our time on campus.  My favorite thing about UB and Bots in general, is that the people are SO friendly.  They welcomed us into their lives and became true friends in such a short amount of time.  It amazes me.  An outstanding number of people came to know Christ during our time in Bots.  We also helped the students in BotsCRU to get out and share their faith.  I'm so excited for what God is going to do in and through them.

 (Just some pictures of the campus)

I'm still in shock of everything that happened.  When we got to the debrief, I didn't know how I felt.  I was anxious, but didn't know why.  America was really annoying and I forgot how wasteful our country is.  In the end, I felt blessed and humbled.  I have a different perspective on life now.

Before I went to Botswana I never would have thought about permanently moving out of the U.S.
Now it's all I can think about.

Before I went to Botswana I knew I wanted to work with children.
But, now I know it's definitely what God has called me to do.

Before I went to Botswana, I relied on God.
But, now I see how much more I need to rely on Him!

Before I went to Botswana, I would say I understood joy.
Now I know that true joy can be seen in little ones who live in extreme poverty, but can still smile.

If I said I understand what happened in Botswana I would be lying.
I don't know how I feel.  I don't know what is to come next.

I have met people that have left me in awe.
I have seen Jesus shining through so many strong individuals who have given themselves to God.

My heart has been left with a giant hole in it, aching and pining for the day I get to return.
When I think about the possibility of never seeing the people that have impacted my life again I feel so much pain.

I am so thankful and overwhelmed that I was given the opportunity to go to Bots.
I wish I could have shared everything, but too much happened to sum it all up.

Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings!