This morning I read part of a news article in which the author mentioned that a new enforcement officer had really helped the community. One major benefit was that this new officer had dealt with a number of property appearance issues. Basically, there's too much mess on the yards or people's trees are growing to far over their kitchen window. As I read it, I thought to myself that I've just come through a place where people are lucky to have a kitchen or a window into it. Most of these people would be overjoyed even to have food to cook in the kitchen they dream of having; and this news article talks of the benefits of hiring someone to make sure front yards look nice. It reminded me that once again, my travels have changed my perspective of things. Now just to be clear, I have not problem with people wanting their communities to look nice. In fact, I would be one of the strongest supporters of taking good care of what we have been blessed with. When I owned a home, I did what I could to keep it looking nice, and I plan to do the same when I own a home again. But I do have to question; how important is it, really? It also makes me more thankful that I have so much that such little things become a concern for me.
My journey began with a stop in South Africa. I arrived to the friendly greetings of a family I know. After a short night and long flight, they now took me back to their place where they finished packing for a trip I was joining them on. We drove 3 hours and spent the night; ready to enter the Kruger National Park. Having dreamed of this day for a long time, it was great to finally arrive. In the next three days, I saw a lot of wildlife and had a great time with my family of friends.
Some of the thousands of Impala's... pretty much the same as the deer we would see in Canada
More than one giraffe was close enough that I couldn't get the whole animal in my camera viewfinder.
One of the highlights was watching a pride of lions. We saw 8 of them together including a few that were only about a month old. They had a hippo close by that they had been feeding from the last couple of days. We were only a few meters from these
Elephants all over the place...
And some zebras...
We saw the "big 5" and a whole lot of other animals
Well, after Kruger, it was time to head to Kenya where I was to meet a pastor friend of mine who was there to do some preaching and teaching. It was interesting and somewhat disheartening to see and hear about the state of Kenya and specifically the church there. So many people striving for title and position. So many using Christianity as a means to greater success, title, and financial comfort, all at the cost of other people and the true gospel. This sort of thing exists everywhere, but I have never before seen it to this extent. In addition to the mis-use of the Gospel, there's also the healing and forgiveness that must still be found after massive political problems a year ago. I even heard of pastors who had directly stated "Today I'm not a pastor" then gone out and killed someone from a rival tribe. The church has far to go.
And outside the church is no better. There were many places Chris and I couldn't go alone, and even along the open highway, our driver refused to stop until he found a place he considered safe for us to exit the car to stretch our legs. The besides the safety issues and political corruption that is so rampant in the country, there is also a deeply ingrained mindset against women and children in their society. One example we encountered was at a restaurant when we asked the waiter to serve the ladies first he responded that "In Kenya, we have a vision to place women last." Just for the record, I do not share that vision, and neither does God!
In addition to the time in churches, we also had a few other experiences...
Hold another one...
See others doing something I've often dreamed of...
Eat some wild meat...
And feel a little bit of racism towards myself for not being Kenyan (see the pricing on this picture)
All in all, it was a challenging time, but one that opened my eyes a little more as well.
After a week in Kenya, it was back to South Africa for a few days with friends and at Hillsong Cape Town. It was so good to be back in a positive, encouraging, and uplifting church environment.
With this part of my trip behind me, it was now time to get on the plane again. Next stop, Burkina Faso and a very special woman waiting very anxiously for me.
On my way, I had a couple of stops and somehow the airline managed to loose one of my bags. No surprise; but I did hope to see it again. After filling out the forms and requesting the bag be sent home rather than trying to catch up to me in Africa, I finished a long layover at a dive of a small airport then took the last flight to get to Burkina.
After 6 months apart, we finally had a chance to talk in person. I also appreciated the chance to see some of the work the Greta has been doing.
We took a ride in a truck...
Had to fix another one...
Tried the local taxi...
And even got on the STKK (pronounced "Es Tae KaKa") bus. It would be their version of the Greyhound that operates in Canada and USA.
Here's the bus station. It came complete with a drop hole toilet behind a door that didn't close (many people just used the ground wherever they felt like), local market people trying to sell us anything they could, children and devout Muslims begging for money, one old man doing something really strange that almost seemed like a curse, and a whole lot of garbage - literally (it looked and smelled very much like a garbage dump)
Our 9am bus departed at 11:50 (either mechanical issues, or simply the Burkina way of operating on schedule), and we arrived at our destination at 6 that night. Not too bad for a 3 hour trip. Made me think of Gilligan's Island and their 3 hour tour.
Unlike some other people, I didn't ride a motorbike on the top of a van...
Sometimes I got to use the modern showers...
...and a flush (pour the water in after your job) toilet!
I also got to sleep under the stars (my bedroom for one night)
and with some extra critters :) - 14 inches long
Strange side note, now that I'm back in Canada, I still find myself checking for insects or reptiles everywhere I look. Spot some black fuzz, and I take a second look to see if it's a poisonous spider. Lift something off the floor, and be careful for the snake or scorpion that could be underneath.
Staying at a number of different places during my three weeks in Burkina, I also got to stay in some more modern rooms. This one even had a shower with running water. Cold water only, but I didn't have to use a pail. It didn't really compare to the last hotel I stayed at in Cape Town, but when compared to camping in a tent, it's pretty good. I love camping and I enjoyed the stay.
In typical African fashion, another place I stayed had a door with a lock that worked part time, and one night I got to my room only to find the door knob completely broken. The next three days I had to climb through the window to get into or out of my room.
Like I said earlier, I appreciated the chance to see some of Greta's work. I was able to be at some children's clubs with 70 or so children playing games, singing songs, and hearing the Word of God. I was disappointed to see some of these operating in areas that were literally garbage dumps. One of the most shocking things I saw was during one club when a man from nearby decided he needed to relieve his bladder so he walked over to one pile of garbage, opened his pants, and in plain view of all the children, proceeded do just that. Upon completion, he casually walked back to his shop and another man went back to the same spot to do the same thing. Actions that would get you thrown into jail in Canada are just commonplace over there.
It's interesting to see how children respond to things differently over there. Any white person is an automatic tourist attraction. People of all ages look and stare, some like to talk to you and other want to touch you, just to feel if white skin is different from brown skin. Pull out a camera, and suddenly, you're the biggest drawing card on their agenda. Nearly every child wants to be in a picture, and they'll swarm you and literally fight each other for the chance to be in a shot.
Here's Greta showing some pictures she took.
...and here's one I took while trying to find my way out of the crowd that had turned violent in their attempt to get into a picture. They didn't attack me, but when they started hitting and pushing each other out of the way, I decided I'd better put away the camera and leave.
One place we went was an orphanage run by a wonderful American woman - dare I, as a Canadian, put the two words "wonderful" and "American" in the same sentence:). There are children who have lost their parents and children who's parents have just decided they don't want them anymore. In some cases, the children are there for a short time while families sort out life (mostly if a mother has died and the father needs time to get sorted), and in other cases, the children are there a little longer. Some stay there, some go back to their families, and some find new families through adoption. All are lovely, lovable, and greatly loved by God. Unfortunately, not all are loved by their own flesh and blood.
Here are two of the children eating a nutritious meal. This is the standard way of eating over there. Use your right hand only. It is used for eating, greeting people, and giving or receiving something from someone. The left hand is reserved for dealing with the food after your body has processed it and it's come out the other end.
Here is Greta with two children she wanted to take home. Actually, she wanted to take almost all of them home with her. The child closest to the camera was 3 years old and unable to walk. We weren't sure if it was a condition caused by the way he was held when he was younger, by poor nutrition, by poor care of his body, or something else. He appeared to be in pain any time someone placed him in a walking position; so we suspected that some massage and appropriate help from a trained professional and he'd be well on his way to a much better life. The problem is, there just aren't enough people helping children like this.
After three weeks in Burkina and a total of 6 weeks in Africa, it was time to move on. I had one final day with my girlfriend and we planned to go to a park where we could sit and talk over a picnic lunch. Well, surprise, surprise, the park was closed. Knowing of no other great alternatives, we sat in the car on the parking lot of the park and talked over a picnic lunch.
We even managed to find a fairly nice restaurant to spend our final evening at. With electricity down throughout much of the city, we were glad to find a spot with a backup generator.
It was a good way to finish our time together and now we both eagerly anticipate the next time we will see each other. We don't know when that will be, but we look forward to it anyways. Hopefully we can find a way to live on the same continent as each other and better still, in the same country! Hopefully it will be soon. But until then, there's still skype and email (when her internet works).
Now I'm back in Canada and my future is unsure.
When I started this blog, I was about to embark on a journey that would take me across the world. I've now completed that journey and it's taken me to much more of the world than I would have ever imagined. During that time I've been to 9 different countries on 4 different continents. I've met people and made friends from around the world. I've seen, heard, tasted, smelled, and experienced things I had previously only seen in pictures or in my imagination. I've gone from being recently widowed, through a journey of healing and restoration, and am now in another relationship and thinking about getting married once again. My life has radically changed and my mindsets have been challenged, stretched, and expanded. When I left home, I wanted to make an impact in this world. I still do. Just now, I have a little more of an idea how big the world is and how much of an impact is needed. It's a big task. I won't claim to know all the answers or to have all the solutions. I won't try to do it alone cause I know I can't. But I also will not sit idley by and leave the work for others to do. I must do my part and challenge you to do yours.
Three years ago, someone told me a story of two men walking down a beach full of washed up starfish. As they walked, one man picked one up and threw it back into the water. They continued walking and he picked up another one and threw it into the water. The other man commented "Surely you don't think you can save all these starfish." The man simply bent down, picked up another one, and said "No. But I can save this one" as he threw it into the sea.
This chapter of my life is now closed and the next chapter is about to begin. The thing is, I'm not just reading the book. I'm writing it. I just don't know yet what I'm writing. Please pray for me as I step into that next chapter and seek what God has for me there.