I'm not even sure where to start.
This was my third trip to Swaziland. You'd think I'd have the hang of the whole reentry to "normal" life down by now. While this year has been much easier than last, I'm still struggling with processing the experience. If you've asked me how the trip went you most likely heard me say "Well, ummm, it was awesome!" It's unbelievably hard to come up with a few sentences to fully describe a life changing event.
And it really is life changing.
It doesn't matter that I've been there before. Each time brings new experiences but also rekindles relationships and friendships. It's crazy that people from across the globe who speak a different language - people who I see for a handful of days in a year - have become so important to me.
I wish that I could accurately describe how cool it is to step out of our van onto Bheveni soil and see the kids running at us. Kids that I've seen grow and change over the past few years. Or how it feels to greet the Bomake with a hug because we're already acquainted and we're picking up where we've left off, just like old friends. I can't really explain what it's like but I can give you a glimpse into the awesomeness.
It starts with our flight from Minnesota being cancelled, four hours of failed attempts to reroute, and Danielle and I spending the night that we were supposed to be crossing the Atlantic in a seedy hotel by the Atlanta airport.
I'm not going to lie. I was borderline panic attack mode when we found out that our flights were screwed up. I am a planner - I make a list of the lists I need to make to be fully prepared for these trips. I don't want to leave anything to chance. As the lady at the ticket counter was working to try to keep us close to our original itinerary I was breaking out in a sweat. I even started to do the whole bargaining thing in my head. It went a little something like this:
"Lord, please let this be a mistake. Please let her look on the screen and see that it is a different flight that is cancelled. We'll laugh together at her silly blunder and I'll be polite and be on my way.
No? O.k. How about you clear this up and get us on a different connecting flight. I won't even complain if we have to run through the airport in Washington DC to make the flight to South Africa.
No? O.k. How about we get rerouted through a different flight that will get us to Africa on time to meet up with the rest of the group. I'll even be friendly to the people seated next to me on the plane and won't pretend to be using my headphones when they aren't even plugged in to anything. Plus, I'll give up my first choice of meals and eat the crappy airplane food AND be grateful because there really are starving kids in Africa."
It went on like that in my head for quite some time. We were back and forth between ticket counters and travel plans and my smile and patience were starting to wane. Then Danielle said something to me that struck a chord. She was feeling the pressure too, but she looked up and said "You know what? This is frustrating for sure, but I need to look for God in these interruptions."
At first I was like, "WHAT?!" Because lets face it... this was not part of MY plan and I REALLY like it when my plan works. But then I let her thought sink in and it hit me like a ton of bricks. There are so many times in life that things don't work out like we planned. We have two options: throw a hissy fit or accept it and work from there. How much time do I waste going over the what ifs? How much energy do I spend on filling out the "it's not fair" column? And how sad is it that I could be looking for the bright spot in the interruptions and seeing how God is using them for good? If you really think about it, life actually happens during the interruptions. So I decided right there that I was going to try to curb my natural reaction to things not working out as I planned and I was going to do my best to focus on making the best out of the situation. The positive me might not be as entertaining as the snarky me, but we'll see how it pans out.
Anyway, Danielle and I eventually made it to Africa. We had spent the night in what I dubbed the "No-tell Motel" in Atlanta but we laughed at the crazy misfortunes of that experience. We both survived the 15 hour flight to South Africa sitting apart from each other, both sandwiched between strangers. I even had pleasant conversations with the people on either side of me. We missed the 5 hour van ride to Swaziland with the rest of our team but we got to spend quality time with Steve (one of the missionaries from Alabama who now lives in Swaziland) laughing and talking as he drove us to our destination.
We arrived at the guest house (where we stay during our time in Swaziland) on Tuesday in the late afternoon. I had left my house to start the journey on Saturday morning. I was doing my best to keep the positive train of thought but I was tired and stiff and I'm embarrassed to say a little jealous of our team that got to spend that day at Bheveni Carepoint while Danielle and I were travelling and making up for lost time. But all of the negatives were washed away as the team came filing in through the front door. Smiling faces and hugs from friends I hadn't seen in a year, a few new faces I had yet to meet, and the sweetest words for my ears: "Margo, the little girl you sponsor asked for you today. We told her you'd be there tomorrow!"
And you know what? On Wednesday, when Sphelele came walking through the gate of Bheveni after she was finished with school, her eyes searched around. As soon as our eyes met her face lit up and she came running toward me and she wrapped her arms around my waist.
Definitely worth the wait.
Sphelele and I, 2011