Well, in nine days I begin the journey back to Zimbabwe. What different emotions I'm experiencing this year! Last year I was traveling to a foreign country to meet strangers. This year, I'm on my way to a beloved land to visit precious friends.
To be sure, our small group will meet many new souls and make friends out of more strangers, but today joy has replaced uncertainty, affection has replaced apprehension.
I certainly know better how to pack! My suitcase will be filled with even less of my own belongings and more things to leave behind for a people who go without so many necessities and luxuries. I'll be taking donated art supplies for young Joseph who stole my heart last year with his artist's passion (see "All the Same" posted about Sep. 23, 2006). I'll take more practical shoes this year. And shoes for children. I found a pair of old eyeglasses in a drawer when we moved that I can give away. I'll stock up on allergy medication, toilet paper, and granola bars. I've already been to the benevolence center at the Southwest church to pick out long, polyester dresses to wear and then share. Dear Paula taught me that trick; keeps us from wasting space with our own clothing.
To be honest, part of me dreads this trip. I'm exhausted. I have too many other things to do. The journey is challenging and there are so many inconveniences. I don't want to go without my husband, but though we'd planned to go together this time and take our youngest son, our recently changed circumstances prevent this. I don't want to leave my students with a substitute for two weeks. The orphans, the starving, the sick, the oppressed all leave me emotionally weary.
But my heart is another matter. My heart is ready, my passion for the purpose of our journey is at its peak. I can't wait to hug Alice and Chipo and Kuda and Si. To meet Pamela's sister who has corresponded with me since Pamela's death (see "God Blesses Zimbabwe . . . ," Sep. 17, 2006; "Pamela Farayi Mutambirwa's story," June 4, 2007; "Grief & Glory," July 31, 2007). I can't wait to grasp the rough and dusty hands of those sweet children who've lost so much. To take their pictures with my digital camera and laugh with them when they see their faces on the screen. To visit the schools and churches. To discuss challenging truths with church leaders and their spouses. To sing with believers under the shade of a fig tree. To hear goats bleeting as they pass through the schoolyard. And, yes, even to eat sadza with my fingers from a plate that's probably never been properly washed.
On second thought, my journey back to Zimbabwe doesn't begin in nine days. It began the moment I came to love its gracious, beautiful people.
You can keep up with Paula, Lynn, Brian, Jerry, and myself by visiting this blog while we're away. I'll post as often as time and Internet access allow. You may also contact me to request that my blog be sent directly to you via email. At any time, you can email blogposts to friends from the blog site by clicking on the small envelope icon at the end of a post.