October 16, 2009 The sun was setting as I looked out the window to my left. Far below me the terrain spread out in all directions. As we made our final descent, I stared out the window at my new home. The golden reflection of the water gave way to green rice fields. The horizon was guarded by ominous mountains that sprang up from the terrain. Sheer rock faces glared back at me in the sunlight, crowned with lush tropical forest on their tops. It was beautiful, but it was foreign.
The hot air hit me in the face as I rounded the corner for the door. My last breath of American air was crisp and cool, a Tennessee Autumn, but this air was heavy and filled my lungs. The darkness closed in around me as I stepped off the airplane.
Despite the large size of my plane, there were almost no passengers headed to my final destination, maybe 20 or 30 at most. The plane was empty. As we unloaded, the tiny crowd made its way across the tarmac and headed to the building they were calling an airport. I followed.
At first, I thought the airport was the only thing in the area, wondering if we were outside the city. As I left for the parking lot with my baggage, I realized we were in the very middle of the city. A capital city of three million people, and there were no lights anywhere. There was no electricity. It is a luxury that only comes to this city a few hours each day.
Overwhelmed, I found myself in a place too foreign for words.
October 16, 2010 The sunlight peeked through my curtains this morning and beckoned my eyes to open. I rolled out of bed knowing I had a long day in front of me. I started my morning off with a cup of coffee and headed to the Lᴐnni Banxi, or “house of knowledge.” That is the name of the library our mission runs in my sleepy little town. I met with the young man who runs the library, and we talked shop.
School is back in session as of last week and we have many things we must get in order for the opening of the center. As we sat discussing our plans for the students and our center, the schedule began to fill up. Of course, we must have a grand opening for the new school year. Not to mention, we are making plans for two new English courses we will offer to the area students. Our Bible studies will be starting up soon and we have decided to add a monthly fellowship for any Christian students in the city. Finally, we decided a church fellowship centered around a movie, which will have to be shown with a generator and projector, would be a good event to close out the week.
Apart from the center, we made plans for our village evangelism efforts. We are focusing on three villages currently with plans to extend to more. Our local church members are leading discipleship studies in these places with the hopes of planting churches. People are interested, and exciting things are starting to happen.
I finished out this trip with a stop by the carpenter who has been working on some remodeling for our center and discussed some new plans with him.
Confused and not completely sure why I had come, save the calling of God, I stepped off an airplane a year ago today. I had signed up to stay in the this strange place for two years. My mind was telling me it would be an eternity, and the surroundings began to confirm that fear.
But a lot can happen in a year.
Having my parents visit reminded me of my first weeks in country. My mother’s looks of astonishment at the crowds and poverty, my dad’s repulsion to the mountains of trash lining the sides of the streets waiting to be burned, these things reminded me of my own reaction of disbelief.
I am not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, foreign became familiar. The strange sights, smells, and sounds, no longer grabbed my attention. I stopped noticing all the potholes and started seeing the people.
This past year has been hard at times, but more than that, it has been a gift. God has given me friends I would have never known and lessons I would have never learned, had it not been for his guiding me to this little corner of the globe. I have seen the difference between a “want” and a “need.” I have discovered the value of independence and seen the result of its absence. I have praised God for blessings I previously overlooked, such as a Bible written in my language. And through it all, God has made one thing abundantly clear. No matter how different we are, it is Adam’s blood that runs through our veins. Our differences can never outweigh our similarities. We all share a common beginning, and a common end. And we all need a savior.
They really are a beautiful people.
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