An Unexpected Journey

There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.

- J. R. R. Tolkien from The Hobbit 

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My African adventure is over and I find myself sitting in an American coffee shop. I have a delicious Chai in hand, my computer, my iphone, my kindle, scarf, hat, new boots, Bon Iver setting my mood. I have everything I have been missing for the past 4 months (including my queen sized bed in a room that I sleep in all by myself!). And yet...I miss, so very much, miss my African adventure. 

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I'm shivering and scraping ice off my car; I miss the heat, the humidity and even sweating profusely. I can go to the refrigerator and grab food whenever I want, but I miss eating with 400 other people in a loud dining hall. I've started the hunt for a new job yet I wish I was back in a tiny crowded ward with screaming/laughing kids and singing/dancing mamas. 

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It is quite difficult to put my emotions into words, but in this moment, I'd go back in a heartbeat (with an extra $5K). Serving the Africans and living in community is incomparable to my comfortable Western life. It was a joy that I fear I didn't enjoy ENOUGH when I was there and now it's loss is acute. The lessons I learned there will forever be with me. 

Friends who became family

Friends who became family

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Sakate

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  

John 14:18

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Sakate is a town, 2 hours drive from Cotonou. I got a spur-of-the-moment invitation to visit an orphanage there with the intention to help with a project there. Five of us from Mercy Ships set off on a Saturday morning, in a torrential downpour.  Within an hour of the drive, the skies had cleared and we were driving through lush green jungle! Green! Do my eyes deceive me? (Cotonou is NOT green.)

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We arrived at the orphanage and about 22 kids lined up on steps to be introduced. One of the oldest girls (about 20 years old) began to sing. Her voice filled the silence so beautifully. Ahhhhhh. Her solo lasted about 30 seconds before being joined by the ensemble, the claps and drums reaching an ear-splitting volume that was less-peaceful on my delicate American ears. And thus went the rest of the afternoon...

***I mention this to point out the contrast. Not much in Africa have I been able to describe as quiet and peaceful, but this girl's voice was right on the money.

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Jonah (above) had just recently come to the orphanage. He is probably about 3 or 4 years old and he has barely spoken since his arrival. The orphanage director (John) told me that they aren't even sure which language he understands. A family had all the paperwork for his adoption and then when they visited the orphange to meet him, saw that he probably has some developmental delays and did not proceed. 

Jonah has a laugh like you wouldn't believe. I pushed him in that swing for at least an hour and he giggled like a child who had never known a heartbreak. 

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Michelene (above) has quite the 'tude, but if I clicked the camera enough times, she'd give me a beautiful smile. 

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Francoise has a wandering eye, but these makeshift glasses only make her cuter. She has a sweet, sensitive spirit that is most endearing. 

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Codjo is a 2 year old boy who is already adopted by the directors of the orphange, a wonderful couple from Ohio who live in Sakate full time. His mother died due to complications from his birth and his father wanted him to have a better life so he asked John and Ashley if they would adopt him. My mouth just about dropped open when Codjo's birth father pulled up to the orphange while I was there (and after I had just heard this story). Apparently he visits all the time. I'm sure that doesn't rip your heart out. John is a nurse and Ashley is a pastor and I loved the way they loved on these kids. They are good parents, so loving yet so firm with them. 

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I spent most of my afternoon pushing the kids on the swings. 

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Quite the pout, Michelene! 

Quite the pout, Michelene! 

I found that my soul was incredibly refreshed from time away from the ship, being in a small group, and loving on kids who are not post-surgery. I would accept any excuse to go see them again.