Trip Start May 31, 2005
33Trip End Aug 02, 2005
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Back on track here. In the midst of everything to do with "normal" life I've also just now realized that this step of faith (Africa obviously) took, is taking now and will take more faith than I knew I had. "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7 Today I was vaccinated against (are you ready?) Yellow Fever (required to enter the country), Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Meningitis, Polio and Tetnus. Three big ones in each arm. Typhoid remains to be found and both Hepatitis vaccinations require a second dose in a few months. I also received 100 malaria pills that I will take a week before, during and 4 weeks after my time there. I signed and will notarize documents releasing SIM of all liability. Totally normal. I sign these all the time. We all do when we take jobs, travel anywhere, take even the slightest risk. But somehow on the edge of something like this...signing a paper accepting the risk of being infected by HIV/AIDS, agreeing that if I am taken hostage by a militant group I know SIM will not pay ransom or comply with demands (as well they shouldn't), acknowledging the risk of political instability and terrorism. These are actually legitimate concerns wherever we are in our current world, especially as Americans. Driving a car is one of the worst risks we all take every day! Now I know some of you are like, "Naive fool. She's rationalizing this like she rationalizes buying clothes at Ann Taylor. Of COURSE Africa is more dangerous than Monterey." Granted. But is God bound by our concept of time? Our need for money and food? Our physical constraints? Is he less powerful to protect when we assess risks to be "greater"? Or...is he more powerful to protect when we free ourselves to let him work in, through and around us? I have to decide whether to agree to be buried in Benin where cremation is not possible and expatriation is extremely expensive. I need a carte de sejour like I needed for France as well as a visa...normally you get these six weeks before you go. I have four. Without them they'll send me back to Paris (where I just happen to be flying through. :0)
So all of those things are minor, normal, understandable for any international work or travel. I debated on whether to write about this next part, but I don't want it to surprise or scare anyone, so I might as well say it myself. My first advice is not to go reading all the news stories and freaking yourselves out. SIM won't put me in danger and I won't put myself in danger. Yesterday with the declaration of a new president in Togo (Benin's neighbor where SIM also works), there were riots among the opposition who do not accept him. Estimates are that 20 people were killed and about a thousand fled to Benin. Reports are that things have calmed down and the UN and international community are keeping an eye on things. I'm not worried. This is part of political life in the majority of the world and as Americans we should be well aware of the cost of unpopular politics. I don't want to make political statements, but we should all have broken hearts for the thousands of people dying in Iraq, Darfour, Israel, Palestine and around the world at the hands of other human beings. And we shouldn't think we're immune just because we have been so far, nor should we accept that our brothers and sisters face it every day without being willing to experience it ourselves or take a stand to stop it when we can. "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but be not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come...this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." Words of Jesus. Matthew 24:6,14 There is a possibility that political unrest break out while I'm there because, okay, I do want to make a political statement, Africa still suffers the results of Western colonization, imperialism and current indifference and exploitation. I wouldn't want to go to Africa if there weren't tangible, life and death, eternal needs.
If it needs to be said, because, well, I think it does, I want you guys to know that I am willing to die. It may sound like I'm exaggerating but I've been told many a time in the past few months that this is a question I need to answer. Am I willing to die? I don't believe that the translation and interpretation work I'll do in Benin is indispensable. I don't believe that anything about me is indispensable! Maybe that's why I'm willing to be dispensed. Sorry, only funny to me. The reality is that we have a short and very precious time on this earth. So many people wonder about the meaning and purpose of life, but I know it! God created us in his perfect imagine with eternal souls meant to enjoy his presence. But we are separated from him by our own sinful nature. Christ bridged the gap for us and our lives should strive to bring the message of hope to people who still stand on the other side of the dark, gaping chasm between them and a loving God. We are created to love and serve God. Serving God means loving and serving his creation. Yes, we should serve where we are and, may it be true of me, we shouldn't claim to serve elsewhere or ask for more responsibility without first being faithful with what we have already been given. I can't explain how I decided to essentially, when all is said and done "risk my life" for two months in Africa this summer. Who knows why I think this is worth what will probably be $6000 when it's all said and done. But God doesn't have a bank account. God doesn't have limits.
First of all, "For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." Romans 14:7-8 The only joy in life is honoring God. If I allow fear or human thinking to keep me from doing something I feel pushed to do, I don't even honor my own self, let alone the almighty ruler or the universe. What's more, if I die, I'm ensured heaven by the blood of Jesus and the seal of the Holy Spirit. You can't beat that. Finally, I'd rather die living passionately and sacrificially. If I die, I would hope that people wouldn't say, "What a waste. She was so young. If only she'd made wiser decisions." I would hope they would say, "Jessamy died living life to the fullest. She was doing what she loved and died for what she believed in." What could be better than that? This is what I believe in. I believe in considering others above myself, I believe in justice and mercy in this world and in the next, I believe in living by faith. I believe in taking a stand and standing in the gap. "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and the needy." Proverbs 31:8-9 This is why I want to be an interpreter. This is why I'm going to Africa.
I've wondered this a lot this past week. I've asked many more questions than I've found answers to. I've been asked many more questions than I've found answers to. But if I knew the answers, I'd be God. I'm not. News flash, I know. This long diatribe is coming to a close. It made me feel better. I hope it made you feel better. I can't promise that I won't ramble on this blog. I'm off to an unfortunate start...haven't even left the dang house yet!
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." Colossians 3:15