I have been home for five days now and I still feel as if I am in a fog. Yes, some of that is jet lag. A nine hour time difference is pretty significant, especially when it took almost 36 hours to arrive back in St. Louis, considering all of the delays.
As I reflect though, I believe the fog is more than just a time difference. There were so many moments on this trip that my mind could not catch up with what I was seeing. When you walk through the red-light district and you see children standing in doorways waiting for a "customer," something in your brain just doesn't compute. There is no previous data for the shock of what you are seeing. I felt that way many times on this trip. Other experiences left me wondering deep thoughts, questioning my life here in the US.
The tour of International Crisis Aid's relief work in the region of Angache, Ethiopia was another example. When I stepped out of our vehicle into a village of extreme poverty, I was taking it all in with my eyes, but my mind rebelled..this couldn't be! I saw hundreds of children with ripped clothing. They were dirty, some were obviously sick, some hungry. They smiled and walked alongside me, trying to get closer. At first, I was a little fearful. I remembered hearing about the diseases that run rampant in these villages. I had a momentary feeling that I wanted to run the other way-protect myself from the hunger, the pain, the sickness. In that moment, I prayed, "God, break my heart for what breaks yours." This had been a prayer I have prayed before. But that day, as I prayed that prayer again, my heart swelled for these children I was walking alongside. I became emotional, and felt an overwhelming love for them- almost as if they were my very own children. I could see My little Emma in the young girl that reached out her hand and took mine. I saw Luke in the frisky boys that shoved and pushed to get closer. I also saw each one of my older daughters in the shy girls that stared and kept their distance. God was showing me a way to love them, a frame of reference I had-my children, warm and safe at home. I loved that first day in that first village. I had an unspeakable joy as I walked the fields with those beautiful kids. We tried to communicate, but mostly it was just touch and smiles..and of course much laughter! God's love breaks all barriers. A connection was made that day, one I will never forget. I am different, but more importantly, I won't forget. I won't forget that there are people that need us. There is suffering and we are called by God to draw close to it. To be the hands and feet of Jesus has taken on a complete different meaning in my life..before it was almost a cliche, now it is tangible. When we step out of ourselves and draw close to someone in need we not only bring hope to them, showing that someone sees them, cares about their pain, but we renew our own faith..putting our feet to a concept of scripture that only becomes truly real when experienced, not just something we have read about.
In an effort to share this experience, which I find difficult to put into words, I will share some photos that tell the story much better than I can!