I just returned from Africa on Saturday. I’m still processing what I experienced over there. Maybe more so now than when I was there. I’m not really sure what to say, or where to start. I can’t possibly tell you everything. I’m not even sure you’ll understand until you go there. The sights, the smells, the people, the joy! My words and my pictures will never do it justice, but I’ll try.
I first need to thank all of you who partnered with me on this journey. Yes, I was there in person, but this was a community effort as we spread love to the “least of these.” A little piece of you went with me, in the shape of a dress that is now draped on the tiny frame of an impoverished little girl. And I thank you!
For those of you who prayed for me, I felt it! The Lord covered me with His protection. People did get sick, but I remained healthy, strong and able to do my job. I praise the Lord for that and I know it’s because of the strong prayers that were spoken for me, so I thank you!
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this journey. I knew the projects we would be working on, but I didn’t know how it would all pan out. Little Dresses for Africa is so much more than dresses. The dresses are simply an avenue to meet the needs of the people so that we can offer hope through Jesus Christ. Most of the people in Malawi are Christians – we were just there to meet some of their basic needs, encourage them and show them that the God they worship loves them.
I kept a travel journal while I was in Malawi. So I thought the easiest thing for me to do is to share my journal entries with you here, dated accordingly. I’ll include a few pictures in each post as well.
Friday, August 16
It was hard to say good-bye to my family. I know the children are in good hands with Earl, but I’ve never been apart from them for this long. I haven’t even flown alone since I’ve been married. It was scary going through security alone. Earl always takes care of me. He answers all my questions and tells me where to go. My sense of direction is literally backwards. When I think I should go right, I should really go left. How would I navigate Dulles International Airport all by myself?
Weeks leading up to the trip, I will admit I was a little concerned for our safety. US embassies were closing all across Africa and I questioned our leader to be certain it was safe. She assured me she was watching the situation carefully and would not take a team if she thought we would be in danger. To be honest, I wasn’t concerned for me. If it was my time to leave this world, I knew I was going to a better place. My concern was for Earl and the children. I needed to come home. My concerns did not overpower me. I felt strangely at peace about going. After all, there’s no place safer than right smack dab in the middle of God’s plan.
Flying into Dulles was a bit intimidating. It’s a huge airport and I was alone. I had to take a shuttle to the baggage claim. Luckily everything was clearly marked and I met a nice couple who confirmed I was heading in the right direction. En route to pick up my bags, I got a text from my teammate Cathy, who was coming in from Arkansas. She would be waiting for me at the baggage claim and I was thankful to know I’d have a companion on the shuttle to the hotel. She had sewn over 100 dresses herself and some shorts for the boys. And she had run a marathon too. We had a lot in common and we clicked right away.
We took the shuttle to the hotel where we stayed the night. It was a nice hotel and I knew it was a tease considering what we were in for. Rachel, our team leader, did a great job of easing us into the Africa experience. We met the rest of the team, 12 of us in all. We ordered a few pizzas and did an ice-breaker so we could learn names and get to know each other a little bit. We didn’t get to bed until after midnight and would be up early in the morning for our long flight to Ethiopia.
When I felt alone in the airport a friend reminded me, “strangers are only friends you haven’t met yet.” I like that. And it’s so true. These strangers, crowded around this hotel table, are people I would grow to love over the next few weeks. Another friend was adamant, “you are not alone.” I needed that reminder. That this was His idea that He placed on my heart and that He was with me. I thanked Him for this opportunity to serve His people and asked Him to protect me every step of the way.