I've had some interesting discussions about my trip to Tanzania lately. A lot of people are really excited for me. After I tell them where Tanzania is, they realize that it's one of those countries that has safaris, and that's cool. Kilimanjaro is there, and they've heard of that. And they know I will be meeting my sponsor child- or children, now that I have Bonifas. But since I'm not travelling with a church, like many "mission" trips, I don't know that they understand what exactly is going to go on during the trip. They know I'll be flying to Tanzania via Amsterdam, and that's a nice place to vacation. They know I will have a good time. But I don't think they realize that this isn't a vacation. This isn't me getting away to a beautiful country for some relaxation. The trip will be hard. Impoverished conditions. Language barriers. Unfamiliar territory. Being away from my family. Being with a group of strangers. Long flights. Huge time changes (Tanzania is 7 hours ahead of where I live.) Bumpy roads. Unreliable transportation. I'm not afraid of feeling/looking like an outsider (how many pasty white blonde girls do you think there are in Tanzania, anyway?) but I know it will be weird, at least at first. New foods. New culture. New everything.
And on top of that, there's the work. We aren't going as tourists. We will be working while we're in Tanzania. We're visiting one of the child survival program centers, visiting the moms and babies, and bringing them supplies and learning about how they are growing and living. We are going to spend several days in the poorest region of the country, putting on a sort of VBS program for the kids in an area where Compassion recently started working- so these kids most likely haven't had visitors before. There is so much exciting stuff on this trip- and I can't wait to experience it! But it's not a relaxing getaway. God has called me to serve. Advocating for others- for children and women in particular- is my life's passion. It is a desire that God has placed on my heart, and it is truly the thing that I feel most passionately about. And now God is telling me not just to advocate, but to GO and be with His children. It's a struggle. There are soooooo many reasons I could give for not going. I could say "I can't do that- I don't have the money." Or "I can't do that- I don't travel anywhere." "I can't do that- my stomach is so weird, I don't know what I'll eat." "I can't do that- I have anxiety and I'm afraid." "I can't do that- I don't know anyone going on the trip." But I haven't let any of that stop me. This is an act of obedience for me. It is so, so important that you understand that. This is God's plan for my life. And I'm doing everything I can to make it happen. Do I need help? Yes, definitely. Financial help, prayers, advice about travel....I need it all. I spend a crazy amount of free time researching airports I won't visit for another five months, making lists of what I need to bring, learning about customs and passports and visas and all these unfamiliar concepts. I've done purchase requests for all sorts of new guide books and cultural handbooks from the library, and am making my way through the ones they decided to add to their collection. And I'm praying for the kids I will meet, and praying for my friends and family, that they might be moved to look into sponsorship. A LOT of work is going into this, even five months out. And it will be hard work while I'm there. And I already know I'm going to come back a different person. No matter how hard I try to prepare my heart for the things I will see and experience, I know this will be life-changing. Being a sponsor to my kids has already changed my life in such a tremendous way- I can't imagine what's next.
I am sharing some pictures here of the Compassion bloggers' trip to Tanzania last spring. All these pictures came from their Flickr photo album from the trip. I'm posting these because I want and need folks to look beyond the picturesque postcard of Kilimanjaro and the opening scene of the Lion King. I need you to see real life where my boys live, and what I'm going to be doing next March. Please keep praying for the trip, and please, please consider donating via my fundraising page up in the top right corner.