42 days. At this time in 42 days, I will be flying over the Atlantic Ocean, on my way to Tanzania via Amsterdam. I can't believe the trip is so close! I even got an email from Compassion today reminding me that the trip is coming up, and double checking the names and numbers of the kids I want to visit. I have had all my shots and have started the typhoid vaccine already (did you know that it's actually pills? I have to take two pills every 48 hours, for 8 days- but I have to have the pharmacist administer them!) I've been contacting other sponsors who will be sending me gifts to take to their kids, and working hard to get things together and organized before the trip. I am still really, really excited about it, but I have to admit, I get a little more jittery now than I have been over the past few months. When I was younger, I took a few years of drama classes and right before my biggest performance, on an actual stage and everything, I felt the same way. Jumpy and slightly unsure of myself- like, "do I really have to do this? I know it's a good thing, but it's a big thing and I'm not sure that I want to do it." Right up to getting ready for the big show in the dressing room, I was nervous and twitchy and completely wrapped up in my little tics and rituals. But the second I stepped out onto the stage, everything was fine. Truthfully, I kind of experienced the same thing when I got married! I was a nervous wreck, completely sick and extremely panicky, all through my rehearsal, and didn't even eat at the rehearsal dinner. But the day of, and during the ceremony- nerves of steel, like it was the most normal thing in the world. I think that this is a bit of the same thing. It would be wrong to call it stage fright, because in both of those cases, I wasn't frightened while I was on stage. It was right before the big show that I was a little nutty.
Since it's been a while, I thought I'd update you with some prayer requests- how you can be specific in your prayers for me leading up to this trip (and during it, of course) if you are so inclined.
Finances: This is a biggie. And it's also the most awkward one, because to be honest, I am so tired of begging people for money. I'm still less than halfway funded for my trip. I have had to borrow the money to finish paying my balance with Compassion, but that money has to be paid back, and it is a large amount of money. Just a tiny bit more than I paid for my first car (which took two years or more to pay off.) Or my smallest student loan, plus half my second smallest student loan. Please pray for tremendous financial provision for the trip. There are also some expenses I'm responsible for outside that borrowed amount, too.
The Long, Long Trip: It will take about 20 hours to get to Tanzania- and that's after I make it to New York. My flight leaves Louisville around 8 am, and then heads to Charleston for a brief layover (fun fact: my uncle actually works in Charleston during the week- for an airline! So I might get to see him.) Then I will catch another plane to New York and get there around lunchtime. After that it's another six hours before our plane leaves New York. The journey from New York to Amsterdam is 7 hours and 45 minutes, so we will be getting there very early in the morning our time (I haven't even figured out what time it will be there.) Then there's a 3 or 4 hour layover at the Amsterdam airport, and then a 9 hour flight to Arusha, Tanzania. The return trip will essentially be the same, except I will arrive back in Louisville a few minutes after midnight. I'm a little sad that I will be back in the US for so many hours without seeing my family! Pray for my sanity during such a long trip. I've been on a really long car ride before, but cars can pull over so we can stretch our legs and use normal bathrooms close to sea level. Planes can't do that.
Communication: Being disconnected from my family (particularly my husband and my mom, whom I talk to throughout the day via text) is going to be hard. I know that at least one hotel we will be staying at has Wi-Fi, so I can use a texting app or FaceTime or Skype. I don't know about the rest of the times, though. This will be such an adjustment for me, because when I am feeling anxious or having a hard time, I break out my phone and text my mom, asking her to pray. If things escalate, I have some other friends I recruit, too. Just getting confirmation that other people are praying for me brings me a tremendous amount of comfort when I am under fire like that. I don't think that it's because I rely too heavily on these people in my life, but more like this: even when I'm praying out loud, God isn't responding out loud to me. When things are really scary, getting an audible or visual connection is important to me. I have to prepare myself for the possibility that that kind of connection may not be available to me as immediately as it is here at home.
Climate: This is probably going to make me look dumb, but I completely forgot that it is possible to be experiencing a high elevation if you are not currently standing on a mountain. There is a little section in my Compassion travel booklet about altitude sickness, and I didn't really think about it too much because, hey, it's not like we're going to be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Well, yesterday I was checking the weather report in Arusha, and the website was kind enough to inform me that the elevation there is around 4300 feet above sea level. Singida, where we will also be spending quite a bit of time, is 3600 feet above sea level. So then I looked up Louisville, where I live. My hometown is less than 450 feet above sea level. Upon learning this, I spent the next hour reading up on altitude sickness. It sounds to me like a lot of the symptoms sound like the same symptoms of a mild panic attack. Please pray for our entire group, that we will be able to avoid this issue. I'm sure that it will still be an adjustment, but please pray that that adjustment won't be difficult, and any symptoms we may have will be extremely mild and go away quickly.
Food: I'm not going to have as much room in my suitcase for food as I had hoped. Don't get me wrong, I am not planning on avoiding Tanzanian cuisine. I am an adventurous eater and love trying foods from around the world. But my experiences are limited to single, one-time restaurant visits, not complete immersion for 10 days. Pray that I will be able to eat what is presented to me. I don't want to offend anyone and I don't want to get sick, either.
Connections: Pray for my visit with my boys. I cannot wait to wrap Said in a big hug and tell him how much I love him. I haven't had the other two boys as long, though. We've been writing to Bonifas since October and Elisha since November- and we haven't heard from Elisha yet. Bonifas' first letter was a little hard to connect with, too. I love them all, but since I don't feel so connected to the little guys yet, I hope things aren't weird for them (I keep having this weird thought that Elisha will either be weirded out by my visiting him, a correspondence child I barely know, or he will be so overwhelmed and may expect me to come back for frequent visits, which is something I can't do!) and I am so scared I will accidentally pay less attention to them. Also, I haven't heard from Said in over 4 months, which is really unusual for him. Prayer for all the boys would be really great.
My spiritual walk: I feel weird talking about this one too, but it's still important. Sometimes I feel like I am floundering in my relationship with God. This trip has something to do with that. I felt such excitement and peace when I signed up for this trip, because I felt like I was following God's call for my life. I still do. And I felt so empowered. I have said before that I have always wanted to travel and engage with people and go on mission trips, but I haven't been able to because of my anxiety. When I said yes to God on this, I felt like this whole world was opening up to me. This would be my thing: short term missions, since I don't think my husband is ready to, say, pack up our life and move to Africa to open an orphanage and school for girls with HIV. I want to be an active activist. And because of that, and because of my confidence that this is what God wants me to be doing, I thought that this journey would be easier. It has been a lot harder than I expected. And yes, the finances are a big part of that. I kept thinking "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called." I am not equipped. I am called. So....why am I not fully equipped yet? Why has this been so difficult? So frustrating? I had this crazy idea that I would be able to take a trip every year- alternate between countries closer to home and further away, to make things easier (like, go to Africa one year and then Central America the next.) But at this rate, I will still be paying off this trip two years from now. And on top of that, if I can't afford to fund these trips myself, that also messes with our plans to adopt, which costs money. Do I choose the trip or the child? How can we start the adoption process if we are willingly taking on debt like this? I experience some big doubts sometimes. It's more than an exercise in patience. It's not quite despair, but it definitely has me feeling lost sometimes. I would appreciate prayers for peace, clarity, and discernment. Peace about my situation, and peace if it turns out that I am completely misunderstanding what God wants me to do. Clarity and discernment for His will. And faith. Sometimes I feel like my faith is like a gas tank, and on those days when I'm feeling lost and confused, that tank is running reeeeeally low. After all, this trip was a big step of faith. And when things started not going according to my plan, well, it makes it hard to keep that faith tank full.
Despite all these requests for prayer, and random concerns, I know my trip will be 100% worth it. I am looking forward to it unlike anything else I have ever done. I am ecstatic about the chance to meet my boys, and I get all smiley when I think about the time we will spend with all the other kids, particularly the moms and babies at the Child Survival Program. And I'm looking forward to hugging the folks at the field office and telling them how much I appreciate them taking care of all the letters I send each year (which is a lot.) And I can't wait to come back here and share all the details with you!
Oh, one last thing: you can check out my facebook page here for updates on the trip. I have been using it to sell some crafts to fund the trip, and when I get back I hope to turn it into a mini business, but all the proceeds will go to Compassion. I'm hoping that I will eventually be able to bring in enough money each month to commit to "sponsor" a Child Survival Program center, and maybe even do a special sponsorship. I will continue to post trip updates there, and plan on posting some things there while I'm actually on the trip, too (whenever I have internet!)