On May 2nd I boarded the plane in Johannesburg, South Africa for an 11 hour flight to Amsterdam and then an 8 hour flight to Chicago. To say I was eager to be home was an understatement; in fact, if this trip hadn’t come at this time, I probably would’ve had a breakdown. I was beginning to melt and lose any fire I had left. However, I was nervous about my six week trip, too. There were a million and one thoughts running through my head about what I had to do and all the people I wanted to see. More than anything, I was already scared about leaving the States again…my heart ripping a little…again, saying goodbye…again. Before I had even arrived, I was already anticipating the pain of leaving…in fear that I would not want to go back. Something inside me told me to cast my anxieties upon the Lord. But how?
I shifted in my plane seat and tried to skim through the horrible movie selections on the KLM flight. Annoyed that I couldn’t find anything good, I skimmed the sports section, which was filled with European sports. Annoyed again, I was about to switch off the screen when I saw, “NFL highlights.” Football! Of all the things I missed in Swaziland, football was honestly one of the hardest things to go without. I clicked on it and watched the half hour Superbowl highlights. Five minutes before the end, I was sniffling. Yes, football made me cry! I scanned my right and left to make sure no one beside me noticed that I had been moved to tears because of FOOTBALL. Then again, I had so many emotions inside. It made me feel fulfilled and empty all at once. I switched off the screen and turned on my iPod playlist. It was the playlist I made for “Maria” when she was having nightmares and battling the powers of darkness. I closed my eyes and felt an incredible rush of peace I hadn’t had since moving to Swaziland. It was almost as if a wind had washed over me, a spiritual blanket had fallen upon me. I felt secure, solid, safe, and satisfied. For the first time in months, I felt the joy of the Lord overtake every dark thought and doubt and fear. I felt him say, “I have called you by name, you are mine. I love you and I will watch over you. I have commanded my angels to guard you lest you dash your foot against a stone.” The verses from Psalms I had been reading flooded me. I knew this six week trip would be everything I needed.
Indeed it has been! I have two weeks left…and already I feel like I’ve been basked in suns of love and support from so many people. Wow, seriously, I just feel so charged up from all the hugs and meetings with everyone. One of the best moments was having a coffee date with one of my girls who I’ve been pouring into the past four years, hoping and praying she would discover Christ to save her from the inner darkness and turmoil. Well, she asked me for a date to go over all her questions about faith. She was so hungry, so eager, and it was an amazing moment! She asked for another meeting to continue learning more. I was in seventh heaven sharing the most important part of my life with one of the beloved girls. And then I was honored with the opportunity to speak at graduation for my very first students. That is a day I will for sure never forget. Being able to celebrate with them was a gift to my heart. And there have been so many other amazing moments. Of course it’s also bittersweet, knowing some hellos are also goodbyes at the same time. But I literally have felt like God has me in this bubble, like I’m untouchable in spiritual sense, that God is protecting me during this time so I can recharge to go back.
Go back. “Are you ready?” Someone asked. Am I ready? I asked myself. I was on a two hour drive home to my parents’ house today when I had my first breakdown of the trip. I cried, “Lord, I’m not ready. This is too soon. I don’t want to go back. It’s not that I don’t miss them. Oh, I miss the girls and my kids terribly. But I’m not ready for the…” I paused, “…darkness.”
When I got home, I saw that a package had arrived from Amazon. After my meeting with Fr. Joe, I had ordered several books he recommended, one being Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. On the back cover I read her quote:
“If I ever become a saint–I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ I will continually be absent from Heaven–to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”
Read that quote again. What an amazing faith this woman had! She was so confident in her hope in Christ that she purposely braved the darkness, knowing that no amount of darkness could ever shut out her Light. Mother Teresa was my inspiration to go to Africa to begin with; now she is my encouragement to persevere. O Marvelous Light, this world needs you. Here I am; send me.