Every feel like you’re going crazy? Like maybe your solitude and the loneliness of being stuck with your own mind is driving you mad? Like maybe your broken or somehow ruined beyond measure? That there’s no way, no person, who will be able to decipher it, to start smoothing over the rough edges/cracks within you? Like maybe you’re buried so deep in what is essentially you that maybe nobody will find you. No one will be able to dig deep enough to find you. They barely reach you. Barely scratch the surface. They give up; seeing the labor in the task and find something easier.
A prison of your own making? Did you surround yourself with so much armor weighing you down? Didn’t see the quicksand devouring you with every piece you put on? Are you forever lost within yourself? No light ever to reach the darkest parts? Waiting for someone to open the coffin you put yourself in. Wondering if that day will ever come… Cause it’s starting to get stuffy in here. There’s a sadness in you that you cover up with sarcastic remarks and jokes to laugh away the jagged truth.Why is it so forbidden to admit to the loneliness? To say its devouring you, when you let your mind go. Those late nights when you turn off the lights. You let yourself feel what you keep bottled up. Screwing it tight again as the sun rises. But who’s to say your prison of loneliness is worse than the persons next to you? Is it worse to bask in your tomb alone or to cram another body in there with you and feel the emptiness all the same. It seems so cliché when people who’ve been single for a while say it’s because they know their worth or that they’re independent. Almost seems like they are too good or picky by saying they have high standards. For me, I want to think of it as I have a good idea of who I am and that my thoughts run deeper than what most see or are able to reach. Someone who can find their way to the roots of my being and understand the things unseen.And I guess I would rather lay in my tomb alone than share it with a familiar stranger. Pretending that there’s room for the half-hearted “I love you’s” in the air already so thick with uncertainties it chokes me sometimes. Maybe one day he’ll find me… Maybe one day I’ll notice the shovel at my feet… Maybe I’m supposed to be the one digging.
I posted this for all of the single ladies and my single friends out there. For all those who look around at their friends and family all getting married and popping kids out conveyer-belt style. For all of those women who find themselves sitting there in the late hours of night wondering what’s wrong with them. Wondering why you haven’t found someone or why someone hasn’t found you… I write it for those people who can relate to my late night thoughts above but maybe don’t verbalize them because they’re a just a little too raw….
I’ve been single for the past 6 years and I have to keep updating that number because apparently it changes every year. One minute, I’m still saying 4 years and have that mind blowing reality of it actually being 6 years. Hits you like a brick wall… Like damn, has it really been that long? I’d say time flew by, but Lord knows there were times it stood pretty damn still… Like a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter… Laying there, staring at the ceiling thinking about what you might be doing wrong for nobody right to actually come along? When in reality you’re probably doing more “right” than you know.
The piece above, I wrote one very lonely night while playing abroad and I believe there’s more people out there who can relate to it in some way, so I felt it worth my while to lay myself bare and share. Wanted to let you know you aren’t alone in those sometimes crazy, lonely, insecure times that creep out in the middle of the night. I’ll dive in deeper in my next blog, but for now I’ll just leave you to brew over the above…
I wish I could say that I’m overjoyed to be back in the states after spending a month in Puerto Rico pursuing my basketball career, but it’s almost more painful to read what’s still going on back there, and not be able to do much to help. To say it was miserable for my teammate and I for those few weeks stuck there wouldn’t be giving justice to those people who actually lost their entire homes, loved ones, or all their belongings. It would be selfish to say we were suffering when we were the ones well-enough off to be able to get out, even if it was weeks later. I can’t imagine having to stay there longer and survive under those conditions for months at a time. Let alone, live in an area where I lost everything I own, all while trying my best to acquire food, water, or medicine for my family. Waiting in lines miles long to get fuel for their generators and cars. Searching for places to purchase or collect clean water and waiting in lines for grocery stores to feed themselves and their families. Grocery stores, where many shelves sit empty. Stoplights where police officers stand around all day directing traffic in the scorching heat. People just trying to help each other get by.
The sad truth is that majority of the people still left in Puerto Rico are those who aren’t fortunate or well-off enough to be able to leave, even if they wanted to. They didn’t choose to stay and struggle to make it through the week, trying to provide for their families and neighbors. They didn’t choose to spend these next few months without power, water, cell service, or a good supply of food. And unfortunately, it’s the low income families stranded up in the mountainous areas that got hit the worst and are struggling the most out of everyone.
Leaders in the media speak about the low death toll, as the numbers steadily continue to rise. It’s not just the storm that can take precious lives away. Disease, illness, malnutrition, dehydration, and hazardous areas can take them just as easily. Trump talks of “real disasters” like Puerto Rico isn’t in one.
I know. I was there. I saw the aftermath. I saw the destruction, and I saw the speed at which help came trickling in.
On an island, where people make most of their income off of tourism and the beauty of a rainforest completely stripped away. Living in towns that are almost unreachable and still in complete disarray. Where over 100 bridges have been destroyed and about 18 of them closed indefinitely. Families and neighbors coming together to get through the week while draining their bank accounts and resources one day at a time. Entire livelihoods stripped away by winds and mudslides.
Everyone I speak with back on the island says there hasn’t been much change from when I left. The help is still coming just as slowly as it began and just because the hurricane has passed doesn’t mean it’s time to stop talking about it or helping those who still need our help more now than ever. It’s not a time to have tunnel vision about our lives, thankful it’s not us, ignoring the hands of our fellow Americans reaching out for help. Power and clean running water won’t be available to the majority of Puerto Rico for months and it will take years for the island to recover fully. The people there will be in need of volunteers, food, medicine, water, first aid kits, lanterns, and plenty of other supplies continuously throughout these next few months. Right now, Puerto Rico is the equivalent of a developing country and the hardship is something difficult to fully imagine unless you’re in it.
In order to help as much as we can from afar, Hallie Christofferson and I have paired up to help raise support for those affected. We’ve designed two T-shirts to sell and donate all proceeds to the organization, Unidos Por Puerto Rico (United for Puerto Rico). I’ve listed the links for the shirt sites and link for the organization being donated to below in case you wish to have more information on how your donations will be put to use.
With that said, please PURCHASE a shirt for yourself or others and SHARE our link with as many people as possible! You are also able to donate extra on top of your shirt purchase at checkout, if you wish.
There’s is a heavy burden that no one should have to take on their own and at the end of the day everyone needs a little help. In your biggest struggle, how much would it mean for you to see and feel love of perfect strangers, from a country that doesn’t always see you as their own? From the hardest of times rises the most powerful of love.
Top 25 struggles of Living in Puerto Rico right now:
Waking up to a massive cockroach on your face in the middle of the night.
Not being able to sleep because you’re living in Satan’s Lair burning up. Waking up drenched and having to shower in the middle of the night to cool off.
Having to choose between wearing clothes and dying of heat or sleeping in your swim suit and having the bugs eat you alive.
Having to take 4 showers a day.
Not remembering what it felt like to wear clothes and not be sweaty.
Cuddling up with frozen gallons of water or shoving frozen bottles down your pants/bra while you sleep because of the heat.
Finding maggots in the sponges you use to wash dishes. …Finding them after you found them on your shirt while reading a book.
Walking miles to get to a large hill so you can hike it for cell service. Standing with your arm extended the whole time asking “Can you hear me now?”
Driving 30 minutes in to downtown San Juan to sit outside a hotel for free internet. Getting kicked out of a few hotel parking lots because it’s “private property” and apparently you can’t sit on the curb of the Hyatt Hotel to use their internet.
Going to the only open restaurant downtown to eat a real meal but having to ask to be seated by an outlet so you could plug all your devices in….. because you’re super classy like that.
Sitting in a line miles long for 4 hours to get fuel and then not being able to get it.
Sitting in line to get into a grocery store to buy food.
Eating rice and beans like it’s your job. Carbs going straight to the booty. As if I wasn’t thick enough already.
Flipping the light switch every time you walk into a room only to be reminded power doesn’t exist in this troubled land.
The sound of a generator sputtering to death. Your heart and soul dropping with it.
Having to sleep in the same bed as your roomie because you can only use one A/C machine to save fuel for the generator.
Staring at the ceiling once the generators dies, feeling the ungodly heat rushing in.
Your neighbor telling you he’s getting fuel for the generator but not getting it.
Exercising in the ungodly heat with no reassurance of cooling down after.
Being a ginger and frying this Puerto Rican sun.
Trying to keep up with my MBA program while being cut off from the entire outside world and internet.
Only being able to check your phone one time a day. Either from the top of the hill, if it’s not “Wi-Fi Day”, or from sitting on the curb outside a hotel stealing internet.
My mom emailing the local Iowa TV station to be interviewed about my current situation. #DoingTheMost Haha
Legs looking diseased because of all the bug bites you have. Lying awake scratching them at night.
Trying to find a flight out of Puerto Rico when your flight keeps getting cancelled. Attempting to make it anywhere but here.
Top 8 things that are a faint memory to us:
What it feels like to Netflix and Chill.
The feeling of A/C on our face.
Wearing clothes and not sweating through them in 5 minutes.
The actual use of a light switch and this thing called “Electricity.”
The use of that thing called a cell phone and that it once connected you to the outside world. Completely useless in this troubled land.
I’ll of course will have more blogs after this but let’s lead with one that’s a little heavier. For anyone who doesn’t know, I am currently stuck in Puerto Rico after two Category 5 Hurricanes hit us here. I came here to play professional basketball but ended up playing a month long game of survivor with my teammate instead. I don’t want to sit here and complain about our situation but people need to know the condition that Puerto Rico is in. They need to know the conditions that everyone is stuck in, while the government drags its feet to aid us.
Most people here are in worse conditions than what my teammate and I are living in. In our small community, we are blessed to still have water but most of the families outside our community aren’t so lucky. Like us, they also don’t have power or cell service. People park on bridges along the express way just trying to find signal to call or send a basic text message. My teammate and I climb a large hill, a few miles away, in order to get just basic text or if we’re lucky a phone call. We’re out there on top of that hill, holding our phones up like Mufasa in the Lion King attempting to communicate with our families back home.
Also like us, others are struggling to get fuel for their cars and generators. Though, I highly doubt most of them actually have generators. We haven’t even been able to run ours since before Maria hit. The people whose guest house we are living in take care of it, but the lines to get fuel are a nightmare. So every night is a night spent sleeping in what I vividly imagine Satan’s Lair to feel like. Sprawled out in the bare necessities trying to keep cool. Waking up drenched and taking a shower in the middle of the night to cool off. I sometimes take 4 showers a day. One when I wake up, one if we went to the beach to swim, one before bed, and one in the middle of the night. I don’t know how I’d be handling this if we had actually lost our water. I’d probably be asking Maria why she didn’t take me with her. Lol
People who prepared well, filled barrels up with water to drink and use but that only goes so far. We charge our electronics at our neighbors who have their generators running or when we drive to downtown San Juan for internet (30 min. drive). We call those days our “Wi-Fi days” where we sit outside the Sheraton Hotel with a million other people stealing Wi-Fi to communicate with loved ones. We don’t get to go every day because we have to be smart with our fuel. People wait around ALL DAY at gas stations in order to get some. These gas stations don’t even have gas but everyone is waiting for a truck to arrive. The first day, we waited in a line for 4 hours and didn’t even end up getting any. We got lucky the next day and only had to wait an hour and half but it’s an endless fight to find it. The lines go on for miles, all the way up exit ramps to the Expressways. Same goes for the lines for water, ice, ATM machines, banks, or to simply get into grocery stores. Shelves sit empty in the stores. People are in a frenzy. They can’t communicate with their families on the island or back in the states. The best comparison I can make is to tell you to imagine the movie,” The Book of Eli” but WAY less dramatic/crazy, and you have our situation here. Lol
I haven’t even touched on the airport issue yet. There’s not enough fuel to keep the generators working at the airport so flights are being cancelled left and right. Thousands of people are camped outside with no water, money (no ATM’s working), food, or way to get off the island. Everyone is trying to leave the island but there’s no way to get out. Cruise ships have just started rolling in to help but that’s merely a dent in the overall issue. My flight has already been cancelled once. My teammate and I are just praying we make it off the island this weekend with our current scheduled flights. People here need help and the government is dragging its feet to do it. The power will be out in Puerto Rico for the next few months because of the way it’s set up and how badly Maria hit. Our basketball season is of course cancelled. Our neighbors and us joke about how we’re basically in a war zone. We’re surviving on the bare essentials right now and we’re not even suffering as much as the majority of Puerto Rico with mudslides, families to care for, or flooding worse than us.
On top of all of that, trees and signs are still down on all the roads. There’s curfew every night at 6pm. The stoplights don’t work so police officers are working all day in the heat directing traffic at busy intersections. The roads are chaotic and filled with reckless drivers. Everyone is just trying to get by and have enough food/water to make it through the week. People are out there with families to take care of and feed; not knowing when or where their next paycheck will come from. Elderly folks are dying in nursing homes because there’s no power. People aren’t able to get the prescriptions they need. They suffering from little things we take for granted every day and may not even think about until we’re actually experiencing it. Until you are actually the one suffering from it. Or until a hurricane comes barreling through, I guess.
I’m just skimming the surface of the struggles going on. People need to know and I just want to shine some light on the situation and what we’re actually dealing with. I wouldn’t say my teammate and I are suffering, but we are definitely a few of the thousands here just trying to get by and struggling to find a way off the island. The people of Puerto Rico need your help and whatever you can do, from wherever you are, would help tremendously! Thanks!
Also, thank you everyone for the love, support, and prayers sent my way this entire past month and as my teammate and I continue to try to make it home! We appreciate them all! Xo
I apologize for this post being long overdue. It’s funny how you leave for 3 weeks and time stands still ,but as soon as you get back it continues full speed. It sweeps you up back in its current and you get lost trying to keep up with it again. So you could say that I got swept back up in the routine of it all again.
Let me get back on track by telling you a bit more about our mission trip experience.
Every day we would practice at the local university on a rubber court with random people strolling in and out. Every day there was this little boy who would be waiting for us come rain or shine. Every day, we’d arrive to him standing in the doorway waving at us. This little boy was 10 years old and would walk miles barefoot to be at the gym hanging with random students from the university. This little boy wanted us to call him Jordan, after Michael Jordan. He was a little baller with some pretty darn good ball handling skills and every day after practice we would give him a lift home. After the first day of meeting him, getting on the bus he looked so sad we were going and as I was stepping on the bus, this little barefoot boy asked me if I had any food. It broke my heart to tell him that I didn’t have any on me and to think that I was hopping on that bus to go back to a bed, eat some food, and drink fresh water. This was just one of the many instances where children and adults asked us for food. Needless to say, every day after that we all made sure to have food on hand, shoes, socks, and gear to give him. The happiness on his face to see his gifts, to simply see us every day, and to sit on our bench during games was absolutely heart melting. It was even more heart melting when we had to tell him we were leaving to go back to the States at the end of the week.
We came to find out that Jordan lived with his mom and grandma miles away. They couldn’t afford to put him in school so he simply wandered the streets every day, however far he wanted. He’d come back home whenever he decided to make his way. Imagine, not knowing where your child was the entire day and then coming home late at night after walking miles, crossing busy streets alone. Yet, we come from a country where we give our kids a phone as soon as they pop out of the womb and don’t let them cross the street without someone holding their hand. Where we hardly see a child without some kind of shoes on their feet, let alone walking ALONE in the streets. As soon as we stepped off that plane and we were in a completely different world down there.
During games and camps we shared our testimonies, our hearts, and our stories with the people there. Our main focus was the girls on the national team and the audience members at the games. We interacted with them the most out of anyone. At the halftime of our matches we would share our testimonies and hand out brochures on how they could become a part of the AIA program locally. Many people from the audience and from the Ivory Coast Women’s National team filled out those papers wanting to learn more and be a part of the local Christian community. It was amazing thing to see. A lot of them commented on our spirit and the way we conducted ourselves throughout the games and at all times of the trip. They were inspired by the way God was working through us to impact the lives of everyone we met. Whether that be the children in the orphanage we visited, the Ivorian basketball team, people in the audience, or the women and children we met on the broken, dirty roads of Abidjan. It was amazing to see how our love and our faith made a difference in their lives in such a short time.
How often do you get that chance? How often can you say truly, without any question that you impacted someone’s life in a good way? It honestly should be daily, but for many of us that isn’t the case. You shouldn’t need to go all the way across the world to be able to say you made a difference in someone else’s life or to be able to spread the Word of God. You can do that right where you are, with the people you interact with daily. Everyone is in need of a little faith, love, and kindness in their life. The only difference is that some may need it more than others. This trip allowed my teammates and I to love on every child, player, and stranger we encountered all the way across the world. God shone His light through each and every one of us. He allowed us to shine our light into the dark corners of the hearts of those who may never have known about God and the miracles he is capable of. Each one of us came back shining a little brighter than we left and I hope we sparked the beginnings of a flame in the hearts of the Abidjan people. I hope we sparked a bit of curiosity about what having a personal relationship with God is like. All it takes is one spark to light a fire. Though, without any action how can you expect a reaction?
So I ask, share your light, share your warmth, share your faith, share your fire, and share God’s Word. He wants to be known and to use you to save others. Don’t sit back asking why God doesn’t do something more. He created you to do that something more. You are that tool to start a fire in this world and spread His Word. BE the change. BE the difference. BE the kindness. BE the hand extended to the broken looking up. Don’t let yourself get so caught up in the fast paced current of the world we live in, that you forget to look around. Tunnel vision, stepping on the hands of people fallen to get where we think we should be. Life is more about the people you impact along the way, than it actually is about you. Remember that. It’s the people along the journey that make it special because those are the people you should be hoping to see again at the end of this life journey.
I would like to dedicate this post to what I would like to call the “African Cleanse” as I sit here home all day sick with a fever, flu, and body aches the day after traveling back from the Ivory Coast. Of course I go most the trip without getting sick, only for it to get me the day I return. But it gives me time to write this blog post so I will be thankful for that. I have so much to say but I will have to give it to you in small doses so you can actually absorb one before the other.
The entire time in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) felt like we were in our own pocket of time and space. It felt like we had this little space of protection, safety, and otherworldly feeling while the outside world and people back home were going about their lives. Our days were spent constantly running around from place to place. Whether that be to a game, coaching clinic, youth camp, practice, orphanage, our host’s family community, or church.
I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time in church on a Sunday as we did that day. We got there around 8:30 AM and church went on for another 4.5 hours. Afterwards we were invited to a dinner there to celebrate “Women’s Day.” Church was filled with constant dancing on stage by people in the audience and the sermon was done in French. I won’t lie, I was ready to fall asleep an hour and half into it. I’m happy I pushed through determined not to be the first one, only so I could watch the others slowly fall victim. As we were standing to leave, nearing the end of the sermon, the preacher called us out in front of the entire church asking us to please stay “5 more minutes” haha. I can say that was a first in my book, but overall it was a great to see how other cultures celebrate, worship God, and how there’s truly no right or wrong way to do it.
Games started off a bit rough. The other team’s girls were very straight faced, extremely physical on the court, and unfriendly the first game. Things slowly changed as we continued to play them a few more times and share our testimonies. They warmed up enough to us to start smiling, giving us high fives before the game, sometimes during the game, and coming over to our place for dinner the last night. We may not have been able to understand each other completely, but some things don’t need words to convey. Almost every girl on that team gave a brochure back saying they accepted Jesus into their heart or would like to volunteer with AIA in the local area. Many commented on our spirit during games and the way we played. They were very inspired by the character we played with and friendliness we showed them on and off the court.
One of the challenges for us as athletes will forever be toning down our competitive nature in order to put our main mission first. We didn’t go to the Ivory Coast to win every game and crush our opponent. Though, we also didn’t go to collect any L’s. It was a constant battle telling ourselves not to get frustrated when plays went wrong or calls didn’t go our way. We were there on a Godly mission and the way we presented ourselves carried heavy weight. I think it was a great experience to be allowed and to allow ourselves to play without any judgment or much for expectations. It was the perfect environment to test my knee out in a few live game situations.
I want to sit here and talk about how we influenced each and every person we encountered, and I will. However, I also know the reality of it is that we may have gotten more out this experience than many of the people we came into contact with. So at least for this post, I am going to talk about how we were influenced. Don’t worry, there will be another post on those we influenced. Yes, many people invited Jesus into their hearts during our time there and wanted to hear more about the local AIA program. Many even wanted to volunteer for their own groups, be a part of learning more, and start spreading the word. Although all these things are amazing, one of the most rewarding parts was the time spent as a group during our “team time” and hearing everyone’s testimonies. Each and every one of us came from a background different from the other, with hardships and trials that the other couldn’t imagine beforehand. It gave me a different respect and perspective of how someone from a different culture, background, upbringing, and place can live.
What it comes down to is that everyone’s journey is different but what remains the same is the feelings felt across situations. We can all relate to an extent on the feelings felt during our trials and hardships. This trip was our safe space. It was our judge free zone, allowing us to be vulnerable. Our time to verbalize our brokenness and share it with people who only want to understand and help you heal. A lot of the time we go through life trying to be tough and carry the weight of our brokenness alone. It can become a heavy weight you don’t realize you’re carrying until it’s lifted. For many of the girls on the trip, I think it was a relief to share their brokenness with another. Many of us hadn’t verbalized, shared, or allowed our vulnerabilities to show to anyone else. Like a clogged artery we didn’t let the words flow. We weren’t functioning properly. We didn’t realize the pressure building up behind the dam we build around ourselves. God couldn’t have placed better people on this trip. It was the right persons to reach the right parts of ourselves and let the spirit work inside our hearts and others. Every person was loaded with wisdom from their own experiences to add to the group and allow us think differently or inspire us to be better in our walk with Christ.
I was the oldest among the girls but I never felt that way. We were all equal and one in the same. Many of them claimed that I didn’t act like I was as old as I am. Not sure whether to take that as a good thing or as a “I don’t act my age” kind of thing haha. They meant it in a good way but honestly I didn’t feel older than them. I may have more years under my belt and maybe a few more experiences under my belt but that really means nothing. It’s only MY journey that I can understand and share. Their journey is a completely different story so it would be out of line to sit there and act like my hardships can completely relate to someone else’s. Your journey is your own to understand and others are there to listen, empathize, give advice when asked for, and add to your perspective. It would be like opening a book I’ve never read and saying I already know the plot line and ending because I’ve read books before. I still stand by the fact that no one can truly understand your journey, the details involved, or the feelings you feel but yourself and God.
On this trip, we were all outsiders being allowed to look up and shake up another person’s snow globe of a journey whether that be in our own group or those people living in the streets of Abidjan. My teammates allowed us to look inside; so like a guest in someone else’s house we needed to tread carefully. We were there to absorb what they allowed to spill out as best as we could and provide as much healing as we could to those wounds they ripped open for us to see and scars they showed us. Only they know how much those wounds bled or the pain felt when they did.
Sometimes you have to re-break bones to let them heal correctly. We called it letting our “brokenness” shine through but at the end of my time there, I felt more like it was our “fixing” that we allowed others to see. Maybe what we saw as our breaking was God fixing us, allowing us to heal correctly. Maybe we were walking down the wrong path or not walking hand in hand with him and needed a push in the right direction. We as humans can be stubborn thinking our plan is better than His but that’s false. God is in the details. He’s in the details of our breaking and in the details of our making. He broke us because we weren’t healing right and this trip helped me see that my hardships are really my highlights in my life.
Those moments where I thought I was broken and drowning in the dark were really Him healing me and cleansing me. It was essentially me throwing a tantrum because my plans didn’t go as planned. Like a child throwing a tantrum because their mom didn’t allow them to eat all the candy they want. The parent knows that it would end in the child getting sick and knows what’s best for the child even when they can’t see it. God see’s what’s good for us even when we can’t see it ourselves. He knows that the path we want for ourselves may not be good for us, so he doesn’t allow it. Yet we as children, untrusting, throw a tantrum and blame him for not getting what we want. We get side tracked and stray from the path, start rolling in the mud, and He finds us alone, dirty, helps pick ourselves up, and cleans us up.
So today I sit here fully “cleansed” thanks to the flu or whatever I’m experiencing, but I’m experiencing it with a roof over my head, a warm shower, a comfy bed, new friendships under my belt, new perspectives/lenses to see through, and many more things. All because He sent me down a path I couldn’t even imagine for myself and knowing what I do now, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d go through all those knee surgeries, moments of sadness, and hardships again so that I could experience all the good things much more vividly. I’d do it all again so I could experience the love, kindness, and lifestyle of the people of Abidjan and the lasting friendships I gained during my time there. Some things hit you like a rock and make a dent in you forever. This is without a doubt a dent I’m forever blessed to have gotten.
I’m officially in the Ivory Coast and it is definitely an eye opener. I’ve been trying to write this blog for the past few days but I couldn’t quite get the wording right so I kept putting it off. But I do feel the need to write while it’s still early in the trip and before I get to the end and regret not updating people on what we are experiencing over here. For me to say that we take things for granted in the U.S. is an extreme understatement. People here live in houses the size of our closets back home, walk around in dirty/raggedy clothes, drive on nearly un-drivable roads, and this is just what is considered “the city”. Kids play in the streets with wheels as their toys and walk the streets aimlessly for miles because their families won’t put them in school. We complain about a few small potholes in the road back home and these people drive on dirt roads in vehicles that I am constantly thinking the wheels are going to fall off from bottoming out all the time. And no I don’t think it is because I need to lay off a few meals or sit in the front of the bus.
The people here live in poverty and barely own a thing truly of their own. We visited one of our AIA host’s family’s neighborhoods the other day and the way they live and the way they care for each other is inspiring. They said that if someone has a problem the whole community surrounds them and helps them out. The way they made it sound is like it was one massive family within that community. They share what little they have and they welcomed us like we were family. Kids ran around waving at us and people were very friendly pretty much everywhere we went. If I were them I think I would almost be spiteful or bitter towards us, but that wasn’t the case. In my eyes, I’d imagine us viewed as privileged Americans coming to their country and their communities prancing through and leaving like it was nothing. I’d be somewhat spiteful or bitter if I was them but then again they may not know any better. They may not fully know the luxury lifestyles we live in comparison. I mean, we barely notice the little luxuries we have that others may not. Such as hot water, wifi, paved roads, air conditioning, or even simply being able to drink tap water out of the sink.
Today we visited an orphanage, we shared the Word of God with the kids, my teammate shared her testimony, and we played some games. The foster mother in charge of the orphanage told us her story of how she doesn’t work off of a salary and relies strictly on God and her faith to provide. She knew in her heart that what she was doing for these orphans was right and that caring for them was something God would also want. She was an orphan at the age of 2 and had to go around washing plates and taking things to the market to sell for other people. She vowed to help other children who find themselves in similar situations alone and uncared for. Imagine being that young, on your own just trying to survive. Also, for us it’s difficult to wrap our minds around someone relying solely on God to provide for them, but here in Abidjan it really is an incredible feat. She cares for over 170 orphans and pays for most of them to go to school, eat, and be clothed. She shared some stories of how God has come through in incredible ways during tough times such as when there was no heat to cook food for the children or when they were in desperate need for a bus to take the kids to school safely.
Her faith and devotion to help those in need is inspiring and I think a lot of people I know could use an ounce of that kind of faith in their everyday lives. I’m not saying people in America should rely solely on God to provide for them because we have far more means available to support ourselves than many of the people here in Abidjan, but imagine a world where people had even half the amount of faith this foster mother has towards God in their lives. Trusting that He has a plan and that He won’t throw us anything we can’t handle. That His plan is better than ours. I think there would be a lot of people living a happier life with less worry on tomorrow and more living for today. It would be a faith that drives out all doubt. I also think that it would be a beautiful thing for people to appreciate and realize what we have right now instead of constantly wishing for more. We live in a nation where work, success, power, material goods, and money are valued most. Yet, we also live in a nation where people go about their day, week, month, year unhappy and barely able to find something to smile about in their daily lives or work. These same people also have a roof over their heads, food at home, and most times a vehicle or transportation to take them places. I think that if the people of Abidjan living with less than the bare necessities can find one thing to smile about, we can find it as well. In spite of all that, the painful truth of this experience may actually be that in many ways they are more blessed than we are.
This trip within a few days has strengthened, tested, and questioned my faith in many ways already and I’m supposed to be the one sharing with the people here. I think it’s amazing how when you give back you end up getting back more than you gave and today is one of the many examples I hope to experience still this week. I believe that if we made a difference in the life of just one child or simply sparked their curiosity in having a relationship with God, today it was more than worth it.
“Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”