“Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” – David Platt
153 million. That is approximately how many orphans there are around the world today. For the ones who live in the global north (developed countries), this often results in them ending up in foster care or living with extended family. For the children who live in the global south (developing countries), many governments do not have a welfare system set up to help them. If they don’t have family that is willing or able to care for them, they are left to fend for themselves. Desperate to survive, they will do nearly anything to make some money: sweatshops, prostitution, drugs, and the list goes on.
For as long as I can remember I have had a desire to help vulnerable children. Even as a little girl I thought about adoption and foreign missions and hoped that one day I could be more involved. When I was just 9 years old I went to Brazil with my family, and for the first time I met children who no longer had parents. I learned their names, we played games together, and when I came back to Canada they were heavy on my mind. Over the next few years my awareness only grew; I went back to Brazil 2 more times, and my family began fostering shortly after. Suddenly, orphan care wasn’t across the world, but in my living room. Fast forward a couple more years and I was walking through the streets of Chipata Compound, Zambia, where nearly every child I met had lost at least one parent. I sat with one student while he cried and talked about his father who is dead. I sat with another student who has to live with her Aunt and Uncle and faces abuse daily from them. I sat with another student who has to care for all her siblings because her mother is extremely sick and is gone to another village to get medical help.
These are just a few examples of children I know that are part of the 153 million. But they are so much more than a statistic; they are my friends. Their pictures are pasted on my wall, their stories engrained in my heart. And now whether I like it or not, I am changed, and I cannot ignore them and their cries for help.
The Bible is overflowing with verses about orphans - it doesn’t take long to see that these children are at the center of God’s heart. Romans 8:15-17 says: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Even the Gospel itself is a story of adoption, and this is where it always hits home for me.
I was an orphan. I was lost, vulnerable, and without hope. God, in His love, reached out to me in my sinful state and took me in. He gave me a new name – Saint – and adopted me into His family. Without my adoption, I would still be roaming without direction and desperate for help. Because of my adoption I have joy and a purpose, and I am now called to go forward and do the same:
Isaiah 1:17 – “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.”
James 1:27 – “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
Psalm 82:3-4 – “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
I don’t want to assume that you aren’t involved in orphan care; this blog certainly isn’t here to condemn or guilt trip. However, I will say that there are too many Christians who are not involved. The reality is that if all Christians were actively involved in orphan care, there would be a lot less orphans and the statistics would slowly start to shrink. You see, the solution to the orphan epidemic is relationship. These kids just need a family, a friend, someone who will tell them they are loved and cared for.
So today, on Orphan Sunday, I am pleading you to take an honest look at your life. Are you really as involved as you should be? Are you willing to consider if God is calling you to foster, adopt, volunteer, or travel overseas? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone and let these statistics become stories that touch you and change your life? Are you willing to try to shrink that overwhelming 153 million? I am praying you do. And I can promise you that regardless of how difficult, uncomfortable, stressful, and painful your involvement may be in the moment, when you get to heaven you won’t regret it. You won’t wish you did less, you won’t regret joining God’s mission for these children. So step out of hesitation and step into God’s glorious design for redemption through adoption. I can’t wait to see how God works through your “yes”.
“So breathe it in, cherish this: the moment you’ve been waiting for
Say a prayer of thanks to Him for bringing you this far
The King of all the world who parts the seas and calms the storms
cared enough to give you the dream of your heart.”
I have always longed for Africa. Even as a child I would dream of the day when I would get to cross the Atlantic ocean and serve on that continent and last year after years of praying and waiting, God fulfilled that dream. As I prepared for my trip the lyrics quoted above came to my mind, and when I sat down at the piano the rest of the song nearly composed itself. My heart was so overwhelmed with thankfulness that the God of the universe who doesn’t have to love me and doesn’t have to
give me the desires of my heart, cared enough to do so anyways.
Coming home brought about a lot of emotions that took me a long time to wrestle with and process, but I did come to a place of contentment here again. Still, no matter how thankful I was to be home I thought of Africa and prayed to go back every day. It is something so hard for me to describe because I can’t understand it myself, but the best way I can put it is that my heart has found a home in 2 places, and they just happen to be over 7,000 miles apart.
As this summer started to unfold in front of me and each month began to fill up with weddings and other events, I was convinced there was no way for me to return to Zambia, not to mention the amount of money I would need for my plane ticket. But God started to work on my heart and with faith like a mustard seed I gave my dream to Him once more and asked Him to use me however He wanted. Doors began to open and before I knew it I was taking another leap of faith and booking my plane ticket.
On July 4th I arrived back in Zambia. Everything felt familiar: the bumps in the road, the dust and smoke in the air, the pedestrians walking along the street. Then returning to school: the big yellow gate opening before me, the children calling my name and embracing me, the smell of Nshima and beans in the cafeteria, the shouts of intense football games during recess. I was home and once again God had graciously granted me the dream of my heart.
The purpose of my trip was similar to last year as we have 60 new students who needed updated picture and information for their sponsorship cards. So, similar to last year, once my picture taking was done for the day I surrounded myself with all my friends: sometimes we would do handshakes, other times we would braid each other’s hair, and other times they would keep teaching me Bemba. And in every moment the lyrics from last year kept coming to mind: breathe it in and cherish it. Don’t worry about how many days you have left, or how long you’ll have to wait until you can come back; just breathe it in and cherish it. Don’t let your insecurities or the unknowns of the future stifle your ability to be present in the moment; just breathe it in and cherish it. Don’t let your grief of leaving Zambia blind you to the many blessings and opportunities that await you in Canada either; just breathe it in and cherish it.
I hope that overtime I can live a life that is continually breathing in and cherishing the moments God gives me. It’s so easy for me to get caught up in the past or to have my head stuck in the clouds dreaming up my future, but I know there is more beauty found when I continually surrender every moment to Him and accept the exact place where God has me. Accept the joyful moments in Zambia, accept the quiet moments at home, accept the uplifting moments at church, accept the disciplining moments at school. Accept and cherish them all, because each one is a gift straight from my Father and every moment plays a specific role in the story He is writing for me.
At the beginning of this year I asked God what He would teach me. It seems that every year there is one word/phrase/theme that follows me through it all, and I wondered what this year’s word would be. It was on that day that “brave” came to mind and it has stuck with me every since. I found it strange that "brave" was the word because it was just last year that I blogged about how I wasn't brave, but He hasn't called me to bravery but to obedience. I remember that time clearly: I was getting ready to leave for Africa and I was pretty scared. In those moments He reassured me that obedience is enough: He isn’t asking me to be a fearless warrior just yet. He will provide the peace; I only need to take the first step. I still believe it’s true that no matter how afraid or uncomfortable the road ahead is we should not wait until all fear dissipates or we feel totally prepared, because realistically that could take forever. We just need to say yes; we just need to be obedient to what He has set before us. But now in 2018 I believe He is calling me out one step farther, to not only be obedient but also to be brave because His Word and His promises are true and I can be brave and confident in the midst of the storms and the unknown.
He makes me brave through every change and every chapter
There are definitely some things that frighten me as I look at the year ahead of me. In just a few weeks my sister is getting married and moving away, and then a month later my best friend is also getting married and moving away. Despite the joy I feel for them and all of my other friends who are getting married and starting a new chapter, I feel grief for this season of life that is coming to a close and the relationships that are changing. I also feel fear as I look to next September. I am thankful that I was accepted into Social Work but I know this program and career will require a lot from me and sometimes I wonder how I will handle it all. These are just 2 examples and it’s only April…there’s still time for more things to come up :) Yet through it all, “brave” keeps being whispered over me. He makes me brave through every change and every chapter, and I can approach the unknown with confidence because of Him. And you know what? The more I let go and just say yes, the more I can breathe. I am so free in Christ and even the scariest roads have blessed me beyond belief! Every path He has led me down has only made me richer in Him. Looking back I see how faithful He has been and my confidence grows; I know that He is making me braver by the day.
I’m not sure what this year looks like for you, but I pray that you can be brave through it all. I pray that you can look to God for your comfort and that your confidence will come from the fact that He has walked your road before you. I pray that your fear doesn’t paralyze you but that it wakes you up and that for the first time in a long time you can experience the abundant life He offers so freely. I pray that you will pray prayers that frighten you and dream dreams that challenge you and let God do radical things through you. I pray that this year you will be brave.
1. characterized by or showing inability to remain at rest: a restless mood.
2. unquiet or uneasy, as a person, the mind, or the heart.
3. never at rest; perpetually agitated or in motion.
I know this feeling; the absence of quietness in my mind and heart, the lack of rest. I have experienced it for a while but since I got back from Africa it has been worse—I just can’t feel fully settled. It doesn't matter how much I love where I am or who I am with in the moment; I am still restless, torn between two continents.
I find myself often questioning: where is home? Is it right here in Canada, or is it somewhere far away? This question has been wearing me down, especially as I apply to my school program for next year and wonder what September will look like. Will it ground me in Kitchener or send me away? But the other night as I wrestled with these questions God reminded me of truth. He reminded me that I will never find home here. Never. Because home isn’t Kitchener, Kitwe, or anywhere in between. Home is heaven.
CS Lewis said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
I am a pilgrim. This confusion and restlessness is because I wasn’t made to settle down here in the first place. It’s a strange mindset to have when everyone around me seems to be building up their careers, bank accounts, and properties. It sure looks like I should be building a home here too. But He calls His children to something higher—a life fully dependent on Him, trusting that the best is yet to come in a place we can’t feel, see, or understand now. Until then, I am a pilgrim.
I am learning to accept what being a pilgrim means. I am accepting that I will have to say goodbye over and over, because movement requires leaving things behind. It means leaving people and places I love, to go be with other people and places I love. Being a pilgrim means never getting too comfortable in one spot. This may mean financially, spiritually, or geographically. Maybe it will be all three. But as a pilgrim my life shouldn’t be about finding comfort. I am accepting the fact that sometimes my journey will be difficult, confusing, or downright grueling. Sometime I will want to just forget about the journey and start setting up a foundation for a nice big comfortable house. It’s in those times I need to remember no mansion I could build here will ever come close to the one that awaits me. Lastly, I’m learning that my desperate desire to feel settled isn’t strange, it’s actually a void God placed inside me for Him. My heart is aching for home. It doesn’t matter where I travel, what I chase, or who I do it with, the aching will never fully flee. My Maker is calling me to Him, and only with Him will I be home and fully settled.
"“Today is the first of 365 days filled with adventure, wonder, excitement, hardship, and growth.”
I remember penning this out on January 1, 2017. I went on to write a word picture of me standing at the beginning of a meadow, looking at the mountains in the distance. The picture was a description of what I envisioned the year ahead of me to look like. “But before I know it I’m at the top, miles from where I began and so much stronger than before. The thorns in my arms, the burning in my legs, the wheezing in my lungs, all brought me here: to the top of another peak.”
My 365-day journey through the meadow and up the mountain has taught me many things. It taught me that fully trusting God is really hard, but there is freedom in surrender. It taught me that I am not called to be brave, but rather obedient to what God says. It taught me that life will always be changing, so I need to rely on God as my constant friend and companion through it all. It taught me that contentment will never come naturally, so I need to fight for it and choose it every day.
Needless to say, 2017 has been quite the year—I spent over 50 hours on planes, traveled roughly 17,700 kilometers, and even climbed a mountain (really didn’t expect that one when I wrote my journal entry). I lived in a new culture, made many new friends, drove across my beautiful country, and started college. And through it all God keeps showing me that He’s just getting started.
In conclusion, I stumbled across a poem by Minnie Louise Haskins titled “The Gate of the Year” that resonated with me as the New Year is just around the corner.
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand
into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and
safer than a known way."
While the start of a new year is exciting, it is also daunting and full of unknowns. I don’t know what 2018 will bring—will I continue on to social work? Will I return to Africa? Will I travel somewhere new? What unexpected opportunities will fall into my lap? So as I ask these questions, I reach for God's hand, because I do believe it will be better than light or a safer known way. His hand will be better than having the answers or avoiding the hardship. His hand will provide me the strength and the courage. His hand will protect me, and it will lead me through every meadow and up every mountain that the next 365 days hold.
A few of my favourite captures from 2017...
“I know though the winter is long, even richer the harvest it brings
Though my waiting prolongs, even greater Your promise for me like a seed
I believe that my season will come.” ( Seasons, Hillsong).
I love winter. I love when I wake up to a fresh dusting of snow on the ground, or when I step outside and feel crisp air on my cheeks. I love that winter brings Christmas, and as December is upon us I become more and more excited. But as much as I love winter in the physical sense, I don’t like winter when it describes my season of life. I don’t like when I feel stuck in a perpetual state of waiting, with no sign of harvest in sight. For physical seasons I know that even though the snow might stay for a few months, spring is coming. Just like clockwork, every year around March it begins to melt, and buds begin to bloom. Over the summer months the crops will grow, and by fall the fields are ready to be harvested. But in seasons of life I have no calendar to go off of. Without an idea of how long my waiting will prolong, it’s easy to grow discouraged and impatient, and completely overlook the beauty that my winter holds.
It’s hard to be in a season of waiting. It’s hard to see value in the in between and to not want to skip the winter entirely. But the longer that I’m in this season, the more I see contentment is worth fighting for. It is worth praying for, choosing, and then choosing again, because it is never something I won’t need. I also see that He is working as I wait. He is shaping my heart and changing my thoughts even in the quietest moments. And lastly, in the end contentment has very little to do with my season, and everything to do with my heart. I am called to rest in my Father and find all my satisfaction in Him no matter what season I’m in, and when I do that I will find the richest form of contentment regardless of my circumstance.
So yes, it can be hard to not have a timetable of when spring will come. It can be hard to feel stuck in a rut, especially when it seems like everyone else’s life is changing in exciting ways, and my heart aches for Africa. But still there is beauty in the waiting. There is beauty in wrestling with contentment and learning to submit to where God has me now. So whether winter lasts a few months or a few years, I will continue to trust that just like a seed I will grow and blossom in His time, and the harvest coming will be well worth the wait.
“What do you do when you fall in love with a place an ocean away, and every fiber within you is telling you to stay? What do you do when you learn to love the people in that place? When they stop being stranger's faces and start having names? What do you do when you then have to look them in the eye and tell them that you have to leave and this moment is goodbye?"
When I wrote this I was sitting in my room in Kitwe, Zambia. Tonight I’m sitting in my room in Kitchener, Canada, still asking myself those same questions. I don’t know how to handle falling in love with a destination 12,480 km away, which makes it really hard for me to understand all the feelings that come along with that. As I continue to process my time in Africa, I have been going back to the journal entries I wrote while there . Today I have decided to share some excerpts from those entries with you, because they open a window to my experiences, thoughts, and emotions in a unique and raw way. So, without further due, my journal:
(05.25.17) This morning I woke up at 5:40 after a restlessness night, showered, hugged my beloved Mom and sisters goodbye for the next 7.5 weeks, and headed to the airport with Dad. As we approached knots formed in my stomach and anxiety began to rise, because this is it: this is the day I have been praying for, waiting for, and saving for, for so very long. Before I knew it I was boarding, and the engines were roaring for take off. So I clutched the green pillow I had been given by the flight attendant, and held my breath as the wheels left the ground.
(05.29.2017) At 7am sharp Dennis picked me up to take me to school for the first time. When I arrived the kids were standing in assembly practicing a song to sing to me as a welcome. As I stood there with my instant coffee I almost didn’t have words. I feel so humbled that God let me come here, and that people along the way cared enough to help make this dream a reality.
(06.2.2017) 7 days ago I stood outside Ndola airport wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into, but here I am 7 days later still alive and well. In this weird way I feel like this is a second home that I am revisiting. This is just like what happened in Brazil: a strange culture suddenly becomes familiar, an unfamiliar family suddenly becomes like my own family, and a distant land suddenly holds my heart and changes me forever. This is what is happening with each bumpy drive, each exchanged smile, and each hand reaching for mine. A new home, right here in Kitwe Zambia, 7,755 miles away from everything that has ever been familiar.
(06.15.2017) Today was a good day, even though it went nothing like I expected. I woke up half an hour late because my newly fixed iPhone (yay!!) was reset to Kitchener time, and I didn’t think about that when I set my alarm last night. I got to school in good time, only to find out from Grade 6 that today doesn’t work for them to take pictures. With not much to do, I found myself out on the field with Stacey where she was directing football (soccer). She told me that I should help out the girls team so I ran to the office, changed into pants, and before I knew it I was a forward on the girls team running in my trusty Target sandals. We didn’t win, and after half time I thought I was going to collapse, but in the end I am so glad that I got dirty and made some memories.
(06.30--07.1.2017) I never want to forget my first real glimpse of Victoria Falls or the thunder in my ears as the millions of gallons of water tumbled over the cliff in all its glory. I don’t want to forget running across the bridge and getting absolutely soaked, or the smiles on our faces when we reached the other side. I don’t want to forget hiking down the gorge and the view that we found once down there. Don’t forget sitting on that rock and just taking it all in with awe and wonder. Don’t forget drinking your coffee by the Zambezi River after seeing elephants, zebras, and giraffes. Don’t forget getting strapped into a harness and zip-lining across the gorge from Zambia to Zimbabwe and the excitement of flying across that space.
(07.12.2017) My heart is so full yet so sad. I am sad because today the students were mellow and withdrawn because I only have a few days left. They clung to me, they told me they loved me and would miss me. Then Mapalo asked me, “Ashley, why is it that the people we love must leave us?” And that killed me, because she has given me her heart, I have accepted it, and now I’m leaving indefinitely. She trusts me, and now I am falling off the face of the earth. For all she knows I will never come back again. How do I answer her?
(07.14.2017) Goodbye hurts, but I am glad that it does. Like I told some teachers earlier, I would rather build real relationships and hurt more, than be content with surface level interactions to protect myself. I’m blessed by this pain, because with every heartache I’m reminded of how thankful I am that I have so many people to love and be loved by.
(07.15.2017) It’s over. The goodbyes were said, the baggage was checked, and flight 871 to Addis Ababa left with me on it. It was hard to leave. As we approached the airport my stomach tightened and dread filled me. I hated hugging my newfound family goodbye, and as we embraced tears slipped down my cheek.
So now this chapter has come to a close. I don’t know when I will come back but I will love you forever Africa, thank you for treating me better than I deserve and for changing me more than I now know. There truly is freedom in surrender.
“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand...there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep…that have taken hold.” –JRR Tolkien
Today marks three weeks since I left Zambia to come back home, and even though I have so much to say I have felt at a loss for words. I have been avoiding blogging because quite simply I don’t know how to express the things I have been feeling lately. But then I heard this quote, and it gave me the motivation I needed to just sit down and start writing, so here I am.
This quote is part of one of the ending scenes of The Lord of the Rings. The setting is Frodo’s study: he has returned from his mission of destroying the ring, and now he is sitting at his desk finishing the book his Uncle had started years ago. And as I watched this ending scene and heard the quote, I felt like I could connect with it because I have been asking myself the same question lately…how do you pick up the threads of an old life—how do you ever move on—when you know that there is no going back? But something that I am learning, is that it is OK to not know how to pick up the threads, which right now means that it’s OK to have many emotions all raging at once. I’m allowed to miss Zambia like crazy while still being thankful that I’m in Canada. I’m not a calloused person for enjoying the comforts of home, and I’m not a dramatic person for hating how we as North American’s take so much for granted.
I am also learning that it is OK to not want to move on. It’s OK to not want to go back to the way things were. Because the truth is my experiences in Zambia (the people I met, the things I saw, the conversations I had), all changed me for the better. So I don’t want my coming home to be me going back, because that would be a regression. I want all of those experiences to impact and change me long term: To budget better so I can give more funds to the school. To set aside time so I can pray for the children. To live my life in a way that isn’t excessive or wasteful—to not forget the realities that I witnessed just a few weeks ago.
So how do you pick up the threads of an old life? I don’t know. Maybe you don’t. Maybe those threads stay where they are and God starts weaving a new part of the tapestry altogether with fresh colours, and in the end both the old and the new will connect into a beautiful picture that I just can’t see now.
I’m three weeks into my stay here, and I am finally remembering a bunch of the kids names now. There is a friendship established—every day I can expect them to come running and we’ll sit together and talk. They continue to teach me Bemba, various handshakes, and they keep trying to get me to dance despite how often I tell them I am a terrible dancer. On Thursday the Grades 5-7 had a Boys vs Girls soccer game, and somehow I ended up in the middle of the field as a forward for the girls. I never want to forget that afternoon: chasing after the ball in the hot African sun, gasping for air and laughing with the other girls by my side.
Friday was a Teachers vs Students netball game for girls and soccer game for boys, which was also a lot of fun. Us teachers won the netball game, but the students beat the teachers in the soccer game. I must say I was very impressed, these kids have football in their blood.
With every day that passes I have this hunger to know these kids—past the handshakes and the Bemba lessons. I want to know where they live, what they do when they get home from school, how they spend their weekends. I want to know their biggest dreams and their deepest fears. But the other night as I told God that, I had to stop and reevaluate whether or not that’s really true. Do I really want to confront their realities? Face the shack they call home? Swallow the fact that some nights they don’t have supper? Acknowledge that some of the very girls that hold my hands and pet my hair, face abuse and live in fear? It's ugly, it's uncomfortable, and it's convicting. But the fact is that ignoring these realities as a child of God, is sin.
And then I had to ask God, what hurts Him more: hearing his precious children crying out for help, or having his chosen saints ignore Him when He calls us to help?
There are a lot of questions I have, and lots of things that I don’t know, but what I do know is that God takes our brokenness aside and makes it beautiful. I know that from the ashes beauty will somehow rise. That no matter how many pieces a child’s life has shattered into, God is a good Father who’s heart is to restore. I know that He wants them to succeed far more than I could ever hope to. I know that He has an individual plan for each child. I also know that His plans for these children involve us, and closer to home, me. My time. My money. My commitment. My prayers. How am I really handling the responsibility I have been given as a child of God to be His hands and feet?
Today marks 2 weeks since I arrived in Zambia, which is crazy. On one hand I feel like it was just yesterday, but at the same time I feel like I’ve been here forever in the best way possible. My mornings are spent collecting information for bios and photographing the children, but when the lunch bell rings I find myself in the middle of a sea of children trying to touch my hair or teach me Bemba. And in every moment of all this my heart keeps getting fuller and fuller, and with each hand reaching for mine I feel my heart growing more entangled with the souls I’m surrounded by.
While all of this is beautiful, there have also been some not so glamourous moments. Yesterday morning my phone fell on the gravel at school and shattered, my shower pressure is almost non existent, and last night there was a rat in my kitchen. But through this God is teaching me that these things are all OK. It’s OK to not have a phone for a week until it gets fixed. It’s OK to have to not have a steady water pressure in the shower. It’s OK to cook in a kitchen that just had a rat run through it. It’s all OK.
Today as I stood outside with some Grade 2 girls, one of them lifted up my hands and began to count my fingers, to check if I had 5 just like her. They pressed my nails to see how they turned white under the pressure, and took turns holding my hands. As I stood there in the middle of this I talked with their teacher, and she explained to me that for many of these kids, I am one of the first white people they have ever been in close contact with. Even though there are different ethnicities in Kitwe, these kids from the Compound almost never enter the city, therefore being unexposed to anyone outside of the Compound or school. It makes my heart sad that things are this way. It makes me sad that many of them have to find their own food over the weekend. That every day they wear the same ratty sweatshirt, because it’s the only sweatshirt they have. But more than sadness, I feel joy. Because these children are not forgotten or abandoned. Not only is Lifesong For Orphans speaking out for them and preparing them for their future through the education they provide, but God Himself is their defender, warrior, and Father.
All in all, these past 2 weeks have been amazing. I am so thankful for how smooth my adjustment has been to life in Africa, and I can’t wait to see what else God does during my stay here!