Reflections from Africa #1 ..keeping it REAL

So, many people have been asking me about my trip, asking, ‘Did you just have a wonderful time?!’ and I always smile and light my eyes up saying ‘Yes, it was such an awesome experience!” while nodding my head and doing every other gesture I can think of to convey that fact that I just love Africa. I’m not lying when I say that, but the fade in my heart reminds me it wasn’t happy, fun, and full of exciting opportunities the whole time, the way people think it went.  So much happened over those 6 months. So much. I’m still trying to process it all.  Sometimes I don’t want to. Sometimes I want to turn my brain inside out, everytime someone brings the trip up.  NO NO NO, don’t go there! My head screams.  But I always smile, keep composure, and give a general exciting story.  Am I lying? No.  the few stories I’ve told are true.  But theres other things wanting to creep out.  More truth, more realness to my experiences, I’m letting myself remember.

…I remember peace, like a river.  I remember understanding peace for the first time. I remember no electricity, no water, no kitchen.  I remember the simplicity of life.  I remember music.  I remember singing.  I remember melodies from the heart, tunes from the soul, notes from the breath.  I remember dancing.  I remember laughing and dancing and moving to a new beat.  I remember new steps.  I remember bare feet on the dirt.  I remember first times. First time washing clothes by hand in a river. First time eating ugali.  First time speaking Swahili.  I remember a sound mind.  I remember breathing.  Taking a deep breath.  Being free.  I remember the freedom.  The true freedom.  Freedom to live. Freedom to speak, freedom to be me.  I remember the wind and the rain.  I remember the sun and the shade.  I remember working in the fields, day in and day out.  I remember playing soccer with Obedi.  I remember playing with little Jemima.  I remember days I missed home so bad, only to pray with my ‘sisters’ for hours feeling more whole than ever in my life.  I remember prayer.  I remember every step of everyday being a prayerful step.  I remember interceding, I remember worship.  I remember walking up mountains.  I remember seeing Beauty.  I remember a peace that passes all understanding.  I remember realizing ‘my Father loves me’ and for the first time believing it.  I remember Love.  I remember brothers and sisters and family.  I remember joy.  Endless joy.  I remember wholeness.  I remember being ok.  I remember accountability.  I remember friends.  I remember sharing the gospel. Peace, unending peace, like never before.  I remember thinking ‘so THIS is what it means to be free.’

I remember the horror of shaking.  Shaking, shaking, shaking.  I remember shaking so uncontrollably, like I’ve never shook before.  I remember shaking to the point of intense pain in every joint and muscle.  I remember my temperature rising, rising, rising.  I remember screaming out because of feelings no words can describe.  I remember no one taking me seriously.  I remember hurt and deep pain when my leaders tried casting out demons from me.  I remember confusion and anger when I realized they didn’t believe I was sick.  I remember passing out.  I remember my body, on fire.  I remember not even being able to touch any part of myself because of my temperature.  I remember more shaking. More pain.  I remember finally going to the hospital.  I remember the car running out of gas on the way.  I remember everything on my inside, spilling outside.  I remember having no control.  I remember shame.  I remember needles, lots of needles.  I remember passing out. Again and again.  I remember the hard hospital bed, a long walk from the hospital toilet.  I remember there is no toilet.  I remember the hospital hole in the ground.  I remember not being able to walk.  I remember being held like a limp rag doll, as everything exploded from my body for hours. And hours. And hours.  I remember thinking I was going to die.  I remember waking up, and wishing I was dead.  I remember missing my mom.  I remember asking God to please take my life, because I couldn’t take the pain.  I remember every touch to my body like a 2 by 4 being swung at me.  I remember my blood pressure dropping. Lower. I remember being given the wrong medicine.  I remember the hurt when my leaders still didn’t take me seriously.  I remember being taken out of the hospital after 3 days, with still a high fever and uncontrolled stomach.  I remember riding squished in the hot dala with my team for 5 hours, needing buckets because my own self couldn’t control it’s wastes.  I remember more shame.  I remember blood.  I remember going to the hospital again.  I remember weakness.  I remember having to be careful because of how delicate I had become.  I remember losing so much weight I was forced to eat more than I wanted.  I remember the lies of my old eating disorder, trying to keep me sick.  I remember shame.  I remember fear.  I remember nights and nights of fear.  I remember death trying to take me in those nights of fear.  I remember darkness.  I remember hurt.  I remember horrors.  Horrors that can’t be put into words.

I remember getting close to people I never expected to get close to.  I remember learning a new language.  I remember becoming a family with my team.  I remember the anger and betrayal I felt when we found out some of our own ‘family’ was stealing from us.  I remember the lies they told.  I remember wanting to believe something that wasn’t true.  I remember giving the benefit of the doubt.  I remember being hurt and betrayed again by my own brothers and sisters stealing and lying.  I remember the judgments I cast.  I remember the pain in my heart, that I had been let down. Again.  I remember doubting if its worth getting close to people.  I remember trying to see the best in the situation.  I remember seeing nothing.

I remember spreading the gospel.  I remember teaching and preaching in church.  I remember making a difference.  I remember praying for people.  I remember the sick being healed.  I remember the lame walking.  I remember the blind receiving sight.  I remember the deaf could hear.  I remember realizing GOD IS REAL.  I remember experiencing the Holy Spirit in real ways.  I remember thinking ‘I’ll never be able to doubt again.’ I remember doubting.

I remember singing Unaweza, Unaweza, Unaweza.  You are able, You are able, You are able.  I remember God being able.  I remember making good choices.  I remember being challenged.  I remember being encouraged.  I remember growing spiritually despite my own pride.  I remember God is able.  I remember God is faithful. I remember God is good.  I remember no matter what my circumstance, God deserves worship.  I remember worshipping in the good, worshipping in the bad.  I remember the freedom that came from that.  I remember God being faithful in it all.  I remember I love God with my whole heart.  I remember surrender. I remember peace, like a river, washing over me.

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2 Responses to Reflections from Africa #1 ..keeping it REAL

  1. Pam M. says:

    Darlin’, you CAN’T get any more real than THIS! I smiled and cried as I sat at my kitchen table, reading these amazing words of yours, while I just happened to be listening to Michael W. Smith’s ‘Agnus Dei,’ which provided quite the surreal background music to this story. Wow!

    Lately, I’ve been reading stories about various people, like Therese de Lisieux, St. Maria Faustina, as well as stories about ordinary folks from the Voice of the Martyrs book, ‘Jesus Freaks,’ — people who suffered incredible physical, emotional, spiritual and mental agony while selflessly serving God. I’m thinking that one day, I and my grand and great grand kids (and beyond) will be reading about YOU, my dear. Not kidding.

    Keep writing, Jessica! I find it’s the best way for me to ‘get things out’ that I cannot share verbally, and you just never know how you may encourage, inspire, or comfort someone who is reading your story. Thanks for being real and true to yourself and to God, dear one!

  2. Dave says:

    Jess, wow. Most of us will never come close to having the experiences that God has allowed you to have, and you are just beginning! Take all of these precious moments, the good and the bad, and use them for Him. You are an amazing young woman and Janice and I will be praying for you!

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