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DR Congo Day 21

Group PhotoAugust 14

Our real last full day. On Monday the only emotion I had was excitement. I was so excited to leave and return home. I think all of us on this team had that mentality- all we could think of was leaving. But today was completely different. After breakfast Joel gave us a present and a sweet letter. As Kirsten read the letter, we all began to cry. We realized not only were we leaving to go home, but leaving and saying goodbye to a place that holds our heart. I don’t know if I’ll ever return to the Congo. If I’ll ever see the same pastors or kids or places. Reality hit and it hit hard. Soon the entire room was crying- Jeremy, Joel, Rachel, Josue, and the entire team. On Monday we weren’t crying; we were happy to say peace out and return to the comfort of our own home. These three days have put things into perspective, and I’m glad our flight got cancelled for us to realize that.

It broke all of our hearts to start saying goodbye. The relationships I’ve built here have been unlike anything I had before. I don’t speak their language, and they don’t speak mine, but we still smile and laugh. As I was crying, Pastor Emee held me and said, “ I know you will miss us, and we will miss you, but under God we are all one. We will always be united.” After he hugged me I battled whether to cry more of be joyful in his affirmations. These people have changed me, and I’ll never forget the role they played in teaching me about joy and love and happiness.

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DR Congo Day 20

Bricks

August 13

Our three extra days have been a peaceful and relaxing breeze. For the most part we’ve been hanging around Pastor Celestin’s house eating, playing cards, and hanging out with our favorite kids. Today we went to Katuba and go to see the progress of the school. We got there and were blown away at the progress. A week ago we laid the cornerstone down and now the majority of the walls for three classrooms were finished. While there we only took a few photos and we were on our way.

During our three weeks in the Congo, we laid the cornerstone to three schools: katuba, Kisaka, and Kanyanina. Though I personally don’t think I did much, I know the long-term results of what we started are going to be incredible. These schools are each in villages where it is too difficult to attend another school. Now the children will have an opportunity to learn, and I know they’re excited about it. Seeing the passion these children have for school and how much they appreciate school has taught me to be more appreciative of my own education.

Later that night we go to have dinner at Gavin’s house again. Electricity all the time, food with fresh vegetables, and a toilet that flushes all made me feel like I was at home. For dinner we ate salads, and after we finished watching the Lion King. We even had time to play Mario Karts on the WII, and it warmed my heart to see Pastor Andre having such a great time though most of the race he went in reverse. Being at Gavin and Jill’s house added onto the streak of peaceful, restful, and calm days in the Congo. It felt like America.

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DR Congo Day 19

Kid's Playing

August 12

Today I woke up and thought to myself “We’re going home!” even though I knew we weren’t. It was hard getting up, because I didn’t know what to do look forward to. I was so over moving bricks and having kids tug at me, but with that mentality of course I would have a bad day. So I told myself to stop, and that God wants me here. All night and all morning our team was having God moments. Jacob said how he would unintentionally tell people “”As of now we would be coming back on the 13th.” I realized I would always say how our trip is two and a half weeks not three, because technically we weren’t coming back on Saturday. Sam noticed that her friend wrote her a letter to read on her plane ride back and dated it August 16th instead of August 12th. Perry Ann accidentally reread a chapter in the Bible, which she read a few days ago, that said, “We don’t know what city we’ll be in tomorrow, but God is in control.” All these God moments made us think how silly God works. Clearly we were meant to be here.

It was a nice and easy day, because we truthfully didn’t do much. What we did though was a struggle. All the kids were in a room and we expected the pastor to lead games or activities, but there were no games or activities. So last minute I was asked to lead the kids. I have no idea why Baba Deron asked me of all people, but he did and I loved it. I had the opportunity to teach the kids phrases in English, numbers in English, and even colors. We sang songs and even taught them a few songs as well. Then after a while it got crazy, and Pastor Adolf asked if I could share some Bible stories. Had this been asked of me last year I would have said absolutely no and panicked, but at that moment I knew exactly what to do.

Ten weeks in Hawaii prepared me to speak in front of children. I’m was so excited to use my Hawaii experience and what I learned from it to preach in front of kids in Africa. I taught them about love and what the Bible says about love in 1st Corinthians 13:4-8. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, it always persevere.” Clearly my lessons on love didn’t end at VBS in Hawaii, but it’s something that I carried on with me to Africa and will continue to teach in the future.

Seeing my two experiences intertwine warmed my heart. More and more I’m processing how I can take what I’ve learned and apply it to life back in San Francisco or San Diego. I might not have the same people or same settings, but I can definitely take what I’ve learned and put it into practice wherever God takes me

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DR Congo Day 18

Dark Sky

August 11

The last day that turned out not to be our last day… I woke up excited and ready to give all my energy into our last day in the Congo, but I went to bed disappointed to hear that we were going to be staying longer.

Each day I counted down until we go to go home. By Monday I was mostly packed and ready to leave on Tuesday. I woke up excited to see everyone one last time. We spent the majority of our day at Pastor Celestin’s house just playing with the kids and taking it easy. Everyone was excited for our last day, and you could tell that we were ready to go home. In the evening we even had the opportunity to buy souvenirs from local vendors who came specifically to Pastor Celestin’s house. I was happy to buy a few key chains, hand crafted with a picture of Africa, along with some nice bracelets. Our day was wrapping up great, and all in all it was a fantastic time. Then we got the news…

Pastor Celestin started telling us a story of when he would travel a lot. I had no idea where he was going with it and thought maybe this was his way of saying goodbye. Then I turned to Carly and she said, “Our flight is cancelled isn’t it.” I think I stopped hearing at that point because after that all I saw was a few of the team members crying. I was so confused, and I thought Pastor Celestin was joking. Then he started to say that the airport is closed for construction on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and maybe we could catch a flight on Friday. Emotions were a rollercoaster from there. Half the team was excited while the other half was balling their eyes out. I myself couldn’t decide how to feel.

At first I was shocked, then I was sad, then I just accepted it. I couldn’t believe the news. How does the airport just close down like that. Then seeing people’s faces made me feel sort of sad. I was so mentally prepared to go home. I was so excited and beyond ready to reconnect with plumbing and technology. Then finally I just accepted it. I’m a huge believer in everything happens for a reason. I knew that God had a plan for us, and a reason for us to stay. He wouldn’t keep us here if there weren’t something valuable worth spending more time in the Congo.

So often I say the prayer ‘Lord give me the peace to accept the things I can’t control,’ and this time around I didn’t know how I felt. I’m genuinely ok with staying here, but I feel guilty for not missing home the way everyone else does. If there’s anyone on this team with a valid reason to miss home, it’s me. All summer I’ve spent about two days at home. That’s it. I’m not complaining, because after all it was my decision to leave and go to Hawaii anyways. But shouldn’t I miss home more? Any opportunity I get to be away from home I take it. I left to go to school in San Diego, I left to study abroad in Barcelona, I left to do an internship in Hawaii, and now I’m here on a mission’s trip in Africa. I love travelling, but it scares me how little time I spend at home with my family. I’ve made so many new homes and created new families that it doesn’t break me anymore to leave. It’s scary though because it shows me how much I’ve grown up. How I’m literally flying away from the nest.

Right now I Just want to be home though. I want my mom to do my laundry, and my dad to cook for me. I want to bicker with my sister and have her bug me. I want to be reunited with childhood friends and hangout at my favorite places. Right now I don’t want to be an independent adult anymore. I want to be back at home

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DR Congo Day 16 – 17

Railroad

August 9 & August 10

The end of our trip is just around the weekend, but before we could say goodbye to Lubumbashi we went to visit the town of Likasi. Likasi was two hours away from Lubumbashi, but it felt like a whole different place.

To start our weekend trip we woke up at 6 AM to board a bright green Japanese bus to Likasi. We were mizungos on an Asian bus in Africa. It was the mizungo magnet. Unlike what we were used to, Likasi was a bustling city compared to the slow paced villages our team was used to.

Saturday was filled with nothing other than eating food. We literally ate breakfast, napped, ate lunch, visited a church, then ate a few hours later for dinner. Each meal was no more than two hours apart, and by the end of the night I was stuffed. I couldn’t eat another bite, but it was all so delicious that I couldn’t resist. In the middle of the day, we did happen to leave Pastor Phillip’s house to go the church in a village 30 minutes away. To get there we drove on a dirt path with only enough space for one vehicle. The village itself had houses made of huts, absolutely no electricity, and a hole dug in the ground for a restroom. It was so rural and poor, but as always the people of the church were rich in love. They welcomed us with song and dance. Their church building had holes in the ceiling, which let in beautiful rays of light, it was loud, and many people were dancing. At the end of the service, we had the opportunity to lay the ground work for a new school. It was the first school to be built miles from any of the schools around. It’s crazy how my typical day here involves loving on kids and building schools. All of it has been a humbling experience.

Sunday was church, and church here in the Congo means five hours of praising Jesus. There were choirs singing and dancing, we witnessed the church be initiated into the Nazarene family, and at the end we were even presented with gifts. Niko led Sunday school again and told the story of Jesus ending the storms while He and the disciples were out on a boat. Niko explained that storms in our life will come, but God controls everything. God can control the wind and the rain, and He will be with us through all the storms. This lesson meant a lot to me, because it’s the foundation to how I live my life. So often storms have come and disrupted everything I had planned, but God is constant. He will never leave us. He has a plan for us much greater than my own or my parents’ or my friends’. I just have to trust in Him through the storms.

This entire summer has been an opportunity for me to follow God. It has been a summer of growing closer to Him and building a big faith. A faith so large that others shouldn’t dare to question my beliefs. I’ve followed God to Hawaii, where I lived out ministry. Hawaii taught me how to be a children’s pastor. It gave me the courage to lead, to speak, and for the first time, to share my testimony. I’ve followed God all the way across the earth to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. I am so out of my comfort zone. I don’t have my cell phone or nice clothes, but instead I have the same two dirty skirts I wear over and over again. I don’t have plumbing, but I have buckets filled with water to flush. The DR Congo has taught me what it means to be content in any situation. To always be appreciative of what you do and do not have. I’ve witnessed genuine love and joy and happiness.

Following God is not always easy. For me I’ve gone to one of the most beautiful places I know and one of the poorest places I know in the same summer. I’ve been challenged to do things I’ve never tried before, but it always ends out ok. God has taken me on some pretty amazing adventures.