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Thank You DR Congo.

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When I first arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, all I wanted to do was leave, but when we left all I could think of was how thankful I was that God allowed me to spend three weeks serving Him. Everything was so different- the lifestyle, the culture, the setting. I kept praying that God would allow my entire heart to be in the Congo, because I wanted to be more than physically present. At the end of the trip my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation, because God worked through me in ways I would never have expected.

In the three weeks that I was there I learned how to love, how to be thankful, and how to be happy. To love my neighbor, though he or she might be a complete stranger. The children of the DR Congo loved us with all that they could give. They hardly knew us and we hardly looked like them, but every day they would come running at the sight of our van to greet us with warm hugs and hands reads for high fives. To be thankful no matter what my situation may be, because it could be worse. I used squatty potties for a toilet and a lit candle rather than electricity for three weeks. It was far from what I’m used to, but it made me realize how many things I take for granted back home. I would never think that sitting on a toilet or getting to use the faucet when brushing my teeth was a privilege, but now I know. To be happy throughout all my long and wonderful days. Pastor Celestin smiled in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night. He smiled after a long day of meetings, and he smiled during the whole five-hour church service. He never complained about work or said he was exhausted, but he always laughed and danced his worries away. He would always tell us that God is good all the time and all the time God is good.

So thank you Democratic Republic of the Congo. Thank you for teaching me even in my uncomfortable positions. Thank you for welcoming a complete stranger into your community and loving with all the love you could give. Thank you for showing me God’s light and making me realize that He truly is everywhere. Though we are miles and miles apart, we follow one God, and under Him we are one.

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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