I'm sure I will have more details as we continue our conference calls and get closer to the trip. Please mark your prayer calendars for these new dates and visit the websites of the ministries that we will be serving with.
My first night spent in the African bush (as opposed to a hotel or house) found me unprepared for what I was about to experience. I was in BurkinaFaso, West Africa with a group of about 25 other college students from all over the US. We were there to travel to remote villages with the young adults ( called Journeymen) who were living there for 2ish years and build relationships with the Marense people. That's the short of it anyway. Shortly before our teams were to leave the hotel where we had been training to head to our respective villages, a great majority of the team got sick. I was one of the few that didn't. Instead of just hanging out at the hotel waiting for everyone to get well enough to go out, one of the Journeymen girls (Kara) offered to take about 5 of us that were healthy to her "home" village for the night. We said sure since we were anxious to dive into the culture and experience the real Africa. Ha.
What she failed to mention was that she was ONLY going to drop us off - without a translator, means of transportation, or anything but basically a change of clothes, our water bottles and the promise that she would return the next day to pick us up.
I found out very quickly that while speaking the same language is quite beneficial, the language of hospitality and love is universal. The village we were in was called Louda and the people were amazing. They cooked a delicious meal of chicken stew served over rice and I found out later that THAT was a treat. They gave us the very best that they had. We spent the afternoon playing soccer with the kids and trying to help the women prepare the meal, and the evening singing songs around a campfire. We taught them to sing the children's song, "Hallelu, hallu, hallelu, hallelujah - Praise ye the Lord" and hearing them sing in their rich accents and clap and dance is forever ingrained in my memory. They sang their songs for us too and up until it was time to go to bed it was a magical evening.
Since Kara lived in that village we had access to her little hut and a couple of cots. It was HOT (between 100 and 120 degress F while we were there) so we decided to sleep outside in hopes of there being a breeze. This turned out to be a terrible idea. The guys opted to give me and the other girl with us the cots and we slept just outside of the entrance to Kara's hut. I can confidently say that that was the worst night of sleep I have ever had. EVER. We didn't have a mosquito net and the flies buzzed and landed on my head all night long. I tried covering up with my extra clothes, but then I would get too hot. It was LOUD - there were animals of all sorts walking around us all night, babies crying, fire crackling...it just wasn't conducive to a good nights sleep. Once I finally did fall asleep I was awakened at about 4am by the women of Louda preparing things for the day. When I opened my eyes there was a cow with it's face about 12 inches from mine. It was sniffing me. Lovely. :)
Kara did return to pick us up and I got one night of half decent sleep before we headed out to our own villages.
My village was Sagtambilia and I kid you not, when we were on our way there the driver literally turned off of the dirt road and just started driving into the middle of nowhere. There was no sign, no road, no sign whatsoever that we were headed towards any type of civilization. I asked how he knew where we were going and he said he was guessing - and that he hoped once we got closer that we'd see someone we could ask. This is Africa. :)
My little team was made up of one Journeyman (Tiffany) and 6 students - 3 guys and 3 girls. We brought tents to live in and we set up camp just outside of one of the compounds (a compound is a group of huts where a big extended family lives and it is generally enclosed by a fence of some sort) under a big baobab tree.
The first night in the village the people wanted to have a celebration dance to welcome us. We stayed up late dancing and having a good time. Well, everyone seemed to be having a good time. I was quite nervous about how the night was going to go having already experienced trying to sleep in a village. And I was also nervous about the fact that we saw a scorpion while we were setting up our tents but lost track of it before we could kill it.
When it was time to get ready for bed, I headed into my tent to change clothes and grab the necessary items required for bathroom breaks in the bush - tp and a flashlight. :)
I had brought with me a little battery powered lantern that I was hanging from the ceiling of my tent. While I was changing clothes I noticed that there were things moving near the bottom of the outside of my tent. And then they started moving UP the sides of my tent - about 5 or 6 of them.
These were the biggest spiders I had ever seen that weren't tarantulas. Because I didn't want to be the chicken little white girl, I just flicked them off and grimaced as they weighed enough to make a "thud" sound when they hit the ground. As calmly as I could I called for Tiffany and she explained that they were camel spiders ("gottemgottemas" in Marense) and that though their bites were extremely painful, they were not deadly. She said this as if to suggest that I should not be concerned about them.
Au contraire my friends.
From that moment on I was in a constant state of paranoia and spent a ridiculous amount of time looking for and killing them all around our camp. It was my personal mission to rid Sagtambilia of camel spiders. :)
I also found out that night that camel spiders are very much attracted to light and that they are the fastest arachnid. This caused a great deal of panic for me since it was now night time and I was about to have to walk into the bush to use the restroom and in order to do that I had to use a flashlight so that 1- I wouldn't step on any scorpions and 2- I wouldn't sit on any prickly bushes because there is an abundance of those. As I was walking to the restroom and shining the light in front of me back and forth, I kid you not I could see the spiders running as fast as they could from all directions towards the beam of light.
Let's just say that I learned to pee really really quickly on that trip. :)
I eventually fell asleep after checking under everything in my tent a crazy amount to times to make sure no gottemgottemas had snuck in only to be awakened sometime between 3 and 4 by a flock? gaggle? bunch of guinea fowl running through our camp making the most God-awful noise I have ever heard. They would do this almost every night for the remainder of the trip. I now have a great disdain for guinea fowl.
Here's a video of what guineas sound like - take a listen but then imagine that times 6 or 7 as they were all making this noise at the same time.
And I was going to show a picture of a camel spider, but just looking them up gave me so much anxiety that I couldn't do it. Just google camel spider and look at the images. And then be afraid, be very afraid.
I hope you don't get the impression that I hate Africa or that any of this was necessarily bad - it wasn't. I just don't do well with little sleep or strange creatures and so looking back I find all of this terribly funny. Hopefully I haven't scared you away from Africa. :)
More stories to come - with less scary bugs and stuff. :)
P.S. Silas just woke up and I am not going back to proof read this so please excuse my mistakes. :)
I'm not sure I can fully express how huge this is for me - but if you know me in real life, you KNOW.
I've been remembering things from my other trips to Africa and I'll be sharing some stories with y'all over the next few weeks - some funny, some scary, and some that are just, well, Africa. :)
I've "met" some of my team mates via facebook and blogs and even talked to one on the phone this morning. It's a small world because Kimberly and her husband Jared are on my team and they live just a stones throw away so I'm super excited to get to meet them before we show up at the airport. :) The rest of the team is scattered all over the US so I won't be meeting them face to face until we get to Dulles in DC to get on the plane to Ethiopia - BUT - our conference calls start tomorrow night so I'll kinda get to meet them then. So.excited.
As of today I have $2665 of my $3500 goal met.
God is totally showing himself BIG in my fundraising. I made the deadline for the $2000 for the plane tickets the DAY BEFORE it was due. In the beginning of all this I had a ton of anxiety about raising the money in such a short time and after a couple of days of ridiculous sinful worrying I finally gave up and just surrendered to God's timeline. The funds have been steadily trickling in from family, friends, and even people that I barely know. Glory to God.
Thank you to all of you who have given and prayed.
Please continue praying for all of us.
As excited as I am about this trip, I am also scared to death.
I'm not scared of flying or getting sick (been there, done that!) or missing home or something terrible happening.
I am scared of what I'm going to see.
Of what is going to happen to my heart and my faith and my life.
Of the changes that are going to have to take place in my life when I come home.
I already had a big compassionate heart for babies and children in need and over the past year the Lord has made it even bigger. I do not know if my heart can handle everything that I am going to encounter. It might just break right in two.
And I also know that is a good thing.
It is good to hurt with those that are hurting.
But it does just that - HURTS.
So as hard as it is sometimes for me to pray this and as scared as I am, I'm praying that I (and my family) will truly never be the same after this trip. That changes will take place that make me more like Him - no matter what that means.
New Years Eve was celebrated with our favorite people again this year (as is tradition) at the Cardoza house. Justin and I seriously look forward to this night the whole year because it is so relaxing and so much fun!
You are going to see a theme in the pictures I decided to post - smiles and laughter! I'm trying to do a better job of capturing our memories and when Silas and other Moon kiddos are older I want them to be able to look back at these pictures and know that we were happy and filled with laughter when they were little. Actually, I want them to have lots of their own memories filled with momma and daddy laughing, but I'll have pictures as proof. :)
We tried to take a picture of the three of us for like 10 minutes but we kept laughing because mine and Leslie's boobs were touching when we leaned in for it and we found that hysterical.
Probably the best picture of us since our Beach Trip in '08.
We always play a game while we wait for midnight to roll around (watching Matt try to stay awake for this is hilarious) and this year we all forgot to bring our games so we just played old school charades. Zach made up all of the things we had to act out.
I think in this one I was excited that someone actually guessed what I had been acting - because my first two rounds were awful. First I had "Feliz Navidad" and then I had "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and then finally "Victoria's Secret" which apparently isn't that hard for people to guess. Go figure. :P
Matt was also excited when we guessed his, but now I can't remember what it was. Since he's wearing a necklace I'm guessing Mr. T.
I didn't have a picture of Zach laughing like a loon, but the look on his face here, paired with what he's doing, makes ME laugh. Yes, I am basically a middle school boy.
Sarah had to act out "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" and I got it!
Who knows what's funny here. :)
Despite the fact that Justin's back was acting up again, he still had a good time. I was forbidden to put any pictures of him acting out his stuff. Yet again he had the funniest moment of the whole night and I can't share it with you!
I read over at Kristen's blog that today is National De-lurking Day (I have no idea if that is true or not but it sounds good to me!) and so that means that today is the day to leave me a comment to let me know that you are out there. No more reading and running. Wow that sounded a lot wittier in my head.
Anyway - leave me a comment and tell me who you are, where you are, how you found my blog, what your favorite color is, your social security number...just kidding about those last two. Unless you really want me to know what you favorite color is.
Mine is teal at the moment but that changes often. Thanks for asking! :P
If you never leave comments because think you don't know what to do - here's how to do it:
Click on "Comments from you" at the bottom of this post. Type your comment in the box. Then you can either sign-in with a google account or you can leave an anonymous comment and just tell me who you are in the comment box. Easy-peasy. There will also be a box that tells you to type a weird word - that's just to make sure that you are a human. :)
Ready, set, GO COMMENT! Can't wait to meet you all!
Christmas Eve was spent with my Mom's family as is tradition. DD joined us this year. :) We took our traditional family pictures at the end of the night, but Justin had already left to put Silas in bed (since it was LATE) so they aren't in our picture. :(
Christmas morning. This is about my only picture of Christmas day - I spent all day behind the video camera and forgot to take pictures!
We went to Natchitoches (Nack - a - tosh) to see the lights and on the way there we ate at Nikki's - a Mexican restaurant. Silas decided to skip his beans and rice and go straight for the salsa. He ate it all with his spoon. :) This Momma's heart was proud.
Some of the lights
Our ONLY picture of all three of us. Silas was not about it.
This tunnel was really cool - it changed to all different colors.
I saw this and it made me laugh and think of the Griswolds!
I know there are like a million posts I need to do about Christmas and New Years and I have tons of pictures to share from each of those celebrations, but I just had to share my good news with y'all first.
Because it IS good news!
I have been dreaming of going back to Africa (also known as "the continent that holds my heart") for YEARS and for the past year the desire to return has been even stronger and the Lord has really burdened my heart for orphans. One my goals for this year was to step foot on Africa soil (a friend offered to have some dirt shipped here so I could step on it and cross that goal off the list...HA!) and I am so so so so so excited that it is becoming a reality.
I am going to Uganda in March. In 72 days to be exact.
I am going with an organization called Visiting Orphans and the purpose of the trip is to do just that: to take seriously James 1:27 and visit and love on orphans in Kampala and Jinja, Uganda. We are partnering with Amazima ministries and will be doing VBS for the kids at orphanages there and helping with the daily feeding program of Amazima that feeds over 1,200 children Monday through Friday.
I learned about Amazima about this time last year when I stumbled upon Katie's blog. Please go read about Amazima and the amazing work that this young woman is doing in Uganda. When people ask me who I would want to be for a day or who inspires me she is the first person that comes to my mind. I am thrilled to get to hug her neck soon. :)
I am sort of a last minute addition to the team that is going since there is not a lot of time (did I tell you that there's only 72 days???) between now and the trip. Because of that, I am already behind on my payments for the trip. Of course. Because it'd be WAY too easy if I was super prepared for something. :P
Not only are there only 72 days until the actual trip, but I have only 12 days before the payment for my airfare and other travel are due - which is $2000.
The total cost of the trip is about $3200. I'll know the exact total when it gets a little closer to the trip. I'm hoping to raiseat least $3500 so that I can use the extra to buy goods in country to donate to the orphanage. Visiting Orphans asks that all team members gift something to the orphanages that they partner with and I'd love to be able to bless them in a big way.
Would you pray about helping me get to Uganda? You won't just be helping me get there, you will be sending the love of Christ to orphans. Seriously, how can you say no to THAT?? ;) ;) People tell me all the time that they just can't go to Africa or wherever because of whatever circumstances but they wish there was another way to help. I always tell them the same thing - find someone who CAN go and help them get there. Here's your way.
There are 2 very easy ways that you can donate.
The first is through the button right over there -----------> that says DONATE. :) It is through paypal which is completely secure. This is a good option if you don't care about getting a tax deduction. The money will go into my paypal account and I will then send it in to Visiting Orphans. This is handy if you have money sitting in a paypal account, but you can also pay with a credit card. You can donate any amount.
The second way is through Visiting Orphans. Click HERE and it will take you to their secure donation page where you will choose "March 18-27, 2011 Uganda Trip" in the drop down box by Gift Designation. Then you will choose "YES" to donate to a specific team member and you will specify me, Stephanie Elise Moon (you'll have to type it - there's not a list of team members). You can donate any amount. All donations through Visiting Orphans are tax deductible.
Both of those options benefit my trip so choose the one that is most convenient for you.
Here's another way you can help - and I mean this:
I am so excited about this trip, but let me tell you who's not...the evil one. He's already been up to his scheming to try and get me out of this trip through his usual methods of fear, but that is NOT going to happen. Please pray for me and for my team in the days ahead. There is an unseen spiritual battle being fought at all times around us and spiritual warfare is real and satan doesn't like it one bit when God's children choose to be obedient. He tries to make me afraid of leaving Silas, doubt that God will come through with the money to go, etc. But let me tell you something - the battle has already been won friends. :)
Is anyone still reading this?
Here's one more way to help...use your social networking skills and get the word out for me! Blog about it, facebook it, tweet it, send an email out to your entire address book, tattoo it on your forehead...
Rest assured that I will be sharing more details about the trip and Uganda in the next fews days and weeks as I get them.
And I'll be sharing pictures of my cute kid too. I KNOW that's why all of y'all are here anyway. :P
Thanks friends. Y'all really are the best.
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27
It's Christmas Eve, about an hour before we have to load up to go to church. Silas is still napping...or so we think. I go in to check on him and maybe wake him up because this has been an abnormally long nap.
This is how I find him. No, it's not blood.
It's a ENTIRE tube of red lipstick!
He had been sleeping in a closet big enough for the pack & play and there was a shelf low enough for him to reach. Apparently there was an old make-up bag on that shelf and he just HAD to know what was inside!
Believe it or not, except for just a few places, it all washed out of his blanket and lovies.
This is after we wiped him down a bit. I was preparing a bath and running around like crazy since we were short on time.
Y'all. He had it e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. (well, everywhere that wasn't covered by clothes or a paci!) I was still getting it out of his ears on New Years Day. Thankfully it didn't stain his skin and we were able to get most of it off fairly quickly with some make-up remover.
I was laughing so hard when I brought him in the kitchen to show everyone that I freaked him out and that is why he has tears in that first picture. It was so funny! I love my little curious boy. :)
Thanks for joining us for another episode of The Adventures of Curious Silas!