This is a long one - but worth it I think.
I had a hard time in Burkina Faso.
Not just with the spiders and scorpions (a teammate was stung and out of commission for days) but with homesickness.
For the first couple of days of being in the village (Sagtambila) I was just miserable. And I hated that I was miserable. I was praying constantly to feel like I was "home" there - and to be at peace so that I could minister to the people.
Finally it happened. About a week after we got to the village we heard a vehicle coming. We looked and there was Cory (the Journeyman that had dropped us off). He was just coming for the day for a visit. I don't know what it was about having him drop by, but suddenly it felt like home. We showed him around and in doing so, my homesickness left. It was like I was showing him around my own hometown. And I was grateful.
A couple of mornings later I woke early with a gentle whisper in my ear..."go home." My immediate reaction was "what??!?!? That doesn't make any sense. Why would I go home now? Now that I actually feel at peace here and after I raised all of the money to get me here?" I spent the rest of that day and all of that night praying about what I was supposed to do. It just didn't make any sense to me that I should actually be feeling led to go home. And I was afraid that somehow I was just making it up or my brain was playing tricks on me.
After much prayer, I decided that I would head back to the States (even though I still didn't understand why) after we went back into the city for a weekend of refueling, but before the team headed out to the next village. That at least made a little sense to me because there was no real way that I was going to get out of the village before that. We had no transportation and it's not like I was just going to take off walking in the generally direction of a road. We went to market in a nearby village called Loumsabaka the day after I felt like I needed to go home, and I can't lie and say that I wasn't looking for someone, ANYONE, with a cell phone that we could maybe use to call Cory to come get me. But I knew it wouldn't happen and was content to stay with my team for another week when we would be picked up and taken back to the hotel in the city.
The next day it rained and I started feeling sick. Sometime that afternoon I passed out when I got up to go help the other girls wash some clothes. It was decided that I was just dehydrated and that I needed to drink and rest. I didn't think I was dehydrated because I had been drinking water regularly, but since I didn't really have any symptoms other than feeling weak and dizzy, I just drank more water and laid in my tent. Because I felt sick, at this point I started wanting to go home.
I started feeling worse over night and I didn't get up when the rest of the team did. Finally about 10am (I think) I HAD to get up to at least go pee. Remember I had been drinking LOTS of water. I stood up outside of my tent and immediately got tunnel vision and knew that I was about to pass out again. That's where my memory ends. I was told by my team that Katie was near me and that she was keeping an eye on me when she saw me try to leave my tent. She said that I called out to her right before I started falling and that she ran and tried to catch me before I fell all the way to the ground. She sort of caught me and started yelling for the guys to come help her (they were farther away doing something - probably playing soccer with the kids) and they came running to help. They yelled for Tiffany (no idea where she was - I feel like maybe she was in the compound doing something) and then they all laid me down under the tree and started assessing the situation. I woke up a minute or so later to Tiffany taking my pulse. And then I started shaking. I was FREEZING even though it was over 100 degrees. It became apparent that I had a high fever. Tiffany had some medicine that was some strong antibiotic supposedly used to treat the likes of Anthrax, and they gave me several vitamins and that medicine. They covered me up with a big blanket and eventually the chills stopped.
Since I had been trying to get up to go potty, I still really REALLY needed to go, but I was too weak to stand up much less walk by myself. Tiffany and the other girls basically carried me to the bathroom and when we got there we heard a snake (I think Tiff saw it) and they grabbed me and took off running with me (my dress still up around my hips and my panties at my ankles! I'm sure my pale white butt flashing all of Africa was a SIGHT to see!!) to a new place to make a restroom. When we finally got situated, them holding me up under my arms and with a couple people attempting to hold my legs, I peed in the most humiliating of ways possible. And I peed on their feet. i remember that most vividly. I peed on their FEET. And I was mortified but completely helpless to do anything about it. I remember that I kept apologizing over and over and they kept saying that it was ok - that it was just pee. THAT was quite a humbling experience. And not the last one I would have before leaving Burkina.
By this time my village Mom and Dad had been told that I was sick and they were waiting with my brother "Billy" when we got back from the bathroom. Several other villagers came over to check on me and more than once someone suggested that I might have malaria. Tiffany got my into my tent and we searched my body for mosquito bites. We couldn't find any, but that didn't mean that I didn't have malaria. At this point I didn't care what I had - I just wanted my Momma and Daddy.
Tiffany asked me if she needed to try and get in touch (somehow) with our home base to have them come get me and I said yes. I said yes even though I really thought it would be impossible. So pretty much immediately Tiffany and Billy took off walking toward another village with a little "clinic" that Billy new about. Wait, maybe they rode a bike together - I can't remember. Anyway - the only hope was that the clinic would have a phone that they could use. And since I had rained the day before and looked like it might rain again at any minute and there was a river to cross they had no time to lose. I knew that walking miles and miles with little hope of actually finding a phone was not something that Tiffany was excited to be doing, but she did it anyway and I was (And still am) humbled by it.
They were gone ALL DAY. The villagers fed those of us that stayed behind and sometime after dinner we heard laughing coming from the direction that Tiffany and Billy started walking, and sure enough, here she came! And she was so happy! (Billy was not with her) I had been praying for them all day - that their trip would be successful and that they would be blessed for their willingness to help me. The Lord answered our prayers - they made it to the clinic (and didn't drown in the river as they crossed) and it did have a phone. It would only call a bigger clinic in another town though, so they called the other clinic and tried to give them the phone number of the missionaries and explain that they needed to send someone to come get me. Because they weren't sure that the message had been conveyed, they convinced someone where they were to let them borrow a moto and Billy took off on it to go to the bigger clinic to use their phone that could call anywhere.
All we could do now was pray and wait and hope that someone would come for me in the morning. I held on to that hope with everything in me.
The next day was Sunday and the team was supposed to go to church without me but since it had rained and the river was raging everyone decided to stay in Sagtambila. The ladies of the village came to our tree and they laid hands on me and prayed over me and let me just tell you - I was a mess. I was so overwhelmed by their compassion and the passion in their voices as they prayed both for my healing and for someone to be able to come get me. I was ready to give up hope. I really thought that I was going to die there - which was ridiculous because I wasn't even that sick anymore - just weak - but I was convinced this was the end for me. But their prayers renewed my hope. I will forever remember their voices saying "Ameena ameena" (amen - may it be so) as they prayed. It was the only thing I could understand. :)
After church I was just laying out on my mat under the tree listening to music and trying to hold on to the hope that had been renewed just an hour or so earlier. Suddenly I heard the sound of a motor and then little screams and the children saw someone coming on a moto. It was Cory. Someone had come!! My heart nearly exploded with joy! I had a rush of adrenaline from my excitement that SOMEONE HAD COME - that Billy made it to the big clinic and managed to in his very very broken English tell them what they needed to know - and I was able to get up and walk on my own to my tent to start gathering things I would need to take home. I left everything but my Bible and journal and pillow and a small backpack of things. Cory was on a moto (basically a dirt bike) because he had flooded 2 (two!!) SUVs trying to get to me but the river was too deep over the road to drive through it - but boy did he try. He ended up walking through the river with the moto over his head. After a tearful goodbye to my team and Mom and Dad (Billy still hadn't returned - never got to thank him or tell him goodbye) I got on the back of the moto and we took off. The adrenaline rush had worn off a bit but I held on to Cory for dear life. We rode for about 2 1/2 hours. When we got to the river we had to leave the moto on one side (Cory had to go back to Sagtambila) and then we walked through the waist-deep river - me holding on to Cory and Cory holding my backpack and pillow above his head) to the other side where the Journeymen who had not taken teams out to villages were cheering and waiting for us. The girls had though to bring food and popsicles and I sat on a tire on the side of the road and ate and rested while we waited hours for Cory to go back to the village and then return to us.
We went to the missionaries' house and I took a shower (by sitting down - I was NOT going to risk fainting in the shower and having more people see my pale white butt!) and then went to bed. It was determined that while I was still weak that I didn't seem to be actually "sick" of anything and the fever was gone so the hospital wasn't necessary. I told them about feeling like I was supposed to go home before I got sick (even though I knew it made me sound crazy) and the next day we went to the travel agency and booked my flights home for late that night. Tammy took me to a guest house is Ouagadougou (the capital and where the airport is) and I stayed there until another missionary that lived in Ouagadougou came to give me dinner and take me to the airport. Sometime that day I called home and told Mom the story and said that they needed to be in New Orleans that night to pick me up. The missionary man dropped me off outside the airport and paid a young man to help me get my bags inside and checked in. The young man took very good care of me and got me exactly where I needed to go. I got on the plane and headed to Paris. I had been praying that there would be an English speaker seated next to me on all of my flights - so that if I did get sick again there would be someone near me who would understand. Again, God answered even this seemingly unimportant prayer and I had a British woman next to me on my flight to Paris. In Paris I changed planes and headed to Philadelphia -another English speaker by me. And in Philadelphia I got on a plane headed to New Orleans where my family was waiting to pick me up.
It was on the flight from Philly to NO that the reason I came home early was made clear.
I was seated in the very last row of the plane and the whole plane was only about 1/2 full. The was a young man about my age seated in the window seat across the aisle from me. By this time I am beyond exhausted and I really just want to lay down and try to sleep. But before I went to sleep I wanted to tell him that I had been sick and if something strange started happening with me that he needed to tell someone. He started asking questions and before you know it we are talking about Jesus. I moved over to his side and we talked for a couple of hours and eventually he prayed on his own and received Christ. This is the only time I have ever experienced that with someone. His name is Brian, and a little after he prayed he looked at me and said, "It was for me." I didn't know exactly what "it" was, but he explained that it had dawned on him that he had to have been the reason that I felt like I need to "go home" and why I got sick and didn't stay in the village for another week like I had originally planned. He said that he felt like God was trying to tell him that he was worth it - worth all of the little things that had to happen for our meeting to take place. I hadn't even thought about that but suddenly I was very very grateful for everything that had happened to get me on the plane in a seat next to Brian.
Sometimes our plans work out and sometimes God smashes our plans to smithereens and writes a new story for us. I am forever grateful for the lessons learned in Burkina and on an airplane 30,000 feet up. Thank you Lord for caring not for our plans but having a bigger one that is the best of the best - regardless of what it holds for us. I am blessed to have been a little part of the Big Story.