An Experience I Had Hoped to NOT Have

My Heart in Africa

Hi friends,

Welcome to 2013! Chaka Chabwino!
It has been a busy two and a half weeks since Christmas and I am living proof of the statement, “I need a vacation after my vacation.” Along with fighting a bit of the stomach flu, that is precisely the reason I have chosen to not return to work until Monday instead of pushing myself to go in this morning.

Ashleigh was here for two weeks, having arrived on December 27th. We spent the two weeks being tourists and relaxing. A lot of sitting at home, watching tv, eating way too much and overall, for me at least, just vegging!
We went to a resort for two days at New Years and enjoyed buffet dinners of American style food, and lounging by the pool side. I got incredibly sun stroked and sun burnt the first day, which meant I didn’t bother indulging to the same degree the next day at all. I simply sat in a covered area and enjoyed the view of Lake Malawi!

A few days later we were picked up by our tour company for our Safari in Zambia. Definitely by far the most amazing experience I’ve had yet in Africa. Primarily, because of the Giraffes and the Leopard! We saw just about every kind of African wildlife possible – except the rhino as they have left the area – and a whole bunch of very colorful birds.
Every time I saw a giraffe, I squealed with delight. I had my camera set on “continuous” shutter so I have about ten of the exact same pictures of every animal. If I piece them together, they would make a quick film – like the elephants trunk full of grass curling into its mouth, or the family of giraffes walking out of my frame one slow step at a time.
I wont bore you with all these photos, but I have posted a whole bunch that you can look at here:

I had a small problem at the border getting back into Malawi. We were with a team of American university students who had told the immigration officer that they did not need the regular allotted 30day visa to enter Malawi. I however, did. So when I got to the counter, I mentioned to her that I needed the 30days which then meant she inspected my passport closer! Now, we had been told that the border guards were really strict about Yellow Fever Immunization Certification and we had scrambled around Thursday before the trip trying to get the inoculation done. The agent didn’t even ask one of us for the card. Instead, she gave me a hard time about renewing my visa again and would not let me through to join the group. I was the one who held us up!
The tour guide stepped in, and managed to get my passport stamped and extended. However, he neglected to tell me until we were driving away, that he had lied through his teeth to the agent in order to get her to sign it. Great, just what I wanted!!!  All to just avoid giving her the money she was hinting at wanting in order to grant me my perfectly acceptable and legal entrance! BAH!

Anyway, friends, I want to get to the part that is actually the most important of the last two and a half weeks. My hairdresser – Everjoy – has become a very close friend of mine in the last month.  The first day I met her, she offered me her car for to use whenever I needed one.  Her family had two, so either I could borrow the car she brought to work each day, and use it during work hours, or we could make arrangements to use the other for the weekends. In fact, it was her car that we used to drive to the Lake for New Years.
But not only that, I’ve enjoyed getting to know her. She took me under her wing, like a long time family friend. I met her children and her Auntie and she told me about her life. The day we ran around town TRYING to get our Yellow Fever Cards, she gave me a hard time for not coming to her first. Apparently she knows someone who knows someone….
She said to me, “MELISSA, when you need something, you need to ask ME! I can help you. I know people!”
To be cared for like that reminds me of my friends back home. People who look out for you and help you out because of the relationship you have with them – not because they want money from you.

And so, it grieves me to share that on Tuesday, Everjoy was killed in a car accident. The shock in writing those words still takes my breath away. It seems so surreal. I can still hear her chastising me for not calling upon her first when I needed help! Her name seriously described her. She was EVER-JOYFUL!
She had been driving early in the morning with her sister and co-worker to pick up some extra work. She’d planned to have a vacation starting this Sunday and was eager to make some extra money. There was a child running across the road trying to get to school, and she swerved to avoid hitting them. The car rolled, sending the coworker flying out the back window and her sister who was the passenger broke her neck. Everjoy was killed instantly.

Death is pretty common here in Malawi. The infant mortality rate is 83%. The life expectancy for an adult is only around 50yrs old. Death is not unfamiliar to most people. But it is to me. Its not something I encounter regularly. In fact, it may be once a year that I attend a funeral. It is not something I ever thought I would be doing here in Malawi. ESPECIALLY for someone who I would call a friend.

The funeral is actually going to be in Zimbabwe as that is where Everjoy is from. Her body is being transported there today. Her family will be escorting her. Her grandmother, her aunt, her three children (ages: 11, 8, 2), and her husband.  One of her cousins will stay here though to keep her sister, Florence, company. Her sister is in the public hospital here, in traction, unable to move. Thankfully, she can FEEL her limbs. She can’t move them yet, but the fact that she has feeling throughout her body gives hope that she will recover and be able to move as her neck continues to heal.
I am hoping to have a chance to visit her .
What can I offer? Not a whole lot, let me tell you. Florence, is in her early 20s and was actually here in Malawi to visit over the holidays. She still lives in Zimbabwe and would have been going home on Sunday with Everjoy. She doesn’t know anyone here and now all of her family, save for her cousin Ellen, is returning to Zim for her sister’s funeral.
There is very little I realize that I can offer at all.
Except for maybe hope. Hope for WHAT? Well that is not the hope I'm referring to.

Hope in WHO – now that is the hope I am speaking of.
See, the way I see it, we are all made in God’s image. We are all His children. And in Him, we have worth. We are valuable simply because He has made us. And when circumstances dictate an inability to offer tangible help, (do I KNOW that Florence will ever walk again? No. Can I bring her sister back? No. Can I take away her hurt and pain? Definitely not), the only thing that I know I can give is the love of Christ.
Florence is loved by God. She is precious in His sight. And that alone compels me to just be available. I have some ideas of how I might be able to help her pass the time, or ease the family’s financial needs right now. But most of all, I just want Florence to know that she is not forgotten. She has not been abandoned by God or His love.
I hope to share with her a smile, a warm hand squeeze, a prayer and maybe some of my time, just so she realizes that she is so very very valuable to our Heavenly Father.

What else can I possibly do?

Friends, I have no eloquent words to finish this post. I feel I should close with something that draws all my ramblings to a nice clean conclusion, tied up with a pretty bow.
But not today.
Today I just sign off. 
 In Christ,
Your friend,
On assignment in Africa,

Originally posted to My Heart in Africa