Monday, December 5

I Once Had A Farm In Africa...

I just said good-bye to my very dear friend, Kaelea. After waving from the door, the tears began to flow for me. I will miss her, without a doubt. But the feelings go deeper than that for me, because she is going to a place that touches very deeply in my heart. I think I was in second grade when I first knew that I would live my life in Africa. I had no doubt that I would marry some amazing missionary-type and we would settle in East Africa and raise our beautiful children amongst the acacia trees and mud huts.

It was in 1994 when I was able to visit this land of my dreams. I spent a summer living with missionaries, staying in villages and traveling within four countries in Africa (and discovered that missionary life is not as idyllic as my imagination had made it!). I also got to visit my brother and sister-in-law, who were in Nairobi at that time. One week our team drove into the mountains of Uganda, with Jeff & Cheryl in their little toy truck bouncing along behind us. I remember, of all the towns and villages we visited in Uganda, I was especially captivated by Fort Portal. It was such a beautiful area - breathtaking, really.

Within the next couple of years, as Jeff & Cheryl made Fort Portal their home and I found the Lord leading me in the direction of urban missions, I realized that I had been misinterpreting my dreams all of those years. I was not to be a missionary to Africa myself, but rather I was to be a strong, passionate supporter of African missions. This understanding caused me grief, but it is a role I cherish, as well.

Allan and I have been blessed to see a number of friends from our college years dedicate themselves to serving God in Uganda, Tanzania, Togo and elsewhere in Africa: Nick & Renee, Eric & Susan, Mandy & Archie, Jay & Andrea, Philip & Laura, Shane & Carol and others. Since we were able to visit several years ago, we have now also sent a number of our close friends from PUMP and Metro over to visit Jeff & Cheryl: Jason, Greg, Jonathan, Steve, Andrew, Aimee and now Ike, Kaelea, Isaiah, Michal and Mali. Each time I help pack trunks for these good people and say good-bye, my heart breaks some, as it also swells with joy and anticipation for their adventures. Not only will the Grauls be with my much loved and missed family this Christmas, but they will also be seeing a land and talking with people whom I love from afar.

So, Kaelea, drink in every moment for me. Memorize the bright stars at night. Strain to see the lions and elephants in the game park. Listen to the sounds of birds and bugs that sing so differently from our own. Bring back to us the singing and clapping and moving that you will enjoy in worship with the Fort Portal church. Spend all the time you can with Ronald, David, Dick and the other amazing people of God. Smell the amazing flowers. Look hard to see if the tops of the mountains have any snow on them. Hold on tight as you pray for your family's lives as you careen down the dangerous roads. Drink lots of chai. Dance a ballet with Kinley. Read with Alex. Wrestle with Isaac. Tickle Silas. Stay up late into the night talking with Cheryl. Listen to Jeff's stories. Drink it all in for me, please, and have the time of your life, my friend!


rebecca marie said...

this was beautiful to read. isn't it amazing how God calls you so strongly to something? i remember being a seventeen year old girl who thought for certain i would be with jeff cash in africa. (he thought i would be, too). we were confident that my path led to AIM and then onto africa. as it turned out, my path led me to church planting in one of the most afluent suburbs in portland. talk about polar opposites. but, the wealthy and advantaged need jesus the same as i do. the same as africans do, the same as north portland does. the only difference i can see is that in africa, i would have had the pleasure of living among those i was serving, here, i commute in cause i can't afford the zip code!

thank you kristi for such an eloquent post.

rebecca marie said...

i still feel the pull of africa, by the way. i literally mourned my own loss when i read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

perhaps when i'm old and grey... or maybe i'll visit my own children there.

you just never know where God will lead you.

Aimee Jo said...

Well said, Kristi! As I was reading, I felt like I was there again...smelling the flowers, looking at the night sky, hearing the bugs, talking with Jeff & Cheryl, and seeing all of those big eyes--(staring at my white skin) and watching the people light up and say "Amen" after hearing Andrew speak.
It's funny...if you would have asked me 5 years ago if I would be a missionary in Africa, I definitely would have said "no thank you."
I praise God for what He has done in me and what he'll do through me to teach Ugandans about Jesus. I'm so excited that we are going!! And I am excited for your future family trips there to see us! :)

Adam Wolfgang said...

I too long to go to Africa - to see my dear friends Andrew and Aimee Jo! I think I feel the same way every time I see a concert by any professional musicians that you do about watching friends go to Africa. We can all sigh together and day dream in the morning.

I really am glad I'm here, doing what I'm doing at this moment, as I know you are too!

phyllis said...

I want you to know that your thoughts so beautifully expressed echo my own about Africa...and I realized tears were falling on my keyboard. As a child I thought Africa would be my home as well, but God had other plans in mind for me. All four of our children and sweet families serve God faithfully where He has planted you--Ft. Portal, PUMP, Metro, and Anderson,IN. I have no greater joy than to know God is using each of you in a wonderful way.
You write so well, Kristi.