Now that I’ve unburied myself from beneath well over 400 e-mails and gotten part of the way through my voicemail backlog, I’m ready to start talking a bit more about Sierra Leone.
It would be an understatement to call the 2 1/2 weeks I spent there life-changing. But I’m not sure what other word to use… revolutionary?
For obvious reasons, I wasn’t able to blog while in-country, but I did my best to make copious journal entries each day so that I could post on my experiences and reflections when I returned. I’ll be doing that over the next week or two. I’m going to try to avoid reshaping my thoughts and experiences with the perspective of hindsight, so that you can see exactly what I was observing, feeling and thinking as I was there. I’ll share some impressions and summarizing reflections at the end of my posts, since most of what I believe will be enduring reflections did happen after I returned.
Before I get to that: A heartfelt thank you. Thank you to everyone who prayed, supported this ministry financially, and took such good care of my family while I was away. Thank you for making this a community project and for being such a terrific behind-the-lines support team for me. I truly cannot express how encouraging and strengthening you were.
So, here goes. Some days I’ll post one day’s entry and some days I’ll probably post 2-3 days’ entries. I hope this gives you a useful and edifying peek into my time in Sierra Leone.
February 11, 2010 (Sierra Leone, Day 1)
I am in the Minneapolis airport at the moment, waiting for my flight to Chicago, then to London, then to Sierra Leone, West Africa. Three continents in one day! My friend Rick Cornish and I are headed to Sierra Leone to help train local pastors and church leaders in theology, New Testament, and in preaching and pastoral duties. This represents an opportunity to step out in risk and in trust that I have not experienced before—neither Rick nor I have ever been to Africa; we have no ‘team’ but the two of us, and the country is not exactly a safe place—but it is also a great opportunity for impact that is almost unparalleled in my life thus far. I am praying for an exponential impact—massive ripples from a few small pebbles dropped.
Saying goodbye to Leslie and the kids was so difficult. Last night I had a very hard time keeping it together while I was tucking Owen in and reading to him. He kept looking at me—clearly confused about why my voice kept breaking and my eyes kept welling up. Leslie is obviously worried about me going even though she is a rock and hides it well. We both know that Owen is now old enough that he may begin to have a hard time with me being gone after a few days. That might be the hardest thing about leaving this time. I bought Owen a globe this week and I’ve taught him where Minnesota is and where Sierra Leone is, and he’s been saying for the past few days, “Daddy’s going to Africa on a airplane!” I know he doesn’t really “get it,” but at least he has some concept that I’m going to another place for a while. This will be the longest I’ve been away from Leslie and the kids.
I am thankful that this day has come. By far the worst part of saying goodbye is the anticipation of saying goodbye. Now that we’ve parted ways, it’s easier for me to devote myself to this project—much as I will miss Leslie and the kids. May the Lord grant fruitfulness and safety.