As most people know, my blog is usually full of leadership or learning musings. By way of disclaimer, the blogs from the next few days may not be about those topics because I will be writing about my experiences in N'Djamena, Chad, in Northern Africa. If you're interested in what's in my head and my heart, you might enjoy my posts. If not, you can skip them for now and I'll resume the usual topics in a couple of weeks.
I and my 20 year old daughter and an 18 year old from our church have traveled to Chad from Milwaukee. The girls have never been outside the USA, so this is doubly adventurous for them. It was fun listening to them on the airplane rides (all three of them!), chatting about what they could and couldn't see out the windows and sharing the photos they took of the clouds and what was visible on the ground. They are both really excellent travelers--easy-going and flexible--so it was a pleasure being with them on the trip.
It was about 9:30 pm when we arrived in Chad after traveling more than 7,000 miles over a 22 hour period. We were exhausted, but very happy to finally be here and see our friends, Eric and Mollie Kroner. We brought along six large containers of things for them that our church had donated (including beef sticks, Twizzlers, and Christmas presents from Eric's mom), and a large rolling duffle bag of Shoes that Grow for the Kroners to distribute (please check out this wonderful charity when you have a chance: theshoethatgrows.org). We got through customs with a minimum of fuss (the biggest concern was that we'd had our yellow fever shots--there were three officials waiting by the stairway leading out of the airport to check our yellow cards), loaded up Eric's Land Cruiser, and headed over to the TEAM compound.
Eric and Mollie are missionaries. Eric is a pediatric emergency medicine trained physician, and they spend time in the town where they live and in the bush, doing mini clinics and caring for the people there. They are good and loving people who have devoted themselves and their family to serving God and their fellow man, and I'm not sure I can find the words to adequately express my admiration for their willingness to give up what would have been a very comfortable doctor's lifestyle in the US to serve as they do here in Africa. I guess the simplest thing to say is that I'm so very proud to know them, and am happy to have the next 10 days to get to know them better.
Today was a rest day, for the most part, to catch up on sleep and to get acclimated to the climate and accommodations. We are in a room with four twin-size beds and a small bathroom. It's a decent and clean concrete building with basic furniture and two ceiling fans (a must in this climate). There is no hot running water. The compound is comprised of several buildings that house guest apartments and/or rooms, a small conference center (just a large, long room), an office, and a kitchen for the guest houses that don't have kitchens, all surrounded by a solid 10 foot wall with large shards of glass imbedded on the top. This is a typical setup for a compound of this type here. At night there are two guards who patrol the compound, and there is also a new addition to the security here--Pepper is a guard-puppy-in-training who has already stolen my heart. There are also countless little lizards that run around all over the place (not inside, thank goodness--that might be a bit much) that are pretty fun to watch, and there is a tree that produces a tiny green fruit that everyone calls lemons but that seem to be more a cross between key limes and lemons.
It's almost 6 PM here, and the usual "quiet time" that everyone observes in the afternoon is over. The kids of the families who have already arrived are outside playing and being loud for the first time today. They are encouraged to play with Pepper so she grows up used to having kids around and so she knows how to behave when they're here, so right now that's what most of them are doing. The older kids play so nicely with the little ones, and it's fun to listen without seeing them.
Earlier, one of the missionaries was in the courtyard outside our guest house Facetiming with her parents in the US whose anniversary it is today. You know that people give up things like celebrating anniversaries and birthdays and holiday with family when they make a commitment to serve others in a different country, but when you hear them talking to loved ones so far away it's more poignant. These wonderful people sacrifice a lot to make a difference in the lives of others.
Regardless of your religious leanings (or lack of) it is probably good for you to understand that, while these missionaries are sent by churches via a Christian organization, their first concern is to be of use to the people around them. They aren't force-feeding Christianity to their Chadian neighbors, who are predominantly Muslim. They are willing to share whatever others want to hear, and their hearts and doors are open to whoever stops by. Their intent is to be generous and kind, and to live out their faith by helping and caring for others.
Tonight will be an early bedtime after eating some lovely pizza from a French patisserie in town with those who have already arrived. Good night, friends!