Friday, July 19, 2013

At the Stroke of 12...

Has it really and truly been almost a year since I got on that very first plane to Africa? I feel like the entire universe has melted and reformed around me in a completely different way. The way I think has changed, the way I look at the world has changed, my old, cold, unknowing, heart has been flattened and sculpted again, completely anew, since that day last July. So very much about my life is different. And yet, tonight at the stroke of midnight, I will be meeting up with my team once again to head out to Swaziland, just as I did a year ago.

The funny thing is, I was so sure that this year, because the experience wouldn't be new to me, that I wouldn't be afraid. I thought that I'd be totally comfortable heading back to Africa. I somehow thought I had grown tougher, braver, and would be better able to handle it all. Yet this morning came, and I woke shaking under the covers because I am so nervous to do it all again.

I may know what to expect on some level, but perhaps it's because of this that I am afraid of facing it again. Swaziland is hard. Being there is hard and uncomfortable and sometimes even scary. It breaks down your boundaries and squashes your idea of structure or plans, or predictability. It redefines every aspect of "normal" life.

I am nervous to go back to Ludlati. I am nervous to see those kids again. I am nervous to laugh with them and sing with them. I am nervous to play with them and hold them and love them. I am nervous, nervous, nervous because it isn't easy to go see the reality of the world, to participate in the very life we, as Americans, so often shield our eyes and our hearts from. It isn't easy to see malnutrition and disease and lack of adequate shelter. It isn't easy to see loneliness and fear and death. It isn't even easy to see the joy and beauty that I still, a year later, cannot properly explain.

So here I am, seven hours away from getting in that van and heading to the airport, and I feel as though this might as well be my first time going to Swaziland, because I am terrified. And yet, as I knew last year, there is that inexplicable peace inside of me that is telling me, "You are doing what you love, you are doing what you are called to do, and even in your fear, it's going to be totally worth it."