It's been over a year since we last stood on this land.
It has been a year when our hearts have grown in courage-- for all that a responsibility for such a time as this.
It has been a year when our minds have grown in compassion-- for our shared partnership with our friends and co-laborers in these countries.
It has been a year when our knees have more met the ground in prayer-- for all the injustices that seek to destroy the good that is possible.
As my jet legged feet took its first steps off the plane yesterday, I felt the enormity of all that this visit could mean wash over me.
We. Are. Here. Again.
My first words upon seeing the rolling hills and the sea of dark faces and the distinct smells were simply, "Wow. I'm glad to be home." Yes, home.
There's something about the continent of Africa that has always drawn me in, re-shaped my thinking and then set me on my way in new paths of service. I've always felt welcomed here in ways I haven't in other places. I've always welcomed any opportunity to visit.
As I pondered all of these things on the plane, I found myself making a list of the previous visits. And as I penned the dates and countries seen on the previous 3 trips, I couldn't help but notice that my life changed EVERY SINGLE TIME I set foot here.
After a 1998 visit, I came home disillusioned about the term "missionary" vowing I'd never be one. While an incredibly painful experience (because of Americans I met here, I must add), I ultimately believe it was the experience that set the direction of my path toward the pastorate-- that thing I thought at the time that women couldn't do.
After a 2003 visit, I came home inspired to not remember that my African brothers and sisters were a part of my larger human family. The atrocities of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda touched my heart in a profound way. How did this go on in my lifetime and I knew nothing about it?
After a 2012 visit, I came home with a changed heart about the possibilities and reality of who and what Feed The Children is and what it could be in the future. During our travels, I made what I feel is a life long friend-- a friend would become a sweet sister in all the waiting awaiting me.
So, I have to wonder on this 2013 visit, what will shift in me as a result in being here? How will my heart go home? What amazing person will I met? How will my soul leap in understanding of what was previously unseen?
Only God knows the answers to such questions.
I hold on this, though: my heart must be open. My heart must be wide open to this place-- its people, its smells, its food, its problems, its hopes, its worries, its gladness. And in doing so, this next chapter that I'm writing here will be another beautiful one. A beautiful one indeed!