You may have noticed through my posts on social media that I went on a trip to Sierra Leone two weeks ago. It was a total whirlwind, from the point of being asked to go on the trip, to actually going. I had a whole 2 weeks notice, and those 2 weeks included tasks like: book a plane ticket, find somewhere to get my yellow fever & typhoid vaccines as well as anti-malaria medication on super short notice and a very short time frame (had to have yellow fever vaccine at least 10 days prior to travel!), renew my passport, apply for a visa, figure out what to do with the kids, and we can't forget about the task of packing...that was also on the to-do list.
So just how did all of this transpire, what did I do in Africa, and what am I thinking now? That's what I intend to answer here, though it will certainly take more than one blog post to convey.
Let me begin:
About 2 weeks before Christmas, we went to church and after the service, we had a wonderful breakfast buffet for everyone. I ended up in the buffet line with Pastor Dan. Dan started off the conversation with, "So I'm guessing you and Pete have talked about what he and I talked about last week..." and I'm like, "What are you talking about, he didn't tell me you guys talked." Dan said something like, "Oh, that's weird, because it's kind of a big deal." I could tell he was really confused and probably questioning our marital status as apparently he and Pete had discussed something important, and Pete hadn't even told me about it in a whole week. Dan went on to explain that he had told Pete that they wanted us to go to Sierra Leone to fix motorcycles in March.
"ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?!?!?"
When I went back to talk to Pete about it, I could tell he was a bit irritated that Dan had told me about this opportunity. Pete said, "Well I knew you'd say yes, so I was thinking about it and trying to figure out how I could surprise you at Christmas." Ahhhh...there it was, that's why he hadn't told me about this. I was on cloud 9 at the thought of going to Africa to fix motorcycles....
Oh, and in case you didn't know, about 9 or 10 years ago, I lived and breathed motorcycles and even owned 4 of them at one time (I was single, and what can I say, I was addicted!). I worked on them in my dining room in the winter (true story) and I pretty much loved my motorcycle hobby in every regard. Oh ya, and I also stunted motorcycles, that was kind of my thing. Here's a pic as proof. ;D
Another interesting fact - ever since I was a child, I dreamed about being a missionary in Africa. In fact, when our community group just a few weeks prior had the ice breaker question "What is a dream thing you hope comes true in your lifetime?" I answered, go to Africa. I even explained my childhood dream and also said, "But, I'm not a bible scholar, and I certainly don't see myself as a missionary by any means, but I figured maybe I would marry a missionary type. I didn't marry a missionary type so I don't know if that will ever happen." It turns out that it was okay that I didn't marry a missionary type, because fix motorcycles we can do and from what we were told, the people in Sierra Leone rely on motorcycles for transportation and they don't know a thing about them mechanically. What an opportunity!
So I was bursting at the seams with excitement at the idea of helping people in Africa, I mean, I was seriously on cloud 9. Then pastor Zack came over and talked to Pete and I about Africa and asked if we'd consider going to Sierra Leone for a whole year. I blurted out a confident "YES!" and Pete looked at me with a face of scrutiny. I was trying to figure out if it was a joke, or if Zack was actually asking us this question for real. We joked around a bit, with Zack excitedly planning out our future, and then...we went home. It felt like the best day ever. I didn't know what any of this meant, but I was still on cloud 9.
Again, jumping back in time... over the last several months Pete and I had been discussing what it would look like if we moved to another country for a year. It seemed like God had been preparing our hearts for this idea, this Africa idea didn't seem like something we should ignore.
A few days later, Zack asked if we'd be willing to meet up with Van and Janese, the missionaries our church supports in Sierra Leone. We agreed on a date and time, we would wait until after Christmas, as we were all busy with family and such.
So Christmas Eve rolls around and I receive a text from Pastor Dan, something like this "Hey it's me Dan from The Mission :) - I know this is a total long-shot but can you go to Africa with us in two weeks?"
My reply, "Just me? Possibly. I would need to expedite my passport, which I have the paperwork all filled out already and waiting to be hand delivered in Seattle for a 2-3 day turn around. I saw that visas can happen quickly, but no experience on that one. Pete couldn't go this time. What are the dates? I can ask for help with the kids tomorrow when family is merry. :D :P"
Dan and I talked on the phone, and then Pete and I slept on it. On Christmas morning, before family came over, my plane ticket was purchased! I got the very last available seat, so it was all feeling meant to be.
On Saturday, the day after Christmas, I called about 8 different travel clinics in an effort to get my vaccinations done in time for the trip. I was told by the University Village Bartell Drugs Travel Clinic, that they could indeed administer a yellow fever shot that same day, which was completely contrary to what any other location had told me... So I traveled all the way to Seattle, only to be told, "Oh sorry, I was wrong, it's a two week wait as you have to apply for the vaccines and docs have to review it, etc. etc." I felt a bit defeated. If I didn't get the shot by Monday, it would be too late. I called pretty much the last option on my list, and I spoke to a pharmacist who told me that he indeed would help me! We made an appointment for the following day (Sunday) and I prayed that it worked out. Sure enough, I was able to get the vaccine and it turns out the pharmacist goes to Overlake and was happy to help me get to Africa by way of travel vaccines. Next up, passport!
Monday morning came, and I headed into Seattle for my passport appointment. Thankfully Pete had taken the week off of work, so this trip was made solo. I was able to get my passport on the same day - which meant I had to head back into Seattle in the afternoon to get it. I was thrilled to have it in hand the same day.
We met up with the Hubbard's at the church office on Tuesday. We talked about what life is like in Sierra Leone, what their primary focus has been, and also talked about our fears in not knowing how we could be utilized (being that we aren't bible scholars - obviously a heavy theme on my mind). Janese had prepared a letter for me to include with my visa application. We rushed from the meeting to the post office in order to send my visa application, which included my passport and yellow fever vaccination record, to the Embassy in Washington D.C. via priority overnight service. It needed to be in by 3pm to make it to DC by the following day. There was a line at the post office when we got there at 2:58pm, but the clerk thought my package would make it for delivery the following day.
4 days later and my package hadn't been received at the Embassy. In fact, it appeared that the package was lost - it hadn't been tracked in days. I was freaking out...
To be continued......