Thursday morning I climbed my hill behind the guest house to watch the sun rise over Africa for the last time. It did not disappoint me! Although it seemed cloudy looking east and for a moment I wondered if I would see the usual color and flooding of light over the country side, it appeared just as predictably as the days before. The predawn glow, the orange sliver brushing the horizon and then the radiant disc rising once more over the distant hills with the warmth of first light hitting me. It is hard to convey the experience of light flooding the quiet of the morning and having the luxury of morning prayers and quiet time looking over the Nigerian landscape. The morning quote was from St. Augustine : “You awake us to delight in your praise; for you made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until the rest in you.” And then a little later the prayer for the morning: “Help us to love you above all things that we might serve our brothers and sisters with a love that is worthy of you.” It seemed the perfect thoughts to begin my last day in Nigeria . I really felt that I had been brought here to learn about HIV/AIDS and its devastating effect on men and women but also the hope and healing that can be brought to those affected. In the process I felt my heart open even more to the call for me to be a part of that hope and healing.
The morning was busy with final packing and receiving callers who stopped by the guest house one final time to say goodbye and thank us for coming. Dr. Chris stopped by twice and his personal warmth and gratitude was even more reassuring that this had been the right journey at the right time. We had a last time with the MCC Nigeria staff and a time of prayer of thanksgiving for each of us and the service we were able to provide, we shared one “last supper” (lunch actually), and then boarded the bus weighed down with our luggage and started the four hour drive to the airport in Abuja . The landscape seemed more familiar after the three weeks there and I talked quietly, dozed off occasionally, and thought about when I might see all this again. In spite of concerns about the process of checking in at the airport, it all went smoothly with the help of “a friend of Chris’” and after quick goodbyes to Goddy our driver and Bianna from the Faith Alive office, we were in the waiting lounge ready for the first leg of our flights home. I slept fairly well on the overnight flight to Amsterdam , in part due to having the two seat row to myself and the other part being the help of the drug induced sleep of Ambien. The Amsterdam airport provided the first culture shock of shops everywhere, food kiosks with pastry and fresh coffee, and the joy of a hired shower where I luxuriated in the seemingly endless supply of hot water cascading over my head. The four hours passed relatively quickly. I did have the opportunity to find the meditation room and spent my quiet time away from the bustle of the terminal itself. I found myself in the room praying quietly and joined by a series of three Moslem men who also came in to pray. As they were kneeling on their prayer rugs and facing east to offer their prayers I couldn’t help but feel that surely God was hearing each of our prayers acknowledging our dependence on Him and asking for His blessing on our day. It was a quieting way to begin the reentry process into the world that lay ahead.
Eight and a half hours in the plane from Amsterdam passed without incident and I read, slept a little, thought, watched a mindless movie, and listened to music. I met my luggage and walked through customs in Minneapolis , cleared immigration, grabbed a cup of Starbuck’s coffee and a scone and was on the last leg of my journey when I boarded the flight to Denver . I stepped off the plane and my 36 hour journey from Jos to home was nearly complete. Susan was waiting for me at the luggage claim area and the warmth of her arms said I was really home. The drive to Ft, Collins flew by and then I was walking through the door to our home. A home cooked meal, a hot shower, quick calls to the kids, a rapid view of the pictures I had taken, and a tumble into my own bed with a peaceful ten hour sleep.
Was this just an “island in time” that I fly and come back from? Were Bangladesh and Mali just the same? I pray that rather than island separated by time and space from my “real life” that these experiences are linked inexorably by bridges to the reality of who I am called to be. I hope these bridges carry me forward on my journey and that these experiences are just as real as my life in Colorado , my life being incomplete or less than God intended for me if they are not anchored into the core of who I am. And what about calling? Am I called to be comfortable? Or maybe a little uncomfortable? Or could I be called to even experience discomfort? One thing I know: I am not at all unsure about the claim God has on my life. I pray for wisdom on how to live that calling out. May God be in the journey. Thank you for sharing that journey with me.
Shalom, Larry Kieft