Saturday, August 16, 2014

One Chapter Ends, Another Begins

Our First day in Maridi one year ago! 

It is hard to believe I've been living in South Sudan for one year now. Some days it feels like I just stepped off the plane in Juba last August. But other days it feels like I've lived here for a much longer time.  Thinking back on the past year, I see how much has really happened in the short amount of time I've been here.  It's been a year of invaluable experience and personal growth. However, those aren't nearly as important as the relationships that I've developed with my friends here. One year ago, they were strangers. But today, they are my family. In a couple days I will be leaving this amazing village..leaving behind my friends and family who have taught me more than I could have imagined over the past year. 

I don't pick favorites, but if I did, these two would take the cake!
As hard as it will be to say goodbye to my favorite kiddos I know it's time to move on. Something I've struggled with is knowing that I've done something here in Manguo, South Sudan. Yes, I've lived here and worked here for a year, but did I actually do anything? If I stay for another year will I finally feel fulfilled? Or what about 10 years...would it make a difference? On the grand scheme of things, one year is a very short time. Even though some days I get angry and frustrated with the kids, I hope they have realized and felt the effects of my mission here--to love them. And I think some have. I tell them everyday that I love them and try my best to show it through my actions. Although many times I fail, I hope they truly know how much I love them and how much they mean to me. There is no good way to explain that I'm leaving and probably will not see the majority of these people again, and it breaks my heart just thinking about the goodbyes I'll have to say in a few days.  But as much as I adore these people and the life and culture here, it's time to go. I feel called to start a new adventure..a new journey.  And I am doing just that. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Next month I'll be moving to the Democratic Republic of Congo to start another year with the Salesian lay missioner program. It is a new site and a new placement so I don't fully know what to expect. When I came to South Sudan a year ago, Cait and Grace were here to show me everything and help me adjust. But I am going there alone. I am nervous, anxious, scared, but so ready and excited and hopeful at the same time. The details are still being worked out, but I know the general gist of my work. I'll be posted in a 125 bed hospital in Lubumbashi (Congo's second largest city). I'll work part time there and part time taking field trips to the surrounding villages. My main job will be to do needs assessments and survey the villages so that I can then create health programs based on the needs that I find. I will have much to learn, but I'm ready for the challenge. 

The red dot is Lubumbashi--my new home!
Life will be so different. I'll be moving from a small village to a city of 1.5 million. I'll be leaving behind the small clinic where I've been working for a big, city hospital. I'll no longer be one of the only two white people in the village, but I'll be in a place with over 5,000 expatriates from all over the world. And I'll be trying to figure out life and work and everything else completely in French.  I'll be expected to speak only French in the hospital and from what I understand, the Salesian community where I will be staying also only speaks French.  It will be a challenge, but c'est la vie! (That's life).  I know that moving to Congo is the first step in a new, exciting chapter.

In 10 short days, I'm leaving this village, but the experiences and the many, many memories from Maridi will never be forgotten. I'll always remember these kids and all the love and joy they bring to my life everyday. I'm so grateful for their example in my life and for the way they have taught me to view the world differently.  Thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers. Please continue to keep me in your prayers as I say my goodbyes here and transition to life in Congo, and also keep in prayer the new SLMs who will be departing for their own missions next month. I'm excited to continue to share my journey with you all from Lubumbashi, Congo!
My P8 class--they have stolen my heart.