Sunday, September 28, 2014

Here, There, and Everywhere

It is long-overdue for an update on my mission--leaving South Sudan, traveling to South Africa and Uganda, and finally getting all settled in my new home in Congo.  Life has been a bit crazy (Hence my lack of blogging) with traveling, jumping on and off planes, meeting new people as well as old friends, exploring new cities, and learning new languages.  But it has been an exciting and memory-filled time!

Spending my last day in Maridi with my favorite kiddos
Let me begin with the end of my mission in South Sudan.  I left my sweet kids and my home there at the end of August.  As I expected, it was not easy.  I had to answer questions from the kids like, "Why do they even send people here from America?  We become friends with you and then you just leave us."  Some kids were angry, some indifferent, and some were grateful for my presence there.  But I was able to say good goodbyes, and I really felt a sense of completion and peace with my decision to leave when I did.  Those kids will forever hold a special place in my heart, and not one day has gone by without remembering a funny moment I had with them or a cherished conversation that took place.  They taught me so much about living a simple life following God's call.  They taught me so many life lessons and made me re-evaluate my priorities.  I am forever grateful for my time there, and who knows, maybe one day I'll be back.  But after many tears and hugs, it was time to leave.  As usual I was dreading the 300km (180 mile) drive from Maridi to Juba.  We left at 6:00am and arrived in Juba at noon….Noon the next day.  Yes…it took us 30 hours to travel 180 miles.  I'm not the best at calculations, but I feel like I should've been able to walk faster than that.  But God blessed me with one more South Sudanese travel experience.  Because it was rainy season, the trip was miserable.  We got stuck numerous times and had to help other people get unstuck.  We got to a river that we needed to cross, but in typical South Sudanese style, there was no bridge that went over the river.  The river was too high to drive through, so we had to sleep in the car and wait for it to go down.  It was an adventure, but needless to say, I was happy to reach Juba the next day!  

Sunset hike in Cape Town, South Africa
Ariel and I then spent 9 days in South Africa.  It was a nice time to spend with her…A great way to end one mission and begin another.  It was a much needed break and allowed me to process my time in South Sudan and prepare for a new journey in Congo.  We spent 2 days in Johannesburg and a week in Cape Town.  Cape Town was absolutely gorgeous.  We explored the city, met so many new friends, and had some really great discussions about our experiences over the past year.  After our little holiday in Cape Town, Ariel and I split ways.  It was tough.  We have been together each day over the past 13 months.  We didn't go a single night without talking, sharing our experiences from the day, followed by a goodnight hug.  Knowing I wouldn't have my dear friend right by my side for the next journey was difficult to take in, but that also is part of mission life.  I'm so grateful for her support, and even though we will be apart, the support will continue--just in a different way.  Ariel flew back to South Sudan, and I stopped through Uganda for a week.  I have many friends in Uganda that I have met over my visits there, so I wanted to see them and catch up for a couple days.  And once again God's timing was perfect.  One of my friends from University just arrived in Uganda the week prior.  I went to Gulu, Uganda to visit her where she will be working for the next year.  It was such an amazing feeling to see somebody that I knew.  Over the past year I've met so many new people which is great, but there is just something about seeing a familiar face.  Then it also worked out that one of my nursing instructors happened to be in Gulu for a week.  Each year a team from Kansas comes for a week-long mission trip, and it happened to be the same week I was in Uganda.  I met up with Lana, my teacher, and we shared our experiences over dinner.  Once again, seeing a familiar face and talking to somebody who really understands was such a blessing.  

With my new coworkers in my new white scrubs!
After 2 weeks of adventures, I was ready to make the big move to Congo.  I've been in Lubumbashi for just over a week now, and it has been an extremely busy transition.  As soon as I stepped off the plane, the French began.  I fortunately made my way through the airport and was greeted by Br. Jules who I worked with in South Sudan.  He is a Congolese Salesian and is now studying theology in Lubumbashi.  It was such a relief to see him because he speaks English and French really well and could translate for me.  I got to the Salesian community where I will be staying for the next year.  It is extremely nice….I am spoiled with hot water, a washing machine, and so many other unexpected surprises.  It definitely is a bit different from the village life in Maridi.  I live here with 6 priests ranging in age from 65-92, so I bring the average age down significantly.  I jumped right into work and have been working at the hospital for a week.  My days start at 8am and end at 4pm.  The hospital is absolutely beautiful.  There are so many resources, it is well stocked with medications, and the nurses and doctors actually come to work.  There are 7 different departments, and the plan is for me to spend a month in each place (Dispensary, Pediatrics, Maternity, ICU, Internal Medicine, Medical/Surgical Unit, and OR).  Then I'll spend the rest of my time in one of those departments where I am needed the most.  This past week I've been in the outpatient clinic, the Dispensary.  The work has been very similar to what I did in Maridi.  We get about 100 patients each day, and I take registration, vitals, give injections, start IVs, do ECGs, and other various nursing tasks.  It is a bit slow, but it has been good because I've been learning French with the other nurses and trying to figure out the way the hospital works.  I still have so much to learn, but the transition has been surprisingly smooth.  I am so excited for the experience I'll get in the hospital here.  On the weekends I am supposed to go to a nearby Salesian community to work with the street kids.  Since I am still getting settled in, I'll start going there next weekend.  I am looking forward to that because I will be surrounded by kids again.  I can't wait to bring that aspect of mission back into my mission here.  With all those wonderful things being said, I am struggling greatly with the language.  My 5 years of French in school is helping, but I still have so much to learn.  At the end of each day I am exhausted from concentrating so hard to listen to others and understand them, and also from flipping through my dictionary every other minute looking up words I don't understand.  I just hope and pray it gets easier.  

 Other than that large obstacle (which I was expecting), life here has been wonderful.  The people I work with are great, the other volunteers I've met are so welcoming and inviting, and the spirit and charism of the Salesians is extremely clear in the hospital and community where I live.  Even though the past month has been a wild and crazy ride, I'm so blessed for all the experiences that have taken place, and I'm looking forward to the year ahead!


  1. What a wonderful blog. You've experienced so much over the last month. Know that God will provide what you need as you ramp up on your French proficiency. He is always in control and loves when his followers trust him unreservedly! We love you soooooo much:)

  2. Hi Theresa, glad to here that you are adjusting to your new Mission Ministry site. Sounds like you will have a well rounded experience at the hospital as well as working with the street kids. I believe it will be no time at all before your become proficient in French. God always provides. Many blessings to you and to those you serve. Jean Fields

  3. I'll second M&D about a wonderful post. I'm glad that you got some holiday time and had good experiences, and it's so good of you to pay tribute to Ariel. Yes, your French will improve, probably pretty quickly with the immersion you're getting and your eagerness to serve others. God bless you and all you do in the hospital and with the kiddos.