Perhaps I should keep a diary, as a couple of weeks of jam-packed schedule, new adventures and amazing encounters have somewhat jumbled into a bit of a mushy blur. I have definitely indulged, perhaps overindulged, my touristy side: A 110m swing off a cliff over a beautiful waterfall gorge, trekking a mountain to the indescribable view-spot of ‘God’s Window’, a 4am start chasing the Big Five in Kruger National Park – Africa demands of you that you try anything once. As for me, I’m striving to get the most out of it by risking the slightly altered rule: try everything once, even if “everything” means bat wings for dinner.
These last couple of weeks have entailed a lot of adventure, risk-taking, new experiences and culture shock. Yet beneath the surface of all of this there is an altogether different adventure. The orientation process, in which we as fresh, new volunteers are incorporated and saturated into Hands at Work life, is finally at an end. Five weeks of early mornings, late nights and exhausting days have rushed by too quickly, and I feel a great sadness to be leaving behind this time and passing into the next stage. But first introductions can’t last forever. We have simply scratched the surface of what God is up to here in Africa and here in Hands. We have just dipped a toe into his plans and promises, but to God that seems enough to ready us to brave deep water. So we are definitely being thrown in.
As the orientation process draws to a close you find that you’re suddenly caught up in a whole lot of conversation about where you may be sent and what you may be putting your hand to. After so much worrying that what you will do during your time here with Hands will be assigned to you without question or query, it is relieving to discover that actually – a lot of that comes down to you. It’s a conversation. What are you passionate about? What makes your heart pump a little faster? Where would you flourish and what would be a disaster? All of this to dip deep for the only question that truly matters – what did God bring you here for? It’s all about that. We have to remember that long before Africa ever crossed our minds, God had it written on our hearts. We’re here because for now, for such a time as this, Africa is where God wants us to be.
As for me, ever since I discovered that I was coming to Africa a nation has been etched on my heart in a way that I couldn’t explain or ignore. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country of 65 million, the second largest in Africa, and claims some of the world’s poorest communities. I have prayed for so long, “Lord, give me the DRC. Get me to the DRC.” God proves himself faithful. At the end of orientation I’ll be heading off to the Congo to work with some of the some incredible people in some amazing communities. It’ll be a challenge for sure. The DRC’s two major languages are French and Swahili, neither of which I speak. I tried to learn a little French just before I left England in the hope that I might end up in the Congo. I’m not sure how effective a learner I was, but I guess that will be tested soon. Loneliness, in the midst of a language and a culture to which I am completely alien, has been known to be an issue for volunteers working there. Stocking up on English movies, books, podcasts, and a few home comforts (that would be chocolate biscuits for me) is good medicine. Yet the utter joy of living in the plans and promises of God is completely worthy of the cost. As I step into something new the words of Christ echo in my ears: “Don’t be afraid, O man highly esteemed. Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” (Daniel 8) Don’t be afraid – the safest kind of danger is to give up your life to the desires of God. I can’t wait to discover God’s desire for the Congo and for me. Bon voyage!