*Before I begin, I'll warn you this is most likely going to be a long post...so if you're interested, I'd love to tell you our latest story, but grab some coffee and make yourself comfortable for a little while:)
It's been a week and a half since we got back from New York, and I intended to write this post as soon as we returned so we can keep everyone updated. However, like usual, life took over and between an energetic baby boy, finishing up papers and finding time to breathe, this morning was the first chance I had to sit down and put our latest adventure into words...plus, to be honest, our heads have just stopped spinning and I wasn't sure exactly how to write about everything we were feeling before now.
First of all, New York was AMAZING. I can't even begin to tell y'all how God has answered all of our prayers through AIM (the organization we'll be serving overseas with)...we felt as though we were around family all week, and it was just awesome to be able to hang out, worship, and explore/question/freak out/become super exicted with a bunch of people who have the same desires (to serve in Africa) as Adam and I. AIM is definitely on their game - everyone we met who works there was not only kind, open, and totally interested in hearing our hearts and helping send us where the Lord wants us to be, but they also know what they're doing! They're so organized and on top of the whole process, we were so well taken care of that week, and I know we'll be taken care of on the field, which is such a relief...we are not alone, they are serving right alongside our family, whether it's on the soil of Africa or here in the States. And just let me say this - Cruz was in heaven all week! As usual, he was the hit of the party and knew it...he spent most of his days in the nursery hanging out with some great older kids who took him under their wing and showed him tons of love. He didn't really sleep that well in the new place, but did awesome during the day...he loved it too!
So we spent the whole week, from about 8:30 am - at least 6 pm each day attending different orientation classes...we talked about health and wellness on the field, raising support, what it means to have an African perspective, how to leave and grief, etc. Needless to say, while each session was really informative and excellent in it's own way, we were on information overload by the time Saturday rolled around haha...it was a good thing though, definitely a good thing. During the week we learned a lot about Africa, different opportunities to serve overseas, and ourselves. I'm not sure we've processed everything we felt and experienced during that week yet, but we are slowly...At first we were disappointed with the timing of actually GOING to Africa, but we realize now the year and a half we'll still be in the States will actually be a blessing for us, if only to become more emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically prepared.
I'll spare y'all the details of all the sessions, but long story short, we were officially appointed as full term missions with AIM! yay! So, now we're not just candidates, we're appointees:) And when we set foot in Africa, we'll officially be missionaries lol. I laugh because we're all already missionaries, wherever we are...anyway. The long awaited news: we also found out where we'll head in January 2013. That's right, that's the date: January 2013. So we have a year and a half in the States to raise support and be with friends and family before we leave. When we went to New York, we were expecting to serve in a different area of Africa than we feel called at first, because we feel the Lord has asked us to work in areas affected by civil war, and specifically those affected by the LRA, Lord's Resistance Army. We have a strong desire to work with both former child soldiers as well as recovering communities and work on community transformation and rehabilitation in different ways. I'll post more about this later...
We found the perfect area and job for what we feel like the Lord wants us to do, but we were told at first we wouldn't be able to work in an area directly affected by the wars right away because the government closed an airstrip, which was our only way into the country at the time...so we decided we wouldn't let that hold us back, we would serve in a different country doing something a little different, so we could still be in Africa, and travel to a different place as soon as it was safer and the government opened the area back up. However, when we got to New York, we found out we actually could go where we wanted right away - I'll spare you the details of that too, we're not exactly sure how the mix up happened, but it doesn't matter - the Lord made a way for us to get right in where He wants us. So, after January 2013, we'll make our way to Central African Republic to most likely serve in the city of Zemio. There is a small catch, which I didn't expect, but it'll also be good - we have to go to France first, for about 11 months for language school. That's right, the official language of the country is French. We'll also learn the tribal language when we get there, but they encourage us to know French as well...I think it's a good idea, I'm a fan of being able to at least attempt to communicate with people:)
The area we'll be working in is a little more remote than we imagined at first, but the more we think about it and pray about it, the more excited we are. What we heard in the beginning is true, the only way in and out of our city is by airstrip, so every once in awhile we have to take a plane to get supplies and some rest...because of the remoteness of the area and probably the stress of the situation, we'll be encouraged to take a break about every two months and get out of the city for a few days. Zemio is currently a large station for refugees fleeing from the war, so there is so much opportunity to love on people and share Christ with them. We're not exactly sure what our "jobs" will look like, but we are so excited to see what the Lord will do.
One of our major concerns about serving in such a remote area was being alone - personally, I know that would not be very beneficial for me, especially at first...if the Lord calls me to it, I know He would get me through it, but I was really praying for some companionship. And again, of course, He answered. We'll actually be serving with an awesome couple we met at Candidate Week, who we think we'll work really well with and are so excited to get to know better. They have a little girl about four months older than Cruz, and they're pregnant with their second child too, who will be about three months older than our second baby:) Cruz will have a built in girlfriend lol...or just some close buddies he and his brother or sister can grow up with! The Lord definitely answered some major prayers that week, we were starting to get worried we would leave without having any better idea of what we were doing or where we would go...we had our last meeting Friday night around 8:30 pm (we left Saturday morning at 6 am) and finalized (semi-officially) most of the details you read here.
We got back to New Orleans in such high spirits and so excited about what God was doing in our lives. The timing kind of threw us off as I mentioned before, we would jump on a plane tomorrow if we could, but we realize the time to prepare will be well worth it and this is one thing we don't need to jump blindly into. Then we had some big decisions to make here as well...we graduate in a week and a half and didn't know what we were going to do - where we were going to live, what job Adam was going to get, etc. We feel like God has given us this year before we go overseas not only to raise support but also to spend time with family and friends, because I think it will be harder on them than it will be on us when we actually leave the country. So, we made the tough decision to go ahead and move to North Carolina after graduation, when we'd have the help of our families for moving and Cruz:) Adam is still looking for a full time job, but we know the Lord will provide...leaving is bittersweet and every day it gets closer I get a little more sad. But, as the title says, even though this feels like the end, it's only the beginning. I'll definitely be posting more about New Orleans and our experience in the next few days...