Monday, May 7, 2007

On Flying Across the World, Making Apparently Useless Lists, Thinking of Dying and More...

This Thursday Heath and I will get on a plane and begin a 24 hour journey from the great state of Texas to Jos, Nigeria. We are leading a mission trip there to work with an organization called Faith Alive, a free hospital that offers HIV testing, counseling, and job training to Nigerians.

We will be gone for 18 days. That's a pretty long time, especially considering we have two very young children whom we are leaving here with two amazing friends. I am so thankful to them as they have offered this amazing service of watching our home, our kids and Gus the Wonder Beagle and have given generously to make this trip even possible.

It's been very interesting to me to see how God has provided financially for this trip. Since Heath and I are both going, we had to multiply every cost incurred by two, making our final amount to be raised a whopping $4400. And that doesn't include things like vaccinations, medications, passports, essential supplies or spending money. To help with the expenses, we sent out about 60 letters asking for financial support to our family and friends. (We have an incredibly large family.) We just knew our family, being the close-knit, supportive, ultra-Southern family they are, would come through in a big way. They have always been so proud of the work we have done in our church and our community in the past. Now was the time to show it and support a great cause. I mean, who wouldn't want to help real, live people in a country so devastated by disease, poverty and malnutrition?

Almost immediately, we began receiving voicemail messages on our cell phones from aunts and cousins, grandmas and grandpas. They wanted us to call them back because they had questions about our trip. "Great!" I thought. "They want to know how much we need to raise, so they can help in the most effective way possible!" Ummmm.....Not so much. What they really wanted to say was that we were crazy, foolish and reckless. "How on Earth can you even think of leaving your babies with total strangers to go to a country so corrupt and dangerous?" Have you thought of what will happen to your kids if something happens to you?" Why can't you just send money and let someone else do the dangerous work?" "Are you crazy to be going to work in an AIDS hospital? What if you come back with AIDS yourselves?" "Well I hope the crazy natives don't capture you and shrink your heads!"

Not exactly the response we were expecting. But on the flip side, we did begin receiving letters in the mail from friends whom we have shared our lives with and our faith with over the past years. I don't mean just $10 here and there either. I'm talking about checks for hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Through this, God began to show me that while family is so important and the love and devotion they show you is priceless, the people that He connects you with throughout your journey with Him is absolutely amazing. Someone told me once, "Show me a man's checkbook and his calendar, and I'll show his heart." You really can tell a lot about the passions of a person by what they invest their money into.

I know our family loves us and some of them genuinely love God too, but there is this overwhelming sense of fear in most of them. A deception that says if you play it safe, everything will turn out OK in the end. Just fly under the radar, Don't push your luck, Better safe than sorry. I just don't see things that way. I can't believe my God, the God who made the entire universe and everything in it wants us to live lives that small.

So needless to say, we are going to Nigeria. We ended up raising $1000 more than we needed which will roll over to help the rest of our team. God is so good.

I leave in 4 days, which means I have a gazillion items on my to do list. And every time I check something off, I think of two more things that must be done. I've been compiling a list of things about my house and about my kids for our friends who are staying here. You know, things like what days trash is picked up, where the vacuum is, how much Tylenol to give Chloe. It's all color-coded and organized in a cute binder so everything is at your fingertips. They came over last night to pray for us and the kids before we head out and were less than impressed with my efforts to make their stay here in our home easier. They are pretty much Super-Parents, so in their defense they probably do have a mystic 6th sense that just knows the where, when and how of most homes in America. But you know as a mom, there are things about your kids that seem meaningless to most people, but if they don't get done exactly the right way the cosmos come crashing down in the mind of your four-year-old. And it isn't like I'm just a phone call away, or I can make it right before bedtime. Not that I'm expecting our friends to do everything our way. On the contrary, I hope my children mesh into their family's way of life beautifully. It just makes me feel more at ease if they know which stuffed animals Chloe is used to sleeping with every night and what foods she likes in her school lunch, or what is Corban's newest amazing trick, (which by the way is clicking his tongue on the roof of his mouth whenever you say, "Clever Boy!") Sure, my kids probably won't die if they get turkey instead of PB&J or take a break from the Amazing Tongue-Clicking-Baby trick, but it would really ease my mind and my heart while I'm 6,758 miles away to know that they know these things.

I've also been faced with the reality of death through this process. I mean everyone knows in some sense that they could die any day, but somehow it has become very real to me lately. Maybe it's been the overly-dramatic worries of my outspoken family or the fact that I have to decide who will raise my children if the plane goes down, or maybe that thought-provoking movie Premonition. Or maybe it's God Himself asking me if I know that it's Him who decides anyway and that I really have no control over it at all. If I believe God, and I do, I must believe His Word which says:

Man's days are determined;
you have decreed the number of his months
and have set limits he cannot exceed
Job 14:5
And when I think of it realistically, I'll probably make it home in one piece because even though I'm not SuperMom myself, I'm still the only one that knows all the information in that useless book without ever even having to look at it.