It was dark as my plane began the descent over Northwest Africa. I strained at the window to see something, anything; but they’re not kidding when they call it the Dark Continent! No lights until we got close to the runway. I had these images in my head of giraffe running alongside our plane or a herd of buffalo on the runway. But there was nothing. Just darkness. I stepped off the plane and was hit by a hot, dry wind. Sand blew into my eyes, and I wished I could see exactly where I was. The bus was crowded that drove us from the plane to the terminal. I was crammed into a corner, surrounded by the most beautiful people I’d ever seen. Their skin was darker than night, and many of their eyes were surprisingly a very light brown. As soon as we arrived at the terminal, I was shoved off the bus and almost fell. This was my introduction to “waiting” in an African line. By the time I left the country I was shoving right along with everyone else, but this first time I fell to the side confused. Once I went through security and was shuffled into the main terminal to get my bags, I saw what looked like pure chaos. I started moving with the crowd and almost stepped on a chicken! I couldn’t understand a word of what was being said. Guys kept shouting at me, grabbing at my backpack, and I finally figured out that they wanted to carry my bags. Any knowledge of French completely left my brain at that exact moment, so I just shrugged and said “no money”. When they figured out I was American, they started yelling, “Lady! Lady! I carry bags! I carry bags!” I just laughed and said, “Well, congratulations.” I finally got my bags and slowly made my way outside. When I saw a smiling white face totally standing out from the crowd, I felt a flood of relief. I must’ve had an awesome look on my face because Bill came up laughing and said, “Welcome to Africa!”
It was hot, sticky, and dark when I awoke with a start. “What is that??” I looked at the clock: 5am. The eeriest sound was drifting through my open window. I slowly got up and looked out. The moon was shining down on the white cement houses. Everything was so still and quiet, except for a lonely voice singing the most mournful sounding melody I’d ever heard. The music drifted over the sleeping neighborhood, and I suddenly realized it was the Muslim call to prayer. I’d read about, but had never heard it before. I laid back down and listened to it as I fell back asleep. When I woke up the next morning, I wasn’t sure if it had just been some weird jet-lagged dream. Sun was streaming through the window, and I jumped out of bed to see my first real look at Africa. The sun was so bright and there was thick, soft sand everywhere. Huge, bright red flowers lined my window and the windows of the houses around me. Everything looked so tropical! There was a man pushing a cart down the road that said “Nescafe” on it. I quickly learned that this is like our corner Starbucks. My first instinct was to throw on my long skirt, run out, and tell him about Jesus! My heart was so excited to be there, and I instantly fell in love with the people. As I watched the man push his cart, calling out to the houses to come get their coffee, I was hit by the fact that I couldn’t just run out and tell him about Jesus. The definition of language barrier finally sunk in. Barrier. A huge, brick, impassable barrier. My heart dropped. This was the first time I asked the Lord, “What am I doing here?” It’s pretty typical for me to jump into something without thinking it all the way through. I knew I was coming to a French speaking country, but I hadn’t really thought about what that would mean. I took French in college, and I guess I assumed it would just come naturally or something crazy like that;) I hit my knees and had my first of hundreds of desperate quiet times in Africa. I felt the Lord calm my nerves and provide my heart with assurance. I wasn’t sure why I’d been called there, but I figured the Lord had a reason. So I threw on my skirt, opened the door, and sunk my toes in the hot sand as I went to find out what that reason was.