It feels like forever since I last blogged- but its only been 6 months! I know, I can't believe I've been home for six months either.
Exactly one year ago today I left for my six-month adventure in Tanzania. Over the last few weeks my time in Mwanza has been on my mind even more than usual so I thought a reflection on how my time away is still impacting my life would do my heart good.
On this day a year ago I was feeling more emotions at once than I ever thought possible; nervous, excited, anxious, hopeful. Nervous to take on the new adventure God was calling me to. Excited to take this step out of my comfort zone; to learn, to grow, to love. Anxious because I am a grade A control freak and this trip held a lot of unknowns and even more 'firsts'. Hopeful because I knew there was no other place I would rather be then in the centre of Gods plan for my life. I knew that even in my worries and anxieties God was there and He had everything under control. And He did!
As I sit here today, a whole year later I am feeling many of these same emotions. Nervous as I prepare to begin my first year at the University of Waterloo. Excited about taking this next step and 'venturing out'. Anxious as I won't be living in a dorm- or at home (aaaahhh!!!!)- but in a house in Waterloo with 3 other girls (Girls who I know from high school- which I am so freaking thankful for!) Hopeful because continuing my education is always something I have wanted to do. Working towards 2 majors that relate closely to my passions- Peace and Conflict Studies, and Social Development Studies makes it even better. But do you wanna know the best news of all? Just like a year ago, and exactly the same as it will be a year from now, Gods got this. He truly does. If there's one thing I have held onto dearly since returning home (although there are many others) is this truth. Even when I feel anxious. Even when I feel nervous. Even when I am standing on the tallest mountain God is in Control. I can find peace and rest in this. Gods got this. He always has, and He always will.
Friday, 17 February 2017
Six months ago I never thought this day would come. It seemed so far away, and the time in between seemed so uncertain but full of so much potential. I have now come to realize it had even more potential then I was able to understand at the time, and that I could have never imagined just how hard saying goodbye would one day be.
It started as a missions trip, but in the process turned into so much more then that. It turned into relationships, friendships, a lifestyle of serving which was challenging at times but still something I have fallen in love with. I never imagined having such incredible relationships and connections on the level I have come to have them. Six months ago, had you told I would feel this way as I lived my final day in Mwanza and at Village of Hope, I would have told you you were crazy.
I was blessed to make friends outside of The Village as well.
“Missionary kid youth group” was a community I didn't know I would get, but clearly one God knew I would need. These crazy teens welcomed me in with open arms and nothing but love. I looked forward to Saturday nights and will always keep them in my heart.
Back in August I went with Jade to talapia (a restaurant) to meet her friend Anita and her daughter Bekah, who was close to my age and from the UK. I was so nervous- a person my own age with a similar background as me? AAAHHH. Nobody told me about this!! Little did I know a friendship would be born. We may have only met six months ago, but it feels like we've been friends forever. I'm going to miss our drives to youth group Bekah, burning cookies with you but taking them anyway.
Writing about the Kenyamanyara's and what incredible hosts they were could be a blog of its own. They welcomed me into their home, allowed me to become a part of their family, and invited me to be comfortable as if it were my own. Getting to know and spend time with them as my family was so special, an opportunity I probably would not have gotten otherwise. The work they do at Village of Hope Mwanza is absolutely incredible, Mwanza is blessed because of them.
My journey home was uneventful- I made it safely and so did my bags! If I'm being honest with you, travelling solo is actually awesome! You feel so independent and free but also like you hold a great responsibility which at times seemed terrifying. Travelling solo was not worth all of the worry I poured into- but what ever is?
My first 3 days here at home have been amazing- I missed my family so much! I mean it still seems totally crazy that 6 months have passed, but it is nice to be surrounded by my crazy family again.
This brings my 14th and final blog (or novel) to a close. I've said it a thousand times and will probably say it a thousand more, but thank you. You took the time to read my blogs, keep me in your prayers and even send me encouragements when it all seemed too much. I will always be thankful for the incredible community I had standing behind me as I entered into this journey, and now that I am stepping out of it.
Lots of Love,
Wednesday, 8 February 2017
I have really been struggling with the word “last” as of late. Whether it's my last time going somewhere, my last time seeing a friend, or even my last time eating my favourite meal for lunch at school. This way of thinking was really bringing me down, and ultimately hindering my ability to whole-heartedly embrace my final days here. I opened up to Jade about how I was feeling and she said something that really opened my eyes. She said “Yes goodbyes are hard and it is sad, but just think, you have people and things here to miss.” And that is pretty incredible. I have made friends that I am going to hold dearly in my heart. I have relationships that have challenged and shaped me, I have memories with incredible people that will last a lifetime. I have grown closer to Christ, and come to understand His love and grace in a new way. Rather then looking at all of my “lasts” with a heavy heart (which, if I'm being honest, I still do more then I should) I can look at them with a heart full of gratitude and love. I look back over these 6 months and see nothing but love. Challenges? Yes. Difficult times? Oh yea. But love covers them all. Thankfulness covers them all. Jesus was working in it all.
On Saturday February 11th the Kenyamanyara's and I leave Mwanza and head to Dar es Salaam. I will spend a few days there, and fly out (all by myself!) for Canada on Tuesday February 14th, arriving in Toronto that night. Prayers for our travels would be appreciated! This will also be my first time travelling solo- I'm a big girl now!
Well folks, in a mere 6 days I will be back on Canadian soul. It's crazy to think that I arrived 6 months ago, completely unaware of how incredible the next 6 months would be, and how hard it would be to one day leave. Your continued support, love, and prayers have meant the world to me, and I am so thankful.
Lots of love,
|Even though none of us are looking I still|
|Love, the crazy teens of Teen Connect!|
|"Paul! This building has 9 floors! "It'll be worth it!"|
..He was right
|A Picture at fish round about- gonna miss driving past|
this dude everyday! Always reminding me to
just keep swimming (or posing)
Thursday, 26 January 2017
Can I tell you something? The devil SUCKS. I have always known this, but this week his lies and scheming ways have become oh so clear. “Lord, I reject every judgmental and critical thought that comes to my mind today.” So Satan plants a billion more negative thoughts in my brain. He wants to bring us down. He wants to see us fail. He wants to see us drift farther and farther away from our incredible God. How messed up is that? Although I have been reminded of what a lying, scheming, cheater the devil is, I have also been reminded of God's incredible love. Our Father holds the entire universe in His hands. He's that big!! Our Father who created the heavens and the earth walks beside us everyday, no matter where we roam. Even when the devil tries to tear us down, even when our thoughts seem overpowered with anxiety and worry, He is beside us. We can find our strength in Him. This is a choice that, if I'm being honest, I fail at making far to often. Getting overwhelmed, worrying (unnecessarily) about the future, entertaining thoughts of fear and anxiety rather then turning into God for strength and comfort. But thank God for His love and abundant grace.
A new school year has started up at Village of Hope school, and I'm so happy to be back in the classroom! Don't get me wrong, I loved getting to see the administrative side of Village of Hope and having the chance to work in the office, but I did miss the kids and getting to interact with them on a regular basis. Here's something that absolutely kills me about kids: they can make you want to pull your hair out. They can drive you up the wall and make you feel like screaming but then with one look they can melt your heart. With just one running hug not 10 minutes after they were misbehaving they can make you forget that you ever felt like pulling your hair out. Honestly, I'm so thankful for that ability children have! Sometimes I can't help but look up and say, “God! These kids! I love them although they have the ability to drive me crazy! What the heck!” And I wouldn't change that for the world.
There is a major cold going around our school as well as our home, prayers that Jade and Julius will fight off their colds soon, and also that I don't get the cold and have to travel with it home would be appreciated. Also prayers for peace as I begin my final 2 weeks in Mwanza and prepare to return home would be amazing. Once again I am overwhelmed by the love and support you guys pour into my life. I am so thankful for you!
|We went HIKING! So thankful for friendship and|
|Your glory is so beautiful <3|
|Hills for daaaays|
|Climbing up those rocks almost killed me,|
but the view was totally worth it
|"Emmiiily! I'm gonna to sleep on you!"|
Oh how I'm going to miss this little guy <3
Thursday, 12 January 2017
Community, friends, family, celebration, love.. these are but a few words to describe the past 2 weeks. We rang in the New Year with a time of prayer, worship and celebration at MPC (Mwanza Pentecostal Church) and I must say it was incredible. To end 2016 celebrating Gods faithfulness and all He has done during the past year, and to worship and pray in community with great anticipation about what He has planned for the year ahead was something I will hold in my heart forever. To have my family there was icing on top of an already delicious cake. I cannot wait to see what He has in store for 2017- the good, the bad and the ugly. To see what my role will be in His crazy but amazing plan.
On January 2nd my family and I along with the Kenyamanyara's headed out for a 3 day safari on the Serengeti. IT WAS AMAZING!!! Honestly there were so many times I thought “This has to be a dream. There's no way we're in the Serengeti right now.” At one point there were 5 hunting female lions less then 5 feet away from our truck. I literally could've stuck my arm out and touched them!!! For safety reasons I resisted the urge and just sat in complete awe. So many memories were made that I will hold onto forever. From just hanging out at the hotel, to being feet away from a myriad of wild animals, to *attempting* to learn the names for all of the animals in Swahili from our awesome driver, to getting to experience it all with my family by my side, it was an awesome time.
Over the past 2 weeks we have had to say “See ya later!” 3 times and I'm not gonna lie, it's been kinda tough. Anna, another missionary who lives with us headed back to Canada for to continue her schooling, my family returned home, and Mama June and Uncle John are on their way to the great white north after what feels like the shortest 3 months ever. All of these goodbyes really got me thinking of how I will be doing the same in only 4 short weeks, and how I can't believe my time here in Mwanza is almost finished. Even though the thought of it makes my heart sad, I pray that I will not let it distract me from being fully present and involved during my last weeks here.
I hope you all are doing well, and am continuing to feel overwhelmed by all of your love and prayers. I hope your 2017 has been kick-butt so far!
|It's the CIRCLE of LIIIFEE|
|See? Doesn't it look like you|
could just give them a little pat?
|Future career as models?|
|Dad taking on the market like a pro!!|
Thursday, 29 December 2016
Hey Friends! Sorry about the late post, we haven't had consistent internet in a while which has made blogging pretty difficult. All that to be said... Merry *belated* Christmas!!! I hope your Christmas celebrations were filled with many laughs and lots of love as you celebrated our incredible saviors birth. This was my first Christmas away from home.. and my first Christmas is without snow!! It was so weird- it felt like someone picked a random day in the middle of summer and decided to call it Christmas. Although Christmas was very different this year, it was still so good. We spent Christmas Eve at The Village- where there were presentations by the mama's, aunties, and even a “modern day” Christmas story play created by the Village of Hope children. After the presentations all 300 of us ate together, followed by dancing, singing, talking, and just being in community with each other. Although by the end of the day I was totally pooped, I was so content. Even though this Christmas was different then what I'm use to, it was still so good. I may have been a bit skeptical at first, but I learned that different and bad are not the same thing, and don't need to be used together. As I experienced this community at the Village, I was reminded of the amazing community I have in Bethany, how thankful I am for this incredible church community and it's support, and how I can't wait till I get the chance to watch the Christmas Eve service online!!
|Only a snap shot of everyone gathered for our Christmas Eve|
|Dance club getting ready to perform!|
*Video to be posted soon*
|A modern day Christmas Story.|
On Christmas day we went to church and then went to a family friends house for lunch!! If I'm being honest, it felt like one of the longest days EVER, as I had to patiently await until 8pm for the arrival of my family.
But it was worth it!! They have only been here 3 days so far but I love it. I mean, it's totally weird and I feel like my worlds are colliding, but it's awesome being able to share this part of my heart with them, and I love seeing them fall in love with the children just like I have.
As we move into 2017 in only a few short days (I know- crazy right!?) I pray that you my friends are doing well. I am so thankful for you all.
Merry Christmas and Happy New year!!
|Taken Christmas day... and it felt like summer!!|
Tuesday, 13 December 2016
Can you believe it's December already? I sure can't! In 2 weeks it's Christmas and in 3 weeks we start a new year. 2017 here we come!!!... Speaking of Christmas, GUESS WHAT?! My family is coming to visit!!! That's right friends- for 10 days my worlds will collided in a fun, exciting, and amazing way. And I could not be more excited!
The past 2 weeks have been packed, which is nice because it distracts me from spending all my time counting down the days until my family arrives (it's 12, by the way). We had the end of the year celebration (the school year runs from January to December) and our reception graduation. It was so much fun! The children not only presented some of the things they have learned this year, but they also put together vocal and dance performances with the help of their teachers. This was such a fun morning of celebration.
|Some of the primary students singing a farewell song for us!|
|Trying to get over 50 children to look at the same time is|
2 weeks ago, after arriving home from Kenya, we had our first dance club meeting after 2 weeks off to start getting ready for Christmas, and I was in total shock. When dance club started out (which was really only 3ish months ago) there were 10 children interested.
And now there are 30. Paul and I were totally blown away, and obviously super pumped! Having such a large group with different ages (oldest is 19 and youngest is 6) has made for such a fun time. The older kids help the younger ones and everybody cheers on and encourages each other. Every time we meet they inspire me and my heart overflows. Having fun together, helping each other, supporting one another, being in community is so important, and I know I forget these things far too often. That's one of the ways I have been stretched. I'm a pretty task oriented person- what do I have to do? When does it need done by? And, of course, I have to make sure it's done PERFECTLY. Well, I've realized there are much more important things. Sure, there will always be deadlines and things that need to get done, but when it comes down to it, people are more important. Conversations are more important, taking time for one another is more important, helping and supporting each other is more important. I realized how much I have taken for granted the amazing community of friends- you guys- back home. How blessed I am to have a community like Bethany and the incredible people that make it. I love you guys!!
I've been trying to fight off a cold for over a week now and it is not going away. Prayers that it doesn't turn into anything more then a cold would be amazing. There's never really a good time to get sick, but really? This close to Christmas? Come on!
Once again I am completely overwhelmed by all of your love and support. You guys rock!!!
|This picture is from a while ago, but I love it so I wanted to|
share it with you!
|Little Paulo <3|