Easter Sunday, 2012. This was by far the hottest Easter that I have ever experienced. As a matter of fact, Gin said to me when I woke up, “Donna, this will be the hottest day of your life.” But it was definitely the greatest Easter I have ever had. Many things happened to make it wonderful, including the fact that we ended the day with a baptism! However, church was the highlight because it reminded me again why I’m here. Because I had forgotten. And God allowed me to remember.
Worship service lasted for two hours. I danced with the women as I always have and then joined in with the children, laughter bubbling over from some place that God fills only with Africa-joy. Laughter swelled into shouting – head back, grinning so hard my face hurt as my eyes tried to keep up with the swirl of colors and the drums of dance as I thanked God with all my heart, with all of my being for bringing me to this place - just to this very place, with its dripping sweat and its 108 degrees outside that was easily 125+ inside, with its suffocating dust and its brown tap water and its heart-stopping traffic and with its wicked sunburns and its horrifying We just passed a man with leprosy. And with its people. With its wonderful, beautiful, I-love-God-with-all-my-heart people. With its people who are beating those drums in the corner so hard and so fast until I’ve just realized the cadence has become my heartbeat. With its people who have so little but offer to share their food without hesitation. With its people who are so loving and generous and affectionate and whose faces crinkle so easily into that smile…that African smile that is faster than lightning and warmer than sunshine. With its children, who every Thursday run to greet me, giggling and chattering in French and Moree and wrapping 40 sets of arms around me, sticking flowers in my hair and inclining chubby cheeks for kisses.
God didn’t warn me about Africa. He didn’t warn me about the heat or the dust or the ever-present disease. He didn’t warn me that there were times that I would get insanely lonely and frustrated with French. He didn’t warn me that I would struggle under the weight of culture shock. He just said, “Go.” But you see, God also didn’t warn me that I would fall in love. He didn’t warn me that I would leave such a huge piece of my heart here. He didn’t warn me that my very soul would ache when I look in to a tiny coffee-bean colored face and know that I might not see it again. God didn’t warn me about Burkina Faso. He just called me here. When God said, “Come to Africa,” I did not realize that he was saying, “Come and fall in love with Africa.”
And so I have come to worship God here. Here, as I join in the dizzy parade of dancers, swirling, ducking, spinning, swaying in an ever-widening circle that can’t decide which brilliant fabric should dominate the color scheme. So it gives up and becomes a blur of violet and lemon, rose and indigo, scarlet and aqua, vibrant blue blending in to bright orange, elegant green, fuchsia, plum, until I have to sit down, exhausted. But I can’t sit long, for a new song starts and we begin once more, sweating and breathing in dust and tripping over children. And I love it. I love it all. So if the threat of culture shock, constant sweat, broken air conditioning, loneliness and language barriers are the price that I have to pay, then so be it. I will pay the asking price. I secretly think that Africa is God’s favorite place…or maybe it’s just his favorite place for me.
My parents used to tell people that I have a heart for Africa. But I no longer believe that’s true. I prefer to believe that I just have a heart for Jesus. And Jesus has a heart for Africa.