Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Happy Anniversary

Today marks my first anniversary of a day I never imagined I would face. A day that I am simultaneously very grateful for, and that I wish didn't have to exist.

One year ago today, I met my friend Emily. One year ago tomorrow, I met her parents and my good friends- Jen and Matt.

One year ago on the 11th, I was celebrating with the world as the 2010 FIFA World Cup came to a close. I remember that day vividly: the cheers, the celebrations, the crowd of somewhere around 40,000 people from all over the world gathered to watch the Word Cup Final - Spain vs. Netherlands - on a big screen at the Sandton Fan Park. Indeed for me, that was a great day.

The next day (Monday) was filled with sorrow as we heard news that there had been two terrorist attacks in Uganda: bombing aimed at similar groups who gathered joyously to celebrate this world event. Groups who had no idea how much their lives were about to change.

On Tuesday I woke up to news that one American had died. Not just any American (it wasn't the nationality that hit me so hard)- he was a friend of many of my friends. I didn't know him well, but I had met him once. It was suddenly much, much closer to home. and I felt connected to this tragedy in a way I didn't understand. I desperately wished I could do something, but like most tragedies around the globe: there was little I could do from far away except pray. I did a lot of that...

Around lunch time I became restless and had "had enough." I felt claustrophobic in our house (we weren't working at this point, as it was our first full week off from SHADE). So I informed my roommates that I was going out to the mall where I would browse and sit in a coffee shop and read my book and just be "out." They agreed this was a good idea, so before we knew it, we found ourselves sharing lunch in a coffee shop with our books and half-written letters lying beside us. It was a day that was filled with good conversation, with the company of friends who challenged one another but were good for each other, and above all: it was good for our souls.

Rachel had been in contact with folks from Pennsylvania, who gave us word that a couple of other Americans had been on a Mission Trip (from a Methodist Church) and were in critical condition. They were to be flown down to Joburg where they could receive better care than the bursting-at-the-seams hospitals in Kampala.

Before we knew it we found ourselves looking for complete strangers in a South African ICU. The nurses were kind and we told them why we were there: American Missionaries who were asked to visit the Americans and offer support until their family could arrive.

I'll never forget that night.

We met Joanne, Emily's grandmother, and her greatest concern was over her grandaughter. We assured her she was nearby and resting well... as we had just been to see her. Emily... was sleeping when we arrived. We prayed over her. Then, at the prompting of a nurse, we gently woke her to say hello, to pray with her. I can still hear that quiet, sweet, scared voice like it was yesterday. The thought of it has literally given me chills.. I wrote a little more about that day in an old post you can find here.

The days that followed were unexpected. We showed up in the morning to greet Emily's parents, sure they'd want to know who had been to visit their daughter. We immediately knew who they were when they walked out, as it was winter and Matt was in shorts and flip-flops: straight off the plane from America. We introduced ourselves and intended to leave, only leaving behind a number "in case you need anything" - but honestly not sure we could offer them much. I'm so glad we were wrong.

Emily had evidently been asking where her "3 angels who came to visit last night" were: and there was a bit of relief to realize she wasn't crazy, and I imagine they measured us up to be normal enough - at least for 3 girls who choose to live in South Africa.

So we stayed. We took some "dubers" (Matt’s favorite word for foreign currency) and got them a local phone... and then stayed for lunch. And dinner. And lunch and dinner almost every day for the next 4 weeks…

It has been a long, hard year for my friends. Bur progress has been made, all are home, and while life is still anything but normal compared to one year (and 3 days) ago,  I am grateful to be carrying on with this journey alongside them.

To my Kerstetter family: you have been an incredible blessing to my life. Thank you. I love you all.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cell Phones...

A conversation in the office this week that I thought worth sharing:

Rob: They gave me one of those little phones. They put their names in it, so I just have to open it and go to their name and it just calls them all on its own! Its great for people like me who are getting older and have no memory.

Me: Yea, I’m the same way. If I can’t remember anything now - and I’m only 27 - then I can’t imagine what it’ll be like when I get older.

Rob: Yea, you are in trouble all right…

Oh, all-consuming, wonderful (and terrible) technology… how would we live without you!?