I tried to stand up.
The world swam before my eyes. I didn’t know which way was up and which way was down. Nausea swept through my body like a rushing storm over the plains of…somewhere. My head felt like a prison riot was breaking out just beneath my skull, and the ringing in my ears that kept me from hearing anything other than my own voice convinced me that these rioting prisoners had managed to get a hold of my security officers and disable contact with the outside world.
So I decided to give into the war raging within my body (as if I had a choice). I crumpled to the ground and crawled on my knees to where my water bottle was half-filled and hanging off the ground to keep it away from the ants. I drank as much as I could and leaned up in a half sitting/half laying down position with my back/neck against the wall, waiting and hoping that someone would come along sooner rather than later.
The previous three days had been getting progressively worse. Friday was the first night I couldn’t sleep because of the piercing headache. And that evening, I also couldn’t sit up without falling over because my blood pressure was too low. Saturday started better, but by the end of the day, I was certainly worse. Then Sunday, I woke up in a full-body shiver. Every molecule of my body seemed to be shaking from my toenails to the dead, split ends of my hair follicles (guys get split ends too, right?). It was my last Sunday in Niakara, so I tried to say goodbye to everyone in the French church service, but apparently I was muttering and shivering so much that hardly anyone understood me (and my French is still not so great).
Afterwards I couldn’t take it any longer – I needed to get warm. I was getting a muscle work out from shivering so much. So at the suggestion of Bekki’s host father, an elder of the church, I went into my room and curled up in warm blankets. I wish I could say that I slept, but my headache prevented that. I merely rested deeply. Upon “waking up” I had the experience described above.
It was malaria – the dastardly disease had waited until I was (stupidly) no longer on my daily prophylaxis to attack me. And it was winning.
I missed the Senufo service, sitting in the front portion of my room, hoping someone would come by. But I sat there for only about 20 minutes before someone came by – my good friend Emmanuel. He and his brother, Enoch, came up to my door and saw me sitting on the floor looking like death. So they came inside and immediately began trying to figure out what was wrong. Emmanuel ended up walking all the way to the pharmacy to get me the medicine I needed while Enoch stayed with me and talked while I mumbled. These two kids are absolutely amazing. They are just the coolest. Ask me about them sometime, because I’d love to boast about them.
Once I had taken the medicine and eaten some stale bread, I found that I was still unable to stand up. So I sat at the door of my room and hoped that people would walk by after the church service got out so I could talk to them. Well my hopes were fulfilled, and then some. Not only did people come by after the church service had let out, but people were coming by to visit with me and pray for me for the entire rest of the day and the next two days, as well. One of the ladies of the church, the awesome Tantie Elizabeth, even went out and bought me fever-reducing medicine so I could finally rest…with her own money.
When I took that medicine, I felt immensely better and fell asleep almost immediately. Waking up, I felt almost well. I got up in the evening and went outside to be social for the first time that day. I even got to watch the Germans win the World Cup, which was part of my healing process, if you ask me.
Over the next couple of days – my last in Niakara – I slowly got better and was grateful to actually get out of that room to go see friends in the church whom I had really wanted to spend more time with in my last few days. We had plenty of laughs over my malaria scare and got to exchange goodbyes and phone numbers before I was on the bus to Bouake.
But what really made me love those last few days in Niakara – sick as I was – was how many people were always coming by to see me and spend time with me and just sit and talk with me when all I could do was sit and talk in my broken French. On Tuesday, Emmanuel and Enoch even came by in the early morning and we set out on a 5-hour hike to go find some of the more interesting sites outside of the main town. It was exhausting and I got extremely sun-burned, but it was the best way to spend my last morning in Niakara.
I hadn’t felt so “at home” in Niakara until those last 72 hours when I felt as sick as death. I thought I had felt at home before, but when I received all of that love and care from the wonderful people of AEBECI Niakara, I knew that I really had found a home in Africa. I miss them very much, but I certainly look forward to seeing them again whenever I do go back; because I know I have a new home in Africa.
In the United States
When I got to this side of the world, I had a nice stop in Denver for two days where I debriefed with several different people at the mission’s headquarters. I had already done some debriefing with several different people in Africa. So by the time I got to the United States, I was adequately warned that life here would not be at all like it used to be. Not that I would want it to be, honestly.
I remember one of the first things I realized was actually while I was still in Denver. The traffic was so…organized. And the roads were so…clean! It was remarkable and a bit of a shock to the senses. When I got back to Dallas, and started getting reacquainted with friends and family, I began to be overwhelmed by it all. I couldn’t understand why, but it’s recently hit me why things still feel weird – especially as I try to keep alive that awesome Spiritual fire that I found out in Africa in the busy and drowning culture of everyday Western civilization:
In all honesty, I’m still having trouble with realizing the fact that I am actually back in the United States, because it just really doesn’t feel like home.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and my friends – both old and new. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. And I’m extremely excited to be pursuing a godly relationship with an amazing woman with whom I was in contact throughout my entire time in Côte d’Ivoire. But life here just doesn’t feel the same anymore.
It’s hard to describe it. I do feel safer here – surrounded by comfort and people who speak my heart language. So I feel at home. But I also feel like I don’t belong here anymore. It’s almost as if I went out to Africa and finally realized that I don’t belong to this world and know the thing that I had thought I’d known a long time ago – I am made for eternity and for the glorification of Jesus, not for these 70-or-so short years on this earth. Now instead of living life for myself the way I always have, I am striving to live my life, even at work or while driving, for the glory of our Heavenly Father and Lord Jesus Christ. So in a sense, this home in the United States has become a new one for me, because nothing is really the same.
But this is only a product of the change. What I want to talk to you about next is what happened to me in Africa that produced this change…
Until then, I pray that you all will find joy in glorifying Christ (and by extension, the Father) in every aspect of your lives. After all, this is the meaning of life. And what an amazing meaning that is.
Que Dieu vous benisse et qu’il vous donne la force de son saint-Esprit,