Looking back.

At this time of the year, I see a lot of people looking back – remembering 2012, even as they begin 2013. 2012 held a lot for me – a lot of things that have shaped who I am today, and will probably continue to shape me on into 2013. So it seems fitting to begin this blog with an ending.

A year ago today, I knew that something big was coming. I was a student at Wheaton College, and about to embark on the biggest, longest, craziest journey I had ever done. By a long shot. I was looking ahead to six-month-long internship in a developing country, I just didn’t know which one yet.

I was (and am) a student in the HNGR program, or Human Needs and Global Resources, an experiential learning program at Wheaton College that revolves around a six-month-long internship in the majority world (or “global south”, “developing world”, or what-have-you). After three years of preparation, I and twenty-one other students were finally making arrangements for an experience that would be unlike any other.

That was January; June found me on an airplane to the then-unknown developing country: Sierra Leone. For six months, I lived in Kamakwie, a village in the rural north of the country. I worked at Kamakwie Wesleyan Hospital, a small hospital, and the only hospital within a fifty-some mile radius.

I lived in tropical African heat, survived a monsoon season, took cold showers every day, and lived for almost two months without electricity. I never went barefoot, even in my home, for six straight months because of the risk for hookworm. I wandered the wards of a rural mission hospital, saw 20 different tropical diseases, watch birth and death and healing and sickness. I learned to speak Krio, and to respond to all different kinds of mispronunciations of my name. I played with countless little African children, and helped to raise one for two months.

Yet even as I describe experiences that will seem strange and unbelievable to most of you – and would have to that me of January one year ago – I must somehow also describe how it was also normal. Fairly quickly, “strange” and “unbelievable” turns into just plain life, when you are living in it every day. Everything is unmistakably real, both the joys and the sorrows.

2012 saw the close of a major chapter in my life. But in a sense, that chapter is continuing to be written, as I learn how to be faithful to that experience even as I continue life in a very different context. And in just a few months, the context will again change, as yet another chapter – college – ends, and a new one begins.

So here’s to 2013! This year, too, will be a big one.

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