The Long Winding Roads of Africa (Emily’s trip part 2)

by Mommy Emily

It hits me at random times, this living with my heart in two worlds. It hits me as the plane slices through grey clouds touching down in Canada, and all I see is the white of snow like one long lonely wilderness — a stark contrast with the red dirt and vibrant green bush I just left behind.

It hits me as I see a woman carrying her puppy that’s dressed better than some children I’ve just played with, and it hits me when I see restaurant after restaurant lining the airport hallway.

And two days later it will hit me again as I’m seated with friends at a Christmas church function and they’re talking about having a separate room just for Lego, and I think of my friends whose families share two rooms amongst all of them.

I slip between worlds, and even as my children and husband battle the flu and I’m pressing cool washcloths to their foreheads and making mint green tea, I’m remembering the mist of the rainforest on my face as I rode a motorbike taxi between Sierra Leone and Liberia. I recall the cool waters of Lil Scary River as I floated across its smooth surface in a hand-carved canoe that also carried another motorbike and its driver, the only way Pastor Sonnel and I could reach a new church plant in a remote village.

Even as I fry eggs and make toast for my family I’m remembering the rice — you haven’t eaten if you haven’t had any rice that day, they say. I’m remembering the tender goat’s meat in Sierra Leone and the fried plantain in Liberia, the fresh avocado and bananas in South Sudan and the fried chicken in Uganda.

I enjoy my first hot shower in three weeks yet somehow miss bathing with buckets of cool water and how they would sometimes boil the water for me, and I would dip my head and then my toes in the plastic container.

Flushing the toilet feels like such a gift, and yet I recall with an odd sort of affection the hole in the ground in South Sudan and the lizards and cockroaches that would scatter when I opened the door.

I’ve gotten braver. I now know how to use the back of my “slipper” or flip flop to kill the big furry spiders.

And even as I sit inside my warm solid house and the winter winds whip round and the fire crackles in the woodstove, I recall the sound of a thousand cicadas and the rustle of grass outside my unlocked wooden door in South Sudan, the soft snores of teenage mothers sharing my room on the church compound, the whisper of moonlight leaking in. I remember the power going out before we were ready as the generator died and flashlights leading us across the sub-Saharan night.

me in South Sudan with the South Sudan and Uganda team

And yet, whether here or there, the same stars wink boldly at me from wide black pupils. When I miss Africa too much here, or when I miss my family too much there, I simply look up, and the Lord whose arms wrap around both worlds holds me close in His loving gaze.

I look at the stars, and I remember that my heart isn’t ultimately in either of these worlds. There may be a long winding road that takes me from Canada to Africa and back again, but my heart is on the highway to Zion. And no matter where I go, all roads eventually lead Home.