How blessed am I that I get to see my lover every day? To feel and taste and embrace her, to gaze upon her as if it’s the first time I’ve ever seen her, to be captivated by her as if she’s still to this day the most beautiful thing I have ever laid eyes on.
I had spent New Year’s Eve in New York City and had just gotten back to my apartment in Ocean City. I woke up early on the second day of 2014 and spent the morning with the mist shrouded ocean. Forever the water moved; not for one moment since creation had it been still. Standing there as I stood countless times, I thanked my lover for making me feel humble, inspired, tiny and salty all at once. No matter what, I always wanted to be around her or close to her.
Down the street at my apartment sitting on the coffee table was a brand-new blank journal with a world map as its cover and binding. My good friend Steph had mailed it to me to write in during my upcoming trip to Ghana. I knew the time would come when I would finally take Rebecca up on her offer and embark on a journey to West Africa. Over the past few weeks I had been raising money so I could volunteer with Light for Children Ghana, teaching art and English. I was just about $1000 short of my goal.
That morning, the verse of the day that appeared on my phone was Luke 6:38 –
Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.
Just then, I logged on to my fundraising account to see if there had been any last minute donations. To my surprise, there was. $1000 from someone I hadn’t seen or talked to in years, my third grade teacher Mrs. Larson.
A few weeks earlier I had asked my friend Mark if he wanted to join me in Ghana. Immediately he said yes, knowing it was time for him to step out in faith into the unknown. I was excited for him because I knew that once he had been to the wild challenging continent he would, like me, be strangely drawn back. As photo-journalist Dan Eldon once said, “There’s nothing that can compare to seeing the raw reality of the basic need for human survival. It disgusts and inspires.”
The day I asked Mark to accompany me he had received tragic news from his friend Macey in Uganda. Her roommate, 22-year-old Alicia, who battled with cystic fibrosis since she was born, had suddenly passed away upon returning to the U.S. She had followed her calling to Uganda and was planning to return to Africa. She gave up everything, her entire life, her dreams and aspirations, college, family, friends, all to live sacrificially, no longer under the burden of self, but completely free. Alicia’s story moved me like none other. She finished well.
I immediately messaged Rebecca about the news only to find out that she had just finished hearing about it herself, that she had known Alicia all along. What were the chances that she would just so happen to know the girl who was the roommate of a girl who Mark once led in youth group? The expedition took on a renewed purpose after that. We would go back to Africa to help continue Alicia’s work, to keep her memory alive, to live her example.
Two weeks later, Mark and I boarded a British Airways plane from Philadelphia to London and on to the Ghanaian capital of Accra. I watched the virtual map on the back on my seat as we flew over the vast expanse of my great love, the Atlantic. As the plane touched down on the tarmac we took our first malaria prevention tablet and stepped out into the heavy, humid West African night.