I want to go back. I want to go back. I never wanted to come home to begin with. Can we just move to Senegal? Pretty please?
Okay, I’ve been on enough short-term mission trips now to have learned something really important: you never get out of the honeymoon phase. You just are not there long enough. A week is not enough time for the food to get old, or the quaint little town to lose its charm, for the cold showers and arbitrary police stops to cease feeling like an adventure. Nearly everything about the short-term trip is exciting when you go in with an open mind, so of course it ends with you not wanting it to end and maybe you even think, “I could do this. I could live here.”
I know something else important: the people are what makes it. When everything else fails your expectations and when all the adventure and excitement has abandoned you, the people you serve and do life with are what keep you going. And so every time during this trip when I caught myself dreaming about what it would be like to take a position in our new Senegal office, I had to remind myself that it probably is not Senegal itself I was so in love with — rather it’s the people on this team.
Let’s start with Rex, our project leader. The best way I can describe Rex is to say, imagine if Dave Barr were an architect. (I’m so sorry if you don’t know Dave, just go with Steve Irwin). Rex makes everything fun. Most eMi staff who travel with Rex come home with some great (mis)adventure story. That did not happen to us, except that one night he fell out of his chair when it broke. But that was not his fault. It was just the chair’s time to go.
Then we had David Wright and John Agee, members of our Senegal office launch team. David is Irish so just listening to his accent all week was enough. But he also has the gift of servant leadership and was constantly making sure everyone had what they needed, whether that was afternoon coffee or a few words of encouragement. And John is the most culturally sensitive person I have ever met. After just two days with him I came to realize that it’s born of a sincere and deep love for the people of Senegal. He also has a pretty contagious laugh.
God sent us a blessing in Gabriel, a Senegalese engineer with loads of experience. On every project it is our goal to include a local design professional because they know building practices far better than we do and the partnership is always sweet. Gaby was wiling to take time away from his wife and young child to spend the week with us. He mainly speaks French so I did not get to talk to him much directly, but he was always smiling. Always.
I want to go on and on about the rest of this team because I just came to love them, but to do that justice would require a very long blog post. I want to tell you everything about how Hutch seemed to never leave the work table through 8 hours of time lapse video footage, or how Jason could always be counted on when a good Monty Python quote was in order. How Bill was always there with me for early morning coffee, truck bed rides, and hunting down lost dogs. How Dillon was always so calm even when his hard drive crashed and how Tracy greeted everything with a fresh sense of excitement and an Ewok voice. How Alicia owned that PowerPoint presentation, how Dana dropped in late but fell into step so quickly, and Martijn’s direct communication style sent us into spasms of laughter at least twice a day.
I did not want to go to Senegal. I had NO expectation of liking it. The only thing that excited me about it was knowing how I always love being with the team. Every team I’ve served with has been good. But when you ask me how Senegal was and I reply, “It was amazing! It blew my expectations away,” I am referring to the group of people God placed around me for 10 special days.
Maybe it was knowing we had the privilege of serving on the first official project for eMi’s Senegal office. I’m certain it helped that we were so well cared for by Eric, his family, and our house helper, Raymonde. And being surrounded by a culture that places a high value on peace and hospitality makes a difference. Maybe it was all the moringa powder…
I am not going to try to dissect it too much, lest all those questions destroy the beauty of the thing. For now I will just watch the video again and pour over the pictures and reread my journal entries.
And pray I get to go back again soon.
The full photo gallery is here.
From the Keiters:
Here is where we share our daily experiences of how God is using our life in the US and abroad with EMI to draw us closer and to make Himself known.