Friday, February 28, 2014

Going Around in Circles

Let me interrupt the string of "unpacking" posts from our trip with a little nugget of my day yesterday. Over the past few months, we have made a number of trips to immigration since you cannot get the kind of visa we have all in one chunk. Yesterday we were to make our final trip to immigration for the last big chunk before our visa change. We left home at 10, and since I was meeting someone afterward, P.J. and I drove separately. I hit numerous "bumps" along the way that already had my nerves ratcheted up a few notches. We sat in traffic at one junction for what seemed like ages before I told him, "Tell me how to get there, and you go on ahead so you can get in line." I had driven there before, and the directions seemed simple enough so he went on. We sat in the jam for almost 30 more minutes after he left, but we got moving.

Then it happened: one wrong turn. Just one little wrong turn. Normally, you can just turn around and correct something like that, but for some crazy reason, I never got back on track. I asked probably 8 different people to point me in the right direction, and not a single one seemed to have sent me the right way. I drove in circles all over creation for 2 solid hours. There were moments of tears, panic, begging for a sign to know where I should go, and just saying, "I can't do this." Honestly, I have never felt so helpless, inadequate, and downright stupid in all of my life. My lovely children were sitting in the back quiet as little mice, which made the situation more bearable. Have you ever just had one of those moments when you just realize, "No matter what you think, you're really not in control." Any one of those people could have pointed me in the right direction, and yet none of them did.

By the time I found something I knew, 2 more hours of driving had passed for a total of over 2 and half hours trying to get to a place that should have taken less than 30 minutes. I called to tell P.J. where I was as he was just going to have to come find me, and over my apologetic tears, he said, "Don't worry. It's done. I got the visas, and that's done." Seriously?! I missed the whole process, and yet it still worked out. The funny thing is our little girl was so annoyed in the morning at having to go to immigration again that she was overjoyed when she realized we had done it all without ever getting there!

This whole thing got me thinking about the thousands and thousands of people around me--even around you--whose lives are like that everyday. There are over 2 billion people searching for the right way, and most of them currently have no chance of finding a person who can actually point them in the right direction. My heart's prayer is that they would not spend their lives going around in circles, but that they would have opportunities to meet the Way, the Truth, and the Life. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Day 9: Refinement

Let me set the stage for this post by sharing this photo. This is the weather we would be walking through today, except imagine the clouds grayer in early morning. From below, you could hardly see the seemingly "neverendingness" of the first pass we would be walking up through, with a second pass right up on its heels.

Given that the start of a two pass day fell after my sixth night of little sleep, I began the day in tears, begging the Lord for His help, as I knew I had nothing in me that could accomplish what we needed to. I did not dress my children or self warmly enough in the morning, as I never expected the weather we would encounter most of the day. It looked like this...

If you're not sure what will break you as a parent or a person, I can tell you two things that will: 1) When you have no strength and you beg God to stop horrible weather, and He chooses not to; and 2) When your child is crying for what seems like hours, and you can't fix it. I experienced both today. I will never know why God did not stop that snow from falling when we were so cold, but I do know that He carried me when I couldn't do it... or at least let a horse do it part of the way. When my little girl was so cold, I made her walk with me up the pass to warm her feet, and He even helped me carry her part of the way up on my back. If you know me, you know I don't exactly look robust. We made it over two passes, the second of which was over 18,000 feet. At the top, her horse guide wrapped my little girl with her tear stained cold face in his big coat. As we mounted her back on the horse, other porters warned, "It's really downhill. Be careful." He proudly said, "You wouldn't believe what this girl has ridden a horse through. She can do it."

We did make it that night though there were times I thought I would just keel over, and no one would ever know I was gone. Though I threatened to throw my child off the horse if she didn't stop crying. Though the kids were so cold when we arrived I thought I had made a huge mistake. But. We. Made. It. 

Our gracious teammates had our tent nearly up before I even arrived in the camp so I could get in and warm the kids up. They brought hot tea and a warm dinner, asking nothing of us in return. And you know what? I finally slept. We all slept... like 12 hours!

Day 8: Howls

Today was another difficult day of walking through mucky and slippery terrain. I wished we could have stayed in the last camp to rest, but no one wants to make the already 6-day walking journey any longer than it already is. The weather has been unpleasant with rain off and on. I am told this is very unusual for these trips. By late afternoon, we reached our fantastic campsite for the night where we can even see the start of the first pass we'll make our way up in the morning. From far away, this site looks like it could not possibly be the least bit flat, but it is surprisingly so, aside from the sections giving in to natural erosion. We can see the nearest village off in the distance.

The guys in charge of the animals tied them up quite a distance from the camp in the crook of the mountain. Right before bed time, they went to light a fire in that area. Why? It keeps wolves away apparently.

We woke in the night to sounds of howls. If you've never heard wolf howls aside from those on your television, you might not be sure if it was a howling dog or wolf. I knew our proximity to the village was too far for those howls to be any dogs. Talk about wanting a tent made of something stronger than fabric! That's when you know you're really out in the boonies!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Day 7: Washing Up

As we packed up from the previous night's camp of terror, we watched hundreds and hundreds of sheep parade around the side of the mountain and through the leftovers of the camp, likely on their way down to the city to be sold and butchered. Our kids loved it! It was like a sea of sheep. On the steep hillside nearby, our horse and the 5 mules grazed nearly out of our sight they had climbed so high. Further still above them was a small herd of a sort of mountain goat. Gorgeous!

We met a man on the trail who had his arm in a sling.  When I asked him what was wrong, he said he fell, and it popped out of socket -- a month ago! He had finally finished his work in the fields so he was now on his way down to seek medical attention. We gave him some ibuprofen to take the edge off, but weren't sure he even needed it at this point.

Today's trail is a washed out in many places due to the rain and softness of the soil. Little Girl is awesome on the horse, but so scary to watch on tiny treacherous trails. At times, I have to just close my eyes. When we reached our campsite for the night, we made sure we were far from the possibility of any falling rocks or debris. We got to have our first outdoor bath in a freezing stream down below the camp. Although it was frigid to the point of being painful, it was refreshing.

Day 6 - The Hedge

Here's the journal entry from September 27th, Day 6 of our trip, and my 31st birthday.

"My birthday. Honestly speaking, worst ever. We walked from about 8:30 until 5:30 where we finally decided on a spot. It was terribly cold, too high, and not flat, but the best we could find before dark settled in. This area has very loose crumbly soil that makes the trail precarious, very much like sliding through ash. We expected a long day today, but I think we walked slower than anticipated. I have a terrible headache, and Little Boy is coming down with something. As we set up camp, mysterious white clouds rolled in. The horse man seems to think it means rain will fall."

That night as I lay in the tent, I recalled how few people we had seen and what a perfect target we would be for marauders (if that is even a thing that happens there!). I prayed, "Lord, would you place an army of angels around this camp? Keep us surrounded and safe." The rain began to sprinkle on our tents after we had gone to sleep or at least attempting to sleep while sliding down to the bottom of the tent. During the night at three specific times, I heard what sounded like a gas stove lighting and thought the animal tenders were cold and making hot water. When we woke in the morning, we knew what the sound really was-- 3 landslides that stopped a small distance from our tents.

As we left that camp with thoughts of what could have been disaster for us all, I remembered the hedge I had prayed for. God put it there not to keep people out, but to keep that gravel from rolling us away. It was a reminder that, though it seemed like the world was a million miles away, He was as close as ever.