Monday, July 30, 2007


We had a group from work church fly off to Zambia for a couple of weeks. They worked with children and although they did much to help the children they spent time with, I imagine they brought back many unexpected treasures of heart from those kids. I can see it in the eyes of the few returning travelers I have seen.

Okay, the trip was long. one leg here, a longer leg there, under conditions I can't and don't want to even imagine.There is no question that those people are heroes. They are God's worker bees. I can't wait to hear the stories as they are able to release them.

But, let's be real, people. Even worker bees have family- and sometimes family ties that are stretched millions of miles ( or so Zambia seems) can be in need of strength, guidance and support.
That's where I come in. You, know, God may have needed to look over the travelers, but I had to manage the fam and friends hotline here.

I realized I was out of my comfort zone when the first questions showed up in my inbox.
" When did they arrive?"
" Did anyone lose their luggage?"
" Did my loved one remember his toothbrush?"
" Any messages for me?"
I rattled the tin can phone that was supposed to connect me to our Africa travelers, and I even jiggled the string, but alas it was a good while before I actually had confirmation that our group had arrived. The info was sparse and short syllabled when it did come, and I knew the families and friends were disappointed. I was sort of expecting viewmaster verbage- colorful descriptions of every moment. WEll, when you are in the depths of another culture, such is not always possible.

I sent out messages as I got them, but they were as received- short and sweet.
Message number one said something like: They arrived.

It didn't say WHERE they arrived, or Who arrived? or How. I mean, Did they get to the place they intended to or did they make it to the continent? Did the entire team finish the trip? or did some stop off for Starbucks somewhere along the way? Did they make it with all their gear? or did they end up with other people's stuff? My info feed was warm, and well received, but short.

I started making up my own messages, just to have something to send.
One such message went something like this:
They arrived
They have noticed the terrain is a bit different than here
The stars shine brighter away from the Raleigh City lights.
They have eaten something.

I tried to stick with the truth, as I guessed it. No one complained- I could have probably sent out my favorite recipes and they would have acted as bandaids in between fruitful info, but I didn't think of that tasty tidbit until too late.

I tried to be as accurate as I could with actual transfer of actual contact. When my boss was thoughtful enough to call me AT HOME on a Saturday afternoon, as I was leisurely working on a slipper-like-object, I about fell out of my chair. I mean, really- Who calls you from Africa on a Saturday afteroon? Well, my boss does. and my buddy work friend does. and I'm glad.

At the time, I was in disbelief. The connection was broken at best, but after 4 short attempts at talking, I got this out of the conversation: Elenie!! It's Ick. ICK!! Ambia NO, eally!!!!!.
After that delicious and very exciting conversation-ette, I rushed to church and sent out an update to the family. It read pretty much as I described it above. Somehow, it was enough.
The words really didn't matter. It was the fact that I heard the voices of our team that meant the most.

I don't know if I'm cut out to be the tin can connector, but it was fun while it lasted. The best part was when my boss called on their way home and wouldn't you know it? I was away from my desk. I heard the front desk receptionist's shrill voice calling me to GET THE PHONE!!! and so I quick quick like a bunny left the ladie's room, and caught the phone. Having my boss call or need my assistance the minute I am out of easy reach is as routine as birds feeding outside my window, so I knew in my heart things would be okay on that day. They all made it home safely, and the gaps- well they will be filled in by those who were on the Africa adventure when they are ready, and willing to share.

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