“Ma’am would you like a snack?” The flight attendant’s voice pulled me out of my thoughts. I caught her staring at my hair comb. It was blue with forget-me-nots and I was saving it for Emmebet.
“Yes,” I said, “I’ll take the peanuts, thanks.”
As I tore open the packet, it occurred to me that I ought to enjoy this treat. For the next few months I’d be lucky to have clean drinking water, let alone a honey-roasted snack.
When I finished, I repositioned my pillow against the headrest and pulled the navy blanket up over my shoulder. I was eager to embrace an overdue nap, but a conversation from seat 32-A refused to stay put.
“I don’t understand why you’d want to travel half way across the world to help them, when there are so many people hurting back home.” The man’s voice was full of conviction.
“You believe our God has compassion for all people, right?” I smiled to myself as Mick gently but assuredly led my plane neighbor through a conversation he and I had just over a year ago.
I stopped eavesdropping and pulled out my picture of Emmebet. She’d been my friend for a year now, and I was finally going to meet her. My finger brushed over her stern face. She was a beautiful woman, but always so solemn in her photos. I was anxious to see the infamously big smile Mick claims she owns. I laid her picture over my heart and covered it with my hand.
A year ago, I was a nurse at Grant County Hospital’s emergency department and I was happy there. I thought.
I wasn’t married and that suited me. I had a good church. I had a nice apartment. I even had a decent cat for company. Still, something gnawed at me.
It was like the sky before dawn. When I ran in the mornings I could identify the right shapes and colors, but something lacked in the hues. I needed the light of the sun to make things clear.
When I met Mick he’d come into the ED with a stubborn cough. He was just back from Rwanda. We started talking and one conversation led to another which led to me walking away from my old life and boarding this plane.
My friends at church think I’m crazy. They remind me how I’d be more help just sending money over to Rwanda. They remind me how poor Grant County is and how badly they need nurses who don’t care about a big paycheck. They remind me of the very real danger I’m facing. Rwanda was and is a very dangerous place.
I wish I could say I disagree. The truth is I’m scared. The truth is I’m not sure what kind of a help I’ll be. All I know is that I have to go.
The more I learned about Rwanda’s history, the more I prayed. The more I prayed, the more I knew I had to go. God had put this in me, this desire to meet more than just physical needs, but emotional and spiritual, too. I now knew what my calling was, and I was determined to follow it.
“Ohhh…” said the voice behind me. It was the sound of a heart’s exhalation, a sound familiar to me. Mick had this ability to break down the defensive walls we build up, leaving you exposed to the truth.
When I first saw the truth stripped down in front of me, it was repulsive. It was then I began writing Emmebet.
It wasn’t a sponsorship. Mick says it’s too easy for people to send money. He wanted friendships. So, when he’d find someone who wanted to know more about Rwanda, he would set us up with a pen pal. Emmebet became mine. I learned more about Rwanda, its history and its people than I ever did through magazine articles or history books.
The strange topography and culture, just words on paper before, would be ordinary life to me soon. My prayer is for God to use me. I am done with being useless.
I thought about the man behind me, and offered a prayer for his journey. The pre-dawn light was just starting to flicker for him. It would take some time for things to become clear.
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