Our thirteen children (and Prava) have arrived in their homelands (Uganda and Nepal.)
This will be one of my last blog posts on here....what a wild and crazy (and wonderful!!) adventure this last year has been. I can't thank everyone enough for their encouragement and prayers along the way. It really kept us going! I'm in awe of God's protection...sure, we had some reaaaaaally annoying times where our bus broke down on the road, but it could have been much worse! Sicknesses were even minimal.
I'm unsure how I can even attempt describing the emotions of this past week. Here's an excerpt from an email I wrote earlier:
"I'm sitting down--completely alone--for the first time in a while. I keep expecting to look out the window and see the kids running around....or to hear their laughter and footsteps as they come running toward me. But that's not reality, unfortunately. While it is wonderful to be "me" again, my heart aches as I miss the kids. There has only been one or two times in my life where my heart hurt (to the point of actually being able to feel it...) and that's what it felt like when I said goodbye on Sunday and Tuesday."
All three teams (Central, East, and West) spent approximately a week in Virginia before the kids headed home. During that time, I really enjoyed interacting with the other team leaders/chaperones/road guys. We could all understand the frustrations--and amazing aspects--of road life! I had never met the kids on the other teams, so I loved that as well! We slept in a building that USED to be a school---so we spent every hour with each other before the kids left to fly home.
Last Sunday at 7am, I watched our precious Nepalis pull away in a bus....Prava (chaperone) has become like a sister to me, and I miss not having her around. And of course Suresh, Yeshoda, and Neha are incredible and have impacted my life more than they will ever know. Later that day, I was saying more painful goodbyes to six of our Ugandan children (Martin, Lincoln, Maria, Rose, Sarah, and Isaac.) I was drained, yet I managed to summon every last bit of energy to let them know how much I love them and will miss them. I'll be honest: the day was painful, and I don't cry very often. But I believe I cried harder on Sunday than I had in two or three years.
Tuesday afternoon we said goodbye to the remaining four (Ezera, Jimmy, Gift, Zurufah.) Little Zurufah gripped me around the neck, and I picked her up and just held her, not wanting to let her go. Kory and I were the ones that stayed behind; Alan, Taylor, and Jay accompanied the kids to Uganda. Saying goodbye to my team-mates was an odd feeling :/ As the bus pulled down the road, all I could think was, "I should be on there with them....like I have been for the last 300 days.)
I have thanked God for giving me strength to get through the past few days. Though I'm sad and miss the kids greatly, I am not someone to lock myself in a bedroom and be anti-social. Sure, there is a time for mourning--but then you have to find strength to continue on. It helps that I'm in VA, surrounded by dear friends this coming week (not to mention, busying myself with several photoshoots.)
"So what's next for you, Ashley?" is the all-important question I've been getting :) My heart STILL longs to spend about a year doing missions in Africa, so that will probably happen by early 2010 I hope. But until then, I have a neat opportunity that has recently come into play. Since it is not completely for sure yet, I will explain it in detail in the near future.
Sometime next week I plan to photoshop and upload beautiful portraits of the children. I pulled each one aside last week when we were at the park. I'm sure you'll enjoy them, so feel free to check back.