Friday, July 17, 2009

Africa Bound

I'm leaving today for Africa.

It feels like this trip has been a long time coming, and maybe it has subconsciously, but I didn't officially hear the call and begin preparations until just three short months ago. Oh, how far we've come! In the early days, I made a list of fears/questions. I called it my "But What About...?" List. Let's see how they shook out.

1. I've always questioned people doing mission work abroad when there's so much need right here at home.
God is bigger. And He knows what He's doing. When people say to me, "I think it's so great what you're doing," I quickly point out that this isn't my trip, but His. I'm just honored He picked me and has enough faith in me to send me out.

2. I don't know how I will pay for this.
As of today, and with the tremendous, unbelievable generosity of family and friends, I have met, and exceeded by a little, my $4,500.00 goal.

3. I've never been away from Jason or Calleigh this long and it scares me.
The power of prayer, friends. Even as I write this, I feel my mind and spirit calmed. Like they went out for mojitos and left me here to update my blog. It's still on my mind and heart but is not occupying my every thought. I suspect, and hope, there's enough work to do in Africa that I don't have a lot of down time to sit around and be sad.

4. I've never had any desire to go to Africa.
On May 1, this update was written in my journal: It's all I think about. I cannot wait to get there.

5. I've torn the house up and looked in our safety deposit box - can't find my passport and am going to have to go through the process of getting a new one.
04.13.09: Found my old one!

6. I don't like strangers.
It's still not my forte. I'm working on it.

7. I don't like working with people on a team.
It's still not my forte. I'm working on it. Seriously, I have really been trying to seek the good in everyone, not focus on their faults and shortcomings, but, rather, see each person for the wonderful, unique person they are. Even if they do annoying things from time to time. ;)

8. What will I eat there?
I have granola bars, FiberOne bars, jelly beans and peanut butter. We'll see how it goes.

9. Will I be kidnapped by gorillas (or guerillas, for that matter)?
04.09.09: We are not called to be safe, we are simply promised that when we are in danger, God is right there with us.

10. Will I catch malaria?
I started taking anti-malaria pills yesterday. I take one every day while I'm in country and for a week after my return. I also have liquid DEET which is to be applied, head-to-toe, every day. And I think we sleep in mosquito netting.

11. I'm afraid of growing apart from my loved ones during this process.
I don't think this has happened. I like to think this has created Valerie 2.0, a kinder, gentler, more efficient version.

12. I'm afraid of lions and tigers (and bears, oh, my!).
Matthew 10:28 Do not fear things that can destroy the body but rather things that can destroy the soul.

13. I don't want to travel - especially that far, and alone.
Well, I won't be alone in the true sense of the word, but I will not have my favorite people in the whole world by my side. I try to keep reminding myself that I'm just away from my friends and family for 10 days, these sweet, little children we're going to visit have no one. Ever. This pasty white American lady with a lot of questions and Purell may be the closest thing they've ever had and they've waited their entire lives for me to come.

14. Do I have enough vacation to pull this off?
05.05.09: Apparently so.

15. Can I miss this much work?
07.19.09: Apparently so.

16. Can I pull this together so quickly?
I couldn't pull this together so quickly, but we did. Thank you.

17. People will think I'm crazy. Will I have the support of family and friends?
04.01.09: Jason asked me tonight, "so when are you going to Africa?"
04.04.09: Brenda asked me today about the trip, about Sweet Sleep, and was very supportive.
04.06.09: Had lunch with Man. Talked about God pushing me. She said, "that's great!"
04.08.09: Had dinner with DVL5 tonight and told them. All very supportive, intrigued & positive. Especially Amanda.
05.22.09: Feel really blessed to have Emily in my life, for so many reasons, but that she's been my personal advisor on this journey.

And now, as I set off on this journey, I have a new set of "But What About?'s."

- What do I do when I get over there, fall in love, and want to bring one home with me?
- How do I tell them "it's OK" when it's not?
- How can I reinforce in them that there is a God who loves them fiercely?
- What if I have trouble connecting with the kids? I'm not good with kids here. What makes me think I will be with ones on the other side of the globe?

And so I bid adieu, friends. Look for possible updates along the way and know you'll be missed and thought of while I'm gone.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

All Aboard

The train is about to pull out of the Uganda, that is. This past Sunday, we had our "pack party" where everyone came together, brought two big empty suitcases per person and we started packing all of our supplies for the trip. This included, but was not limited to: toothbrushes and tiny tubes of toothpaste for each of the children we'll be visiting, soccer balls and cones to play games with them, jump ropes, crayons, glue, construction paper, etc., etc., etc. Here are a couple of pics - they don't do the sheer amount of STUFF nor the chaos justice but just to give you an idea:

Also, in about three days' time, I collected approximately 700+ Beanie Babies and had to start fending them off for the time being. Turns out people did indeed jump on the Beanie Baby wagon, made quite the investment in the little guys and have had trouble turning loose. That is, until a really good cause came along. Then the benevolence, generosity and veritable tsunami of BBs came pouring in. Just goes to show...God gives you lofty goals but He also provides and richly.

Update: The Dollar General corporation has just offered to donate (yes, DONATE!) all 450 small, handheld mirrors that we'd hoped to give to each of the children! Praise & wonderment! That's all I have to say. Wow.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Signs of the Times

So, you know the latest advertising gimmick is for a company to hire a sign holder, right? The guy who stands on the corner or sidewalk holding (or spinning if they are the more adventurous type)? OK, well, Brentwood - sweet, cozy, until now, not-so-flashy little Brentwood has been taken over by these guys. They're everywhere. At one intersection in particular, there are two, for the same company, on either side of the street.

Here's the first one - we'll call him "Action Jackson." He stands, he shifts his weight back and forth and will occasionally shake the sign to and fro.

And exhibit B:

I can't tell if this guy is really smart or really lazy. Check out his set up. Cooler, back support, shade and the ability to send text messages.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Supplies Needed for Africa

We're trying to hunt down Beanie Babies (or similarly shaped and sized stuffed animals) and small, hand mirrors to give to our orphans in their goody bags. Last count, we're preparing for 450 so we'll need this quantity in both mirrors and animals.

If anyone has any bright ideas as to where to attain the mirrors (cheaply) or has a relative or friend who jumped on the Beanie Baby craze back in the 90's and has since abandoned it, please let me know.

Also, if anyone has Space Bags or Vacuum Bags (the kind that you put stuff in and suck out the air and they get flat) that they would be willing to loan me, I would appreciate it.

Thanks so much,

Valerie Eagan Mangrum
615.369.4635 work
615.668.1708 cell

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Daddy at Work

My sweet Daddy took a "job" recently ("job" because it's a non-paying gig) at his home golf course, Harpeth Hills. One day a week, he works as the starter, making sure people get in their carts, start where they're supposed to, have paid and, when they return, that the cart gets returned properly and that they haven't left anything behind.

We happened to be in the neighborhood today so popped in for a quick visit. Check him out in action: