Tuesday morning dawned with rain.
Our trip this year coincided with Ghana’s rainy season. For two solid weeks before our arrival, it had rained buckets. Friends emailed us, advising us to be sure to bring an umbrella. Indeed, when we landed two weeks earlier, we landed in a rainstorm. But by the time we left the airport that day, the sun was breaking through the clouds. There was no rain at all during our stay – until the morning we were to leave. God knew what kind of weather we needed and He provided!
The gray clouds on this day of our departure mirrored my mood. The suitcases sat by the door, glaring at me in accusation: WHY are we leaving this place? Since we had to be at the airport by 8:00 am, we had to leave by 6:30. This was a mighty early start to what would be a very long day.
We shared a quick breakfast of rice water, bread with jam, and tea with Rev. James’ wife Mary one last time. (We already said our good-byes to Rev. James on Sunday evening, because he left to go to Norway to counsel some friends.) Trying to swallow food when your heart is aching is really tough. Couple that with attempting to carry on some small talk – the feeling was almost overwhelming. Once we finished trying to eat, we loaded the bags into the back of Richie’s pickup and ourselves into Rev. James’ car headed to Accra’s Kotoka International Airport.
Our adopted family stood, clustered by the house. They waved and blew kisses to us as Stephen backed the car out into the road. I’d miss Mary and her daughters Lexie and Kelsey, Ben, Pastor Johnson, Pastor Isaac, Stephen, Emmanual, Christina, and Lizzy so much.
We were a fairly quiet bunch driving to Accra. I suspect each of us was lost in our own thoughts of leaving Ghana and going back to the USA. Richie, Stephen, and Pastor Isaac helped us unload our gear, and I said my last good-bye to Richie with a long hug. He’s a good man; I am honored to be his heart-mom and friend.
Checking in at the airport went smoothly. We ended up with a bit of extra time to spend in the little shops at Kotoka Airport. I really wanted one last Fanta Pineapple soda, and was able to find one in a newsstand. I sat down, sipping the sweet drink slowly, so I could savor it as long as possible.
When we were called to the gate, we worked to cheer each other up by pointing out ladies we thought would possibly make a good wife for Ben! We’d played this game with Ben throughout our journey – we’d point out a lovely lady and Ben would find some reason to reject her! It was all in fun and Ben would laugh with us. So even though Ben wasn’t there to defend himself, we still managed to play the game of “Let’s Find Ben A Wife.”
The flight crew walked past us and shortly thereafter we began boarding the plane. The flight home was not full and we each ended up having a full row to ourselves in the back of the plane. The plane’s engines began to throb. I watched the rain splashing on the windows of the plane and felt tears begin to prickle in my eyes. The plane started to taxi, my tears began to trickle down my face. As we took off, I craned my neck to say good-bye to Ghana as the tears streamed full-force down my face. (I was such a mess that the flight attendant came to check on me – I told her I always cried when I had to leave Ghana. She smiled, patted my hand, and said she understood.)
Once in flight, I began to mentally coach myself back into the US lifestyle.
By the time we landed in New York almost 12 hours later, I had shored up my defenses, and stepped dry-eyed off the plane back into the Land of Plenty of Stuff.
You’d think it would get easier. I mean, this was my 6th visit to Ghana. Why does my heart still feel like it’s ripped in two when I leave?
Perhaps it is one way to keep the fire burning, to keep the hopes and dreams alive for helping others have a better life. Maybe it is just a reminder that God has a definite plan for my life, and I need to keep walking in it.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 comes to my mind: “ For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
That promise is the Silver Lining of life!