Friday, December 9, 2011

Alaska- Reminiscence of Africa

I view courage as more than fearlessness. It is something deeper than a surface leveled bravado, a witless and flippant disregard for danger. No, I see courage as a full recognition of present danger, but with the resolve to press ever onward. I see courage as the overcoming of fear, putting trust in Jehovah, and following his leadings. That is to me what true courage is.
Soon, such courage will need to be called on when I set sail for Italy. When I think back to all the different things that happened in Africa, I can't help but wonder what the future might bring. I'll include a little bit about what I think about Africa and how that affects my expectations if Italy.

Africa, so different from home. Oh, how many times I thought I was totally out of my mind for going there. I can still remember my thinking...
I didn't really want to call it to mind. Even as I was in London, simply days away from my flight to Africa, I tried to push the thought to the back of my mind as much as possible. I was really terrified of Africa, and banning it from my active thought list seemed to give me a measure of comfort. As I type this, I can clearly see that I simply was too afraid of the unknown to approach Jehovah with it. How backwards is that???
Finally I got onto my flight from London to Uganda, and as I sat there I finally was forced to accept the fact that Africa was just a few hours away. It was far too late to turn back now. I didn't sleep a wink.
As we came below the layer of clouds, I looked out the little plane window to get my first glances of Africa. Flat....
Not a whole lot to look at, really.
As we landed, I was instantly surrounded by what I didn't know. Terrified out of my mind, I stood in the airport waiting to be picked up. Standing there, watching all the other passengers get picked up by their rides, I was the last person from my flight left. "Of course." I thought to myself as I stood there for what seemed to be days. "The most ignorant white kid in the heart of Africa, alone." Sounded to me like the start of a documentary of someone who died and who's body was never found again.
Finally I was picked up, after waiting for an hour. As the brother drove me to the Uganda Bethel, I remember feeling a sudden boost of optimism. "You know what," I thought, "this might be alright." That was the last time I'd feel that for almost a week.

Uganda Bethel
I made a huge mistake in planning my trip. I opted to stay in the Uganda Bethel for 3 days before I went to Fort Portal, the town I would eventually spend my 6 months. What an epic miscalculation! For those three days, I had NOTHING to do. What does my mind do when I have nothing to do? Worry. I over thought my future experience so thoroughly that I made myself literally ill. I was so amazingly homesick that I could hardly eat. I saw outside the walls of Bethel all the poverty of the city around me, and knew that soon I'd be in the middle of it all. For three agonizing days I worried and waited for what I saw as the end of me. It seemed like the longest three days I'd ever live. I prayed countless times just to be able to see some light in such a dark emotion.

Finally my ride came, Brian Bennett, the brother I'd stay with. Still wasn't relieved. I was so sick with worry, I could hardly greet him. My smile only told so much, I'm sure. Long story short, he drove me from Kampala, the capital, to Fort Portal. It was a trip of 5 hours (or so). Through slums, and more slums, and more slums. It was that trip that I saw true poverty for the first time that I was old enough to grasp.
"What have I done...?" I remember thinking to myself. What I fool I felt, thinking I would be able to handle something like this. Looking back now, I never even thought to pray, so shocked and fearful to my core. Again, how backwards is that?? Finally, the sun dropped, and I wasn't able to see much of anything. That helped a lot, honestly.
We finally arrived in Fort Portal, and we stopped by Chris Panduro's house. I was so overwhelmed and emotionally and mentally spent that it was everything I could do just to greet him and make small talk. When we left, Brian and his wife took me to the local Hotel, Mountains (the one where I was playing in the pool later on) for dinner. That helped, knowing that there was at least a somewhat decent place to rest if I felt I needed. Of course, all I wanted to do was get to what my room would be and rest. I got to my new house and my new room, and put my stuff down to finally crash in what I would call home. I determined that it would be best to slam it hard and go out in the field the next day, instead of taking the day to get used to my new surroundings. "I've waiting long enough already! No more sissyness!" So the next day I went in service, and I was put with Chris Panduro.
Abraham and Myself

I can still remember my first door. I stumbled over it like it was the first time I'd taken a door, even though I had been in the Pioneer work for years. Chris must have thought I was truly a moronic white kid. Which...I was.
That same morning I went on my first African bible study with Chris. That is where I started to realize how...public breast feeding is in Africa. Maybe you all remember that story?
Side note: My earphones broke so many times it was ridiculous! I didn't ask for much, but one of the things I really, really wanted was to have my music for walking to the meetings and town. My music helped me distance myself when I was so thoroughly overwhelmed. It gave me the shred of privacy left that I desperately craved! Try being the third white guy in town, being watched by EVERYONE. From a mile away, the locals would STARE at me the whole time, and turn their head and watch as I walked down the road. You don't have a clue how nice it is to blend in with a crowd in the city and never be noticed until you go to a place where EVERYONE watches you. What a huge shock just in that regard alone! I remember making it back to London on my way home, knowing that no one cared who I was and no one bothered to pay any mind to me. It doesn't sound like a blessing, but I sure felt like it was one!

One of my studies
Anyway. As time in Africa went by, I experienced ups and downs, saw things I'd never seen before, and grew in more ways than I knew. I had different aspects of my personality brought out to my self, and plenty of metaphorical angels and demons brought to my attention. It was an extreme refining process, that much is certain. Africa would be something that left more of an impression on Trevor than he could have known. It was one of the most difficult things he had done, in so many ways.

How do I feel about it now? Honestly? As I'm typing this, I'm more and more coming to what I would call a much delayed full acceptance. A late closure, but closure indeed. I couldn't feel happier about all my experiences, positive and negative. I've found that even in all of the difficulties, the blessings so drastically outweigh them. It can't properly be expressed with simple words how much Jehovah fills and 'presses down' the blessings on his loyal people. Africa, it was great. Yes, it was hard and at times I wanted to curl up into a shriveled little ball of despair, but how thoroughly Jehovah compensated for those momentary feelings of negativity!

Italy. My next Skyline. What do I expect?
Hard to say, really. I'll put it like this. When I was getting ready to go to Bethel, there was no lack of friends telling me what Bethel would be like. I got so many different stories that seemed to mesh terrible together that I was scared and confused. Finally I decided to just request them NOT to tell me what it would be like and just let me figure it out for myself. What a good choice! Bethel was nothing like what they had all told me! I started to realize that the same experience is viewed uniquely from person to person.
Same with Africa. Many wanted to tell me what to think and what to expect, but honestly I paid little mind to it. I thought it better to go to Africa with a clean slate of mind and take it for what it was from Trevor's eyes, no one elses.
See the pattern?
As with Italy, I've received a lot so far in the way of opinions. I appreciate the thoughts and advice, but as with Bethel and Africa, I've been developing a clean slate of mind so as to appreciate what Italy is to Trevor, no one else. One man's kryptonite is another's driving force. Each experience is seen uniquely from the person's eyes.
Am I nervous? ...No, actually. Am I worried? Not really. To be honest, I can see less challenges in some realms, while more challenges in other realms. I don't dare say that it will be easier than Africa, but neither would I say it would be harder. Just...different.
In the end, I try not to get too worried about it. Look forward to the good times as fond memories, and view whatever trials to come as chances to further refine my personality. What more could I realistically do at this point?
With sails aimed at the winds of Jehovah's guidance, I set sail. Let's see what is on those distant Horizons, shall we?



  1. Good story. I especially enjoyed you telling your innermost thoughts, that's something most people don't really do. Your pics & description of trip helps those of us that wish we could go to such places, but cannot. Hope you have another rewarding trip to Italy; continue to share with us. Your bro,

  2. I haven't forgotten how scared you looked when you first arrived. The culture shock, the food shock, the field shock... We didn't know if we did good by encouraging you to come down there. And then slowly, you came out of your shell. We left for a month and when we came back we found a guy completely different from the Trevor who arrived and didn't talk to anyone (especially crazy girls who thought they were going to marry him only because he said Hi). We look back at the photos and we see the difference between the October's Trevor and the January's Trevor. You matured so much in those few months you have no idea. At the end we were proud of you and glad you came. Now you're ready to ROCK THE WORLD (or at least Italy for now ;] )

  3. I must say your blog is don't know me but I'm a fellow sister and a "needgreater" (my husband hates that word..why I dont know *chuckle*) as well. We're serving in rural Northeastern Brazil which I feel like is africa plus mexico..add in some Portuguese and stir. A few years ago when I was single I served in Italy as well - but in there are a slew of immigrants there from just about any and everywhere. Your experience in Africa really will prepare you for English service there b/c most of the english speakers, at least when I was there, were africans. I'm sure you sooo already knew're thinking "duh" and you dont want to hear anything else about my opinion. But I HEART Italy and you will too. Thats all I'm gonna say.. Oh yah and the pizza is BANGING..nothing like any other pizza you ever ate. And be sure to wash it down with some Limoncello! Thanks for telling it like it is because you do go through all of those feelings frustrations, negative thoughts..its not all paradise and rainbows when you're serving. Those feelings are normal..only those who take the plunge understand that. But yes, it pays off and teaches you loads about yourself. Checkout our blog I'm terrible at updating it just bc I get frustrated with the 3rd world internet connections. Much agape and whatnot. :-P

  4. Moving entry! It's a great outlook to have. Leave each day to it's own anxieties right? Great advice, sometimes hard to follow. But I find that there are unique aspects that I enjoy and challenges with each place that I explore. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but in different ways! Ganbatte! Buf if you can do your friends a favor, remember to stop smell the roses every once in a while ne?

  5. Brings back great memories bro, I would do all again!

  6. Charles- Thank you for you comment! It is such a pleasure for ones to share this with me. I'm feeling continually that I am blessed with more than I can count, and loving comments from the friends aid in the efforts!

    Tabi/Chris- Eesh. I know. I was/am about as green as they come. Honestly, though, a guy has got to grow up sometime, right? Encouraging me to come to Uganda was a wonderful thing. I honestly believe that Jehovah used you greatly to get my butt in gear since I'd just recently come from Bethel.
    For now, Italy. Long term maybe, maybe not. Someday maybe we can 'ROCK THE WORLD' together again!

    Amber- When you first started the comment, the 'You don't know me' part was funny. It sounded like the start of a spy plot. "You don't know me, but what I tell you to do will save your life. Go down the hallway and turn left, wait three seconds, and then duck."
    Alright, maybe that was a bit too much. Anyway, I love your comment! Lots of energy! I feel like doing pushups just from reading it! Those comments (mostly regarding food) about Italy are TOTALLY welcome!
    Nice to meet some fellow need greaters (sorry Amber's hubby), and I'll watch your blog! Maybe I will learn a thing or two! Or nine...

    Nautica- Each day to its own anxieties indeed! Also, Nautica, I'll have a face full of pedals if need be! But lots of pedals. Some from here...some from there...a bee or two.
    Basically you get the dumbest reply comment I've done today. Sorry.

    Chris- As would I! Though I'd change a few of my own actions, haha. Still, one of the best memories of my life was serving with you!

    1. Christopher PanduroFebruary 14, 2012 at 9:43 PM

      You started the engine and put it into gear and so Jehovah is guiding you like Paul into Macedonia.. Enjoy all the wonderful experiences you will accumulate by working with Jehovah's spirit, look back at the fond memories but move forward to your final goal...

      Bravissimo fratello mio, sta mi bene.