Editor’s note: Jessica Witer, of Anna, left May 21 to spend the summer in Namibia, Africa, on a mission trip.
The 22-year-old, self-employed massage therapist is traveling with Experience Mission, of Fort Wayne, Indiana. As she is able and has access to the Internet, she will send tales of her experiences, which the Sidney Daily News will publish weekly.
OKAHANDJA, Nambia — By the end of our time in the farming community, we had adjusted to life there so much. The rooster, which had always bothered me in the beginning, I no longer noticed. The cold showers, which were so hard to stand, were far from enjoyable but had become doable. Even the pap was easier to eat.
Our relationships with everyone in the family became deep so quickly. There was a chasm at first, which kept us separated by unfamiliarity and shyness. By our last day, our host parents really felt like parents to us. Paulis shepherded us everywhere and was in charge of our time schedule. Maria took care of me when I got really sick. The three women who stayed with them on the weekends stayed up late with us, talking about boys, our dreams and telling secrets. The two little girls truly felt like annoying little sisters.
We spent our last day together and gathered around a bonfire for dinner. We played games together and shared food until finally, we went to bed. We got up at 6 a.m. the next morning and packed up our things. We had oatmeal for breakfast and then loaded our things into the trailer.
The night before, Paulis had held a service in our honor, where we sang, danced and gave our final testimonies. The African men and women there thanked us for the impact we’d made on their lives, even though we’d only been there two weeks and had talked to many only once. Just spending time with them had meant so much to so many people, so much more than any of us realized or expected possible.
The mere fact that a group of white Americans had come to spend time with them, not to change them, but to pray and dance and sing and worship with them, had meant so much to these people. They believe they’re beggars and cursed because so many people treat them that way. We’d accomplished our goal by meeting them at their level, giving them dignity and worth by spreading the love of God. It means so much to me to have had them tell us of how we affected them through our outreach.
Leaving in the morning was harder, though, because the family was so special to us at that point. Going around saying, “Goodbye,” to all of them — most likely for forever — brought tears to almost everyone’s eyes. Maria cried when I thanked her for taking care of me, and she told me she loved me. The girls our age cried because they loved us so much, but knew, odds were, we wouldn’t be back. They also knew they would probably never visit us. They were single mothers. How could they ever hope to afford it?
We packed into the van and waved goodbye.
It wasn’t much time before we reached Okahandja. We got to the church we were working with and had lunch. While Andy was going over the details with our community leaders, we were allowed to go to the market and get snacks. It was the first time in weeks we were able to choose our own food, and we raced through the store. We all went straight for the chocolate. I’ve always loved dark chocolate. I never realized how much I take it for granted.
We spent from 2 to 4 p.m. with local teachers, learning from them their schedule, lessons and teaching style, so we could aid them in the coming two weeks. We were split into two groups of five, half staying with Hardis and Joy, half staying with Axyl and Lynette.
We ate a simple dinner and quietly rejoiced that we didn’t have to eat 100 percent of the meals here. We could stop once we got full (another luxury I take for granted). For the first time since leaving Fort Wayne, we all took hot showers. I stood under the water as long as I could, just enjoying yet another luxury. We all had real beds with real blankets and pillows. The house has electricity all day, not just when the solar panels get enough sun. The yard has grass we can walk through, so our feet stay clean.
Living in a first world country, we all are aware that we have a quality of life that other people aren’t lucky enough to be born into. We know that our lives are filled with luxuries we take for granted. But I don’t think anyone truly understands how much we take for granted — running water, plumbing, good food, safe water, even grass — until they’ve gone without it, even for two weeks.
I have an appreciation for the United States now I never used to. I understand now why every single person we’ve talked to has laughed when we asked them where they’d go if they could go anywhere and answered, “America! Duh.”