We’ve been home a month now–or a bit more–but Bafut still hovers at the edge of every thought. How do you leave a place and a people who have transformed you? How do you let go of days filled from dawn to dark with purpose? How do you say goodbye to the wisest women in the world without feeling your heart twist into an aching knot?
Bafut bathed me in ochre light and burned the discontent right out of my soul, replacing it with joy. The Sisters–S. Judith, S. Pauline, S. Prisca, S. Celestine, S. Martina, S. Olivia, S. Petra, S. Paula, S. Angeline, S. Inge, S. Celine, S. Amelia, S. Victorine, S. Belinda, S. Bianca–lived their faith every moment of every day. To say that they are good is like saying the ocean is wet. I have never met people more dedicated to using their hands and hearts to create a better world.
There were parties for us, presents, cake, tears and hugs and promises to stay friends. There was a hellishly long and hot ride to Douala, the nightmare of checking luggage, more tears at the gate, then a day and a half in a fog of changing time zones, airplane food, babies crying pathetically as their tiny eardrums throbbed and popped, flight attendants passing out juice and earphones and immigration forms, tears and hugs on this end, then a week of not knowing what day or hour it was. Annie stumbled downstairs and asked me what time it was. I said 3:00. She said a.m. or p.m.?
Then there was unpacking, mail sorted, bills paid, gifts given out, stories told, photographs shown, haircuts and hot baths, and emails emails emails from our posse in W. Africa.
And now we are fully back, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. We haven’t heard a cock crow, a goat bleat, or a child yell “White man!” in weeks and weeks. Annie got all 4 wisdom teeth pulled, and S. Prisca emailed “ashia” today.
So how do we keep this alive? Work. Faith. Love. And for me, a belief that I will go back.
I am collecting laptops to refurbish and send to the school. I wrote a grant application to Express Union for the guest house at Sajocah and have started one to the African Development Foundation for the same thing. I have bought computer programs for math, science, history, fashion design, and CAD that I”m sending over. I have a camera for Gladys and another for Jeffrey. I have clothes and purses and sewing notions and many many patterns for Carine and Marbel and the girls.
But no matter what I raise or find or buy or send, nothing will ever come close to repaying the school, St. Joseph Comprehensive High School, or the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis, for what they gave me. They gave me back belief in my own value, faith in a God who is good, and a heart that allows itself to feel love without fear or panic or regret. Because there is nothing to regret if your heart leads you to a place that needs you and that you need. There is nothing to fear when you know that God has put you in the exact right place at the exact right time, and you accept each challenge that place and time presents with a willing spirit.
The last night at the convent, I told the Sisters that I was not ready to take vows, but that they should know that a Sister lives in my heart and will stay devoted to them and their work. I am truly blessed.
And so it is.