Our West Africa Trip, Part 2 | Personal

 Our West Africa Trip Part 2 | Personal

Click here to read Part 1 of our trip to West Africa.

The next day we began what would become our normal routine. After breakfast, we split into groups and went out into the community. Nathan and I were together and had a translator, since the people speak mainly French and another language we didn’t know. We would approach people on the street and talk to them – getting to know them first, then leading into talking about stories from the Bible if the timing was right.

I have to give credit where credit is due – our translator was awesome. Not only did he speak English extremely well, he also knew the culture there. Sometimes we would want to say something and he would stop us, but most of the time he would launch right into Bible stories. Seeing someone so strong in their faith that they are willingly to share it with anyone was both humbling and inspiring. For us, it was easier – we would be in the country for a short time and then leave. Our purpose was to talk about God. For him, that’s his home, and it’s a lot harder to share your faith with people you know than with people you will probably never see again. But he was unashamed and excited to share with people. Nathan and I both learned so much just from watching him all week.

 Our West Africa Trip Part 1 | Personal

After our morning walk, we would head over to a local school for international kids. There was a team that was supposed to come and lead a spiritual emphasis week, but they got stuck in the blizzard and couldn’t make it. So our team pulled together and led crafts, Bible stories, music, and activities for the elementary school kids. This was way outside of my comfort zone – I find it much easier to talk to people and build relationships than help out with crafts, but luckily our team was amazing and I was able to fill in wherever needed.

 Our West Africa Trip Part 1 | Personal
 Our West Africa Trip Part 1 | Personal

Later in the afternoon, we went back out walking and talking to people. Basically, we were in the community as much as possible. This allowed us to not just talk to a few people, but develop relationships and truly get to know some locals that we visited over and over again. This is where my heart is – getting to know people, finding out more about them, and showing them that we truly cared about them.

At night, we would crash – and hard. The days were jam packed but so rewarding. One day, we were even invited over to one of our new friend’s houses for dinner. She made us the national dish – fish, vegetables, and rice, and we ate inside her home. The food was incredible, and her generosity towards us was touching and, again, I was humbled. Though I would never call myself rich, we have far more than most people there would ever see in a lifetime, and yet we ate their food and were given time and gifts that meant more to us than we can say.

 Our West Africa Trip Part 1 | Personal
 Our West Africa Trip Part 1 | Personal

On Friday and Saturday we got to be tourists. We went to a local market that sold African souvenirs a couple times. I got to barter a little bit, which reminded me of growing up where we bartered for everything - although my translator told me I was terrible at it! I’m sure he had to be joking…I think I was pretty good at getting a deal ;) We also got to visit a nearby site where a lot of the slave trade going out of Africa took place. This was incredibly sad and sobering. I knew how horrible slavery was, but I learned a lot more about the extent of the crimes against these people who did nothing wrong. It broke my heart to know that this went on for hundreds of years. I wouldn’t even treat animals in the way countless people were treated, and my eyes were opened.

 Our West Africa Trip Part 1 | Personal

Friday night was also one of the pinnacles of our visit. All week we had invited the community to watch a Christian film, and more people showed up than we even hoped. We got to share through our translators the reason we came, and the result was beautiful. It was a night I’ll never forget. I slipped away at one point to shed a few tears, because I knew I’d be leaving soon, and no part of me wanted to go.

Late Saturday night, we headed to the airport. Even though it was a 2:30am flight the lines were long and it took awhile to get through security, but soon we found ourselves at the gate. I thankfully slept most of the way back to America. As we flew into the Dulles airport, though, I couldn’t help but cry again – I do love it here, and I’m grateful to live in America, but there’s a big part of me that belongs in a different country. I can’t explain it, and I don’t fully understand it, but Virginia will never truly feel like home, no matter how long I spend here. I think I was meant to live halfway around the world, and I saw that even more clearly on this trip. What this means for our future I do not yet know, but I trust that God will show us when the time is right.

So there is our trip! I’ve traveled all over the world, leaving little pieces of my heart everywhere I went, and this time was no different. I hope and pray I can visit again someday soon. And I am so thankful for this trip, an adventure that has forever changed my life.

 Our West Africa Trip Part 1 | Personal

Maria Grace Photography

My name is Maria, and I am a wedding and family photographer based out of Hampton Roads, Virginia, but I am always excited about traveling. I love families who truly enjoy spending time with each other and living life together. I love couples that are looking forward to their wedding day because they are so excited to finally be married to.