Touched-down Africa!

Today marks one year since I touched down in Africa! And boy, what a year it has been. I remember making the comment when I was preparing to depart for South Sudan that I was looking forward to the move because the past six months had been so unsettled. The person I made the comment to laughed and said “I don’t know many people who move to Africa seeking stability.” When I made that statement last year, I had no idea what was in store…

To truly appreciate this story, you need to understand how I ended up in Africa. Since arriving in Washington, D.C. and getting plugged in at McLean Bible Church (and the Global Impact Ministry), I wanted to not only travel abroad but eventually live abroad. I initially thought that it would be as a missionary in some far off land. And at the start of 2011, I was having that conservation with several people about various organizations. But in April of 2011 I was offered a job working as a legislative assistant to a Mid-western Congressman. By January 2013, I was pretty satisfied with my professional career. While I didn’t think I would be in the Congressman’s office for a long period of time, I just assumed that I would take the next year and figure things out. Again, life was good…and I was the Congressman’s point person on very important issues.

You know, when life “seems to be going your way” you are unable to notice the cracks in the foundation…or maybe you notice the cracks but don’t think much about them. Capitol Hill was becoming a difficult place for Member offices. Sequestration had cut the office budget by nearly ten percent and several offices were forced to make drastic cuts. I guess the “cracks” in the foundation should have alerted me that January afternoon when I was called into the Congressman’s office by the Chief of Staff. But I had no idea what he wanted to talk about so to me, it was just another meeting. But ten minutes into the conversation my world has been flipped upside down. While I tried to understand the difficult decision the office was making in letting me go, inside my pride was taking a beating. Maybe if I was always late, never completed a project or constantly gave the Congressman bad information, I could see why they would let me go. But I was always the first in the office and next to the last person to leave the office late at night. I always had a smile on my face and tried to encourage others during the difficult times in the office. And while the Congressman and Chief of Staff continued to let me know that it had nothing to do with my work performance, my pride was wounded and hurt.

I went through a series of interviews, often getting call backs for second and third round interviews, only to have the door closed in the end. I had a conversation with my old boss at the American Bankers Association and when I told him that I was confused and not sure what direction to pursue, he told me that he thought that I would be in Africa by now. His comments didn’t help the situation but it did make me think.

The job search was wearing me down and I needed a break. In March, I needed to get away so really good friends in France and Germany opened up their homes to allow me to take a much needed vacation (picture from those trips above – top France/bottom Czech Republic). After I returned in April, I had a better outlook on my situation. Around that time, I became aware that the International Republican Institute (IRI) was looking to fill two positions – one in South Sudan and the other in the Middle East. I applied for both but the African Division was faster in responding to my application. I was invited in for an interview and received a job offer in July.

I truly believe that if you look closely at this process, you would see God’s fingerprints on every step of the journey. When I accepted the job in the Congressman’s office, I was asked why I would go back to Capitol Hill. I would be taking a salary cut and would be losing all of my “free time.” I told the friend that returning to Capitol Hill would open up the opportunities to live abroad or reconnect with my roots in Alabama. While I didn’t expect the “unemployed desert” for five months, I ended up right where I wanted to be – in Africa. But even when you eventually realize your dream, life isn’t always what it seems…(to be continued)

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