A bit late on this post, but it was a significant part of our year, and why we are doing what we are doing in life! A year ago, when we first told Jennifer (Arianna’s former boss at Kijabe, East Africa regional director for Serge), that we were interested in joining, she told us “great, but you have to start the process NOW so you can go to the worldwide retreat.” That began the process of Sonship, a 8 month long discipleship course, a flight to Philadelphia back in the fall for interviews (Assessment & Orientation), and the beginning of the transition to Serge.
All of that happened on schedule, so we were able to travel to Spain in May to meet our new “family.” In some ways it was stressful – kinda like Freshman orientation for college. But we did get to deepen roots with our Kijabe team and our other friends around East Africa. It was also great to see where we fit into the big picture of what Serge is doing around the world – turns out that the healthcare focus that is the center of work in our East Africa region is pretty unique among an organization made of church workers, business people, artists, etc. We are grateful that Serge has a concept of holistic ministry – that workers can come in all shapes and sizes, bringing their gifts and talents to the table – and that each region and team will be unique. And we are so grateful to have amazing team leaders and regional leaders who we respect and love dearly, who can lead us and protect us so we have energy and focus for the long road ahead.
After the week at the conference, the girls left to return to Africa and I stayed on for nearly another week for a bike tour with several teammates from Kijabe and Aaron, an insane athlete who is part of the Granada team. We rode for 4 days, went 150 miles, and climbed 32,000 feet. . .8 hours in the saddle each day. The most climbing I had ever done beforehand in a day was around 3,000 feet – this was a HUGE jump, but it was completely amazing.
Below are some pictures of the journey, which started out at the Alhambra in Granada, and ended at the Mediterranean sea. Olive trees on the hillside, and Masso and I at the end of a brutal hike-a-bike on day 1. What I loved about the trip is that you could always see where you had come from and where you were going. We could see the roads we had traveled during the day snaking off into the distance and the pueblo several thousand feet below where we had tapas before the last climb of the day. Above you could see the snowy peak of the Sierra Nevada range – our first destination – which loomed in the distance.
The road leading to the Pico Veleta is the highest paved road in Europe, topping out at around 11,000 feet. We started around 6,000 for this day’s climb – quite tough. Below, Aaron and I watching Michael climb below us.
Top of the climb, from which we hiked through glacier fields before descending to the night’s rest point.
This was a completely once-in-a life time sort of trip, and maybe some of the most fun I’ve ever had. It is great doing these things in the context of friendship building. Masso is an east-Africa veteran of 20 years, and an absolute legend among the people of Serge, and after spending this week and seeing him completely in his element, I understand why. The absolute master of a one-liner, there were points at which I thought I might fall off the bike from laughter. Aaron would warn us of “little ramps” ahead, which grew from 5 feet to 2,000 as the trip went on – any sort of climb became a ramp. And Mara, who got a nasty cold and took an afternoon to rest, who referred to us as Shackleton, the famous arctic explorer who would leave no man behind.
One of my favorite stories from the trip is that of Boabdil, the last Moorish King to live in Granada, as told by Washington Irving in Tales of the Alhambra. Boabdil cut a deal with Ferdinand and Isabella, rulers of Spain, to let the Moors abandon the region peacefully, rather than fight an untenable battle. As he rode up into the mountains above Granada, much the same route we took, he paused to look down at his beloved home and wept. Legend has it that his mother, Aixa, berated him, saying Boabdil “wept like a woman for what he could not hold as a man.”
Poor Boabdil was the source of many jokes as we tried to make light of pain on the difficult climbs.
Below: The trail ahead – a brutal hike-a-bike that was originally a mule-trail for traders.
The great thing about the trip is that the route Aaron planned for us had food and water often along the way, so we weren’t packing heavy. We would stop in the Pueblos for lunch and at springs along the way for water. This was a natural sparkling water spring – the water would gush out in spurts – when you heard the pipe bubbling, you would get your bottle ready and grab some natural Pelligrino!
As if the climb to the Pico Veleta wasn’t hard enough, we added a climb that was the championship leg of the Welte D’Espagne last year. . .needless to say we went a bit slower than the champions:) This is the road from Orjeva to Pietra – just a little ramp.
A month out, it seems like this was a complete dream. We are back to normal life in Kijabe. . .but I do feel like I have a slightly different (hopefully) better perspective after stepping away for a while. It is so easy to get trapped in the abundance of work here – the tasks and needs are absolutely endless. But my hope, after stepping away for a bit, is to keep a slower pace – to manage life better and have time to read, to listen to podcasts, to play with the girls, and to engage well at the hospital rather than in frazzled spurts. My deep calling and mission is to be a creative, not merely a task-doer, and stepping away for a time really was helpful to clear my mind and re-evaluate. So the question, one that I’ll continue to work through in the coming months and years, what does that look like in day-to-day. . .and how do I focus on what is deeply unique and meaningful to who I am and why I am here on this earth?