Botswana On My Mind

Disclaimer: Yes, I do have a new blog where I mostly post to now, but I like to copy any posts about Botswana over here for any remaining readers who followed my experience there and my transition home.

You know those times when the same topic keeps coming up in conversation after conversation and you realize that maybe God is trying to get your attention on something? That's been happening to me recently, and it's resulted in quite a bit of heart searching. In the last two days I've had multiple conversations with people about my time in Africa, and many questions have been asked that have caused me to dig up memories and experiences that I haven't thought about in quite a while. And that brought up all kinds of emotions...and inspired this post. Please forgive me while I do some psychologizing. :)

I don't know if everyone is like this, but I have found in my life when I make a painful transition out of a season that was very special to me, I seem to deal with the ache in my heart by pushing it aside and trying to quickly 'move on' to life's next chapter. It's so hard to dwell on what was, and it honestly just gets to a point where I'm tired of feeling sad. The unhealthy part of that process is attempting to remove something from my heart that God has used to help shape who I am. It's impossible to get rid of it, and I shouldn't try to push it to the side. I actually need to embrace it as being a forever part of me.

I'm so thankful for my two years living in Botswana, as well as the prep time leading up to it. I'm thankful for the many, many experiences I had while living in such a different culture, learning a new way of life, building relationships with such beautiful people, and pouring my heart out for the kids and teenagers the Lord allowed me to teach and minister to. Although I knew it was time to move home after my two years there, I still had such a huge hole in my heart for all that I was leaving left behind.

Because of not wanting to hurt anymore, and because of this unnecessary pressure on myself to move on, as soon as God revealed a new love for teaching middle school, I found it easy and safe to begin focusing on and pouring myself into this new calling and life chapter. This is not really a bad thing in itself, except that I was simultaneously pushing Botswana aside, figuring it was just time.

Having all of these conversations recently about my experience in Africa, along with shedding lots of tears while looking through a friend's pictures recently, has really caused me to consider how very much I still love the country of Botswana and the amazing people there. It is still so much a part of who I am. God used my time in Botswana to change me in many, many ways. I have to embrace that and realize that a part of me will always be "Botswana Andrea". And that's a very good and special thing.

God uses every experience in our lives to help mold us and grow us into who we are today. I am sure there are others out there who can relate on some level to this process of pushing things aside and trying to hurry on to life's next season. I just want to encourage you along with myself to just slow down, do some heart-searching, and appreciate every single thing about the experiences we've had, appreciating who they've helped us become. And let's give ourselves permission to feel the pain of loss, realizing it really is ok to miss those life seasons and special people, while also embracing and loving our current season of life.

I know it's cheesy, but this old song I learned in Girl Scouts has come to mind. "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other's gold." My mom used to use this song to encourage me after moving to a new school that it was ok to make new friends and that it didn't diminish the value of the friends I already had. I believe this same truth can be applied to every special experience we have in life. We can have new experiences, but still appreciate the old ones, recognizing the incredible value they both have in our lives.

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves..." Anatole France

Reunion with Sweet Friends = Full Heart

Have you ever had the experience of spending hours reconnecting with friends you haven't seen in a while, recalling old memories, laughing until your side hurts, and remembering tough times with a heart of gratitude to have made it through? I love those times! I find that as I get older, life seems to be passing by at a greater pace, and I often don't make time to stop and look at old pictures, read old journals, and just remember past life seasons. It's good for me to do this occasionally because it reminds me of where I've been, how I got to where I am now, and God's incredible faithfulness to me along the way. I love even more revisiting these memories with friends who were there with me.

Matt and Kelly lived in Botswana for much of the time I was there, serving as the youth and children's ministers, teachers at OIS, and quite a few other roles at the mission. We really connected my second year there, and ended up becoming huge supports to each other, both emotionally and spiritually. For seven months we met together twice a week to spend time in prayer, sometimes with other missionaries, and sometimes just the three of us praying our hearts out for the teenagers and kids God had called us to love on and minister to. During that time, He used us to encourage, strengthen, and sharpen each other, and blessed us with such a special friendship. Leaving them was one of the harder parts of leaving Botswana.

It's been over a year, but I was finally able to see my sweet friends and enjoy a short trip down memory lane as we recalled so many moments of our time of life and ministry together in Africa. Part of the time was spent in so much laughter that I thought we'd be politely asked to leave the quiet restaurant we were at. :) And part of our time was spent just shaking our heads, amazed at how God pulled us through some very difficult moments together. I left with a reflective heart, just absolutely amazed at all that God has done, both in my time in Botswana and my time in America since returning. He is so faithful. And He truly pushes us to our absolute limit sometimes, showing us that what we perceived to be impossible was actually quite possible with His help (and through the incredible people He sends our way).

My heart is full. I love being reminded of God's faithfulness. And I'm amazed at the people He keeps putting in my life.

Thanks Matt and Kelly for a wonderful evening, great memories, and a very special friendship. Love you guys!

*Reposted from

Exciting Meet-Up in Botswana

I have to admit, I'm missing Maun, Botswana a little more this week. Yes, because of the kids, my friends, and the beauty of course, but even more so because of this...

FANS of the World Cup have been driven to despair by its irritating drone during every match.

But Prince William yesterday gave the vuvuzela the royal seal of approval.

He blew the notorious plastic horn during an official royal tour of southern Africa, and found himself outblasted by an 11-year-old.

Prince William has a go at blowing a vuvuzela after arriving at a football training session for young children in Maun, Botswana

Prince William has a go at blowing a vuvuzela after arriving at a football training session for young children in Maun, Botswana

William was in northern Botswana for a football event with more than 250 schoolchildren, while his brother Harry travelled to neighbouring Lesotho where his own charity is based.

William was presented with the green trumpet by primary schooboy Rebaone Badubi, 11.

But the prince asked the youngster, who barely topped 4ft, to have a go first.

He then blew the vuvuzela himself, declaring his feeble parp 'embarrassing'.

William listens to a vuvuzela
Prince William winces as a yoiung child plays the vuvuzela

William listens as Rebaone Badubi, 11, tries out the vuvuzela, leaving the prince holding his ears in pain

The 27-year-old is apparently not as sensitive to the noise as thousands of British TV viewers, who have called for them to be banned.

A royal aide said: 'He has had a bit of a go with them already.'

British fans could soon be given respite from the trumpets, after it was revealed the BBC is considering offering an option to strip out crowd noise using the red button following hundreds of complaints about their 144-decibel noise.

World Cup officials have ruled out a ban because they are 'part of the culture of South Africa', while the horns are being sold in British supermarkets at a rate of one every two seconds.

Prince William plays in goal during the coaching session... and finds himself the target of more than just one shot

Prince William plays in goal during the coaching session... and finds himself the target of more than just one shot

Earlier at the Tusk Trust charity event in the city of Maun, William met American pop star Joe Jonas, who was representing the Jonas Brothers' charity Change for the Children.

Hoards of screaming teenagers welcomed the 20-year-old Christian - who has vowed to remain celibate before marriage - while some were less impressed by the British prince.

Schoolgirl Megan Butler, 16, said: 'I love Joe Jonas - he's very good-looking. I like Prince William as well (but) I'm most excited about seeing Joe Jonas.'

Her friend Emma Sandenbergh, 14, added: 'Joe's got more than William so he's better looking.'

William dribbles the ball on the pitch with the hundreds of local children taking part in the session

William dribbles the ball on the pitch with the hundreds of local children taking part in the session

William also acted as goalkeeper to defend penalties from the children, and played a version of the playground game British Bulldog, which has been banned at several schools in the UK under health and safety rules.

The prince accidentally knocked one young child over on the grass, before helping him up and carrying on with the rough-and-tumble.

In his role as the royal patron of the Tusk Trust charity, he said: 'Sport gives us a purpose and a sense of belonging through being part of a team.

Prince William meets American singer Joe Jonas, who was looking at the work of the Jonas Brothers' charity Change for the Children

Prince William meets American singer Joe Jonas, who was looking at the work of the Jonas Brothers' charity Change for the Children

'It gives us fitness and health. It gives us respect for skills and talents of others. These qualities are shared by the extraordinary creatures that surround us, particularly in Botswana.

'The wild dogs that work as a team and can run rings around even the best organised defence in the World Cup, even Germany's.

'The slowest cheetah that ever lived could beat Ronaldo to the ball. The impala's awareness and agility makes even (former premiership footballer) Lucas Radebe's awesome dribbling skills look, well, rather like mine.'

William wasn't alone in trying out the vuvuzela, Mayor of London Boris Johnson tried one out on the Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa

William wasn't alone in trying out the vuvuzela, Mayor of London Boris Johnson gave one a blow on the Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa

Here's a fun video from abc news, showing them at the stadium in Maun. I'm a little sad I'm not there, but I'm so excited for all my kiddos and friends in Bots!

And here's Joe meeting my former class! Gosh, I miss these kids!

Photo from Jana Lackey

New blog

Well, as I begin this new chapter in my life, I've decided to move to a new blog. I may be back here every now and then, but I plan on using the new blog to process through things I am learning and share about life experiences. You can find the new blog here.

Thank you for sharing this amazing journey to Botswana and back with me! What a great adventure it's been! :)

Birthday Blessings

So today is the day I celebrate another year of living. I honestly have not been looking forward to this birthday at all. I'm not sure exactly why, but it just hasn't been a priority to me. I was very, very blessed this morning, though, when I had a skype phone call at 6 am with who I thought would be one of my former students using my friend Theresa's computer in Botswana. What a shock it was, though, to see all of my former class on the other side of that video! Yep, all those precious kids crammed into Theresa's office and we were able to chat via Skype for a little while. Can I just tell you, it was SO great to hear their voices! Man, I love those kids.

An added blessing was Semakaleng walking by and getting to sign hello to me and me getting to have a long chat with Theresa. It was a beautiful start to a great day! I've been loving my morning with Jesus and looking forward to time with friends later today. So far the prayer for my day has been one of thankfulness for another year of life, a year so full of blessing, challenge, and growth. And I pray that I will use this next year as an opportunity to reflect Christ more in all that I do and say, that I would love well, and that I would live a life that truly brings Him glory.

Sidenote=I think on people's birthdays we should also give a birthday greeting to their mom. I mean truthfully, it's the moms who did all the work on that day! So thanks, Mom. I love you!

True Identity

Something the Lord has been driving home with me lately is the truth that our identity should be found in Him alone, and that being His is enough. This is a harder truth for me to swallow than I'd like to admit. For a couple of years now I think I have found my identity in Botswana and God's ministry for me there. Before that I think it was in being a teacher or in having various leadership positions. But I'm not sure I've ever been in a place where I had nothing else to put my identity in other than Christ. It is so humbling...and hard. But so, so good.

You know, if you are like me, you spend so much time worrying what other people are going to think, how they are going to perceive you, and hoping that they never find out that you really don't have it all together. The fact is, though, we ALL have things we are going through, things we are struggling with, things bringing us pain in our lives. None of us really have it all together. I think if we would spend less time trying to make other people believe we did, we could actually begin really ministering to and encouraging each other. I don't know; maybe you don't relate to this at all, but this is very true for me.

Let me just put it out there...I am a mess. I don't have it all together. I am feeling pretty lost right now. I have nothing to really put my security in or find my identity in right now. BUT, that's ok. Because the fact is, I am Christ's. I am His. I am His precious daughter, a life that He ordained and knit together in my mother's womb. I don't have to have it all together or have things all figured out...because I am His. I don't have to find security in things or in people...because I am His. Nobody else in this world needs to value me or love me...because I am His and He does. No matter what I do or don't do, what sins I struggle with, no matter how many mistakes I make or how many good things I do, nothing, absolutely nothing will change who I am in Him and His perfect love for me.

This is what the Lord is teaching me right now and I have a suspicion that there might be a person or two out there who is struggling with the same thing. Can I just encourage you with something...YOU are His! He loves you! He created you and has a purpose for your life. You don't need to find value or identity in any other thing or person because He loves you, He values you, and even if you feel totally alone and lost, He never, ever, ever leaves your side. He knows the way for you to go, takes your hand, and leads you one step at a time.

Let's keep reminding each other of this because we have a great deceiver who is desperately trying to make us believe otherwise. But praise God that His word is truth:

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. You did not choose me, but I chose you..." -Jesus (John 15:9, 16a)

"Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?...For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made...Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there none of them." Psalm 139:13-14a, 16

"As indeed He says in Hosea, 'Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call 'beloved.'" Romans 9:25

This is one of my new favorite songs:

Last Days Part 2: Teenagers

Here are some pictures from my last couple of weeks with the teenagers in Botswana:

Game Time!
Win or lose, game nights with the teens were guaranteed fun :)

"Crazy Dress Night" at Fire by Night
Um, I think these pictures speak for themselves

Chao's Good-bye Slumber Party and Dinner
Chao was kind of my 2nd in command while I was boarding mistress. She was such a help and blessing to me! To send her off as she graduated, we had a mini-slumber party...loaded with fun and laughs! On her last night in Maun, she and I had a nice dinner out, enjoying some nice quality time. I miss this girl so much!

Sign Language Girls
The few weeks before I left, we were blessed to have three deaf teenagers from one of the local high schools come to church, and I loved getting to interpret for them! Here is a picture of them, along with Patricia, who helped me with interpreting

Tummie and Maipelo
These sweet girls were in boarding my first year in Botswana and it was so great getting to know them. Right before I left, they returned to Maun to get baptized. It was such a treat to get to have some time with them, give them big hugs one more time, and get to celebrate their baptism with them!

As the days wound down, the silliness seemed to increase! Here are pictures from the last week at school, the last Fire by Night, and the last Sunday at church with the teens

Boarding Christmas
Haha! I just love this sad little tree that was part of the boarding Christmas decorations.

Last Movie Night
One of my favorite things to do once I moved out of boarding was to have frequent movie nights where a few of the teenagers would come over to hang out and watch a fun movie. This was our last one when we watched "Steel Magnolias".

These are pictures from different times of saying good-bye to the teenagers. I was able to have lunch with the last group that left and then go with them to the airport. We had a wonderful time, although watching them leave was one of my most emotional moments. :(

It's funny because before I moved to Botswana, I had almost zero experience with working with teenagers. When the opportunity was presented to me for me to be the boarding mistress and I had such a great stirring in my heart for it, I knew that the Lord was up to something big. I could never have predicted how challenging and extremely rewarding it would be to live with these kids, to build relationships with them, and to have the opportunity to disciple them in the Lord.

I am so thankful to have developed what I hope will be lifelong relationships with many of these guys. I can never thank the Lord enough for taking me out of my comfort zone and giving me such an incredible life-changing experience with those precious teenagers!