In Which We Retreated. [Team Style.]

“I have found that there are three stages to every great work of God. First, it is impossible, then, it is difficult, then, it is done.”  –J. Hudson Taylor

 This past weekend, I got to celebrate seven months of “impossible” with my team. Our boss in the US mandates that every STINT team take a “team retreat” towards the end of their time in-country [twist our arms], and we decided to spend ours at a private beach about half an hour away from our neighborhood. Only in Dakar can you go to a “beach resort” that’s comfortably sandwiched between a cemetery, a rather foreboding minimal security prison, an industrial park and colossal oil tankers! But for about thirty dollars a night, we got to sleep in actual beds, take hot showers [True story: I took nine in three days], and alternate between the scorching sand and the glacial ocean water. Though we have a significant amount of time left in Dakar [I have seven weeks, the rest of my team has ten], our summer project is rolling in on Sunday, and we decided that it was better to take the retreat before they came than to let twenty-seven Americans wander a major city in Africa by themselves. [Though, let’s be honest, it would take some effort to lose that many white kids in Senegal!]

 It was incredible to take three really chill days to step back from the chaos that is daily life in Dakar, and think about the past seven months. When I stepped off that plane in Dakar on Oct. 26th of last year, even the tiniest things about my life abruptly, drastically changed. What an odd feeling, for your whole life to become something unfamiliar in just an eight hour plane ride!  Nothing was as I had very recently known it-from what I ate every day to the people I ate it with, to the weather to how I spent my time. The only constant thing in my life was Jesus-and in taking away almost everything I once thought mattered, He taught me that He’s the only thing that actually does. In innumerable ways this year, God has gently taught me that He is faithful, and that He is enough. Ann Judson once articulated this better than I can, saying:

 “I sometimes feel very thankful that God has called me from my friends and native land, to a land of strangers, of spiritual darkness and death, thereby giving me an opportunity of denying myself those enjoyments on which I’ve been too prone to set my heart, and has thereby, I trust, lead me to feel more deeply my dependence on Him and choose Him for my only portion.” – Ann Judson

 Truthfully, I haven’t always been thankful that God asked me to spend a year [now two]  in Dakar. Ministry in Senegal is currently in that “impossible” stage that I referenced earlier, and there have been many long, hot days when crawling into bed and watching Lost in the dark sounded much more appealing than talking with yet another student who fervently believes that Jesus was merely a prophet. [Hilariously, I neither have a bed, nor a TV.] And on those days that felt impossible, I’ve had four people that were never content to allow me to simply go through the motions. Christy, Cash, Dayton and Ben have consistently pushed me to walk well with Jesus, value Him more than I value being comfortable, and to love people as a reaction to the torrent of undeserved love that has been poured out on me. They’ve modeled it for me, pushed me, called me out, and extended more grace than I can explain. God has used those four people to forever change my life, and I’m incredibly thankful for the good gifts that they have been to me this year! 

Favorite moments from the retreat:

1. The half hour [!] slide show I put together. I’m going to try to post it soon-it was fun to see our year in pictures.

2. We all wrote each other notes-those were really encouraging.

3. “Team Jeopardy”-Ben and I put together a gameshow with categories like “Our double lives” [questions about each other’s lives back home] and “Livin’ that Akon song” [questions about life in Senegal]. It was hysterical!

4. Having time to lay on the beach, read the Great Gatsby [love it thus far!] and get rid of my farmers tan. …which started to reappear this afternoon on my run. It was great while it lasted!

5. The hot showers. Clearly.

Anyhow, the year isn’t over yet-and it’s definitely not time for goodbye. The retreat was a sweet beginning to what will be a sad goodbye-but I’m really thankful that there will be something to miss when we leave both each other and the city that is slowly becoming ours.


  1. Kristin says:

    Have you never read The Great Gatsby? My all time favorite book.

    So glad ya’ll got away for a bit.

    Even more glad for the hot showers. Should I donate to the Town of Cary for your parents’ summer water bill?

    And, P.S., with no flat iron and hot showers, how has your hair looked so good all year????

  2. No, it’s my first time through and it’s fantastic! I can’t believe I haven’t picked it up until now. As for the hot water situation-my new apartment is going to have hot water, so there is now the distinct possibility that my parents will NOT go bankrupt this summer! ;)

    And please-my hair is a hot mess. I think I already have a hair appointment scheduled for the day after I fly in! :)

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