Exactly two weeks after landing in Dar es Salaam, I had my first (and hopefully only!) experience with malaria. I was so sick I thought I would die if I vomited another time. Sitting on the concrete floor of the choo (bathroom), I desperately asked God to heal me. He did, through the kind assistance of Amy and Lucy, who took me to the hospital for an IV and medication, as well as the generosity of a visiting PA, Jason, who dosed me up with an anti-nausea pill that he had brought with him. After 18 hours of non-stop vomiting and diarrhea, which caused severe dehydration, it was over a week until my strength had returned to anywhere near “normal.”
While I certainly don’t wish to repeat this experience, it was a time of learning. C.S. Lewis once wrote that God whispers to us in our pleasures, but screams in our pain. In the midst of my illness, I mostly just wanted to not die. But as I recovered, I found myself feeling violently alone. I wanted to go home. The thought of spending two years in Tanzania was unbearable, and I was so weak, I was unable to do anything to keep my mind off of home. And, while feeling alone and homesick did bring repeated tears to my eyes, it also brought prayer to my lips. The sheer number of people praying for me back at home and around the world awed me, and I sought desperately to join them in prayer, with hope of finding refuge in God.
With David, I cried out to my own soul to take hope in God: “My soul is cast down within me, therefore, I remember You…deep calls to deep at the sound of your waterfalls, all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day he Lord commands HIs steadfast love, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:6-8). My sister, Hannah, also encouraged me to read the book of Job, and take heart in the fact that he was still able to praise God, despite that his trials were so much worse than mine. “…The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Repeatedly, I had to tell myself to hope in God. There would be good days ahead. I would not be miserable for a full two years. This would turn out for His glory. Somehow. Someway. “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).
It was also at this time that Stewart and Michelle Ayling, a British family from Dar es Salaam serving with MAF, reached out to me. Michelle took me into town so I could Skype with my family, she sat with me and talked about the difficulties of their first year in Tanzania and the joys of sticking it out, and she invited me to accompany their family to Ruaha National Park the following weekend. While the Aylings could not replace my own family, they certainly provided an entertaining distraction! In my time with them, we visited the Iringa prison, had a flat tire in the middle of our safari, got stopped by the police for speeding, and searched for illegal possession of honey or weapons (we’re not sure which–so much for that month of studying Swahili!).
All in all, through my time of illness and recovery, I discovered in new and deeper ways the faithfulness and goodness of God.