• Melanie Enfield

Trip of A Lifetime

Traveling to South Africa was a "trip of a lifetime," and I am trying to hold on to all the sights and sounds and the feelings that I encountered and cement these memories into my mind. This trip heightened my senses and made me feel more alive. Now, I find myself missing South Africa, a country where I only spent 10 days, yet I long for the connection I felt in that land. I close my eyes and see in my mind's eye the beautiful expansive scenery, the giraffes standing majestically on the hillside, the elephants eating from the tree and the warthogs scrambling across the road. I try to hold on to the connection I felt to this beautiful creation of ours.

I am thankful to Family Promise of Central Connecticut; this non-profit has given me a tremendous gift. While attending their "Keep the Promise" fundraising auction in the spring of 2017, friends encouraged me to bid on the trip to go on an African Safari. It was certainly on my bucket list but something I would have never done on my own. After "winning" the trip I quickly realized I was being pushed outside my comfort zone. Yet almost as soon as I arrived in the bush of Africa, I found I was more connected to myself. The pulse of the nation seemed to beat harmoniously with my heart and awaken my senses to the world in new ways.

We'd rise before dawn and huddle together in our jeeps traveling out on the dirt roads to see what the day would bring. We saw the sunrise every morning coming up behind the trees and mountains and giving light to the world. The safaris taught me to be more observant. We had to listen to the sounds around us, and carefully scan the landscape to see what was hiding in plain sight. One morning we saw a gigantic lizard, about 2 feet long just hanging out in the brush, we went around a corner and surprised a whole troop of baboons. Some animals were more accessible like the rhino's sleeping on the road in front of us. It was an honor to be among them, and I certainly gave thanks to God for all creatures great and small.

One evening we went to a larger game reserve with the hope of seeing a lion. Our guide took us to an area that the lions had last been seen. For the first hour and a half, we sat quietly in the land cruiser and very slowly traversed the area. We found lion tracks, but no lions. To tell you the truth, it was rather dull. No other animals were in the area, they must have known that a lion was in the neighborhood and they moved on. Our guide did pass out drinks and snacks to keep us occupied as he slowly and intently looked for any signs of the big cat. We watched the sunset which meant we had limited time to succeed in our hunt. After getting a tip from another guide, we went in a different direction and then right along the road was this incredible animal. The lion was on the prowl, she had a zebra in her sights. We watched as the lion stalked the zebra. Eventually, the zebras ran off and then we saw two other lions that were part of the pride. It was just amazing to sit and watch these animals in the wild. This lion hunt reminded me the importance of patience; we cannot force the blessings to come.

The wilderness is a place where we come to know ourselves more deeply. This was true for the people of Israel when they were preparing to enter the Promised Land; it was true for Jesus as he spent 40 days in the wilderness before he began his ministry. I believe it is true for me as well. Perhaps it is because we are forced to live with less, the façades that mask who we are wiped away. The wilderness of South Africa awakened my senses, allowed me to feel more deeply. I loved learning about the Zulu culture and their deep, inclusive belief of the oneness of humanity. They believe in the spirit of sharing, or loving, and of welcoming all into their community. The wilderness has the potential to connect us to ourselves, to one another and to our great and generous God in ways that we may not have imagined before.

I am grateful for this opportunity to travel, to be reminded of the value of watching the sunrise and the sunset each day, the joy of being outside in nature, and experiencing the wonders of God's creation.

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