I like to plan. I like to make lists. I like to stay informed about what is going on. But, God has other plans sometimes. My plans have changed. God is taking me on a new journey.
Before you start thinking too much about things, let me tell you I am safe. There has just been a detour in my year journey here in Madagascar. Let me back up a bit and fill you in.
Madagascar is a place that still has the plague. Every year the bubonic plague is a reality for the people who live here. There are deaths every year due to this but it has never been a problem for YAGM volunteers. Honestly, it is something volunteers across Madagascar hear about every year, but no actions need to be taken. This year things are a bit different. The plague season started off normal with a few cases of the bubonic plague in isolated areas. This is spread by fleas due to lack of sanitation, poverty, and a shortage in access to healthcare. Then things changed, the number of people it affected increased and there started to become cases of the pneumonic plague. This version of the plague is spread by sneezing and coughing. It also makes the person very sick if they do not seek treatment quickly. For a country that relies on public transportation, this infection can spread very rapidly. Concerns about it spreading and how quickly healthcare can be accessed became the topic of daily conversation. The likelihood of the plague making it to Manambaro (where I live) is very very small, but for some in the group, they are in areas where it is active.
So what does this mean for me? The decision has been made to move our first retreat to now. This being said, our first retreat will be taking place in South Africa. During this time we will all be together in South Africa. We will stay at the Conference Center in Johannesburg that is connected to the Lutheran Church in South Africa. We will do all the activities that were planned for the first retreat, partner with the church programs in South Africa, and do some fun touring. The plan is for us to only be in South Africa for 3 week and hopefully during that time enough information will be gathered that we can safely return to our sites.
Let me say this again. We are not leaving because we are in eminent danger. This is all precautionary. I appreciate that our safety is taken seriously.
This all being said, I am sad to be leaving. I had finally settled into a routine here and felt like part of the family. When I had to tell my host family about the changes and how I would be gone for at least 3 weeks I could feel the sadness was over the group. I was told, “We will be praying that all will go well and you will come back soon. We have to have hope. God has a plan for this time.” Little did they know that Jeremiah 29:11 is my favorite verse. I cling to what it says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
God has a plan for this. While I cried about it in the moment, and was angry for having yet another bump in the road of my life, I have now accepted this journey. I have this hope in me that God will use me in a new way during this time and I will continue to grow into more of who God is shaping me to be.