I have to admit our travels to Fiji and the Solomon Islands stir a variety of emotions in me. Our weeks in Fiji were idyllic as we left behind the warmest season in the San Joaquin Valley and entered one of the most beautiful islands in the South Pacific. Each day we would awaken to the most stunning sunrise, travel to some of the most beautiful coastal villages to hold our medical clinics, then catch our breath at the end of each day listening to the sounds of the waves hitting the shore. Our evening meal was prepared by Millie who oversaw each and every detail and treated us like royalty. We wanted for nothing. There is no doubt that we were the recipients of far more than we ever gave.
It is difficult to leave this almost perfect place with its' ease and softness. There are no kinder people I have ever met than the Fijians. While certain aspects of our travels may seem difficult in the moment the beauty of this place and the kindness shown to us always surpasses any difficulty these remote villages may present. This time was no different for me except at the end of this trip I would go on to the Solomon Islands and I knew I would soon leave the ease and beauty of this place for the beauty of the next one. And, while the softness and ease may be gone, I found I longed for this part of my travels.
I am not sure why this place holds my heart the way Congo does but I yearn for the times when I can return here. My heart swells as we head up to Verakabikabi and I feel as if I am home once again to a familiar hollow in my heart. I have returned several times and each and every time I am here I have had the opportunity to spend time with my dear friend Leah and her husband Willie as we share this part of our lives together. This year it would be different as I had received the news before my arrival that Leah had died. She was only forty-six years old.
During our last visit I had spent time with her in the hospital and she assured me she was feeling better. Her chart indicated she was taking a medication for tuberculosis although she assured me she did not have TB. I had heard that she had died of cancer 'in the baby house' which is some form of female cancer although I do not know exactly which kind. I do know it must have been hard for her in the end.
Leah and Pastor Willie were missionaries in Verakabikabi and I had the honor of serving with them from the very beginning of their time there. They started the school and feeding program which lifted the children from poverty and offered them a glimpse of life beyond their moment of survival. They were instrumental in the building of the medical clinic and church by overseeing the yearlong project of having 5,000 bricks handmade by the local village for these buildings. They loved and cared for the elderly as if each and every soul they touched were their own beloved family. They served selflessly, they gave generously, and they left behind a legacy of love that is being carried on by those left behind. It has been an honor to know and to love Leah.
I have begun to dig deep into my own life and to rediscover what I hold of value and if my life reflects those values. I have to admit, I have been struggling in a season of emptiness and have guarded my heart in a protective stance. Leah lived a fearless life with her heart wide open to all God would have for her. I realize that this is where I yearn to be again. I will not forget the many facets of who she was or the impact she has made on so many, nor how courageous she has always been. I thank you Leah for these gifts that will last me a lifetime. I am thankful for the perspective this brings me as a reminder not to sweat the small stuff...and it is almost all small stuff.
So with that being said, we are off for a few days of rest and relaxation and moments of thankfulness as we contemplate all that we have been a part of.
You are loved...