Since I was a little girl, Africa fascinated me. The animals, the landscape, the people and the culture drew me in. I would read books such as Out of Africa by Karen Blixen, Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and articles by Dian Fossey.  If there was a documentary on TV, I had to watch it.   My day dreams were always about living and working in a small village in the middle of the jungles. Once I graduated as an RN (registered nurse) my dreams included caring for the sick. Of course these were only dreams until I received information that my old dear friend Willie Mitchell and her husband, Art and their three children had been commissioned to open up a new program for Mission Aviation Fellowship in Bukavu, Zaire.

The letter from Willie describing the massive amount of effort it was going to take to start up this new program.  There was just too much work for two people. So, I offered to come out for 6 weeks if I could get my vacation and a small leave of absence for my job. But my offer was rejected. Willie was very clear, “You will only just arrive, settle in and it will be time to leave”.

My dream had come to a sudden end. What could I do?  If 6 weeks was too short, then what? I realized my decision rested on the amount of time I could take off from my job. I was told  I would not be able to take any leave. I guess that was my answer. What else could I do but pray, “Father God show me your will.”

With that answer, I realized that I would have to quit my job if I wanted to go at all. Suddenly, the answer seemed so clear.  How could I say No. Of course, I would go. It was an opportunity of a lifetime.  I was overjoyed at the freedom I had. Now, I would sell everything I owned including my car and pack up the rest and move it into my parents basement.

I was flying high with hundreds of things to do from setting a departure date, booking airline tickets, getting a new passport, sells and or packing when I received a call asking if Willie’s 72 year old mother could accompany me.  Why not! We would be traveling from Vancouver, B.C. to  Heathrow, England and then on to Nairobi, Kenya.

My pastor suggested we contact MAF to let them know of my plans. His research revealed that Zaire was the poorest country in the world, with no international currency,  very little infrastructure, limited local and international telecommunication. and run by the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. If a coup occurred he wanted to make sure I got out the country with the Mitchell family.

My friends and colleagues understood my desire to go to Africa but wished my friends were not living in Zaire. As they saw it, I was giving up my whole life; I could possibly die of snake bite, or malaria or eaten by cannibals. They treated me royally with dinners out and daily sweets. But they wanted to do something special.  Unfortunately, nothing came to mind until one night I had a dream of driving in a Mercedes Benz.  I left without going for a ride in a Mercedes Benz.

It was about 2 months before out departure, when I received a very surprising phone call from two executives from MAF and Hope International Development Agency. They wanted to meet me and discuss my trip to Zaire. We discuss many topics but somehow their  purpose remained a mystery to me. Finally, when I was finishing my last cup of coffee, they asked the question. “Did I have a boyfriend or mortgage or some financial responsibility that required me to return to Canada after 6 months? What were they asking? What were they saying? Was this the true purpose of the meeting? One of them went on to say they were also on the board of a missionary agency out of Chicago called Paul Carlson Medical Program. They had a large rural hospital in northern Zaire called Imeloko. It was staffed by a number of American and Canadian doctors and nurses. Would I be interested in working for them in the outreach program for a year after my 6 month visit with my friends. They would pay for my fight from Bukavu to Imeloko, give me a small monthly salary which should pay for my food and other essentials plus pay for my flight back to Canada.

I was speechless.