Courage. Or Not.

Please do not call me courageous.

Several of you have left very lovely comments about how brave I am to be taking this trip, and I feel like, in the interest of transparency, I should come clean.

While it is true this trip has been profoundly life-altering, and my perspective is changed forever, there is also a very substantial part of me that would sell my soul for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese right now.

I cannot even bring myself to look at pictures of my children, because my heart aches when I think that they are on the other side of the world. 

I miss my husband so awfully that I cry when I think of him.  I can tell that my brain will not allow me to fully process the things I’m seeing until I’m with him again.

We are taking a little puddle-jumper plane trip tomorrow, and it scares me so badly that I think I will only get through it with the help of pharmaceuticals.

I wish I could tell you I am adventurous and outdoorsy, but I cannot deny the moment of panic I felt when I realized this was the bathroom at our site yesterday:


And, demonstrating that I am not at all a sophisticated international traveler, I have messed up on these blasted electrical converters and I did this to my curling iron:


I melted it.  Into two pieces.  It was smoking so badly I thought the room would catch fire.  That would’ve certainly left a lovely impression of Americans.

So, brave?  Not quite.  I’m a lonely, homesick, hungry goofball who has learned that sleeping under a mosquito net isn’t quite as Hemingway-esque as I thought it would be. 

A lonely, homesick, hungry goofball that is in love with these people.


85 thoughts on “Courage. Or Not.

  1. Becky says:

    THIS is the stuff that makes your blog so great to read. You are very real with everything you’re experiencing. It makes us feel like we’re there with you.
    So … thanks.

  2. Darcy Fraser says:

    {{{HUGS}}} Thank you for being honest with your feelings. I had to LOL when you said you’d sell your soul for a quarter pounder. LOL.
    You are doing a truly, truly amazing job of telling us how it is. You have a gift for writing and the Lord knew that and that is why you are there.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you….and your family. πŸ™‚

  3. jean says:

    You are braver than you know. You are there. Not home where it is safe, comfortable and where there is a real toilet. You are doing it and I for one am so proud and thrilled for you. I don’t even know you in real life. You are making a difference in the lives of those beautiful children in the photo.
    PS: sorry about the loss of your curling iron.

  4. chaotic joy says:

    In order to be brave, you have to be afraid. πŸ™‚ Thank you for taking this trip and sharing it with us. I am praying for your peace right now and for your family’s.

  5. Julie says:

    As I always tells my daughter who is plagued by many fears, brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. It means being scared but doing it anyway. You are brave. And compassionate. And a blessing to us all for sharing your experiences.

  6. Amy says:

    Puddle jumpers are fun. You’ll be fine. Just think of it as an amusement park ride or something.
    Look at it this way – they don’t fly nearly as high as big ol’ jet airliners!
    I think you’re brave, too, but since you asked me not to say so, I won’t. πŸ™‚

  7. Jenn says:

    I agree, it’s posts like this that I keep coming back to read – your soo real, so down to earth and I feel like I am there, laughing, crying and ranting! πŸ™‚
    You are really awesome…

  8. Megan says:

    Shannon…I’ve nothing to say that deep down you don’t already know, so I’ll simply say I’m sorry. I *can* imagine the intensity of the emotions and what you are having to choose *not* to feel right now just so you can breathe.
    You know God can take care of your family even better than you can. You already know that. It’s still hard, though. I know.

  9. kelli says:

    The first thing that came to my mind:
    Philippians 1:5-7
    “because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
    It’s not about being “strong”, it’s about being “obedient”.
    Know I’m praying for all of you πŸ™‚

  10. Mommy Cracked says:

    And if you didn’t feel this way at some point we’d think you weren’t human. Seriously, these feelings are ok to have. I think we’d all feel the same way. This is BIG stuff to take in all at once. ((hugs))

  11. Gego says:

    I so understand your feelings. “Hitting” that hole is a tad bit difficult and hard on the knees.
    I know how homesick you are. Been there done that. BUT, what an experience you have to share with your beloved hubby and the children!
    Just think, you are seeing things that they will only see through your eyes. The photographs that you posted are wonderful and only you can relive those moments with those you love so dearly. What precious gifts you will bring to their lives!
    Puddle jumper airlines needs no pharmaceuticals. Just look out the window and admire the grandness of God’s creation.
    Oh, how I can hardly wait for your return to describe all the wonderful things you have seen,done,experienced.
    Yup,strange food encourages one to lust for McDonald’s. I really thought you would be missing Sonic Diet Coke!
    Love ya bunches, have a blast! I haven’t had an emergency call so all is well. Gego

  12. Muddy says:

    Thank you for your transparency, and for giving of yourself so that the rest of us here can have a better understanding of the lives of others are like and why they need our help. Praise God for this trip and for the internet and for those who have given of themselves. We see things we never would have otherwise. Praying for you and the team.

  13. Hestial says:

    I still think you’re brave – you’re scared, and you’re freely admitting it, but you’re still *there*, and you’re still doing what you committed to doing.
    Eep on the curling iron, though.
    I hope you have a safe trip tomorrow.

  14. My Quotidian Mysteries says:

    Funny thing – even though we live in a rather wealthy, Gulf state in the Middle East, our local mall (that sells PRADA, for crying out loud!) has those kinds of toilets. They look nicer, but it’s still just a hole.
    Let’s just say, I hold it.
    You are being brave. Facing all the new challenges without the normal comforts of home takes a lot of energy.
    As for the curling iron – perfect excuse for another one! πŸ™‚ I fried my daughter’s humidifier soon after we moved to Qatar. I have to live with converters too, but I still mess up sometimes, getting the right stuff plugged into the right converter.

  15. Tammy says:

    Thanks for being honest about the homesick part.Oh my about the bathroom-I thought Army latrines were bad but that takes the prize.
    I agree with a few people,new excuse for a curling iron.

  16. Beth_C says:

    I love your honesty. It is only normal that you would be homesick. We appreciate the great lengths you have gone to, to bring us these pictures and stories of these beautiful kids.
    We are all praying for you and your safe return. Thank you for your sacrifice.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Make the most of being there while you are there! We’re all holding down the town until you return. No worries! No worries. God’s got you like a baby bird… use your big eyes and fly.

  18. Hilary says:

    Shannon, bravery is posting these things – and then NOT posting that you are turning tail and heading back to the comfort and familiarity of your own home. You are out there without your family and friends (and heck, your McDonald’s, your toilet and your curling iron!), and you are getting up each day to bring joy and peace to people who need it. You rock – please don’t forget that.

  19. Cathy says:

    The wonderful thing about any kind of God-errand is that it always points others to God as the source of our strength and “bravery”. Your transparency and honesty in this post point each of us directly to our Lord. You are bringing Him glory!

  20. Fran says:

    Oh Shannon!
    We just love you and your willingness to even go there and do what you are doing.
    I pray God’s hand to continue to be strong and present these days. May His heart pour over you and you feel His presence like never before.
    Love and hugs from TN~

  21. Deneen says:

    I have a word for you. Real.
    I’ve been wondering who would be the first to talk about the “facilities.” That is the thing that freaks me out the MOST when I am travelling…
    I had a friend who set fire to her hair dryer in England and threw it OUT THE WINDOW πŸ™‚ At least you didn’t firebomb Uganda, right?

  22. pam says:

    I echo the encouraging words above and add a few from the Lord:
    “I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work. He went out on a limb, you know, in trusting me with this ministry . . . but I was treated mercifully because I didn’t know what I was doingβ€”didn’t know Who I was doing it against! Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1:12-14 (MSG)
    Love you, Shannon. Praying for you throughout each day and for Hubs as I know he misses you too!

  23. Rhonda says:

    I would be scared, too. I think everyone is when they are facing things new and unknown.
    I love the little one in the bottom of the picture sticking out his tongue! If I had a child, I can assure you that he would have been doing the exact same thing!

  24. Girlymom says:

    I don’t care what you say…you are brave, you are courageous! My Hubby has been halfway around the world away from us before, but I am not near brave enough to do that. And then to brave that bathroom- Yikes! I am glad your trip has been as heartfelt as you hoped, and hopefully the homesickness will ease up a bit. My thoughts are with you.

  25. jen says:

    You might be lonely, but you are NOT alone. God knows why He has called you there, and He will sustain you in your journey. And just think how amazing it is going to be to hug those mess-making, anger-inspiring kids of yours! (I thought I would die in the moments when our kids ran to us in the airport after our trip to Ethiopia! I still cry when I think about that hug!)

  26. Heidi says:

    I wanted to thank you for your writings and photos. My husband and I had talked about sponsoring a child for some time, but never got around to doing it. Because of your blog and the blogs of the people in your group our entire family sat down at the computer last night and choose a child to sponsor. THANKS!!

  27. Rachel says:

    Doesn’t having to use an adapter stick! I blew up my CD player when we lived in Nigeria….oops! At least it wasn’t your computer. You may not think you are brave but what you are is faith”full”. Full of faith that God will protect you and see you through…and that you are right when he wants you.

  28. faithful chick says:

    Courage is not being brave without fear or hesitation. Courage is going forward with the mission in spite of those fears.
    Keep your head up, sista! You are serving Him well.

  29. Everyday Mommy says:

    Thank you for taking us along with you on this extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime experience Shan. Your words let us share these events with you, let us feel what you’re feeling and see what you’re seeing. I appreciate you gritting your teeth and forging ahead in spite of fear and trepidation.
    You are loved.

  30. Kathy says:

    To comment both to you, and to the people calling you brave and courageous, ‘safety’ is just an illusion. It’s an illusion we’ve created for ourselves to make ourselves feel better. The US is no safer than Uganda – it is God alone who provides safety regardless of what continent you’re on. He has blessed most of us rather comfortable lives compared to what you’re seeing in Africa, but that doesn’t make our safety here any more real than yours there – in any situation. He was in Uganda before you arrived, preparing the way for you. And after you leave, He’ll remain, reaping the harvest and preparing the ground for those who are yet to come.
    And so, take comfort in the knowledge that the same God who is watching over you and puddle-jumping airplane is also watching over your children. He is blessing each of you with safety, with His awesome presence, and He’s working in you and through you to accomplish His purposes. The courage people speak of is no more than faith – that you know who the Provider is and that you’re willing to trust Him.
    Walk on in faith, and credit Him with the glory for being the everlasting, ever trustworthy Basis of your faith.

  31. Maria says:

    Wow. Thank you for saying that. You are so right. When I went to India the toilets looked the same. I gamely squatted. I loved the people, the place and I missed pizza Hut like you wouldn’t believe. I was happy to be home. And now I want to go back to India and rough it again. No it wasn’t Kipling, and no you’re not Hemingway. But I guarantee you, despite it all, it is altering you and you will WANT to, HAVE to go back.
    Enjoy your adventure. And you are still brave. Really.

  32. GiBee says:

    These past few days? Well, all I can say is… I’m seeing a bit of the “old Shannon” come through with your tremendous, spirit-moved, heart-felt writing! I’ve missed it so.
    I love you, and I’m still praying for you.

  33. La says:

    I have to be honest here. I have never left a comment on your blog before now. I have read but just never commented on anything. I wish I could do what you are doing. I wish I go help those kids like you and the others are doing but honestly if it ever came down to the moment for me to walk out the door and leave behind my husband, 3 year old son and the rest of my family…I don’t think I could. You all are doing this for our GOD and for those families and children in need and I just think that is amazing.

  34. Kim Kauffman says:

    I am praying for you right now. God has you safe in His arms, even in the middle of a scary puddle jumper flight. I personally appreciate the sacrifice that you made of leaving your family for this week, because while I have seen the pictures of children like this countless times, it’s never had such an impact on me. Thank you for making us more aware.

  35. Valerie says:

    Oh Shannon, THIS is the most moving of your posts I have read. I went through the same realizations on mine and my daughter’s recent mission trip to Mexico. We slept in tents, on desert sand, on top of scorpions (I was actually stung). We didn’t have facilities-just a hole dug in the ground. Our showers were plastic bags of barrel water hung from a nail. And we still had so much more than the people we were helping! It is humbling, isn’t it, to see how God has blessed us?
    Your poor curling iron!
    God bless. You are making a difference. I am praying for you.

  36. Cynthia says:

    I’m from Indiana and just returned from Uganda on Monday. Our church went to visit an AIDS orphans school in the Kanungu district that we are supporting. I can so relate to the bathroom facilities challenges!! The guys in my group started admiring me for my “capacity.” Thanks for your sharing your heart with humor.

  37. Melissa says:

    Yikes…sorry about the curling iron.
    You are courageous because you went. In spite of everything, you are there. You didn’t pass on this opportunity to someone else. You didn’t demand to be put on the first flight back home. While you are experiencing situations you have never dealt with before, you aren’t folding. You are growing, you are learning, you are loving and you are sharing with the rest of us who are hopefully growing as well.
    God bless, sister!

  38. Liza's Eyeview says:

    Let’s see, how did the apostle Paul put this?…hmmm.. I think he said it something like this:
    “Therefore I glory in my weakness…for in my weakness, God’s strength is manifested”…
    (quoting based on my not so good memory, so please double check in II Corinthians – it’s there somewhere. I may come back and put in the correct quote or someone else might).
    Thanks for such transparency Shannon. we’re praying for you and your family.

  39. kimberly says:

    you can be brave and homesick at the same time…I promise. And, well sister, I’ve used a similar facility…in Europe, actually. I empathize. You are still brave! If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger, right? You go girl!

  40. Tara says:

    I just wanted to tell you I understand. I felt similar things when I was away on my missions trip. Soak it in and enjoy it. And it’s ok not to be brave. None of us are brave all the time!

  41. Kelly says:

    Everytime I read your post I wish I were there with you. I read the men’s posts and think they are good but then I go to yours and BooMamas for the details, the I-feel-like-I-am-there-with-you details. Thank you. We are going to sponsor a child. After residency we will probably sponsor more than one. Blessings.

  42. Elizabeth says:

    Amazing things are happening on the internet this week, and I just had to post that we took the leap to sponsor two days ago (because I KNEW that we would before week’s end): a darling 6 (almost 7) yr old girl named Irene, exactly five years older than my daughter (same birth date) β€” I pray that we can show her the love and support that she obviously so desperately needs, as well as teach my children about COMPASSION!! Hugs!!

  43. JoAnn says:

    I still think you are brave. I think you are doing better than I would be; I probably wouldn’t have gone in the fist place. Every single post has made me cry, including this one; I don’t know why. They just do.
    I went to Mexico once with my husband to visit a family he knows down there. The family takes in and organizes missions trips in the area. I was sick the whole time, bawling my eyes, and wanting to come home every single minute. And we didn’t even do any missions work; that was just from seeing the neighborhood and being in a strange place.

  44. Marianne says:

    How about bravely honest?
    Thank you – again – for your post. I’ve been muddling through my morning, groggy from DayQuil. My touch of the flu seems a blessing in comparison.
    The prayer over their beds — oh my, oh my.
    This is the God we need here to help re-focus our too-easy lives.
    Prayers for you and all on the team.

  45. Shalee says:

    Nope, you’re still courageous. You’ve followed God to the end of the earth and your still alive. If that’s not bravery, then I don’t know what is.
    Keep up the great work, and keep telling us like it is.

  46. Tina Vega says:

    Oh no, my friend shared word of those type of “bathroom facilities” on her travels! I pray that the Lord would give you the strength you need in the next several days; that he would fill your heart with peace and soothe your aching tastebuds…

  47. Charity says:

    I’m enjoying reading yours and Boomama’s posts about your trip. Your totally normal in feeling all of those things!!! I live in the UK and it’s nothing compared to the physical hardships of living in Africa and I miss TX all the time! Sometimes people put us on a pedastal for doing what we do, but really we are totally human, people who said Yes to God when He called.
    Well done.

  48. Bailey's Leaf says:

    I forgot about the electrical thing! Ugh!
    Deep breath in, my friend. Deep breath out. And yes, that bathroom facility would have scared me, too. I’m afraid that I would have had to ignore my need for potty. Makes us feel a bit silly about all the dumb stuff that we complain about. Makes me appreciate my little bathroom much more.
    Thanks for being so honest in your posts.
    Feel our love!

  49. Jenni says:

    Hey, I did the same thing to my curling iron when we moved to Norway, except FIRST I fried my bangs with it! So don’t feel badly! ;oP
    Many ((((HUGS)))) and prayers…and remember that bravery is NOT about being unafraid. It’s about being afraid and still moving forward. In that respect, you ARE, by His power, BRAVE!

  50. Princess Leia says:

    Courage is the act of conquering a fear, which you have done by just getting on the planes. There’s no shame in wanting the comforts of home – even King David longed for water from his favorite well – and especially no shame in missing the helpmeet and children that God gave you. The shame would have come if you had passed on the trip because you wouldn’t leave them or the comforts of home. You didn’t. That also takes courage.
    Probably the most courageous thing you’ve done on this trip though is going, even though you knew that you would come back a different person. Facing life “on the other side” is sometimes the hardest thing to do. You’ll find that people will say that they understand what you saw, but really they don’t “get it” at all and that will kill you. What hurts even worse is when you realized that you’ve stopped thinking about it all the time and have started getting “back to normal.”
    What you’re facing now is hard and it took great courage to face. What you will face when you return will be orders of magnitude harder because once you’ve _seen_, then you must _act_. And it’s overwhelming, and only by the grace of God that it’s even possible.
    But I know that, in _that_ moment, He’ll give you the courage to take that step too.

  51. Bonnie says:

    Courage isn’t the absense of fear – it’s moving forward in spite of the fear. You are brave, no matter what you think, to keep going on your tour when you miss everything at home. God bless you. πŸ™‚

  52. Heidi says:

    I think what makes this so effective is that I can see that you are just like me. I’m not afraid of airplanes, but I’m afraid of other things that you’re dealing with (especially strange food), and I would likely melt my curling iron too. It’s a brilliant idea – send Everywoman to report on what it’s like over there.

  53. Terry says:

    The fact that you are not brave or courageous on your own just shows how big you are letting God be in and through you. PTL for your willingness to be used in such an awesome way.

  54. Dana says:

    Please consider planning a block of several uninterrupted hours with your husband (once you have smooched your kidlets) for debriefing. I find that it takes nearly an hour for each day I was away (in China and/or N. Korea) to pour it out, sort it out, and pray it out. Then, safely under the covering of my godly husband, my perspective is again in focus and my heart is again full.
    Serve on, Sister! Serve on!

  55. Dana says:

    Shannon: Thank you for being so transparent and for letting the kids be seen through you. And hey, I’m sorry about your curling iron. I can’t believe that!!!

  56. courtney orrange says:

    THAT is what being overseas is about.
    being out of your comfort zone… so far out of it…
    being UNcomfortable, feeling like you’re being pushed so far so much EVERY day…
    but the people….
    they will stay in your heart forever.
    your broken curling iron (i’ve done that), the horrible squatty pottys (been there), the ache for your family (i thought i would break in 1/2) will all become funny stories.
    but the people….
    they will change who you are and how you understand God.
    courageous or not, you’re in the right place.

  57. Rachel says:

    β€œCourage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”
    – Ambrose Redmoon

  58. kel says:

    On my first trip to India, I blew up my hair dryer in London on my one-night layover. It started smoking badly, and the blew the lights in my room.
    That was a *great* confidence booster – I couldn’t even make it through a night in London! =)
    You are not alone.

  59. Lady Why says:

    Ack! That potty made me swoon just a little bit. I’m not brave either… so ‘not brave’ that I’m at home with the comfort of a fully functional bathroom and you are there.
    So, acutally you are quite brave, my friend!
    I am so enjoying your posts and pictures. Thank you for the great thing you are doing!

  60. Jen says:

    As far as I’m concerned you are courageous. Courage is doing something even though you are afraid. I know that every time in my life that I have gone ahead with something I was afraid to do, I have been blessed, even if it was only with the knowledge that I was courageous enough to try. And since we are God’s children we don’t have to do it alone! I totally understand your feelings about your husband and children. When I was away from mine last fall for 8 days, I thought I would just melt into a puddle of tears before it was over. But my homecoming was so sweet, and our moments together in the days following were so wonderful, I can’t say I regret it a bit! PRAYERS and HUGS!

  61. Molly says:

    Praying for you! I LOVE your pics. I had to laugh, tho, at the bathroom pic! We have those here in Peru, too, and I could relate to your reaction to them! I have gotten used to them after 4 years, but never look forward to finding a bathroom like that…our girls call them “sqatty potties!” Praying that God will impact not only you, but the people you come in contact with during this trip to advance His kingdom.

  62. Molly says:

    P.S. don’t feel bad about your curling iron…at least it wasn’t your mother-in-law’s washer like I did! Yikes! Gotta hate that 220/110 conversion stuff! Thankfully, she still loves me!

  63. mod*mom says:

    they have bathrooms like that in europe too.
    builds strong leg muscles.
    i encountered one of these for the first time at a gas station in italy.

  64. Dionna says:

    My husband has gone to Africa twice so I knew about the bathroom facilities and what-not. He wants to take me one of these days and I’m just not sure I could handle it.
    But I imagine it was so amazing meeting your child. I sponsor one in Haiti…

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