A GIRAFFE AMONG ZEBRAS

'If God had wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise' - Johann von Goethe

It's obvious that this blog post is long overdue. It has taken me so long to finally sit down and write the third installment for my eMi trip to Nigeria. Writing does not come naturally for me, and one blog post can take me a number of days to write thanks to my perfectionism. This post has been written and re-written so many times, as I really struggled with some deep-rooted fears and insecurities during this trip, and I contemplated not writing about them. Today, I have decided to share my honest and raw reflections.

Upon being approached about participating in this second Nigeria trip to Benin City, to design the subterranean layout of a new state of the art campus for Benson Idahosa University, I experienced a lot of self doubt as to my ability to contribute to a team of five Civil engineers on a civil project.

The real work began on Monday and continued through to Friday when we shared our final presentation to BIU administration and the engineering consultants. Engineering Ministries International (eMi) was invited to ensure that their new 120 Hectare Okha campus would be equipped with high quality infrastructure. Despite repeated assurance that my presence and skills would be valued and put to use, I was left struggling with feelings of isolation and inadequacy. I was not able to assist as much as I had anticipated, and I began to drown in a world of unfamiliarity, frustration and self loathing at my lack of knowledge and ability. Though frequently reminding myself that I was not a civil engineer, I mentally rebuked myself for not meeting personal expectations and standards. Regardless of my own expectations, I did not feel that my presence was overly valued by the team, and on occasion a careless comment about my presence left me reeling with disappointment and anger at the unjust and dishonest representation of my being there.

In precious moments spent with God, I realised that perhaps my presence was not for the work, but rather for the people. I couldn't be what I wanted to be, because God intended me to be otherwise. A giraffe cannot be a zebra no matter how hard it tries. In overcoming my self-righteousness and being content with what and who I am, I was able to experience pure joy and contentment. I invested in relationships with individuals and made lifelong friendships. I now have two new sisters in Christ, Angel and Tanika, and was blessed by everyone that I met in Nigeria; from the drivers, cooks and nanny's to the President, his wife, and other staff of BIU. We spent evenings eating, talking, praying and sharing together. We played Dutch Blitz and Spoons together with members of a Christian band late into the night. We whined together when the power went off and as we began to melt like popsicles, leaving damp signatures in place of where we'd sat. Our last morning in Benin City was spent at the local cinema with Tanika, Angel, Berlin and Aileen watching 'Zootopia' and choking over tears of laughter.

My mom gave me a verse before I embarked on this trip, and it provided me with such comfort and assurance every day. 'I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - He who watches over you will not slumber; ...The Lord watches over you - the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm -  He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.' (Psalm 121: 1-3 & 5-8) Though fear and doubt is crippling, I am so blessed to know that God is right there, lifting me up when I fall down and guiding my feet when I don't know where to go.

To be continued...