A few days ago we parked our car along-side the beach front here in Libreville, ready to spend about an hour walking and just enjoying the ocean breeze and setting sun. I jumped out and ran barefoot across the sand to the water, eager to feel the African Atlantic for the first time this trip! I stood in the water and took in the view, letting the waves lap up over my feet, sand giving way under my weight. After a while I turned away from staring out into the ocean, enjoying some alone time of prayer and thinking, and looked up towards the car to see what Hannah and Leanne were up to. I started laughing at the sight of them sitting in their folding chairs, side by side, Hannah reading a book aloud to Leanne. It was such a cool moment that I decided I wanted to write a post about them.
Something Leanne and I have been talking about recently is how difficult it is for people who choose to serve overseas long term to leave their families and loved ones behind (usually in the States). During this trip I have gained a new-found appreciation for people who make that sacrifice and obey the Lord’s call, despite the difficulties. Both Leanne and Hannah struggle in their own ways with this issue, and after a year of being away from my own family and struggling with it, I admire these two women so much because while I know that I will be hugging my dad, mom, and sister in a month’s time, Hannah and Leanne probably won’t be seeing theirs until the winter.
Living with these girls means that there is never a dull moment…literally, because they turn moments that have the potential to be dull into moments full of laughter. And when we aren’t laughing, we are probably having a deep and insightful conversation about God and life in general. It’s so cool living with people who have only known you for a few months, because they noticed quirks and things about you that people you grew up with probably don’t take notice of. I earned the nickname “Cookie Monster” last year when Leanne and Hannah noticed how much I like to eat cookies and sweets…something no one in America takes notice of because you all eat like me!
Leanne is one of those people that will tell a story without using any names, just “they” and “he” and “she”, so if you don’t know what she’s talking about then you might actually believe that she is telling you that Cirque de Soleil was in our backyard (as opposed to a group of interns doing acrobatics, who she likes to compare to Cirque). Sometimes she will be talking to you, then she’ll get up in the middle of her sentence and walk out of the room to get something. Or in other instances she might be talking to someone on the phone in French and then change mid-conversation to English to point out to us something random (and when I say random, I mean RANDOM, like, “Oh look guys, there isn’t an eraser on this pencil.”). All in all, Leanne is a hilarious woman! Quirky, funny, and always ready to laugh…but just as ready to listen to you talk about your life and ask you insightful questions. And when she puts her arm around me and says in a laughing way, “I love you, Olivia!” I feel truly loved. (And I love how with every team or intern that comes out, she always works into her story the bit about how she used to work for a Sweet Potato Company…so random it’s perfect!)
Hannah…never ceases to amaze me. Her middle name is “Grace”, which is so cool because when people describe her, they describe her as “being full of grace” (without even knowing her middle name!). This girl is young, beautiful, cultured (my word to describe people with excellent fashion, music, and movie taste), and yet she has obeyed the Lord’s call to move to Gabon! She is one of those Intercultural Studies major missionary kids who actually does something with their degree (and calling) that is for the Kingdom and glory of God. One of the things I love about her is that I could start singing any song from any musical, no matter how old or obscure, and she would be able to guess the movie (and then keep singing the song). And Hannah is one of those legit people who needs to make a cup of coffee first thing in the morning or her day just doesn’t go well. Oh, and she makes the most amazing food from the most miniscule amount of ingredients. She’s one of those rare breed of people who will actually do loving acts of service for the people she finds most difficult to get along with. Not only does she have a beautiful face (without make up, everyday, rockin it!) but when I say she has a beautiful heart, I mean it in every sense of the word.
Anyways, I just wanted to write some of these things in hopes that it encourages my two sisters. I love you girls. 🙂 And for the rest of the world, come to Gabon with ENvision! Or just read Leanne and Hannah’s blogs. They are truly giving American missionaries a good face in Africa…loving on the Gabonese people here…hosting and mentoring teams and interns…being obedient.