The countdown to the sail has begun. While I'm so excited about sailing, the closer we get to the actual departure date, the more I realize I'm going to miss Benin. It's amazing to me that in just three short months, God has changed my heart from seeing this city as foreign and unpleasant, to calling it home. For evidence of this, just look back on my blog entry from September 15th, in which I wrote about my concern that I didn't have a "heart for Africa." God has taught me that having "a heart for Africa" (or any other place) isn't necessarily some emotion that just appears out of nowhere. Although I'm sure God can and does give some people a special compassion for a particular people group without a personal connection, often He gives us a love for a place and its people as we experience life there.
For me, it began with a 4-year-old girl named Danielle, whom I met at a prison here in Cotonou. It grew with a camping trip, where I started to contemplate what Jesus meant when He said He came to give us abundant life. It continued with a football game, where I discovered that some things are the same no matter where you are. And it was made permanent by an orphanage, where little smiles showed me that joy and contentment don't have to be dependent on your circumstances.
It's funny. The other day I was running with my friend Jamie, and we neared the area of the dock that we have affectionately named the "poo rocks." As their name suggests, the poo rocks are where local fishermen stop to relieve themselves. The stench around this area is similar to that of the elephant pen at the zoo. At first, I could barely pass the poo rocks without gagging. Now, as we pass them on our morning runs, I no longer notice the smell. I notice the sunrise.
And that's how I know I will miss Benin, even the poo rocks.