less than a week. 4 days. 100 hours. 
thats it. when the time runs out i will be heading back to america. 
i can't yet grasp the reality of leaving. its like it can't even process it in my mind. of course, there have been plenty of times that stress has caused tears to flow, but i just can't imagine not being here, not seeing africans. it's rather strange, because from past experiences once i hit this point of being so close to departing i step so far away from all of those that truly matter, even to the point of drawing offense or hurt feelings [i promise its not intentional, just a different coping mechanism]. 
however, it has been the absolute opposite. i have found that i want to spend every moment with africans, with my team, anything that encompasses my time here i want to be right there. i wonder if this is a different mechanism that God is trying to teach me? i am not too sure, but i am going to be honest.... it scares me. i can just imagine losing it as soon as i get on the plane; and all the emotions that i have tried so hard to face- roll out in one big ball. absolutely horrible. 
wow. this is sounding more like a private diary entry...but i feel better that i be completely vulnerable to the situation. 

despite this battle of emotions, i want to leave you with a few key things i have learned from the african people

#1. actions speak louder than words. yes. this is quite the common phrase and my mother even still directs me with this advice. however, due to the fact that language is not a reliable reference, a lot of my time spent with africans was observation [as well as making an idiot out of myself when i try to speak Bambara or French]. it doesn't take long to realize that these people are hard workers, servants, caring and relational. they spend time. they are event-oriented. life is family. they simply take the time to be with people. 
example: i recently had the privilege of heading out to a field owned by my sweet Ivorian family. the day was wonderful and filled with laughter and plenty of food. but at the end of the day, this Ivorian crew and one toubab walked from surrounding village to village to merely greet people. the greetings are so simple. it is not any huge engagement, but a kind heart reaching out to let someone know that you care. do we understand what it means to care? "care.. it means to feel concern or interest; attach importance to something." this action of traveling to meet someone where they are at in order to for them to feel 'known', worth something...it's an action that doesn't need words. 
1 john 3.18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; 
let us show the truth by our actions.

#2 dance like david danced. what would an africa be without its reputation of colorful music and demonstrative dance! boy i love it! but in all honesty, the africans dance because it is an expression of who they are, where they came from, what they are doing, what they want to say... its delightful. so many times we place our focus on outer attention and how we may be perceived if we act in this way or that. now i am not saying that all of us need to start dancing up and down the aisles while one by one get escorted out to the foyer.. no... but express your love and joy to the Lord in a way that is actually 'expressive'. [ i may be stepping on people's toes on this one] really folks, you know what the Lord has done for you right? you see where he has brought you from? the faithfulness he has demonstrated throughout your life? he at least deserves a good hand clap and smile. there really is no specific example besides the fact that the african people express their praise to the Lord through dance and in the same attitude should we clap, sing, shout, jump, spin, dance... whatever it is... when you truly express the joy of the Lord, you too [in your own way] will dance like David danced. 
2 Samuel 6.14  Then David danced before 
the LORD with all his might. 

#3 faith in prayer. believe it or not these two actually go together. & no this isn't some new concept to me, but if you could see & hear these people pray, you would then gain a different perspective, perhaps a more serious perspective on one's prayer life. 
example: i was embedding with a family from the church and they had the lovely ritual of rising at 5 am to pray, sing songs and share a short devotion. well, it was a friday morning [i had already embraced the early riser prayer] and Mama comes in summoning me quickly to come with her to the church for prayer. all right, i am thinking to myself. i can always use a good prayer meeting. we arrived at the church around 10 am and you could already here the raised voices from outside the church. we enter and sit down on the right where the majority of the women sat. a lot of african prayer meetings have a structure of numerous short prayers for different needs and then breaks of singing or testimony sharing. & that is exactly the structure being executed. however, there was a point that we stopped, like took a break. it didn't take too long for me to finally come to the understanding that this was a 'fasting' prayer meeting. to make a long story short.. after 7 hours of praying for everything and everyone i could think of and a rumbling empty stomach, we all together broke fast and parted our separate ways around 5 pm. now i know that length of prayer means nothing, BUT the dedication of these people to come for a majority of the day to pray for their families, their country, their church was astounding. africans pray with determination. africans pray with zeal. africans pray with faith. a faith that literally echoes their belief in the High God, the Healer, the Provider, the Faithful Father, the Loving Savior, the One True Living God. 
without faith in prayer ... prayer is nothing but a persuasive speech. 
1 john 5.14-15  And we are confident that he hears us whenever 
we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us 
when we make our requests, we also know that 
he will give us what we ask for.

#4. possessions are fruitless. this may sound obvious considering mali is the fourth poorest country in the world and the majority of the population is sleeping on a dirt floor within four mud walls, nonetheless, although the people are poor, you would never know based off of their warm genuine smiles and jubilant personalities. after discovering giving to be one of my spiritual gifts, i decided to intentionally put it into practice. i then realized the position of the african and the majorities current status. you have so little but give so much. 
example: i work weekly with a couple guys from Sierra Leone whose business is in tie-dye. thankfully, they speak English, so the relationship has been able to extend a little farther than the Bambara-speaking african. these men have families. they have houses to pay for. resources to be in stock. transportation fees to pay. let me just say: they don't have money. business is not booming. they make make make, but sell way to short. pi would love to help their business by bringing some of their products to the states]. HOWEVER, despite the financial situation and penny to your name lifestyle, these men have furnished us with gifts...tablecloths, napkins, table-runners, aprons... their hard work given in friendship. the africans have reminded me not only of temporary excitement material possessions and money can offer, but of the danger it can bring to your spiritual walk. 
my possessions will not produce the fruit that God intended. 
Matthew 16.26 for what will it profit a man if he 
gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? 

#5. God's specific people include africans. its so easy to get caught up in your own culture and unconsciously believe that God called your people to reach everyone else. its alright. i am guilty of this very thought. but let me inform you that God has called a specific people to follow after Him and call on His name, but that people does not consist of all anglo-americans. God's 'team' is beautifully patterned with hispanics, asians, arabs, indians, africans... 
example: within the last couple of months of my time here i was given the opportunity to spend 4 days in a village a few hours outside of Bamako. the trip was incredible and God did many miracles from healing major head and leg pains to delivering witch doctors to encouraging the local believers. our team worked with a very special young couple, Pastor Moes & Ester. This young pastor is a spitfire for spreading the gospel and has truly dedicated his life to serving and reaching the people in the surrounding villages. We were told that before he began the church on his property, Pastor Moes did a 90 day evangelism strategy, where he traveled from village to village preaching the good news [never returning home]. He has begun multiple annexes in the villages, which has served as follow up and discipleship for that distinct area. Moes is one of many examples of God using his specific people for his specific plan. the africans have showed me that foreign missionaries can do the job well, but it is the africans who will reach the africans [well]. God is raising up leaders all across this globe to reach the nations... and africans are very much a part of that. 
Acts 8. 37.38 As they rode along, they came to some water, 
and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! 
Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the carriage to stop, 
and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.

the african people are truly a hand-crafted gift from the Lord. 
i thank Him everyday for allowing me to be apart of their culture & their lives. i know this is not the end.... it is simply the beginning of a beautiful kinship that will last through eternity.