Sunday, December 29, 2013

A New Year's Challenge.

It's almost 2014.
I love the New Year.
I love setting new goals.
I love the clean slate of a New Year.
This year, I'm setting a few goals for myself- physical goals (train for a race, get back to Cross-Fitting), educational goals (get some extra training for my job, look into going back to school), and personal goals. More than the others, I'm really excited about the personal goals I'm setting for myself, and I've decided to invite the blogging world into one particular part of these goals this year. More than a goal, it's a challenge really. And here it is:

Emily Dates Boulder:

The challenge: 
-Commit to two online dating sites for 6 months - a year. Like actively commit to them. As in checking my mail, "winking" at and messaging guys on there, replying to the ones who seem interesting, showing my friends the profile pictures of the ones who are total looney tunes. Fully. Committed.
The rules:
-Using discretion, say yes to all most of the dates I'm asked on (whether I'm asked online OR in person).
-Report back to my faithful followers with the highlights and the horror stories, as well as the juicy truth behind online dating for those who are in the same love-seeking boat I'm in.
The reason: 
I just turned 29. I'm single. I have been for over 5 years. I just moved to a brand new city in a brand new state. I'm ready to meet someone and it's time I take some responsibility for my singleness! I'm taking a huge risk by putting myself out there and dating strangers, but with great risk comes great reward, RIGHT?! 

Dating Diaries entry #1: The Do's and Don'ts of online dating- Profile edition
Two days ago, I began this crazy, horrifying and immensely hilarious process of online dating. After the tedious process of filling out my profile and answering questions, I was free to browse the profiles of other 20-somethings who are looking for love, or at least looking for a companion. Now, please hear me out, I'm not this outrageously judgemental person. I'm really not, BUT I feel like the world needs a little lesson in profile-making when it comes to online dating sites.
The Do's and Don'ts:
Don't: pick a user name like "BizKit420" or "Sinizme". It's just terrible. And it makes me laugh at you.
Don't: post a FULL BODY picture of you and your terrible tribal tattoo. It's awful. Nobody (and I really mean nobody) wants to see it. Sorry, but it's true.
Do: Check your profile for spelling and grammar mistakes. I'm certinaly not blameless when it comes to grammar mistakes, but when your profile reads "i aint got no time for none of thems..." it immediately sends a message, and not necessarily a good one.
Don't: post ONLY bathroom selfies. I mean, one is fine, but seven of them? Really? That's a little bit overboard buddy.
Do: try to be tasteful with the information you share. Nobody cares about your previous sexual experiences. Really. I do mean that. No one wants to know.

This is quite the adventure I'm on. More often than not I'm reading a message from an absolute creep with some terrible pick up line. But I guess sorting through the crazies is part of what I've signed up for. My hope and ultimate prayer is that there's a normal guy out there somewhere who loves the Lord and wants to meet a really interesting and witty girl (aka ME, duh!) and through mutual creeper-sorting we will eventually meet. I am convinced that I don't have to compromise my values and morals just to meet someone.

So, buckle up and get ready for a wild ride of dates, creeps and laughs! 

Follow my adventure on Instagram #emilydatesboulder

Saturday, December 7, 2013


This is my life right now. 
I'm transitioning back from a two month trip in a third-world country. 
I'm transitioning into life in a brand new town, in a brand new state. 
I'm transitioning into a new job. 
I'm transitioning into a new church, new community, new life
And, right now, transition kind of sucks
I know that with transition comes new beginnings and fresh starts and renewed promises, BUT with transition also come saying goodbye and the end of a season. 
I the familiar. 
I value being known
I value comfort
And these things aren't immediate in transition. 
These are the things that take time. There are days when I can't figure out where I belong. I can't figure out what this new season will bring. I can't figure out when I won't feel like such a mess. But there's one thing I do know- there is always hope. There is hope in this new season, even if it doesn't feel like it right now. There is hope in this new beginning, even if it's terribly painful right now. There is hope that I am known, even if by only a few, they are the ones that matter. I'm still figuring this all out, but I cling to the hope that I have, and continue to look for more. 
No season goes on forever
Transition isn't permanent.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A lesson on gratitude

Winding our way through a maze of small mud-brick huts, we finally
reach our destination. A small wall surrounds the hut, with a piece of
tin as a door. I pull back the tin and enter the tidy courtyard where
I see things neatly in their place: three plastic bowls and two large
metal pots in one corner where a fire is still red and alive, a mat is
carefully laid down in a different corner where beans are evenly
spread out, drying in the blistering African sun, four large sticks
and some grass woven together creates a covering just to the side of
the hut, and that is where we find our sought after guest. She is
sitting on a small mat, wearing a bright pagne as a skirt and a
threadbare t-shirt. In her hands is a cluster of peanut plants. She is
so concentrated on removing the peanuts from the plant that she hardly
notices our arrival. It isn’t until we set down the large sack of
grain that she looks up from her task and smiles a wide, almost
toothless smile and begins clapping her hands. All morning we had been
delivering grain and soap to local widows, and she was one of our last
stops of the day. I was severely sun burnt, and exhausted from a long
morning in the sun, but there was something that drew me to this
woman. There was something about her that caused me to pay close
attention. Maybe it was her very neatly kept courtyard (not all of the
homes we had visited were in such condition) or maybe it was the way
she was humming to herself as she worked, but this woman exuded joy.
As with all of the distributions, we exchanged the grain and soap, and
prepared to pray for the woman. Novaloum, the Burkinabe in charge of
the distribution, began conversing with the woman in Moore. Her words
lingered in the air, much like the smoke from the nearby cooking fire.
Novaloum explained to us that this woman was almost completely blind,
and unable to walk. He explained that this grain was her main source
of food because she could no longer work in the fields to provide for
herself. As Novaloum shared parts of her story with us, I couldn’t
take my eyes off of this beautiful woman. The joy and gratitude and
hope were deeply woven into her, it’s almost like those things weren’t
just an attitude she possessed but they were her reality. She was
hope. She was joy. By any standards her circumstance was dismal, but
by looking at her you would NEVER know. As I shook her hand to say
goodbye, she held on for a few moments longer, whispering “Wend na
songe” which means, “God bless you” in my ear. Maybe it was the heat,
but I just about fell apart when she let go of my hand. I was so
deeply moved by this woman. She had so very little. She had lost her
husband, her body was failing her, and she almost completely dependent
on others to care for her, yet she was radiating love and generosity.
For years I’ve read where the Bible talks about caring for the orphans
and widows, and I had always assumed that it was our duty, that we
were supposed to do those things because that’s what set us apart. But
really, I think God wants us to do these things so that he can teach
us the TRUE meaning of gratitude and generosity and love. I think that
God wants to give us something when we do these things. I know that
that woman gave me a priceless gift. That moment where she gently held
my hand, humming sweet blessings to me, that moment will forever be
mine. I will forever remember the look of delight in her sparkling
eyes and the youthful way she clapped her hands in excitement at our
arrival. I think that THAT moment is what God wanted to give me, and
for that I am forever grateful.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sounds of Yako

There is a constant buzz at the orphanage. It is alive with children
and laughter and screaming and singing and soccer games. Here are a
few of the constant sounds I hear…
- Sewing machines: Pauline (the seamstress) works on the porch that is
just across the yard from my room. She works sun up to sun down making
clothes for the children and other clients that come and go. I can
always hear the buzz from her sewing machine and the chatter between
her and some of the girls who work with her.
- Chickens: Right outside my window is the chicken coop. I can always
be sure to hear the chickens clucking and the rooster crowing at all
hours. Sometimes, they jump up on my window and try to peck their way
- School children- Across the soccer field from our house is the
orphanage’s primary school. The kids arrive at around 7:00
Monday-Wednesday and Friday for school. I love their chatter and
squeals. They play on the teeter-totters and the climbing structure
the most, but not more than the giant flock of kids that can be found
in a cloud of dust on the soccer “field.” Less of a field, and more of
a large section of dirt with two metal goals on either side, I would
say this is the favorite spot of the school children AND the orphanage
children. At all hours of the day, kids can be found playing on the
soccer field. Sometimes it’s only a playful game of “keep-away” but
other times it’s an intense game of 5 on 5. I love the banter that
accompanies both games. I can’t understand a single word, but it’s
always obvious when something exciting is happening. At 8:00 sharp, a
whistle blows and all of the school children hurry to the flagpole
that proudly flies the Burkina Faso flag. There, they all join
together in what I believe is Burkina’s national anthem and a short
prayer. I love the sweet hum in unison of their voices. At 10:00, the
whistle blows again, and the kids pile out of their classrooms and
race for the playground.
- Construction: Since I have arrived, there has been a team of men
working around the clock to complete a new dining hall for the kids. I
wake up to the sound of them pounding their hammers and mixing
concrete.  From 1:00-2:00 is the only time (when the sun is up) that
the pounding and mixing ceases as the men eat their lunch.
- “Music Class”: Each morning, the preschool-aged kids have their
class. At the beginning of each class time, they “play” instruments.
Usually, this consists of three year-olds banging on little drums and
shaking egg-shakers with joy and excitement. Oh, and shouting. Lots of
shouting. Shouting at the top of their little lungs shouting, usually
to the French song the Auntie teaching the class has picked out.
Sometimes, they sing their own song, and play their own rhythm. There
are times when I can’t tell the difference between the banging of the
construction and the banging of music class…

These are just to name a few of my favorite sounds of Yako.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Reality

Just a short list of a few things that have quickly become my everyday reality!
Long skirts:  that are easy to step on, trip over, drag through mud
and dirty water and get caught in bike spokes.
Dirty diapers: just about every child I ever pick up has a dirty
diaper. I’ve become a pro at changing cloth diapers. And by pro, I
mean they stay on now. The first dozen I changed just fell right off.
And they use diaper pins and a cloth- nothing fancy here.
Dirty feet: that look tan… until you shower, and realize it’s just
dirt. Lots and lots of dirt.
Confusion: Not being able to speak the language of the people here has
caused me to become accustomed to a constant state of confusion. I
constantly have to tell people “I don’t know” in French. This is the
one phrase I have mastered.
Flashing lights: The only lights in our house are florescent lights,
and the power is constantly going out. After a power outage, these
florescent lights flash for a good 20 minutes… giving our house the
feel of a night club with strobe lights!
Head wraps: Each day, I accessorize my outfit with a different,
brightly colored headscarf. It’s become kind of my “thing” but it’s
mainly just used to keep sweat from pouring into my eyes!
Bugs: everywhere, all the time. Big, massive, annoying bugs that bite you.
Bug bites: all over my ankles. All the time, no matter how much bug
spray I put on.
Sun burns: like the bug bites, no matter how much sun screen I put on,
the combination of the hot African sun and my malaria medicine that
makes me burn easier than a baby at the beach, I am always sunburnt.
The rooster: He lives right outside my window. At all hours he crows.
And yes, I mean ALL hours. He usually starts at 5 am and doesn’t stop
until well into the night. Let hope rise, with the sun, at all hours I
Being asked for candy: The village children chant a little song that
goes something like this: “Nasada boom boom” which translantes to
“white person candy”. It’s cute the first time, and then it’s not.
Children: In my lap, on my feet, in my arms. All day every day. If I
am sitting, there are 10 in my lap. If I am standing, I have two in my
arms and two around my legs. I wear a blanket of children all the
time. And I love it. They love to be tickled, chased, sung to, danced
with, spun around and hugged tight. Their laughs are contagious. I can
hear them before I go to bed at night and it is the sweetest sound.
Holding them and loving them is, I believe, the reason God put me on
this earth. To love children. As I was signing to on particularly sick
baby today, sweet baby Steve, I was overwhelmed by the peace of God. I
knew in that moment that His heart was beating in my chest for this
little boy. I feel incredibly lucky to be here, loving these precious
little ones, doing something that is SO near and SO dear to God’s
heart. What an absolute honor.

Friday, October 4, 2013

In His Arms

“It is estimated that one in four children will die before the age of
10 due to preventable diseases.”

I remember writing that statistic as a Facebook status months before
leaving for my much-anticipated trip to Burkina. I was raising
awareness as well as support. I wanted people to connect with life in
Africa, and see the harsh realities the Burkina people faced. Months
ago, that statistic was shocking but not entirely tangible to me. I
knew it must be true, but I couldn’t understand the how and why of it.
Today, however, that statistic became reality for me.
Last week, while at a medical clinic in the small town of Dori, a
young mother presented her son with desperation on her face. It was
obvious just from looking at him that he was extremely malnourished.
It was difficult to watch his labored breathing. With each inhale, his
face reflected pain and struggle. Upon closer examination, Josie (the
orphanage nurse) revealed his bloated stomach, swollen hands and feet,
and scars all over his abdomen. She informed us that his mother had
taken him to see a “traditional” doctor, who had cut this young boys
stomach hundreds of times, promising it would cure him. Josie asked
the mother a series of questions, and translated the answers for us:
this boy, probably about 5 years old, had been sick for quite some
time. His mother had been taking him to see this “traditional” doctor,
but he had only been getting worse. Proper medical care is much more
expensive than traditional medicine, and the people in these small
villages are raised on the stories of traditional medicine healing all
ailments. As a desperate final attempt, this mother rode her bike for
miles to Dori to see Josie, where Josie sternly instructed the mother
to take him to the hospital immediately. We gave her money for the bus
fare, and told her it was a matter of life and death; her son would
surly die if she waited any longer. She phoned her husband, said a few
thank yous, and was on her way.
As the week went on, my mind wandered back to the image of this tiny
boy’s distorted body. I would pray long and hard that God would heal
him, provide care for him, and let him be one of the medical clinics
best success stories yet. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for the
sweet little boy- we got word today that he didn’t make it. He died at
the hospital last night.
Suddenly, that statistic- 1 in 4 children die before the age of 10- it
was tangible and real to me. I’m not sure we will ever know exactly
the cause of death, but I do know that it was preventable. With proper
medicine and care, this boy could have lived. It’s a difficult concept
to grasp, with so many questions and very few answers. Mike and Amy
(the husband and wife running the orphanage) have been working hard to
get the people in and around Yako educated- traditional medicine isn’t
always the best way to go! Rubbing mud on a wound and making hundreds
of cuts around it doesn’t heal it! It is a slow process because it’s
so ingrained in the culture here, but Mike and Amy are seeing
progress. I was able to see before and after pictures of a few
children that had been treated at the clinic and although the deaths
outnumber the successes, any progress is still progress. Plus, while
some of the cases they treat at the clinic aren’t life threatening
YET, they soon could become so. With lack of clean water, proper
nourishment and rest, a small infection or illness can become
something serious quickly. That’s the whole reason Mike and Amy host
these clinics- for prevention, and with the hopes they will encounter
these children who are brought out of desperation, and save their
Today, I am grateful for the work that Mike, Amy and Josie do. I am
grateful they take four hours each Thursday to drive to Dori and treat
these children. I am grateful for the success, and grateful for my
health. Today I will pray for the family of this little boy- that they
might know he is no longer in pain, but in the arms of his Father. He
can finally run, play and laugh again. While it’s difficult to
understand, it’s comforting knowing he will never feel pain again.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Lessons Learned

I hardly noticed the group of young boys who had gathered at the door
to the boys dorms. 10 or so wide-eyed, dark faces peered in with huge
grins on their faces. They watched and giggled as I struggled with the
mosquito nets. This was the last of many nets I was asked to hang, and
what had started as a “simple” task had turned out to be one of the
most exhausting things I’d done in my month here in Yako. When Mike
asked me to hang the mosquito nets in the boys and girls dorms, I
quickly obliged.  “Yes! Absolutely! Not a problem at all. Done and
don.” I believe were my exact words. I figured, how hard can hanging a
couple of mosquito nets be? The answer? Extremely hard. “A few” nets
turned out to be well over 20, and they needed some doctoring up. You
see, the bunk beds were smaller than the nets, which created a
drooping problem with the nets. Basically, if you were trying to sleep
on either the top or bottom bunk, you would be suffocated by your all
too helpful mosquito net. So, after much careful consideration, I
found a solution: run some string around the room, and voila! Problem
solved! Again, easier than it sounds. So, here I was, last bunk bed,
last mosquito net, with quite the audience. They were laughing at the
“nasada” (white person) covered in sweat, mumbling death threats to
the uncooperative string. The lesson I learned while this task was
underway: EVERYTHING in Africa takes more energy, patience and time.
It was probably the heat (it was a scorcher today) and the lack of
ventilation in the dorms that zapped my patience and energy, but I
swear, even the slightest task here seems to be a LOT of work!!
People, don’t take air conditioning for granted! I literally sat on a
bench outside willing the breeze to blow, convincing myself that there
indeed WAS a breeze cooling off my pathetic overheated body. In the
end, the boys ended up helping me and bringing me some water. Bless
their sweet, laughing hearts. They took pity on me.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Meet Mariam

Never before have I met a shorter, stouter 6 year old. I keep thinking
about my sweet Sofia back home in Colorado. She’s 6, and pretty petite
for her age, but she would tower right over Mariam. At about the
height of a 4 year old, I remember the first time Mariam greeted me
with her big, tooth-less grin. It struck me as odd that such a little
girl would be losing her teeth already, but I quickly learned that
Mariam was well into her 6th year. As with all of the kids at the

orphanage, Mariam would rush over upon my arrival to their play area,
but I was drawn to her from the beginning. Unlike some of the younger
kids, Mariam was helpful to the aunties – fetching the clean clothes,
retrieving run-away babies, assisting with meal prep and clean up. She
was gentle with the babies, and very playful with me. Initially the
language barrier was frustrating on both ends, but we quickly
developed a number of games that we play. My personal favorite is when
she pretends to sleep and I tickle her awake, but promptly blame it on
a nearby baby. She continues to insist that it was me, I deny it, she
goes back to “sleep” and the game continues. It amazes me that,
although we hardly speak enough of the same language to hold a
conversation, we are able to play and laugh for hours together.
Eventually, tired for all of the play, she will plop herself in my
lap, wrap my arms around her, and begin rocking back and forth. I have
to hold back tears when she does this because I think of all the
nights she wasn’t rocked to sleep and the times when she was scared or
hurt or sick and didn’t have arms to hold her tight and promise her it
would all be okay. She is loved by the aunties here, there is no
doubt. And she is DEEPLY loved by God, I know that for sure. But I
have to fight the pain that comes with the reality of her situation.
For six years, she hasn’t had a mom or dad to care for and comfort
her. Her mother isn’t mentally well and her father is not in the
picture at all. But what I love about our God is that he’s a God of
redemption and restoration. I found out just today that Mariam and her
sweet sister Madina have adoptive parents waiting for them in the
United States.  Parents who will be able to provide and comfort these
two precious girls. Parents who will undoubtedly fall as deeply in
love with Mariam as I have. I am so grateful for the ending that these
two will have. I find myself now dreaming and praying for her adoptive
parents. That they might be able to experience the same joy and love
in Mariam that I have witnessed on a daily basis. I pray they speak
French (she’s been teaching me little bits here and there), I pray
they understand how incredibly lucky they are to be adding this
precious girl to their family. I know I’m probably not supposed to
have favorites, but I can’t help it. Mariam is my favorite.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Along for the ride

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring
Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will
be released, that blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

Day after day this is the verse that God speaks to me. Sometimes in a
whisper – as I’m holding a baby who can neither hear nor see.
Sometimes in a shout – as I place shoes on the feet of a 10 year old
child for the first time ever.

Some days I find myself SO frustrated because I want to be helping
more. I want to give the children here ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that I
can. On those days, God reminds me that I’m not here to change
everything, but I’m here to proclaim that the captives are free. I am
here to declare that the time of the Lord’s favor has come to Yako.
That the blind WILL see, that the hurting WILL be comforted. Maybe I
won’t see it all happen, but I am here to proclaim it. One shoe at a
time. One baby at a time. And I am reminded that it’s not about MY
plan. It’s not about what I think should happen while I am here, but
it’s about God’s plan for Burkina. And I am so incredibly grateful to
be part of that plan. I am humbled everyday that God chose me to come
here, to be part of his plan for this beautiful place and these
beautiful people. I now realize it’s no use getting frustrated because
I’m just along for the ride.  And while I’m on this awe-inspiring
ride, I will keep on changing diapers, playing patty-cake, smiling,
getting lost, making bracelets, rocking babies to sleep, loving deeply
and learning every second of the way.

Monday, September 16, 2013

More Adventures in Yako

August 16th.
Today marks almost one week in Yako and over a week in Burkina. I must
say, I’m adjusting well! On a daily basis I discover a new (HUGE) bug
beneath my bed (yesterday it was a scorpion! Yep…), but it hardly
phases me now! I also don’t notice the thick layer of dirt and mud
covering my feet, legs and arms anymore. Since it is rain season here,
the red dirt covering the majority of Yako quickly turns to mud. I’ve
quickly made friends with the young boys at the orphanage and they
come to my door daily around 3 yelling “Em-ill-lee, come and play!” in
their thick accents. They could play soccer for hours and are
impressed by my ability to shoot and play goalie. Only about 3 of them
speak any English, but we are able to communicate pretty well! It can
be frustrating for all of us when they try to explain something to me,
but we’re figuring it out. I don’t typically last too long out in the
scorching African sun. I can play for about 2 hours, and then I’m
sweating to death, burnt to a crisp and covered completely in red
African mud. I love it.
The rest of my day is spent helping Amy and Mike with different
projects (either for the orphanage, school or the TOMS shoes
distributions) and playing with the babies. The babies (ranging from
infant – 5 years old) spend their days outside in a shaded, covered,
cement-floored play pin of sorts. They have a schedule that I'm
quickly learning, and I help as much as I can. The nannies (tonties)
don’t speak English, and only very little French so it can be a
challenge to communicate anything to them, but I’m picking up quickly
on the do’s and do-not’s. Starting this week, I will be pulling
children out to have one-on-one time with them. I have a schedule with
all of children on it and different age-appropriate activities that we
will be doing! Things like beading, puzzles, dress-up, bubbles,
side-walk chalk and more! I am SO excited to start this. I love the
idea of giving these sweet babies individual attention.

Last Saturday I got to participate in my first TOMS shoes
distribution. It was pretty amazing. We passed out close to 500 shoes
to children ages 4-15 (which really ended up being ages 2-18, but that
was the goal!) who can’t afford shoes of their own. This was only ONE
village out in the Bush. Kids just kept showing up out of nowhere! I
was in awe. At around 9:00, Avance (an older boy who was one of the
first orphans at the orphanage) gives a small talk about hygiene to
all of the children. He talks about the importance of wearing shoes to
prevent disease and sickness, and about the importance of washing your
hands and feet (something a LOT of these children don't know!).  Mike
and Amy are trying to center each distribution around the local
village church, so that the children don’t think it’s just the
Americans giving shoes, and so that they will reach out to the church
if they have a need in the future. Once Avance finished his lesson,
the children are individually sized and fit for shoes. I was one of
the shoe fitters. Children come in one at a time with their size
written on a piece of paper and once I have the appropriate size, I
would try it on their feet. It was remarkable how many children had no
idea how to put on a close-toed shoe. Many of them have NO shoes at
all, but the ones who DO have shoes usually wear very poorly made
plastic sandals. I remember putting the shoes on one little girl in
particular. She sat down and stared at me (many of these children have
never seen a white person before! We were deep in the African Bush).
Her feet were scarred from years of harsh exposure to the rocky
ground. When I got the shoes on her feet she smiled the widest smile
I’ve seen and grasped my hands, repeating “Merci, Merci, Merci!!!” And
although I had NO idea how to tell her “you’re welcome” or “you are SO
LOVED” I hugged her and I knew  she understood. In that moment I was
so grateful to be part of such a wonderful cause! We were able to
distribute close to 500 shoes. We were able to improve the quality of
life for close to 500 children. Now that’s pretty incredible! It’s
pretty neat to be on THIS side of the TOMS company. To see first hand
how they give the shoes back. Next Saturday we go back out to do the
same thing all over again. My hands will again be COVERED in dirt and
SO sore from stretching shoes onto feet, but it will be SO worth it.
And, just a little information I learned about the TOMS distributions:
They provide shoes for the SAME villages every 6 months- so that these
children always have shoes that fit their growing feet! Also, the
shoes we passed out are a bit different than the ones we buy in the
states- they have rubber soles on them, as to withstand the African
terrain. And these shoes are only given to children who cannot
purchase them for themselves, as to not take business away from local
I’m sure I missed about a million details, but there’s just no way to
accurately capture it in words. I will have pictures soon, so maybe
that will help.
I’m looking forward to my two “roommates” showing up tomorrow! I’m
ready to not be alone in this big house! I’m sure I will have more
stories about our wild African adventures soon.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Welcome to Yako

I am well into day 2 of my stay at Yako, and I'm really finding my
place here!! Amy (the woman running the orphanage) asked me to begin
pulling one baby at a time out of their play area and having
one-on-one time with them, to help with developmental stuff... fine
and gross motor skills, shape and color recognition... things like
that! I'm looking forward to getting things started with that. Here's
a post I wrote my first night here. The internet has been a challenge,
so it's taken me a few days to post, but better late than never!! I
went with Amy and her husband Mike to a few villages today to
distribute grain to a few widows. They are really trying to do
EVERYTHING through the church, so that the people in the villages look
to the church for support instead of to Americans. Brilliant! We
scouted out a few well-drilling projects while we were there. I'm not
sure if I will be around for that or not, but I sure hope so! Tomorrow
is our TOMS shoe distribution! I'm so excited. I can't wait to write
about it!

I’m sitting in my African house where I will be living for the next
two months, in the middle of a rain storm, crying because there’s no
toaster… Let me rewind and explain how I got here.
At around 11:00 am, Amy and Mike Riddering loaded me and my belongings
into their car and we took off for Yako. What should have been a mere
2 hour journey turned into an 8 hour adventure. After FOUR flat tires,
two motor-bike (called motos) trips to the nearest village and one
HUGE rain storm (which turned the streets of Yako into a raging river.
Seriously.) we arrived at the orphanage guest house. By now I’m tired,
I’m soaking wet and I’m seriously sunburnt. The sun here is SO MUCH
hotter on my poor white skin. We unloaded all of my stuff (and it was
a lot of stuff… grocery shopping for two months worth of food is no
joke people) and Amy gave me the tour. I fought back tears as I peered
around my future home. There is electricity and running water so it is
seriously luxurious for Yako but it was a bit of a shock to my
comfortable American self. There were bugs. Lots of bugs. And the
shower is just a shower head over the toilet. There’s red African dirt
kind of everywhere. It felt foreign and scary and isolated. After they
made sure I had everything I needed, Mike and Amy headed back to their
home (a mere block away) and I locked up for the night. I decided I
would make myself some peanut butter toast. Something that felt
familiar and comforting.  As I looked around the kitchen area, I
quickly realized that there’s no toaster. There’s no toaster for my
peanut butter toast. Cue tears. Lots of tears. Lots of pent up tears.
I sat at the kitchen table and cried. Not so much about the toaster,
but more about being so far from home, and being all by myself. The
tears are a weeks-worth of tears that I’ve been fighting back. So I
let them out, but as I did, I heard God’s gentle voice saying “Emily!
This is AFRICA! This is what you worked so hard for. This is what
we’ve been dreaming about. Africa isn’t about toasters and comfort.
It’s about healing the sick; it’s about bringing my Kingdom. It’s
about showing love to the least! It’s about comforting the fatherless
and bringing joy to the widows. Emily, this is Africa.”
So quickly I had forgotten what I worked and struggled and journeyed
so hard for. Not for comfort but for the beautiful people of Yako. For
the 20 babies sleeping next door who were without homes and moms and
dads. For the hundreds of children in the neighboring villages with
malaria and without shoes. This trip is so not about me. And it took
me getting REALLY uncomfortable to remember that.
SO, now I am sitting in the middle of a rain storm (under the cover of
my lovely little home) eating untoasted bread with peanut butter. And
loving it!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My african adventure: Onward to Yako!

I've been in Ouaga for 5 days now, and tomorrow I will bid farewell to this busy and beautiful town and head onward to Yako where I will be living and working at an orphanage for two months. I couldn't be more excited! Every time I hear more about Yako and the orphanage and my role there I seem to come more and more alive. On Saturday we will be doing a TOMS shoes distribution to the village children. How awesome is that?! I personally own two pairs of TOMS and have always wondered exactly HOW they distribute their shoes to the children. If you aren't familiar with TOMS, the whole idea behind it is one-for-one: for every pair of shoes you purchase, the company purchases a pair of shoes for a child in need. I am SO pumped to be part of this, and to report back on exactly how it's done! The couple who runs the orphanage told me that the shoes given to the children are, in fact, TOMS shoes and are BETTER quality than the ones we purchase for ourselves! I know there are a lot of naysayers out there who think it's all a scam... just you wait. I'll give you the WHOLE rundown.
Other things I'm looking forward to out at the orphanage are the medical clinics, food distribution, malnutrition clinics and, mainly just loving some babies! At any time, they have up to 20 babies who need to be held, fed, changed, played with and nurtured! I will get to do some one-on-one activities to help with large and small motor development, I will get to lead some crafts.... I couldn't be more excited!
Here are a few pictures I've snapped while I've been here. I haven't been able to take a ton of pictures because it's both unsafe and considered rude to do so in Ouaga. Once I'm out in Yako I will have the opportunity to take LOADS more photos, not to fret.

This is a shot of the sun coming up as I was heading into Brussels. The Brussels airport was a very, very low point. I'll tell that story once I've fully healed from the experience. Let's just say there was no English spoken and LOTS of tears shed. 

This is a shot from the porch of the guest house I am staying at it Ouaga. In the dirt lot you see, I have been enjoying watching a group of neighborhood kids play something that looks like dodgeball. I'm tempted to join them, but afraid they might totally school me :) 

This is a view of Ouaga from the home we went to for church on Sunday. Did I mention church was in ALL French? Lovely language, but not one I understand in the slightest.

This is my little monkey friend. He's cute now, but apparently they get REAL mean when they get older. The woman I'm staying with said she gave her last three to her guard and he ATE them! Crazy! Truth be told, he kind of freaked me out... made me a little nervous! I thought he might steal my camera! Ha!

I'm headed off tomorrow at 9:00 my time (it's a 6 hour difference from CO, a 7 hour difference from CA) to Yako! I can't wait to see what's next on this wild adventure!! 

with love,

Monday, September 9, 2013

Observations from Burkina

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa about the size of Colorado. Currently, I am staying in the capital city, Ouagadougou (said Wog-uh-doo-goo) which is the largest city in all of Burkina with a population of 1,475,223. I've been here 4 days now and sure am learning a lot about the culture! Here are a few of my top observations: 
- There are no rules of the road. Actually, there are no rules which motor-bikes observe. In a word, they're crazy. They pass on both the left AND the right, even if you're turning! They run red lights. They have a designated part of the main road (much like a bike lane except it has a small curb separating it from the rest of the road) however, they ride both IN and OUT of their bike lane. Today, I saw a woman with two toddlers AND an infant on a motor-bike! 
- The equivalent to a garbage truck here is a cart being towed by a (get this) donkey.  
- At the street market, if you take anything from a vendor (even if just to look at it) they refuse to take it back, and expect you to pay for it. 
- Monkeys are VERY mean. 
- People use any land near a water source to grow their crops even if that water source is right next to the main road. 
- Don't use your left hand. This is the hand that is used to "wipe" if there isn't any toilet paper available, so it's considered "unclean" (and rightly so!). 
- At any red light, you will be offered to buy various fruits (mostly limes), phone cards, tissues and gum. 
-At the driving school/DMV/police department there is a board where they post pictures of all the fatal motor-bike accidents. I'm talking gory, bloody, dead people pictures. 
- The material here is BEAUTIFUL. Never before have I seen more vibrant, colorful clothes! 
- Tailors, jewelry makers and the like will make "home visits" to sell their goods. 

Well, that's all for now. I'm sure I will have MUCH more to tell y'all very soon! OH, and I'm SLOWLY learning a bit of French! 

Au revoir!!!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Is this real life...?

What a whirlwind the last month has been. I packed up my entire house, loaded it into a Uhaul (towing my car), drove 18 hours east to Colorado, unpacked my Uhaul, and boarded one of three planes to Africa. Crazy. I don't advise it for anyone! The good news is I have survived it all and I now sit in a guest room in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso as I type this blog! Hooray! I've been here for 3 days now and I keep wondering to myself "Is this real life? Am I ACTUALLY here?" I mean, I've been preparing for this trip for the last 3 months. Working HARD to raise support, getting visas, medicine, supplies... There's been a ton of prep that has taken place and now I'm here! For the next two months I will be living on an orphanage compound in Yako, a small village in Burkina Faso. I will be holding, feeding, changing and loving sweet babies. I will be helping with medical and malnutrition clinics. I will be helping distribute TOMS shoes to the village children. I will be meeting and building relationships with the orphanage workers and children. I am full of excitement, nerves and joy.
Since I've been here, I have had the pleasure of meeting the entire Envision team that is in Burkina. What wonderful people!! They took me to a Burkina soccer game which qualified Burkina for the 2014 World Cup. Let's just say the people were overjoyed. I've never quite seen a celebration like it before in my life. Hundreds of African people flooding the streets, full of pride in their home soccer team. It was incredible. I've been out to eat at a lovely little cafe, I've been to the market, and I've been to church. I'm still getting over a bit of jet lag and recovering from the brutal flights. One day they will invent some sort of teleportation that will completely eliminate the need for planes. On that day I will celebrate!
I leave for Yako on Wednesday. I have no idea what to expect but I'm ready for just about anything. I hope to post often on this blog to keep people updated!
I find myself SO grateful for all of the people who supported this trip. Thank you for your ongoing support and prayer. Thank you for your generosity!

With love,

Thursday, June 20, 2013

My journey to Africa

For as long as I can remember, I have loved children. Even as a little girl, I was drawn to babies. I remember I used to line up my baby dolls and pretend they were my class. I would sit for hours teaching them, talking to them, holding them. I would say from the beginning I was equal parts mother/nurturer and educator. So naturally, as I grew up, my love for children grew with me. I babysat for the better part of my jr. high and high school career. I was a camp counselor at the local summer camp (my technical title was an LIT: Leader In Training… very glamorous)  and I also loved helping coach the peewee soccer and basketball teams. It wasn’t a big surprise to anyone when I decided to pursue a career as a teacher once in college. Children just kind of captivated me. I loved their innocence and the way they loved with no hesitation. I respected their honesty and cherished the moments I spent with them. Just before I graduated college, I began working at a local elementary school as a Special Education Personal Aide where I was introduced to children with special needs. God began to absolutely break my heart for these children; the ones who were overlooked and often forgotten. I began to see how deeply God burned for these special ones. This was the first time I experienced Gods passionate love for  children who seemed to be unwanted, discarded, marginalized. These were the voiceless ones, the ones who had no control over their circumstances. I believe this was my first taste of what was to come.

Last summer I embarked on a journey that challenged and changed me. I was part of a team that traveled between Kenya and Uganda and visited over 2,000 orphans. Suddenly, God’s heart for the overlooked, the marginalized, and the unwanted children of this beautiful nation was alive and raging within me. I was so grieved and broken by the intense contrast I witnessed there: beautiful and breathtaking sights surrounded by profound devastation. But what really captured my heart was the children. They were all so full of love and beauty and joy. Some were infused with sorrow as well, many of them had watched one or both parents suffer and die. Some had fought for their lives. Their stories were powerful and wonderful and through these marvelous children, God began to show me his heart for them and his dreams for them. God began giving me glimpses of his hopes and dreams for the beautiful nation of Africa.

Since I returned from that trip, I have been dreaming and longing to go back. But just as I knew God had set up my first trip with such intention, I knew the next trip would come in the right time and with the right opportunity. That opportunity has presented itself as a two-month trip (September and October) to the nation of Burkina Faso in West Africa through an organization called Envision ( I will be living and serving at an orphanage in the small village of Yoko. Sheltering Wings Orphanage ( is home to children of ALL ages. I will have the opportunity to care for babies, build relationships with school-aged children, teach toddlers, help with construction, visit neighboring villages to distribute food and medical supplies, and so much more!

If you are interested in contributing to my trip in any way, whether through prayer, financial or another form of support, I would deeply and greatly appreciate it!

For financial support, you can email me for more details (


You can also give online at Under “Give to International Workers and Special Projects” type “ENV – [and My Name]” and then add amount etc.

It’s wild to look back and see how God has had such a plan for my life from the very beginning, and how that plan has given way to such passion and so many dreams! As I anticipate this trip I am excited and hopeful for what God will reveal next! 

If you have ANY questions, please feel free to contact me! Also, keep an eye out for more blog updates and news about my trip!

With love,

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I will fight.

I had a dream last night that I was in Kenya again.
The sights and smells and flavors were so real.
The faces and smiles and hugs and laughter.... so real.
Waking up is always the hardest part.
The dreams are the easy part, but realizing they are over never gets easy.
My heart STILL longs for that place. Maybe more than ever.
The dreams are more real. The waking up more difficult.
God has given me the smallest bit of HIS love and HIS passion and HIS hurting for Africa.
He has placed in me HIS burning for the father and motherless. HIS desire to seek justice on their behalf.
A year ago the statistics were just statistics. Just numbers on a page telling me how many children were dying, how many were left to raise themselves with no parents, how many were malnourished, mistreated and left to die. A year ago the numbers were shocking, but they weren't impossible to forget. But after only two weeks in one of the world's poorest nations, I am forever changed. Those numbers on a page now have a name. And a story. And a smile. And a laugh. And a voice. And suddenly it's become personal. Their story becomes personal. Their struggle and pain becomes personal. Their impossible circumstance becomes personal. The fact that they were left to fend for themselves at the age of four becomes personal. The fact that they've gone days with no food becomes personal. The fact that they've watched their friends die due to lack of simple and basic medical care becomes personal. It becomes personal.

So, I fight.

I join with God, with his heart for these little ones, and I fight for more. I fight for justice. I fight for hope. I may only be one, but I have a mighty God on my side, and it only takes one.
God has given me faith to see a nation reached and a nation restored. It may be a lofty goal. Some may call me foolish, but I would argue that often the foolish are the ones used to do the mighty.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

So this is the new year...

I'm a big "reflector".
I love to celebrate.
Looking back, seeing where you've been, what you've come through, what God has done, how He's shown up in your life.
It's my favorite.
THAT is why I love this time of year. How incredible is it that we get to start a brand new year over after 365 days? I love that. I love the definitiveness of it. 2012 is over. And I get to reflect, look back, celebrate, enjoy what God has done this year. And let me tell you, it's been QUITE a year!
This year I:
- Spoke at a Sexual Assault Awareness gathering
- Added to my tattoo collection
- Stamped my passport for the first time
- Ran a half marathon
-Made some INCREDIBLE friends
-Went to tons of amazing concerts
- Started Crossfit
-Over came HUGE obstacles in my walk with the Lord
- Traveled across the world and had my life irrevocably and indescribably changed.

Without a doubt, my trip to Africa topped my list for this year. My life was changed. My heart was broken, in a way I NEVER knew it could break. God showed me his love, his compassion, his joy, his heart in a way I have never experienced. I'm an absolute changed person because of my trip. I now am part of a family of 28 that is scattered all over the US. What we experienced together is something that will forever bind us to one another. There aren't words that express my gratitude.
I say it every day.
THANK YOU for Africa.
THANK YOU for my time there.
THANK YOU for the people I met on the trip.
Thank you for Leah 
I am changed.
I am bold.
I am passionate.
My heart beats for Africa.
My heart cries for Africa.
I'm grateful for every experience. Every child. Every smile. Every tear.
I'm thankful for the way my heart is broken and filled with joy all at the same time when I remember my time there.
I'm thankful for the way I can bring those experiences and pains and joys with me into this life, and I can share all that God did and is doing.
What a year it's been.
2012, I loved you. I loved every beautiful, heartbreaking, tearful, lovely, joyful, confusing moment.
2013, I can not WAIT to see what you have in store for me. And for the nation I love.
Images by Freepik