Written by: Jill Lewandowski, A2S Board Member
Have you ever felt like you’ve lived a lifetime in a day? I haven’t until today! Coming to Nigeria, I knew I would have to leave my need for comfort and control behind. Andrew and our experienced team members prepared us well for that transition. What I didn’t expect is to feel so at ease, so quickly. There are no words to describe the faces of the people who have welcomed us with their arms wide open. They are charming, they are warm, they feel like family.
We left Lagos early this morning to catch a quick flight to Benin City. Lagos was an overwhelming deluge of sounds, sights and smells. Just the experience driving through the city was like no other…traffic lights and crosswalks are not to be found! I immediately felt calmer as the landscape became lush and green and Benin City came into view out of the airplane window.
Our welcome was joyous, with a full group of “red shirts” ready with hugs and handshakes. It was breezy and cool as we walked to the hotel just outside the airport. We made it through a few power surges (which I’ve come to find out are a common experience), while sorting supplies, but finished the task quickly and headed on our way. With two vans full of eager Americans and amazing A2S scholarship students, we set off to see the land that will be the new site of the A2S facility. Pastor Ben gave us a tour of the site and explained how this investment will change the scope of what the staff and children can accomplish. Walking the site gives you a perspective that you just can’t get via technology. The red clay of the land made it feel connected to North Carolina and the American roots of A2S.
From the building site, we headed toward the After School Academy. Meeting the staff face-to-face, people who you’ve been seeing virtually for years, was heartwarming and made the connection to the Nigeria team real. I also got to hug a VERY special lady – Jennifer’s mom – who should be so incredibly proud of the young woman her daughter has become. That made my heart happy!
After eating lunch with our new friends, we were able to join the children in their classrooms for the first time. How do I describe the faces of delight and curiosity and joy in its purest form? I cannot do it justice. I’ve never been hugged with such enthusiasm in my life and I’m sure I will never experience anything like it again. When the kids collectively sang, prayed and bestowed blessings on A2S, it was too much…emotions overflowed! The highest honor of the day was being able to serve their beautiful faces and tummies with a hot meal and clean water.
Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any fuller…there was a quick trip to see McKillop Court, assembling supply bags, fun and laughs with the camp coaches and an AMAZING chicken stew with the A2S team piled into one room. My body and mind will sleep well tonight, knowing that tomorrow will bring more love and healing for my spirit and my soul.