A Retrospective View of Our Trip to Africa

We’ve been back four days now, long enough to get over any jet lag and get back into the swing of things at home. Of course, we’re all back at our widely scattered homes in Florida, Indiana, and Texas, but we’re still staying in touch with each other. I’m happy that all of us found the trip to be special. I knew it would be for me, but I’m glad that it proved to be so for all of us, from the oldest to the youngest. Several declared it to be the trip of a lifetime, and I think all of us felt that way. There are probably three main reasons why it was so special.

First, we were experiencing or renewing family connections that go back 80 plus years through four generations. When we visited Zimbabwe and the Old Mutare Mission, we went back to places and people important in the lives of my parents and all three of my siblings. The Faculty of Health Sciences luncheon, Africa University’s graduation exercises, the welcome luncheon at the Sarimana home, and Sunday service at St. Peter’s church gave my family insights as to why Zimbabwe means so much me. Mutare Boy’s High where my brother Cliff and several other missionary boys were boarding students 60 years ago brought back bittersweet memories of his experiences there. All of this was capped by the informal private memorial service we observed for Cliff and Ralph and Eunice Dodge one evening.

When we went on to Ethiopia, finding the home in Gondar where we (the Ed and Nancy Dodge family) had lived 50 years ago brought back many memories of our two years there. Rand, Jeff, and Amy were 10, 6, and 2 when we left Gondar. This renewal of old and sometimes hazy memories was especially great for them. Then our visit to Project Mercy in Yetebon gave us all insights into its remarkable achievements and the amazing couple that began this work over 25 years ago, as well as Rand’s contributions as COO in recent years.

A second factor making this Africa trip memorable was some of the great sight-seeing we worked into our schedule.  Going to Victoria Falls, experiencing the drenching mist from this mighty world wonder, and seeing the vivid rainbows created by the bright sun shining through the mist was phenomenal. Seeing the wildlife throughout the park area was also memorable. The elephant crunching a small tree as we entered the town of Victoria Falls was unforgettable. The baboons and monkeys scattered throughout the area, and the antelope, warthogs, and cape buffalo we saw in the game park all became part of our experience there.

In Ethiopia, seeing and learning all about Lucy and other famous fossils in the national museum gave us a good introduction to the region’s importance for homo sapiens. Then, touring the many castle ruins in Gondar from its years of splendor as the Emperor’s home and seat of government in the 1600s and 1700s helped us see the reasons for Ethiopian pride in their history. Enjoying wonderful festive dinners in Addis Ababa, and then at the Four Sister’s Restaurant in Gondar gave us marvelous gustatory experiences that we will remember for a long time.

The third reason this Africa trip was so special because we did it as an extended family, involving siblings, cousins, parents, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren over three generations. I think we all felt this, but my granddaughters Abbie and Meagan put it into words when they said that doing this as a large family made it very special. The remarkable thing is that over two weeks of togetherness, there was no bickering or complaining in spite of some hiccups in the schedule. I was very proud of the family simply going with the flow to get the most out of this experience of a lifetime. We had a wonderful two weeks!

Our old Gondar Home

Big “kids” on the front stoop.