Launching Into the Unknown



“What should I bring to Africa?”

The answer I got to that question at 31 years old was “Whatever makes you feel at home.” Having lived in the southern United States, I had no idea what to pack. Once I arrived in Africa, I adjusted quickly to the various places I lived. “Home” became more of a state of mind than a physical location or set of things.

Some of my most unique experiences happened because I said yes to adventuring half-way around the globe:

  • Waking in the middle of the night to find the house invaded by army ants;
  • Realizing I was the only white person on a very full bus and feeling comfortable with that;
  • Meeting someone at a shop and ending up in their home having breakfast;
  • Spending an afternoon at the Sudanese ambassador’s house;
  • Enjoying sheep intestines while thinking it is macaroni.

This is but a small fraction of the story, for Sudan was fuller, richer, more changeable, unpredictable, and fascinating than I expected. The people are gracious, forgiving, and hospitable. The tastes, sights, and sounds reflect a vibrant, determined, and joyful richness that overcomes poverty and significant difficulties. I was challenged and encouraged while learning great patience and the value of perseverance. This story bears my immense gratitude, especially to the Sudanese, who have taught me so much.

Launching Into the Unknown: Discovering the Beautiful and Bewildering World of the Sudanese is Book 1 of The “Not How I Planned It” Memoirs – join our mailing list to keep updated on future books!

About the author

Leoma Gilley was born and raised in Chattanooga, TN, as an only child. Her father was a gifted storyteller, and she inherited that gift and continues to develop it. She obtained her BS in speech and language pathology from the University of Tennessee and worked for several years as a speech therapist. She then studied for her MA in the same field and worked in a speech and hearing clinic in Macon, GA. In 1988, she earned a PhD in Linguistics from the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies. Linguistics fascinated Leoma, and in 1979 she felt called to join Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL International. This affiliation led her to more adventure than she had expected and she lived most of her adult life in Africa, about twenty years of that in the Sudan. She has traveled widely and enjoyed discovering the languages and cultures of the places she visited. After thirty-seven years, she retired and settled in Knoxville, TN.

Leoma Gilley photoSee more about this author...

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