The long awaited Africa post...here it is.
I've thought about this for many, many nights and for some reason, I have struggled so much to put my heart into words surrounding this subject. Maybe it is because I'm still not sure myself on all the why or how details.
You see, this journey I've taken the last six months or so has so little to do with me. I'm no longer in control and while this can be glorious and fulfilling, it is also absolutely terrifying.
In August, God awakened my heart to an idea that was beyond what I considered realistic. Through running into an old friend, a journey started that day that led me to the coming adventure to Africa. A friend of mine volunteered years ago at an abandoned baby home in Johannesburg called Door of Hope. Since the day she returned, that ministry has held a special place in my heart. I've prayed about it, researched it and more, but I never thought I'd actually go. That night in August though, Sarah said to me “Go to the website. Check it out. Think about applying.”
After the event, I got home and late that night I sat in my bed looking at pictures of sweet African children and weeping. My heart was stirred in a way I had never before experienced and I knew I had to go. I didn't know how, why, when or anything else, but I was, maybe for the first time in my life, completely sure that this was part of God's plan.
It's funny how the world gets in the way though. I had my night, I was sure, and then just like that, I was back in the real world. I was working and preparing to move back to college and Africa was quietly swept under the rug. I moved back in at college and several weeks later, I found an email in a stack of papers. The email was dated 3 years to the date from the day I moved back and it was simply entitled “God Will Open Doors..”. It was from one of my greatest spiritual mentors who has since gone to be with the Lord. You know what it was about? Africa. She was praying, 3 years in advance, that God would make clear the path He had for me to serve at this exact place. I don't even remember mentioning the ministry to her, but obviously I had and because of how in tune with God she was, she recognized the importance. And boy was she right, God has opened doors. It still gives me chills to think about the perfect words she had written and prayed with such foresight. That's God y'all.
And so, I wept... again. And I said to God for the first time “maybe” as if I really had a choice. I started talking to friends about it and I filled out the application. There were so many other “God moments” I could tell you about that it would fill a book. God brought me a sweet group of friends who began praying for me (and putting up with a lot of tears.. it was a confusing time haha) and He sent me a sweet, sweet friend who had traveled the world and allowed her heart to be opened and her life to be changed and she encouraged me to do the same, even when it was scary.
The funny thing was when I went to submit my application, I hit a roadblock. I had read somewhere that they offered a six week option and suddenly there was nothing shorter than 3 months. I stopped, I prayed and I sent the application anyways explaining that I only had the summer, about six weeks, but I really felt God calling me. I sent the application and I waited. I waited and prayed.
While I was filling out the application, I realized that I hadn't even mentioned this to my parents. On a long car ride home, I poured my heart out to my mom with all that God had been doing for the last several weeks and she smiled. She's been a missionary overseas and has prayed since I was a little girl that I would follow God in the most radical ways and that she and my dad would have the grace to let me. My dad gave me the same blessing and I am so grateful that they have always supported me when it comes to following God's leading. After an agreement to take a self-defense class and get them some more details, I knew I had their blessing.
About a week later, back at school, I woke up to an email saying that after much consideration I had been accepted as a special case for 6 weeks.
Since that day, I've set the dates, prayed and cried some more, bought a plane ticket, wrestled with fear and raised some money. God has also provided a gracious, sweet lady from my church who lovingly offered to fly with me to Africa and help me settle in.
It's been a whirlwind since that night in August and I know that my life will never return to the certainty and control that I had before. There are a million reasons that I shouldn't go:
- I've never flown before
- I'm traveling alone (now with the friend) and not with a group
- Johannesburg is dangerous, like really dangerous, especially for young women
- I have a job offer and other plans for summer that are safe and comfortable
There are so many more, but then there's one reason to go that exceeds all others and it's just God. It's the Great Commission, it's caring for the orphans and the widows, it's following where God leads me. God never once called me to be safe and secure, but He has called me to follow Him with reckless abandon and that's what I fully intend to do. There is beauty in the faith that God builds when we follow Him without knowing all of the details. I don't know where the money will come from to pay for the rest of my trip, I can't be sure that I will spend my trip in safety. There are lots of unknowns, but there is one thing that is always certain and when the ground beneath my feet shakes, I learn to cling to Him and His strength even more.The greatest part is, my life didn't change the moment I stepped off the plane into another country, it changed the moment I gave up control. There's not a landmark of significance, but rather a beaten and traveled road, well worn from the journey.Walking with Christ is an everyday experience.
If there is one thing I have learned through it all it's this- my life is not my own, it's completely and utterly God's, but I can choose to hold onto it white knuckled, with clenched fists, fear, and the false assurance of control or I can humbly hold up my empty hands to Christ and say “It's yours, all of it, completely. Do with it what you want and I will follow.” The latter is an incredible journey and to be caught in the oceans of God's grace keenly aware that you have let go is full, oh so full of joy and peace.