Journey to Africa
In just a few days I'll be kissing my girls until they beg me to stop, embracing my husband and thanking him for his confidence in me, and joining hearts with the teenagers and adults of Highland Park, as I head to Malawi....Africa.
Still not sure if it's totally sunk in yet.
I was invited by World Vision and Nazarene Compassionate Ministries to participate in a study tour that will help us to see the funds from the 30Hour Famine at work.
We've been doing the 30Hour Famine with teenagers for about 10 years and for the last few years at Highland Park, the funds have gone specifically to the projects developing in Malawi. Words fail me when I try to talk about what this means, to see the people we've helped become healthy again? What a gift. And the residual gift? That I get to bring our friends and their stories home with me. I get to share the journey with our youth group, with the leaders, and tell them thank you with the soil of Malawi still on my shoes.
This journey to Africa, however, started long before the call from World Vision.
It actually started when I was a little girl.
The Waggoner family came into the children's ministry and share about the people of Kenya, about their time spent as missionaries there. It is my most cherished memory of children's ministry (besides Helen Hanby checking me in every week with a smile I trusted and adored).
Then, when my grandparents went to Kenya on a work and witness trip, they returned with photos of a people that I longed to meet. They returned with photos of animals so close it seemed you could reach out and touch them. I felt like there was a part of God that I couldn't possibly understand until I met these beautiful people.
In college, we did our ministry internships in Campinas Brazil. My heart hinges opened further. In seminary, we were exposed to the Latino/ Latina community and took one more step into the heart of God. When we moved to Texas we saw more of Jesus in Mexico and now in Florida we are surrounded by so many more...Turkish, Cuban, Honduran, Columbian, Costa Rican, Puerto Rican, and whole bunch of people from Oklahoma and Ohio.
I've always felt that in every person there is a part of God that only that person can share. As we are made in God's image, uniquely and wonderfully, there is a piece of every individuals DNA that reveals a part of God that only they can. And I really think that meeting and learning from people from different places helps me to know more of the God who we love and serve. I just can't help myself.
I also felt called at a young age, to do whatever I could with whatever I have to help people who need help and to be a voice for people who don't have one.
For years I wrestled with the missionary calling I felt on my heart at such a young age. I wondered why it didn't work out as I thought. I wondered how a calling/ gifting for youth ministry fit into what seemed like an equally specific calling to serve as a missionary.
Now it's really starting to make sense. You see, we've been to Africa numerous times. Not with our physical bodies but with our time and commitment to needs that we are aware of. Every year when we participate in the 30Hour Famine, we travel with the love of Jesus to people around the world and even in our own backyard.
We are missionaries because we are missional.
It's not a buzz word we like to throw around with our copy of "stuff Christians like".
It's a way of life that can't be minimized to a word--it can only be described with an obedient love-filled life rooted in Christ.
If I could, I'd take our teenagers to every continent to see who lives there, to notice their needs, to do small acts of love and kindness to whoever we meet. And I teach them to do it at home. Since I have such a short amount of time with them, some of them just for a season of their lives, I rely on things like the famine to "carry them" to places that are out of reach.
Now, I get to go to the people we have supported over the last few years. I get to hug them and bring greetings from the teenagers who believe that we are the family of God. I get to learn more about God and get to learn from people who have so much to give. And I get to share this journey with our youth group as we participate in the famine again in February.
I can't wait to blog, write, and share these next days with our teens, parents, friends, and our church family.
I've never said this out loud or written it before but--I thank God for making me a missionary in the Carl and Lois' Sunday school class so many years ago. I thank God for the many moments after that when I felt at home in the diversity of the world. And I thank God for using me to share the stories--what a sweet place to be--I...am...so....grateful.
I hope to post a few times while in Africa, depending on our internet connection. If you'd like to keep up with our team. You can read team posts here.