Letters from the mission field: Adventure in Africa
Since the age of three, I have had a fascination with Africa. But, it wasn’t until I became older that I realized this fascination was a God-instilled dream. I truly believe that God gives us big dreams, because He wants us to dream big and pray hard. We have to surrender those dreams though and trust Him to fulfill them in His time.
Africa was my dream.
In the fall of 2012, I attended a dance retreat with my Christian dance ministry. At the end of the weekend, our speaker, Pastor Steve, told us about his visits to Liberia and announced that he was hoping to bring a group of dancers with his team this year.I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A mission’s trip to Africa with my best friends? Count me in! As I left the room, Pastor Steve stopped and asked, “You’re going to Africa, aren’t you? I can see it in your eyes.”
Being called by God looks different for everyone, but in that moment I knew I was called to go. Little did I know the crazy journey God prepared for me!
For one reason or another, each girl from my dance group decided not to go. God was limiting His servants like He did with Gideon’s army, but I didn’t see His purpose then.
Yet, God was faithful. The dream He placed inside my heart, He also planted inside my father’s. After much prayer and discussion, both my dad and I joined with the team from Pastor Steve’s church to prepare for Liberia. Traveling three hours to their church each month for a meeting was harder than we thought.
God was teaching me that serving Him meant giving Him everything, including Sunday mornings, gasoline, and sleep.
This past November, after nearly a year of preparation, the eight of us – five teen girls and three adults stepped onto the plane bound for Liberia. The team of twenty that Pastor Steve had envisioned was greatly downsized, but our small numbers made it clearer that the trip was God’s work, not ours. This was only confirmed during our time there.
We spent the next ten days learning the true meaning of “flexibility.” We had planned on having four teaching sessions about identity in Christ with games and crafts in each town.
Our first session in Gbarnga didn’t go as planned, because we had 300 kids, rather than the anticipated 200, packed inside a tiny schoolroom that was reaching 110 degrees. The next day we condensed our four sessions into one, but 500 kids showed up, so we didn’t have enough craft supplies for every child.
The one way we could truly reach the Liberians was through dance. Back in the US, I had choreographed a simple dance to “Hello My Name Is” by Matthew West. Africans love to dance, so as they joined in, we prayed the words penetrated their hearts.
Mid-week we traveled into the mountainous regions of Liberia to join a pastors’ conference in Zorzor. Although we still had to condense our sessions, we had about 75 children each day and were able to build relationships with many of them.
In Zorzor we also had revival services at night, where we declared God’s promises and baptized new believers. Liberian worship is unlike anything I had ever experienced. The Liberians give everything. They dance with abandon and sing with power as if they are standing before the throne of glory. I experienced the presence of God most powerfully during our times of worship.
So that’s what we did in Liberia. But, what we did is only half the story.
Something changes inside of you, when poverty becomes personal. I saw children wearing ill-fitting shoes and the same dirty clothes. I watched helpless as a toddler cried from hunger. I heard a precious girl ask me for a sip of water. But, I also felt the hugs of those same children who had nothing. I watched them care for their younger siblings with selflessness. I saw their faces light up with joy as they danced in worship.
I do not hate what I have been given. God has placed me in this country for a reason. However, I can use what I have learned in Liberia to serve others. I can choose to live on less, make sacrifices, be thankful, not complain, and love my family. And I can choose to live each day with joy and worship Jesus with abandon just as my Liberian friends.
I was expecting that I would go to Liberia, love on the kids, change lives, and come home with perspective. And while part of that was true, I learned that doing what God asks is not always rainbows and butterflies.
My time in Liberia was difficult: I experienced the heart-wrenching brokenness of the world, spent days giving until exhaustion, and was discouraged as I realized how big the need is.
But despite the heat, jet lag, motion sickness, negative emotions – everything that the Enemy used to try to limit our effectiveness – I can honestly say that the difficulties were worth it. Hardship makes the rewards so much sweeter.
More importantly, hardship grows us closer to God. Jesus gave His life on the cross so that I can live forever with Him someday in Paradise. The least I can do is give everything He has given me back to Him during this short stay on Earth.