Where do I begin? To summarize the journey I have been on for the past six months is a challenge all too difficult for words alone, and yet here I am, trying to capture and articulate what this experience has meant to me. These last several months have been quite the adventure, full of unexpected twists and turns, and yet full of so many sweet moments that I will forever cherish.
When I embarked on this journey on January 9th, I truly didn’t know what to expect. I was headed to a new continent, with new teammates, hoping to gain a new and fresh perspective on God. I didn’t know what our daily routine would look like, or what our volunteer projects would entail, but I was excited about the opportunity to explore all of these things.
From the beginning, I was struck by the way Experience Mission viewed missions. I think oftentimes we have this preconceived idea in our heads of missionaries being people who hand out bibles, and talk about God at any given moment of the day, to anyone they come into contact with. And, while there is certainly nothing wrong with this approach, please understand that, our experience in Africa has been entirely different.
For us, we have been afforded the time to simply build relationships. Whether it’s the coffee shop owner down the street, our incredible host families that have housed us in each country, or the local people we come into contact with on the streets, each day has provided a multitude of opportunities for us to establish friendships. Through these bonds, it has been our goal to “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”—St. Francis of Assisi.
If there were an underlying theme of this journey for me, it would be that God is faithful. As Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” When we are able to truly grasp what this means, it’s powerful beyond measure. In the small things, and in the big things, God proves faithful. During our trip, He has shown this to me time and time again.
In building relationships with the locals here, I have had the opportunity to pray a lot. While walking through the city, I will simply pray for opportunities to share the love of God. (When you truly grasp how great God’s love is, it’s impossible to not want to share it.) Each and every day, He has been faithful in this. I may not always share directly that “God loves you” to a random stranger, but He has provided me with opportunities to come alongside people for a time, and really walk through life with them. I have bonded with strangers in profound ways, and almost always, God comes up in the conversation at some point. It’s incredible how the love of God within you shines through. His loves truly does change you.
So yes, while I may be going back to the same city and job position (which is certainly a blessing), I am a changed person. The way I look at my interactions with people is entirely different. It is my daily prayer that as I return home, I would continue to rely on God to provide divine appointments with people, as He has proven so faithful with over the past six months.
While a mission’s trip allows a unique timeframe in one’s life to slow down and reflect on what is good and important, it is a daily choice one must make to pick up their cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). I know that as I transition back to the “real world,” there will undoubtedly be challenges that I will face. Through all of this however, I am reminded that there will never be a place that I will go that God has not already been.
Thank you for all of your prayers and support over the past 161 days. The encouragement I have received has blessed me beyond measure. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or prayer requests you may have, I am more than happy to be there! Thanks again, much love.