Well, it's been one week since coming home from my two month excursion to Africa!! I have no idea where to start in telling you about this trip, because there are hundreds of stories and moments that I want to start typing up right now. I guess I'll start by saying that this summer truly changed my life. What I was able to see and experience over there was both amazing and very hard, but the Lord worked so much in and through me.
In South Africa, we partnered with an organization called Impact Africa. It was started by the Franzen family in 2003, and they have been working in the different squatter camps to advance the gospel and bring hope and help to these people. The Franzens truly have a heart for the lost, the hurting, and the desperate, and it was such a privilege to be able to work alongside them in some of the darkest, most poverty-stricken areas. Altogether we came as a group of 65 people, but we were divided into three teams of about 20 people each when we did ministry. The team I was on was called "Team Fearless," which comes from 2 Timothy 1:7 where Paul writes: "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind."
This verse definitely helped us find the courage to push through many fears, discomforts, and hard times! God gave me so many opportunities to conquer fears and grow through this trip - I am so thankful!
Our ministry consisted of VBS with the kids, shack-to-shack evangelism, and anything else we could do to help or build relationships with the people. Because the World Cup was going on during our stay in SA, we also had "soccer field ministry," which basically consisted of us just spending the day out at this soccer field that had a huge screen playing the game, and we would play soccer or talk with the different people who had gathered. On one of our last days doing soccer field ministry, I ended up talking with this woman named Ruth who had just been passing by. The rest of my group was up on the field, but I had started a conversation with her and so I stayed down by the roadside. It's funny, too, because it was really cloudy and gloomy out, and my spirits had been down and I just wasn't "feeling it" that day, but I started talking with this woman anyway, and ended up getting to share the gospel with her and she decided to trust in Christ as her Lord and Savior! It was such an amazing moment, and we talked for quite awhile after that, just about life and struggles, and how God could help her in all those areas. I think my heart broke a little that day, in-spite of the joy, because she was so excited about Jesus that she wanted me to come to her house down the road and read scriptures with her and her daughter, and I couldn't go because our group was leaving in 5 minutes. Still, I'm thankful for the time I had with her, and I was able to get her information to share with the local church, who will follow-up with her and start discipleship. I'll never forget her face, or how special that moment was.
In Zambia, I think there was 69 of us all together as a project. The reason the number is different than SA is because they divide the trips into an A, B, or C category. A is a one month trip to South Africa, B is a one month trip to Zambia, and C is a two month trip covering both. I was on C trip, along with 15 others, so most of the people who went to SA didn't continue on to ZAM, and the people who came to ZAM were totally new faces to us! Thus we had 69 in Zambia, but it was a whole new team! Anyway, enough of that side trail...
In Zambia we partnered with an organization called "Every Orphan's Hope," and with their help we got to do a huge VBS camp for 5 days with over 300 kids. Me and another girl had our own group of 10 kids, who we got to see everyday, and it was just such a wonderful experience getting to know these kids, and spending all that time with them. Yes, at times it was quite tiring, but the smiles on their faces and the growth we got to see in each of them was well worth everything it took out of us. Not to mention that 9 of the kids prayed to receive Christ at the end of the week, which was wonderful! Their names and faces are forever imprinted upon my heart, and one of my favorite memories was near the end of the week when we actually got to wash their feet. We had read them the story about how Jesus had washed his disciples feet as an act of service and love to them, and to demonstrate we did it ourselves. The kids loved it!
Also in Zambia we did more hut-to-hut ministry, and we got to volunteer at several clinics in the area (cleaning, visiting with patients, and praying for healing). I got to see some things I had never seen before, and there's one day that I will never, ever be able to forget. We had been helping out at the clinic the whole morning, washing linens and visiting with different people. The staff there were very friendly, and had showed us all around, even to the maternity ward, where all the moms (about 30 of them!) had come with their babies for various shots and checkups. The babies were so cute! So little and precious. When early afternoon came around, though, we ate lunch and then were preparing to leave when there was this commotion. I heard a woman screaming and wailing, and saw that they were dragging this young woman away. I went over to see what had happened and they told us her baby had just died right there. And I don't know, I just had never seen such pain before as I saw in this young mom's eyes. My leader and I ended up going in to see the baby, and she was so beautiful. She just looked like she was sleeping there, but I knew she was dead, and so we prayed for her. You may think we were crazy, but God has chosen to raise some people from the dead before, and I completely believed he could do the same for this child. Did he? No. He didn't. But what I learned is that, even when we don't understand why God allows some things to happen, such as a mom losing her precious little baby, he's still God... and His ways are not our ways. Did he work healing while we were there this summer? Absolutely. There was even a crippled lady who walked! But that's not always His will, and I was just glad we were able to be there for the mom. Just holding her and sharing in her grief, letting her know that someone was there for her in that time was such a privilege. It changed me.
So yeah, there was a lot of stuff that happened this summer that was not easy, but through it all God taught me so much, and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I have so many stories to share, but all in all I know that God wanted me to be in Africa this summer, and it was just so life-changing. Being home I'm just not the same. There's so much God has put on my heart to change and do in my life, and I'm very excited about it!
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