Jack: I have one question for you.
Mom: Okay, go ahead.
J: Who said you had to go to Africa for ten days?
M: (thinking, thinking…) Well, honey, I really think Jesus wants me to go.
J: But did He say TEN DAYS?
And that is how I left. Wondering myself, who told me to go to Africa? Why am I doing this? Am I insane? Going somewhere so far away? Leaving my kids for ten days? Going with people I barely know to a place I’ve only read about where I’ll be eating who-knows-what-kind-of-food and bathing in who-knows-what-sort-of-conditions? Going when I really have no transferrable-to-African-culture skills? (What was I going to teach them—how to write a great email or put together a really cute outfit?) Basically, what was I thinking and had I really heard from God on this one?
I remember when I first gave my life to Christ…I clearly recall telling God twenty-three years ago that I’d do anything for Him, just please don’t send me to Africa (whatever I thought Africa represented back then). I think I thought that to follow Him meant that He’d probably be asking me to do a bunch of stuff I wouldn’t want to do, and I was drawing a line in the sand. I give You all of me, but… I can only imagine Him smirking each time I’d say something like that, Him knowing that twenty-plus years later, He’d end up working Africa into His little girl’s heart and that I’d be begging for Him to orchestrate a trip for me to go on.
It surprised even me that I have become the kind of person to do what I just did, to go to a place so far away, so far removed from all I know and love. My former pastor and still good friend emailed me, in response to my trip recap letter:
There is no way to sum up Africa, but basically I would say that it is everything you would picture it to be—only with more poverty and more beauty, more sickness and more joy, more dirt and heat and more hope…just simply more real. I think we like to pretend that what we hear is going on over there isn’t really going on over there. But it is. Not all children are in school; not all people eat even two meals a day; many people bathe in dirty, diseased water that they also must drink for lack of any other sources. People are dying for reasons they shouldn’t be. The obstacles they face each day are huge, but so is their contentment, which blew me away.
So I’m left with the now-what questions. I’ve been reading about Africa for a couple years…I’ve been speaking and writing about it…I begged God to let me go…and I went. So now what? Well, I pray for an open heart, for my desire to learn about that place to continue to thrive, for God to live and move and breathe through me, and for Him to tell me what to do next…for ideas that are creative and smart and doable and yet just beyond my reach so I know God is in them. Because those kinds of ideas are the best ones. For Him to fill me up and then let me love others in adventurous ways until I’m completely tapped out…burned to the ground. In the best possible way.