I have wanted to go to Africa for as long as I can remember.
I can’t tell you exactly when I had this revelation, but I know it started in my childhood and has been slowly stirring in me ever since. Maybe it was when I was a little girl watching Sally Struthers beg for a dollar a day, as photos of malnourished African children flashed across my television screen. Or, perhaps, it was growing up in the South, where stories of slavery hit so close to home. In reality, it could’ve been something as simple as seeing Simba tromp through the African terrain in the Lion King. I’m not sure. All I know is that for decades, I’ve been drawn to this majestic country that, for me, is the definition of pain and triumph.
I went on my first mission trip in middle school, and a seed was planted within my heart. We traveled from my home in Jackson, Miss., to a small, not-so-safe neighborhood in Memphis, Tenn. The purpose of our trip was to repaint houses in the area that were long overdue for a new façade. The houses were structurally sound, but we wanted to do something to lift this particular community’s spirits and a fresh coat of paint was our plan. I had been scraping off old paint for about half a day when I noticed a little boy and a little girl playing together in the yard next door. Something told me to stop what I was doing and go talk to them. I spent the rest of the week, not scraping and painting like I was supposed to, but sitting with these kids, learning about them, singing songs and giving them the attention they deserved but couldn’t get at home.
On the last day of the trip when it was time for my group to leave, I cried as I hugged them both. The little boy handed me a carefully folded, triangular-shaped piece of paper with my name written on the outside. On the inside, scrawled in his sweet little boy handwriting, were the words “I love you”.
I still have that piece of paper.
I pull it out from time to time, and I’m reminded that instead of spending my time making the outside of those houses look better, God wanted to use me to impact those children on the inside.
I was meant to listen to the urging of the Spirit and show those babies how much Jesus loves us by loving on them and making them feel like they were important, too.
At this point, you might be asking yourself what in the world this has to do with me going to Africa. Well, when I lived in Arizona and attended Desert Springs, I frequently went on mission trips to Mexico with a group from the church. I’ve since moved back to Alabama and haven’t done any mission work since. A few months ago I discovered that Desert Springs was traveling to Uganda, and a spark went off inside me. I mentioned it to a few close friends and family members and began to pray about it. Knowing how important this was to me and my spiritual growth, the enemy immediately set out to change my mind. He whispered things like, “You don’t live in Arizona anymore, and there’s no way you’ll get that much time off work.” And, “You hate asking people for money. Just let it go.” He made the laundry list of trip preparations seem almost impossible. But, I know my Jesus better than that. If He who makes ALL things possible wants me in Africa, He’ll find a way to get me there. He’s already provided for me in so many ways. And I know that spending my time and energy focusing on getting to Uganda and letting even just one child know how important he is and how much Jesus loves him, it will be worth it.
I can’t wait.