I recently returned from a mission trip to South Africa. I went with a group of 8 people from my church and it was an amazing trip. It was hard, exciting, crazy, and filled with laughter and tears. It was a joy to see sweet friends in what I am now convinced is their natural habitat. It was a privilege to meet the precious souls who serve alongside them and those sweet children they pour their lives into each and every day. If my kids had been with me, I would have stayed another month. I am so humbled by the beautiful way these souls have sacrificed and given so freely of themselves so others can know Christ. I want to be them when I grow up! Here are just a few things I learned on this trip:
The Lord is sovereign, even over government paperwork. There were some tense moments when we thought half of the team was going to be stranded in London. Stress was high and emotions were even higher. Emergency texts went out and our desperate prayers went up. I am so humbled at the way the Lord allowed us to watch Him work, a little at a time. He provided a worker from British Airways who was calm and truly had a helping spirit. She fought for us, called the right people, and did what was needed to move things along. He parted the waters so we could walk through on dry ground. And it was beautiful! It reminded us that, big or small, the work we were going to do was important. It was a beautiful reminder that no matter how hard satan tries to stop the Lord's work, God wins.
Others don't need our saving, they need the Savior. It is so easy to think that the rest of the world just needs our American money and ways and for us to ride in on our white horse so we can solve all their problems and save them from their horrible fate. While they do need help, what they need most is the Savior, so everything we do must be done in order to point them to Him. Yes, they need teachers and doctors and nurses and engineers and parents and so many other things, but those all pale in comparison to their need for Christ. And we must love them enough to do whatever it takes to share Christ with them. We must learn their language, understand their culture, listen to their stories, and put our pride aside. None of this is easy, but things worth doing so rarely are.
Living life with others is truly the holy hard and the ugly beautiful that God will use to change hearts and lives. It was such a joy to see these beautiful families the Lord is weaving together as only He can. These beautiful parents who have poured their heart and soul into raising these sweet kiddos, even in the hard and pain of their lives, and being so intentional to pour God's truth into their lives at every opportunity. It was humbling to watch those who gave up everything here in America to head to this foreign land to serve, not consider any of it a sacrifice in comparison to the joy of pouring their lives into the lives of the parents and children there, all so many more would know Christ and make Him known. I am amazed by how quickly they learned their names, ages, interests, skills, struggles, and stories. I am jealous of how quickly they were able to fall in love with the people, latch onto the languages, and dive right into life with them. Sometimes that means inviting them to dinner at their home, sometimes it's playing net ball all afternoon, sometimes it's sitting down making jewelry or working on a maintenance project. All the time it's dropping the mask, being real and raw, and letting God use the hard of your life to reach the hard of their lives. God is good! I pray that I can live my life with just a fraction of the passion and love these beautiful people have for their work and the people there.
Tea time should be instituted here. Yes, Tea time is now my favorite time of day. Each day at 10 a.m. they stop whatever they are doing and gather for tea, toast, and fellowship. I think we would all be nicer people if we did tea time each day.
Grief and anxiety are real, no matter what continent we're on at the time. This is true for me and true for others. Hard is hard. Grief enters our lives, holds on as tight as possible, as does all it can to rob us of all joy, hope, and peace. It's heartbreaking to see this in the lives of children so young, who have faced such hard things at such a young age. But grief can also be the great equalizer. We've all faced it, to varying degrees. We've seen how it changes us; our reactions to the simplest things, the tears that flow much more easily, that vacant look in your eyes when you just can't focus. It gives us a connection point, a way to relate. It sucks that it works that way, but God can use even our grief to draw us closer to others and closer to Him. Praise God! I hate to admit it, but I had my first panic attack in a long time while we were there. It was over the silliest thing. I felt so stupid, but I couldn't make it stop. It's been several months since I've felt so helpless, out of control, and at a loss to do anything. Bless the precious people going on this trip with me, who had to think I was crazy that I couldn't handle the simplest of games, but who surrounded me with prayer. Bless my sweet friend, who has suffered great loss and been in the throes of panic attacks herself, who hugged me and loved me, even though I couldn't bring myself to do the one thing she was asking me to do: play a simple game with the ones she has come to love like family. I am so blessed, even in my crazy! And what a reminder those tense moments were of my complete dependence on Christ.
I must love people here as well as those in South Africa love the people there. It is so easy to love people a world away from our real lives, isn't it? But when it comes to pouring out love on people in our everyday lives, it feels so impossible! I am asking the Lord to enable me to see the needs around me and give me the energy and courage to step out in obedience to serve them as He would have me to serve them.
Father, thank You so much for the honor of going on this beautiful trip. Thank you for the new friendships and the encouragement You brought into my life through this trip. Lord, show me the next steps You have for me here. Continually bring to my mind the beautiful people of Bethesda and give me a discerning spirit to know just how to pray for them. Lord, let what I learned on this trip stay with me and affect me for the rest of my life.