I had a semester with no prerequisites and no way to start my program till the following fall. All I wanted to do was go to Africa and work in an orphanage. At the core of it was a belief that I could be a part of fixing a problem. I wanted to help a poor child have an opportunity to have a better life. Well, the Lord had a different plan and as always, I’m grateful. He led me to White River, South Africa with Ten Thousand Homes—a YWAM ministry. I spent the first three months mostly in a classroom and visited neighborhoods a couple afternoons during the week. The last two months our group traveled to Mozambique and Uganda and did a variety of outreaches. I am not sure the exact moment it occurred but at some point during our outreach God did a work in my heart. He used the people I went to help to change my understanding of joy and trust in the Lord.
For example, I had the privilege to meet a deaf girl, living in a one-room shack and sleeping on the floor. She had the most beautiful smile as she praised the same God as me. Another woman, Carol, saw her sister killed in the most horrific way, escaped to southern Uganda, was forced into prostitution, and left alone with her children. The Lord met her and now Carol is learning how to have her own business and teach her children about Jesus. I also met a pastor who started a new church after narrowly escaping persecution by pretending to be dead amidst a group of dead bodies. He continues to proclaim the Gospel fearlessly.
Though I hope the Lord used us to encourage these individuals, I feel like I had very little to offer them. But God, being the God of this universe and abounding in grace, was already working in their lives. These stories make my heart race. God is SO real and alive. This is what I learned in going: It’s not about what I do for others—it’s finding my place in what God is already doing. I went with a prideful attitude thinking I had something to offer Africans and left realizing that what I could do pales in comparison to God’s greatness. Only God can bring the joy and peace these people exemplified in the midst of suffering.
I went to Africa motivated by pity and pride. Now I see beauty and a God who is so visible and active in the midst of complete dependency on Him. I have a desire to go back again. This time it is not because I think I have something great to offer but because I want to be part of what God is doing. God is in Africa. He is working. He is moving. He may choose to use us but He is God—He’ll never fail to bring redemption.
Though I learned that lesson being overseas, it’s something that applies to my life every day—no matter where I am located. I want to be a person who has my eyes open to what God is doing around me and is eager to jump into it, whether it be through active participation or prayer. I want to remember that trying to do something without the Lord moving first is fruitless. He is the Shepherd and I am a sheep. I pray we’ll follow His voice and experience the joy of what He is doing around us.