I’ve been on exactly one mission trip in my life, to Chattanooga, Tennessee, when I was 14. I hated it. I cried myself to sleep every night in our little cabin because it was cold and smelly and I missed my family.
Later that year in school – my freshman year of high school – I took my first (well, my only) geography class. When we were learning about the cultures of Asia and Africa, I remember thinking just how big this world is. The things we were learning about were so far outside my realm of experience that they may as well have been on another planet, rather than the other side of my own. I knew at that point that I would like to travel to Europe someday, but I just assumed that I wouldn’t leave the Western world. It didn’t help matters that I didn’t personally know anyone at that point who had been to those faraway places.
I first started thinking about Africa as a possibility a little over a year ago, when I read Doing Life Differently, a memoir by Luci Swindoll. It only came across my radar because my mom sent it to me, and she did so because I was already doing life differently, having quit everything to move to New York City.
Among other things, in the book Luci describes her frequent trips to Africa. She started traveling there when she had retired, and as she talks about the safaris and the mission work, I started thinking, Maybe I’ll do that. Maybe once I’ve done everything else, and I’m retired, I’ll start traveling to Africa.
In November of last year, God challenged me to spend 2015 in obedience. Basically, He had some pretty big plans for me and wanted to make sure I’d go along with them. I laughed. For 2014, He had challenged me to be happy. Couldn’t we do something fun like that again? Nope. It was to be obedience.
In April, He told me I’d go to Africa this year. I laughed again. Please, God. I have a full-time job. I make very little money. I’m only 25. I just don’t see how this is possible. In May, my church announced they were taking a team to Swaziland in the fall. Of course they were. I struggled with it some more and finally went to an info session in June. Maybe this will be enough. Maybe I’m just supposed to learn more about Africa, get to know and pray for the team, and go myself some other time.
I booked my ticket the next day.
Somehow, it’s all worked out. My boss wasn’t amused, but he did eventually (two weeks ago) approve my time off. My team members turned their schedules upside-down to cover for me. I dropped a big chunk of my savings on airfare and fees, but there’s still plenty left. I started sponsoring a child so I’d have someone to spoil, and I already love her more than I thought possible.
If I could go back in time and tell my 14-year-old self, the girl who hated mission trips and couldn’t fathom a world outside the United States, that she’d be boarding a plane to Johannesburg at 25, that she’d be excited about it – well, she’d probably have a panic attack. But this is just a testament to how people change, and how God starts preparing us for our purpose long before we even have an inkling of what it is.
We leave tomorrow! I’ll hopefully be posting on Instagram as much as possible. I won’t be blogging until I get back mid-next week – thanks for understanding!