Spring of 2005...
The seed was initially dormant, much like a bulb planted in the autumn of life, buried deeply and needing the cold of winter to force life to the surface. As winter’s harshness eased and spring’s thaw approached, the seed’s heart stirred, faintly aware of the growing longing to be the Shepherd’s hands and feet in far away places.
Although it felt the growing missionary beat in its heart, it knew it wasn’t time.
Some bulbs spring to life in the first season, some need a longer winter of death to self before giving rise to the awakening of life.
For years, I knew my heart was being called to the mission fields in developing countries, even though I had my own mission field here at home. I also knew that I simply hadn’t been ready – not emotionally, spiritually, financially, physically, or even from a marriage or maturity standpoint. I had a lot to work through so that He could use me as His servant this way.
Sometimes, it was hard to wait, much like dreaming for something you’re not sure will be yours to have. It's a risk to open your heart to that dream, but unless your heart is open, your heart can never fully receive the opportunity. Deep down, I knew that the process of working through the challenges was still worth it, even if the fruits of my labor weren’t what I had envisioned. God is faithful.
I knew by the end of the spring of 2009 that the seed was awakening from deep slumber, and that the season of winter growth would produce much fruit. In little time, I felt the first unmistakable calling to Africa when my best friend Tia shared her experiences from her mission trip to Africa. This was more than vicariously living through a friend, or simply having an interest in her experiences. My heart knew.
I felt another pull as I watched Compassion Bloggers and Advocates share their experiences from Africa.
When God opened the door for me to head to Honduras in June of 2010, it took very little hesitation for me to burst through the door, seeking what He had been preparing me to discover all along. I knew it was only the beginning; there was nowhere I wouldn’t follow Him. Honduras left me hungry for more... more of Him in these places... more of myself given to Him. Hungry to serve and to discover Him in new ways.
Still, buried deep in the desires of my heart was the longing for Him to call me to Africa.
I took a step in that direction when I began to sponsor Novet, and then Noah, and as I began to invest my heart in these children from Uganda and Kenya, something changed... something I couldn’t explain at the time. It was almost as though I had found something only to discover that something more was missing. I felt led to one more child from Africa, this time, a boy, a boy with the name “Samuel” or “Sam”. This was unexpected. At the time, we were sponsoring many children, and one more meant a greater sacrifice, but the pull was relentless. I had to find him; I had to find the child God had placed upon my heart. Two weeks later, I knew who He was leading me to. I had prayed, I had prayed for this boy as though he were my own, I prayed for God to make it clear to me that this wasn’t of me, that this was of Him... that He had chosen me to sponsor this child for a purpose, for Him.
He had... oh, how He had. I had no idea the journey I was embarking upon, but that’s the beauty of following God; we never quite know where He’ll lead us or why, we just know the journey is worth following Him. We need only to be obedient.
Ato Sam is our child from Ghana, and sponsoring him has planted my heart further and deeper into African soil, in ways I never anticipated or could have imagined. I see Jesus shining in that boy with such an intensity that it leaves me breathless.
Tia and Ato Sam have so beautifully wrecked my heart for Africa that I am homesick for a land my feet have not yet touched, for air I haven’t yet breathed, for the children I have not yet met.
There were so many places, so many possibilities, a harvest so wide, so deep... where would God send His workers for this harvest? Malawi, to work with school children who sing for Him so vibrantly? South Africa and Swaziland, where my best friend had fallen in love with Africa and I could see it in person through her eyes, beginning where she had? Mozambique, the African home of Heidi Baker, where she could teach us that through God, there is Always Enough? Kenya, where love built a home for Noah and mercy built a house for His lambs through Kristen and Maureen? Ethiopia, Rwanda.... Ghana?
My voice would break, my heart would race, tears would sting my eyes at the mere thought of Ghana. Every.single.time.
No matter how hard I tried to focus on other places, over and over again, my heart came back to Ghana. I kept trying to re-focus on the other possibilities, especially since I wouldn’t be traveling alone and had others to consider... and yet back to Ghana it would go. The harder I tried to focus elsewhere, even to places I so desperately wanted to go... the more my heart would break.
The pull was indescribable.
Even while I slept, I knew that I wasn’t completely here – my heart had already gone before me and settled deeply over there. Every night, even though I rested, I was restless. Over and over again, Africa consumed me and Ghana called me by name.
If my husband could read minds, surely he would have thought I’d gone mad. Hmm, perhaps he has already come to that conclusion without the ability to remotely read my mind! I tried to talk to him about all of this, but the blank stare and silence told me that it would have been more effective to be speaking this message to him in tongues, because he certainly wasn’t understanding the language of my heart. While I understand his perspective somewhat, I can’t help but weep over what he’s missing out on.
I talked to our 12 year old son Joshua about the trip, and extended the invitation for him to join Tia and I. He would greatly benefit from having his limited perspective widened through this kind of experience. Our oldest son is going to Russia for the summer, and I would love to bring my youngest on a Compassion trip to Africa, but Joshua needs this the most right now.
I shared my heart with Tia, with whom I’ll be experiencing Africa, and she gave me the most incredible, beautiful, selfless gift... she told me that even though there were places in Africa that she longed to go, what would make her the happiest would simply be to experience it side by side with my son and I, and that if Ghana was where my heart was called, Ghana would be where we’d go.
I thought I’d rest more deeply and sleep more soundly with that peace, but it just intensified the fire within.
The next step would be finding a Christian organization we could work with in Ghana. Unfortunately, Compassion doesn’t have the type of mission opportunities we were looking for. We wanted to work with children, preferably at an orphanage, and we also wanted to contribute with manual labor of some kind, to build something that would leave a tangible trace of our time there.
In time, God led Tia to a website of a ministry that works in Central Ghana and had everything we were looking for, and more. We have contacted them and are waiting for their response.At the same time, after having learned that Ato Sam 's elementary school does not have any books, I felt another nudge... no books...? Have any of us ever attended a school that didn't have a library? I knew this trip could present an opportunity to make a difference in the life of Ato Sam and the children in his village. We're knee deep into researching ways to provide gently used books to his school, as well as to purchase books in Ghana that would be culturally appropriate and relevant.
The wait is akin to the wait we’re experiencing for news about our family’s impending adoption. I'm on the edge of my seat, and yet I can't sit still.... The best way to wait is actively -- spending time in prayer, preparing our hearts, researching and planning for the fundraising initiatives and book drive, and putting one foot in front of the other in faith, trusting in His timing, His provisions, His plan. And with plenty of
chocolate distractions. Like this book:
Between the adoption and Africa, 2011 is going to be an incredible year.
Part of me still feels like I’m dreaming. I think back to the first time I heard about mission trips years ago, when I felt as though I was on the outside looking in, under the impression that God only called upon the "super special folks" for something like this... I wasn’t sure I could ever be considered “one of them”. This kind of stuff just wouldn't ever happen to me, you know?
I’ve since learned that those seeds of doubt and those illusions of inferiority are rooted in darkness. I'm not worthy, I'm not deserving, I'm not better than anyone else... but God gave me something to offer, just as He gives everyone something to offer. We need only to be willing to answer His call and be obedient to His will.