Sometimes, my faith sucks…

I was doing so well.

Praying multiple times a day, doing my devotions, being thankful for what I have, and having faith that God has a plan for my life and trusting that He knows what’s best.

And then, I had to ask my boss for time off for my mission trip to Zambia. I would need to use my week vacation, a personal day, and two unpaid days. I felt confident that this wouldn’t be a problem. After all, it wasn’t like I needed the extra days because I was going on a cruise. While we would see some amazing things on the trip, the majority of it would be spent working with the students and teachers at Lifesong for Orphans.

My confidence was high. I just knew everything would be fine.

Then it wasn’t.

My boss, who is one of the greatest people I have ever worked for, said she would have to talk to HR about it. She didn’t seem thrilled. She didn’t say, “Oh I’m sure that will be fine!” She wrote down the dates and said she’d let me know tomorrow.

Yes, this could all work out. But let me tell you, sometimes… my faith sucks. The pessimist inside me says, “It probably won’t work out!” Or maybe that’s the devil I’m hearing.

I should have great faith right now that God will work this out. How this whole trip came to be is an amazing thing in itself, why would God NOT work this out? Because sometimes God has other plans. And that’s what scares me. Even though God knows what’s best, I don’t always like it.

I will be devastated if I can’t go on this trip. I’ve already psyched myself up to meet all those orphans- to play with them, sing with them, show them God’s great love. Tearing that away from me now would just crush me. It’s also the number one thing in my life I have to look forward to right now. It’s what’s keeping me happy right now, keeping me going each day.

So often, I tend to expect the worst. That’s a terrible trait to have, and I’ve even told others lately to expect great things, amazing things, and they will start to happen! But sometimes, it’s just so hard. Like I said, sometimes my faith sucks.

A Whole New World…

Tuesday, June 16, 2009, 11 p.m.

After breakfast here at the guesthouse we met the “Nationals” (I don’t know why we call them that. They are basically “townies”) at “the office.” We talked about the different ways to share Christ and then we were off to share the gospel in the dorms on campus.

Anyways, I was paired with Kaeli and a student. The dorms were old. The hallways were narrow and filled with shoes since you can’t wear them in a Muslim’s room.

The first girl we met with was a very quiet Muslim girl who is studying medicine. She even allowed us to pray with her for her exams. It was cute though- she asked why we closed our eyes when we prayed. They don’t do that I guess.

The other girls we visited were much different. Their rooms were the same though- small, blue walls, small cot-like beds and the windows were covered in newspaper to keep out the steaming heat of the sun.

These two girls were very outgoing. We had a good talk with them.

Both places we just kind of got into discussions about God and what we believe. (Of course they only spoke French, but Kaeli translated).

We had lunch back at “the office.” Everyone shared their experiences and we ate something weird for lunch. It was kind of like hamburger and salsa on top of noodles.

At around 5 p.m. we packed ourselves into the van and came back to the office. I should explain “the office.” About 30 minutes away from the guesthouse and only about a mile from the university is the Niger Campus Crusade for Christ. The few buildings with it are protected by a wall and locked doors.

We got into our Jesus Film groups, packed up the equipment and left for our locations. My group rode to a place about 45 minutes away on the outskirts of town. It was like a little village and really reminded me of a Bible-time city.

We met up with the pastor of a church in the “neighborhood”. He showed us where to set up and where to lock our things. Then we divided into two groups and walked around the village inviting people to the film.

From the moment we got there until we left four hours later, this one little boy in blue sweatpants was right by my side the entire time. He was so cute! Sad thing was, we couldn’t communicate through Abby or Bruce. All the people spoke Hausa (a tribal language) and not French. The video was even in Hausa.

We talked to lots of people throughout the village. Everyone was really friendly except this one group we came across. They were nomads so they were living in a little mud hut. They looked crazy. The one guy who talked to us had a huge voodoo-looking guy on his necklace. Very creepy. After we left them, Bruce said they spoke a special tribal language and that they worship their own god.

As we walked through the village, kids joined us and followed us. It was so cute!

We started the Jesus Film at dusk (around 8 p.m.) and I was amazed at how all the kids got quiet to watch. It was really loud- it echoed throughout the entire village. And people were sitting on both sides of the screen. We estimated around 100 people were there. About 70 kids and 30 adults.

When the film was over, about 30 kids and adults stayed to listen to the pastor. He told us later that he had never seen that many people stay to hear more about Jesus.

It took us awhile to pack up, but a bunch of little kids helped, so that was nice.

Boy were we exhausted when we got home. I’m so tired, and it’s only our first time doing this! We will be doing this EIGHT more times! I mean, it’s incredible what God is doing, but it’s also exhausting.

First full day in Africa…

Here’s the journal entry from our first full day in Niger, Africa.

Monday, June 15, 2009, 2 p.m.

Boy did I pass out. I slept straight through until 7 a.m. I woke up once I guess, and was like, “Where am I?” And then I thought, “I’m in Africa!” and went back to sleep.

This morning we went to a nice little breakfast place. We had baguettes and some chocolate pastries. We then had an orientation meeting.

Bruce talked about how lucky we are to be able to learn from the Niger Christian leaders. In some places it’s too dangerous, they can’t blow their cover. We also learned not to give money to anyone (duh). If you do, a huge crowd will form.

After our little meeting we headed across the Niger River to the University of Niamey. There were about 12 students eager to greet us. They made sure to shake everyone’s hands. Some were dressed up in colorful traditional dresses and others were in basic American street clothes.

Inside, when each of us was introduced, they all clapped for us. We sang a few songs, one called “Ton amour Nous Environne.” Then we read Psalm 133.

I can’t get over how much everyone wants us to be happy and taken care of. For example, the preacher welcomed us after we sang and he asked how we were doing with the heat. We all were like, “Oh it’s super hot!” and three people jumped up to turn the fans on higher.

The preacher told us a lot about Niger and its government issues right now. There are eight major regions of Niger. Everyone speaks French and also at least one tribal language (Hausa is the most common).

We were prepped on how to witness at the university. He said almost every student would be willing to listen, but in the end won’t accept Christ because they are Muslim. (95 percent of Niger is Muslim.)

Since we’ll be witnessing to mainly Muslims, we can never refer to Jesus as the “Son of God” because that implies that God had sex with Mary. It is something they are very serious about. Like Jews, they believe Jesus was just a prophet.

Right now there is a huge push from Saudi Arabia to spread Islam to all of Africa. There are five mosques at the university alone.

After our talk we got into teams. I’m with Bruce, Abby and Don. We were grouped with some university students, who took us outside to show us how to set up the Jesus Film, which we will show in villages at night. OK, in the African sun at noon, setting up was BRUTAL. One of the students, Marie, was always telling me to stand in the shade with her. She was so sweet. She spoke very little English. Marie had tribal scars on each side of her face. They were two marks beside each eye.

We were exhausted after setting up and taking down. We were served lunch. Rice and something. I don’t know what it was.

On our way back to the guesthouse we saw tons of goats. They’re everywhere! It cracks me up!

10 p.m.

Ahh- lovely cool African evening. My group for when we show the Jesus Film was in charge of dinner tonight. We made spaghetti. I chopped the onions and garlic for the sauce and I did the dishes at the end.

Just before dinner we had an interesting weather situation. The sun was setting, and the sky looked purple and orange. It was super weird. Well then the wind picked up like crazy and there was a huge sand storm. Sand was flying around everything! It got in our eyes, mouth, nose, etc. Crazy!

Tomorrow is our first official day of “work.” I’m eager to see how all this plays out!

Niger, Africa Part I

Every time I go on a mission trip, I keep a journal. Since I’m returning to Africa in June (to Zambia instead of Niger), I thought it would be fun to look back on my experience the first time I went and to share it with you in segments. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 13, 2009 – 5 p.m. Indiana time
28, 000 feet, 552 mph

I’m not making those numbers up. There is a lovely TV screen for each person here on our Air France flight from D.C. to Paris, and there is tons of stuff to do on the tiny screen in the headrest of the person in front of me – movies, games, music, etc. You can see how high you are, how fast you are going, where you are located, and there is even a view of what the pilot sees (which, by the way, scared the CRAP out of me).

I’m hungry, and the food smells GREAT! And I just saw my first official French baguette! Can’t wait for my salmon dinner!

7 p.m. Indiana time
35,000 feet, 620 mph

I didn’t realize how cold it is way up here, but apparently it is -65 degrees. That’s crazy!

Dinner was delicious. I had salmon parmentier. I don’t know what that is, but it was yummy! Also had like, tuna salad on top of these weird little yellow balls. I had a baguette, some cheese, rice pudding and a brownie.

Sunday, June 14, 2009 – 5 a.m. Paris time

We are less than an hour from landing in France! How crazy is that?

I would give anything for a window seat right now. But, I’ll have to settle for the middle of the section. Maybe I’ll luck out with a window seat on our flight to Niger. I haven’t slept at all. These seats are ridiculously uncomfortable. I thought for sure they would be nice because of the big plane and long trip. Boy was I wrong.

I just realized that I don’t know what day it is. Is it tomorrow already? I guess so.

If I look down the row I can see the sun coming up outside of the window. The sky is a beautiful purple and peach. According to the digital map we are passing England right now.

7:40 a.m. – Paris, France

Bonjour! I’m in FRANCE! I’m at the airport eating a sandwich made of I don’t know what, because the labels are all in French.

Anyways, let me back up a bit. Our landing was fine. We didn’t even have to wait long to get off the plane. I said my first “Au revoir!” as I exited the plane. To be honest, everything outside looks just like the U.S. The terrain and airport are similar. Still, EVERYTHING is in French now!

We had to go through security again and my bra hook set off the metal detectors. Man did I get frisked. That security chick literally felt me up!

Once inside our terminal I was whisked away by an array of designer stores- Hermes, Dior, Chanel and your can literally smell the leather permeating out of Prada as you walk by.

The people here look like us. They have the most beautiful accents though. I feel so common with my American accent. How boring.

Our group found a place to sit down so we could pray and talk about a few things. For instance, when we get to Niamey we will be asked why we are there and we have to say, “as tourists.” The first few days we are staying at the Catholic Guesthouse.

Our orientation is tomorrow. We’ll learn all the important cultural stuff then.

Now we’ve got a few hours before we fly to Niger. I’m enjoying my mystery sandwich and a Tao energy drink. Think I’m going to try and nap now. Probably shouldn’t have had the energy drink.

6:10 p.m. – Niger, Africa

We are here! We are here! I am sitting outside our room at the Catholic Guesthouse. I am in room 6 with Sheri. She is really sweet- used to be a journalist and is here with Jonah, her 15-year-old son.

The word “hot” doesn’t even begin to describe the climate. Even “sweltering” or “excruciating” can’t describe the heat. I’ve got sweat dripping off every square inch of my body. There are tons of lizards running around me. I can’t believe I’m in Africa.

I’ll write more about our arrival after dinner. Right now I’m sweating so bad in my hand that it’s hard to hold the pen.

8:30 p.m.

When we landed in Niger, it pretty much looked like Arizona- a desert. But when we walked off the plane and were greeted by soldiers with jet-black skin and mint green shirts, I knew I was in Africa.

It took us forever to get through customs, even though we were the only plane that had landed there all day. They are pretty hard-core about their security.

We went to get our bags we had checked. When I grabbed mine, a little helper guy told me he had it. They did not want us to have to carry our own bags!

Walking out of Niamey’s tiny airport really felt like Africa- like something you only see in movies. People were in all sorts of colorful clothes.

There were about seven or eight guys around my age who had to walk with sticks because of their foot deformities. They also had big scars on their faces. I asked Tom what the deal was and he said it might have been a rite of passage, and that the scars on their faces definitely had to do with what tribe they belonged to.

When the bags were loaded we got in and took off for the downtown area. The radio was blaring African music, which really set the scene. Once we got into downtown I couldn’t believe my eyes. People were everywhere. There were no traffic signals, you were just on your own! So there was a lot of honking.

There were a lot of goats, too! Women were carrying huge baskets on their heads in perfect balance. Every time we had to stop, a bunch of kids would run up to the windows of the van. “Bon Soir!” they said and smiled. Then rubbed their fingers together to ask for money.

There weren’t really buildings. There was a mosque or two and they looked like adobes. Everything else was in huts or tents. I just couldn’t believe my eyes.

After we got settled in our rooms, we went out to eat. Driving through town at 7 p.m. was crazy. There were so many people out, and they waved at us like we were celebrities. I haven’t seen any other white people since we got here.

For dinner we had pizza- go figure! But first they brought us onion rings with mayonnaise. Now that’s even weird for me. The pizza was OK. Was kind of soggy and was made with goat cheese.

And now I’m in my netted-bed and ready to pass out. I still can’t believe I’m here.

Is this really happening?

My head was spinning when I got home. I couldn’t tell if it was from an hour of zumba at the YMCA or if it was the email I had just received from my friend Janeth in Texas. Either way, I felt like I might pass out.

You see, on my way home from zumba, I got to thinking about how it had been awhile since I went on any sort of mission trip. Sure I’ve started volunteering at the Allen County Juvenile Center (ACJC), but my heart for international missions hasn’t been satisfied since I left Nicaragua in April 2011. I’ve always felt a calling to serve internationally, so I pretty much always have the desire to go.

I got to thinking about my trip to Niger, Africa in 2009 with Jesus Film Ministries. We shared the gospel with hundreds of people in Niger, in villages all across the desert. We also spread the word of God to students at the university in Niamey. For two weeks we were missionaries for Christ, completely immersed in a country that was more than 95% Muslim.

In 2011 I went with my church to Nicaragua where we dug latrines and did vacation Bible school with the children. The highlight of the trip was meeting Mayrober, my sponsor child through Food for the Hungry. It was so incredible to see that the money I spend each month really is making a difference in the community. I definitely was given a heart for Nicaragua after my trip.

Still, my desire to go back to Africa wasn’t gone. And on this drive home Tuesday night, I started to get discouraged. My church doesn’t take any trips to Africa. We go to Nicaragua, Haiti, Turkey, etc. etc., but not Africa. I wasn’t sure how God would work this out.

Enter Janeth. I checked my email when I got home, and there it was- an email from my friend in Texas with information on her upcoming trip to Zambia. She said I should go. Wait, no, God said I should go.

I have prayed a lot in the past few days, committed myself to this Zambia trip, contacted the travel agent, and have officially been posted on the website as a member of the Zambia 2013 team. Wow. This is really happening.

What will we do? We will spend most of our time at Lifesong for Orphans. It’s an organization that provides education, meals, and physical, emotional and spiritual support for orphans. We’ll also spend some time in the strawberry fields where many of the adults work for a living. Sightseeing-wise we will go to Victoria Falls and also go on a safari for a day.

I just can’t believe how God has worked this all out and done it so quickly. Sure it’s going to cost a lot, but I am confident that if God is sending me, He will provide a way for me to pay for it.

If you feel led to donate to my trip, please do. Pray about it, and if it’s something you can afford please contribute either on the website or by sending in a check (donations are tax deductible of course!). No amount is too small. If you can’t afford it, please keep me and the rest of the team in your prayers as we prepare for this journey.