The Mission Trip “Bonus”

When I returned from two weeks in Niger with Jesus Film Ministries in 2009, my parents picked me up at the Indianapolis airport. My car was at their house, and I remember driving home in the middle of the night. I cried. I cried a lot. The people I had seen, the lives God changed… it was too much to comprehend as I drove through a deserted downtown Fort Wayne back to my apartment.

We also got back late two years later when I went to Nicaragua with my church and Food for the Hungry. I got in my car at the church, started to drive home with some Chris Tomlin in my CD player and once again, I cried. I couldn’t get the faces of those kids out of my head. I couldn’t forget the sound of my sponsor child saying, “Adios!” when we parted ways in his village.

Mission trips are about people, not places. They are about God, not us. I say that because you will also notice that mission trips typically involve a couple days of sightseeing. I don’t want my supporters to think their money went to a “vacation.” Tomorrow I leave for Zambia, and yes, we will spend a few days sightseeing. We’ll go to Victoria Falls, and on a day safari. We’re also lucky enough to have long layovers in London on the way to Zambia, and on the way back. Any money spent there will come out of my pocket, not from support raised.

To me, sightseeing is an important part of mission trips. For one, it’s a way to see God’s natural beauty in a way we never have before. Two, it’s a way to see and experience the culture of the place we’re visiting.

Here are some pictures from some of the sightseeing I’ve done on mission trips:

We ate at some pretty awesome restaurants in Niger. One was a French place where I had the best veal marsala I've ever tasted!
We ate at some pretty awesome restaurants in Niger. One was a French place where I had the best veal marsala I’ve ever tasted!
One day in Niger we took boat rides to look for hippos. We saw some peak their heads out from under the water. It was amazing! The boats, however, were a little scary!
One day in Niger we took boat rides to look for hippos. We saw some peak their heads out from under the water. It was amazing! The boats, however, were a little scary!
This is our group preparing to go looking for giraffes in the Niger desert. That's not a van for a zoo or anything, that's the vehicle we used all week. We literally saw giraffes in their natural habitat.
This is our group preparing to go looking for giraffes in the Niger desert. That’s not a van for a zoo or anything, that’s the vehicle we used all week. We literally saw giraffes in their natural habitat.
So beautiful. We were so close, and they were free.
So beautiful. We were so close, and they were free.
We had an eight-hour layover in Paris on the way back from Niger. It was just long enough to run into town and see the Eiffel Tower.
We had an eight-hour layover in Paris on the way back from Niger. It was just long enough to run into town and see the Eiffel Tower.
In Nicaragua we spent our final day visiting the market and hanging out at the beach. Was such a beautiful place!
In Nicaragua we spent our final day visiting the market and hanging out at the beach. Was such a beautiful place!

God knows our hearts. He knows that we’re going on this mission trip to impact the lives of kids at Lifesong for Orphans. But don’t be surprised when I return and post pictures of Victoria Falls, a safari, and London. Know that when I get in my car to drive home after my trip, I’ll burst into tears because of the children, not because of a waterfall and some animals.

No more “Summit City” for Summit City Single?

I woke up out of nowhere at around 4:30 a.m. on April 24 and couldn’t get back to sleep. I decided to check my email HeritageLogoand there it was, an email from the principal at Heritage International School in Kampala, Uganda.

“I am writing to offer you the position of High School English teacher at Heritage International School, beginning in August.”

I think I blacked out for a second. I was excited. I was horrified. I was one huge ball of emotions all at once.

Yes, it’s true, and I’m now making it public. I’m moving to Africa for two years, and if God so calls me, possibly longer.

I’ve Tried this Before

When I moved back to Indiana after about five years in Georgia, things didn’t go as I expected them to. Probably the number one reason I moved home was to be with my Grandma Shideler. Sure enough, almost a month after I moved, she died. I was devastated. My heart broke. I instantly began to question my decision to move back to Indiana.

Things weren’t going well. I wasn’t making friends, teaching at North Side made me miserable, I missed my grandma, and I just wanted out. But for the first time, I taught a unit on Africa and genocide in my World Literature classes. It was something I knew little about, even though I have always been fascinated by Africa. My fascination grew as I studied Rwanda with my students. That’s when I decided- I would teach in Africa.

I looked daily for jobs. I applied everywhere. But… nothing happened. I wasn’t particularly close in my walk with Christ at that time. I was actually pretty bitter about God taking my grandma away from me. I look back now and realize why things didn’t work out. It just wasn’t time.

4788_103254166572_3645889_nGod did, however, work it out that I could spend two weeks of my summer in Niger, Africa with Jesus Film Ministries. While the work we did there was good, and I was filled with the Holy Spirit as I shared the gospel with Muslim Africans, I’ll admit, I was more caught up in “being in Africa.” It was a dream come true, but too much of my focus was on the cultural experience I was having, not the GOD experience I should have had.

The Next Few Years

My dreams of moving overseas obviously didn’t work out, so I let it go. I figured maybe God just wanted to see if I was willing to go. I got over my anger at God, and  figured He was ready to introduce me to my husband, I would start a family, and all would fall into place. So when I met my boyfriend in 2010, I was so sure- this was The One.

Needless to say, he wasn’t. I was heartbroken and devastated for almost an entire year.

Somewhere in the middle of that year when I was still spending a lot of time with my ex, I went with my church to Nicaragua. My mind was right this time. I was focused on our mission. My heart caught on fire with a desire to do mission work more often. One week every year or so just didn’t satisfy my soul. I needed more.216059_10150151389976573_735678_n

Sure enough, the organization we went with, Food for the Hungry, said they needed a journalist to work for them in Nicaragua. I have a degree in Journalism. How perfect! But my selfishness kept me away. What if things were going to work out with my ex? I could never leave him! I could never leave my family! They mean too much to me! I didn’t even meet with one of the leaders from Nicaragua when they came to our church months later. Even though my heart wanted to do it so badly, I couldn’t follow through with it.

2012

Ever since Nicaragua, I’ve felt that God has been nudging my heart, “Go.” I didn’t know where or in what capacity, but I felt like He was saying, “Go.” I knew I needed to talk to someone about my feelings. I needed to ask, “How do you know, for sure, that you’re being called to serve God overseas?” But I didn’t ask anyone because I knew what they would say, “Read the Bible and pray.” And I didn’t want to do that because I knew what would happen. God would tell me, “Go.”

So I avoided it. I continued to grow in my faith and my walk with Christ, but there was always that one area I avoided.

549779_10151265482271447_332404794_nIn November, my heart began to stir. I really wanted to go back to Africa and to keep my focus on God’s work. Long story short, I signed up to go on a mission trip to Zambia with my friend’s church in Texas. (You can read more about how God worked all of that out here.) So I was thrilled to be going on the trip, and I thought for sure it would satisfy my desire to serve God overseas.

March 2013

Although super pumped about Zambia, my heart wasn’t content with just another 10 days in Africa coming up in June. Then one day in the middle of an email from one of my Christian mentors she wrote, “I really think that with all of the unconditional love and mercy that you have for people, you need to be in another country…. It is not what I think that matters, though. It is between you and GOD.” I’m no dummy. That information came straight from God.

But I freaked out. I have student loans to pay off! I’m 32, can I really just enter the mission field now? What about all my furniture and stuff? I was still doubtful that it could all work out.

As if that nudge from God wasn’t enough. About a day later I got an email from my old small group leader in Georgia. He wanted me to read a blog about a couple who went into ministry in Africa. He concluded his email with the following: “When I read their story I thought of you. Let me know what you think after you read it. God can make a way! WOW! Can He make a way!” I broke down when I read that. Could God really be any clearer? I don’t think so. God was telling me that He will work it out.

And He did.

em0a5r7u5px09u4lhfwpI didn’t know where to start, where to look. A family friend had connections at World Gospel Mission in Marion. I checked out their website and flipped through the many openings they had for various positions around the world. One stood out to me: “Secondary English Teacher, Uganda.” I read about the job and it just seemed too perfect for me. There was no way it would be that easy for me to find something that quickly.

The Present

One month. I answered God’s call by saying, “I will go where you lead me.” Within one month I applied at Heritage International School, had a Skype interview, and was offered the position. One month. God made it all happen in one month.

I’ve never in my life felt more at peace with God’s plan for me. This is MY life. While I will miss them dearly, I cannot live my life for my parents. I can’t live my life for my friends. I can’t live my life for my nieces and nephews who I adore so very much. I have to live my life for God and the plans He has chosen for me. Some people don’t understand that, but I can’t let that hold me back. Some of the best wisdom I’ve received has come from Richard Stearns’ “Hole in our Gospel.” That will be another blog post in itself.

ugandaThe excitement I am feeling extends far beyond anything I’ve ever felt before. It’s a satisfaction that fills my heart with joy, more joy than any job, man or experience has ever brought me up until this point.

I know it will be a rocky road at times. There’s money to be raised, plans to make, the fear of entering what could become an unstable country at any given moment, leaving my friends and family, etc. etc. However, I trust God will take care of me.

I’ll write another blog post about all I will be doing in Uganda. This post is long enough already, but in case anyone was interested in how I got to this point, I wanted to share. I can’t wait to continue to share with you the awesome things God is doing in my life. And please, let me know what He’s doing in yours!

“I know Who goes before me. I know Who stands behind- the God of angel armies is always by my side. The one who reigns forever- He is a friend of mine. The God of angel armies is always by my side.”
– Chris Tomlin “Whom Shall I Fear?”

African heat tough to handle…

Another entry from my journal from my mission trip to Niger, Africa.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I imagine that at some point, someone will ask how hot it is in Africa. Words have not been IMG_0809 (2)invited to describe the African heat. And since it’s the rainy season, humidity is out of control. The air is as thick as mayonnaise. The life expectancy of an ice cube is 15 seconds. Cokes out of the fridge are boiling within minutes. Sweat drips down my neck. It drips down my back, and little beads of perspiration form behind my knees. Even my toes are sweating. I’d love to lie down but the sheets are too hot. They feel like they just came out of the dryer. It’s so sticky out that my clothes cling to my body as if they would fall off me if they didn’t. As I told Abraham (one of the nationals) today, “I have NEVER been this hot. EVER.” And apparently this is pretty cool for them.

Yesterday was interesting. We returned to the university to do our witnessing. I gave my testimony to a group of three girls. One of them accepted Christ! While Saratou was going over things with the new believer, the other two girls started making lunch. A boy had brought a bag of rice, meat and sauce, and the girl dumped it into a big bowl. Then she cut up some onion and threw it in, and then she tore off pieces of a Baggett and threw those in. She mixed it all together with her hands.

Then, she invited us to eat with them. Now, it is very rude to refuse, so Kaeli and I said we would. Oh- there were also some weird leaves in there. Anyways, it tasted OK, but was pretty spicy. I had about five or six bites. They said that accepting their invitation to eat meant we were friends, and it meant a lot to them that we had lunch in their room. They gave Kaeli and I each a spoon but they used their hands to eat. We were in there for quite awhile having great discussion.

We left when it was time to head back to the bus, and I did NOT feel well. The food wasn’t sitting well with me at all. Since it was spicy, it really made my acid reflux act up, too. Saratou felt so bad. She promised me that everything was cooked. And it was, it just didn’t sit right in my stomach. So, I skipped lunch. Solomon said he was impressed that I ate the food- that it really showed love to try something new and step out of my comfort zone.

I took some TUMS, Pepto Bismal and another Nexium. I also took a nap, so by late afternoon, I was fine. Speaking of naps, I should take one! More later!

10:30 p.m.

Back from the Jesus Film showing. My group this time is Kaeli, Jonathan and Bruce.

IMG_0830 (2)Our new location is in a neighborhood in town. The kids weren’t as photo-crazy as the others. They are still adorable though, of course! Tomorrow is our last showing. We will show all four reels. I gave my testimony tonight and a bunch of the boys remembered my name so they kept chanting it at the end before we left. Then they each HAD to shake my hand before we drove off. They were speaking in Hausa, so no one in my group knew exactly what they were saying!

The exciting news is that three people at our showing accepted Christ!

This morning we got to sleep in for a bit. We didn’t go to the university. Instead, we all met at the office and shared stories about our experiences. One of the girls taught us a song in Hausa. Here are the lyrics:

Zan shaida Yesu koina.IMG_0785 (2)

Ban damu da gargada hanya ba.

Ni zan je, Nez an je.

 Translation:

I will announce Jesus everywhere.

I won’t worry about the journey.

I will go, I will go.

After that, we just had some time for fellowship. I ended up in a circle talking with Kaeli, Shaia, Abu and Adam. Of course, Adam’s full attention was on me. He was trying to teach me Hausa- his native language. I learned a lot about some Niger traditions from Adam. And heDress learned a lot about America from me! He was shocked to hear that if you marry a girl in America, you do not also get some goats.

We got our dresses back today! I don’t know where I’ll ever wear it, but hey, at least I have an official African dress!

Must shower and get to bed. Another big day tomorrow! Only three days left in Niger. I’m so excited to go home, but also don’t want to leave.

High-quality H2O? Today is World Water Day

bobbleI’ve always found it hard to truly enjoy water unless I was completely, 100% parched. That is, until I got a Bobble. Maybe it’s because it’s cute. It has a red top and filter. It’s design is fun and the bottle is squeezable. The name alone – Bobble- is fun to say. And, of course, the water is delicious.

Since I got my Bobble, my water intake has drastically increased. Nearly every hour I’m heading to the water fountain to fill my Bobble with filtered water, which will then pass through an additional filter before reaching my mouth and making me happy. That’s some seriously “high quality H2O” that Water Boy’s Bobby Boucher would be proud of.

Today is World Water Day. How often do we, in America, really even think about water? It’s such a huge part of our everyday lives that we don’t even notice it. Water isn’t only readily available, but clean, fresh, cold and hot water is readily available to almost everyone. Some people even spend a couple bucks on a bottle of water, one of which they picked out of dozens of choices.

Such is not the case in most places in the world, and I have seen this with my own two eyes. The photo at the top is a stream of water in the village of Terencio in Nicaragua. I took this photo when I was there on a mission trip in 2011. Can you even imagine bathing in that water, let alone drinking it? In some places, they have no choice. That is 480633_10151287503896573_1606328051_nthe only source of water available to them. That picture isn’t of a puddle, it’s of a stream. Often their only source of water.

The picture on the right is one I took in Niger, Africa, where most of their water supply comes from the Niger River, an obviously unclean river. With half the country being covered by the Sahara Desert, water isn’t easy to come by.

According to the World Water Day website, 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. Six to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.

It breaks my heart when I think of Mayrober, my sponsor child in Nicaragua, having to live with filthy, disease-infested water, as well as all the beautiful children and adults I met while in Niger. I’m thankful that Food for the Hungry and other organizations are doing all they can to bring clean water to these communities.

Take a moment to visit the World Water Day website to learn more about “focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources”. Be thankful today as you drink a glass of water. Not everyone on this planet can get a cool glass of water whenever they please.

World Water Facts and Figures

 

Picnic in the African desert

4788_103258966572_5840918_n

Entry from Sunday, June 21, 2009 journal from my trip to Niger, Africa

We split into two groups for church. It was incredible to see a room filled with African IMG_0723Christians. They even had a choir- their songs were great! They had drums, a guitar and a keyboard. The youth even did a skit!

There were some other white people there. Some were visiting like us and others were missionaries long-term or taught at the Christian school nearby.

The sermon was, of course, in French, so we were taken to a back room where someone translated for us.

The afternoon was pretty cool. We met up with the nationals at the office and divided into two vans to travel to the village of (?). I ended up next to Adam in the van. He’s so sweet. He was pointing out a lot of things we passed and explained them. I can tell he likes me. He even asked if I had a boyfriend. Then he said he was surprised I didn’t. He flirted a lot- so I kind of kept away from him when we got to the village. It took almost two hours to get there.

IMG_0733When we arrived, we all sat on mats under a mango tree. We had a picnic- ham sandwiches and pop. It was nice to have ham (and mayo!) because every night at the Jesus Film showings we have peanut butter and jelly on baggetts. We are so sick of that!

After lunch and a lot of good fellowship, we took a group photo. I’m excited to get that!

Then we heard from some people in the village. They didn’t really have a religion before- just DSC00613 (2)tribal stuff. I guess the Jesus Film mission has really been working with this tribe. Many people have turned to Christianity because of it! Even the tribal leader accepted Christ. They want a church, because right now they meet in a straw shack. It was only two years ago that the Bible was first translated into their language. That’s crazy to me! Very sad. I thought the Bible was in EVERY language. All the church men from the tribe had huge tribal scars on their faces. That was weird.

Most of us slept on the ride home. This is all so exhausting.

When we returned to the guesthouse it was around 7 p.m. We put some frozen pizzas in the oven and just relaxed. It was nice and cool outside so we ate out there. We ended up talking for hours about the most random things- from church, to gay guys, to No Child Left Behind, to “John and Kate Plus Eight.”

Since there was no Jesus Film showing, we were in bed before 11 p.m., which was nice. As Bruce said earlier, “Thank you Jesus, we don’t have to show the Jesus Film tonight!” That’s been a pretty big joke since then with our group. But really, we needed a rest. We aren’t at our best if we’re exhausted.

Finding Hippos and a Meal for a King…

From my journal of the mission trip with Jesus Film Ministries to Niger, Africa in 2009.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Today was a FABULOUS day! We had cinnamon rolls and banana bread for breakfast and then headed out for our boat rides. The rain really cooled things off last night after a huge thunderstorm, so it was the perfect morning.

Bruce haggled us a good price for the boat ride, and then we were off! In my boat was me, Kathy, Sheri, Zac and Jonathan. The water was pretty muddy and was only a few feet deep. The boats looked really old and were falling apart, but we trusted our guides.4788_103252161572_2999197_n

We went really far in hopes of finding some hippos. I was kind of nervous. Hippopotamuses?! They are HUGE and are NOT nice. And the guides said that they are as fast as horses when on land. Well, we did find some hippos! All we really got to see were their heads but it was still very cool. We walked around on a beach on an island, and we watched the hippos from there and took lots of pictures.

4788_103252191572_6479839_nWe got back in our little boats and our next stop was this tiny little village on an island. We walked around the village. We met some of the people and took pictures of the kids. One little boy just walked up to me and grabbed my hand! He was so cute!

All of the little village kids sent us off when we floated away. There were about 20 of them waving and yelling as we left.

For lunch we went to Angel and Venonce’s home (they run the university Campus Crusade as IMG_0673 (2)national directors in Niger). It was a pretty big deal for them to do that. I guess they didn’t do that with last year’s team! The meal was INCREDIBLE! It was some really weird stuff, but it was also really good. There were a lot of vegetables, some sort of meat (no one dared ask what), and of course all the Fanta we could drink.

Their home was pretty nice. It was gated- like every “real” house here is. They even had a servant!

We talked a bit about the political issues in Niger. It is scary to think Niger could get a new president who will declare it a Muslim country and outlaw any other religions. I don’t even want to think about it.

4975_102900226572_770615_nOur Jesus Film showing was OK. Not many people came but a few accepted Christ! I must remember to pray for this one young man who accepted Christ. He spoke some English, so we talked a little. I was really excited that some of the kids remembered my name! How cute!

Things got creepy when a sand storm started moving in. So when the film finished, we packed up quickly. Even though we did have some scary Muslims chase kids away, at least we didn’t have it as bad as the group that got rocks thrown at them. Crazy! No one got hurt, but that had to be scary.

Experiencing true Niger culture…

Another excerpt from my journal on my 2009 trip to Niger, Africa with Jesus Film Ministries:

Friday, June 19, 2009

IMG_0516 (2) - CopyAbby, Sheri and I met with a guy at 8 a.m. to talk about getting a dress made for each of us. First we picked a style, and then w went to the market to pick out fabric. Abby and I got blue material and Sheri got green and black. When we returned to the guesthouse we were measured. Our dresses should be done by Tuesday!

We didn’t have to go to the university so we went to the Gran Marche (Grand Market). It was huge and crazy. It was their version of a Wal-Mart, only outside. There were sections for shoes, meat, electronics, jewelry, etc. etc.4788_103253781572_1396633_n

For lunch we ate at the Lebanese bakery again. It was fabulous! Most of us had hamburgers, and the fries came ON the sandwich. How weird! We all thought it was pretty funny.

After lunch we went to a few places to buy souvenirs. We did some bargaining, it was fun!

But at 1:30, we had to stop. There was a Muslim “call to prayer,” and since Friday is the Muslim Sabbath,  ALL Muslim men participated. All the shops closed and the town fell silent. The crazy, loud and obnoxious town of Niamey stood completely still. It was creepy. We were the only ones walking around (we had no choice but to find our way back to the van). There were HUNDREDS of men praying in the street. And there we were- the American Christians just going about our business. We couldn’t even get into our van because it was surrounded by men on their prayer mats.

IMG_0545 (2) - Copy

We returned to the Catholic Guesthouse to pack up. We didn’t really know what to expect at the new place except that if we wanted air conditioning we had to pay for it. I know I expected the worst. But then we got here and the place is only a few years old. The grounds are all gated and there are lots of security guards. Our guesthouse has two armed guards – Mohammed and Frank. We got a kick out of that- Frank. The place is super clean, modern, and we have an awesome common area for meals and devotions.

Tonight we went to new locations in new groups for the Jesus Film. I was with Kathy, Zac and Don. Our students with us were Solomon and Adam. This time we were in a city neighborhood. MUCH IMG_0578 (2) - Copydifferent than the other two places. There was a soccer game going on where we were set up. While we waited for it to end I played with the kids. A few of them knew a little English- I was surprised!

The game ended and we started to set up. Lots of kids helped us and kept yelling, “Cinema!” because they were so excited. Then, just was we were to start there was a “call to prayer.” We were just around the corner from a mosque. The students told us that the neighborhood we were in was a very devout Muslim area. We could tell.

4788_103256596572_4237979_n - CopyWhen the “call to prayer” was over, we started the film. There were probably 50 kids there and a few adults. About five minutes into the film, a Muslim woman chased all the kids away! They didn’t want to leave, but she was very scary that they had no choice! There were about 20 people left when she went away. I was very discouraged, and then it got worse. Parents started showing up and very aggressively began removing their children from the crowd.  So halfway through the first reel we had only about six people left to watch.

About 20 minutes later, some kids came back and more adults slowly trickled in. Still, I was pretty creeped out because of how angry so many parents were. I could totally understand where they were coming from, though.  Can you imagine someone of a different religion coming into your neighborhood and trying to preach it to your kids? You wouldn’t be happy either. I just pray we had a positive impact on someone and that at least one person now has an interest in Christ.