Heeding the Whispers: My Journey to Africa (Week 8)

by | Mar 7, 2011 | Uncategorized | 2 comments

This is a story of how whispers become action.  How God works in, around, and through us to open our hearts to things we never could have imagined.  This is the story of how last week I was looking forward to a relaxing summer, and this week I am looking forward to a summer mission trip to Africa…

I remember hearing my Grandfather preach a sermon called “Just Around the Corner.”  It was a long time ago, so forgive me, PopPop, for getting some details wrong. But the gist of it was that we can  plan all we want in this life, but the reality is that we simply don’t know what is just around the corner.  I’ve seen this truth played out in so many ways.  Sometimes the thing just around the corner is wonderful and joyous.  Other times it is heartbreaking and devastating.  Other times it is neither good nor bad, just unexpected.  But ALWAYS, it is part of a grander plan than we can see or fathom, and ALWAYS our Heavenly Father sends his Spirit and His Son to accompany us through it.

So, back to the story about how I find myself going to Africa.  It would be much more dramatic to tell you that I heard a voice from God telling me to go, or that I spent hours on my knees praying for guidance.  I’m afraid the truth is much less exciting.  The truth is that I have known about this mission trip for months.  Our church has sent teams of people to this village in Uganda every summer for close to 10 years.  I always thought that I would like to go SOME DAY, I just didn’t think it would be TODAY.  So, I heard the announcements about informational meetings and dismissed them the same way I do other things that aren’t on my immediate radar.

In the meantime, several other things were converging.  My Sunday Morning Women’s Bible Study was reading The Hole in the Gospel, by Rich Stearns, President of World Vision.  It is an amazing story about the immense human suffering occurring in our world and our responsibility to do something about it.  You should really put in on your reading list.  Secondly, I had been feeling a nudge to be careful about becoming too comfortable in my middle-class existence.  It’s nothing I can really put my finger on, just a feeling that I am blessed and often don’t appreciate it enough.  Thirdly, I had a strong desire to write about something other than myself.  I love blogging, but it seemed time to branch out to something different, as well.

This was the backdrop when our Sunday Morning group invited the leader of the Uganda mission team to talk to us just one week ago about what our church had done in that small village.  Although I have paid close attention over the years and was even on staff at the church when the ministry first started, I was overcome to hear about all the ways God has used our little congregation to make a difference in a tiny, remote village in Africa.  Building a well, sending dozens of orphans to school, building a church, providing seeds for gardens, fabric for sewing and of course the much-anticipated annual mission trip of providing food and activities for over 1200 orphans and widows.  THIS is a story worth telling, I thought.  And just like that, the seed was planted.

What if God could use my writing ability to record this story of two unlikely communities partnering to change the world one orphan at a time?  Wouldn’t it be neat for our church to have this story preserved, so we could share it outside our four walls?  Past mission trip participants, the Ugandan children, the Ugandan Pastor, our leaders, everyone has a unique perspective to share, and God has woven it all together.  It would be amazing to share their stories with other churches, organizations, and people.

And then, like many ideas do, it went off to sit on a shelf somewhere in the library of my head.

Later in the week, I happened to see our pastor while waiting to pick up kids at school.  In the second it took to decide whether or not to tell him about the idea, I debated whether it was silly.  But, I got up and walked over, anyway.  It turns out that it wasn’t silly and sharing the story of our church’s partnership with Nakabano, Uganda might be a great tool in spreading awareness about how we can all make a difference in this world by the Grace of God.

I was feeling pretty good.  I didn’t know what would happen from there, but I could certainly start documenting how the mission had started and begin talking to people who had been impacted by their involvement.  Something still lingered, though…like a whisper or a nudge.  I didn’t “hear” the voice of God, but I am a very intuitive person – just ask my Myers-Briggs type indicator – so I generally “know” when something is prodding me.  Maybe I should go.  

This is where the story gets interesting.  On a whim, I sent an email on Friday morning.  Yes, just 3 days ago!

When is the Uganda mission trip this summer?  Is it too late to sign up to go?  I’m thinking about it…

I honestly thought that might be the end of it.  I figured that the deadline had come and gone, so the reply was surprising:

Dear Laura,
Today is the day I order tickets…We had been waiting on someone to get their birth date in so she could make that purchase.  IT IS NOT TOO LATE…but I would need to know soon…like by Monday at 9am.  I can get you started.  GO! 

So much for being off the hook.  Through a series of unrelated events, the deadline had been serendipitously extended on the very day I happened to inquire.  Thus, events were set in motion.  I wasn’t anxious about going, but there was the small matter of how I could acquire $3000 to pay for the trip with the money due just over two weeks away.  As an aside, let me tell you that I am not a person who really wrestles with decisions.  As I mentioned, I am intuitive and just tend to know if something feels right.  I don’t need a list of pros and cons or a weighty deliberation.  I usually just decide, and that is that. So, after an enlightening conversation with our pastor, I was leaning toward going on this trip and trusting in God to help me find the money.  However, there was still the question about how my husband and kids would handle this bit of information.

As usual, Justin was more than supportive.  With the added encouragement of other family members, I decided to take the plunge.  Four drafts of a request for sponsorship letter, 70 envelopes, and a passport renewal form later, here I am.

Anna and I dropped off the letters at the Post Office this morning, and it felt so surreal.  I knew there was no turning back after we dropped them into the blue box, so before we got out of the van I asked her if she would pray with me about these letters.  Anna is 4 years old.  She immediately closed her eyes as tightly as she could, clasped her little hands and said without a word from me (imagine the sweetest little voice you ever heard),  

Dear Heaveny Faver,
Please let Mommy go to Africa.  Amen.

Such are the moments we carry for a lifetime.  I couldn’t have said it better, myself.  So now we wait.  We wait for the logistics to play out.  We wait to see how God works through the wonderful people in my life to help me raise $3000 in just two weeks.  It seems crazy and impossible, but we hold on to faith and let go of fear.  You never know what you’ll find just around the corner…

Stay tuned to this blog for updates about my journey to Africa!  The story has just begun!  If you are interested in being part of this story and would like to pray for me or give a financial donation, please email me at laura@sparkworkshops.com.  Please note that I will not receive any monetary reward for anything I write about this trip or mission. Any proceeds will go directly to the people of Uganda.

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