I’m writing this post because for those of you whom I don’t keep in close contact with- I don’t want you to see a post from me in the next few weeks that says…. I’m leaving for Africa- and for you to think “What in the world?” It also helps me to continue to prepare for this adventure upon which I am about to embark! So here it goes (this may be long- I am warning you now)…
More than two years ago I was sitting in our church on a Sunday morning and during the offertory I watched a video clip about Africa. It sounds so strange, but I can’t even remember the specifics of the clip- it was some sort of mission that our church supports- but overall it shed light about the current circumstances for those living in Africa. (Insert #1: I think the fact that I can’t remember the “actual” details is important to my story as a whole). What I can remember is the way that I reacted to this clip. It’s not like I haven’t seen or been presented with the poverty and devastation before, but for some reason I watched this video and looked into the eyes of those on the other side of the world. My entire body reacted to the video. I remember getting sweaty and my stomach turning circles. I was saying to myself, “just don’t start crying, don’t start crying.” I reacted on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. It was uncomfortable and I tried to stop thinking about it and why I was feeling so strongly. I didn’t tell anyone and just tried to distance myself from thinking about what I had seen and why I had reacted the way that I did. For months I tried to do this.
As I was attempting to bury this within myself, we as a family began to have numerous interactions with Africa. We were invited to a friends house to learn about a young woman named Katie who is a local girl that traveled to Africa and is literally changing her community (You can learn more about her through her blog and her organization at http://www.amazima.org/). Several families in our church and school communities began the process of adopting children from Africa. Our church body began to raise awareness and support for specific missions in Africa. It felt like Africa was all around me here in Nashville TN, everywhere I turned. Eventually I mustered up the courage to tell Nathaniel about this strange “stirring” I had had months earlier. I knew that Nathaniel would be a supporter and encourager to me, but I also knew that he would hold me accountable- which was exactly what I needed. When I realized that this feeling wasn’t going away anytime soon I began praying about it and asking God what to do.
I have a group of AMAZING female friends here in Nashville and we are in what’s called a “Journey Group.” It’s basically a small group bible study where we commit to three years together in study. But what really “makes” the group is that we are walking through life together- sharing our hearts and learning & turning into the women that God has called us to be. We laugh together, cry together, celebrate together, pray for one another, you get the picture… My journey group has also been instrumental in this for me. But basically for the longest time (I’m talking like a year here) I knew God was calling me to “something” in Africa but I just chose to drag my feet and come up with the long long list of reasons why not.
In January of this year, our pastor did a sermon series that I felt like was directed straight to me. He talked about getting in the GAME of life! How too often we (especially as Christians) spend our lives on the safe and predictable sidelines never putting ourselves out there to see what God could do, how He might use us. Sure it seems good at the time, but if you’ve never been IN THE GAME you never experience what it’s like to (volleyball illustrations here, drawing from my playing experience) make the game winning play OR go to make the game winning play but blow it and lose the game. If you have never been in that position you don’t know the feeling of being so exhausted by your efforts and so proud of what you’ve accomplished. You don’t know the exhilaration for the game and love you can hold for your teammates or the pain that goes with feeling like you have let them down. Theodore Roosevelt says it best,
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Really- if you never get in the game and just go for it, you’ve never really played the game. That’s what it made me realize, that I wasn’t even in the game but just going through the motions. I knew at this point that I wanted to play, I wanted to risk it all and focus on what God was calling me to and trust Him for the outcome. My journey group committed to praying for me, Nathaniel prayed for me, I continued to ask God to show me. I took another big step and met with our Pastor and friend. Pastor Carter confirmed for me- what I really already knew- that I was going to Africa. The call was set before me and I was going to say, “Here I am Lord.” I, of course, cried when it became official. Those who know me well know that I am a big weeny. I don’t have much desire to travel, don’t really like to fly, could pretty much just stay here with my family and be content. Nathaniel on the other hand almost cried…. because he would LOVE to go to Africa- and staying here with the kids was the scary part. God had flipped our roles (stretching us both) and I was going to have to go while he will stay behind to care for our family.
Next I cast a wide net to explore possible mission trips to get me over there. I had numerous possibilities and then became “stuck” with which one should I go on? Where in Africa do I need to go? Should I work with women, orphans, help to supply clean water wells to villages? The options were numerous and I again took a long while in discerning what to do. All of this searching for the “right” trip to go on- coincided with our good friends Drew & Tara taking a leap of faith for their family and finalizing plans to adopt two precious sons (Patrick [Left] and Nicholas [Right]- pictured above) from Amani Orphanage in Uganda. At first I thought that if I accompanied them on their trip that it would be taking the easy way out and not what God had called me to do. But after more prayer I realized that God had only given me the call to Africa, that I wasn’t going to pick the wrong trip, or going with people that I already knew and had relationship with would be “wrong”, I felt a real sense of peace that all I had to do was go. The specifics weren’t as important as the obedience step. I ended up asking Drew and Tara if I could go with them and they said yes! (I think I only qualified because they have watched me running after our two, two-year olds…in other words, I have the prerequisite skills). Their desire for me to accompany them brought this experience full circle, as they were with us that first night we met Katie at our mutual friends’ house. That was also the night I told Nathaniel about the stirrings God had placed on my heart. That’s the thing about walking with God, in the beginning it seems so crazy and even scary. The unknowns, the lack of details, the end result seems so distant. But as we just take small steps of faith He begins to make the path level and our footing sure.
So the current plan is this- Drew and Tara are waiting on a call from Uganda to tell them that they have a court date which is the next step in finalizing the adoption process and one step closer to bringing the boys home. As soon as that call comes in we will book our flights and plan to be there a few days before and a few days following the court date. (I am thinking we will probably be gone for a total of about two weeks). The location we are traveling to is Jinja, Uganda. This will be the first time Drew and Tara will meet their two adopted children in person and I am looking forward to documenting the process for them and being their “helper” in anyway I can. My intention is to make their trip as smooth as possible so that they can focus on loving & bonding with their two boys! Just look at the picture of those two cuties!!! Looks like quadruple trouble when they hook up with my Luke and Lils. We will also be in the same place as Katie (who I mentioned earlier) and will have the honor of seeing the work she does everyday in her community and helping her out in anyway that we can. On this first trip the boys will not be able to physically come home with their parents. After court it will be several more weeks for the paperwork to process and all the documents to be set. Once those are ready Drew & Tara will travel back to pick up the boys and bring them to their forever home!!!! I will just be going on the first trip.
Slowly as the plans became set my anxiety about going to Africa began to fade and I even have moments of excitement creep in. I am certain in my heart that this is what I am supposed to be doing- In a nutshell I feel proud that I am finally getting into the game. We are not sure when the call will come, but when it does I will scramble to arrange childcare for my kids and do whatever I can before I leave. Then I will rest in knowing that God will provide and take care of the rest. So when you check my blog and see…. I am leaving for Africa on such and such date… you will know the deal and the story behind it. Pray for me to have strength, courage & wisdom. Although I know this is right for me, I also know how human I am and how insecurities can seep in. Pray for Drew & Tara and the boys, Patrick and Nicholas. Pray for their three sweet daughters who will stay behind while their parents go. Pray for Nathaniel and my three stinkers! Basically, just PRAY! I am looking forward to what God has in store for me 🙂 I am also looking forward to getting off the sidelines and getting IN THE GAME OF LIFE!