This entry is the most important entry I have composed thus far, and I couldn't wait to share it! Yet, at the same time I had no idea how I could share my excitement and the importance of this news on a blog~it seemed so disconnected. However, I started this blog to share chapters from our life story and this is going to be the biggest most life changing chapter for me to date. So, here I am literally trembling with excitement at the keyboard. I am struggling to keep my fingers in check so that they do not just take off with the thoughts that are flying through my head and the feelings that are flooding my heart right now.
Two weeks ago I found out that I have been selected to go on a mission trip to Malawi, Africa. I know! Crazy, right??!!! I desperately want you to understand and be a part of all that has led up to this news. It's quite a story and one that I want to cherish forever. Looking back it is so amazing to see how God has orchestrated this entire event in the heart of His completely resistant child. Whew~here we go! This is going to be a long one, so I hope you can spare the time to see it through! And I hope I can keep my eyes clear enough to continue to type. Ahhhhhh...
About a year and a half ago (2009) we started attending Northwest Bible Church in Hilliard, Ohio. We had been "church shopping" for about six months since moving to the Columbus area and we just weren't "feeling it" at any place we visited. One Friday afternoon I had decided to "Google" more churches in the area, which I had already done several times before. I put in the exact same information I had in my previous searches and this time "Northwest Bible Church" was the first listing on the results page (I absolutely believe that God was on Google that day). I clicked. I read. I looked at pictures. I scoped out the children's program. I informed my hubby. On Sunday morning I was determined that we were going to try another new church. Everyone was a bit tired of this routine. But I was certain we needed to go to Northwest Bible. The message was given by the Teaching Pastor as the Senior Pastor was on a mission trip in Malawi, Africa with a team of others from the church. We loved Pastor Mark's message, although after his delivery we were completely worn out, I've never seen such passion and such energy go into sharing God's word. This man is amazing. Shortening the story....the kids enjoyed the children's church and we agreed to go back the following week.
The following week was the Sunday after the Senior Pastor and the team had returned from Malawi, Africa. They showed a video of a place called Passion Center for Children. My emotions consumed me, in a way I had never experienced before. At that moment I had a desire to "love on" these kids. I began to pray what I could do from here to help them, because of course I would NEVER go to Africa. As a matter of fact, Ryan and I have said out loud before that we would go anywhere the Lord led us~EXCEPT AFRICA. Funny how things happen, huh? So another year goes by.....
Let's move forward assuming I maintained my casual prayer of wanting to "love on" the kids at the Passion Center for Children from the comfort of my humble abode in Central Ohio (which I did). That brings us to July 2010 and the second team from our church returns from Malawi~another video is shared. This time I am overwhelmed to the point of not being able to breath. I'm sitting in the middle of church feeling mascara and snot run down my face trying not to sob audibly. We get in the car heading home from church and I say to Ryan, "God wants me to go to Malawi." Ryan says, "I know. I don't want to talk about it right now." I of course did want to talk about it and keep nagging until I got this response from my hubby, "I know God wants you to go because he has told me to support you in this." I was silenced. Okay. So God wanted me to go to Malawi. And then my mind was racing: "WHAT COULD I POSSIBLY HAVE TO OFFER THOSE CHILDREN?" and "HOW CAN I LEAVE MY CHILDREN FOR TWO WEEKS?" and "SERIOUSLY, YOU WANT ME TO GO TO AFRICA???" However, it was all very clear and very absolute.
The seed that was planted a year earlier to "love on" these children had grown into a deep desire to "hug everyone of" these children. It was such a raw realization that of all people, I needed to go to Africa. I began to share this story with the rest of my family and each time I could hardly hold back the tears. We went through the summer and into the fall with lots of prayer about this new desire. I let the pastors know that God wanted me to go to Malawi, filled out my very overwhelming packet of information and turned in my deposit, but even that was no guarantee that I would be on the team. There were only 30 spots available for the 2011 summer trip and several who had gone before would be taking up most of the spots. Ryan was so great to remind me that even if I didn't get a spot on the team, sometimes God just needs to know we are "willing". So with that I settled in and although I hoped for a spot, I prayed for God's will and made sure he knew I was willing.
Fall had come and with it came two very special visitors to our church. Joseph and Palira, who are the primary caretakers/pastors (along with their wives) of the children at the Passion Center. They shared so many things with our church during their visit and the reality that they live is just unfathomable. Something else exciting happened~Joseph was going to join our small group on Sunday evening! Out of all the different small groups that meet, he was coming to ours! We were instructed to have some questions ready to ask Joseph about the center, Malawi, his daily routine, etc... My question was, "What (besides prayer) is the most important thing we can do to help?" Guess what he said???!!!! In his broken English (this was his first visit to the U.S.) he says "Well, you can come over there yourself and hug everyone of them." CONFIRMATION CONFIRMATION!!! Folks, I nearly fell out of my chair! My heart is beating so fast right now just reliving all of these moments.
In December, I attended the Women's Christmas Tea and the speaker for the evening also happened to be my table leader at weekly women's bible study. She is so awesome and had gone on the trip to Malawi for the first time with the 2010 team (I believe). During her message she made the comment that she wished she had gone on mission trips many years before she had (she's in her 50s but you wouldn't know it). Her responsibility as a mother to young children and her resistance to leave them held her back. She encouraged us "young mothers" to have faith and step out on it if God was calling us go! CONFIRMATION, CONFIRMATION!!! Now I was ecstatic!!!
All of January went by with no word on who was on the team. In the mean time our church body was given the awesome responsibility to get our "fingerprints" in Africa if we couldn't get our "footprints" there by filling a Semi-truck trailer with supplies and clothes that would be shipped to arrive this summer. It's been amazing how the church body and others in the community have embraced this and the mock (life size) container in our church is starting to be filled! I checked my email daily hoping for some word and then the trip organizer told me at church that he was planning to send out an email that week! I lived on my hotmail account. And then on Friday afternoon (in perfect timing), February 11th I got the email that said, "Welcome to the Summer 2011 Malawi Team"....I almost threw up! If I could squeal through this monitor right now I would!
So friends, July 11-24th 2011 I will be traveling to the Passion Center for Children in Malawi, Africa to love on, hug on, whatever else God has planned for me with those precious children. I have been told this will "rock my world". To that I say, "I'm in for a good world rockin'". There will be so many entries about this trip (can you believe I have left out several things) and all the preparations leading up to it. Please pray for the Passion Center and the children who benefit from the center. And stay tuned for so much more as this COUNTDOWN TO AFRICA begins!
Click on the link below to watch the 2010 Malawi Photo Montage from Northwest Bible: