How Africa Changed Everything

Africa has always been on my heart but there was never any explanation as to why. I had never personally known someone from there, someone who went there or even someone who felt the same way about Africa (over the years this would change). The only explanation was that God had placed Africa on my heart a long time ago for a reason.
Not only did God give me a heart for Africa but He also gave me a heart for His children. From a very young age I knew that I wanted to work with kids. When I was younger I was under the delusion that my dolls were real and I was their mother. When I didn’t have a doll with me I would pretend to either be a mom or a teacher to my friends that were actually alive. And that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up, a teacher and a mom. I can remember that I couldn’t wait until I turned twelve so I could officially begin babysitting. As I grew older my love for kids only grew. I would babysit as must as possible but even that wasn’t enough. So once I reached High School I signed up for Child Development. Child Development consisted of three classes in which there was a preschool within each class. Each student was assigned to a preschooler to watch during free time and than we would be separated into three groups. Each group would teach, lesson plan or observe depending on the day. If you completed all three classes you would have a portfolio and a 90-hour teaching certificate at the end. I did take all three classes because I just loved those kids but from taking the classes I realized teaching was not for me.
After my teaching experience I read a book called A Child Called It. This book broke my heart and infuriated me all at the same time. From reading that book and the sequel I realized my desire to help kids in need. And so my next job interest became social work. Specifically I wanted to move to a city and help children that were in abusive homes.
High School was also the awkward/funny time when it came to my future as a mom. I still had that same desire of one day becoming a mom, but how that was going to happened changed a little. When I was younger I didn’t know much about the baby making process but as I grew older so did my knowledge and that is when I announced my future husband and I would be adopting. But I didn’t want to adopt just any baby, I wanted a little African baby and that desire still holds today.
After High School I did what everyone else was doing, I went to college. My freshmen year I began to study criminal justice and counseling with the hopes of still becoming a social worker and helping children in need. After my first year at Grace College I decided to transfer. Grace just wasn’t a good fit for me. And if I’m being perfectly honest I never felt that school was a good fit for me but I sucked it up because I believed that it was just a part of life. Go to school, get a job and be happy. Yes, I was very unhappy and couldn’t figure out why. It seemed like everyone else was having that typical dream school fun college life that you hear about and I was just left behind. I felt like an outcast, like something was wrong with me, because I wasn’t having the same experiences or feelings. I thought transferring would fix this and so I transferred to Liberty University with my best friend Christina. I loved spending time with Christian but I still wasn’t happy. Actually I hit a low at Liberty. Everything seemed forced and I was struggling with that. After one semester I transferred again, this time back home to take classes online.
While I was at home taking classes online I got two part time nanny jobs and a couple of night time babysitting jobs. I love all the kids I have had the privilege of watching. I wrote on VO’s (Visiting Orphans) facebook page, “There have been so many times when I am with these kids that I just get an overwhelming feeling that this is exactly why I was created. To love, cherish and nurture God’s beautiful children. I truly believe God placed a desire in my heart a long time ago for His children and to serve them.”
So where does that feeling put my future job planning? I went from wanting to be a teacher, to social work, to detective, to a day care owner and than out of nowhere was playing with the idea of missions. Becoming a missionary had crossed my mind. Actually my pastor was the one that put the idea in my head. In High School some people from my church and I traveled down to Washington D.C. in order to assist another church reach out to the community. The church was located in a run down neighborhood that needed to be shown God’s love. We went door-to-door delivering flowers and inviting people to the local church. While doing this, I noticed a little boy alone on the sidewalk.  I felt God tugging at my heart and started playing and talking with him. Soon, two mentally challenged children joined us. After Pastor R told me told me that God had blessed me with a heart for children. Than a few years later after he and some others from our church returned from Haiti he came up to me and told me I would be perfect working with those kids in Haiti and should try and come on the next trip. I had never really considered Haiti, or any other place for that matter, because Africa was always just it, but around that time I was feeling a desperate need to go on a missions trip and was willing to go on any trip that God presented. That’s when Grace announced an Africa trip. My heart was filled with joy and excitement. I couldn’t believe I was finally going to be able to go! Well that excitement didn’t last long. The trip had to change the dates and I was no longer able to go. Also around that time my sister boyfriend, now husband, went to South Africa. Once again I was upset I didn’t know about it and jealous. I didn’t understand why Africa was on my heart but I kept missing all these opportunities to go or feeling as though they were taken away from me.
Jump a few years ahead to the June of 2011. My life was beginning to feel like such a routine. Now there’s nothing wrong with having a routine but when that routine does nothing to further the kingdom of heaven it begins to become a problem. At this time I began to consider transferring back to Liberty and joining the track team. In high school I loved it but after my senior year I was just worn out and gave up a possible scholarship and running all together. I knew this was a mistake after only a few months into my freshmen year but I didn’t do anything about it. I knew God had blessed me with a gift of running and I was just wasting it. So after figuring everything out, planning everything, I just had to cross my T’s and dot my I’s and than I would be set. But God had a different plan for me. Last minute one of the people I nanny for announced to me that if I wasn’t working for them they wouldn’t have been able to accept a job offer. Quitting was the only thing I felt uneasy about and once I heard that information I realized I could just quite. So I dropped my plans with Liberty, and just decided to compete in community races, and so my blog was born.
Jump ahead again, specifically to August 2011. I was at work, my little girl asleep, so I surfing the Internet. That’s when I began looking for mission’s trips to Africa. On my bucket list, (yes I have a bucket list at the age of 20) I specifically had work at an orphanage in Africa but at this point the desire to just go out weighed what I wanted to do while I was there. God is so good. After an hour of searching I found Visiting Orphans. I looked through the trips to Africa and found one over winter break that was going to Rwanda and Ethiopia. My sponsor child is from Rwanda so I thought that would be perfect. I applied immediately and after roughly a month was an official team member.
The fact that I didn’t know a soul on my team or even the fact that I had never heard of visiting orphans didn’t seem to phase. This trip was perfect. In my last post before I left for Africa I said, “I know God has big plans for this trip and I can't wait to see those plans unfold and be used for His glory.” At the time I fully believed that, I just didn’t realize how big God’s plans were.
Well after becoming an official team member so began the process of raising support. I hate asking for help, but knew I could not do this alone and so I began sending out support letters. I did get a lot of financial support and was so blessed by that, but I also had to pay for some of the trip myself. At the time I didn’t know why. I remember one day I just broke down crying to my mom asking why I wasn’t receiving more. I felt as though everyone else from my team wasn’t struggling raising support and it was just me. I felt not enough people cared. That was not true at all but that was how I was feeling (being a dramatic girl). My mom sat my down comforting me and said, “Maybe it’s Gods intention for you to use your own money. You have enough in your savings. You’ll still be able to go.” I didn’t really want to hear it at the time and kind of blew it off.
A couple of days before the trip I knew we had to have “crisp” spending money. Because I forgot to tell my parents this and didn’t have time to go to the bank I just put what money I did have in my Bible to flatten it. I just found a random spot slipped it in there and didn’t think twice about it.
Well I went on my trip to Africa and visited and loved on so many of God’s beautiful children but one place in particular captured my heart. Noel. Noel was the second orphanage we visited in Rwanda and has roughly 600 children. The second I stepped off the bus I was met with hand holding and hugs and questions. The second day I went and found Tara. Tara had gone on a previous VO trip and returned to Noel shortly after and plans of remaining there for a year. Frank, my leader, helped me find her and that’s when I said it out loud for the first time. I want to return to Noel and live there for at least a year, exactly what Tara’s doing. She told me a little of her story and how she got started. We really only talked for 15 minutes, maybe not even that long, but I walked away from the conversation feeling peace. I can honestly say I had never felt such an overwhelming peace. Not only did I feel peace at Noel but I also felt whole. After two days Noel felt like home to me. The day that we had to leave a broke down. I tried to hold back the tears through out the day but when we were loading the bus to leave I couldn’t help but let a few tears fall and when I was on the bus I lost it. I knew there was no way I could leave these kids, this place. I knew I had to come back.
The day we left Rwanda I stared out the window and listened to my iPod. I choose God of This City. Now before, I strongly disliked this song but for some reason I just wanted to listen to it. The lyrics say “For greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this City.” Once again I started to cry. Now let me clarify, I am not a crier, especially in front of people. It is just not something I enjoy doing so that fact that Noel broke me speaks volumes.
Since I left Noel and I kept praying that God would give me confirmation that I was in fact supposed to go back to Noel. God delivered. 
1.     Being broken by Noel
2.     Felling peace and whole while I was at Noel.
3.     Suddenly everything that I thought I wanted or needed means nothing. For example my bucket list. I created the list obviously with the desire to do everything on it. Now all I want is to be at Noel. (Not saying I wont miss certain things, because I know I will. I just feel that my desire to return to Noel out weighs any other desire.) 
4.     God of This City lyrics. Very powerful. 
5.     The name Noel. It is called that because the first orphans were welcomed on Christmas day. Anyone that knows me, or has read previous post knows how much I love Christmas.
6.     The money. I previously told you about my melt down over not receiving enough support. After visiting Noel I realized God was preparing me to give away my things. When I move to Africa I wont be able to take everything with me and will have to sacrifice a lot. At the time the idea of sacrifice was hard to grasp but now I am ready to make those kind of sacrifices. God knew what he was doing, I just didn't realize it at the time. And now I am so grateful that I actually had to pay for some of my trip. It was a gift.
7.     Before this trip I didn’t feel strongly towards Rwanda or Ethiopia. Yes, my sponsor child is from Rwanda but I didn’t know much about either and was just looking forward to going. Every child I connected with at each orphanage I loved. Every child deserves to be loved and cared for, one doesn’t deserve it more than another. But after Noel it was different for me. I can’t really describe it other than I could tell a noticeable difference in the way I felt and acted after Noel. It was actually kind of frustrating because I loved all the kids I met, but it was different after those two days at Noel.
8.     One night I feel asleep while listening to my iPod and when I woke up God of This City was playing and the words, greater things are still to be done was blaring through my headphones.
9.     I was talking to one of my very good friends from my team about my plans. Everyone else from my team knew my plans and kept asking, “Have you told your parents yet?” I knew how hard it was going to be to tell my family and best friend but I also knew that God was already preparing their hearts. (Refer to 11 and 12)
10. In that same conversation I remembered when Jesus told his Disciples to drop everything and come follow him. They didn’t even get to say goodbye to their families. I at least had the chance to tell my family goodbye and was grateful for that.
The next night I opened my bible to where I had been putting my money. Matthew Chapter 4. I decided to read that chapter.  "As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
1.      Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
11. At this point I had gotten so many confirmations. Noel is where God wanted me to be. For some reason I began to feel scared. Not to leave but that I was taking all these things and just turning them into confirmations so I prayed for one more. I got home and though I had not received another I still knew where God wanted me to be so I was not going to question it. I had received so many confirmations and believed if I asked for anymore I might just be questioning God (that's why I wasn't receiving another). Well once again God is so good and did give me another confirmation, in fact He gave me two. After returning home I told my parents. That’s when my Mom informed that on the days I was at Noel she was specifically praying for protection from Spiritual Warfare and that God would show me the way I supposed to go. 
12. Than came Christina. I was actually most nervous to tell her. We have been attached at the hip our whole friendship and wasn’t sure how she would react when I told her I was moving to Africa. Well Christina’s reaction was the most surprising. The first thing she said, or really screamed, “I CALLED IT!” Than she informed me that her devotionals had been preparing her for future changes and what God has in store for both herself and her loved ones. She had actually thought about me staying in Africa before I even returned and had begun to prepare herself.
All I can say over and over again is God is so good! After everything I have clarity and my life makes sense. Everything that happened in my life happened for a reason and was leading me to the moment I stepped off that bus at Noel. One of my friends from my team described it as having all these pieces to the puzzle and finally being able to see the full picture, Gods picture and let me tell you it feels amazing. God has called me to go to Noel. God has confirmed that is where He wants me to be. So for now I am anxiously awaiting for when God allows me to return to where I left me heart. 

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18

“Radical obedience to Christ is not easy... It's not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.”

“We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”

It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. Daniel 4:2

Judges 6

The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.
-Frederick Buechner

"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who see and do nothing"

“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed… Nothing will be impossible for you,” Matt 17:20

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