I knew that we had mission teams at our church and our friends were just about to move to China for full-time missions. I started thinking about where I would go if I were to go on a mission trip so I thought for a while and Africa came to mind. I had never been on a mission trip, but I felt like God was calling me to Africa. That week our church was having some mission project, (I think it was a fundraiser) so if you bought these shirts, then you got to put your name in a drawing for $1000 dollar scholarship. If you weren’t there then you couldn’t win. They started the drawing after the service, the first person wasn’t there. They called the next name, they weren’t there either. They called one more name… IT WAS MINE! I ran up front and Pastor Tom said where do you want to go and I said Africa! The people were kind of like, awwww because I was really young to go on a mission trip.
Mom and I chose a trip in January and started fundraising. We had most of our money raised when my mom got a call from her boss saying we couldn’t go. She had told me her boss would tell her soon and I was just waiting for him to call and say yes. My mom came home that day and was crying. She said “he said no” and she could barely say it. I was frozen and couldn’t believe it. Bad thoughts about this man were racing through my mind and then my mom said “God shut the door on this trip so we would go on a different one.” We started talking to Mrs. Angela and decided on that trip. This one wasn’t during school so she didn’t have to ask her boss this time. We had raised enough money for this trip and the next thing you know we were at the Ethiopian airport.
We found our luggage and headed to the van where there was a man to pick us up. His name was AB and he was my new best friend by the time the trip was over.
We had gotten to our guest house and settled down and rested. I was tired, cranky, hungry and everything else.
The next day we went to church at Beza and then to visit Bole. I was able to meet some new friends there: Mecadeas and Eui.
These were the main kids I got to know better during our visit there and my first look into life in Africa.
We spent the rest of the week in Korah. I met a lot of kids, but there were four boys that were my favorite.
This is Habtames, if I said everything I wanted to about this boy, I would have a book by the time I was finished. He didn’t know English but the first day we got off the bus and went into the gates, he grabbed my hand. He stared and hesitated at first but then smiled and loved me. Every day he would be the first one at our van waiting on me. I loved him so much. He wasn’t a sponsored child so when we would do the feeding program, he had to leave and wasn’t allowed to eat. When he didn’t get to eat, it killed me so instead of staying inside and feeding the sponsored kids, I started hanging out with him outside the shelter. The last day we were there, a man came and got him before I could say goodbye. It was so hard and hurt my heart. Later after we were home, Ms. Stacy sent me a picture of him with some clothes and my picture I had left him and told me he was so happy.
This is Tesfaye, his name means Hope. I didn’t talk to him much, he was my mom’s little friend. He did know Habtames and tried to watch out for him and even tried to find him for me before we left. When we got home, he sent a letter with another team. He called me his sister.
These boys were very nice. They walked with us to the Alert Hospital so I got to talk to them and get to know them better. Kedi, the one with me in the picture, had a neat necklace with Africa on it. I told him I liked it and he took it off and put it around my neck. I told him no, but he wanted me to have it. It is so special to me. Voika, the one on the far left with my mom, and I were walking down the road to get back to the gates and we talked about church, school, and where I lived. He told me his favorite bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11. It was so sad and hard to leave them. They were my new special friends.
This experience changed my life. Now I definitely think before I complain about my food or what I have. I can’t begin to tell you all that I feel and how it changed my life, but it did. I will never forget and can’t wait to return.
From Mom’s heart…
I had never considered international missions before. As far as I was concerned, my mission field was at my school in Columbia, TN and I was perfectly content with that. However, God had a different plan and used my 11-year-old daughter to lead me to Africa. I echo her words that there are no words to explain what we did, what we saw, or what we felt. I do know that it was the most amazing journey and even more awesome to be led spiritually by my daughter. Like she said, there were some that thought she was too young to go and as parents, we struggled and prayed asking God to give us wisdom, direction, and clarity in that area of her life. There were so many confirmations from him from the beginning when she told us she wanted to check out the Africa table at the Global Mission Conference to her winning the scholarship and even to the trip God had planned for us which if you remember wasn’t the trip I had picked out for us. The prayer/verse our team seemed to adopt on this trip was “Father please go before us and behind us.” There is no doubt he paved the “before us” and is still showing us the “behind us.” I watched my daughter become the hands and feet of God and share his love with so many people, young and old. I watched her lead our Nashville team in a bible study in the lobby of a hotel in Washington, DC and be the first one up the stairs to journal and do her quiet time in Africa. This was anything but a vacation type trip for her. I know she inspired me and encouraged me to reach out beyond my comfort zones to GO BE LOVE.
Katelin and I continue to have conversations about the trip and what it has meant to us. She is persistent that she is going back and can’t wait to do so. Jeff and I have also had conversations about how we think God might use her. We have no way of knowing what his plans hold, but we do know He is faithful and has definitely stirred and moved in a young child’s heart that wants to change the world for him.