Hey everyone! I’ve been back home for 5 days. We are now faced with processing all that we saw and experienced in Africa. Last year, it was HARD. When I returned home last summer after my first trip to Africa, I was totally broken. I had been shell-shocked by the overwhelming poverty I witnessed there. The food mob scene in Ethiopia is one that gave me nightmares and seeped into my very existence. I grieved over what I saw: their living conditions, their disease, their lack of hope. I also felt like the only people in the world who understood what I was going through were the people that were on my team. I was thankful to have Blake nearby to confide in, but other than that, we went running to facebook to reconnect with our team members and help one another through the “processing process.” My comfortable little world that I was living in, had been smashed to pieces. And that’s how it needed to be for God to put all the pieces of my heart back together, just as He wants them.
This year, I feel so much different. I was prepared for the poverty I would see, and it didn’t shock me anymore. But more than that, this trip was wholly different than last year’s. In my last post from Rwanda, I mentioned how much hope and inspiration I discovered there. Between Best Family’s infectious “Confident Hope,” the kids at Noel Orphanage being given the opportunity to go to boarding school, and the incredible facility for the special needs children, there was no room for grieving — only rejoicing. Rwanda, to me, has always been a symbol of God’s restorative power. This trip just blew me away with how much progress they are making and how much God is working there. Last year, I came home feeling broken; this year I came home feeling full.
There is still an emotional roller coaster that comes with being back in the States. It’s so nice to enjoy hot showers, soft beds, and good food, but at the same time there is a small modicum of guilt that comes with enjoying them. I’m happy to see my friends and family, but I also feel like a large part of my heart is still on the other side of the world. Mostly, I miss my kids. Belise, Pas, Sanyu, Jean Baptiste, Arsene, Thiery, and Shakour just to name a few. I know that to most of you it seems ridiculous that I could really truly love anyone after only having spent a few days with them, especially since we can’t even communicate much in English. But that’s just something that you will never understand until you experience it yourself. I promise that the love I feel for them is deep and true. I pray for them every day and will continue to do so (just as I have for those I met last year).
Today, God gave me a special gift. Jean Baptiste is a young man I met at Noel orphanage. I gave him a Bible, and he thanked me profusely. He also said that he would message me every night on facebook and tell me about what passage he was reading and what he was learning from it. This morning, I saw that Jean Baptiste was online on facebook! We chatted for 6 hours straight! We talked about Jesus, suffering, fears, joy, Heaven, and life in general. He has so many questions about God, and he is so hungry for The Word! While we were chatting, I got the feeling that I had never done anything more important in my entire life. It occurred to me that THIS is what it means to make disciples. Yes, going overseas to hug orphans is great, but that’s not where it ends!
The Great Commission has two parts. The first is to GO. Many people have already failed on this part because they think that missions is a “calling” when in fact it is a command. They let their fears or their excuses win, and they never go. The second part of the Great Commission is to MAKE DISCIPLES! We so often substitute this part with our own formula. Our version is “go and donate money” or “go and build a school” or “go and hold orphans.” While all those things are good, they should all be for the purpose of making disciples! We give money, build schools, and hold orphans so that others might see Jesus! Not just for the sake of humanitarian efforts.
My 6 hour marathon chat with Jean Baptiste today was unexpected. Yes, I had other things I could’ve been doing. Yes, it’s challenging to work through the language barrier, especially through text. Yes, I felt entirely inadequate when he asks tough questions like why he was spared in the genocide of 1994 but his parents were not. But ya know what? Jean Baptiste is getting to know Jesus more deeply. And there is nothing more important than that. Ya know what else? Jean Baptiste promised to share what he learns in his Bible with Thiery, the 13 year old who was always at my side. And that’s what it’s about, folks. Disciples making disciples. My heart could not be more full.