Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14)
For a long time, I did not know what it felt like to be loved. From one broken experience to the next, I felt I had hit rock bottom. However, just when one of His children thinks they have completely lost all hope, He steps in. His love showed up in such a fierce way in my life. He destroyed my fears, shame, and everything else that burdened me. Words cannot describe His amazing Grace. His love is so much better than everything else I was chasing. I was experiencing God’s grace, the Healer, who loves His children back together again and loves you and me through other people.
I remember one day I was sitting in Sunday school and one of my servants was telling us about the woman at the well. She asked us, “What did she do once she was filled with this love of Christ?” Joyfully, I answered, “mission!”. The woman by the well dropped the bucket, and ran to tell the others about this Christ who filled her. A while after that, I was getting coffee with Fr. Jacob and he mentioned the Nigeria mission trip, and I saw my opportunity to drop my bucket and run.
Fast forward to the spring of this year:
One of the biggest lessons my God has shown me is that He is my provider. He will do all, be all, and guide me to all I will ever need. After a long year, with some spiritual ups and downs, I had a hard time finding that peace, joy, and strength I was sure would never leave. I starting thinking that external changes would make me feel better, but none of these things had a lasting effect. The change had to be made within. I started humbling myself to God again. He started to show me what I needed, spiritually and practically. It was never my morning routine or workout sessions that gave me this happiness and joy. It was my Him, my encourager, who loved me first and through this love all the other things were added.
Nigeria was such a fruitful and abundant experience. I can honestly say that it wasn't the nature, mission, or atmosphere of the cities of Calabar and Cross River. It was His presence. It was the presence of almighty God among us that made the experience meaningful.
I’m an evangelist?
Praise Him for His mighty acts. Evangelism changed my life. Oh the joy. YES. Evangelism brought me so much joy. Let's tell others about the amazing love of God! Yes, Jesus continue to use me.
God showed me in many ways why I was his daughter. “I would not trade this life for anything” I thought to myself one evening as the wind blew while I was standing on the balcony of the house we stayed at in Nigeria. Imagine that, years ago, I would have never thought a joy like this was possible. This is who my God is. He takes brokenness and uses it for his glory.
A significant moment.
It was around 10 p.m. We all sat outside on benches to watch a movie of the life of Christ. This night was so significant to me because a girl who I think I had seen before was sitting in front of me. She held my hand. I started to pray for her. I started to pray what others had once prayed for me about. That God would lead her to his dream for her life, that she’d be filled with joy, strength, and a hope caused by Christ.
God’s work is not done, the journey has just begun.
It feels like before every mission trip, even though we do it anyway, we as missionaries are told to hold no expectations toward the upcoming trip. Expectations on a mission trip are like jaywalking: we’re not supposed to do it, but do it anyway, rather than wait for God’s light to turn green. Even Fr. Jacob admitted during the trip that while had been coaching us to let go of our expectations, he too was harboring expectations of his own, an example of how we all struggle with this.
I learned that all of us as missionaries, at some point in our experience, make the mistake of “jaywalking.” We rush across the street, just like we may rush our service, and the result is that we limit ourselves, and our opportunity to see God’s grace. Too often, I found myself saying, “okay, there’s nothing left to see, it’s time to go. On to the next street. There is nothing here.”
When I use this analogy, I’m thinking of one particular evening in our trip. This situation is far more vivid in my memory than the others, not for lack of amazing experiences, but because I think it is a great example how our expectations can limit our opportunities to see God.
Toward the end of our trip, we spent a few nights in the heart of Calabar, Nigeria, which we came to learn is an area with a well-established night life. Our priest asked the group if we would be willing to attend a prayer walk for the neighborhood, but if we were not comfortable, that we could choose to stay back and pray for the group. It’s just after 10PM, it’s rainy season, a storm is brewing outside as we speak, and I’m in a 3rd world country where, in my mind, anything can happen. To this day, I don’t know if I was alone in those feelings, because everyone elected to go. We had the option to stay back, but being that no one else chose to stay, I wouldn’t allow myself to either. Still, I didn’t see what good we could possibly do at night, on a weekend, when we would be walking into a sea of drunk people who probably don’t want to hear from a group of missionaries. I thought to myself—God did not equip me for this.
When our group first arrived in Nigeria, it was the beginning of rainy season. As we had experienced it to that point, it had been excruciatingly long droughts of humidity, followed by brief, but ferocious rain storms. To the surprise of no one there, it began pouring the moment we stepped out of the gate of the state house, and already, I was second guessing our mission. As we made our way around the block, the storm persisted. We kept trucking along anyway. After only 10 minutes of walking, we could not have been more than ½ mile from the state house, and we found ourselves in a very dimly lit road with a bar, and a hoard of drunk night-goers.
To my surprise, there were those who were happy to engage us, and out of that crowd emerged a handful of people who chose to come back to the state house with us. As we shared our time in prayer and reflection, we came to know these individuals and the dreams they had set for themselves. There was one individual, for example, who had the dream of opening a small grocery in the local marketplace. We were able to help this individual meet the needs to accomplish that goal, and we were able to help her rekindle her relationship with Christ. I still believe, as strong as her relationship is with God, I believe that the true blessing was that our group was allowed to meet this person, experience her story, and witness God’s work through her resilience.
The application I take from this experience is to never set limits on God’s work, and how I can serve him. I have made it my personal priority to simply open myself up, and ask Him, “how are you willing to let me see you today.”
My trip to Nigeria was my first-ever mission trip, and I'm happy and grateful for the whole experience. Like many who go on their first mission trip, I had no idea what to expect, which had some advantages given that Fr. Jacob kept telling us to have no expectations. I didn’t even know if we would be sleeping in a house that was built in a week out of logs and mud--which we didn’t!
Coming in without expectations allowed me to appreciate each unique experience for the first time. Although, the first few days took some getting used to, I slowly became more and more comfortable with the ambiguity. One thing that stood out to me was how happy many of the villagers, especially the children, were, even though they had very little reason to be when measured with our standards. It was evident that the natives of Calabar view life different and value things differently than we do. After each day of missionary work, we would return to the compound around 5:00pm and all the kids at the church doors would come and greet and hug us. For reasons that still don’t completely make sense to me, they were just so happy to see us. Witnessing happiness that you cannot explain really is a wonderful experience.
Something that I really liked about the trip was that it forced me out my comfort zone. Going around to locals and talking to them about the church and bible isn’t something I'm accustomed to, or talking to large groups for that matter. The mission trip challenged me to do something new, and I'm happy I got to experience it because I wouldn’t have done it on my own.
Although I don’t have any big messages or takeaways to share, there are many small things that stood out to me that can form at least one overall message. I will leave you with one: You don’t need a major reason to be happy, or even a small one at that; just knowing that God is with you is enough. Taking note of the smallest miracles in your life can remind you of that.
The first thing I learned was how to appreciate the very little things that we usually take as for granted. By just looking at other people’s lives, how hard it is, how poor they are, and still being thankful, able to smile, and very generous, made me realize how spoiled, ungrateful and “poor” I am.
Being disconnected from family, friends, work, social media and all kinds of distractions, in combination with the very simple life we got to live there, and facing different hardships everyday made it easier to see Christ working even in the very small things. Many times we felt the devil’s fight against us.
Through prayer we experienced one of two things: Either God would work so quickly in a way that we could hardly describe or nothing would happen and we would get frustrated until we realized that God was using the delay and the situation to finish some other work that was beyond our realization or planning.
The BIG Witness:
I think the most impactful experiences i've ever had was watching the story of the Lost Sheep “live”. On our last day in Consico, a village that we stayed in for a week and a half, we were scheduled for a school visit. We got ready with all the gifts and materials for the lessons and were heading there to find out that the school went on strike and there were no kids to be served. We ended up having nothing to do in Consico, so we felt this was God's voice telling us to go to Calabar, which we were planning on going to in a few days.
A few hours after we reached Calabar, we went out at night looking for people to preach His word to, and found HER and some other girls. We invited about five of them to church and SHE was the most hesitant to come with us. After many trials, and being among the group of the other girls, SHE finally came. God sent us to Calabar early, after what seemed like a failure in Consico, just for HER. The whole night was about HER. I believe all the talks and prayers were personally customized for HER. He touched HER heart and gave HER security in His house among HER new family. All that was just for HER; leaving everything and everybody else to find HER and to bring back His Lost Sheep.
*A more detailed description about this incredible encounter will be published soon!*
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)
Being a Christian is simply being Christ-like. Forgetting about ourselves, serving and valuing others, delivering His love, hope and comfort to people. Submitting to His will so that He delivers His word through us to who needs it whenever they are ready to hear it.
Our time spent serving in Nigeria was nothing less than eye-opening. I was amazed at how the people we encountered could see God acting in their lives every day. Although they have very little, they seem to be far happier than many of us are even on a good day.
Despite being blessed with so much, we are always seeking more, never to be satisfied, and we wonder how to find true happiness. It showed me how much we take our privilege for granted. If one day, our internet access gives out, we become frustrated as if the world is ending, while in Nigeria, and in many other parts of the world, people wonder where their next meal will come, and yet they are able to trust in the Lord to fill them with joy. Sometimes it takes separation from our comfort zone--when we are unable to be self-sufficient—in order to see God’s grace.
Joy in Simplicity
There was one day where we were going to spend some time with the kids, so we decided to surprise them with balloons. All of us blew up about 100 balloons and then began to take them outside. We watched as all the kids instantly became overjoyed by the surprise, their faces lighting up—even the adults were joyful at the sight. It was the perfect example of joy in simplicity.