"I am telling you this, but not because I need something. I have learned to be satisfied with what I have and with whatever happens. I know how to live when I am poor and when I have plenty. I have learned the secret of how to live through any kind of situation – when I have enough to eat or when I am hungry, when I have everything I need or when I have nothing." Philippians 4: 11-12
Coming into this trip, I knew I did not qualify. I was not as strong spiritually as those around me, I have never lead a devotional, and I struggled with understanding the Laws of Maat as well as the ankh while being a Christian. Ultimately, I was not strong in my identity other than a Black woman. I had fears about relating to the kids, fears about how the kids at Rafiki would view me and if they would even accept me. My first week at Rafiki, I struggled with my purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I was having fun and beyond blessed for receiving the opportunity to be there but I did not quite understand my purpose there. What exactly would I be showing them through sports? What is my duty to them, is it just to run camps and be on my way after 3 weeks?
During my quiet time in the morning, I prayed for the answers. It was not until, honestly, today, where I started to see all that the Lord has taught me with my time spent. There are 3 key lessons that I learned which are filled with many sub-lessons:
This is not possible without MOAM as well as Rafiki. To say I am grateful would be an understatement. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for seeing in me, what I didn’t see in myself. Thank you for allowing me to teach the kids of Rafiki about my love for the Lord. I asked for wisdom and God gave me problems to solve. I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to make me strong. I received nothing I wanted, I received everything I needed. I needed this trip, more than I could have imagined!
It is always interesting reflecting on certain chapters of our lives. Getting to go back and reflect about that time brings up many feelings and thoughts. It has been two weeks since our group has left Zambia and I am still trying to process everything that the trip has meant to me. The whole thing almost does not feel real. In just three weeks I developed close relationships with so many kids and then just as quickly as we arrived, we were gone. Never in my life have I experienced such a strong connection with so many people so quickly. I am naturally a guarded person that takes time to open up and be vulnerable so I was completely caught unaware by how emotionally jarring this would be.
An amazing thing that many of the kids did for us was that they wrote each of us letters. I initially received a few of the letters the night before we left and at that point I had not fully understood the impact that it would have on me. I read the letters and was grateful that they would take time out of their lives to write me. However, I was bombarded with letters on the day we were leaving by the kids. On that day as we were leaving and saying our goodbyes, it began to sink in what this trip has meant. It became a lot harder to open the letters that they had wrote. It was not until today that I opened up the letters that they wrote. I have felt a little unsure that my time there made any genuine difference on any of them, but reading those letters reassured me that God truly worked in those three weeks.
There have been things that I have felt God has been telling me to be more intentional about in my life such as spending meaningful time with people who might be more left out, having authentic interest in people at all times, and always exuding joy especially when I may not be feeling excited or happy. These were all things that the kids had written to me in their letters about. It means the world that God has made himself more evident to them during our short time that we were there. I now am beginning to feel a contentment among the sadness that has plagued me since leaving. It is always hard saying goodbye to people that you genuinely have come to love, but it is a little easier knowing that everyone has grown a little bit more because of the time shared.
Overall, God has revealed more than I imagined he would. This blog might be a bit of a jumbled mess but that is because I am still discerning what it has all meant. There are many more lessons that I have yet to learn that I know God will reveal in due time. As I turn the page and begin this new chapter in my life, I will always be turning back to this chapter and reading what it has to say. There are nearly 75 kids on the other side of the world right now that I had the honor to live life with and no matter how far that distance may feel, the impact they made and the love they shared will always be with me.
This year I took three weeks out of my regularly scheduled 52 I'm granted, to love others on purpose. It didn't hit me until a few of the girls walked myself and another member through their gardens. That's when it dawned on me. God doesn't ask us to be something we are not; He doesn't require us to be someone who can quote the bible from cover to cover or stand in front of a congregation and move the masses. God asks us to love like Jesus and have a servant heart. MOAM gave me the opportunity to do just that for three weeks in Zambia.
Having the chance to build my faith in Christ by spending time with my team members and diving into devotions with the children was priceless. Pushing each other through competition and encouraging words fostered the part of sports I love so much. Though the days were long and I was easily ready for bed by 9:30 every night, I was reminded that to whom much is given, much is required. Since being back in the states I've reflected on the meaning of hard work in a Christian lifestyle. One verse in particular, Colossians 3:23, has stuck with my heart and semi-outlined all we did on that trip."Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not people." Keeping my mind set on the Lord and how others can see his light shining through me is something I am progressing in.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
When I was told that we were required to write a post blog experience, all I could think about was how easy this one would be… but boy, was I wrong. Since my last blog, which was the end of week two in the Rafiki Liberia Village, a lot has happened in my life since returning and my emotions have been overwhelming at times.
The last week at the village was the fastest and most emotional week I’ve been through in my life. I tried to not think each night that the days were winding down and our days with the children were coming to an end. The morning of our last day in the village was so emotional for everyone. The children were trying to be strong, but their personalities weren’t the same at meals and when we would see them running around the village. The hardest point of the trip was going around to each cottage to say our goodbyes. The first five, I held myself together, but the last three were the hardest ones to share my final thoughts with them. The final cottage we said our goodbyes to was Cottage G (Perpetua), which included the girls that embraced me the most and made me feel as one of their own! Each day I would sit at their table for one to two meals, join them for morning devotionals when their cottage led the last week. I was constantly being invited to their cottage for nightly devotionals and some of these girls opened up and weren’t afraid to share their thoughts with me. Saying goodbye to them all, was the hardest experience I’ve ever gone through and seeing them all crying when I looked up to start speaking, made the goodbye even tougher.
Since being home, I’ve learned a lot of things:
The verse that I hold close to me daily since being back is Isaiah 6:8 – Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am. Send me!”
I am hoping to return to Liberia again one day, either as the next group leader for the new MOAM’s who get selected to go or visit and volunteer my time where they need me! I cannot believe how fast the trip went, but I’m also amazed by how much my life has changed since I’ve returned to the states and I cannot thank MOAM and the children enough for impacting my life!
I love the idea of dependent joy. Joy not depending on circumstance or environment but rather the presence, companionship, grace, and love of the Lord. Joy that comes from nothing but Jesus. That’s what I experienced in Uganda. It’s a joy I want to cling to every single day, whether or not I am surrounded by the beautiful children that are now 9,000 miles away, because this joy doesn’t depend on where I am physically, what material items I possess, or what I’m going through. It’s dependent on Jesus, whom I know is with me always.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” 1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV
The more I reflect on the three weeks I was given to spend in Uganda, the more apparent the lessons God taught me through the 96 children, their Maamas, and the Rafiki staff I had the blessing of spending time with. Going into this trip, I knew I had a passion for children and serving the marginalized abroad, but I had no idea the ways in which this trip would affect me. For three weeks, I was surrounded by the most joyful children I had ever met. They are playful, inquisitive, compassionate, grateful, and intelligent. I was quick to realize that this joy that exuded from their being was a result of their relationship with Jesus. There was no other explanation!
One of the biggest lessons I have taken away from my trip is that joy is attainable regardless of the circumstance you find yourself in when you know and have Jesus. Throughout my time, I had the opportunity to sit and talk to many of the children, learning about their past, what brought them to Rafiki, their current lives, and their goals moving forward. I found myself with a shocked expression when I heard of the atrocities and painful circumstances they had endured up to that point, only to replace that shock with thankfulness for the Lord’s grace, deliverance, mercy, and love that He has towards His children. His plans for their lives are incredible and it was an honor to witness even the smallest parts of them.
Despite the mountains many of them have faced, and continue to face, their faithfulness in the Lord results in their joyful expressions and outlook on life. It really opened my eyes and challenged me. How often do I find myself discouraged when I face an obstacle or opposition? More times than not, that’s for sure. However, I am feeling encouraged to further lean into God during these times and focus on His goodness, His faithfulness, His love, His grace, and His mercy. Leaving the Rafiki village was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I felt like I was leaving behind my family because I truly was. Over the three weeks, the children, Maamas, and staff had become my family. Despite the distance, I know that I can still seek after and maintain the joy that was so present throughout the village. It all comes down to Jesus. Knowing Him, seeking Him, and trusting Him.
Joy is infectious and how special would it be to share this joy with others the way the children in the Rafiki village in Uganda shared with me. I’m so excited for future opportunities to do just that.
Thank you so much, Managers On A Mission and Rafiki Foundation for the trip of a lifetime and a trip that helped me find my joy in Jesus.
More Jesus. More Joy.
God is Working!
2 weeks have gone by already. All I can say… God is good!
Having gone on multiple mission trips, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. The moment we arrived to Rafiki Village it felt surreal. I couldn’t believe we finally arrived after long days of preparation and anticipation.
Our first encounter with the kids was at dinner. I had the privilege to sit with some of the older and middle-aged girls. I don’t know if they have ever seen an African American woman so the stares were quite glaring. Their curiosity led to some great table topics from: What part of Africa are you from? How did your family get to America? What grade are you in (because I look so young)? Their questions after within 1 hour of being there drew me into their hearts already.
Each day we had the opportunity to teach devotions. This part has definitely been a highlight of the trip so far. Before coming on this trip I had been in an interesting place with my relationship with God. Even though some of the topics seemed simple such as Prayer, Discipline, Focus, the Gospel, just to name a few, it was what I needed. The simplicity of each word challenged me in my own walk with Christ. A lot of times as Christians, we make following Christ so complicated. God was able to show me himself in some of the simplest ways. It was exactly what I needed. Who knew the devotional plans we created for the kids were going to speak to me the loudest.
Each day we also had the opportunity to coach different sports. They enjoyed basketball and futball of course, but one sport that surprised us all was volleyball. A sport I am not good at and barely know any of the proper techniques. They were so good at it. Coaching volleyball is not the easiest, especially if your knowledge of the game is little to none. Despite the fact my volleyball coaching was a little questionable, they truly enjoyed the game and made it enjoyable for me. Their competitive attitudes and talent made what I thought was going to be a dreading experience one of the best since I’ve been here.
Each kid here as their own personality and adds value to this place in their own way. They have taught me so much already; Dances, songs, their native language, and I am still learning! 2 weeks have gone by and these kids have a special place in my heart already. Can’t wait for the experiences of week 3.
- Danielle Pierce
| My experience in a Nutshell |
The crazy thing is months ago I wasn’t even planning on applying for this opportunity. Things happened, I applied and next thing you know I was accepted to go on a mission trip with my MOAM. I was definitely excited about being able to do things I truly of a passion for: traveling, spreading the Gospel, and participating in sports (coaching or playing). What better opportunity can you ask for? For the time being, I had so many other things going on in life, therefore my excitement for the opportunity was kind of pushed under the rug,. If I’m being honest, the closer and closer the trip got, the less excited I became. I felt the timing of the trip was very inconvenient to everything that was happening in my life at the moment. Anxiety kicked my butt. How was going to take care of things back home when I am all the way over seas, for THREE weeks!!!! Well, God moved in those three weeks and my life will never be the same.
Zambia was the definition of Zesty; lively, spirited enjoyment. From the moment we arrived we experienced the lively Zambian culture. The hour drive from the airport to Rafiki Village was our first glance of Africa. Everyone seemed to have high spirits and so much joy with whatever they were doing in the moment. Whether it was kids playing, women working, kids walking to school, or women planting; whatever took place, everyone seemed to be in a content place.
One of my favorite experiences was church. The worship was so pure and exciting. Their passion for Jesus and worship is something I’ll never forget. Being in a free environment where people are dancing and singing made my heart full. My experience here in Zambia will always be a reminder God is using people from all nations and to enjoy the simple things in life.
The precious time spent in their cottages doing evening Devos was also a highlight. Every night we spent time with one cottage, which included 8 to 10 kids and one mama. Those nights consisted of singing hymns and a short devotional. It was crazy to believe I was across the world, with kids from a different background, from a different nation and we are worshiping the SAME God. In those moments, I felt God‘s presence the most. If I ever doubted if there was a God, I knew in those moments God was REAL!
Every moment I had with the kids whether it was teaching Devos, coaching sports, playing soccer, watching movies or eating Schima (Their favorite food that is served with every meal) I wanted to take ALL IN. I knew it was going to be hard to get another opportunity to be with them, so I had to soak it all in.
The last day was pretty rough. Harder then I expected or anticipated. I wanted to pack at least 5 of them in my suitcase and do life with them forever. It hurt knowing doing life with them was not an option. The relationships built were so genuine but yet gone in a blink. Just like that, three weeks had gone. As we were saying goodbye, their tears made me feel as if we were letting them down, or somehow teasing them in a sense. We come for three weeks, have a blast, build relationships, cry together, laugh together, and then that’s it? Never see them again? How is that fair to them? But I had to remind myself that the seeds we planted would hopefully last a lifetime. God is still in control. Not only did we impact their lives, but ours were also impacted. I always joked with them about coming to visit America. Of course, the older ones promised they were going to come and find me once they arrived. I’m praying we will soon be able to cross paths again.
Zambia will always be in my heart! Forever thankful!
Before leaving for the trip, I began to worry that I didn’t have the proper qualifications needed for a trip such as this one. I didn’t think I would be very good at leading the kids through the sports activities and the devotions, but as the trip began to unfold, I became comfortable in those roles. After the trip, I was listening to a podcast when a quote really struck me, “God didn’t call the qualified, he qualified the called.” I have always been quick to sell myself short. Whether it was me being humble or trying to avoid disappointment probably depended on the situation, but this quote enlightened me on this idea. A person doesn’t have to have a crazy amount of qualifications to make a difference and do God’s work. God gives us certain qualifications that are unique to each and every one of us to spread His word and do His works. This helped me understand that I never have to worry about being qualified as long as we have God by our side.
I would like to think that one of the qualifications that God has called me to use is my selflessness. I find it very satisfying to help somebody else whether it is with a task or with their emotions or simply getting them to smile. My selflessness has entered a completely new level now that I have completed this mini mission trip. It would give me so much joy to help those around me develop their own relationships with God. This can be such a difficult thing to approach; everyone back home is continuing with their normal lives and haven’t gone through such a powerful experience. They may not want to be nudged out of the normalcy of their lives, and it kind of seems silly to help them change their lives if they are already happy. However, I still want to spread God’s word and maybe light a spark that needs to be fed to become a flame. To satisfy my desire, I recently started asking three people a day if there is anything that I can pray about for them. Even though I have barely started, it has already been such a cool experience. It gives people a sense of encouragement and makes them think about Jesus at the same time; not to mention what a blessing it is to pray for others on very specific things going on in their lives.
Another idea that I have realized after going on this trip is to Dream Small. People are so caught up with the idea of dreaming BIG, which is great, but with so much focus on the big things, it causes us to lose sight of all of the small things. It’s the simple moments that change the world. We shouldn’t buy into the idea that we have to do it all. We need to live one day at a time and love God and others as ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with bigger dreams as long as we don’t miss the minutes on the way to bigger things. God, who does all things, makes oceans from rivers.
So why did I, Dan Young, a 19-year-old from small-town Nebraska, have to travel all the way to Africa for a three week mission trip to come to all of these realizations? I think one of the benefits of going on a mission to Africa rather than across the street is that it makes you appreciate it more. It gives you a sense of urgency to give it your best effort the first time because the opportunity will not always be there. A lot of people applied to go on this trip, but God selected me for a reason. I may never completely understand the reason some things happen, but it isn’t my job to make sense of everything. My job is to use the talents God has given me to be his disciple and spread his word. I will never be able to express how grateful I am to have had this opportunity. It is one that I will never forget, and I hope to one day have an opportunity to see the kids again, but for now I will continue to spread the word wherever I may be. Everybody has to be somewhere; we just have to let Jesus use us where we are, for it is God’s will, not mine.
Sitting back and reflecting on my journey to Uganda bring me so many tears - both happy and sad. Being back at the States has really been eye opening having to transition from a 3 week long scheduled agenda, back to a free-for-all world in Atlanta, GA! I am so grateful and full of joy to have been able to experience a mission trip to a beautiful place like Uganda. Since I’ve been back, numerous people have asked me would I do it again... with a smile, I humbly reply YES! I never would’ve imagined that I would be granted an opportunity as such but I am thankful that God saw me fit for this journey. To know that this was already ordained makes my heart jumps on the inside because some things we just simply aren’t deserving of but I am so thankful that this was set out for my life.
To my team - I would like to thank you all for the 3 week spiritual, emotional, strenuous, physical journey that we embarked on. Thank you for having patience. Thank you for guiding me. Thank you for praying with and for me. Thank you for teaching me. I am truly grateful for you all and I continue to pray that you all receive everything that your beautiful hearts desire.
To MOAM - Thank you for choosing me for this wonderful, life-changing experience. I truly commend all the hard work that you put in every day & night to make this mission trip possible. Your dedication, hard work, passion, and love of God will never go unnoticed.
All in all, thank you to everyone that I’ve encountered on this journey. I admire everyone’s positive spirit and courageous attitude to go out and make a difference in our designated countries and I pray that God continues to favor each and every person.
Coming home to America has been a really bittersweet experience for me, every day I miss the kids and yearn for those moments and relationships I built during those 3 weeks in Mzuzu, Malawi. However, at the same time I miss my family and the normalcy that I am accustomed to here in the United States, so I do my best to blend the lessons that I learned from the kids, group members, and the Lord and apply them to my everyday life. While recapping my trip with loved ones I’ve learned that I can recall many more things than I actually remember happening which I think is a testament to the amount of teaching, and fun we had at all times. I feel incomplete honestly, I feel like I have so much more to offer those kids and pray I get the opportunity to return and continue molding these young people.
Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. (Romans 12:12) This verse reminds me every day that even though there are a lot of things I can control there are also a lot of things that I cannot. Which I believe the children embody and demonstrate everyday which is why I tell everybody that the children taught me far more than I taught them. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in such a life changing experience and wish MOAM the best in all of their future endeavors.
After getting back two weeks ago from Africa, I have had the opportunity to tell and show others what God has done for me in my life. Being able to travel to Ghana and see a part of the rest of the world was game changer. However, being able to learn and teach orphans what it means to be a leader as an athlete and follower of Christ was the ultimate prize. This would not have happened if it were not for my team leader Drew Boe. To have the chance to represent the MOAM origination and Indiana Wesleyan University is an honor. Coming back to America seemed as if I was in a movie. Noticing the little things, the road conditions, lights, buildings, cars, and the smell of the air. I began to thank God for everything He has given me. During the time in Ghana, I did not experience cultural shock. However, coming back seemed difficult. Ghana felt like my past, It was rough and a hard lifestyle but felt like home. I will dearly miss the things we day with the children. Being able to connect with them and show how fun life can be. As far as coming back though, it seemed as if I did not belong in a way. I felt that everything God has given me should be given to somebody else who is more worthy of me. Being back is a blessing! All I am saying is, I understand the struggle and it has made me who I am today. Going to Ghana has added another tier of who I am today. A God Fearing Man! Learning how to Love and show Patience was a prayer I asked God daily. Praise! He has shown me how to Love more and how to be Patient more often. I believe with these two characters, it can get you a long way with people you need in life. I thank God for teaching me how to become a better leader and man. Amen!
To God Be The Glory!