By Elisabeth Corcoran
It was March 7, 2008 --- the morning I was to leave for Sierra Leone, Africa for the first time, when I had this conversation with my 9-year-old son, Jack:
Jack: I have one question for you.
Beth: Okay, go ahead.
J: Who said you had to go to Africa for ten days?
B: (thinking, thinking...) Well, honey, I really think Jesus wants me to go.
J: But did He say TEN DAYS?
And that is how I left. Wondering myself, who told me to go to Africa? Why am I doing this? Am I insane? To go somewhere so far? To leave my kids for ten days? To go with people I barely know to a place I've only read about where I'll be eating who-knows-what-kind-of-food and bathing in who-knows-in-what-sort-of-conditions? To go when I really have no transferrable-to-African-culture skills (what was I going to teach them --- how to write a great email or put together a really cute outfit?)? Basically, what was I thinking and had I really heard from God on this?
I remember when I first gave my life to Christ...I clearly remember telling God twenty-two years ago that I'd do anything for Him, just please not to send me to Africa (whatever I thought Africa represented back then). I think I thought that to follow Him meant that He'd probably be asking me to do a bunch of stuff I wouldn't want to do, and I was drawing a line in the sand with Him. I give You all of me, but... I can only imagine Him smirking each time I'd say something like that, Him knowing that twenty years later, He'd end up working Africa into His little girl's heart and that I'd be begging for Him to orchestrate a trip for me to go on.
It surprised even me that I have become the kind of person to do what I just did. My former pastor and still good friend emailed this to me, after sending out my trip recap email:
"High maintenance diva + Africa = miracle of God"
Funny. Classic. So very true. How God has changed me and my heart and my life the past three or so years is almost unreal to me...at times, I barely recognize myself. And that's okay.
My church is involved with a dynamic partner based in Bo, headed up by a godly, passionate leader. We were able to be a part of a couple church services, their youth conference and pastors' retreat, work in the medical clinic (I actually dispensed drugs, if you can believe it), visit several schools, visit a prison, and several villages. God is doing incredible things through this ministry...people's lives are changing, people's hearts and bodies are being healed, people are finding the love of God.
There is no way to sum up Africa, but basically I would say that it is everything you would picture it to be --- only more poverty and more beauty, more sickness and more joy, more dirt and heat and more hope...just simply more real. I think we like to pretend that what we hear is going on over there isn't really going on over there. But it is. Not all children are in school; not all people eat even two meals a day; many people bathe in dirty, diseased water that they also must drink for lack of any other sources. People are dying for reasons they shouldn't be. The obstacles they face each day are huge, but so is their contentment, which blew me away.
So I'm left with the now-what questions. I've been reading about Africa for two years...I've been speaking and writing about it...I begged God to let me go...and I went. So now what? Well, I pray for an open heart, for my desire to learn about that place to continue to thrive, for ideas that are creative and smart and doable and yet just beyond my reach so I know God is in them.
So Moms, in the middle of your day-to-day lives...I want to challenge you yet again to pray for a cause to pour your life into. What breaks God's heart should break yours too. And when you pray, be prepared...because He will answer you and He might surprise you and He will call you, and it will be an adventure that you couldn't have created on your own no matter how much you tried.
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