Coming into this summer, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. All I knew was that I was headed to East Africa because God showed me it was where He wanted me and then provided the means for me to get there. The truth was that He had called 23 college-age students to take a journey solely focused on Him and learning how to seek Him in every moment.
I had just finished up an amazing first year of college. God had blessed me with an incredible community and had given me experiences that very few people are lucky enough to have. I had been all over the country to go to college football games, gone backpacking and hiking on incredible trails in beautiful forests, and had been on vacations with my family. In all of that, and through owning my faith on my own for the first time, I experienced a huge amount of growth during my freshman year. Even though it was a weird transition to life without my parents' guidance every day, God had made it relatively easy for me to adapt to a new lifestyle. It would have been easy to say no to leaving all of that behind for two months. I could have had a productive summer at home, but I knew it would have been disobedience to not go to Africa this summer.
If I had left Africa learning nothing other than what it looked like to follow God without the distractions that fill up my daily life, it would have been a successful summer. It truly amazed me that I could survive any day (much less 70 days) without sending a single text message, sending a single snapchat, or checking Instagram to see what others were up to each day. While I have missed some of those things, God has shown me what it means to truly abide in Him daily. Luckily for me, I have been able to learn that lesson and so many more while doing life with amazing U.S. students who have become a family and African leaders whom God is using in huge ways to transform lives on their continent.
For the first time in my life, I have experienced exhaustion that could only be replenished by God, hunger that could not be filled by any earthly food, and thirst that could only be satisfied by the Lord. Before anyone (especially my family) freaks out and thinks that I have felt literally lonely, hungry, and thirsty all summer, I definitely have not! I've had incredible food, as much water as I needed, and like I said before, this team has become a family. What I mean is that I have been so devoted to seeking God that it has physically drained me. I have been thirsty for the will of God and hungry for the spiritual sustenance to keep going. If I am being honest, my life has been pretty easy. Some circumstances didn't seem easy at the time, but I never really had to worry about anything besides my grades and where I would eat my next meal. This summer, I have learned that it is okay to have needs (which was hard to admit). I realized that I had been filling those needs with what was easy and worldly. I have begun to learn what it looks like to seek God while surrendering myself to His will revealed to me through the Holy Spirit. While it has been one of my toughest seasons of life, it has definitely been one of, if not the most, rewarding season of my life.
It would take an entire website for me to share what all I have learned this summer, so I will try to give just a brief glimpse into some of the other lessons I have learned this summer. Through African teachers, businessmen, warriors, and people in every walk of life, I have learned about true sacrifice. While working alongside them in schools, visiting their homes, and working with them in their fields, they have poured truth into me. It has been such an honor and blessing to hear new perspectives on familiar Bible stories and verses. The leadership of CTI has taught me how to remove the masks I use to guide through life, how to combat lies I believe with truth from the Bible, and how to see God in every situation through teachings and leading by example. Through Forgotten God by Francis Chan, I have learned the theology of the Holy Spirit. One thing that is still blowing my mind is that that Holy Spirit intercedes on my behalf when I don't know what to pray or ask for. That has been so freeing! I have also learned so much from my new family members and how God has worked in each of their lives. They have been an immeasurable blessing to me this summer. Finally, I have probably learned the most through diving into scripture and seeking what God wants me to see through it. I have been all over the Bible this summer, and God has been faithful to show me things I had never noticed or learned before in passages I had read so many times. One thing God has taught me personally was to let go of my timing and my plans. I have not worn a watch since the first community and have learned what it means to trust the Lord's timing and to take advantage of every moment we get because tomorrow is not promised.
I can't wait to get back and share more of the details of awesome stories and experiences that have shown God's faithfulness and His immeasurable love for His family this summer. I also can't wait to hear about what God has been doing in the lives of my family and friends this summer, because I can just feel and I know that He has been faithful to do so much and reveal Himself back at home as well.
"Choose this day whom you will serve" - Joshua 24:15