A life-altering love.
Recently… Ok, a month ago, Ty and I traveled to Sierra Leone to tie up some loose ends. And essentially allow me to see where I had committed to move our family for the next 6 years.
It was nice for me, as a mom, to see all these things before we make our big move because I have my hesitations and I have my fears. I knew in my heart that God called our family to Africa to serve His people, but its fair to say that I didn’t want it to be true. I had come so far in testing God, which I know is wrong, and He always showed me what I needed to see. Every time I challenged His plan for us, He showed me that this is His will. If you missed those signs God gave me, they’re about 2 posts back ;).
The thing is, God knows me. I mean, better than I think He does. God knows that I need to physically see with my eyes what He is telling me. Im a Thomas through and through. And when we arrived in Africa it was every bit of “overwhelming”, and then some. It’s dirty, and incomprehensibly poor. There are so many shocking things you experience, and I was unprepared. I had seen the pictures, and heard the stories more than most people do in a lifetime. But nothing can prepare you for actually having Sierra Leone bombard all 5 of your senses. I was faced with the reality that these people actually have nothing. And while my heart was immediately broken for them, I couldn’t stop thinking about my 3 beautiful boys. And how I was glad they weren’t with me for the very first time in my life.
As I saw the garbage laid along the roads, like grass covers the dirt in America, I felt a sick knot in my stomach and a strong desire to run from the images before me. When we drove along the winding road to the village I saw small children naked; or wearing clothes we would deem as rags standing outside their tiny corrugated metal homes. I saw topless women outside their houses bathing from a bucket and men shuffling along the road to get to what I assume would be work. I saw women carrying heavy baskets of items to sell on top of their heads, and I saw all types of people standing alongside the road going to the “bathroom”.
At the guest house we stayed in, I took a bath in a room that looked as though it had never been cleaned, with a bucket of water scooped from a trash can. I used the commode with extra care not to lower myself any closer than necessary and “flushed” with by pouring a bowl of water down it. I slept on a mattress laid upon sand, with a net over my body to stop malaria-carrying mosquitos from biting me.
None of this was too much for me. None of it was really even all that upsetting… until I considered my sons doing it. That thought made heart break and the pit of my stomach drop. I thought they deserved more. I was angry at my husband for thinking this was the right thing for our whole family. If we were just a married couple with no kids, this would be great. But we aren’t. A long way from it too.
Now, I need to express that I am sharing the shocking things, the most un-American things with you. The whole story is that there is so much beauty too. There are mountains and ocean and it takes your breath away. However that is nothing compared to the people.
The people can take your broken, overwhelmed heart and piece it back into something better than it ever was before. The women in the church sing louder, and stronger, and more powerfully than any sound I have heard in my life. They literally shout with joy to the Lord. The children giggle and squirm and crane their tiny necks to get a better look at your white skin. The beautiful brown eyes and giant white smiles make you pray to have another opportunity to see again. All the elderly women have strong proud faces as they walk the many miles along the roadside, and you know they have amazing stories to share. Every man is thin but muscular, and they don’t acknowledge your presence as they tap away at the rock pile in front of them; making boulders to gravel bit by bit. Every person in the village is connected. They live among one another, laugh together, talk each day, and a small few pray to Jesus together.
While first considering missions in a third world country, you don’t wake up and think “Africa for 6 years sounds like fun. Lets do that”. In fact, if you’re like me, you think “ how can I get God to change His mind about sending me there”. But after you meet those people, those men and women, and oh my goodness… those KIDS… you are changed forever. Those people are the reason I want to go. And if God tells you to go serve them, by golly, you HAVE to. When they understand real need, like… “my son needs to eat tomorrow or he wont survive” and “I need to get the malaria medication for my sick father or he is going to die” and “I need to work at pounding my rice all day tomorrow so my family can eat” you have an overwhelming realization that you haven’t had a sincere need a day in your life. Here, we complain that we need to get to Walmart cause we have nothing to eat. The sad reality is our barest cupboard days are a feast to most people in Brigitte Village.
I don’t feel pity for them. I have nothing but respect and admiration. I don’t want to change their culture or treat them like my personal charity case. I only want to give them Hope. The hope that Christ alone can give. The hope that extends beyond every hurt, need, want, loss, and pain in this world. Its a hope that no matter what comes, when I am His, nothing else can compare. I want to LOVE them the way He does. The way He loves us all, and what a privilege it is to be called to share His love to those who don’t yet know it.
Now, I know I painted a somewhat harsh picture of the things in Sierra Leone that make me want to run far away from it, but God provides. And boy did He ever. I began the trip seeing the most shocking parts. How can you not be shocked, honestly… The thing is, God knows me. He knows my desire to protect our boys and give them the best. While I am busy battling with my heart that knows this place is home, and with my flesh that wants electricity and running water, He was waiting to show me that He will provide what I need AND what I want.
We met the doctor and pharmacist who will be able to provide basic medical needs for our boys, and us. We were able to go to a grocery store that had hotdogs and even ice cream, for $20 a pint…so we wont have ice cream, but hey, its there. We were able to see Rick and Paula’s home with running water, electricity, and even internet. There were family pictures decorating the walls, a dining room for family meals. A bedroom for their girls with toys and games and bunk beds. There was a nice back yard and a welcoming porch and a fridge with cold Cokes. We were able to experience life in Africa for the people we will be serving, good, bad, and otherwise. and at the end of he day we were able to relax on a couch with a fan blowing near by and text our boys 🙂 and God provided.
So I am ready, and excited, to move there. I see it in my dreams and when I close my eyes tightly. I can not leave and never return. After being there and feeling God saying “follow me”, nothing here in America will satisfy. Its simply not good enough. I NEED to go serve His people in Sierra Leone. I will give up some of those fleshly wants and in return, God will provide. Matthew 6:33 says “ Instead, be concerned above everything else with the kingdom of God and with what He requires of you, and He will provide you with all these other things.” Thats an amazing promise. One that I will cling to.