About nine months ago, I was reminded how blessed I am to have such great kids. Jessica, who is now 16, wrote a reflective paper for one of her classes and was kind enough to share it with me. I am now sharing it with you as another lesson we can learn from the next generation:
“This starts like any other story but I promise, it’s one you haven’t heard before. It was a Sunday afternoon and I had just gotten back from my church women’s retreat. I was tired and stressed and overloaded with estrogen. I don’t really remember how my dad began but the end effect was something like, “what would you think about moving to Africa for a year?”
The funny thing was, I wasn’t really surprised. I mean, I did get that sickening feeling of dread at uprooting our family and going to a third world country, but not once did I think he was kidding, and not once did I feel surprised. You see, my family has been like this recently. We started off as this normal little American family, you know, self absorbed and not really any big plans. But then Bob Goff came along.
Bob is this guy. And he’s like obsessed with Uganda (a teeny little country in the middle of Africa). He got it into my dad’s head that my dad should go to Uganda and rescue children from jail because he’s a law professor and is actually allowed to do stuff like that. Since Bob brainwashed my dad, my dad has been 3 times and has rescued dozens of unjustly imprisoned Ugandan children.
So I’m sitting at my kitchen table doing chemistry homework half an hour later like nothing happened because really it wasn’t a shock so why should I make a big deal out of it? And then my mom walked in and I started telling her my dad’s brilliant idea. And started crying. The last thing I wanted to do was go to Africa. Sure, I’d gone to Honduras, but that was for like a week. I had just moved schools. I really didn’t want to be uprooted after I had just gotten settled. Oh yeah, and there was the fact that I would have to graduate a year later. Survey 100 teenagers and 99 of them will tell you that that isn’t exactly something they want to do.
The next couple weeks saw the death of my dad’s idea. My mom and sister and I all ended up crying because that was how badly we didn’t want to go. Every night, I prayed that God wouldn’t make me go. I begged that he wouldn’t make me leave my life, my friends, and my country. I told God that if he let me stay, I would try my hardest to serve him right where I was. Everyone started to forget about it.
Everyone but me. I had this nagging feeling that I should go. At my private Christian school, is it any wonder that we have to go to chapel? No, but it is surprising that this was like missions week or something. I was bombarded with speeches about mission trips changing lives and being worth any sacrifice. And it felt like everyone was speaking directly to me.
It turns out my dad hadn’t forgotten about Africa. He proposed a compromise. We would go for a semester, not a year. That I could agree to. I don’t think I had ever felt God’s call like that before, and I didn’t feel like I had a choice. There’s this C.S. Lewis quote (I know, I know, I’m a dork) that says, “I don’t pray to change God. I pray to change me.” And after praying and praying, I stopped asking God to keep me where I was. I started begging and pleading for him to send me to Africa. Prayer changed me, and I knew even if my family didn’t go to Africa this time, I would go at some point in my life.
I started thinking about Africa more and more. Africa seemed to be everywhere. I saw it in my Spanish class in Shakira’s “Waka Waka” song, and it leaked into my dreams. I met this little African girl in my dream one night. She reminded me of another quote (this one from the Wedding Date). “I’d miss you even if I’d never met you.” I miss that little girl and I’m dying to meet her.
Then my family watched “Facing the Giants” and there’s this verse in it from Revelations about not being able to open doors God closes and not being able to close doors that God opens. I felt like someone was screaming at us to hurry up and go to Africa. If God opened the doors for us, I would have bought my plane ticket that day. There’s something of a rush in doing something crazy and stupid and doing it for God. If you’ve never experienced Christianity like that, you should try it sometime. Giving someone else your fate is about the scariest thing there is, like jumping into someone’s arms and hoping they catch you. God will always catch you, but if it feels like he doesn’t, then I guess you weren’t jumping in the right spot. I know I’m a little preachy for a 15 year old girl, but it’s not every day that you feel called to pick up your life and go to Africa.
Then came door time. It’s a lot less cool than “hammer time” or “game time,” believe me. Door time is when you have a bunch of doors in front of you and you wait to see which ones God slams in your face. If even one door was closed on our journey to Africa, then there’s no way we could go. First there was my dad’s job, then my school, then my brother and sister’s school, then money and so on. It’s an entire hallway of doors and the silence is deafening while you wait for one of them to be shut.
I wish I could tell you what happened with the doors, but I’m still waiting. Patience has never been my thing, so sometimes the wait is agonizing, but I guess I can think of worse things. In the meantime, we just take one day at a time. Africa isn’t going anywhere.”