“I just got back from South Africa. South Africa!” was all I could think about the day after our team returned. While I was there, the experience was so incredibly surreal, that it didn’t quite register until we got home that I had just returned from a mission trip, serving the people of South Africa.
A few years ago, I had seen our mission leader’s journey in South Africa as he’d gone with another team. A couple of Blessman galas, conversations and COVID years later, we made it. As I prepared for the journey, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had an odd calm over me. I’m typically the over-packing traveler for all of those “just-in-case” scenarios. I worry about getting sick on the flights, about not being able to go for some reason, and the list continues – but this time, I knew it was in God’s hands. If the trip didn’t work out for me, it’s because it wasn’t my time. Fortunately, it was my time, and I was so ready for it.
When I’d thought about what I wanted to get out of the trip, it was really to just understand myself as a Christian. I’ve known that I needed to continue working on my relationship with God and work on keeping God and my faith a priority in my life, something I’d failed to do over the last several years. I put a lot of pressure on myself to have some sort of “epiphany” on my journey, and while that didn’t necessarily happen, there were incredible incremental things that have changed my life since my experience.
The first event our group attended was a Sunday morning church service. Most of our team sat together as a group in the front of the church, not really knowing what to say or do. I was nervous, and this was out of my comfort zone. However, as the church service began, my fear melted away as I watched how truly genuinely the church worshipped God – the same God, but in a different way. It wasn’t out of obligation, peer pressure or because it’s “what you’re supposed to do.” It was complete joy and thankfulness of God’s word and things he’s done in their lives that led them there.
Towards the end of the service, the pastor asked for a final song, and two rows behind me, a young woman in a beautiful striped dress began to sing. It was one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard in my life. Her one voice got the entire church to sing with her: a completely powerful moment for many members of our team. After the church service, I let her know how much I loved her voice, and she asked if she could sing for me. She took my hand and sang me an entire song in the schoolyard near the church. I couldn’t understand the words she sang, but I’ve never been so moved by a single act of courage, faith or love in my entire life. God was fiercely working in both of us. I will never forget her or that moment.
As I return to my life back home, I’ve begun to focus more on loving God, life and all those around me. It had been so easy to get caught up in this world and all the things that need to be done, but there are so many simple pleasures in Africa. I saw individuals that appeared to have so few objects in life, including things we could consider a necessity, but they had true faith in God and that was all they needed. God continues to work through me, and I hope to be more like the people of Africa as I continue in my faith journey, and I hope that each of you can find your hope and peace in life as well.