Africa is not new to me. This is my fifth trip in four years and third time leading a Visiting Orphans team. I have lead a total of 61 people to experience short term missions. I know the culture and the needs. Every team and every trip is unique. I always pray that God bring the gifts and abilities to my teams that would glorify Him. He has brought me teachers, coaches, carpenters, worship leaders, children's pastors, a nurse and even a break dancer! And He always brings willing hands! Working around the clock, young and old are brought to their breaking points, yet they push through with a serving heart. That never gets old!
Watching an introverted man with no kids get crazy with a megaphone, jumping up and down dancing and teaching the kids cheers fuels my soul. Seeing an ill team member with rosy red checks and beads of sweat forming on her forehead from exhaustion, rock a crying baby with the little strength she does have, encourages me. Tough men are broken, controlling personalities surrender. Transformation happens on these trips! God wants us to obey James 1:27, not just because it serves the orphans and the widows, but because it serves us. Being in service to others grows us.
On the last night of my trip, I sit down with the team. We process our experiences. "What now?" I hear a lot. These trips are just the platform for more...so much more! I like to think of my life before my first mission trip and after my first mission trip. Everyone's story is different. For me, it was becoming a trip leader. For others, it's becoming a build board for a ministry, fundraising for a need, sponsoring a child, adoption, full time ministry or missionary. The after picture is different for everyone, and none is greater than the other. Sometimes I get to see the after picture, and others I do not. But everyone has one.
My after picture is still under construction. It is no longer that blank canvas, and the colors are starting to form a clear picture. God will never be done working with me on this earth. Right now, I know I am right where He wants me, getting His people to experience His love in a whole new way and learning to serve on a deeper level. What will my picture look like? I don't know. I know that full time ministry is what I think it is. When will that happen? I don't know. But what I do know is that God has put me right where I need to be... for now!