25 April 2006

South Africa

It was dark and rainy when I stepped off the airplane and saw Cape Town for the first time in the summer of 2004. I couldn't help but wonder what God had in store for me. It was a time of discovery... a defining time... a time of faith. I will never forget what God showed me those few weeks I spent in South Africa.

Our team's ministry consisted of three-day or two-day VBS clubs using Awana material. In all, we ministered to eight churches and over 700 children with the gospel. The children were so precious; they were such a blessing in my life.

The first time I saw those children I knew it was what God wanted me to do -- those beaming faces, their enthusiasm for learning God's word, their zeal for life -- this blessing is what I wanted to take part in for the rest of my life. The children we ministered to had very little. Many owned only what they had on their backs. Most did not have shoes, and you wondered when their last meal had been. The majority of the children we reached lived in shanties -- makeshift houses that barely sheltered their families. It broke my heart when I saw their living conditions.

It was the last day at our first church. We were about to leave, when one little girl ran up to me and gave me a big hug, saying, "I must give you a hug since I will never see you again." That just broke my heart. I tried not to choke as I said, "We will see each other in Heaven."

Another young girl at this meeting came to know the Lord. She was from a Muslim family and openly spoke to the other children about how excited she was to return to her family and share the good news that now gave her hope.

At our fourth church I met a little girl I wished I could have taken home with me. I seriously doubted that she would see adulthood. She was a very happy little girl of about four with the most beautiful smile that lit her entire face. I noticed her little belly was horribly distended and I guessed heart or liver problems were the cause (I'm no medical specialist, so my guess could be totally wrong). All I knew is that she had some serious health issues. She also appeared to have Downs Syndrome. This little girl followed me around, held my hand, wanted to sit in my lap, and loved being held in my arms. I wish I could have kept her there -- it was difficult to part.

One of our last churches was held in an old school building. It was a very poor area, surrounded by hovels. We played games outside that day, the children taking great delight in tumbling around in the grass. I noticed one little girl (no more than three) quietly watching the other children play. She noticed me looking at her -- I smiled. Her face lit up and she tottered over to me, resting her head on my hip. I scooped her up in my arms; she laid her head on my shoulder and sighed contentedly. That little girl was starved for attention and stuck with me for the rest of the day. The next day I looked everywhere for her, but she was no where to be found.

It was difficult to leave South Africa. There was so much more to be done. I had made so many friends... loved so many children. I was told of startling statistics: one in every seven children in Africa will not live to see next year. Which one of those children I held in my arms is no longer alive?

This mission trip was a very defining moment for my life. It was this moment that snatched me out of my rebellion towards God and confirmed my calling to the mission field. I couldn't picture myself doing anything else.

I flew back to the DFW airport with two of my team-mates, Tabby and Sasha. We were all quiet, lost in our own thoughts. I turned to Tabby.

"What are you thinking about?"

"Home."

I turned to Sasha and asked the same question.

"Home," was the same reply.

"What are you thinking about, Carey?" Tabby asked.

"My next mission trip."

3 Comments:

At 25 April, 2006 19:54, Blogger Redeemed said...

AMAZING.

Thanks so much for sharing your story, this really touches my heart. It's such a blessing that God gave you such an opportunity and may He bless you with many more.

I know how you feel. I too have this burning desire to depart and go into the mission feild. I often wonder what am I doing here....

Children are something else...they are so precious. (By the way, you made me shed some tears, so if I make typos here, please excuse).

This reminds me of the love Christ has for little children.

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven ~Mat 19:14

You really are a blessing, Carey, those children will never forget you, but best of all, they will never forget God's love and the HOPE they now have!

 
At 26 April, 2006 00:39, Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Thanks for sharing your experience.

 
At 26 April, 2006 04:01, Blogger The IBEX Scribe said...

We go on missions trips and God changes us. I know the feeling. In Costa Rica last year God taught me things that had nothing to do with the construction project we worked on! A number of years ago (I think it was 2001) I went to Romania with a group from church. We visited three small orphanages while we were there and it was heartbreaking to hear their stories. Most children in orphanages in Romania have been abandoned and many still cling to the hope that their parents will come and get them after years of separation. Because there has been so much corruption in adoption agencies there the government has put a hold on international adoptions, so many children who might otherwise be in good homes are growing up in overcrowded and underfunded orphanages. It is very sad.

 

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