WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY TRIP TO AFRICA
When I was a little girl I imagined myself being a missionary in Africa. I was told that when I was four years I would sing praises to Jesus and big tears would drop from my eyes. I remember that, and I also remember the altar I made to Jesus, on my nightstand, when I was six years old. I had a crucifix, a picture of Jesus and candles. I attended Catholic School from Kindergarten to the second grade. We then moved away and Catholic School became too expensive for my parents. As I grew older and realized that my life was dysfunctional due to my parents alcoholism and violent fights, I became distant from God. I didn’t believe that God cared about me very much. So I just maintained a distant relationship with Him.
When I was seven years old and saw the little children from Africa on TV with their swollen bellies and flies covering them it would make me cry. When I went to Africa and saw their dirty faces with their big smiles on them it made me happy. What a blessing to know that no matter what your lot in life is there is always something to smile about.
While I was pregnant with my daughter I gave my heart to the Lord and felt that same feeling I did when I was a small child. Many years later I got baptized. When I look back I wish I could change many of the bad choices I made, but maybe it took all those bad choices for me to be the person God has made me to be today.
The Lord has brought me through so many trial and tribulations over the years that I can’t even count them. What I do know is that life is a struggle for almost everyone. Sometimes you will run into people who have lived an effortless life. They have never experienced any tragedy in their life at all. Most of the people who I know like that, are very good people, but they don’t have a personal relationship with the Lord, and that is because they were never brought to their knees. Because of this they don’t have a heart for the Lord. I thank God for the pain in my life, because that is when I knew that God was alive, and present in my life.
On my trip to Arica I was in a tour group of sixteen people. These people were from all walks of life, and they were world travelers. When we first found our vans, after arriving from Kenya, we all selected a van and found ourselves a seat while our luggage was being loaded in the back. There were six people riding in two of the vans, and four others in the third van. We were told that whatever van we were in was going to be “our van” for the entire trip. On day two I asked God if this was a joke, because the people I was in the van with couldn’t be further from my comfort zone. My friend, Betsy, whom I have known for thirty-seven years, is an agnostic. We’ve always respected each other and that was never a problem between us. The other four were a dilemma for me. Two of the fellows were a gay couple that was married for twenty-nine years; they were far left Democrats and hated Christian conservatives. The other two people in our van were a lady traveling with her son. She had been to 84 countries, including Kenya, and was just on this trip because her son wanted to go. She was a staunch far left Democrat all her life. She was very opinionated, and moody. She did not believe the Bible was the inspired Word of God, even though she was raised in the Catholic faith, and her son used the “F” word in every other sentence. I do not believe in accidents, especially when it comes to God. So I knew I was put in that van for a reason. Betsy and I always tried to sit next to each other, but sometimes it didn’t work out that way. The other four became comrades, united in their opinions on politics, religion, conservative Christians, President Bush, Evolution, Fox News, and the Bible. I would not be drawn into their conversations, because the Lord showed me early on that I would be casting my pearls before swine. Therefore, I did not defend my beliefs because they had their minds made up a long time ago. So, I decided that I would just love them. I said grace before my meals. I praised God when it moved me, and I was kind, sweet and loving to all of them.
At the end of our trip, I was told that I was a breath of fresh air. The hateful conversations ceased and I realized it was all because I was loving and non-judgmental to them. I later came to find out that the family of the gay couple were “Born Again Christians” and disowned them. I don’t believe Jesus would want us to do that.
So this is what I learned: God loves all his children, and He will be the one to judge all of us, not me. All I can do, as a Christian, is let God’s light shine through by the way I live my life. The Bible says, “Love the sinner, hate the sin, and pray for mercy for all, for they know not what they do.” God wants us to maintain a loving spirit towards everyone – for we are all made in the image of God and deserve respect. SO ENDS MY JOURNAL.