Where to begin to describe the past two weeks? On the surface, home appears so different: no smiling people waving back at you at every turn, no dusty and bumpy roads, no scent of smoldering charcoal fires, no boisterous songs that the heart understands, even if the mind cannot comprehend the language. Yet these differences seem minuscule compared to the overwhelming similarities: The love for the same Lord. The same daily struggle with life, even if in different ways and intensities. The same mix of people trying (or not trying) to know God better. The same need to praise Him-- all blessings are His, regardless of our perception of their value. We are all parts of the same Body.
I will miss spending moments and meals with the Congolese brothers and sisters whom I now know by name-- especially Chantal, who tried to make me eat second helpings at every meal! So many times, I felt as though I'd known each person for my entire life! Every day brought new faces, new experiences, and, as was so often said in prayer, new mercies. I feel blessed to have had this opportunity to go, and to return with an echo of the greeting offered by all the senders. It is a joy to think of these new friends whom we can pray for by name, and whom I hope others in our church come to know .
On the surface, I am certainly left with a bundle of funny stories about adapting to preposterous circumstances. They add joyful humor and color to any description of our time in Congo. But these are not the core of my memories. Instead, I will cherish the deeper ways I saw the Lord at work: The loving hospitality in the Name of Christ. The power of prayer. Witnessing a testimony impact another. The protecting and strengthening hand of the Lord. The incalculable value of encouragement. God’s guidance and His hands at work in building a new parish. All tangible evidence of the truths we affirm.
For some time, I didn’t feel ready to go on a mission trip. I was uncertain of what I could offer (and sometimes I'm still uncertain). Now, having gone and met with so many dedicated to Christ, I realize I placed these roadblocks around myself and blocked my ears to what God might ask me to do. For all the encouragement I hoped to bring, I feel it returned to me in multitudes. After all the joyful praises in thatched, dirt floor churches, how could I not praise Him in all circumstances? After the “chance” meetings, when I thought I couldn’t go any further, how could I put my choices of comfort before His call? When I saw how overcoming my own insecurities could touch another life, how could I be timid? I will be forever grateful for the way our team, Fred, President Mavoungou, and all those I met have helped deepen my faith.