okay everyone so i am leaving this first post with much excitement behind it!! my dream to go to Africa is finally coming into realization. i am going to be heading to Mbala, Zambia in June of 2009 on a mission trip. i couldn't be more excited. i just went and applied for my passport the other day, let me remind you it is my first one ever, i've never been out of the country, and it made everything so much more real for me.
back to the beginning...where did all of this start?? well i've wanted to go to Africa for several years now. my interest was pretty much sparked back then by a very good friend of mine who went to South Africa. upon his return i heard nothing but "good" things from him about his experience there. let me clarify when i say "good" things i mean life changing experiences and lessons that he took away from his trip. i kept it in the back of my mind that i may want to go to there some day. as many of you may know i had the most wonderful opportunity to live out in Bellingham, Washington for about year back in 2004-2005. i absolutely loved it out there, it was such a positive growing experience for me. while i was there the Peace Corps came and did a presentation for my school. they were there explaining to people about their organization and what not. as part of their presentation they included a video and part of the video included stuff on Africa...this event pretty much sealed my intent on making it to Africa sometime in my life. something about going to Africa was really ringing true inside of me. so fast forward about 3 years later, i have finally finished school with my bachelor's degree in psychology, i have been working full-time for the past year as a receptionist at rockford construction company and have been trying to figure out what's next in my life, all the while hoping i may make it to Africa...when my opportunity finally presented itself!!!
details..details..details...so i have been attending Thornapple Valley Church, better known as TVC, down in hastings for the past year and a half. it has been the most wonderful experience. once i stopped going to church 7 years ago i never though i'd go again...all that changed when i was invited to go to TVC by a friend. i went once and have kept going back ever since. i never thought i'd gain anything from that first worship experience but i was wrong. i realize i have finally found a place where i can feel accepted, be at ease, and develop a better understanding of God. And of Jesus. i’m still learning. i have so much to learn. what a difference a different environment has had on my faith. i’ve learned that faith takes work and study. worship is a time for me to reflect on what it means to be a Christian. part of my growing experience came in the form of something the church calls "life groups". i was invited to join in on the 20-somethings life group, basically just a bunch of 20-somethings sitting around, getting to know each other all the while deepening their faith in God. one nite i got to talking to the youth leader of TVC who happened to be in my life group...i was telling him about how i wanted to go to Africa and he in turn told me his dream was to take a group of kids there on a mission trip...i thought about our talk the rest of the nite, emailed him the next morning and said let's do this...what do we need to do to get this started?? so i guess the rest is history and now, here i am, one of 19 people going to Zambia in less than 9 months (eeek!!). there are 8 group leaders and 10 high school students that will be attending the trip.
i want to use this blog to as a communication tool...to let you know where my progress is, as well as my groups progress, and also what my thoughts and feelings are as i make this exciting journey. i also want you to be able to share you thoughts and stories, words of encouragement, etc. with me over the next 9 months. so please check in with me often. i will post more soon...
p.s. here is an excerpt from the application that i submitted to apply for the trip...
I am at a place in my life where I can finally volunteer for a mission trip. And the destination, well, it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to actually travel to Africa. I see the trip as a way to challenge myself—spiritually and educationally—and make a difference in the lives of others. I have spent a great deal of time working with children. At one time I wanted to teach special-needs children but have chosen to become a nurse instead. I have a bachelor’s degree in science with a major in psychology, which I believe will be extremely valuable in the health field.
I started volunteering at a young age. I’ve worked in church programs, in school, with an equine program for disabled children, and in various fundraising efforts. While in college, I became interested in Africa, its people, its animals, its struggles. In one class I studied the effects of apartheid and its historical basis. Friends have been to Africa, which has helped maintain my interest in what type of work I might be able to do to help the people there.
I like kids. I understand how important it is for children to have someone they trust who can help to guide them through the rough patches of life. Everyone needs a friend. A smile, a hug, a conversation, someone to listen. Someone who cares. Working with kids 24/7 on a trip like this would give me an opportunity to be that friend, that someone who cares. You don’t know what a child is going through when you first meet. But a dose of unconditional love just might make a lasting difference. Kindness can be spread.
This trip reminds me of the movie Pay It Forward. Do good. And that good is passed on. By giving of my time and talents to the church, the community, and to kids I’ve never met before, I believe I will in some small way be passing forward the good that I have received, which has so blessed my life. We are all called by God to be light-workers, spreading the good and love to those around us. The world is desperately in need of people to care about others, to care about the earth and everything in it. We take so much for granted living here; I know I am guilty of it daily. Food and water are readily available to us. We have clothes, shelter, and, most of all, a safe place to live and to raise our families. I thank God for all we’ve been given.