Monday, April 16, 2012

Trip Highlights: Natalie

After each of our trips I like to give our tripsters the opportunity to write out some thoughts on what impacted them the most during their time in Ghana. I enjoy hearing about the trip from their perspective, and seeing what transpired in their hearts as they were exposed to the culture and people - some for the first time. Although oftentimes it is extremely hard to put the experience into words - especially if you don't like to write - I have always believed that writing helps to process and digest the emotions and feelings of what was experienced. So far this trip I've had one taker - hopefully a few more of these will float in over the next days because I love reading them! In Natalie's words....

Natalie ~ Senior at Iowa State University, majoring in Early Childhood Education

There are so many things that I just… don’t know how to say. I thought I knew what to expect going to Africa, but of course I quickly found out that I didn’t and it was all so beautiful and joyful and hard and heartbreaking and overwhelming and… so much more. First of all, I am just still so humbled that I was able to go. I feel so, incredibly blessed to have been able to see and be a small part of our Father’s heart. That’s really one of the greatest blessings I could ever ask for or receive, to be part of what God is doing and the people that He loves so much.

Before going I thought I knew what poverty was… I thought I knew what to expect. But I didn’t know, because I had never seen beautiful children push each other and fight to get water. I mean, they almost knocked me down when I was trying to give them water. And I didn’t know what it would be like to hold a child in my arms – a child that is so skinny that even though she’s four she looks like, maybe, two years old. Or to see a child so hungry and tired that nothing I can do can make him smile… and all I can do is hold him in my arms and wish that there was more redemption here.

But there were also so many beautiful things. I mean, every single day there was a person, an event, a reminder, something that points to God’s infinite faithfulness and redemption. Every day there was something – the baby that was saved from death, Albert’s fervor for the word of God, Kofi’s passion for orphans, all the times when a child would sit and read story after story after story from my Bible with ten more kids piled around us listening. (This might have just become my very favorite thing in the world to do.)

One of my very favorite moments was the night in Kwahu when I all of a sudden realized (in the midst of blowing bubbles) that we were getting in the van and leaving… with all the kids from the orphanage… to go have a meal with them. A banquet for orphans. We went to the restaurant and I looked down the long table and saw the joy on the faces of these dozens of kids, and I watched them dance – I don’t know if I have ever seen anything more beautiful. It was one of those moments when you literally feel the heart of God rejoicing.

One of the most striking things I have seen so far from all this is a very deep longing to see God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven. This deep longing to see more of Christ’s redemption come to the lives of physically and emotionally hungry children and orphans in Asikuma and Kwahu and Larteh… and more of God’s kingdom to come to the materialism and sometimes relational poverty we have here… and spiritual poverty in so many places. Just to understand this longing and God’s heart more is such an undeserved blessing, and I am so, so humbled and thankful that I could have and learn a small part in that. I am honestly still struggling with what I have seen of how this… pursuing God’s kingdom… is going to be hard and costly and inconvenient but He is also worth it and I’m am so thankful that I was able to go to Ghana and gain a better understanding and vision of that (and a longing to go back)! :)


Lori said...

That is beautiful! And to picture the banquet of orphans is a foretaste of what Jesus is doing for us, preparing a place for us, God's orphans, adopted into the family of God by His grace. Someday we will all partake in the banquet of orphans. Thanks for sharing your heart. I loved your story!

Mindy said...

"That’s really one of the greatest blessings I could ever ask for or receive, to be part of what God is doing and the people that He loves so much."
How can I emphasize how this single statement alone struck true and deep?
Thank you for sharing. Many need to hear your words.