Tuesday, July 5, 2011

5 Year Anniversary

Five years ago today I boarded a plane which would take me across the Atlantic Ocean for the very first time. Little did I know as I embarked on my first missions trip outside of Canada that I was also embarking on a journey that would change the course of the rest of my life…

I’ve told the story of how I ended up on that plane many times at my presentations but never before on this blog and I believe it is a story worth telling… In May of 2006 I had just completed my second year of university and had three whole months before I had to go back to school. The summer before I had worked on a student grant as a child animator at a local women’s shelter. It was a job I had loved and I was looking forward to working there again until one day I received a phone call from the director informing me that it didn’t look like they were going to receive their grant that year. I was devastated as, like I said, I loved that job and I didn’t want to have to work in retail or be stuck with a whole summer with nothing to do. I prayed and prayed that they would get the grant and then one night as I was praying I got the sense that God was telling me that He had something even greater in store for me than I could ever imagine. In that moment, I surrendered my plans for the summer over to God and simply prayed that He would work out HIS plans for me.

The next morning I got a phone call from my pastor telling me about an opportunity to go to Uganda. He knew absolutely no details about the trip yet, because of the way God had spoken to me the night before, I knew that it had to be from Him. I spoke to the team leader and just about everything she said terrified me; it was last minute and I would have a lot to do to get ready including raising $5000, I wouldn’t know anyone and would be meeting most of the other team members for the first time at the airport in London, my role would be teaching bible stories to large groups of children (I hated saying even two words aloud in front of a group of people)… Normally I would have said, “No thanks” and run in the other direction but it was clear that it was what God wanted me to do. I agreed to be a part of the team and the next day I got a phone call from the women’s shelter letting me know that they had received their grant after all. Knowing that I never even would have looked into the trip if I had still had the women’s shelter job lined up, it was just one more confirmation that God had been working out the details all along.

Fast forward through six busy weeks of fundraising, preparations and vaccinations and all of a sudden I was meeting the rest of the team in London. The three weeks I spent in Uganda were eye opening, heart wrenching and at times overwhelming yet they were also faith-building, joy-inspiring and purpose-giving. I came face-to-face with poverty and suffering for the first time and it changed me in a way I never could have imagined. Over the course of those three weeks I fell in love with Uganda – the people, the children, the faith, the culture, the beauty and when the time came to leave it was as if a well inside me broke and I wondered if the tears would ever stop flowing. Looking back now I laugh as I remember the first conversation I had with our team leader. She mentioned what a unique trip it was as it gave people the opportunity to go back and work with the same kids again the next year. I immediately thought, “I hope they don’t expect us to go back again… This is a onetime thing for me.” I laugh now because by the time wheels of the plane had lifted off the ground and we were officially on our way home, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be back.

The weeks and months following my first trip to Uganda were filled with a lot of time spent in prayer and in studying the Word of God as He took my brokenness and shaped and moulded me into who He wanted me. That is also when the “plans” that I had for my life began to change. At that point I was finishing my degree in social work and was planning on working at a women’s shelter or in youth protection. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with those jobs except that it is clear now that that is not what God had planned for me. As a result of my first trip to Uganda, God gave me a heart for the poor and the suffering. As a result of that first trip, I went back the next summer which is when God really began to give me a heart for orphans. As a result of my first trip to Uganda, I spent a semester working in the ghettos of New York which is where God opened my eyes to the poverty on our side of the world and gave me a passion for local evangelical ministry. As a result of my time in New York, I ended up working for Youth For Christ here in Montreal where God continued to increase my passion for telling struggling children about the love of Jesus. As a result of my experience doing day camps in Uganda, I went to Jamaica where God revealed to me that He was calling me to share His love with forgotten and unwanted children around the world. Finally, it was a combination of all of these experiences that led me to Ukraine which is where God placed in me an ever-growing passion for adoption and the least of these… Each of these experiences shaped me into who I am today and it all started with that first trip five years ago.

I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I had said no to that first trip. To this day, whenever God asks me to do something that scares me or something I simply don’t want to do, I think back to my first trip to Uganda and am reminded that God is trustworthy and His plans for me are even better than the plans I have for myself.

Today as I was looking back at my journal I was reminded of the verse I claimed for that first trip back in 2006:
“Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us,
he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.” (Ephesians 3:20)

God certainly fulfilled that verse for me back in 2006 and He has been fulfilling that verse in my life ever since.
The moral of the story… Don’t be afraid to say YES!


Sarah said...

Wow, that's an amazing testimony! Like yours, one thing led to another... from the idea of the Block Party, to the Block Party, to my mission trip, to when mom saw Elijah when looking for angels in (14) I might see, and now to mom being back there have Gotcha day tomorrow!!! God always has a bigger plan!!!

Jenny said...

Thanks for reminding me of this important anniversary! Wow! 5 years! Look at what God has done in our lives! I'm so glad my journey has included getting to know YOU!