Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Visions of Africa

Let's face it. We live in a very privileged culture. America has an abundance of everything we need to make our lives run smoothly. I grew up "poor" by American standards. We had a large family and we all worked to earn the luxuries that we desired.

Growing up in Philadelphia I was part of a church that had affiliations in Africa. Each month the church would publish sermons written by the Pastor. They always contained testimonies on the back which included letters from Africa. The letters painted some stark pictures of people experiencing miraculous provision in the middle of war-torn countries. I remember thinking over and over about how I would never go to Africa. It was dangerous and disease ridden continent.

Fast forward to the summer of 2008. I had just returned from my first missions trip: constructing a house for a couple in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. My husband and I have separated, and I have taken to watching BBC America every night. One night, the news footage centered around these refugees pouring out of a country torn apart by civil war. I slammed up against the reality that my life is privileged, and I have nothing to complain about. My heart felt like it was being sucked out of my chest. "Lord, if there is ANYTHING I can do, please show me. I want to go over there and help." I began praying for direction, and to open my heart and mind to the possibility of a mission trip to Africa.

Another year went by with no open doors. Meantime, my heart went through some drastic changes as I became more exposed to the issues people were up against half a world away. In the summer of 2009, I traveled to Daytona Beach, FL with the First Baptist, Lutz Youth Group for a student life conference. Chris Tomlin was doing worship every morning and evening. It was an amazing week.

Thursday night, the last night of the conference, footage of Compassion International was shown. What stood out to me was a boy named Jordan who gave up his freshman year in college to go minister to children in Africa. The children wanted to know what his name meant. They told him they gave him a new name that means Everybody loves you. It was at that moment I received the following: I am standing on arid soil, holding a little girl. She is small for her age and she has her arms and legs wrapped around me. I can feel her weight, and see her face.

I immediately began banging on the door of heaven demanding to be sent to Africa. Within six weeks, I was called out of First Baptist into The Crossing Church. The Crossing sends mission teams all over the world. They had a missions weekend and I remember interviewing the different teams going to Africa. When I heard what the South Africa mission is all about, a light bulb went off in my head: South Africa it is. I am washed in peace, and filled with certainty that I am doing what God is calling me to do.

Next up: The Mission to South Africa



  1. Dear Gillian:

    So thankful you have this new direction to be following. I would count it a privilege to carry you and your team in prayer this summer and fall, as you prepare to go to Africa and while you are there.

    From my encounters with people who have done missions trip, you are in for the best experience of your life. Our church sent and supported a team of teens in the Dominican Republic this spring break, and the teens were able to give us a lovely report last Sunday. The Adults accompanying them were still too choked up to say very much, but then, they had a side trip to Haiti for 4 days, helping to rebuild an orphanage.

    What a wonderful door the Lord has opened up for you. May you continue to walk forward in His service and grace. God bless and please keep sending me your blog entries.

    Hugs, Ann