I have never been a good traveler. I think it is primarily because I am naturally a “home body.” Whenever I do travel, I get very anxious about the packing and planning. In addition I don’t like not being in control, am a picky eater, cautious, and really don’t like being uncomfortable. All of these things add up to not traveling well. So it has been no surprise to me (or to anyone who has traveled with me) that I have never felt called to go on a mission trip. God and I had an agreement. I would stay in the Charleston area ministering to my family, my church and the local community. Or so I thought….
Imagine my surprise and confusion when I felt the Lord speak to my heart this past October during my Cursillio weekend at Camp St. Christopher. His message to me: “Go and love the babies.” Ok. That seemed clear enough. I understood the part about “the babies” as I have been teaching and ministering to children for years. The Lord clearly gave me a heart for children. The other elements of his message proved to be a bit trickier and required prayer to discern what He intended for me.
The “love” part of this message seemed clear at first, but then I began asking him why love and not teach or minister or lead? The Lord had created me to teach and to lead children. But the image I kept getting from him was me with a group of children sitting beside them, laughing, singing, hugging—not separated from them standing in front teaching as I have so often been over the years. Again He spoke to my heart. Just love them. Hold them. Develop relationships with them. When I protested that I didn’t have a big enough heart to give love away like this, he promised he would fill it, enlarge it and bind it if it became broken. The final piece of the message that sunk in was the word go. Not stay I asked? Go. As in “away.” Hmmmm…this would take a bit more prayer.
In the last few months I have continued to pray about his message to me. I have sought Godly counsel and consulted His word. I believe that I have a better grasp now. I am pretty certain that ”the babies” refer to orphans—children without parents to love them. And I am more confident that He primarily wants me to give my heart to these little ones knowing that it will be stretched and pulled and possibly broken. But I still had no clarity about the “go” portion of the message. Where are these children? I suggested a number of possibilities to the Lord (all within a short driving distance of my house) but this did not seem to be what he had in mind for me. In walks Freddy….
During St. Michael’s Global Impact Celebration last week, Freddy Tuyizere, a missionary from Burundi, came to speak to our ladies Bible study group. As I sat listening to him talk about his country and the vision that had been given to him for the orphanage and school, I felt something stirring in me. I grew very warm and began to fidget. I couldn’t sit still. I hung on every word he spoke and soaked up the images of his country and its children that he shared with us. As the meeting came to an end, I asked if we could pray for him and lay hands on him. We gathered around as he knelt on the Sunday school classroom—a dozen hands reaching out in prayer. As I prayed aloud, I began to weep and to shake—not out of sorrow or fear but, I believe, in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. As we were leaving, Freddy caught my eye and I knew he had felt His presence too.
Over the next two days, I felt the Lord turning my heart—bringing forth a desire that had never existed before. I wanted to go to Burundi. Yes, to travel to this place so far away and so different from my home. I longed to know these children and to love them and to share my love of Jesus with them. I knew that a trip to Africa this summer was probably not possible but I began to pray about how else I might support Freddy and his ministry to the orphans of Burundi. I met up with him on Saturday after the brunch and shared my thoughts with him. We exchanged emails and two hours later I received one from him full of praise and thanksgivings to God for connecting us. After church on Sunday, he greeted me as sister and presented me with a bag of Burundi coffee (so that I could get a taste of his country).
I am eager to learn more about his country and the children and the projects in which Freddy is involved. I can hardly wait to begin planning a mission trip to Burundi in the next year or two. For now I will pray for the children and for Freddy and help in whatever way I can. And I will ask God to make me a better traveler!
~ Amy Watson Smith