How I Found Life, Light and Joy in Swazi

Growing up I did not experience, nor really relate to, most girls my age. I was brought up in different cultures, and exposed to many diverse nationalities and types of people. My family lived in Seoul, South Korea and Beijing, China- traveling to different corners of the world while abroad. I guess you could say that at a young age the Lord set a small spark of fire in me that was just yearning to be apart of a grand adventure. As my family ventured from country to country, the Lord slowly revealed to me that travel and understanding/ relating to people were my passions, and that excitement and joy could be found in me while doing those things. However, I had to mature at a very young age. My mind and heart had to be ready for the reality of the world as I was experiencing hurt- not just learning about it. My young eyes and heart saw suffering firsthand and felt the pain and emptiness of those without food, water, shelter, or, most heart-breaking, God. I would be filled with boldness and life when traveling, only to be constantly hit by the reality of pain, anxiety, and brokenness in this life. I wanted to erase those images out of my mind and pretend that life was better- but I couldn’t. It became very hard for me to see God anywhere I went, and I questioned if he was even with me- protecting and caring for me. Little did I know that through that through suffering God was breaking my heart for his people and filling my mind with wisdom of the world. As my desire to explore the world grew, my relationship with the Lord stalled. Instead of seeing the world as God’s creation, I began to idolize friendships, experiences, and places. I was lost. I was hurt. And I was worn out by constantly trying to fill this big, dark, and broken hole inside of me with worldly possessions and dreams that were out of self-interest. I was walking this lonely and heavy life for a long time until God flipped a switch in me. My heart began to be tender for God’s calling. My older sister went on a mission trip a few summers ago and returned with such passion for life and this joy that shined in her eyes as she spoke of the glories God provided for her and all he did. It was then that my interest to go on a mission trip sparked and I realized that I was living a numb Christian life. I was used to hearing stories of Jesus and going to church every Sunday- doing the right thing and making the right choices. I believed in Christ and and that he died for our sins- taking on the pain of the whole world and its people. I just didn’t work on my relationship and trust in God. Unknowingly- I was still shocked by all the suffering I saw that I didn’t know how God could be present in such a broken world. But he was- I just didn’t open my eyes enough to see how he was working.  However, after seeing the rich and adoring love my sister had when she returned, I knew and prayed for my own mission trip and chance to see God work in my life and to fully put my trust in him. So, after almost two years of looking for an organization I found AIM. I quickly got on it and began searching the different trips, having the idea of Africa keep appearing in my mind and heart. At first I thought I was being selfish for wanting to go and thought that voice in my head was just me wanting to explore another area I had not been to. However, that did not stop me as I found myself back on the AIM webpage choosing between South Africa and Swaziland. I chose South Africa, but as you can see God had a different plan- so the trip got cancelled and here I am writing to all of you in Manzini, Swaziland. Through the process of admissions I became concerned as to whether this was really God’s will. But throughout my journey in preparation and being here on the field, God has proven that this is where I should be. I know that I am where God wants me because the devil despised my faith and attacked me both spiritually and physically. He knows we are serving our creator and does anything and everything to mess it up- either in drastic ways or through little lies in our ears. Satan would mess with my mind and feed me false accusations that left me insecure, lost, or alone. But God wasn’t giving up on me- he pushed me and fought for me so that I had wisdom to know that all good things come from the Lord, all all those lies and attacks are from the devil. Pain pushed me to keep going and built endurance in my soul. Throughout the whole process of fundraising I would go through spiritual highs and lows- looking to my friends for peace, and taking my anger, anxiety, and fear out onto my family. The enemy worked his hardest to hurt my relationships with my dad, mom, and sister- lying to me that they didn’t care I was leaving or that I wouldn’t make a difference. I became bitter and depressed. I was constantly being infected by Satan’s evil words and thoughts- feeling like I was drowning in constant negativity. But God still did not give up on me. He gave me strength to talk with them and mend those relationships through honesty and forgiveness. I don’t regret going through those trials both together as a family or within myself, because I grew in my faith and learned to just give everything into God’s hands and allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through me. After months of trial, I prayed for peace and a bright spirit while overseas. Ever since training camp I have felt the Lord speak to me three different words- Life, Light, and Joy. God has provided these three for me everyday while on this journey and I cannot thank him enough. I have energy and joy in the morning that has given me this feeling of a new and refreshing spirit. Through quiet time as I read my Bible, journal, or gaze out at beautiful African sunsets- I feel the comfort of God and see his creation made for his glory. It amazes me how much God has already worked in me with being here for a little over two weeks. I have learned that though evil can sneak up and cause hurt- God’s will is greater and his love overrides all suffering inflicted on us. He loves us and will direct us, we just need to have faith to allow him to move us. I have also learned to find joy in even the most annoying or tiring times. For instance, within the time we have been here I have smacked my face on the bus window, got peed on by an adorable three year-old, ran out of water in the house for a few days, got proposed to on the street, and had a Nalgene water bottle fall on my head on the bus twice! Though those were a little tiring an just an add on to stress- I was able to laugh at them and see it as a time to allow love to tramp evils testing. I hope and pray for others to see each day as a chance to spread Gods word and be more like Christ by being patient, kind, joyful, and speaking life to others. Sure, some things happen and it appears to be easier to get angry, but when the Lord is working in you and the holy spirit is stirring up joy, life, and light in you- every moment is a moment where you can thank God and praise him. He is so much greater than any worldly problems we have. When you make God the center of your life, fear escapes you and refreshing love floods in and fills you from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. I can honestly say that I am more life-filled now than when I left. I thought it would take me going on a fifty-plus hour journey to Africa to learn that- but its not. I didn’t have to travel to the bottom of a continent or across an ocean to find God- because he found me. He looked for me- sought me out and called me by name. He kept by me my whole life. It just took me to listen and open my heart to his calling. This love is beyond going to church and believing in him. Its so so so much more. It’s an everlasting relationship that casts out fear and replaces it with trust. For those of you reading this I pray that you look to God to fill you, because earthly things won’ t work. If you want pure joy that is overflowing and wonderful- run to God. He is waiting with arms wide open. He wants to talk to you all day long and protect you. We can take shelter under his wing.

I have been a Christion my whole life, I have an outstanding family who adores me, I have seen many parts of the world, and I have a fantastic friend group. But learning to truly trust in the Lord has allowed my eyes to open up and become more thankful, caring, excited, emotional, and free. This is what real faith in God feels like- allowing the Holy Spirit to use me and be a light to others. I would like to share some advice one of my leaders (Jenna) told me: We don’t have to “choose Joy” because it is already provided for us. When Christ died he gave us life and joy. It was ours to keep. So don’t chase happiness- joy is built in. You just have to allow God in to find it.

Here are some verses that have set my soul on fire and sparked delightful bliss in my soul:

Philippians 2:12-18, Philippians 3:12-14, 1 Timothy 4:11-14, All of James, All of Obadiah, and Isaiah 27:2-6.     

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