I arrived in Ethiopia with my heart ready for and expecting God to do a great work in me. Joyfully I prayed and pleaded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Day and night I knocked on the Father’s door and begged for Him to show up in big ways. I was so thirsty for Him that soon I began to demand Him to show up on my terms. I prayed for many different specifics. I kept waiting but nothing came. Not long after I began to burn out and became extremely discouraged and even angry at God. I was unable to see why God would abandon me when I was so ready for Him- when I felt like I needed Him the most. I grew angry and my light faded more and more. I began to feel unloved and unseen by the Father.
Day after day God left me dry. Many things started going wrong; my friend Hannah was injured and sent home, then all the small inconveniences felt huge. I started feeling a little sick and immediately I was disheartened. Even one week when I tried to call home, my phone was the only one not working. To my angry heart all of these disappointments seemed like a personal attack from God. I was heartbroken. Why wouldn’t God show up when I was desiring Him? It didn’t make sense according to my own timing and my own demands.
However, even in my anger and heartache, I was able to enjoy my time at our first location. Although, at first this did not seem significant, I thank God that my burdened heart did not ruin my experience at Blessing the Children. My friend, Mihiert, was a light of the gospel each day and her faith ministered to me even when I did not see the results. Little did I know that BCDO (Blessing the Children) was preparing my heart for the rest of my time in Ethiopia and the rest of my walk with the Lord.
Before I knew it, it was time to leave BCDO and head to our second location. Goodbyes were not easy and I was anxious about going to a different place 5 hours away! I had no idea what to expect. I worried and began to believe that God would leave me dry for the remainder of the trip. Once we arrived at HOPEthiopia I was astonished by the natural beauty of the mountains and the large pastures (clearly a gift from God, even though I did not realize it at the time). This was the Africa I had imagined (although there were way more trees and way less desert than the Lion King had portrayed).
At this point I was overwhelmingly aware that our trip was nearing its end and God had not changed me. I kept having dreams of going home weak. “Unfinished” was the word that was on my heart. I was afraid of being the same person I was at the start of the month. “I’m going to go home with nothing to say” I feared. I did not trust that God was working in me even when I could not see it. I was filled with a sense of emptiness and truly believed that I would go home ashamed and unfinished when I so desperately wanted to grow.
All this time I was expecting God to show up like a slap in the face and turn me around, but that wasn’t His plan for me this trip. This past Saturday we went to the ‘market.’ I use this word loosely as I saw very few shops and no one bought anything. The streets, however, were swarming with men, cattle, and LOTS of donkeys. Men were calling out to us and staring rudely. With each step, we had to avoid being run over by trucks, people, and cattle. As someone who experiences anxiety, hates crowds, and gets claustrophobic, this was not my ideal place to be. I should have been having a panic attack. I should have been afraid. But I wasn’t. I should have hated it. Instead, I was overcome with a deep sense of peace that could only have been from God. As I looked at the scene before me, all I could think is “my God is the God of Africa and the God of the whole world. He is much bigger than this crowd.” I walked confidently and felt safe and protected. My God had me. I was content as we walked without knowing our destination or any information. Even though we never actually shopped and many people would say that our outing was pointless, I was satisfied. I was content and safe in my God. It was nothing big, it was nothing obvious, but He showed up for me.
At this point I realized that I am unfinished- and that is a good thing. God is starting a work in me that will last a lifetime, so of course I won’t be finished within a month’s time. I am worthy of the kingdom and that will take time. God is working on an awe-inspiring story and I am just a small part of it. So now, I am excited to go home unfinished and I am joyful to see what else my God has for me, even if that means He shows up in small ways. Instead of Him changing for me, I am continuing to learn to change for Him and to see the small blessings He has given me.