How Did I Get Here?
In the summer of 2012, my husband and I felt called to go on a mission trip to Africa. We found a trip to Rwanda and Ethiopia that focused on serving orphans, and we knew it was the one God wanted us to go on. What a life-changing trip that was. Our prayer was that God would break our hearts for what breaks His, and He answered that prayer.
One event in particular completely changed the course of my life. While in Ethiopia, we were able to serve food to children who were sponsored through a ministry we were working with there. My team and I all loved being able to feed these hungry children and be the hands and feet of Jesus. After we had finished handing out food, an Ethiopian lady who spoke no English asked me to help her carry a large pot that still had a small amount of goat stew in it. I picked up one side of the pot while she got the other side, and I began following her out of the tent, having no clue where we were headed. I was feeling quite proud of myself and all the good I was doing for these poor Ethiopians. Then, as we reached the metal fence surrounding the church tent, I saw a huge mass of people, numbering at least 200 standing in the muddy road looking longingly toward our tent. Suddenly, it hit me….we had only fed the sponsored children. The rest of the community, mostly children but also some adults and elderly, had shown up just hoping….hoping that they might get a bite of food.
The lady opened the fence, and immediately we were surrounded by people…hungry people. Apparently we were taking the pot down the street (I think to return it to the cooks). It wasn’t very far, but it felt like it took an eternity to get there. The crowd was so thick, we had to move very slowly. Everyone was shouting, “EAT! EAT! PLEASE EAT!” and making eating motions with their hands. I had dozens of hands all over me, pulling at my shirt and arms, they even stuck their hands in my pockets to see if I had anything to give. These children were literally crying out for food. I looked at their faces, their sunken eyes, gray spots in their hair resulting from malnutrition, and skin streaked with dried mud…those faces were the picture of desperation. Without realizing it, I began to cry with them because I could not give them any food. We did not have enough in the pot to feed this many, and handing it out to some would’ve only made the situation worse.
We finally reached the fence surrounding our destination, but it was locked. The lady knocked, and while we waited for someone to open it, the crowd behind us kept pressing in. Eventually our bodies were pressed up against the cold metal because the crowd would not stop moving forward. Finally, a man opened the fence. The lady and I, along with several children spilled into the yard area. Two women came and took the pot of stew from us, but my nightmare was not over. The man was telling everyone to get out of the yard and go back in the street, they were not allowed inside. Those inside were trying to get out, but there were still hundreds of people trying to push inward and follow the food. It created a giant, chaotic mess, and in all the commotion I heard a scream. I bent down and looked between the bodies to see a little boy, maybe 5 years old, had slipped in the mud and his leg was caught underneath the metal fence. He was being trampled, and no one made any attempt to help him up. They only had one thing in mind: get to the food at any cost. I will never forget his face, full of fear and covered in mud, looking helplessly at me as he was repeatedly stepped on. I pushed through the mass and managed to grab the boy’s hand. I pulled him up from the mud, screaming and screaming. I held him, wiped the mud from his face, and tried to tell him that he was safe now. A teenage boy came and took the child from me, and although he couldn’t speak much English, he let me know the little boy would be fine.
After that experience, my heart felt so heavy. I cried into my husband’s shoulder and told my teammates what I had seen. I realized that the event had been the answer to my prayer. I had asked God to break my heart for what breaks His, and that is exactly what He did. It was an unpleasant, terrifying, and even dangerous thing that I experienced, but had it not happened, I’m not sure I would’ve dedicated my life to orphan care. I probably would’ve come home from Africa with a renewed faith, and it probably would’ve had some impact on my life, but not nearly to the same extent.
As I returned home and resumed teaching, things were never the same. We had a new perspective on the world. It affected our giving, our lifestyle, and our time. We became outspoken advocates for orphans and for missions. We partnered with a ministry in Rwanda to assist their needs, sponsored children, became trained as team leaders, and co-led our second trip to Rwanda in 2013.
After all of this, God was still persistently tugging at my heart. I began to pray about if God wanted me to leave teaching and pursue full time ministry serving orphans. After several months of prayer, I knew this was indeed God’s plan for my life. So I resigned from teaching. That was a huge (and very scary) leap of faith. Now, I’m so overjoyed that God has led me to World Orphans and that I have the incredible opportunity to be the Project Manager for the Americas. I’m so excited to see how God will use me in this new role! In May I will be traveling on a J117 trip to Haiti, which is one of the countries I will be serving as Project Manager. I cannot wait to learn more about this country and its people, and learn how we might be able to serve the orphans and vulnerable children in their community, all to the glory of God.
This is a video my husband made after our first trip to Africa. This is our prayer for the church!