Our timelines rarely coincide with God’s.
We want life to go faster. Or slower.
We wish this would happen. Or that.
We want to press forward. Quicker.
We wish we could go back in time. And do it again.
We dream of better days, longer days, days fuller, days lighter.
We dream, scheme and believe BIG, bold things.
We think maybe, someday.
We have a hunch. Yeah, a hunch. If only, God. If God.
We want to believe those nudges are true. We want to believe it’s the Spirit speaking to our hearts, not earthly, fleshly, egotistical desires.
We just want confirmation that all this living and breathing and dreaming is real. That this life of ours is worth something more, more than mere existence.
We don’t want to simply survive.
We want to thrive.
We want to believe in a God who can do anything. A bigger-than-life God. A God who does things totally unexpected. A God who shows up in places and times least expected. A God who wants to surprise us with His glory, His goodness, His richness, His fullness, His plan for our lives here on planet Earth.
We want to know there’s more. That we’re part of a grander plan. A greater story.
So when DropBox was simply too slow, when I had to go into church to upload a load of high resolution photographs from an all-church service day, when I “randomly” commented on the Africa photos in the corner of the pastor’s office that June 1st, 2015, then consequently got invited to join a mission trip to Africa, I was shocked.
I thought the dude was crazy. Me? Go on a mission trip to Africa in the fall? Ummm….No?! Not going to happen that quick. Not now. You might work like that, but not me! You don’t know me. I’m a planner. I’m a preparer. I like to do and know things in advance. There’s no way I’d make such a big decision in such a short timeframe. There’s no way I could ever find the money that fast, get child care that fast, get the a-okay from my husband that fast, get a blessing from our parents that fast. You know. There’s no way it’s going to happen that fast for me. Okay?
To be honest, I didn’t think the pastor’s initial invitation to go to Africa was all that serious. I really, desperately wanted to go to Africa in my heart of hearts. Of course, I was interested. As in, yes please? But now wasn’t the time. More like a couple years from now, or give me at least a year to get this thing worked out somehow? But five or six months from now?! Really? Serious? Is this for real?
I got myself quiet.
And I got thinking about God’s timelines. How maybe we have it all wrong. How maybe I’ve had it all wrong. How maybe my timeline is SO off and SO wrong and SO not God’s. How he’s surprised me before; maybe He’s surprising me again. How I dreamed of traveling to Africa – not to sightsee, but to serve – for longer than I can remember. My Africa dream is so old, I don’t even remember when I started dreaming it. The dream’s just been there. Always. Forever. Then I remembered being invited to Africa by a different party, with a different nonprofit, in May 2014. And how I said NO, I’m already traveling to the Dominican with Compassion. Then I remembered the 2023 trip we visioned to Africa for our 25th anniversary. And I remembered the SINGLE reference to “Africa” on my blog’s Meet Amy page. I thought it was dreamy, but left it there on purpose, without any detail, without any knowing of what that “Africa” might look like. I left it in for hope’s sake. I left it in for the believing in someday, somehow, maybe when I’m much older and wiser and there’s something grand for me to accomplish there.
Is this all mystical-hogwash coincidence, or is this God working His plan?
I began to believe.
I also began to doubt.
I dismissed and diminished the pastor’s invitation to go on the Africa mission trip. I wanted to believe it could be possible. But I didn’t believe it could actually happen.
Reality set in.
I started blogging in July 2012.
Haiti in February 2014.
Expensive new camera in September 2014.
I stopped working as a speech-language therapist in December 2014.
Dominican Republic in January 2015.
Eye cancer diagnosis in January 2015.
Photography business launch in spring and summer 2015.
And now a mission trip to AFRICA in the fall of 2015?
How much more could I ask of my husband?
In my head, I knew it would be much better to discuss this in a year or two. That would be much better timing.
But in my heart, in my spirit, in my soul, I had a hunch this wasn’t about my timing, but more about God’s.
So I left myself open to the slight possibility of going to Africa in the fall of 2015.
I received the initial invitation on June 1, 2015.
By June 17th, I had a solid and highly justified hunch the trip was NOT going to happen this time.
By July 7th, I’d given my answer in writing. NO.
On July 20th, God performed a BIG miracle.
I ignored that miracle until August 2nd, to be exact. I hadn’t been sure what to do with that miracle, but God knew EXACTLY what to do with it. He took it into His own hands. Clearly, I wasn’t moving this Africa deal forward with enough vigor. He was going to make this happen whether I liked it or not.
And that August 2nd, it was beautiful really. I’ll always remember the way she looked at me with tears in her eyes. (You know who you are, sweet friend.) The moment she knew in her heart of hearts that I was going to Africa.
And in the oddest series of events that occurred over the next 2-3 weeks, I’ll always remember the moment that same friend told me she wouldn’t be going to Africa. With the same tears in her eyes.
But I’d said, I’d written…
This wasn’t about getting anyone’s approval anymore. This Africa deal was between me and God, and God had made that abundantly clear.
By Saturday, August 29th, I said YES to Africa.
Things were definitely still in the air. Things were definitely NOT 100% clear. The near three-month journey from June 1st to August 29th had been rough, rocky and incredibly spiritually challenging.
I said YES to Africa.
Because God was in on this from day one.
There was no denying it.
I couldn’t shake this feeling I was supposed to go NOW. To Africa. In the fall of 2015. On this particular trip. For such a time as this.
I’d given an absolute NO on July 7th.
God performed a series of straight up miracles.
And by August 29th, I said YES.
How could I deny what He’d done?
How could I deny His plans, His timelines?
This wasn’t about me. This wasn’t about my timelines or my pretty little plans or my best case scenario anymore. This was all about God. His Spirit nudging me again and again and again. His clearing the way. His making a way, whether any of us liked it or not. His desiring for me TO GO. To Africa. Now. As in. NOW.
Friends and family, I want to acknowledge that my retelling of this incredibly life-changing story has been incredibly vague. Much more vague than anything I’d normally share in this space. But this journey has been incredibly personal. This journey will become part of my life story, my lifelong testimony. I’ve documented it in a couple unpublished blog posts, and I’ve tucked away the details in my heart. I won’t forget. Someday, I’ll tell and it’ll make perfect sense and feel good and right in the context of a long-lived life. For now, the story will stay between me, two people who know all the details, and a few others who know some pieces. Some things are meant to stay sacred secret, between us and God.
But this, THIS, is all you need to know.
I planned, wanted, and desired to go to Africa for my whole life, as long as I can remember.
I said NO to Africa twice.
God performed miracles.
And then I said YES.
Which means I’m going to Africa. On a mission trip. Soon!
I’m going to dive straight into details, because no surprise, I’m already running long on words.
- I’m traveling with a team of 10 to Kenya, Africa.
- We’ll be gone for 10 days, end of November into early December 2015.
- All my travel mates are from Minnesota. 5 females. 5 males.
- We’ve already met twice as a group.
- Random awesome fact: My first cousin once removed is going on the trip and we had NO IDEA until we arrived at the first meeting and saw each other there! Who knew?! (Okay, so I’m not 100% on the blood relationship. Our parents are first cousins. So what does that make us?)
- We’re traveling with a nonprofit called Love For Kenya.
- Love For Kenya is one of our church’s 10 global mission partners, so our church’s mission funds will be covering a portion of our trip.
- We’ll be staying in huts.
While we’re in Kenya, we’ll be working largely with orphans and widows. We’ll also be doing other ministry, outreach and service projects in the community as we feel called and led through listening prayer. Community ministry might look “as small as” providing encouragement, washing feet, feeding people and giving people clothing, or “as big as” building a home, providing mosquito nets and life-saving medications for a couple hundred people, showing the “Jesus film” to a thousand, and exploring uncharted valleys in an effort to reach people who have never been reached before. We’ll also be heading into the slums one day. It’s hard to say what God has in store. But these details, these possibilities, we know for sure.
The trip is structured, but leaves plenty of room for God to work His plan.
For those of you who are safety minded, our trip will be led by Pastor Randy who’s led 90 mission trips. This will be his 17th mission trip to Kenya. Crazy cool, right? We’ll be 13-16 hours from areas that would be considered unsafe, and will have access to mobile phones. We’ll be together as a group at all times. And local Kenyan friends and partners will be journeying with us once we arrive in Africa.
I’m breathing deep. Sighing. Wondering how this could be true that I’m telling you I’m going to Africa. Now. For such a time as this.
One more important thing…
I will be blogging this trip, just as I did in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. We haven’t discussed details yet as far as what that will look like and when, but I’ll definitely let you know. One way or another, you will be hearing all about this journey to Africa.
And I’m hoping, praying and planning on piloting a photography project I’ve been visioning and dreaming of since January. I’ve already talked to Pastor Randy, our trip leader, about this and he thinks it’s feasible within the structure of our trip.
Keep in mind, I said YES to Africa on August 29th. So we’ve only had 18 days to discuss details.
Speaking of this whole timeline – being invited June 1st, saying NO July 7th, saying YES August 29th, sharing with you all today, and leaving at the end of November – I could use a little help.
You see, I wasn’t planning on Africa.
We weren’t planning on Africa.
I didn’t know God had this in store for me…NOW.
I didn’t know He had this in mind for me…NOW.
I thought my Africa dreams were possibly far fetched, likely for later in life when things will be far more settled. For our 25th wedding anniversary? Yes. For an awesome 65th birthday when I join 10 wise writers and photographers on some awesome writing-photography adventure? Sounds amazing. But right now? Not so much. Didn’t plan that.
Our timelines rarely coincide with God’s.
So back to needing a little help.
Here’s what I could use…
A prayer team
If you’re willing to serve on a prayer team for my trip to Kenya, please leave me a message somewhere, anywhere, along with your email address. I would love some warriors to pray for travels, safety, health and God’s mission to be accomplished while we’re there.
When I originally published this post on September 16, 2015, I made a humble request. I needed an additional $550 to fully fund my mission trip to Africa. Thanks to the generous gifts of family, friends and blog readers, the trip is now fully funded! I couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you. (Updated 11/23/15)
Likers & Lovers, Readers & General Supporters
I need some lovin’ on this, friends. I need some support. Will you encourage me, love me, support me, read the posts I write, lift me up in your thoughts and prayers? Will you encourage me in my photography journey so I’m ready to pilot the project I’ve been dreaming of? Will you be hopeful and expectant? Will you believe there’s a reason God’s sending me to Africa now instead of waiting until my 25th anniversary or 65th birthday? Will you set aside doubt, worry and disbelief for the sake of encouragement? Will you believe in this journey, this mission? Will you will believe with me and for me? I would so greatly appreciate it.
Thank you, friends. Thank you.
I stayed up until 1:10 a.m. writing this and I’m in for a long day ahead. After the kids left for school this morning, the doorbell rang. It was our 4-year-old neighbor boy. When I opened the door, he looked me in the eye and whispered “Your butterfly is going to fly away now.” It was truly the most miraculous thing ever to me. I ran to grab my camera. The caterpillar my daughter put in a bucket weeks ago and had been keeping on our porch had just broken from its chrysalis. It was on a fern next to the bucket. Our sweet neighbor boy notified me just in time. We watched its first moments free, its first flight. It was amazing. Miraculous. God’s confirmation for me this morning. Fly, dear one. Fly.
All photo credits (except the butterfly) to Love for Kenya.
This post serves as the landing page for my trip to Kenya, Africa, with the nonprofit organization, Love for Kenya, in 2015. All the posts I write about the trip will be listed and linked here, at the bottom of this blog post. You’ll also find this Kenya graphic displayed on the right sidebar of my blog homepage. Click on the graphic anytime, and you’ll be brought right back here where you’ll find all the blog posts in one place!
To read other posts in the series about my trip to Africa, click on the title below: