Life's Sweet Journey: Laying Aside Fears of International Travel// Part 1: I'm Going to Africa!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Laying Aside Fears of International Travel// Part 1: I'm Going to Africa!

Tomorrow is the second Tuesday of the month and time for another #TravelTuesday linkup, but this months post will be a little different than previous ones. Over the next two days, in preparation for Africa, I am sharing some of the things laying on my heart and some big fears I have when it comes to travel. I know what you might be thinking, that with my usual "just do it" attitude and love for big adventures, how could I be scared of travel? Well, to be honest, international travel freaks me out. It has for a while, but I do NOT want to let fear keep me from living life to the fullest and experiencing what God's great world has to offer... 

It’s really funny to me that to start this year off I burned away some of the things I felt were holding me back or weighing heavy on my heart. FEAR was probably one of the biggest of those- of not doing things for fear of the outcome. I have also been calling this my “let it be” year- whatever it is, whatever comes, whatever God places in my path, I am just going to let it be and see where He leads me. Well, this year one of those moments came in the form of the opportunity to go to Africa, on a vision trip, with other staff members from Summit Church, where I work in Children’s Ministry. And as soon as I was asked to go 'fear' tried to rear its ugly head and wrap a vice around my throat.

A little backstory: I discovered, while on our honeymoon in Greece, that international travel was not all I thought it was cracked up to be, at least for me personally. While it was a beautiful trip, I spent much of my time anxious and nervous and out of my element. So after finding Summit, and deciding to make it our church home, we learned that they had a strong tie to working alongside those in Africa. I thought “well, I can be supportive from the states, but going just wouldn’t be something that’s for me.” Flash forward a few years and a mission trip to Costa Rica (I had a “minor” freak out while we were in line to board the plane and was on edge for a bit, until I settled in and soon felt at home among the Costa Ricans and was blessed with an amazing experience) and there I was sitting in service when it was mentioned that people should join and go to Africa. My heart jumped and felt a nudge- you know that little push that says, “hey, you! I want you to listen to this. Maybe you should go to Africa.” I brushed it away, thinking this is the people pleaser in me coming to a head now that we were invested in Summit. So I let it slip away.

A little later and I found myself working at the church, where, as a staff member, it is strongly encouraged that you go to Africa once every 5 years. I thought, “welp, how am I going to work my way out of that one?” And a little voice whispered, “you’re not.” Then the summer teams for Africa come around and I felt my heart jump again- nudge, nudge. I considered looking into joining a team, but then, fear… So I looked for other ways to plug in with our Africa partnerships and we began sponsoring a sweet little guy from Malawi. But the nudges didn’t end.

And so, I sat and I prayed and I asked for a sign, “Lord, you know me. You know the fears that will continue to stop me and you know I am horrible at making decisions. You also know what a people-pleaser I am. Is this really you telling me to go or is it the people-pleaser in me wanting validation? Ok look, if someone asks me to go, then I will know You want me to really consider it!” Yes, I ended with consider it, knowing full well if God wanted me to go to Africa He wanted me to go and not just consider.  So I ended my prayer and I left it alone.  And then trips came and went for another summer and the trips for this upcoming summer had also already been set and I thought I was in the clear. I even thought that I might actually consider joining next years trip, to the organization through which we sponsor, had even briefly mentioned sitting in on one of the Africa meetings to Babe and just decided it wasn't for us right now. And it wasn't, for us... 

Because out of the blue, just a little over a month ago I got asked to possibly go on a trip to Kenya. Not only was the trip just about a month away, but this trip also came with the added possible commitment of going back in August. That God! He’s definitely got a sense of humor! “So you wanted to wait for me to be glaringly obvious that you should go? Well, ok, how about going twice?” Because this trip will include working with kids, they wanted people from our children’s ministry team to go. A few of the people that were first asked could go in April, but committing to go back in August was tough, as the August trip will be the first week kids go back to school. That led to me- no kids, nothing holding me back from being able to commit to going twice. God was just sitting back and shaking His head with a chuckle, I can just picture it now...

To be honest, I still tried to look for a way out. I met with the guy who initially asked me (our global partnerships coordinator, also going on the trip), so that I could get some of my questions answered. Every question I had (every possible excuse I kept in my back pocket if I wanted to let fear win) was met with only open doors that I had no ability of closing. I sat in that meeting and I just knew, “I am going to Africa.” Sure, I had to discuss things with Babe, but I pretty much committed. If God wants me in Africa, Babe isn’t going to stop Him. And apparently neither was I. And so, here I go, on Thursday, to finally say yes to something God has been nudging me about for a while.

Maybe this trip itself is why He was nudging me all along, giving me 2+ years to prepare my heart for something huge! To prepare my heart for truly surrendering this decision to Him. My walk with God has always been one where I keep trying to take the wheel, but after John Wayne died, I realized that trying to steer things myself was only ever going to leave me in a tangled mess on the highway. And so this year I committed to letting it be- to stop trying to take control- and He is using that surrender to take me far beyond anything I could have ever imagined for this year.

Am I still afraid? Yes! But I am excited too! I am excited to see how this will impact my walk with Him. I am looking forward to getting to know the Matlacks more and to meet those they work alongside in Ngando, the community we will spend the majority of our time in while we are in Nairobi. I am so thankful for the opportunity to take part in this trip and so thankful that God is bigger than fear!

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