A team of 10 college students travelled with us to Liberia for a week-long camp with student leaders from our 7 different schools around the country. Taylor B. from Abilene Christian University shares about learning to love in Liberia.
To a girl who has never traveled out of the country… you could say that this trip stretched me. I have always had a deep desire to go to Africa, but I never thought this dream would come true. I was right about that to some extent; I realize now that it never came true until Christ was at the center of this dream. It soon became an eagerness, an urgency, a burning desire to go share the good news of who Jesus is to me, to my brothers and sisters overseas.
When this opportunity arose I was skeptical because I had never heard of VisionTrust before, and I quickly realized that I would be traveling around the world to a completely foreign 3rd world country with 10 women that were complete strangers. God has quite the sense of humor in ways that He chooses to answer our prayers, especially the one I had recently been praying, “that He would deliver me from this life of contentment…never having my faith stretched to the extreme…never being taken to my limit.”
You can guess where this is going I’m sure. Suddenly all my support came in, my shots were covered, my passport came in a week early and I just laughed out of shock knowing that God wasn’t going to relent on this one… I was going to Liberia, Africa despite all the crippling fear and anxiety that occasionally would drown out the excitement and joy I was experiencing pre-leaving. Altogether the Lord fulfilled His promises and answered my prayers of stretching me…taking me to my limit, the sweetest part about it all was just the Lord’s faithfulness and the way that I suddenly was at peace, the way that He took me by my hand and led me into deeper waters where He didn’t let me drown, how He took me to the edge and said, “Trust me daughter, I’ve never let go before… I’m not going to now.” To see how he hand-picked my team by name, full of God-fearing women who would be my support system on this trip to further His kingdom…so humbling.
My experience in Africa was nothing short of God-breathed, incredible, and overwhelming in the best way possible. The week started out with us learning that we would be working alongside of a leadership camp that the local community was having. Immediately this culture opened their arms wide to us, loving us, feeding us, praying of us. From the moment I stepped foot into this beautiful country, I knew that the time I was given in Africa would be nothing short of a glimpse of heaven, and I can now say in confidence that there has never been a truer assumption.
Each of my team members was paired up with a partner, who was just a few years younger than us, and that in itself was an astounding experience. My partner was Sarah was so loving, so gentle, so servant hearted and minded. There wasn’t a time spent with her that I wasn’t humbled by the way she loved and served others and myself so well. Sarah warmed up to me as the week went on and eventually we shared testimonies with each other.
In that moment it was so beautifully clear that the Lord had perfectly orchestrated our partnership from the beginning. We had almost identical stories, which was absolutely wild and blew my mind that we could be on different continents but the Lord wanted us to be in community together and to learn from one another during this time. As time went on I fell deeply in love with these people. Whether it was shouting praises to the Lord during worship alongside these precious people, playing games, going to the beach with them, or praying over them…I saw Jesus in it all.
This culture just gets it.
They understand what it means to love without boundaries and to whole-heartedly serve, and I realized on this trip that’s the cry of my heart exactly. I want to serve constantly as if it were second nature. I want to love without limits because that is what I am called to do. I want to start living outside my world of population 1, and realize not only that there are lost and broken on the other side of the world, but that there are ones right here in my town, my small groups, my friends, my family. There are brothers and sisters here at home that I need to recklessly love in the name of Jesus Christ too.
We said it’s so funny how the Lord would take us halfway around the world to teach us how to better love one another and Him, to give us a picture of how it really looks. I would say the scripture that sums up my time in Africa would be:
“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love” – 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3
So I am left with this challenge, and one that I encourage you to fulfill too. It’s the challenge to live radically, to trust the Lord radically, to LOVE radically. Can you imagine what it looks like to do that? I can…I have seen it and it’s beautiful.
Love changes things.