Uganda, Africa. 2018.
It has taken me a long time to even think about writing about our trip to Africa (or write at all, really), and although I’ve now thought about it a few times, I don’t know how to put it into words, really. But I’m going to try. There was so much that happened and like our team discussed before we left Africa to come back to the US, “How do I explain this to people?” There is no way to describe the trip or Africa or the children or the beauty of the lake or what God did on my heart. There’s just no true word to summarize the trip and I think that is what has kept me from writing, because I don’t know what to say, and I’m scared I will do an injustice in my description.
But, my heart was completely transformed while I was over there, so I want to share my testimony.
From the very start of the trip, even before the trip began, really, in the week leading up to it, I felt God telling me that He was going to do something on my heart, and on all of our hearts, to address the fear we have in our lives. Not really knowing anything specific other than something amazing was going to happen, I was super excited for the trip.
Travelling halfway across the world is super tough, but our team was full of warriors and we battled right through jet lag and long drives to get to Musana Camps, our home for the week we were there. I have to say, it wasn’t too hard of a battle because we were surrounded by absolute beauty in the landscape. Lake Victoria was on one side of us as we drove, and the luscious green jungle of Africa was on the other side. Again, I don’t think anyone really struggled looking out the windows during that drive. But even before that when we were driving through Kampala, a city of 5.5 million people, it seemed that God was everywhere. Throughout the whole trip in the city I think we only saw three stoplights and the rest of the intersections were roundabouts and yield signs. But the amazing thing about the city was that even with five and a half million people walking, driving, bota-botaing, and taxing around, there was a harmonic movement to what seemed to be such chaos. People trusted each other to let them into a lane, to let them cross a road, and to not run into them or run them over. It was a sweet picture of humanity having faith in each other, regardless of what another person looked like or their status in society. It was something almost unimaginable to witness because of the fast pace society that America has become, but it was a beautiful picture of what Jesus’ overall mission on earth was: to restore broken relationships.
Throughout the week at Musana Camps we did so many things. From running around on the playground with the kids and reading to them at the school, to helping build a house for James and his family or walking with the people in the village of Nalamuli, God’s hand was all over His children there. It makes me cry thinking about the gentleness and beauty I saw in each persons’ eyes there. It was as if they didn’t care about what the world had to offer them, and even if they did, they trusted in Jesus to provide everything for them. Literally everything.
When we would meet new people, which happened regularly during the week, they would shake our hands with a long shake, but while we were shaking hands they would ask questions, longing to find out more and more about us. It was as if they would stare both intensely and gently into your eyes and look all the way into your heart, wanting to provide a safe place for you to be yourself. Man, my heart felt so free and so secure in those moments. I was safe in God’s hands and in my brother’s and sister’s hands and it’s been my pursuit since I’ve been back to do the same for people. I think it’s obvious to say that the kids over there impacted me so much, because that is what you would anticipate from a trip like this, but it was so much bigger than anything you could expect. Their joy and their pure love for each one of us was something I will never ever forget. They ran to us. They climbed on us. They sang to us. They played with us. They held our hands. They trusted us. Without any thought to it, they trusted us, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a trust like that in my life.
This next section that I’m going to write is something I want each one of you who read this to take and ponder upon your heart. The transformation that took place in my heart is something I think God calls us all to. Maybe it’s not what He is putting on your heart right now or maybe you’ve already seen this transformation take place, but let this next section prompt and stir your soul.
The biggest shift in my heart came in different waves every day. Each and every day I saw God Father physically remind me of something from my childhood. Whether it was running around in my bare feet, carefree like my childhood, or watching the magnificent thunderstorms roll in off the lake–storms that gave me memories of sitting by the window as a young boy with my sister, listening in awe as the rain fell. Or when the leaders of the camp read The Giving Tree to the kids, which just so happens to be my favorite book from when I was growing up. In each of these moment, and in many others, I just felt so honored that God would give me these moments each day that would bring me back memories of being a kid, full of innocence and wonder at the world. And then I started to realize (or mainly feel God’s hand on my heart prompting me to recognize) that this was “the thing” that God was doing on my heart.
He wasn’t just giving me the moments so that I could have sweet reminders and then forget them again, He was taking me on a journey back to childhood.
It was a journey within myself, that to the physical eye couldn’t be recognized, but me and Him walked over mountains during that time. What I began to hear was God saying, “Return to childhood. Return to innocence.” That may seem simple and unimportant to you, but for me it was the exact thing I needed to pierce my heart. You see, He wasn’t saying, “You need to become immature and childish like you used to be,” but rather He wanted me to return to the place of complete peace and trust in Him–the place before I became affected and hurt by the world. All of the memories that I collided with were from the time of my life before I began to care about what the world thought or what they said, it was a time before all of the insecurities crept into my heart.
“It’s the place before I thought I had to earn the world or work hard to get God to love me. I was free and innocent and had no thought to my good deeds or my wrongdoings. I just existed and trusted/believed everything to be ok.”
That’s one of my favorite journal entries from the trip. It was the moment when I realized what His nudging on my heart really meant. It was the moment when simple-thought turned to heart-change because I realized my Dad in Heaven, the Creator of all, really loves me as I am, His child. Even with my flaws and my insecurities I’m still His child.
The trip began to take on new meaning as I looked around and saw this child-like wonder in everything. Every child’s face, every raindrop from Heaven, every smile from Rafael, every nightly debrief session with the group where we got to pour out our hearts completely. It was everywhere. It was child-like wonder that Father God was calling me to. The child-like wonder that I once had but lost somewhere along the journey, and things began to shift in my heart as the words and actions of Jesus settled in. It wasn’t so much that I had neglected to “become like a child” it was that I had lost sight of the freedom and wonder that this relationship with Jesus entailed. But now I know, and now I’m pursuing child-like freedom with everything I have.
“For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, ‘I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.” Matthew 18:2-5 MSG
“3/20. It’s childlike faith that will alter history. It’s the trust of a child in his Father that brings freedom and safety and peace and vulnerability to step out in the unknown. It’s knowing that Dad will never do anything to hurt me that strengthens and encourages me to be bold and courageous. Just a child in his Dad’s arms, full of peace and full of hope.”
So where do you stand? Are you like me, full of insecurities, wanting to trust in God but unsure how to? My encouragement for you is to become like a child, again. Regardless of what your childhood looked like, you can become a child, again, and have rest in our loving Dad’s arms, fully known, and fully free. It’s this act of trusting again, and resting again, and adventuring without fear again that gently settles us back into our place as children of God. We’ve always been His children, so now it’s time for us to step into our destiny and to live out our eternal identity of pure, royal Children. Man it’s hard to do this. But it’s worth everything to live in your eternal destiny.
To finish I want to share a video with you that highlights some of the things we did. Although it doesn’t capture every adventure, it can give you a glimpse.