I've been really struggling with how to describe my trip to you -- and to all the groups at church who've asked me to speak. So many experiences were just beyond words! I'll do the best I can to tie it all together into a story, but if you have specific questions PLEASE let me know so I can target them! Maybe you'll even trigger a memory that will become a whole post!
I guess the best place to start is at the beginning: Why did we go to Africa?
Missions have always been one of our "wouldn't it be nice if..." conversations. The weekend after I met Shaune way back in 2006, I attended a massive missions conference called Urbana, which is sponsored by Intervaristy Christian Fellowship. I came home with a burning passion for the children of Africa. I was ready to sign up and go THEN! Well, God had other plans and I ended up marrying my Shaune instead. Then, missions came up while we were driving home from our honeymoon last Christmas. It turns out he's had a long passion for the disadvantaged, too. After that conversation we went so far as to contact a couple missions companies and discuss signing up for a long term (3-5 year) commitment.
That never panned out. Part of the hesitation on both our side and the side of the organizations is that while we've done a lot of domestic work, we'd never done missions abroad. They told us to hold on and try some short term trips through our church before making such a serious decision, which we did. We decided to join the team from our church going to Guatemala on a medical trip. Then I got pregnant.
As any of you who've been following for a while already know, God's timing didn't line up with our timing, and we lost the baby. The very next weekend, our pastor began talking about the trip to Liberia in January. It covered what was supposed to be the due date for our little one. Almost impulsively, I convinced Shaune that we needed to go. It felt right. That, and I didn't want to be home full of sorrow that week.
So we signed up, wrote a scary large check, and began fundraising for the rest. God provided in miraculous ways that I'm still trying to wrap my mind around. Even up to the very end. Three days before we left, we opened the mailbox to find another check that just covered the last bit of carry-with cash we needed that we were going to have to pull from a savings account.
We went to Africa out of impulse, out of a long desire, and because God paved the way. What we received was blessing imaginable.
Ashley and I, with "our" African twins
There's one other question I think I know the answer to already (tho I may find out I'm wrong): What's the most important thing I walked away from Liberia with?
Liberia left me without a doubt of the power of God, as well as the fact that there is still a spiritual war waging. Before I left, I believed in the Holy Spirit the same way I believe in the stars and distant planets. I know they're there, I've seen pictures from telescopes, I've heard scientists talk about them. I've even taught about them myself! But it's not the same as walking on the surface of Mars. Spiritually, God took me to Mars in Liberia.
For the first time in my life, I knew the Holy Spirit as a separate entity in the Trinity who walks beside us. I saw things with my own eyes that if I had seen in America, I would have cynically believed it was staged. I personally saw the power of prayer, healing people and making them new. I also saw the powers of darkness be conquered by prayer. I will never be able to doubt again.
Prayer walking to claim the ground on Sunday Morning