Friday, July 12, 2013

Journey to Africa

My sweet companion from my mission in Bolivia introduced me to this beautiful video about the miracles taking place in Africa.

As I watched this 5 minute video, I felt prompted to write the things of my heart... of how I reached Africa 12 years ago.  Not too many promptings have been as strong and definitive as the one that led me there.

When I filled out my application to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I made a strong request to serve in Africa.  I did, however, make it clear that I would serve with all my heart wherever the Lord wanted me to go.

I did not receive my LDS mission call to Africa; I was called to Bolivia.  Through many spiritual experiences, I knew that Bolivia was where I was supposed to be, and my heart is forever connected to my beautiful Bolivian brothers and sisters.

Only a few weeks after returning from my mission, I started back to school at BYU in Provo, UT in June.  In the fall, I had a class where I submitted stories for the news station.  My assignment was to cover the city of Springville.

Springville is a small, quiet town, so I had to get very creative to find newsworthy stories.  One day, after much thought, I had an idea to cover a story on the history of a controversial building at the base of a mountain in that area.  I parked my car a few miles away from the building with the plan to knock on a random door to interview a local resident.  It was kind of scary to knock on a stranger's door, so I decided to say a prayer before I chose the first house.

After my prayer, I started my car and began to drive very, very slowly.  I distinctly remember passing a house and putting on my break as if to turn into their driveway, but the spirit said, "No.  Not this one- keep going." I continued driving.  After I passed a couple more houses, I felt the Spirit tell me to stop.   I felt the prompting very clearly, so I stopped.

I slowly walked up to the door.  As I knocked,  I all of a sudden doubted myself and felt very awkward.  A woman answered, and I stammered over my words a bit trying to explain my idea for a news story.  I was genuinely surprised when this sweet woman actually let me in!  I walked through her front door and immediately noticed a whole display of beautiful, African statues.  I spoke to her for a few minutes about the "controversial building," but I couldn't stop thinking about the statues.  Finally, I had to ask her about them.

She was more than happy to tell me about her humanitarian-aid efforts to Africa through a group called "Reach the Children."  At the time, she and her husband were the presidents, and their committee had been praying to find a videographer to document their work.  Then she paused and gave me a very interesting look.  She said, "You don't do video work, do you?"

I quickly and excitedly said, "YES!  Of course I do!  That IS what I do!  My professional video equipment is in the car right now!!"

Within the next few days it was decided and finalized!  In just a few short months, I would be serving in Africa for 3 whole weeks!!  "Reach the Children" would be paying my way, and I would be producing a video for them in return.

It was such a surreal feeling... Was I really going?  Was this amazing dream really coming true?

About a month after meeting this wonderful woman, my wonderful boyfriend proposed to me (who is now my husband.)  :-)

Abe was also my dream come true, and I didn't want to prolong my marriage to him one bit.  Our wedding date was scheduled just 10 days after my projected arrival home from Africa.  As we furthered our wedding plans, I began to feel like I was getting in over my head.  I thought I might be too stressed trying to coordinate getting married and going to Africa within a week and a half of each other.

My stomach turned knots as I called this woman and told her I would not be able to go to Africa, but that another amazingly, talented student would gladly take my place and produce an even better video than I could.

She would not have it.  She very firmly said, "I'm sorry.  We don't want anyone else.  YOU are the one who is supposed to go to Africa... YOU HAVE TO GO!"

I was shocked by her response.  I didn't see myself as being essential to the success of any project.  At the same time, I knew she was right... I needed to be in Africa.

I am forever grateful that this dear woman recognized the answer to her prayer and wouldn't back down when my fears tried to overpower me.  I can't even imagine the regret I would have felt for the rest of my life had I not partaken of the amazing miracle that God placed so flawlessly in my path.

Someday soon I will write about the miracles that I experienced while there, but tonight I feel inspired to write about how strongly the Holy Ghost directed me to the right people at just the right time.

Both this woman and I felt God's hand in our meeting, and I am strengthened in remembering that there are powerful, uplifting, and amazing experiences awaiting all of us if we maintain the courage to move forward when God calls.

Nothing got in the way that God couldn't fix because it wasn't just my dream... it was HIS plan and HIS dream too.

God knew how Africa and her people would change me.  Among many other lessons, Africa enriched my perspective to better teach my children about this beautiful journey of life.