Looking Back to a Year Ago

A year ago, I embarked on a journey that took me thousands of miles away from home and brought me closer to the faith that I embrace.  It was the beginning of an adventure that took me from the sandy shores of West Africa to the hills of Togo, from the huts of third world citizens to the Operating Rooms of the M/V Africa Mercy. 

I saw two worlds collide.  And somewhere in the middle I saw the hands of God working in the dark continent.  I saw it in the doctors bloodied hands as they performed surgeries every day, in the willingness to serve as individuals constantly came and went, in the friendships that were formed and continue to grow as  paths have parted. 

In those three months last summer, I found myself open with God, growing in faith daily, and full of an unspeakable joy.  While my journey carried my feet farther than they have ever gone before, the path my heart and mind took was one of greater purpose and growth. 

I look back and I can tell you stories of what happened.  Stories of how people treated one another with love and kindness.  Of how a community opened its hearts and hands daily.  How in the local markets of Lome, Togo merchants would thrust their wares in our faces, shouting for our attention. 

I can share story after story and still not be able to fully comprehend everything that happened, because these experiences cannot be put into words. 

Since then, I have continued my journey back in the states alongside the individuals and teams of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).  Just the same, I can share stories and experiences of working with Houston Parks and Recreation, of Wildland Firefighting training alongside the El Paso County volunteer firefighters, of the snowstorms that pounded Tulsa, OK, of the fuel mitigation work up in Crown King, AZ, of the controlled burns in and around Williamsburg, MO with the Missouri Dept. of Conservation (MDC), or of the tornado response in both St. Louis and Joplin. 

No matter how much I speak, words cannot capture all of it.  Anyone can tell you how bad it was, what we learned, or what it felt like to be in theses situations, but I cannot begin to explain how I’ve grown as an individual and Christian. 

These experiences will stay with us, haunt us for the years to come, because they have become part of us, part of who we are.  And sometimes, words just cannot capture the feelings that we experience as we begin to grow. 

I know many people in the missions field, in service programs, living life.  Each of them has grown in their faith by the experiences that they have had in these various paths of life.  But every single one of them cannot fully explain how they have grown. 

With this in mind, I caution you to take care when these missionaries, these adventurers return.  Listen to their stories, but listen deeper than their words.  See how much they have changed and you will find that you may no longer know the friend, brother, sister sitting in front of you. 

God Bless and PEACE


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