A Summer for the Books

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(I realize that in telling people about my summer, there are those who would like to hear the short version, and those who would like to hear the long version. So, with that being said, you may now choose. You are welcome.)

Short Version:

At camp I was able to impact the lives of kids through worship, bible study, and daily interaction, hopefully making them think differently about the importance of missions, and the importance of their personal relationship with Jesus.

In Africa I was able to see the gospel truly reach across oceans, language barriers, and lifestyles to let them know that God cares for them, He has not forgotten them, and he can provide for their physical and spiritual needs.

Overall this summer I grew in my personal relationship with Christ through community with believers, service to others, and daily time with God to learn of his vast love and deep compassion for all people.


Long Version:

Looking back on my summer experience it’s hard to believe that just like that… it’s all over. After two months of living every day out with a group of at least 12 other people by my side, it has become difficult to re-learn normal life. Now, I won’t have to wait at every restaurant for at least an hour, I won’t have to consult a group before going somewhere, and I will be left to my own thoughts throughout the day… when all restaurant stops have taken forever, everything has been a group decision, and peace and quiet has been hard to find for the last 60 days.

60 Days. I was skeptical of the kinds of relationships you could form with strangers in 60 days. It’s funny that now I can say the strangers I spent 60 days with are my family.

We ate every meal together, we went everywhere together, we took a 17 hour plane ride together, we ministered together, we experienced a new culture together, we worshipped together, we learned together….. Together. Togetherness is actually a pretty biblical concept. Colossians 1:16-18 says that all things are held together through Christ.

16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church.”

How did my team develop such “togetherness” in such short time? Because Christ was at the head, leading us every day.


For our first month together, we were in charge of running “Mission Adventure Camp” which is a camp for Girls in Action (GAs) and Royal Ambassadors (RAs), and funded by the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU). The purpose of this camp is to teach kids about the importance of missions. We did this through bible stories like ones where Jesus calls his disciples, by showing videos about the worldwide need for the gospel, and by bringing in Missionaries and Missionary Families to teach the kids about where they live and how they share the gospel there.

One of our favorite missionaries from this summer is named Jimmy.  He has been in Senegal for several years now living among the people, learning their language, and reaching their community for Christ. When you think of missionaries, you would imagine that maybe Jimmy had been a Christian all his life and probably felt his call to missions when he was in high school. But Jimmy is a self-proclaimed “Good Ole Kentucky Boy,” (and if you have met him you would agree with that title 100%) he was not saved until he was in his 30s, and after being a Christian for only a few years he surrendered his life to missions. Jimmy’s story is so encouraging. The Lord can use anyone to reach the lost and Jimmy said it the best himself, “The Lord does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” Jesus’ disciples were described as “common men,” so I’m not really sure where we got the idea that missionaries have to be ridiculously smart and put together. We are all called to be missionaries.

At camp we had a memory verse that the kids were to memorize by the end of the week. It was Matthew 9:35-38:

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every illness and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had deep concern for them, because they were beaten down and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 So ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.’”

At camp we may have gotten tired of this verse, but once we moved on to our time in South Africa pieces of it kept coming to mind.


The picture of Jesus going through all the towns and villages was one that struck me. In South Africa we had the opportunity to work in 3 different neighborhoods (towns, villages 😉 whatever you would like to call them). First we worked in Pietermaritzburg where we stayed in an orphanage and put on a Holiday Bible Club for the kids. All of the kids have either been affected or infected by HIV/AIDS, but my teammate MJ says, “you wouldn’t believe it knowing how happy and silly they are, or by how much trouble they can get into.” Each one of the kids has a tragic story, but the Lord rescued them through a lady named Gayle.

Gayle started Tabitha ministries years ago when the Lord showed her the need to care for orphans affected by AIDS in the village of Sweetwaters. She was obedient, and when she asked Jesus what to call the ministry, he said “Tabitha.” Gayle was curious why he would pick this name, so she went to her Bible and discovered that in Acts 9:36 it says, “36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.” And I must say, Tabitha Ministries does a lot of good, and certainly helps the poor.


A branch of Tabitha Ministries also provides for the people who live in Sweetwaters. They run a food distribution service for the needy, but especially for child-headed households. Sweetwaters has been heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS, and many of the kids have had to step up as the leaders of their families because their parents have passed away from the disease. We did a Holiday Bible Club for the kids in the area, which was predominantly Zulu-speaking. The language barrier was difficult, but it did not stop us from ministering to the people there. It also gave us the opportunity to develop relationships with the translators. (We originally thought that we would have 2 translators, which would make teaching veryyyyyy difficult, but when we showed up that first day at Sweetwaters we had 7 translators. The Lord provided!)


We also had opportunities in Sweetwaters to deliver buckets for Baptist Global Response (BGR). These buckets are for people who are bedridden from any kinds of diseases ranging from AIDS, tuberculosis, to strokes. The buckets are filled with things that help them to be more comfortable, and help their caretakers take better care of them. Some of the people we had the privilege of visiting were already Christians, which gave us the opportunity to encourage them in their faith and remind them that the Lord has not forgotten them, but we also had the joy to see two salvations from our four visits in Sweetwaters.

After leaving Peitermaritzburg, we stayed in Durban and did a Holiday Bible Club in a neighborhood called Mariannridge. The neighborhood was ravaged by gang violence and drugs less than 10 years ago, but the Lord has been working in the hearts and lives of people there, allowing us to be the first outside group to come and work in the neighborhood. Most of the kids that we worked with have come from rough backgrounds. We found it difficult to keep their attention, but I think we each had plenty of those sweet moments that reminded us why we were there.


We also had the opportunity to go on a few house visits there in Mariannridge, with the joy of seeing one salvation in a man named Charles. Charles has had a stroke and is unable to move or speak. The bed was sunken in where he had been laying, and he could hardly lift his head to look at us as we walked in. Jessica was going to share a Psalm with him to encourage him, but she felt moved to ask him if he had ever heard of Jesus. We were all wondering how she would hold a conversation with this man, considering he was unable to speak. It was then that she sat down on the bed next to Charles, grabbed his hand, and the Holy Spirit prompted her to ask him to squeeze her hand if he had heard of Jesus.

Charles did not squeeze her hand. So Jessica asked him if he would like to hear about Jesus, and if he did want to hear, to squeeze her hand. That time…he squeezed.

Jessica was then able to lay out the entire gospel for him. She talked about who Jesus is, how he came to the Earth to live the perfect life that we cannot live, so that he could take the punishment of death that we deserve, and he rose from the dead so that we can live through him.

Then Jessica asked him if he would like to hear more, and Charles squeezed her hand and shook it. So then she told him more about how we have sinned, and God can’t stand our sin, but he loves us so much that he made a way for us to be with him through Jesus. We need Jesus in order to be with God forever. We have to accept that we are sinners and need God’s forgiveness, and we have to believe that Jesus came to pay for our sins. We are to live our lives for him.

Then she asked him if he would like to do that, and accept Jesus into his heart. He squeezed her hand and shook it like crazy. So then she explained that even though he can’t talk out loud, God can still hear his thoughts, and God loves him and knows everything about him. So she prayed over him, and he prayed in his heart.

This was the most powerful moment of my trip. While I was in preparation for this summer and all summer long I had been praying to see salvation. I just wanted to see the power of God at work to see someone’s eternity changed. And while I was in that room watching Jessica minister to Charles I was almost moved to tears. In maybe five minutes, Charles went from never hearing about Jesus to being with Jesus forever. With the most sincere squeeze of a hand, Charles stepped into eternity. I can’t wait to see Charles in heaven, to talk to him, and to hear from him what those moments were like.

On our last night, we were invited to a grill-out (or a “braai”) at Jeff and Laura O’Loughlin’s house. The O’Loughlin’s are a missionary family who live in Durban. They went above and beyond to serve us, help us, and love on us during our time with them. They taught us about rugby, the dos and don’ts about being in the city, and they basically chauffeured us everywhere so that we wouldn’t get lost :). But there in our last time together (we laughed so much… just like always when this team gets together), Jeff said that in his quiet time that day, the Lord spoke to him through a verse that he felt perfectly encompassed our time in South Africa.

Do you remember the verse that I said we learned at camp? Yes, by this time most of us on the team had forgotten it too. It is Matthew 9:35-38 and again, it says:

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every illness and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had deep concern for them, because they were beaten down and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 So ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.’”

This was the verse that Jeff shared with us. I think everyone on the team would agree that that moment was one we won’t forget. It was so meaningful that Jeff shared that with us. What a joy it is to live out scripture, and what a privilege it is for the Lord to validate us in that, through Jeff.

I don’t think I will ever forget Matthew 9:35-38. And I know I won’t forget this summer.



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