Following the April earthquake in Nepal, all I wanted was to buy a plane ticket and be alongside the thousands of crisis- relief volunteers who flew across the world to help the country recover from the worst earthquake in its history since 1934. Although it took more time than I wanted, eight months later I was able to stay in a mountain village and help the people there rebuild their homes and their lives. Although I had not known much about Nepal nor had any idea what the country would be like, I knew that there was thousands of lives that fell apart in a few moments. Although I was unsure of what our ministry would be once we got there, those 12 days were unlike anything I ever could have imagined.
Swaziland is a small country in southern Africa. While it is only the size of New Jersey, it is one of the poorest countries in Africa and is the number one country in the world for AIDS. Although I knew all of this, when I applied to spend two months volunteering there I really had no idea what I was getting into, nor could I ever have imagined what it actually was like. All I knew was that it was for opportunities like this that I went into photography at all.
The hardest part about my trip to Africa was leaving. The second hardest part was trying to write about it.
There were countless times I tried to write about what I was experiencing and the ways in which God was moving, but most of the time, I was simply speechless. My words do no justice to how God revealed His glory and love to me, or the ways in which He broke my heart and ripped it out of my chest so that He could give me His instead.
There are no words that truly explain what it is like to spend every day holding the most precious children on your lap, and know they all have AIDS. I don't know how to explain what it feels like to love an 11-year-old boy more than you ever thought capable, and then find out that he died the day you left and you cannot be at his funeral. I cannot explain the way I felt when my sweet Thando stood up on his feet for the first time even though the doctors said he was paralyzed.
There are no words for what it was like to be surrounded by the most joyful, beautiful people, and be constantly brought to my knees because they have nothing in the world, and yet know how to love Jesus so much more than I do.
Even though I only spent two months in Africa, coming back to this country was one of the hardest seasons of my life because somehow my home wasn't my home anymore.
How often do we forget what is happening not only around the world, but also in our own country because we are comfortable at home? There are children being beheaded, homes being blown up, innocent people being shot, countries at war, babies being sold... Yes we have hope, and yes Jesus has already won the victory and overcome this world, but He is also a God who weeps, and I am sure at some point, Jesus was overwhelmed.
In Africa, I learned that God really is enough. I learned that we could have nothing and still have everything we need. I learned what it is like to truly pray without ceasing. I learned to love with all of my strength, might and soul. I learned to let my Abba carry me in His arms and know He was strong enough not to drop me. I learned that He didn't just send me there to be His hands and feet, but because He needed to bring me to my knees. And while I know I will go back, maybe even soon, I know He did not just teach me these things just for Swazi.