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DR Congo Day 16 – 17

Railroad

August 9 & August 10

The end of our trip is just around the weekend, but before we could say goodbye to Lubumbashi we went to visit the town of Likasi. Likasi was two hours away from Lubumbashi, but it felt like a whole different place.

To start our weekend trip we woke up at 6 AM to board a bright green Japanese bus to Likasi. We were mizungos on an Asian bus in Africa. It was the mizungo magnet. Unlike what we were used to, Likasi was a bustling city compared to the slow paced villages our team was used to.

Saturday was filled with nothing other than eating food. We literally ate breakfast, napped, ate lunch, visited a church, then ate a few hours later for dinner. Each meal was no more than two hours apart, and by the end of the night I was stuffed. I couldn’t eat another bite, but it was all so delicious that I couldn’t resist. In the middle of the day, we did happen to leave Pastor Phillip’s house to go the church in a village 30 minutes away. To get there we drove on a dirt path with only enough space for one vehicle. The village itself had houses made of huts, absolutely no electricity, and a hole dug in the ground for a restroom. It was so rural and poor, but as always the people of the church were rich in love. They welcomed us with song and dance. Their church building had holes in the ceiling, which let in beautiful rays of light, it was loud, and many people were dancing. At the end of the service, we had the opportunity to lay the ground work for a new school. It was the first school to be built miles from any of the schools around. It’s crazy how my typical day here involves loving on kids and building schools. All of it has been a humbling experience.

Sunday was church, and church here in the Congo means five hours of praising Jesus. There were choirs singing and dancing, we witnessed the church be initiated into the Nazarene family, and at the end we were even presented with gifts. Niko led Sunday school again and told the story of Jesus ending the storms while He and the disciples were out on a boat. Niko explained that storms in our life will come, but God controls everything. God can control the wind and the rain, and He will be with us through all the storms. This lesson meant a lot to me, because it’s the foundation to how I live my life. So often storms have come and disrupted everything I had planned, but God is constant. He will never leave us. He has a plan for us much greater than my own or my parents’ or my friends’. I just have to trust in Him through the storms.

This entire summer has been an opportunity for me to follow God. It has been a summer of growing closer to Him and building a big faith. A faith so large that others shouldn’t dare to question my beliefs. I’ve followed God to Hawaii, where I lived out ministry. Hawaii taught me how to be a children’s pastor. It gave me the courage to lead, to speak, and for the first time, to share my testimony. I’ve followed God all the way across the earth to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. I am so out of my comfort zone. I don’t have my cell phone or nice clothes, but instead I have the same two dirty skirts I wear over and over again. I don’t have plumbing, but I have buckets filled with water to flush. The DR Congo has taught me what it means to be content in any situation. To always be appreciative of what you do and do not have. I’ve witnessed genuine love and joy and happiness.

Following God is not always easy. For me I’ve gone to one of the most beautiful places I know and one of the poorest places I know in the same summer. I’ve been challenged to do things I’ve never tried before, but it always ends out ok. God has taken me on some pretty amazing adventures.

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DR Congo Day 15

Kids on Dirt PathAugust 8

It was literally a long, long, day. Our team led a four hour long conference about compassion to teens and adults of the church. Preparing for the conference wasn’t hard because we’ve been learning about compassion this whole trip, yet sitting through the entire service was tough. Nonetheless it was an eye opening experience.

For our trip our school gave every LoveWorks participant a book called Compassion. Compassion is broken into three sections: the compassionate God, the compassionate life, and the compassionate way. The first section discusses God’s compassion shown through His love by giving us Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God with us who endures earthly struggles to become like human though He is divine. The second section discusses how we can become compassionate in our own lives and how we see that. In our communities and our surroundings we see the ways we can love one another. The last section discusses compassionate ways of acting. Through patience, action, and prayer we can show others compassion. Though I haven’t finished the book yet, it was educating to hear from my team members of the chapters they read.

Later on in the conference Gavin gave a talk about compassion. He said compassion shouldn’t be felt in your heart, because that would mean you’re having a heart attack. Instead compassion is felt in your stomach. It is that feeling you get when you’re stomach tightens up and it feels like it’s being ripped out of you. Compassion makes you feel something you don’t normally feel.

Hearing and learning more about compassion made me evaluate my life. Am I loving others the way Christ loves me? Am I praying for my enemies? Compassion is more than just being nice to people and donating money. It is getting down to someone else’s level, feeling what they are feeling, being with them through the struggle, and loving where it is needed.

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DR Congo Day 14

BaptismAugust 7

I was baptized.

As a kid my parents baptized me, but it was precisely that. I was too young to remember it and too young to decide for myself. But that doesn’t make it any less significant. I’m so appreciative to have been raised in the church and for having Christian parents. But this baptism was all my choice.

I didn’t come to Africa with the intention of getting baptized, but it has been on my heart a ton lately. I wanted to publically declare my love for Christ and my willingness to follow Him for the rest of my life. Getting to stand in the water surrounded by all of my team members as I was getting ready to be baptized was an unreal experience. I was being baptized in Africa and my heart leapt for joy.

Before I entered the water, Rachel commented that we won’t say “I Wills” and “I Dos” again until we get married. How crazy is that! The commitment we make to Christ is equally as significant as the commitment we make to our spouse. I stated my belief in Christ and vowed to follow Him for the rest of my life.

For some people baptism starts a complete shift in lifestyle. For me I’ve personally been following Christ to my utmost ability for the past few years. Baptism isn’t my pivotal life change where I stop doing the things I did before, but it was my public declaration of being a believer in Christ.

So why did I do it? Why did I decide to get baptized though I was already baptized as a kid? Why did I get baptized though I’ve already been faithfully following Christ? One of my biggest struggles as a Christian is sharing my faith with nonbelievers- especially my friends who aren’t Christian. All summer I’ve had the opportunity to be surrounded by other Christians. With them I feel comfortable praying before I eat or talking about the Bible. Being re-baptized was my decision to publically say to all those who know me that I am a Christian, and I am not ashamed to state my willingness to follow Christ. I know it’s not going to magically get easier when I’m surrounded by my non- Christian friends, but maybe now I’ll be more confident in expressing my faith.

This baptism was all about and for me. It was my decision to do it here and now. It was my declaration follow Christ all the days of my life. And now I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me next.

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DR Congo Day 13

Adella

August 6

Wednesday was probably one of the most fun days I’ve had here in the Congo. From playing with kids to playing with friends, it was an all around great day.

In the afternoon we visited a village that was pretty far way. It was Pastor Marcel’s church, and they were full of energy. Before we stepped out of the van, a stampede of kids came running our way. As we were shaking hands with the many enthusiastic kids, mothers even started to come to us and greet us. The church was loud, and everyone was cheering upon our arrival. Pastor Marcel kept saying over and over again how excited everyone was to have us there. He reiterated our ministry of presence and told us just how much it means to them that we were there.

The excitement only grew as the day progressed. When we sang songs the kids sang with us. Never before have we had a group so loud and excited to sing and dance along with us. After our service we played futbol and passed out balloon animals. Children were smiling from ear to ear.

A little girl that caught my eye was Adella. Adella had been pretty emotionless all morning long. When I was going around taking pictures of the kids a mother told Adella to smile. Her grin was so large and bright that it lit my heart up with joy. All of the children of this far away village were so happy and excited. Their smiles each so large and bright. I will never be able to forget them, and the way Adella made me so infinitely happy.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we ended our day with dinner and a move at Missionary Gavin’s house. His neighborhood was all gated , and the roads were paved. At his house we felt like we were back at home. Their home had nice leather couches, electricity stayed on for most of the night, they had a TV, and toilets that I didn’t have to squat over. Dinner was tacos, and it was delicious. It was all so American that it made us think of home.

The entire night felt right. We played games and even got to watch Lion King in Africa. Lion King in Africa! Feeling a taste of America made me all the more excited to return home.

In a few days we’ll be going back home. It’s both exciting and saddening. Exciting for me to finally be back home for more than three days, and sad because it means that my summer of adventure is over. This summer has been an exploration of my faith. Hawaii was my first experience understanding what a full time role in ministry means, and I loved it. I loved ministering seven days a week. I loved speaking in chapels and leading teen small groups. All of it helped me understand my calling to ministry. Now being here in Africa is allowing me to serve with all of my heart and energy. I’m doing it all for God and trusting Him with everything. Though it’s coming to an end, it’s the start of putting what I’ve learned to practice.

When I get home I want to continue serving. I want to continue following my call to ministry. I always, always want to continue spreading God’s love and light.

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DR Congo Day 12

Brick WallAugust 5

Tuesday marked over a week of us being here, and exactly one week until we leave. I think it’s safe to say that none of us want to leave, because we all enjoy being here. We enjoy seeing the kids and their consistent smiles. We enjoy making a difference by helping build the schools or leading songs at the churches. All that we’ve done here has made for an incredible experience.

Our day involved us visiting the village of Katwatwa. Katwatwa was about an hour away with the last 20 minutes being a narrow road. The journey was long, but eventually we made it to the school building. The village itself is in the middle of nowhere, and the school is far away from any homes or stores. It was said that kids would have to walk three to four miles just to go to school. Pastor Celestin said that we would question why he wanted to start a school so far away, and after 45 minutes in a crammed, stuffy van we did.

He told us the long-term goals for the school, and it was inspiring. The reason it’s out in the middle of nowhere is so that the school can be the start of a prosperous city. At the moment Pastor Celestin owns all of the land. When more and more kids attend the school, he will be able to make it a secondary school then a college then a university. When the school gets larger, more people will move to the village, and it will in turn transform to a city. Hearing Pastor Celestin’s long term goal and seeing the start of it all was incredible. In addition to that was learning who was funding this program- none other than Point Loma.

Every year during the Lenten season Point Loma takes an offering to help support international projects. The year before I started at Loma, they took an offering for Katwatwa. Some of the seniors on my team remember this offering and were blown away to see the actual school. Never did they imagine that after putting money in the donation that years later they would see the school. They were absolutely at a loss for words.

For the past two weeks we’ve been involved in moving bricks for future schools, and for the first time we got to see a completed school. This put all that we’ve been doing into perspective. Though we may not be able to witness the final product, we know and we pray that it will be a blessing.

Being here and being a part of LoveWorks has been such a blessing. LoveWorks to me is an opportunity to serve God while also learning what the world around us like. This trip has changed my perception of the world drastically. I’m so much more thankful for my school after visiting Katwatwa. I’m so thankful that I don’t have to walk three miles in dirt roads to get to school, and that I’m offered an incredible education. Everyday I find something new to give thanks for.