Joburg 2016: Simply Come

Joburg 2016 has officially come to an end.

Downtown view of Joburg from campus

Downtown view of Joburg from campus

I love this trip for so many reasons, and yet again God showed up in big ways this week.

Students got their lives changed.

Team members got their lives changed.

 Lasting impact happened that won’t just stay in South Africa, but will be carried home with everyone on this team.

The campus team spend long days on campus and this year the weather didn’t cooperate very often with us. We had to deal with lots of rain during the week this year, which was a blessing for a country going through a drought, and a bit of an obstacle for us.

Two events really stuck out to me on campus this trip, the first was affected because of the rain.

Wednesday afternoon we had planned to do an outreach on the basketball court, playing basketball and games to draw a crowd and then have a special speaker (who’s a famous singer in SA) come share the gospel.

Kabelo Mabalane, former member of TKZee in South Africa, sharing the gospel

Kabelo Mabalane, former member of TKZee in South Africa, sharing the gospel

Well, Wednesday we got a rain storm. All. Day. The campus staff almost canceled the event all together but we decided to just get a speaker system, give the mic to JC, and let JC be JC and gather a crowd and have a singing competition with prizes.

JC gathering a crowd

JC gathering a crowd

It ended up being a huge success! After the singing competition we had Kabelo Mabalane speak to the crowd. He shared his testimony and challenged students to give their lives to Christ.

15 students responded right there on the spot! It was incredible to see lives changed during an event we could have easily canceled because of the weather.

The other event that was a highlight of the trip happened Friday night. Like our trip last year the Wits team reserved the great hall (the largest venue on campus) for a night of worship and a special speaker.

All week we invited students to the event and this year did not disappoint!

There were easily over 500 students the turned out for the event.

Worship was lead by the Freedom Band and it was incredible. Hundreds of students were singing their lungs out praising Jesus. It was a powerful night of worship.

The Freedom Band

The Freedom Band

Numbers at an event are a great thing to talk about, and they can look impressive, but really it’s the number that is much smaller than the total attendance that is the most important.

Ten students made the commitment to follow Christ Friday night. 

Students giving their lives to Christ

Students giving their lives to Christ

Wednesday afternoon and Friday night are great examples of what a group of people who simply answered “yes” when God asked “will you go?” can do.

Because of their yes’s, students hallway around the world heard the gospel and responded and are forever changed.

You can’t put a price tag on something like that. I can’t fully explain enough the importance of a trip like this, of what ten days does all over the world, using ordinary people to make a lasting impact on the world.

Of the many things I’ve learned by traveling on many trips like this is, if anyone is contemplating going on a trip like this, go. Come as you are. You don’t have to be perfect or an evangelist, simply come, be available and watch how God uses you and your story to change people’s lives.

Our team

Our team

Carol does an amazing job with her team at Wits

Carol does an amazing job with her team at Wits

Mission trips. Passions. Gifts.

I travel the world doing what I love for my job.

It’s an amazing job.

I get to tell stories of people from all over the country and all over the world getting their worlds flipped upside down by God on mission trips.

One reason I’m a fan of short term mission trips is what I get to see the trips do to the team members who come on them.

Many of them I get to experience their first international trip with them. I get to see them experience a new place and a new adventure outside of their normal comfort zone.

I also get to see a few of them realize their calling.

I experienced my calling while on a mission trip. I was challenged to step out in faith and put my trust in God to quit my job and come on board with Every Nation.

It was both the easiest and hardest decision of my life. Easy because I LOVE doing what I’m doing and hard because it was a big step of faith for me to quite my full time job and become a missionary.

Funny thing happened after I decided to listen to God, it’s all worked out and been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I love seeing God work.

I love going in to work.

I love using my passion and skills to tell stories for the kingdom.

The outreach on campus today resulted in 15 students giving their lives to Christ!

The outreach on campus today resulted in 15 students giving their lives to Christ!

Mission trips allowed me to experience and discover passions I might never have discovered had I not gone on a trip.

It’s such a joy to hear team members talk about using their passions or igniting their passions for something while on a trip.

What I’ve learned through these trips and with my job is that my gifts aren’t for me. God didn’t give me these passions and desires to be kept for myself.

That’s what ten days and Ordinary Hero trips have shown me; the gifts we’re all given aren’t for yourself. They’re meant to be shared.

You’re made the way you are for a reason.

JC, sharing his gift for singing and MC'ing at our outreach at Wits

JC, sharing his gift for singing and MC'ing at our outreach at Wits

Not sharing your gifts and talents with others and for others is depriving the world of something unique that only you can bring. There’s only one you in the world, and that’s not by accident.

If you've never been on a mission trip before, here's the challenge, go on one. Go to somewhere you're not from. 

Don't have a passport? Go get one. 

The world is waiting on you to share your gift with them.

These trips are more than just outreach on campus...

These trips are more than just outreach on campus...

A Beautiful Mess

I am a mess.

I stress about too much.

 I mishandle so many life situations.

I often joke too much and say too much.

I’m a wreck.

I’ve gained weight this past year because my diet is terrible and I stopped working out a lot.

I have broken promises.

I have compromised.

And yet, my life is beautiful.

It’s beautiful that I’m here in Johannesburg. It’s beautiful that God still uses me to reach others who are a wreck. Who’s lives are a mess.

I'm back again on the Campus of Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa

I'm back again on the Campus of Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa

I sat in devotions this morning before our first day going out on campus and realized that I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where my life is completely put together; that I’ll never have all the answers for the students I meet and share the gospel with.

And to me, that’s beautiful. God didn’t ask me to have everything put together. He asked me to go. So here I am.

I am those things but not defined by those things.

I am a beautiful mess.

Already I have met students that needed to hear the truth of the gospel. That no works or having your life in order will get you into heaven.

I have already met students that need to hear not only my beautiful mess, but the members of the teams stories and messes.

JC sharing the gospel with some Wits students

JC sharing the gospel with some Wits students

I am part of something bigger than just my wreck and my messes. I don’t have my entire life in order but God says come as you are.

So here I am. As I am. Time to use my messy self to bring life to students here in South Africa. 

Long Journey West

Ethiopia is a country that is very dear in my heart. I’ve been here many times and I’ve fallen in love with the people, culture and children.

The majority of my time I spend in Ethiopia is spent in the capitol of Addis Abba, a big city that’s full of millions of people and lots of traffic (and a ton of car exhaust).

I’ve been outside of the city a few times and caught glimpses of how beautiful of a country Ethiopia is. This year, my first week on the ground in Ethiopia I got to experience just how beautiful the countryside really is.

Pictures and video don't do justice to how beautiful the countryside of Ethiopia is

Pictures and video don't do justice to how beautiful the countryside of Ethiopia is

My good friends Michael and Sarah Venable asked me to come over with them and their son Gabriel and document their journey to find their adopted son, Scar’s, sister.

They knew the area she lived as our favorite Ethiopian Bissy had found her a few years ago.

The area we traveled too was far west Ethiopia to a city called Gambella. It’s near the Sudan border and over 1,000 km away from our guest house in Addis.

With no interstate system and poor roadways it was a two day journey one way.

We took the trip in a Toyota Land Cruiser (thank goodness because lots of the roads were ROUGH…and not paved/completed) and drove through some of the most beautiful, stunning views I’ve ever seen.

We got to see lots of monkey's on this trip as well

We got to see lots of monkey's on this trip as well

We drove through many mountain ranges that had lots and lots of switchbacks and elevation changes and although the car rides were long, the views were worth it.

There’s only been a few times in my life I can remember where I saw something that made me involuntarily say “wow”, this trip made me do that a few times.

We drove through the heart of coffee country, and every place we stopped I got a macchiato and though I’m no coffee expert, I have never had better coffee in my entire life.

Seriously, I’ll forever judge macchiato’s to a higer standard because I loved every single one I had when we stopped.

Ethiopian coffee. My favorite.

Ethiopian coffee. My favorite.

Outside of the beautiful countryside and immaculate macchiato’s, we completed our mission of finding Scar’s sister.

Bissy worked his charm/magic and we were able to locate her the day after we arrived in Gambella.

Bissy: translator, guest house manager, evangelist, friendliest person I've ever met, and friend

Bissy: translator, guest house manager, evangelist, friendliest person I've ever met, and friend

Michael and Sarah’s goal for this trip was to make contact and establish a relationship with Scar’s sister. They didn’t want to just pull her from her surroundings and take her to Addis or America.

They wanted her to have the option to come to Addis and get an education and make sure she was taken care of (she’s HIV positive) through a ministry. When we found her she was living with her grandpa and he seemed to be doing a good job of caring for her.

So we spent a few hours with her showing her pictures and videos of her brother and just letting her know that he’s loved and cared for across the world.

The Venable's with scars sister and her grandparents

The Venable's with scars sister and her grandparents

Some of the beautiful kids in the area we spent most of our day

Some of the beautiful kids in the area we spent most of our day

I loved seeing the Venable’s reaching out and finding a piece of their sons past and connecting that part of his life going forward. If he ever wants to know where he came from they now have a chance to connect him with his birth sister.

This was definitely an adventure that I won’t soon forget. I enjoyed the trip with the Venables and Bissy (which is a good thing because we spent 40+ hrs over five days in close quarters) and seeing Michael and Sarah connect their family tree.

I’ve gotten to know Michael over the years and he’s an incredible man with a giant heart. I’ve been able to be part of some of his story over the years and he’s one person that always seems to have incredible stories.

Michael with his new friend

Michael with his new friend

Even though he’s a UK fan I enjoy being around him and his family and was very grateful for the opportunity to take part in this part of his family’s story.