Relationships are So Important! By Madalyn Bozdech

Before I begin, I feel like I need to give you some background information on how I decided to go to Africa.  First off, I’m 18 and a freshman at Lincoln Christian University.  Second, I work at a Christian youth camp in the summer and I love my job, so much that I hope to become a Christian camp director in the future.  I was very comfortable with who and where I was in life when I decided to go to Africa.  Needless to say, God did not want me to be comfortable with my life.

Raelenna Ferguson came and talked to our church in September a year ago.  She did a three minute presentation that stirred my heart.  That’s amazing, because five minutes is not a whole lot of time to stir a heart.  Sometimes it takes a lifetime to stir a heart.  After her presentation she asked that if anyone would be interested in travelling to Africa to come see her and her husband Jeremy at their table in the lobby.  I went out of curiosity.  Then she asked us to put our name and email down on a sheet of paper if we are even remotely interested in going to Africa.  I remember thinking, “Yeah, I’m interested, but it’s highly unlikely that I will be able to go.”  I’m pretty sure God laughed at that statement.  After all, II did not even know where Swaziland is in Africa.  Through a chain of events, I decided, I would go to Africa.

July came in a rush of activity.  I was getting ready for the trip and working at the camp.  I felt so rushed!  This attitude was carried on through the trip.  I was insistent on the fact that we had so much that we had to do.  I thought, I wanted to be involved in the busy work, and get everything done.  I am very thankful that we had a relaxed team leader by the name of Howard Hodel.  My first shock came on the first day, we didn’t start working in the garden until half an hour of arriving.  You see, I just wanted to work.  I just wanted to get it done.  This is how I operated.  It seems so silly looking back at it now.  I am such a busy person, and sometimes I refuse to sit down, breathe, and take a break.  I feel like God at this point was shaking his head and saying, “Mady, Mady, Mady, you are missing the point!”

The second shock came and it was the one that hit me hard.  It was the one that changed me.  It was the last day in the community, and it was the day to pass out the clothing that was donated to give to the people.  We had the more children come to the church that day than before.  In the midst of all the children, one little girl could not have been more than five years old.  It was the only day she came.  Now she was different than the rest of the children.  Both of her eyes were lazy, and she had a tumor on her stomach.  When we started passing out clothes, I became so busy and concentrated on getting all the kids through the line of clothes. After the kids received clothes they went outside for a picture taken by Howard so that they could see themselves on the digital camera.  We were about three quarters done through the line of children when this little girl goes through the line.  I wasn’t really paying attention to who was getting their picture taken until the little girl.  I was shufffling through the line and stopped as if confused.  I looked down only to realize it was the same little girl I mentioned earlier.  She was so beautiful.  My team leader bent down and quietly said to the girl, “I love you…”  My heart stopped.  Time stood still.  This was my breaking point.  I felt as if my heart was ripped out of my body and spread all over Swaziland.  Howard got it.  It’s about the relationships.  I was so foolishly concentrated on the action of passing out the clothes that I forgot about the people I was passing out the clothes to.  It clicked.  It changed the way I think about relationships here in America.  It caused me to stop my frantic rushing and concentrate on the fact that I really needed the relationships that I had in my life.  I took taking care of my relationships with people so much more seriously.

So, whether you are reading this while preparing for a trip in the future, or just getting back from a trip, I hope you take this into consideration. Yeah, I’m only an 18 year old girl, I realize that, but God taught me something big that day.  Take care of your relationships with people!  If you are preparing for a trip, don’t make the same mistake I did, even though it may be easy to.  Take the time to see the beauty of the people and land around you while in Africa.  Take the time to build relationships at home so that when you come back you can share your experience with someone, because you need to, but not with just anybody, with someone who cares.  These relationships may even help you get to Africa.  If you are just getting back from a trip, I’m sure you had a similar experience as me, and all I have to say is to not forget it because it will change your life if it hasn’t already.  Remember, God has loved the people of Swaziland long before you have, and he loves them with an infinite love that we could never match.  Blessings, friends!

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Africa: Everyone Can Go! By: Debby Sefton

Two years ago, I planned to go on a mission trip to South Africa with Saint Louis Christian College. It would be a five week trip designed for mission interns. My son had previously journeyed on this trip and I was excited this could be available for me to experience as well. I weeded my way through the plans, got permission to be gone from work for an extended period of time, and gave the Professor my “yes” that I could go. By the time I and several others had responded back to him, the airline tickets he had on “hold” were no longer on “hold.” He had to scramble to find the airline tickets he needed, and was able to secure 10 to fly together and I was the 11th person. I could still go, but that would mean me flying in alone, and then taking a smaller plane to another area. We were not comfortable with that journey for a “first time” traveler to another country, so my dream dissolved at that point.

Over the next year, I started seeing my niece (Raelenna Ferguson) post things on Facebook about Africa. How Jeremy and her were excited to go on this missions trip, would be leaving their young children for 10 days, and going to love on little children in orphanages. I didn’t even remember it was Swaziland they were traveling to, just that they were going to AFRICA!!! She started mentioning different things about a fundraiser, a baby home. etc. Still all just random thoughts in my mind as I read her posts. When my husband told me Raelenna had raised $125,000 to build a baby home – THAT got my attention, and I was curious to know what this was all about.

As leader of our community outreach ministry, in the church where I work, I was interested in “filling a spot” with someone to share a global mission. At this point I had asked Raelenna if I might be able to go this trip. I didn’t know if just “anyone” could go and I wondered if I physically could hand it. I have rheumatoid arthritis for 30+ years now, and I could not go on the mission trips, where there was a possibility of sleeping on the floor, walking great distances, doing building projects, etc.

I decided to obtain more information that I personally wanted.   Raelenna was also given the opportunity to share this ministry at our church on a Sunday morning. Raelenna agreed to come and I was excited. I “knew” I was going to Swaziland, and she would give our crowd some food for growth in the area of global missions. In the three minutes, Raelenna shared how God did some powerful things. She had a crowd surrounding her after church buying the HOW jewelry, Janine’s books, and asking how they could find out more about the trip.

Soon we had 9 people committed to traveling to Swaziland from Christ’s Church of Effingham, wondering for the next 9 months what we needed to know, plan, and expect. How FUN!!! We got our Hep A and B shots, exchanged our money, got packed and away we went. Never did I dream the impact that this trip would make on my life!

The highlights were being surrounded by people from all over the world. We fellowshiped, broke bread, and served with people from all over the United States, Canada, and Taiwan. It was a multicultural trip before we ever made it to Swaziland. Once we made it there, our accommodations were very safe and clean to where there was no worry with my low immune system.

But when we got to the community, that is where IT truly started. I saw people who lived a very simple life, had to walk miles for water, got to eat once a day if they were blessed, were conscious of having clean and bright colored clothes in this dry dusty land, and had strong “community” among themselves. They are very aware of who God is!!! Yes, these people knew God and knew it was HE they could depend on!

Janine just spent a weekend with us in Effingham, Illinois speaking about her story and Heart for Africa to various groups. I heard her mention several times, these people need discipleship. It is not about evangelism as much as it is about discipleship. They are ripe for the harvest of learning about how God wants us to live. What a difference we can make if we are willing to go and “do life” with this people and let God’s word and our example of living for Jesus penetrate their lives. Yes I’ve got IT, “the bug” that my Dad was afraid I might have after he read Janine’s book, while I was in Swaziland.

I don’t know where my personal experience and the love of these people might lead from here, but I do know that as of now I cannot imagine a year without traveling to Swaziland to see my new friends in Christ. And I want EVERYONE to know that it is possible for them to GO and have a chance to experience the beautiful faces and lives of God’s creation in the country of Swaziland!

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