Over the years I have had many opportunities to participate in an overseas mission trip, and just as readily, I have had many reasons to refrain. As mentioned in my blog before my Ethiopia trip this summer, I felt God called me on this particular trip. In the past, I had always felt that someone else would be better for whichever trip was in question. I could help financially, and send someone who was younger, stronger, bolder in their witness, more courageous, could speak the language—in essence would be far better equipped than me. But when I heard that part of the women’s team assignment on this trip was to help equip women of the local Ethiopian church to be mentors to orphan girls, as well as host a women’s conference, I ran out of excuses. I wasn’t being asked to build an orphanage or to perform a task that I was physically unable to do. Encouraging and teaching women are tasks God has called me to do here in the United States. Despite all my fears about going—and there were many—I knew that with God’s help, I could be used for some purpose.
Similarly, I suspect that all the trip participants were trusting that God would use them in some specific way for His purposes. We wanted to be able to look back on the trip and say, “on my trip to Ethiopia God used me to do “__” The “__” would vary, but we all shared the desire to fill that blank in some way. While I can’t speak to all 200 individuals who went on the trip, I can attest to the 18 wonderful individuals on the women’s team. God used us all!
I have always loved the imagery that the Apostle Paul used in speaking to both the Romans and the Corinthians. As he said, we are the “body of Christ.”
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27 ESV
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” Romans 12: 4-8 ESV
When I think of a body, the parts are diverse and multi-functional. That image certainly described our team! To start, we ranged in age from 24 to 78. More than half of us were originally from a country other than the United States. For some, English was our first language, for others, it was not. Some of us were married with children, others single. Some of us were extroverts (including me!), while others were introverts. Before the trip many of us didn’t know each other. But we had two things in common—we were all women, and we all loved Jesus! Only God could have put this group together. I can’t remember a previous time where I so clearly saw the parts of Christ’s body working together with unity and intentionality for one given purpose—to show God’s love to others.
Each member of our team was used by God in a different way, and yet each was as valuable as another. I witnessed women with quiet strength and perseverance provide the ever-important visual aids of powerpoint slides, music, and videos in challenging conditions (often with no lighting or just one single bulb to illuminate the room). I witnessed others share powerful testimonies of God’s work in their lives. These testimonies drew many hurting Ethiopians into conversations about God’s love for them. I witnessed women pursuing hurting and suffering individuals, doling out bear hugs unlike any they had ever experienced. I witnessed leaders direct us with wisdom and strength. I witnessed generosity in giving. I witnessed those that could hold a baby for hours in their arms and love them with incredible compassion. I witnessed creativity in sharing God’s attributes in games, slides and skits, as well as in practical instruction. I witnessed those that were able to keep us laughing at the end of the day when we were physically and emotionally tired. I witnessed women saying yes and being available to God’s call at the slightest prompting. I witnessed women interceding with prayer throughout the trip. I witnessed God’s love.
I have never been so proud to be part of the body of Christ—His hands, His feet, His mouth. For ten days we were united. And while everyone on the team could fill in the blank—
On my trip to Ethiopia, God used me to do…
I know that what we are more apt to say is
On our trip to Ethiopia, God used us to do…
So thank you ladies, for allowing me to witness so many of God’s gifts selflessly displayed to the “least of these.” It was a pleasure and blessing to serve alongside you.
Sandy (who was with us in prayers and spirit)