My sister, Emily, has gone to Africa every summer for years now. The first year it was Kenya, and ever since, she’s served at an organization in Zambia called Family Legacy. They put on summer camps for kids every single week called Camp LIFE, feeding the children, loving them, and introducing them to Christ. Emily has poured hours and days and so much effort into this mission, but no one in my family has gotten to experience it with her past looking at pictures and videos.
In the summer of 2012, I was planning to go. During the school year, when people asked me my summer plans and I pictured my mental calendar, I saw a week marked out to go to Camp LIFE every time. It was in my plan, and I finally felt “called” to go. As someone who had been rather cynical towards missions in the past (as I wrote about here), it was a big deal that my heart felt softened towards this trip, and God seemed to be urging me there. What I didn’t expect was to have His real plan for that summer dropped into my lap out of nowhere—His plan for me to be a youth intern at Johnson Street Church of Christ in San Angelo. He made it very clear that I was to say “yes” to this offer and that Africa would have to wait.
And over the last year and a half, He’s been preparing me. That summer in San Angelo flipped my world in regards to service and missions, as I interacted with the homeless for what was pretty much the first time. Like the Grinch, I feel like my heart grew about three sizes, and the Lord gave me new eyes for seeing the poor all around me. I began serving with homeless organizations in Abilene and in Colorado over this past summer, and I went on a mission trip to Honduras over Spring Break—a pretty big step for me. Then before working at my internship this summer, I read Radical by David Platt. It’s one of the bestselling titles my company had published, and I read it so I would be able to use it in my marketing position. What I didn’t know is that God would even use that little book to reach me, showing me that spreading the gospel is not a choice or something one is “called” to do in certain moments—it’s something we’re always on-call for, something we should desperately want to do not for ourselves but for the sake of others. In all these areas and over time, God has taught me how to better love others and show compassion. How to listen and pray in intercession. I think He wanted me to start living for His name here at home before letting me think that’s something that only happens overseas.
For months now, though, I’ve known Summer 2014 would be the summer for Africa, and I knew I wouldn’t be the only one going. Emily had been asking my parents and me to go with her for a long time because Family Legacy, as it’s name implies, is designed for families to serve together. And when I began picturing this summer, I saw my whole family there, dad, mom, and sister included.
My mom read Radical and had already experienced a feeling of restlessness for serving for some time, so she jumped fairly quickly on board when Emily and I presented our parents with the idea. My dad was a bit slower to the decision, thinking-through all the costs before also realizing this was something God wanted for our family. In the end, all four of us registered and made the commitment to travel to Zambia for ten days in July and work at Camp LIFE. And we’re excited, amid a mix of emotions.
We’re trying to raise $19,000 total, an amount we can’t afford. We’re taking many days off of work, time we really don’t have. We’re stepping well out of our comfort zones, something the Fowlers don’t do too often. But we’re doing it because it’s time. It’s time for the four of us to grow closer as we act as Jesus’s hands and feet together. It’s time we took risks as a family so our faith in the Lord might be strengthened like never before. It’s time that the four of us as individuals place ourselves vulnerably before the Lord and say, “Here I am. Send me!” It’s time for us to take all the stuff we talk about and go live it.
We don’t want to go with an American “savior” mentality. We know we can’t do anything to save these kids besides acting as vessels to carry God’s power that does save. We’re not going so we’ll be changed, and we’re not going so we’ll change others. We’re going because we’ve been ignoring the conviction to be His witnesses “to the ends of the Earth” for a long time now, and that time is up.
What we ask now is that you pray for us. Encourage and support us as we venture to do something we’re not totally comfortable with. For years, we’ve been prayer warriors for others’ trips and now pass the torch, asking that you lift us up whenever you think about it. Pray that our needs are met, that our hearts are calmed, and that we remain healthy and safe. Pray that we experience the fullness of God and that the kids we meet will grow even closer to His heart than they do to ours.