When I was about 10 years old, God planted a dream in my heart of traveling the world. He made that dream come true for me through my service to the U.S. Navy. But never in a million years did I think I’d have the opportunity to not just visit, but live in Africa. I was stationed in Djibouti, Africa (a place I never even knew existed) for a year and while I was there I got to see Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. I’m still amazed at what God did for me through Africa. And here are a few things He taught me from my life’s experience there.
1. You can’t make the cake without the heat: Yes, you need all the right ingredients and the right amount. But without heat, you don’t really have a cake. All you have is batter. Well, sometimes in life, God puts us to and through the fire to refine, purify and use us. Isaiah’s lips were burned and purified with hot coals before he was sent to deliver an on-fire message. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace for not bowing to the king’s golden idol. And when the king saw that they were not burned up when the flames were turned up, he retrieved them from the fire and issued a decree that no one would speak ill of the God they served. Djibouti was my furnace. It was hot, dry and humid – all day every day. But had I not experienced Djibouti, I would never have seen God in a new way. Everything God had been whipping up in me – my batter so to speak – was “cooked” into what is manifesting in my life today.
2. It’s not just about you: It was so easy for all of us who were stationed there together to miss home and just want our time there to be over. But during my time there, volunteering out in the local community was the most rewarding. In volunteering to moderate English Discussion Groups for the local students, I had the opportunity to hear viewpoints about life from a totally different perspective than mine. In volunteering at the local orphanage, I got to sit with and tend to some of the orphans for a few hours. One baby in particular – baby Awaleh – completely changed my attitude about being grateful for all that I had and have. He was so happy to be held, sung to and fed that it made me realize that this life is not just about me. It’s about caring about what God cares about.
3. Sometimes we just think too small: Even though each entity in Africa is an actual country with it’s own unique customs, culture, laws, language and traditions, most people fail to acknowledge the differences of each actual country on a vast continent. While I was living in Djibouti, I got to visit Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. They were each so beautifully different and unique, and had I visited each one treating them the same, I would have missed out big time. But don’t we do that in life? “My experience with men has been bad, so they must all be bad”. Or “I’ve had terrible experiences with church. I just won’t go anymore”. When we allow our opinions and even bad experiences to make us think small, we lose out on what God could have in store for us.
Is there some place you’ve always dreamed of going? Go! You never know what or maybe even who God has in store for you there. Take God with you and be open to the lessons He wants to teach you.