Years ago I was at Schiphol, I had been working for years towards this moment: I was going on a mission! Finally the real adventure began after years of preparation, education and saving. Brazil was the country where I felt called, the street children had grabbed my heart. I was looking forward to putting God’s love into practice by helping there, at the garbage dump and in the favelas (slums). I still remember it like it was yesterday, the moment I stood there surrounded by children at the garbage dump. There God broke my heart with His love for people, not just for the children in Brazil. I was confused with God: ‘there are people all over the world, Lord, where do I start?’. God gave no clear answer, He gave no country or place.
Now, 18 years later, a few weeks ago I was back at Schiphol, with a group of students from the Full-time course we left for South Africa. To be honest, I was more scared now than I was 18 years ago. Leaving my family behind in the Netherlands felt unnatural and at the same time contradictory to the enormous desire to embark on this adventure. In the weeks leading up to it, I really struggled with anxiety. It was easier to stay home in normal life than to get out and take on this adventure.
Get out of a safe area
Shortly before leaving I heard someone preach on Matthew 14:22-33 where Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, The speaker said, ‘Fear may not be gone, but God’s power, guidance and presence will be there’. We experienced this tangibly during the trip. By stepping out of our safe environment, fear disappeared and we experienced His love, guidance and presence powerfully!
I would like to share one story with you, our visit to Goodnews.za led by Theo and Jinke de Jong in Knysna. In the mountains of Karatara they rent a piece of land on which a tent is pitched. The week we were there they were running a holiday Bible school program for the children from the area. The children clearly live in poverty and FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) is common. The group ranged from 4 years to 15 years. Each age group received its own part of the program, with an eye for the child and with one goal: to let them know that we see them and that Jesus loves them endlessly!
Overwhelmed by God’s love
Early in the morning we drove into a small village, ready to start. How would the tent fill up with children when we are in such a small village? It soon became apparent that vans were driving along the villages in the area to pick up the children. They returned loaded with children for the start of the program. At the end of the day, all the children were given food before being taken home, and the children sang loudly: ‘Bambelela! Hold on to Jesus!’ In the middle of nowhere, villages full of families, many children, many of them children of teenage mothers. All these children, all these families and God doesn’t lose sight of any of them! He knows them all, nothing escapes Him. I was impressed by the passion and love that Theo and Jinke share with people every day and overwhelmed by God’s love for all these beautiful children.
Dreams have been awakened
During the trip, the students were able to taste the work that God is doing in South Africa, His love knows no bounds. Some students can’t wait to go back. How special it is to feel called by God at such a young age. Just as I started dreaming my first dream years ago, the students are now at the beginning of their adventure with God, the dream for their lives. My dreams have definitely been awakened by this trip!
Let us be challenged again and again to step out of our own comfortable world. Even if fear discourages you, step out of your comfort zone by sharing God’s love with those around you, wherever you are. Be a blessing to those around you! Be inspired by the children singing on the bus: ‘Bambelela, hold on to Jesus!’