The Qba Edition.
I took my first trip to Qba in March 2009, but I did not know then just how this trip would change my life. I have been on several of these kinds of trips in the past, and each one has been a really good experience, but I have never had one of these trips stay with me the way that my trip to Qba did.
I had never seen faith in action the way that I did that week that I was there. Their ministry faces tremendous opposition from the government, but they know what God has called them to do, so they persevere, and when they meet a setback, instead of despairing, they have faith that God has something even bigger and better for them. And God has blessed their faithfulness--they are literally changing their country for Christ.
When I came back from that first trip, I knew that I wanted faith like theirs. I even prayed that if God had to bring opposition into my life in order for me to have that faith, that He would bring it. Be careful what you pray for. :P I didn't know at the time that the next year and a half of my life would be a constant test of my faith. There were so many times that I cried out to God during this time wondering where He was and why He had abandoned me. I was completely overwhelmed by my fears and my insecurities; there were times that I even doubted God's love for me, and I certainly didn't think that He could use a mess like me.
I have been back to Qba two times since that first trip, and on my most recent trip, in the summer, God brought tremendous healing to my heart. I went back to my brothers and sisters completely broken. I felt that my faith had been tested and that I had failed. I had let God down. What I love about the Qbans is that they are so relational. There was a point on the trip that I was able to share with some of them what had been going on in my life over the last year, and it was so sweet to be able to receive their love and encouragement and to hear what God had been teaching them as well. Then, in a later conversation, one of my sweet brothers spoke some very kind words to me. He told me the gifts He could see that God had given me, and He told me that God could use and that He wanted to use those things in me. He challenged me to not waste the gifts and abilities that God had placed in my life. The words that he spoke to me were not things my friends hadn't been saying to me for months and months, but this was the first time I really believed them. For one, the words came from a man, and for women, there's just something different about encouragement that comes from a man. I think it was also good that the words came from someone who is not involved in my everyday life, someone who, aside from a couple of e-mails here and there, hadn't had contact with me for a year. And yet, he could still see these things in me.
For the rest of the time I was there, several people made comments about how much I smiled and would ask me why I was smiling so much. It was because for the first time in a long time, I was genuinely happy.
When I came back from my second trip to Qba (Summer 2009), I was frustrated with God. I couldn't understand why I was here when I only wanted to be there with them. But this time was different. I understood that, while I missed my precious brothers and sisters terribly, God has me here, and since then, I have been trying to translate the things He taught me in Qba to my life here.
It hasn't always been easy, and there are times that I still doubt, but I feel like I can finally have hope again. I am not entirely sure just what it is that God wants to do with me, but I can finally believe that He DOES love me and that He DOES want to do something with me.