Back in October, I had strep throat. I don’t usually go to the doctor unless a sickness gets to the point that I can’t handle it. My throat got unbearably painful, I went to the doctor, and came out so grateful for modern medicine and antibiotics.
A few days later, the kids and I were climbing into our friends’ van headed for the Seattle Missions Fest.
Until about 15 years ago, I didn’t realize there were missionaries living all over the globe, leading all kinds of adventurous lives. When I started going to a church and finding out about all the families the church supported abroad, I was intrigued, to say the least. I started reading fascinating stories of missionaries from the past and present – Gladys Aylward in China (unbound women’s feet and saved orphans), Andrew van der Bijl in Eastern Europe (riskily smuggled bibles into Communist countries), and the list goes on. Not to romanticize them, their stories are often very difficult.
I love adventure and wanted non-church-going people to be able to hear some amazing missionary stories, so I started a TV show in Santa Barbara called Fishers of Men. The local public station had a program anyone could go through to learn how to produce a show, so I gathered a small crew, we went through the program, and I hosted a weekly one-hour interview show. We made 12 total, ranging from a young woman who worked on a Hopi Reservation to a married couple who lives and works in Madagascar. It was a ball.
Now I was on the road to Seattle with two couples who had done missionary work in places like Thailand, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia, headed for a huge gathering of over 80 different missionary organizations exhibiting the types of work they do.
After hearing Taas Saada speak, who was once a Muslim PLO sniper for Yasser Arafat and later converted to Christianity, I walked out of the main lecture hall a little foggy in antibiotic post-sickness. My older son had asked if we could walk around all the exhibitors, so I was slowly meandering past them when a woman began chatting with me. I wasn’t peppy or even all that lighthearted in my funk, so I felt like I wasn’t the best conversationalist.
She asked me what I do and what my passion is. Momming and photography, I told her. And I happened to have a tiny African continent pendant hidden under my shirt. She said, “Oh wow, we desperately need new photography of our orphanage in Kenya. All the website photos show kids who are now in their 20s. We need you.” Need me? Really? For photography in Africa? I love being needed in those ways, I thought.
For the next few months, my husband and I wrestled with the invitation. I’ve always wanted to take our kids to places around the world to show them that life is not America. But I didn’t know if I was ready yet. I had thought it might start in three or four years.
After lots of deliberation, the boys and I are going to go. I’m actually sick again as I write this, hoping it will be out of the way in a few weeks. But I wanted to post this to ask if anyone has jewelry you’d like to send with us. I thought it’d be nice, since Africa is known for its jewelry, if we collected beads, wire, pendants, clasps, little wire cutters and needle-nose pliers, etc. to take with us and give to the 500-ish orphans so they can make their own jewelry to keep and wear. We’re looking for anything in great condition that you don’t want or need.
So there you have it – if you go to a Missions Fest, you just might end up on a life-changing adventure.