Ali’s Story

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My Time in Turkana…God’s Country When I look back over the past 4 years to see all that God has done in me and through me, I am blown away! It all started when I went on a mission trip to Turkana, Kenya, back in July 2012. Little did I know that one trip would cause God to wreck my world for the better. I remember getting ready to leave for the airport back in July 2012, excited and anxious to see what God would do while we were there. I couldn’t wait to be used by Him to be His hands and feet and bring the Good News of Christ to the Turkanan people. I remember being excited about using my gift of teaching/education to teach the kids about God and finding salvation through Jesus during Vacation Bible School. I also remember being worried and nervous sharing the gospel with adults, but specifically with adults who didn’t speak the same language. Teaching kids is one thing, but teaching peers and adults is a completely different thing. I remember praying and asking God to give me the words to say and relying on the verse Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”) for strength and comfort when I was told that I would preach the day after we arrived in Namariat. I was terrified; I hate public speaking to adults and peers! I remember praying for God to calm my nerves and to help me prepare a sermon. On the way there, our lori (like a cattle truck) got stuck multiple times causing us to arrive several hours late allowing me to prepare the sermon I would give that Sunday in church while on the journey. I also remember being overcome with a sense of peace when my brother, Cheboi, and two other team members prayed over me before I went to preach. I remember God using Micah (my translator) who stood beside me while I preached. It was a reminder that God was right there with me! Proverbs 3:5-7 was a comfort for me when it came time for me to share the gospel during hut-to-hut evangelism. I remember speaking to the family about God being our Great Shepherd and how we are separated from His flock and wandering the wilderness on our own when we haven’t accepted Christ into our hearts. God completely spoke through me and gave me the right words to say, and I was able to see 5 people come to Christ. By being obedient and following God, I was able to see the blessing of seeing more people join His family and come out of the darkness and into God’s light. Several of the team members and I went on a hike up one of the local mountains during one of our last days in the village. The trek it took to get to the base and the hike to get up the mountain were intense, but the view from the top was amazing and truly worth the journey. I remember God speaking to me, reminding me, that the journey in life is never easy and is filled with highs and lows. There are some beautiful stretches and seasons as well as some challenging roads, turns, and roadblocks along the way to what God has called us to. When we move through difficult times in life, it forces us to rely on Him. When we reach the mountain top and are able to look back and see what God has brought us through, we are able to rejoice and celebrate. We are also able to use those difficult times to encourage others who may go through the same situations and remind them that He will get us through. When I returned back to the States after the trip, God placed an ache and love in my heart for the people of Turkana, and I would return again during the summers of 2014 and 2015. He also began to stretch my leadership skills and call me into more positions of leadership where I would have to speak more to peers and adults. I was called to lead a team of my first grade teachers on my planning team because I was the one with the most teaching experience (3 years and everyone else had 1 or less). During the summer of 2014, God gave me the opportunity to co-lead the mission trip. I remember being terrified! Who was I to lead a trip? Shy and quiet me! There were so many other people that I felt were more equipped to lead than I was. I remember pushing myself to the background and doing the behind the scenes work and allowing my co-leader to take the lead with the speaking, because that’s what felt comfortable to me. I remember wrestling with God before the trip and during the entire trip of His calling on my life to be a leader. About a week after arriving in Namariat, I split the team into smaller groups to hike out for hut-to-hut evangelism. On the way back from the first day of evangelism, I remember my hip popping out of place and my walking pace began to slow to a snail’s pace. It was apparent to everyone that I was hurt and in pain, despite my best efforts to hide it. I felt like I was Jacob in the Bible after he wrestled God. I vividly remember sitting in the team meeting that morning upset that I was unable to go out with the team to evangelize. Two years prior I might have seen it as relief. God used that time staying back at the village for me to take care of and keep an eye on two sick teammates and get to know the missionaries in the village. That night, I did some stretches and prayed that God would pop my hip back in place, and after some time, He did. I was able to walk on my leg a little better, but I still had some pain. I remember asking Mwololo if they were walking “African” pace (fast) that day or not. He said they were not walking an African pace, and I was excited because I thought I would be able to go. Unfortunately, Mwololo told me that he had seen my improvement with walking, but I was unable to go out and do evangelism that day. I was crushed and devastated! What kind of a leader was I if I couldn’t go out with my team to evangelize? Little did I know what God had in store! I ended up taking care of another teammate who was sick. I was also able to get to know the missionaries better and spend more time with the people and the kids in the village of Namariat. That afternoon, I was told that I wouldn’t be able to go to watch the Jesus’ film in the nearby village, Nakepokon, that night. I came to terms with it and realized that God must have something else for me to do in Namariat. Since it was a Friday afternoon, the kids who attended school in Nachamai had returned home to Namariat. I remember watching the older ones playing soccer and a few of the little ones come up and begin playing with me and my sunglasses and other items I had nearby (water bottle, journal, etc.). I remember that the librarian from my school sent a suitcase full of books, and I figured this would be the perfect time to get a few and read some to the kids. The kids sat for over an hour looking at books and sharing books with each other after I read two books to them. I was blown away with how well they shared with each other! They had never seen a book before in their lives. One little boy that I met back in 2012, named John Kiyonga, read an entire book in English that he’d never seen. It was hard to record him reading because it brought tears to my eyes knowing the adversity he’d overcome to go to school back in 2012 to the struggle of learning English in school on top of the other subjects (Swahili, math…). God used my wrestling and struggling with Him to be able to see kids across the world have a love of learning and an excitement for reading! I also remember learning that I need to slow down and trust God, otherwise you might miss out on something small but monumental that He wants you to learn or experience! If I had been in Nakepokon showing the Jesus film, I would have missed this opportunity! When I arrived back in the States, I knew that God had called me to more. He had called me to collect school supplies for the schools in Namariat and the new school in Nakepokon as well as to work on my leadership skills. He gave me a glimpse into what it was like for ELLs (English Language Learners) to learn in school which is what half of my upcoming first grade class would be comprised of. God taught me patience and other strategies during the year to use not only with my ELLs in my class but to use when I returned to Turkana in summer (2015). At the end of the 2014-2015 school year, I sent out a schoolwide email asking the teachers to donate any unused school supplies for me to take back to Kenya a few weeks after school let out. Taking that step out in faith, God blew me away with the amount of supplies donated! There were so many supplies that my team was unable to take them all over, and I still have a suitcase full for a team to take this summer! I was asked to help co-lead a team, but God allowed me to lead the team on my own because my co-leader was in Turkana with another team for the beginning of the trip. I was challenged and forced to take the leadership role God had placed me in, which caused me to truly rely on Him for strength. I remember God reminding me that He brought me thus far and would continue to guide me, all I needed to do was to call on Him for strength and ask Him when I needed wisdom and guidance! I remember asking Him for the words to say when I went out for the last day of evangelism, and He had given them to me that morning when I had done my quiet time. I remember asking Him for the topic and the words to speak during a women’s discipleship training meeting and He did while I was washing dishes. By learning to truly rely on God and trusting Him for strength and wisdom in positions He’s called me to, I have found peace! I have come to love the people of Turkana like my family! Like I said during our debriefing meeting there, Turkana is my second home and they are my family! As the first grade chair at my school, I have learned to seek God when I don’t have the words to say and for decisions I need to make. I have learned to let God work through my weaknesses (speaking to adults and my peers) and having to interact with people I have never met or worked with before. He has caused me to seek Him for how to handle difficult circumstances and interactions with people that have come about. I have learned to follow God’s prompting to give a friend, family member, or co-worker some encouragement. I have also learned to step back and slow down. I have learned to go home and my work will still be there the next day. I have learned to break up my due dates and work over several days versus trying to do it all at once. Ultimately, I have learned that above all, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and I am important! God can use all of us if we are willing to let Him step in and relinquish control! He has a plan for our lives, we just have to be willing to surrender to Him and seek Him first! “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” --Isaiah 41:10

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