By MARK MAYNARD / Amy For Africa
NJERU, Uganda – Watching the engagement of newcomers on the mission field, no matter where that field may be, can be exhilarating.
They usually come into the trip carefully, promising to themselves that they will take it all in a little piece at a time.
Eventually, though, they give in to what is happening around them. That happened to a pair of Amy For Africa “newbies” on Tuesday.
We visited our El-Shaddai nursery and primary school where nearly 50 children sang to us, went through a devotion time with their teacher in front of us and then celebrated an early Christmas gift distribution where many (all?) enjoyed the gift-getting experience for the first time. They loved their presents, but their generous and heartfelt love also turned us into mush.
That was especially true for our “newbies” – pastor Mike Blankenship and Danielle Wesowloski (Amy Compston’s sister-in-law).
Mike is the pastor at Oakland Avenue Baptist Church in Catlettsburg and his mission-minded congregation has been a supporter of AFA and an annual Ecuador trip for several years. He’s felt the tug to go with us before but this time he took the plunge, and it would be his first mission trip adventure. He had been mostly reserved while participating and working as hard as anybody on the first day.
But on Tuesday when not one, not two, but three of those 3- to 5-year-old children climbed up into his lap, any defensive mechanism he was holding on to snapped. It had really snapped prior when he watched church members from Lifepoint Church washing stacks of plastic chairs with soap and water for Sunday’s service. It wasn’t half-hearted washing either. It was scrubbing. Those blue and green chairs were glistening in the morning sun.
Mike immediately went over and began stacking the cleaned chairs with them. His pastor’s heart had to appreciate what this congregation was doing, the pride they took in what God has given them and they honor they felt from doing that job. Mike marveled at how much they were doing with so little in this Third World country. It was a good lesson for us all.
Mike spoke briefly to the assembled children (and some adults) before we distributed the gifts, giving it a nice pastor’s touch, as he began warming up to the mission trip God has prepared for him. He was now all in, feet first off the high dive.
I know Mike was feeling more and more a part of the AFA team by the time the day was over. Of course, we never thought he wasn’t a part of it.
But there are those defining moments …
… Like with Danielle, who has a heart for babies like everybody else associated with Amy’s family it seems. When those tiny babies began praising God in song and dance, she couldn’t hold back the tears. She wiped her eyes and noticed the camera was on her, so she stepped back out of view. But the crying wouldn’t stop and deep down she better understood what was happening with the Amy For Africa mission, about why so much time and effort have gone into this ministry and why it’s so important to us.
When the opportunity came to interact with the children, she practically ran to them – and they ran to her. It was the perfect match. A small crowd gathered around her almost immediately and they began singing for her. She was liked the Pied Piper of Uganda. The look on her face was, well, it was why going on these mission trips are so special. The children adored her because they see the heart and hers was bursting with joy.
Mike and Danielle have now been baptized into mission work and, like others who take the journey to faraway places, they will be changed forever.
If God is calling you to serve, answer him. Nothing will ever seem the same again.