The following article is featured in the November issue of Myers Park Magazine.
By Jerri Webb and Lisa Cope
Leaving can be a hard thing to do. Stepping out of our comfort zone and fully trusting God to accomplish things in us that we never thought possible is a chance we don’t always take. But something changes when we say “yes” and GO. Which is what we did. On our June departure day, as our mission team gathered at Charlotte-Douglas airport, we tried to muster up confidence that we really could be used by God to make a difference in Africa. It wasn’t our plan to paint walls or repair roofs. Our plan was to change hearts: to bring hope and joy.
Our team of 10 women from Charlotte headed to Kenya on behalf of With Open Eyes (WOE), a global mission organization dedicated to transforming lives with the hope of Jesus Christ. WOE’s purpose is to equip indigenous pastors with transportation and other resources needed to bring the message of God’s love to previously unreachable areas around the globe. This ministry began because a young man named James Harrison harbored a great compassion for these African people. So much so that he eventually moved from the comfort and ease of Charlotte to live among those in South Sudan who desperately need help. In 2008, the “Mobile Messenger” program was launched. Today, WOE has equipped over 200 pastors with motorbikes to reach frontier areas of East Africa, and over 100 more pastors are in training.
We never fully realized the significance of a motorbike…until we went.
As we traveled from village to village ministering to women and children, we saw the poor traveling conditions. The motorbikes are truly a lifeline between pastors and remote, rural communities which lack basic human needs, including the message of hope found through Christ. We were amazed to see the difference that just one motorbike can make.
Following the path of a mobile messenger, our first stop was a school in the village of Wote. The large group of children began singing a welcome song as we approached, and their faces lit up as we greeted them, sang songs and shared Bible stories. Some with bare feet and others in ill-fitting clothes, these children have so little. Yet, their faces shone with beautiful, shy smiles.
We then traveled to the small villages of Kitui and Ngengeka. In dirt-floored churches that were established through the work of WOE, we prayed and worshipped together, encouraged one another and held two outdoor crusades. As the villagers gathered, we sensed their hunger, not for food, but for the nourishment we were offering through God’s word. The crowds listened so intently. Hearts were being changed as men, women and children gathered with mobile messengers to pray. We celebrated. As we danced with the Kenyan people, beautiful smiles spread across their faces. (We think mostly because they were so entertained by our awkward attempts to dance like them!) They felt special and loved, and we did too. We walked slowly back to our
vans, as crowds of children encircled us with newly lifted spirits. Some of them had just met Jesus for the first time.
Our team saw firsthand how putting faith into action is transformative. Emily Cope, age 14 and the youngest member of our team, brought along a guitar. She was immediately embraced by the Kenyan people, and it was beautiful to watch how God used the willing heart of a teen from Charlotte to help lead worship through music. “The experience made an imprint on my heart that will never go away,” says Emily, a student at Myers Park High School.
Dr. Jane Harrell, a Charlotte physician and Foxcroft resident, spent time with teens answering questions, mostly relating to pregnancy and STDs. Women also were offered one-on-one time with her to discuss health concerns and then were prayed for by team members. As Dr. Harrell recalls, “It’s hard to describe our trip to Kenya because God is too big and too awesome for words. I left home with an odd peace that I was supposed to be a part of the WOE team, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle remote Africa, emotionally or physically. I was speechless with tears and awe as I met with Kenyan women and teenagers and they shared their dreams and fears. Their complaints were common ones and illustrated that we are ALL the same…no matter what country, male or female, living in poverty or wealth, black or white…we are all broken and in search of God’s grace. I needed Africa more than it needed me, and I was given more hope and encouragement than I left behind.”
On the long flight home, we pondered this unlikely scenario we’d just experienced where our lives intersected with our African brothers and sisters. As Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19-20,“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end.”
We are so glad we said “YES.”
The original article can be read here.