This is a story of transformation. Mine.
This is how God opened my eyes to human dignity using my travels with Children’s HopeChest to Ethiopia. This is a story about how when I took a step out of my comfort zone, God met me there in the most powerful way. This is a story of how traveling halfway around the world taught me how to open my eyes at home.
What you saw when you looked at me before was someone who had compassion for those with needs but was able to walk on without acting. An introvert who struggled with social anxiety. Someone who liked comfortable places with comfortable people. I could never have imagined where I was going to go and what I would learn when I gave God total control over my life and started on His path.
First things first…I had to actually take the first step out of my comfort zone. I was terrified to travel to a third world country with a group of people whom I hardly knew. I cried, pleaded and protested with God. Not my finest moments…But I got on that plane and WOW the Holy Spirit showed up and opened the eyes of my heart to learn some incredible things.
What I saw in Ethiopia were the most beautiful children holding my hand who wanted nothing more than to laugh and play. What I learned was that they were forced to grow up way too quickly and knew trauma, terrible pain, and loss at such a young age. I felt their innocence and heard their words–every story mattered.
I saw a beautiful single mother who loved her children. What I learned was that she was terrified from recently learning she was HIV positive. I felt her fear as we prayed and cried out to God. Her story matters.
I saw a father work long hard hours every single day. I learned that no matter how much he did, he struggled providing basic needs for his family. I felt his frustration. His story matters.
I saw a 67-year-old grandmother raise her granddaughter. What I learned was that she had lost all those that she loved the most. I felt her strength. She matters. Her story matters.
What I saw was unexplainable poverty. I learned that each face had a story and I was desperate to hear it. In doing so, my heart was ready to burst with joy, pain, and love. My eyes were open to seeing the dignity in every single person.
“I know this: These people, they are my friends. God has made it true that my joy is their joy and their pain is my pain. In this unlikely place, He has made relationship beautiful.” -Katie Davis Majors (Daring To Hope)
My transformation stirred many feelings in me and when I returned home, I began to see everyone around me in this new way. I longed to hear their stories.
During a shopping trip in a large city I saw a women on the streets with a sign. I learned they called her ‘Big Mama’ and she had been faced with very hard circumstances but I laughed, cried and prayed with her. Her story matters.
With an incredible outreach program at my church, I traveled to a housing park and spent time with a vulnerable community not very far from my house. I learned there were so many beautiful families that struggled to get basic necessities. I heard so many stories of desperation. Their stories matter and I felt right at home looking into their eyes and listening, learning, and loving.
I am so thankful that I was willing to get uncomfortable for God to change my heart and lean in to the people HE fearfully and wonderfully made. These people, their circumstances, their stories have impacted my everyday life. God placed each of them strategically in my path to help open my eyes to His amazing, redemptive, transforming glory and teach me to sit, listen and love. To tune out the noise of life and really hear people who oftentimes go unnoticed, to seek out people who have a story to tell, because we all have a story that deserves to be heard.
Jill’s post is an amazing example of how our North American partners are transformed through partnership. Learn more about what a partnership could look like for your community, here!