For my wife and I the adventure began nearly 18 months ago. Leading a missions trip was something we prayed about and was high on our list of dream to-do’s but like many people, jobs & scheduling remained a constant hurdle. It wasn’t until a radical shift in my career and the encouragement from close friends that we applied and were offered the opportunity to lead a team from McLean Bible Church with New Hope Initiative to Tanzania & Kenya.
As both of us have been part of short term mission teams in the past we spent much of our preparation time with the team focusing on how this two-week experience could usher in lasting change within their lives instead of just a flash-in-the-pan spiritual moment. This was reinforced once we arrived in country and Sandy Baird, the director of New Hope Initiative, spoke to the same ideal and challenged each team member to dig deep and see where God was inspiring them through this trip. Little did we know that the preparations and those conversations with Sandy would end up challenging us in ways that we are still unraveling and seeing where God is leading us.
For many of you reading this you have been on a trip with NHI or you know someone that has. So I have a challenge for you - when you come back or when you have the opportunity to sit down with someone that went take the time to dig a little deeper – beyond the safari tour, the souvenirs, the foods consumed and the always prerequisite bathroom question – ask them How did He inspire you? There is a chance that you or the friend you are asking may not know at that exact moment but maybe there is a glimpse of an idea or their heart has clearly been burdened to make a change. In any of these cases, accountability is a strong tool and I encourage you to take the time to follow up and pray with them or find someone that can become a partner in prayer and a sounding board for ideas.
While some ideas may involve NHI - and we truly hope that many of you will sponsor a student through Penda, share the mission of Project Biashara, or help serve in some capacity within an active project - but in addition, hopefully the inspiration will also hit close to home as you are likely going to spend 50 weeks over the next year there as opposed to Arusha or Kibera. For some it may become evident that the mission field God has placed in your path at this moment may not be as far as Africa, India or South America but maybe the next cubicle, the next door neighbor or the orphan in the city that needs a shoulder to lean on.
So how did He inspire us? We feel blessed and incredibly challenged to say that God inspired a lot in us through our time in East Africa – many ideas we are still processing through and others that we are currently in the midst of. For starters, it wasn’t less than a week after we returned from our first trip that we knew we wanted to go back. It was clear to us that God was not finished working on our hearts to serve the ‘least of these’ and as of this writing we have just wrapped up leading our second trip back to Kenya & Tanzania within a year. As anyone that has lead a mission’s team knows, sometimes the greatest moments can come when seeing a change in others and we have had the amazing opportunity to watch six young adults from our first team embrace the ideas that God inspired in them - some within NHI and in other local ministries. But we are also filled with even more excitement as we have the chance to ask five other young adults that we just returned with the same thing we want you to ask yourselves and those returning from trips this summer – How did He inspire you?
By TJ Walter - New Hope Initiative Board Member