A few months ago, I was in Europe for a study abroad program. It was there that God really took hold of my life and my heart in the most unexpected of ways. I was able to contact the CFC-FFL in Italy and Austria and witness the Holy Spirit so alive in them. They renewed my love for the community and rekindled a fire within me for the beautiful mission and vision given to us by God.
During one of my last days there, I was asked by an MV from Vienna if I wanted to serve at a youth camp in Nigeria. I thought she was joking around, but she assured me she was serious. I believe at that moment, God planted a tiny seed in my heart. As crazy as the idea sounded, I knew it was not impossible, as long as it was completely in God’s will for it to happen; this was the reoccurring message He kept revealing to me almost daily during my three month stay in Europe. Although my trip was ending, I knew it was only the beginning of God’s challenge for me to place my complete trust in His hands and allow His plan for me to be revealed.
Weeks after I came back to Seattle, serving in Nigeria was again brought up. My heart felt as if God was chasing me with the idea, and He would not stop until I accepted to do my part. I can be very soft spoken and shy especially when it comes to talking about what I want, but this time I knew that God placed a desire in me that had to be known. He gave me the grace to be assertive about it, and little by little, I asked my family and closest friends to pray for me. My parents quickly said, “No,” but the Spirit was disturbing my heart to keep asking. I told them to pray a novena with me, right up to our YFL/SFL conference in Dallas, lifting up my service in Nigeria. They agreed, and the prayers worked! Hours before my flight, my parents gave me the ok along with their utmost support, and I gave my “yes” to those coordinating the mission. By the time I got back from Dallas, the process for my visa application was being started and CFC-FFL throughout the world were figuring out the funding for my airfare. At that point, I surrendered it all to Christ. During Mass and Adoration, He affirmed me of His greatness, His love, and His plan for me. He told me to never doubt His power. He is God, and of course He has the power to provide and answer my prayers; the only thing is if it’s in His will to do so. If yes, praise God. If no, praise God! I knew that with or without me, the camp was already God’s victory.
One week before my scheduled departure, my ticket was bought thanks to the generosity and support of the community! I was in complete shock, speechless. All I could say was thank you to our good Lord and my prayer warriors, but within that week, oppression already started to happen. Hurricane Irene was going up the east coast, cancelling flights in and out of JFK where I was supposed to have a stopover. At the same time, Abuja, the city I would be in, was bombed, killing 18 people. At that point, I had to surrender once again. It was all in God’s hands. Right up until very late Sunday night, I did not know if I would be going. I was packing with uncertainty, ready for the airlines to say my flight was cancelled or that it was too unsafe to let foreigners into Nigeria.
Through God’s grace and protection, I left Monday morning as scheduled. As the plane was landing in Abuja, the first thing I noticed was how red the soil of the landscape was along with the vibrant green of the plants thriving all over. Red soil is rich and fertile, but the ground here is also uneven, filled with potholes and construction. How symbolic of the Nigerians! Just as with their soil, despite the “potholes” in their lives, it is in the people’s very nature to be rich in God’s Spirit, thirsting for more, and ready for their spiritual lives to thrive just as the green plants of the land. What an affirmation of how God was planting seeds in a nation ready to grow and be harvested.
Upon arrival, I was told VL Ramos, my counterpart for the mission, would not be arriving until a day before the camp due to cancelled flights from Malawi and Kenya – oppression after oppression. Praise God though because he came safely a day earlier than expected and somehow even without an entrance visa.
We were ready to begin the preparations for camp, but not without the expected complications. We did not have the usual supplies at hand, my laptop would crash whenever I would use it for camp documents, the power went out at least three times when we were printing nametags, etc. Even during camp, despite all the planning and organizing, the difficulties did not end. We arrived at the campsite three hours late, the dinner was not ready for the participants, the venue could not accommodate everyone in one room for the sessions so we met outside with no lights and no sound system, the guitar only had five strings…the list goes on! When we finally had some lamps and a sound system outside, the power went out! It seemed everything that could go wrong, went wrong!
All the while, we remained faithful and continued on with the camp. I knew God was at work because we were expecting 50-60 participants, but instead He brought us 77 youth, all excited to be there despite hours of travel (some up to 10 hours) and being so tired and hungry. As God had assured me before, all these youth were already filled with the joy and excitement of His Spirit; they were fertile soil ready to have seeds planted in them, ready to grow, ready to be harvested.
Praise God for the CFC-FFL and SFL members of Nigeria. It was really them that spearheaded the camp planning due to their love for God and their hope for the youth. Uncle Benedict, YFL Coordinator, said, “There’s a strong need and desire for the Nigerian youth to be empowered by Christ because without Christ, we are nothing.” Hearing this reminded me that it’s not about promoting the community or evangelizing for the sake of numbers but truly doing God’s work in the countries that we have been called to – simply following God’s calling for the CFC-FFL community to “renew the face of the earth”.
I can’t explain to you the joy I saw in the youths’ faces or the joy I felt in my heart. Their smiles, their laughs, their singing and dancing radiated Christ. We had our camp schedules, but every moment was improvised by the Spirit. God was leading and inspiring every moment. I am completely certain that VL and I, along with the couples and singles, were simply tools and vessels for our Lord.
On Saturday, the priest who agreed to hold confession did not come, but God provided us with another one just a few hours later. On Sunday, it was raining so hard that we had to have Mass in the narrow hallway of the venue. Imagine almost 100 people uncomfortably packed into a hallway! Yet none of the weekend’s oppression mattered because during the dedication ceremony on Sunday, the youth stood with such conviction, hands raised in the air because they knew the Holy Spirit had come into them during Saturday night’s Baptism. You could physically see the desire in their hearts to become better sons and daughters of God.
Brothers and sisters, I ask you to pray for them with me. Their hearts are so on fire with the Holy Spirit, but like any of our areas, they too need tending. The harvest is plenty but the laborers few! When I leave Nigeria, I can only be their prayer warrior thousands of miles away, but I am begging to God that He provides for them the pastoral workers they need. They are His beautiful children who know their worth as His creations and deserve the best in order to continue on their new journey with Him. More than 77 lives were changed this weekend. We told them this camp was just the beginning, and I pray we hold true to that. So much is at stake – their lives, their country, and ultimately their souls are on the line; this is how serious we must take our mission!
God has not failed to speak throughout my time here:
1. Be certain that everything leading up to this moment of your life is because of God’s hand. Know that our God is a very timely and purposeful God. Even the smallest details contribute to His greater plan for you.
2. Every oppression is every opportunity to trust in our Lord. In fact, take it as a sign that the devil is just so fearful of God’s already claimed victory. Our God is always victorious!
3. Remain steadfast. Be vigilant. Never stop praying.
4. Be aware (and not afraid) of the desires He plants in your heart.
5. Follow wherever the Holy Spirit leads you, and just say yes! Don’t question how, when, where, or why He calls you!
6. ALWAYS be in awe of our majestic and glorious yet ever so loving God.
7. Stay joyful. God is on our side – that is enough reason to smile. We are truly blessed!
Praise God, praise God, praise God! I cannot say it enough! I have been so humbled by this mission trip, still in awe of the way God works and loves especially through the support and hospitality shown by this community. I don’t know what else God has in store for me, nor do I know where in the world He’ll take me next (literally!). All I know is that He is teaching me to love like Him: sacrificially and unconditionally.
May Your Kingdom come, and Your will be done, O Lord.
To You be the glory, now and forever.