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building a community to reach a community

Not a Missionary

I have many dreams. To write a book. Go back to school for another Master's or possibly a Ph.D. Hike to Macchu Pichu. To someday be a wife and serve the Lord with my husband. One big dream is to travel the world. Not just see it, but behold it. I've been fortunate to travel quite a bit already; I even spent a year of my life living and teaching in Japan.

Maybe as a form of gratitude or humility or worship for the life I’ve been given, I have one more dream: to serve God in a globally missional capacity, and make a difference for His Kingdom on earth.

Now, I'm not a missionary. Yes, as followers of Christ we are all missionaries but I’m not a missionary in the traditional sense.Yet for a long time I've dreamt about living in a developing country. You could say I've romanticized it a bit as I’ve reflected on Jesus’ example of genuinely engaging "the least of these" in love and compassion.

Only one month has passed since I stepped off the plane in Africa to teach with Samaritan’s Purse. Things I love: the beach, Liberian English, eating Fufu, and living in a country run by a woman. Things I’m getting used to: really big bugs, spicy foods, and the fact that most children don’t even know their own birthday. I'm writing to you from one of the world’s poorest countries. I did not bring myself here. I’m not here by accident. God chose this time and place for me.

Liberia is a tiny country in West Africa. It's the only African country never to be colonized, and the only African country ever to have a female President. Founded as a state for emancipated slaves after our Civil War, it's been dubbed "America's Stepchild." Once freed, former slaves were allowed to return "home" to Africa. Half the population is under 15 years of age. The unemployment rate is 85% and 60% are illiterate.Many are still picking up the pieces from a savage civil war that raged in the 90s. Today its infrastructure is virtually non-existent, leaving Liberia a harsh, impoverished, corrupt, and dark place, historically and culturally.

So how do I fit into all this? What does a young, single, inexperienced teacher, with no-international-development-background, first-time-living-in-a-third-world-country, girl from Tennessee have to offer a place of such brokenness? My job is to support the mission of Samaritan's Purse by educating the children of our field staff, but I often wonder how I am going to make a real difference from the classroom.

Samaritan’s Purse is here to share Christ by providing aid to victims of disaster, war, poverty, and disease - arriving in Liberia nine years ago. They've been instrumental in a number of community development projects - counsels for victims of rape and abuse, rehabilitation for women forced to take up arms during the war, provision of clean water for rural communities, feeding and caring for orphans, providing livestock to small villages to help jump-start small businesses.

One of our livestock managers recently said, 'You want to know how to solve any community issue? Love and sharing.' That's it, isn't it? Love your neighbor, whoever he may be, and share what you have with him. That’s what it’s about.

In her book, This Child Will Be Great, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf writes "The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."

I guess it's good then that all of my dreams seem too big. Most days they seem really out of reach. I have no idea how to achieve them. I don't know if I'm smart, disciplined, talented, or capable enough to accomplish them all.

I believe God gives us big desires. I also believe He fulfills those desires when we are faithful to seek Him. I’m ever in awe of how I got here, yet there are still times when I question what it is I’m doing or why I’m here. I challenge myself and us all to remember these simple truths:

  • Christ qualifies us to share in the inheritance of His Kingdom (Colossians 1:12)
  • Remain confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6)
  • We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)
  • If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes (Mark 9:23)

These are the foundational truths on which I rest my dreams and my life.

Steffani Taylor

 


You can follow Steffani in her adventures in Liberia through her blog.

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