“Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Hab. 1:5). I never think about the two summers I spent in Malawi...Read More
Filtering by Tag: Influencers
Who: Michael Puckett
Where: Durban, South Africa
When: Summer 2011
What was the biggest thing you learned during your travels?
I learned that God is powerful. I saw Him work and I saw Him move. It changed my life.Read More
Who: Tiffany Dewett
Where: Manakara, Madagascar
When: August-December 2013
What was the biggest thing you learned during your travels?
The biggest thing I learned, was that God can do impossible things. I knew a little bit of Malagasy (the national language), but not much.Read More
Market Colors is partnering up with one of our favorite organizations, Children of the Nations, and promoting the campaign, If You Give a Child a Pencil. The COTN Florida Office has launched a month long campaign to send 800 SmilePacks to the Dominican Republic!Read More
Who: Erin Lawless
When: Summer 2012
What was the biggest thing you learned during your travels? I learned about people on my trip to Ghana. I learned how interrelated we all really are. We all have hopes and dreams; we all have flaws and worries. During my trip I was able to talk and connect with many different people. This was truly one of my favorite things about traveling to Ghana. People were very open to sharing their life experiences and were very interested in learning about my life. I was amazed how much I had in common with the people I met. I grew in my understanding of the world and the people in it.
A lot of people say they felt their life changed after traveling to Africa. Was this true for you? If so, how? Africa taught me to dream bigger than myself. My trip to Ghana not only changed my perspective of the world, but it inspired me to reach for dreams I didn't even know that I had. I traveled to Ghana as part of a University of Georgia study abroad program. The main project I worked on was the Ghana Community Trade Program. We met with different female entrepreneurs such as jewelry makers, master seamstresses and textile designers. We learned about their trade and purchased items to be sold in select boutiques in Athens, Georgia. Our main goal was to provide the entrepreneurs with new opportunities in which to sell their products and, hopefully, create a sustainable relationship with the boutiques in Athens. I went into the program looking to learn from the women and possibly help them strengthen their businesses, I didn't realize how impacted I would be. Seeing how hardworking, determined, and creative the women have to be to successfully run their businesses was truly amazing. They produced beautiful products with limited resources.
My experiences in Ghana inspired me to pursue a Masters degree in Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors at the University of Georgia. I studied Fabric Design for undergrad, and I was interested in learning more specifically about the textile trade and how it impacts people globally. My experiences from Ghana fuel my research and passion for this industry.
Was there a specific person/people you met that had an impact on you? One of the first people that comes to mind is a boy named Edward that I met at a children’s orphanage in Kumasi. We were helping to repaint the playground for the children, and we spent the day playing and talking with them. Edward was one of the older kids at the home, and he offered to help paint. He and I became fast friends and ended up spending the day painting together. We talked about his life dreams; he was about to graduate from high school and wanted to go to college for graphic design. He loved to sing; he taught me some local songs and we sang some songs together that we both new. My group ended up taking him and his friend to a local soccer match where we all had a great time. I learned so much about Edward’s life in that short period of time and I will never forget him. We come from two different worlds but we became friends so easily. He is the same age as my brother and it was crazy to see both the similarities and differences of their lives.
Who: Allee Rodenbaugh Where: Kaabong, Uganda When: Summer of 2012
What was the biggest thing you learned during your travels? I learned that our goal should be God Himself, not joy, or happiness, or peace, or even blessing, but Himself. And if we submit to that calling as Christians every moment of every day, the result will be true obedience. Working with a people group who is desperately lost, I was challenged to find joy, not in my circumstances or ministry successes, but in the living and faithful God.
A lot of people say they felt their life changed after traveling to Africa. Was this true for you? If so, how? Absolutely. Now, I wouldn't say Africa changed me. I would say the gospel did. I had been to Africa before this trip, and in that time I experienced the overwhelming joy of seeing Africans who knew Jesus and lived with reckless abandon to the gospel. It was life-altering to see people who physically had nothing but were spiritually full of God’s word and the joy that comes from knowing Jesus. This trip was different than that. The Karamojong were spiritually dead. They didn’t know Jesus, and they found their joy in Friday night village raids, like Americans find joy in Friday night football games. But in the midst of it all, I got to witness the power of the gospel bringing light to the lost and lonely, which I believe is the most beautiful thing that can be seen here on earth.
It opened my eyes to the unreached and the need for the gospel to go to the ends of the earth. It was a reality check that this life is fleeting, and Jesus didn’t give us life so that we could live how we want. He died to set us free, and experiencing that freedom leads us to desire to see other people have that same hope. I think Jesus is still using this experience a year later to convict my heart to remember that the gospel demands everything, and the Lord is engineering my circumstances... so I have no other option to depend on Jesus and allow his Spirit to work in me and through me.
Was there a specific person/people you met that had an impact on you? An elderly woman named Longolomae. One day while heading to town, my teammates stumbled across a woman hanging herself in the distance. She hadn’t been hanging for long enough to kill herself, so they did all they could to get her down and try to find help. They took her to the hospital, and the hospital rejected her, saying, “She wanted to die, let her die.” So instead, we took her in. We sat and prayed with her, and tried to feed her and make her better.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we found out through a long string of events that a wicked man had stolen all of her land and crops. It was all she had, leaving her hopeless, so she tried to take her life. But God engineered it so that my teammates would stumble across her at the exact right time that morning.
The Lord put a heavy burden on my heart for Longolomae. For the rest of my trip, I would walk to her village, bringing her water and biscuits. We didn’t speak the same language, so at times it was difficult. But I prayed that the light of Jesus would be revealed to her. To this day she still does not know Jesus as her Savior. But I am reminded of his unfailing love by His grace that he extends to her daily, even though her heart is hardened. Every day I pray that the Holy Spirit would change her heart, and reveal to her the hope of Jesus!
As we continue our series sharing personal stories from individual's time in Africa, we bring you Katie, who spent time in Malawi and learned more about what it means to be Christ's Church from a group of mothers and widows.
Who: Katie Kuykendall Where: Malawi When: 2011
What was the biggest thing you learned during your travels? Geography does not change our call to be the Church—the hands and feet of Christ to a broken world. It should not matter if the people around you are part of your congregation, your community, or your culture. We are called to love.
A lot of people say they felt their life changed after traveling to Africa, was this true for you? If so, how? My life has definitely changed since this trip! Specifically, Malawi changed my perspective about community. One of my favorite parts of this trip was getting to see how Malawians live, work, and play with each other. The people we spent time with live in small huts just a few feet apart from each other, surrounded by family and neighbors. In many cases, school, church, and the market are within walking distance. They share resources with each other like bowls, buckets, and brooms. They share meals together. Daily chores like laundry become group activities. Everyone cares for each other’s children (for free!) They are deeply involved in each other’s lives.
My team spent a day getting to know some of the families and helping them with their daily tasks. I sat outside one modest house—the home of a single mom with several kids, one of which was suffering from malaria—peeling flowers for their meal. I watched the women around me talk, hug, and help each other as they cared for their families like all moms do. But unlike other moms, these women did it together. They bear each other’s burdens. Until I saw it carried out practically, I never realized what we’re missing in our culture. Do we really experience what it means to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ?
That sense of community manifested itself in intangible ways, too. I remember piling into a van with my team, and the Malawians who were helping us after a long day of service. The team was quiet and tired—not feeling very chatty as the van bounced down a dirt road, heading back to where we were staying to have dinner. But I watched the Malawians together at the front of the van, laughing and smiling, sharing pleasant conversation together. Then they started to sing—softly at first, growing louder until their worship filled the van. They’d spent the day taking care of malnourished, impoverished kids and this team of Americans, but all they wanted to do at the end of a hard day was enjoy each other and worship their God together. They didn’t complain about the work and the heat. And they didn’t jump in the car and immediately crank the radio up or get on their smart phones. It was such an effortless illustration of people that genuinely love each other. I saw these glimpses of the Acts church unfold right in front of me throughout my time in Malawi, and I envied their intimacy. I want that for the American Church.
Was there a specific person/people you met that had an impact on you? I will never forget the women in the widows program! They struck me because, truthfully, they are living one of my greatest fears, and they do it with such grace and strength. I learned so much about perseverance and faith from them. They are mothers who love fiercely, and strong women who endure much and give much of themselves every single day to support their families. During a ceremony at the end of my trip, I had the honor and privilege of washing the head widow’s feet.
Have you spent time in Africa? We would love to hear your story and have the chance to feature it on our blog! Email Grace, email@example.com, for more info.
As we continue our series we are excited to have Kaylee, our current Outreach & Marketing intern, share about her time in Kenya and the impact it has had on her life.
Who: Kaylee Schmitt Where: Kenya When: Summer 2010, 2011, and 2012
Many people have rightly said that Africa will steal a piece of your heart, and for me, I feel that I've left a huge portion of it there. The past three summers I've spent in Kenya have radically changed my life and set me on a path I would never have imagined would be my future. I’m overwhelmed every day at the grace and magnificent love of God to have such greater plans for me than I could ever dream of myself. In the summer of 2010, I went to Kenya for the first time when I was invited by a young missionary to serve with a local church in the small town of Murang’a. I was completely unaware of just how much the trip would change me. At a time in my life when I was doing things my own way, I was a bit apprehensive at first, but after seeing the miraculous way God orchestrated and provided everything in such a short time, I knew I was supposed to go.
I can’t explain how it felt landing in Nairobi that night, looking out the window and seeing so few city lights and noticing the exotic smells that met us when we stepped off the plane. And even though the lifestyle proved to be so different from our lives here in America, I immediately fell in love with every bit of the rich culture and history, the beautiful languages, and the genuine love people expressed for each other. I was so moved by the way the people worship so freely and unreservedly with dancing, shouting, and pounding of drums, with tears rolling down their faces in praise to God despite the hardships they were facing and the horrible things they may have experienced. Hearing some of their stories humbled me and each time I got to hold another precious child, I would fall in love all over again. I realized by the end of those three weeks that somehow and someway, I would get to see all my new friends again.
The next summer, I went back for three months by myself and was able to go and serve at many other orphanages and schools around the country, traveling all the way to the coastal town of Malindi for a week to spend time at an amazing children’s home there. The week spent with those inspiring kids created an intense passion in my heart to somehow make an impact in the lives of orphans in the country. That passion continued to grow and as I went to Kenya again the following summer with my sister and a few friends, it seemed God’s destiny for my life was sealed.
There have been many people in Kenya who've made an impact on my life. One shy young boy, John, has found a special place in my heart. He has lived at the orphanage in Murang’a for all his life and even though communication between us is difficult (since he mainly speaks Kikuyu), it is true that God’s love transcends our language differences. I’ve been able to watch him grow these past three years and I’m so excited for the young man he will become. His infectious laughter brings a smile to everyone he meets, and for now, he’s content to blow bubbles, color pictures, and take silly photos with my camera. I’ve learned that these fleeting moments with the kids are a small glimpse at the heart of God and the beauty that is always around us when we stop and open our eyes. John’s life is a testimony of God’s faithfulness to care for orphans and I am so thankful to be a part of his life.
This next year will be marked by big changes as I marry my best friend and move to Kenya to continue on the journey that God has set for my life but I will never forget the experiences and the amazing people that have changed my life along the way.
You may have noticed that we've been highlighting individuals who have spent time in Africa on the blog recently, like Molly and Amanda. Our newest story is from Tim, who shares a bit of insight with us from his time in South Africa.
Who: Tim Bergsma Where: South Africa When: 2011
What was the biggest thing you learned during your travels? The biggest thing I learned is that no matter what barriers and walls our sin puts up, God can knock them down. This became so apparent to be during one of the days. South Africa has a rough history when it comes to social justice with the apartheid ending during most of our lifetimes. This causes an unbelievable divide between the white South Africans and the black South Africans. Due to the generations of injustice by the political system, a white guy is not easily trusted in most of the townships. This barrier, however, was broken down by a simple soccer ball. God was able to use the game of soccer through my trip – to allow us to quickly earn the trust of the people in these communities, which in turn allowed us to spread Christ in the townships.
A lot of people say they felt their life changed after traveling to Africa, was this true for you? If so, how? I don’t think it is possible to experience another culture so different from your own and not be changed in some way. I constantly am reminded of how lucky I am and also how much stuff I have, especially in comparison. It is easy to get caught up in that, but where the real good comes in is not valuing my possessions, but rather valuing people. In South Africa, we were able to get away from all the ‘stuff’ of our culture and focus on bonding with people and loving and being loved. This is what sticks with me even now. Stuff is so pointless, but people matter so we need to use every opportunity to invest in people and sometimes that means turning off the TV, but other times it may be using the technology and possessions we have been blessed with in order to connect with individuals in ways we otherwise couldn’t.
Was there a specific person/people you met that had an impact on you? There were many. We would run into kids who all taught me unique things, but the person who has had the longest impact in my life was a Afrikaner named Lourens. During my three weeks there, we became so incredibly close. I have never bonded with another individual as quickly as Lourens. He was the type of guy who had experienced it all and was so dialed in and on fire to serve those in his community and those less fortunate than him. He would stay back after meals and compile the scraps that were left behind to take to homeless people on the way home. He was always looking out for other people and always looking to make the most of every situation.
Interested in sharing about your time spent in Africa? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear your story.
Who: Mollie MitchellWhere: Namibia and Malawi When: 2002 (Namibia); 2009, 2011, 2012-present (Malawi)
What was the biggest thing you learned during your travels? During my first trip to Africa as a seventeen-year-old, I was struck by how, at the core, people are the same no matter where they live. Before traveling to Africa, when I had only read about and seen pictures of people in African countries, I tended to put Africans in a box of being completely different from me. As I spent time talking to and serving alongside Namibians in 2002, I saw clearly that, no matter what country or culture we are from, we all have hopes, disappointments, fears, challenges, and a desire to know that we are loved. Now that I have been living in Malawi and working at a high school for the past six months, it is more apparent than ever that teenagers everywhere desire to be known, want their friends to like them, act silly and love being crazy while trying to appear cool, and are trying to learn how to make their own choices for their lives.
A lot of people say they felt their life changed after traveling to Africa. Was this true for you? If so, how?When I was in Namibia, I realized in a new way how important and powerful prayer is. When I returned to the US, I committed to getting up early each morning to spend time in prayer with my mom, who had also been on the trip to Namibia. To this day, prayer holds a very important place in my life.
Ultimately, my trips to Namibia and Malawi led me to fall in love with the African culture and people. I decided to dedicate a year or more of my life invested in an opportunity that melds my love for Africa with my heart for education. Presently, I am living in Malawi, serving as an education consultant with Children of the Nations.
Was there a specific person/people you met that had an impact on you? There are so many children and adults who have impacted my life, especially since I have been living in Malawi long-term. However, my heart will always have a very special place for my sponsor son, Alfred. While I was preparing for my first trip to Malawi in 2009, my seventh grade students in the US decided to help me sponsor a ten-year-old boy. Together, we supported and prayed for Alfred. When I travelled to Malawi, I had the opportunity to meet Alfred, give him letters from my American students, and tell him how we were praying for him. Now that I am working at a Malawian high school and see first-hand what a difference education makes in the life of a Malawian child, I want so much for my sponsor son to have this opportunity. I am praying for Alfred and encouraging him to do his best in school because one day I want to see him graduate from college.
If you'd like to keep up with Mollie's story while she is in Malawi you can also check out her personal blog.
We have started a new blog series entitled Journals From Africa. These blogs will highlight stories from men and women who have spent time in Africa. These stories will come from those who have lived there, travelers who have visited on a mission trip, and others who’ve worked overseas.
Who: Grace Ingram (Market Colors Intern) Where: Malawi When: June 2011
What was the biggest thing you learned during your travels?
That I have a heart for Africa. Since middle school I had felt God calling me toward missions, and I had two opportunities to do work in the Dominican Republic. Although both of those trips were meaningful for me, when I went to Malawi it felt like my second home. I didn't know I could feel so completely comfortable and experience such a sense of belonging half way around the world, but that is exactly what happened. This trip helped shape my career goal, to work for a nonprofit that battles hunger and homelessness in Africa. Working with Market Colors is such an honor because I see it as an opportunity to use my time and talents in a way that makes an impact. I don't know what my next step will be career-wise (I've just graduated from UCF this past December and currently hold two part time jobs) but I am excited for the possibilities and open to what God has in store.
A lot of people say they felt their life changed after traveling to Africa, was this true for you? If so, how?
I learned so many things through my time in Malawi but one that was immediately obvious upon returning home was how materialistic our culture is compared with the Malawians. Initially, it was hard to come back and consider spending money on anythingthat wasn't a necessity because I was so aware of how much I am already blessed. Malawi's culture is also very relationally-based and it made me acutely aware of how much a role technology plays in our communication here, often allowing us to skip the face-to-face. Having been back a year and a half now, I recognize that God has blessed me greatly and I continue to try and use the resources he has given me in ways that honor him. I have also come to value time spent with people more, and intentionally create space for that even in simple ways, like having a cell phone free lunch with a friend.
Was there a specific person/people you met that had an impact on you?
Every day on our way to Children of the Nations school in Mtsiliza, we took a bus through the village. As we drove we would pass the market, then streets of homes before finally making it to our destination. As some of you may know, Malawians (particularly children) use the term 'mzungu' to refer to us "white people". Although we were greeted by many loud, happy children yelling this when they saw us, there was one little boy in particular that my team and I looked forward to passing every day. As we'd round the last curve before coming to the COTN school, there would be a little boy no more than two years old playing in his front yard. As soon as he saw our bus he would start yelling, "Mzungu! MZUNGU!" and waving at us. The joy of this child and his welcoming nature at such a young age touched my heart and that of my teammates. He reminds me now to reach out with love and warmth to those I meet and that it only takes a small gesture to make someone feel special.