You pointed me out almost immediately and as I watched you walk up to me with your big brown eyes, I just held you in my arms and could not describe the feelings you gave me. We instantly became best friends, bonding over selfies and the Doc McStuffins coloring book I gave you. In that moment, your presence was my worship to God, a God who created both you and I in His image and planned for the day we met in Burkina Faso.
Just over 2 years ago, I met my sponsor child while my husband and a group from our church visited West Africa on a missions trip. Kenny and I were sponsoring two children at the time, a boy named Barkwende and a girl named Kadidia. We were married September of that year and asked our guests to forego giving us wedding presents and donate to our trip instead. In December, we hopped on a fully funded flight courtesy of our generous guests, to meet our kids and also experience some life-changing things during the entirety of our missions trip.
We began in Niamey, Niger where we served at a missionaries conference. We were helping in student ministries--though I weaseled myself into helping out with the babies in the nursery the majority of my time. We had both been there previously and had developed relationships with many of the families living there so it became more of a reunion. Though I was inspired by people who had given up their lives to serve and spread the Word in Niger, a predominantly muslim country, I was really anxious for our quick trip to the neighboring country of Burkina Faso.
An 8 hour drive on African bush roads lead us to Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso. The city itself is bigger than Seattle, with a population of 1.5 million. We were able to sightsee and go shopping in the city as well as meet some of the people working with Compassion International at the Burkina Faso center. They would be responsible for setting up our meeting with our Kadidia and Barkwende.
The day finally came and both Kadidia and Barkwende recognized us from the photos we had sent them. I felt overwhelmed, years of sending and receiving letters from these children and they were right in front of me! Hugging me and playing with me. Kadidia and I easily slipped into the roles of sassy pants and without hesitation bossed the boys around, making sure their hands got washed before lunch time and that their dishes were put away afterwards while the boys eased into their role as the rowdy ones.
Soon after our day of play, we got the best gift I could’ve asked for. We were taken to their homes. We sat with Barkwende and his family, drank water from their cups, and prayed with his dad. At Kadidia’s, we got to see what her home looked like, we got to hug her mother and meet her siblings.
We returned to Niger for another day and a half before our flight back home. During worship at the evening church service on the missionary compound, I was flooded with emotion. Full, heavy, thick emotions. I was grateful, I was humbled, I was in love. I literally felt my heart breaking from gladness and awe in God. How he blessed me with a glimpse of the purity of heaven through my encounter with these two precious kids. Kids who played and laughed like the kids in America, but lived in an opposing world. Kids who had no push for an influence of Christ in their lives, however found Compassion, found Jesus and in turn we found them and now we are connected and more blessed by them than we ever thought possible. Kids in Africa--African kids, who like me belong to Africa as much as they belong to the kingdom of Heaven. Kids who would change the direction of my worldview forever.
In that moment of joy, I knew that my tears were my worship to God. My worship to God doesn’t come in song, or in music--thankfully, because there is not a singing bone in this body, but in service. As a lover of worship, I love listening to what worship leaders have to say about the act of worship itself. As performers I’ve heard that being able to lead people in response to God’s greatness through song is their ministry and their worship. And, in that moment I was thankful for their ability to sing what I was feeling, to express what I had no way of showing other than an overflow of tears.
The song that broke me was Oceans by Hillsong. It wasn’t very new then, but was making its rounds in churches all over the world. I’d heard it before, but something about being oceans away from home made those lyrics more than just that, it made it my response to Christ’s call over my life to serve.
“In oceans deep... where faith may fail…” is where we meet Jesus and our lives are blessed, changed, transformed, rocked... all of the above.