Our first flight on the long journey to Malawi left the Orlando airport at 4 a.m. By the time we landed and settled in at our first stop in Washington, DC, we were already groggy and hungry. A few of us found a restaurant open for a far-too-early lunch and we crammed into a small side booth for one last American meal.
We all came to that table with burdens, hurts, and weights. Even though they had looked completely different, our weeks leading up to that moment were hard and we all came clean that there were times we thought about backing out of the whole trip. But God, in his ever-caring ways, whispered to each of us to simply hold tight; there were things he was waiting to reveal to our weary hearts and all we had to do was take a step forward. And we did.
Though my first few days in that beautiful country were a blur, I will never forget the day we met the women who we'd be working with. They were from the Widow's Program created by Children of the Nations and our trip was centered around teaching them basic crafting skills—measuring, cutting, sewing, bead work—that would help them to support their families. After a joyously wild welcoming party of singing and dancing, we were split into our teaching groups and shuffled to different locations to meet with the women.
My teaching partner, Grace, and I walked into a dark, dusty house and sat on a small wooden coffee table pushed against the wall. Around us was a circle of the most delicately strong women I had ever seen. One by one, they began to tell their stories, each woven with sorrow and hardship I'd never known before. Hard work and sadness painted the lines on their faces, but when they smiled, I swear the joy that beamed from them could light up even the darkest spaces. Throughout their stories, they intentionally soaked their pain in praise and let grace pour over their mourning until all you could see was Christ. Whether they know it or not, those faithful women taught me about surrendering my messy story and letting the greatest Author we know rewrite it to be defined by unearned grace and redemption.
As I laid in bed that evening, it became clear that that was what God wanted to reveal to me on this trip. He wanted me to witness the tiniest glimmer of what the Lord's table will look like—surrounded by sisters (and brothers) whose stories have shaped us to look so unique, yet each of our hearts identically ring with the clearest truth. To show me that despite our differing circumstances, we are all in need of grace and we serve a God who pours it out joyfully.
I truly believe that it's not until we step out of our comfort zones (and in my case, continent), that God can reveal more of himself and his Kingdom to us. He is big and moving and wants us to take his hand and step into something bigger than ourselves. And this will look so different for each one of us, but it begins ever-so-simply with one step forward.
We would love to have you join us for one of our upcoming trips to Africa. The application deadline is approaching soon. Find out details and apply here.
Laura "L.J." Judy is the Designer/Photographer for Summit Church. She's called Summit home for about six years; you've probably seen her around serving in Base Camp, leading worship at Waterford, or with a camera in front of her face serving on our Media Team. If you have any questions for her about her trip to Africa, how to get involved creatively at Summit, or just to say "hey, the looks and images around this place are top notch, thanks." you can email her at email@example.com.