by Daniel Norton, Central Leadership Intern
The first time I went on a mission trip, I lost my mind! No joke, you could ask many of my friends at the time, and they would tell you I came pretty close to a nervous break down. Why is this? Well, first off, I was coming out of sixth grade and we went to one of the poorest places in the U.S. No, it wasn’t an inner city metropolis. It was on a Native American reservation in South Dakota. I’m ashamed to say it, but I was freaked out because it was the first time I felt like a minority. See, I grew up in a small town in Iowa where the population of the whole county was 99% Caucasian. This trip to South Dakota was the first place I had ever been where that percentage had been reversed. Our team arrived at the reservation ready to change the whole community.
We had just finished playing soccer with the kids of the community and were starting to settle in for the night, but the rest of the community was just waking up. The kids came pounding on the door wanting to come into the church we were sleeping in. In my mind, every possible scenario turned out badly. I started to sob and huddled into a corner, fearful of those who were on the other side of the door.
If you were to ask any of my friends, they would tell you I would be the last person to ever travel anywhere that might seem risky. When I think back on that memory, I laugh. I was so sheltered and had no idea about the adventures I would later take. Fast forward from sixth grade and now I see if I had kept that mentality of fear while hiding in the corner, I would have missed out on so many future adventures. I would never have met the woman in the Ugandan village who came running with arms wide open to welcome us to her home. I would never have met JP or the other missionaries working with Ugandan students to empower leaders for that country’s future. If I had allowed fear to control me, I would never have met Roland and his niece and nephew in Nepal. If I would have allowed fear to control me, I wouldn’t have ever gone to Cambodia and stared into the face of a child who had been trafficked or listened to the hearts of people working to save young girls from trafficking. I wouldn’t have ever known the humility of Atah or his father and their work in the mountains of Thailand. There are so many places I would have never been, and people I would have never known if I had stayed in that corner as a 6th grade boy instead of meeting the people banging on the other side of the door.
As you read this, I’ll be finishing my preparations to leave for North Africa. My stuff is packed, but I know one thing I won’t be taking with me- fear. Every time I feel fear creeping up inside of me, I remind it of Jesus who goes before me. If we want to actually go anywhere, then we have to press on through fear. If we want to follow Jesus, we have to follow Him without reservations. I have to trust that each step of each adventure I take is only a step into the place His foot was just before mine. Wherever we go, God can lead us. We’re never in the dark, far away from Jesus. If we stumble on the path a little, He is right there to catch us. If we pause for a moment because fear is creeping in, He is reaching out saying “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” I’m leaving today for another adventure, but this time I know that sixth grade boy I once was is not going with me.
“Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’” Mark 5:36
Today I and nine others from the Central Leadership Institute are traveling to North Africa. We’re going to grow in our faith with God and trust him in each adventure he leads us on. Over these next 10 days would you join with us in prayer for our experience? Let me ask one last question, what steps is fear holding you back from taking?