Welcome Shelia Stovall to my back porch today. She graciously agreed to share about her time in Niger.
I have been blessed to travel to Niger, Africa on mission trips three times in the past three years. It’s hard for me to believe I’ve done this because I’m not the missionary type. I’m not a Bible scholar. I don’t like to sweat, (the temperature has exceeded 100 ° on past trips), and I don’t enjoy getting dirty. I’m a librarian and have lived most of my life in a small rural community in Kentucky. Who am I to travel to the ends of the earth to share the gospel? The short answer is that I am a Christian. Jesus didn’t call me to go; he commanded.
Any Christian, who is healthy and can walk long distances can do what I do. There is nothing special about me. If the opportunity to travel on a foreign mission team is presented to you, I ask you to pray about it.
When I saw a bulletin board notice regarding a 10-day mission trip to Africa, I immediately dismissed the idea. Then a valued friend asked me to pray about it, and my prayer went something like this. It’s too expensive. It’s too far from home. I don’t speak the language. What can we accomplish in 10 days? That doesn’t sound like a prayer does it?
One of my excuses for not going was the expense, but the cost is comparable to renting a three bedroom condo on the beach for a week. It all boiled down to me being willing to sacrifice a vacation for a mission trip and being afraid. I finally prayed, “God, if you want me to go to Africa, you are going to have to change me, and I’m willing to be changed.” And the miracle is that not only did God take away my fear, he convinced my husband to join the mission team, too.
During our last trip, I stood on a slight hill looking down on a village that had never been visited by missionaries. The name of Jesus had probably never been said aloud in this desolate place. I could see two men wearing tunics, standing in front of a mud brick building. I said a prayer and studied my sandaled, dirty feet and felt like I was walking into the book of Acts. How had a woman who had grown up in a small church in Auburn, Kentucky ended up in Africa?
I am changed by each trip as God continues to remove the scales from my eyes, and I am thankful for his patience with me. If you too are afraid to travel to a foreign country, consider the morning news. There is no safe place. I can understand being uncomfortable travelling to a population that is 99.9% Muslim where everyone is a different race. I can assure you strangers in your hometown will be less receptive to hearing about Jesus than the people I’ve met in Africa. In America, the door might not be answered, or even slammed in your face. In Africa, I have been treated as an honored guest as the people listen to Bible stories.
My 2015 trip is uncertain at this point. My friends wonder if I’m crazy to consider returning with the Ebola virus threat. Ebola is not in Niger yet, but what if it does spread? What if thousands die having never heard His name waiting for someone, anyone, to tell them about a savior? What if I’d been born in Africa, waiting for someone to tell me about Jesus? Virtually everyone in Niger has never heard the name of Jesus.
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of who they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written. How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14-15
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38.
To read about my trips to Africa, you can read other posts at www.sheliastovall.com
I fell so blessed to have Shelia share about her mission trips. Here are a few pictures.
The group visited an orphanage in Niamey run by Good Samaritan. They distributed backpacks with school supplies and soccer jerseys on their 2013 trip.
Shelia's group conducted VBS in one of the few churches in Niger. The cross on the little boy's neck was one of their craft projects.
One more picture today. Here they are worshiping at a house church in Niamey.
Next time I'll share more of Shelia's pictures from Africa.