In the final chapter of Alexandra’s story, she shares what happened when she boarded the plane for Swaziland with her teammates. This post is a little longer, but I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to put it down.
Thank you again, Alexandra, for sharing your heart and story with all of us.
Following Jesus: Part 3
by Alexandra Warwick.
“Touching the Image of Jesus”
Four months later, I sat in my bedroom at midnight feeling nauseous and terrified. I had to meet my team in six hours to travel to Chicago for our flight, and the realization of how out-of-my-comfort-zone this trip was going to be had begun to sink in. I couldn’t bring myself to sleep even though I knew it would be a long time before I’d be able to get good rest again. I stared at my computer screen where my most recent blog post, along with several comments full of encouragement looked back up at me.
One comment in particular was glued to my mind. It said, “You are about to touch the very image of Jesus.”
This post bothered me because I couldn’t figure out what those words really meant and the harder I tried to understand, the more nervous I felt.
All day I had been getting calls and messages from friends and family wishing me well. Nearly every person I talked to asked me my most dreaded question: “So, are you ready to go to Swaziland?” I began to despise hearing that question, no matter how well intentioned it was.
I just wanted to scream at everyone, “No! No! I am absolutely, one hundred percent, not ready to go!” But I knew if I said what I was really thinking, they’d tell me that maybe I should just stay home where it was safer. They’d tell me I shouldn’t do it, that I shouldn’t go if it made me feel so uncomfortable. And I knew I’d have to explain to them how I just couldn’t do that. I’d have to explain that no matter how afraid I was, no matter how uncomfortable the trip was bound to be, I had to go. I was called to go. I couldn’t have told anyone who it was calling me then, but I did know that the call was too loud and too clear for me to turn back in fear. I wasn’t ready, not at all, but I knew I had to go anyway.
I cannot begin to express how immensely glad I am that I got up at five in the morning that day, and boarded that plane to Africa with my teammates. Because, truthfully, there was nothing on this trip that I could have prepared myself for.
I tried to be ready to go to the CarePoint that first day in Swaziland, I tried to be ready to visit the children’s ward of a hospital whose standards were terrifyingly eye-opening to me, I tried to be ready to go visit the often dilapidated homesteads of many CarePoint children with my teammates and an orphanage to play with some amazingly brilliant kids, but I never was.
I felt like I was strapped onto a roller coaster of unbelievable experiences. I was never ready for that big drop to come, but I knew that I had chosen this ride and had to stick out what I had signed up for.
And suddenly, it was the last day and the children of Ludlati were singing praise songs at the top of their lungs, and dancing around with gleaming smiles on their faces. The Discpleship Team at the CarePoint tried to get the kids to go outside for a group picture, but the children would not leave the building. They just kept dancing, and singing, and seemed incapable of ending their joyful praising of all God had given them.
I heard more than a few cries of, “Thank you, thank you, Jesus!” coming from the crowd.
And as the adults slowly trickled back in to see what was going on, and we all joined the children in song and dance, I saw one of the little girls I had bonded with staring up at me. I ran to her, held her close to my chest, and as we started to dance together, I remembered the words from that comment on my blog post before I left for Swaziland.
“You are about to touch the very image of Jesus.”
And all at once, I realized what that meant.
I realized that the very image of Jesus was right there in my arms, next to me, and dancing all around me.
I realized how absolutely incredible it was that these kids, many of whom would have no food to eat until the following day when they received fortified rice at the CarePoint, and still more who had no parents to go home to, could praise God for their blessings with the utmost joy and sincerity. I realized what it meant to live on God’s grace alone, to live in constant gratitude rather than constant entitlement.
I saw the image of Jesus right before my eyes and even though I could never have said that I was ready, I accepted Him that last day at the CarePoint, sitting on a log with my teammates, covered in dirt, sweat, and tears.
I probably have never needed a shower as much as I did that day, I was sick with a terrible cold and raging ear infection, and was more tired than I can ever remember having been in my life.
My salvation was far from glamorous, but as I embraced my teammates, and heard the Bomake (the women who cook, serve, and care for the children at the CarePoint every day) clap their hands and cheer for me in delight, I knew that glamorous was just not something that Jesus ever asked anyone to be.
Today, I also realize that salvation, as beautiful as it may be, is only the beginning of a Christian life. I do not wish to diminish the importance of it, but the path ahead of me holds a far bigger challenge than accepting Jesus. This challenge is to follow Him, follow Him in caring for orphans and widows, follow him in serving brothers and sisters, friends, and yes, follow him even in practicing hospitality to my enemies. This is the challenge of unwavering faith, of radical love. This is the challenge of laying my life down, of giving to people who can never repay me, in trying to love as Jesus loved.
Accepting Jesus took a minute of my life, but following Him requires everything I have ever had and ever will have, every moment, of everyday, for the rest of my life and knowing that it’s completely worth it.
Even as I am typing this now, I know that in this life, nothing is guaranteed except the grace of God. I was not ready, when God called me to go on this trip, I was not ready when He told me to get on the plane, I was not ready when He sent me to the CarePoint, the hospital, or the orphanage. I was not ready to touch the very image of Jesus, to accept Him right there on that log. I am still not ready for the unexpected challenges of tomorrow but I think that’s what is so exquisite about faith.
Being ready isn’t important.
What’s important is listening to God, and trusting that when He tells you to leap, even if you cannot see how far the drop is, He has a plan for you that will exceed all of your expectations.