"I have slept in a mud hut with flying roaches"
These are the first words our team heard as we unloaded the airplane into a world of the unknown--unknown to us at least. We had spent the previous five months preparing for the journey ahead of us-a journey that would take us through both hardships and joy.
From the beginning God was there. Through the Youth in Mission application process, advanced training and training camp, God proved himself to my teammates and I. However, nothing could have prepared us for what we would encounter during the summer.
As we flew into the Ivory Coast, my eyes sparkled at the sight of the ocean, the glimmering city lights and the thought of being in Africa. I was excited to see the wild animals and the beautiful scenery and to meet the people. What I wasn't prepared to see were the things like people peeing on the side of the road and women breast feeding their children as they were shopping in the marketplace or walking down the street.
Our first week was spent learning about the country and studying French, the national language. Some of us also spent the week hugging the toilet after drinking the infamous tap water.
During weeks two and three, we headed for the jungle. Our main ministry was traveling with an evangelist to different villages to show the Jesus film. In addition we taught English, presented mini sketches, worked with the youth and set up makeshift clinics, which existed primarily for wound care. While in the jungle, we slept on dirt floors in mud huts with huge spiders and flying roaches. My teammate Stephanie Green was terrified of the spiders, but managed to make it through the summer.
We were also swarmed with mosquitoes. During the last night of our first stay in the jungle, all five of us girls slept side by side, bodies plaster together. While not one of my teammates was bitten that might, I woke up with about 200 bites covering my body. My right arm alone had 78, and needless to say, I came down with cerebral malaria just nine days later.
After showing the Jesus film for two weeks straight, we were worn out. How could this ministry be impacting the people of Cote d'Ivoire? Sometimes the whole presentation, which included four reels, three sketches, singing, dancing, praying and a message would last for five or six hours.
Fathers, mothers and children would sit or stand in the very same spot in the middle of the road for the full presentation, simply focused on one thing-Jesus. When miracles were performed during the film, clapping, singing, dancing and shouting would break out. These people reveled in it. They needed these kinds of works to happen in their lives. These people needed a savior who could speak their native language and meet them at their worst. Fetishes were burned and hearts turned, and we got to be a part of it all.
For the most part we were utilized to support the Jesus Film evangelist, Moiz. However, we were given the opportunity to reach out to the suffering as well. I jumped at the chance to take care of the sick. My nursing skills came in handy to clean wounds, deep cuts and to give vaccinations. I also became a mobile Tylenol pharmacy. I learned how to use my scarce resources to do things here and there.
Although that became a challenge, the most difficult aspect of it was in the diseases themselves. I found myself turning away patients because they had problems that I couldn't fix. The hardest part about that was knowing that they wouldn't seek medical help from a doctor because they couldn't afford it. I found myself in prayer many times because there was nothing else I could do. I could only pray for miraculous healing.
The experiences I had this summer with Youth in Mission, my team and God, were priceless. My worldview was expanded and my relationship with the Lord strengthened. Never have I experienced such grace and never have I seen such grace bestowed. There’s no better way to see how God works in his world than to go and discover it.
Posted on Fri, October 18, 2002
by Jessica Sage, ECHO guest writer