I am writing this 6 days after returning to America while currently flying miles above the ground again headed somewhere new. I can’t help to think about the adventures that my last few flights brought me with our journey to and from Burundi. Upon originally arriving in Wichita for orientation, meeting our team was something I was slightly anxious about. This was going to be my first time being on a trip like this with this many people and such a wide variety of ages and personalities. If there’s one thing that God very particularly and specifically ordained for this Saltshaker, it was this team of people. As you may know, the Burundi Saltshaker trip was originally scheduled for the summer of 2015. Many of us signed up and began fundraising long ago when that was the plan, before it was then postponed until the summer of 2016. Some applicants dropped out and many others eventually joined the team over the course of that year. That is almost two years worth of God picking and choosing who would be on this team! Two years worth of opening and closing doors that led to a group of 20 incredibly awesome people. These people are who taught me the most on this trip. I was challenged by their testimonies of great faith, and by their loving spirits and gentle care. I always felt known being with them. A good majority of us didn’t know each other very well or at all beforehand and formed some deep and meaningful relationships through our time spent together in Burundi.
As a team, we talked about how upon arriving back home, it’s most important to share with others about how God was glorified, how the Kingdom expanded, how the Church was affected, how our families and churches can learn from us, etc. Notice that the one thing I didn’t mention was OURSELVES. It’s easy to fall into the mentality that this trip was all for me and what God could teach me and how I suffered or how I was touched. And while I totally and completely agree with that, I also feel a strong sense to share what The Lord did place on my heart during my Saltshaker experience. Ironically, the one thing I am walking away with is a deeper and clearer understanding of a call to selflessness. We noticed throughout the duration of our stay how devoted the African leaders were to us. They sacrificed every bit of their time for two weeks just to cater to our needs and make sure we were cared for. That meant time away from their families, careers, and their normal everyday lives. I have a hard time believing I’d be able to do that even just one full day for somebody! There were so many examples of selflessness lived out everyday for us, I could write a whole novel on that, but people like our cook, our translators, David and Mae, the doctors (who would seriously stop in the middle of a surgery if we needed something), need I go on?
Sometimes the lessons we anticipate to learn in life are completely different than what we end up learning. It’s almost funny to me that I even try to predict what I am going to learn from experiences like this, because God always ends up throwing something entirely different my way. Our leader of the trip was Matt Macy, who I’m sure many of you reading this know and love. Matt was the ultimate example of sacrifice and selflessness to me. Matt sacrificed his entire afternoon one day, spending HOURS of his time going out of his way just so that five of us could have fun and have an enjoyable experience. Five is a pretty insignificant number with a team that size. Once again I was challenged to look within my own heart to think what I would have done in his shoes, and I can tell you my conclusion was not to have done what Matt did for us. That is sacrifice. That is service. I’ve learned through him that leadership is about dying to self, even when the world says it’s about personal gain.
As a team, we shared a devotional time together every night and took turns leading that. One night we spent reading Philippians (chapter 1, I believe) when The Lord spoke to me in a new, refreshing way. If you don’t know, Paul wrote the book of Philippians while he was in jail, and it’s also known as his “joy letter.” Ironic, right? Completely. I was challenged to think about my own selfishness as we read through this chapter. How can Paul be writing these people while he’s in jail and be talking about anything other than himself? Here’s what my letter would’ve been: Please pray for me. Oh, pity me! Listen to what I am living through. Here is what I am being forced to eat. Here is how horrible I feel. You wouldn’t even believe what my conditions are like. Want to hear more about myself?
Paul wrote to the people of Philippi expressing his love for them and to encourage them in many ways. Paul was too busy thinking of other people to be so caught up in his own condition. That, my friends, is true love. There is only one real love language and it is called dying to self. And when you can truly love to be unknown, that is dying to self. I am thankful for these moments in Burundi in which The Lord began shaping my heart towards selfless love and sacrifice, versus selfish love and sacrifice. May I begin to love like not only Jesus did, but like the people of Burundi, like the leaders and teammates of this team, and like so many others who model this love. Praise be to God for an amazing experience!