I am not sure what I was looking for. Maybe it was an Adventure. Or an escape from the hectic life we all get caught up in. Maybe it was a way to have the best stories to tell at parties. Or just for the we missed you’s and praises of my return. Maybe it was an extreme diet plan, because that sure worked. Or maybe, just maybe I was looking for myself. Maybe I was looking for my Faith. . Or, perhaps, my God. In any case, I went to Africa looking for it.

Daniel Whittington, 2010 Volunteer

Daniel Whittington, 2010 Volunteer

My journey began over a free lunch at Independent Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama. I am one to never turn down a free lunch. As you all know, “There is no such thing as a Free lunch”. Yea, I forgot about that part. Somewhere between my Club Sandwich and my pickle I had apparently volunteered to go on this Mission trip. Must have been one fine pickle. So, I spent the next 2 months trying to get out of it. But I guess God had other plans. Because 10 months later I am standing in Malawi Africa. Nice. So my plan is to treat it as any other job. Do it quickly, correctly and get home. Again with the “my plan” stuff. You think I would wise up to that…

So, for the first week I ran my way through the Villages. Hardly noticing the land or the people. I wanted to get it done and get out of Africa. Every night I would lay down exhausted and I would pray that God would make the days go even faster. I was angry and frustrated. I asked God why am I even here. I am getting nothing out of this experience except a sun burn. The next day, at Village number 3, God answered.

After 2 more Villages went by in a slight blur. With the people all gathered around the same as always. I shook the hands and smiled the smile. I said all the right words at the right time. Nothing new. It was only 9 am and I was already frustrated and annoyed. Complaining under my breath about the heat and bugs. “Oh great, the women are lining up to sing again.” I will have to smile and clap along some more. But I will finish my paper work firs ….wait. What are they singing? I …I know this one! My whole body shook. I was frozen where I stood. Mesmerized by this moment. God had spoken to me. Through these people, in a language I could not understand. But, here, I knew every word coming from their voices.

Daniel receiving gift from villager

Daniel receiving gift from villager

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

I remember becoming aware of the moment with tears streaming down my face. In this Village, literally in the back yard of Nowhere, God had found me. I was not looking for Him. I did not give myself the chance to look. In my selfishness I had ignored Him. And these … His … people. From that point on, my eyes were open. I did not see God until I heard God. When I saw Him, I realized He is everywhere! I couldn’t get enough. I looked and listened for God everywhere. I saw him every day. I saw Him in every woman’s smile. In every Head mans eyes. I heard him all the time. Every morning birds song. Every Head Mans prayer. Every song sung. Every Child’s Laugh. I was told that God lives in Africa. Maybe so, But I am here to tell you that God lives mostly inside of us. If you ever have doubts, just listen. He shows Himself to you best through the laughter of Children. That is the sound I take with me forever. No matter the language, Children all laugh the same. God is there. I even heard Him at the end of the trip in the other Volunteers stories. I heard him very clearly at our last gathered supper. In the life changing stories. In the Heart felt Thank you’s. In a Beautiful Poem that said all the things I couldn’t. God is there.

So, what was I looking for? I still am not sure. But I know what I found. Or more accurately, what found me. I have found a new respect for this Country and all the Blessings that God gives us daily. I have found that I can never look at water the same way again. I have found that when I lay down at night I still see the smiles. And hear the songs. I hope that doesn’t go away. I have found new friends. Both overseas and here at home in the US. I desperately hope that doesn’t go away. Did I find my adventure? Yes. My escape? Yes. My Stories? Yes. I got my”miss you’s” and”welcome backs” but the”praise” left me feeling uncomfortable. . . . How about finding myself? Or my Faith? I must confess, I did not find either of them. I was not really looking for them though. In my blindness I could not see that I was lost nor could I see that my Faith was missing. It took God whispering in my ear, through His wonderful people, and that wonderful old song to open my eyes. I wasn’t looking at all for what I found. I was shown what I needed to find. I was shown that 7000 miles away from everything and everyone I love, I am still not alone. “Uchidami Kwa Chiuta” Glory to God. God is there.

My only advice to you all is to simply, Stop, Look, and Listen.
Open your eyes. Open your ears. Open your hearts. Because, God is HERE.
Tawonga Chomene, Thank you very much.