Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Final Update

Hello everyone!  

I know that it has been a while since my trip to Africa but I just wanted to write a final update and tell you some of the amazing things that God did for me.  
First of all, thank you again to everyone who supported me financially and through prayer, this trip has been life changing and it wouldn’t have been able to happen without you.  
I regret not writing more updates, but our schedule was very busy and I was always too caught up in the moment to think about writing, sorry everyone! I will try to give a summary of the whole trek now. There is so much that I could say, but I will try to keep it to just a few big highlights.  
My last update ended with finishing our ministry in Zambia, and that was only one third of the whole Trek. After Zambia we went to Malawi for a month, and I have to say it was my favorite country out of the three. The nature, the culture, the people, all so beautiful. We stayed with a wonderful family in Mangochi for most of our time there. We went to different villages for a few days and then we would come back to Mangochi in between and have teachings. At the first village, we stayed for a few days in tents and our main ministry there was building a bridge! We took away the old, dangerous bridge that was falling apart and built a new one crossing the dried river bed so that in the rainy season when the river is full, everyone can cross safely. It was hard work and we were all completely exhausted by the end but it was actually fun! We also got to take turns cooking local food over a fire which was challenging but I loved getting to really experience what it’s like to live the way they do.
After a few days back in Mangochi we got to go to a beautiful lake house owned by the family that we were staying with. They use it for ministry and we helped them with some maintenance like painting. We also got to relax, have fun, and swim! It was the perfect timing for our team to have a little break and recharge before our next outreach. A few highlights from this time were seeing monkeys, a canoe ride across the river with Abbi which turned into a deep, hour-long chat, and I led worship for the first time! Not something I ever thought I would do but my leaders encouraged me and I really enjoyed it. One of my favorite moments was when I spent time alone with God looking out across the lake and felt his presence more than I think I ever have. It was as if I had a face to face conversation with God. At the lake I fell in love with God’s presence and learned that it is always there for us, we just have to quiet ourselves and tune in to his voice and his presence. During that conversation with God I asked him, “why don’t you speak to me?” and he said “Because you keep interrupting”. Ask God difficult questions because he will answer. I have loved getting to know what God’s voice looks like in my life.
Next was something I wasn’t expecting. Our team was split in two groups without our leaders and we went on two different outreaches. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first but it ended up being one of the most impactful times of the whole trek for me. Our team went to two different villages. Right before we left I felt God say to me that he wanted me to step up as a kind of leader for our team and I basically said no because I didn’t feel like I could. I have never seen myself as a leader, and I hate the thought of being seen as bossy. But the first few days our team was really struggling. Several people were struggling with personal things, it was hard not having our leaders, and we had tension between ourselves when it came to making decisions because we all had different opinions. On top of that we were all exhausted from ministry. I wasn’t feeling any peace and decided to step back for a while and spend time alone with God. After about half an hour I realized how vital it is to take that time, because everything felt right after that and I was filled up again. I realized that even “good things” like ministry can get in the way of you and God and we need that time to just pause and connect with Him. Anyway, during that time God spoke to me about how to fix these problems we were having and I had to bring the team together to express frustrations, encourage, and pray for each other. This time together totally changed everything around and I loved that God had chosen to use me to help our team. I realized that being a “leader” looks different for everyone and my job was to submit to God and let him use me on behalf of our team, because in the end God was leading us. I learned a lot about obedience on this outreach. I preached in a small church, and shared the gospel with a large group of people. Both times I felt a strong conviction that it was supposed to be me, and both times I tried to back away, but I ended up doing it. There were so many times when I was put into situations that were beyond my abilities, but those were the times when I felt God’s power working through me and it wasn’t even about me anymore.

Here’s some of the things that we did at the first village: We walked to different village bible studies and shared encouragements, we helped build a church and received a live chicken as a gift which we cooked and ate, we climbed a big hill to pray and ran down in the pouring rain and lightning. The second village was my favorite village of the whole trek. When we arrived we were welcomed with singing and dancing (which became a theme of our time there). The Chief of that area was the one who took us under his wing and made our plan for the week. The first night he asked us what were some things we wanted to learn from our time there. We said we wanted to learn how to dance like them, how to cook nseema (the traditional meal) and how to carry water on our heads and babies on our backs. Throughout the week the chief planned out times to learn all those things! It was so much fun, especially the dancing. After they showed us their dances they wanted to see a traditional dance from our countries. The first thing that popped into my head was the macarena so that’s what we did and they loved it! One day we rode bikes around the villages to encourage believers, who all welcomed us with more singing and dancing. At the end of our time there, the chief was so happy that we came and he said that each year they would celebrate the day we arrived. We felt so honored! After that we met back with the rest of our team and shared stories and reflected on our time there, then it was off to Tanzania!
It took us almost three full days of bus rides until we got to the first village. There we were working mostly with a people group called the Maasai, I enjoyed them so much. We got to be a part of their church meetings under a big tree and worship God with them. We also got to share with them and do some door to door ministry in the surrounding area, and the boys did sports ministry while the girls prayed and did children’s ministry, and we helped with another church building. We made some great relationships there. The next village we went to was pineapple heaven. We saw fields and fields of them wherever we went, and ate so much that it started to make us sick. The cool think about this village was that our transport for the week was on motorcycles! We each had a motorcycle and got on the back with our rider. Each day we went to a different small village and did door to door ministry for about 4 hours, then we did sports ministry and children’s ministry, then we showed the Jesus film and someone shared. It was a long week and we all struggled with exhaustion, but it was amazing to see how God worked.
Half was through our time in Tanzania we got the news that for our next outreach we were going to Zanzibar (a small tropical island of Tanzania). We were so excited! This beautiful island is almost completely Muslim and not a lot of ministry happens there. For the first week our ministry was mostly prayer. We had a teaching series on prayer and did lot’s of prayer walks. It was hard not to get discouraged when we couldn’t immediately see the fruits of our work there and it was hard to see God working at all. We had to trust and keep going. We did get to encourage and pray for a few believers and we did some practical work around a church. We really enjoyed getting to walk around the beautiful island and swim at the beach. One day we got to take a day off and be “tourists”. We got on a boat and saw dolphins, went snorkeling, and swam in the most beautiful turquoise water. It was so nice to get to spend that time together as a team. We had a few more days of outreach and then just like that it was over! We had one last week of debrief on Zanzibar. During this week we got to reflect on what God had done in our lives over the trek and prepare for going back home. I loved getting to spend a lot of time together as a team and hearing about how the whole experience was for each person.
My favorite part of the whole trek was getting to see how God worked in the lives of my teammates and in my own life. We had all come because we wanted more of God, we wanted to serve him and deepen our relationship with him, and he really met each of us and did more than we could have imagined. When you set aside time for God, he will use it. There are so many things that God taught me on this trip, but I will just focus on a few. During a few different teachings we talked about the lies that we believe and how they ruin our lives. Each of us have things from the enemy that we believe deep down and nothing anyone says can change it. They often stem from childhood memories. We have to dig deep down and shine light on the lie and ask God to step into that place and reveal his truth. These lies effect the way we think and experience life. During a certain time, God revealed to me a lot of lies that I had been believing, most of them relating to my worth. After I received healing from these lies, I asked God to speak his truth over me. I wanted God to tell me who I was. I don’t really know how I expected him to answer, but I definitely didn’t expect it in such a real way. Later that same day we had a time of blessing each other by asking God what he wanted to say to a specific person, maybe a prophesy or a picture or verse. I felt like God was speaking directly to me through the team. One of my friends said he was walking outside asking God what to say to me when he saw the sunrise. He told me that I was like a sunrise created to bring light and beauty into people’s lives and he encouraged me that I was a light for the team and brought joy. This meant so much to me because it’s the kind of person I have always wanted to be but I have never felt that it was true about me. My goal in life is that God would shine his glory through me and that I would bring his truth and his presence into people’s lives. I’m definitely not there yet but this word from my friend encouraged me. The crazy part is that the meaning of my name is “bright like the sun” and he didn’t even know that! A few days later God spoke to me about my identity in another special way and it was through my friend Abbi. She felt a strong conviction to pray for me one day and ended up writing all the God said to her in a letter. It read as if it was God speaking to me and it really was as if God wrote me a letter through Abbi. God doesn’t always work that directly, but if you ask him questions, he will answer.
I learned not to put God in a box and limit him because often God only works in the small space that you give him. God is so much bigger than we can comprehend and the way our minds work is nothing compared to how he works. I had to learn to let go of everything I thought about God and everything I thought about myself and just let him work freely in my life. I learned to hear his voice in different ways, and I experienced him in different ways. I learned to let go of religion and chase after God alone. I learned to obey when the Holy spirit is guiding me, even when it feels like I can’t because that’s when it’s God’s strength and not my own and he always blessed me for my obedience. I learned that God is always working and he has plans outside of my small world. And God is always working for my good, even when I can’t see how and even when it’s hard. I learned so much more but this is getting too long so I’ll stop there!
My life is changed for good and I couldn’t be more thankful!  

Thank you for being a part of this journey with me! 
Ellie Harman  

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