My freshmen year of high school, over a 3 day weekend, I went on winter retreat with the youth group at my church. I had just recently started going to church and this was the very first event I did with them. On Saturday night, after a day full of sledding, snow tubing, broomball, snowball fights, freezing cold, hot chocolate, and layers upon layers of clothing, we met up with the other youth groups at camp for "session." Essentially, this was a time to listen to a worship band and hear a speaker. I couldn't tell you what this speaker's name was or what he looked like, but I can remember what he said:
He talked about the great sequoia trees and their unique root system. I learned that sequoia tree roots stay just below the surface of the ground. Instead of growing down, they grow out, intertwining and connecting with the roots of other sequoia trees. In strong winds and flooding, the sequoias hold each other up and keep each other grounded. He talked how we need to keep our roots like this too. We need to stretch out, grab onto Christ, and not let go. Without him, we would be knocked down and flooded out.
At 14 years old, this hit me. My roots were in a home broken by divorce, dishonesty, bad habits, and struggle. I was flooding out.
Oh my goodness, this is actually me at that age at winter retreat! Cool!
You know, high schoolers are kind of weird...
At the end of his talk, he encouraged us to open our hearts and let Jesus in. I did. Let me tell ya, I wish I could share one of those instant gratification moments that people talk about all the time, but I can't. I didn't have one. I told Jesus to come into my heart and then I sort of felt like a little confused child because I didn't feel anything and didn't really know what to do next. I thought I had maybe done something wrong and I didn't share what I had done with a single person in my youth group.
To be honest, it took me around 2 years to make any true changes in how I was living. I still struggled with my own personal demons, but that was mostly due to teenage angst, you know how it is. But over time, I was changing. God was continuously at work. Always chipping away with his chisel.
Fast forward to my freshmen year of college. I was celebrating my 4th year as a Christian. This is the year that I was finally learning to read the bible, pray daily, and was figuring out what it meant to me to follow Christ. Once I started to do this, it was like God turned up the volume. He called me to sponsor a child. And you know what, I didn't really question it. I was an adult, 18 years old, I had a job, I had the money (most months) and I was going to do this. Every question I came up with, God had an answer to. What organization? World Vision. What country? Sierra Leone. Gender? Boy. Who? Just look. The 2nd child I came across was a little boy with a round face, pouty lips, and a blue shirt that I could tell was too for big him even though all I could see were his shoulders. The closer? His name was Abu, like the monkey from my favorite Disney movie, Aladdin. (I sure hope that's not offensive to anybody, because seriously, I love his name and I love this boy).
I sponsored him.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Happy 9th anniversary Jesus! Happy 5th anniversary, Abu-Bakarr!