What a life changing experience! I recently returned from a two week trip to Lesotho and South Africa. I was asked to accompany my mom, CJ Callahan, and another woman, Sarah, in leading worship for a women’s retreat for missionaries in and around South Africa. These women are working alongside their husbands through Mission Aviation Fellowship. I immediately felt called to go as soon as I was asked. And after weeks of prayer, my mom bought the tickets and we began preparing. I was asked to bring some items from the states to fill up gift bags for the women, namely chocolate bars. Needless to say, I had a forty-five pound suitcase full of chocolate chips and Lindt bars when I was done shopping.
When we arrived in South Africa, after a very long day of flying, we met with some of the missionary women at their houses. Driving through the rural cities opened my eyes to the poverty that gripped the small country of Lesotho. Their roofs had bricks on them to hold them down because people do not have the money to buy nails. The drought had really impacted the people there. The grass was dying and dust storms had ravaged the area. There was actually a huge dust storm occurring when we flew in. The air was very dry, and a lot of the people were dry spiritually as well because of the hardships. I met with Kimberly, a woman who has been living in Lesotho for five years, who just in the last week had adopted a young Basotho girl. She told me about the country and what it is like to live in such conditions. Despite the many challenges that this country faces, the people are very nice and the mountains are stunning. After a day in the city, we headed up to the retreat center, which was actually across the border in South Africa. We put together the gift bags and prepared spiritually for the weekend to come.
Throughout the retreat, I saw God moving in so many ways. As my mom, Sarah, and I led worship, I could see a weight being lifted off the shoulders of these thirty-five women. A lot of the women had seen violence, deaths, and the struggles of so many. They came in with a lot of hurt, but as they heard the songs to the Lord, in their native language, they were overcome with peace and joy. They sang with a passion that was unsurpassed. Just to see the tears flowing from their eyes was worth every minute of preparation. We also had the opportunity to serve them in their free time by giving pedicures. I knelt at their feet and washed the dirt away. I took off the old polish, shaved away their rough edges, smoothed their calloused feet, and put a fresh and colorful coat of nail polish on them.
This was one of the most amazing ways that I saw God working. I kept thinking that this was such an example of what Christ does for us. He washes us clean, scrubs calluses off our hearts, and clothes us in fresh garments. I was overcome by love for these women as I listened to their stories and their missions. The weekend was full of worship, fellowship, reconciliation, and prayer. It all came to a close with the final communion. I played and sang while the women took communion and prayerfully communed with God. What a site to see. As we all said our goodbyes, I found it hard for me to leave. I wanted to stay in that loving community with women so on fire for God and seeking His will. The next day, I was able to see where the husbands of many of the missionary women worked. As part of the Mission Aviation Fellowship, they aid remote villages by transporting people to hospitals and flying in supplies. We were able to see a few of the men fly in and out on missions and see firsthand what it was like in the planes and in the hanger. It really brought to life the stories that I had always read about; missionaries who would fly out to help unreached people, like Nate Saint and Jim Elliot.
On the last day in Lesotho, we were able to volunteer at the orphanage Beautiful Gate. We spent hours just loving on the kids. Most of them were either directly or indirectly affected by AIDS. Some of the kids have the disease and most were orphaned because their mother had passed away from AIDS. Hearing the stories of how these kids got there was heart wrenching. Some were left in fields, dumpsters, or on porches. Despite all of the pain that these little ones had already endured, they were some of the happiest kids I have ever seen. They laughed and jumped on me and held my hand and brushed my hair. They were so excited to have someone there who cared about them. I read books to them and helped feed them too. Again, once I was told that it was time to leave, I did not want to. The children were so precious.
This trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I saw God moving in such powerful ways and felt like such of part of what God is doing in South Africa. God is so good!