I’ve wanted to go and serve overseas for as long as I can remember (or at least since becoming a Christian nine years ago). I didn’t really have any idea of what this would look like, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I got to wherever I was going, but I wanted to go somewhere and do something.
As I got older and these trips seemed more likely, God closed so many doors to some spectacular countries working alongside some wonderful people. My heart broke more times than I care to count, and I remember so many times going into my bedroom and crying over opportunities that were meant for someone other than me. The passion was there, and so was the willingness, so why wasn’t the door opening?
I’d planned to travel to Colombia in April 2013 to visit a very special Compassion child of mine. I’d looked at the cost and planned how I could afford it and was completely ready to book onto the trip. However, a few months prior to the trip, I received a rather unexpected health diagnosis which required surgery, which ended up being scheduled for around Christmas 2012. I would have recovered well enough to go on the trip the following April, but there was the potential for a second surgery, and my consultant strongly advised that I didn’t go.
More heartbreak and tears followed, but this one hurt more. Partly because there was another trip that I couldn’t go on, but partly because of the diagnosis I had received, and I didn’t know how this would affect any future trips that I wanted to take. I allowed my heart to become hard to the idea of travel and mission and became defensive whenever anyone tried to talk to me about it.
One thing I learned through this whole experience is God really does have a good plan because He really can see the bigger picture. Around the time I was due to travel to Colombia, I received a letter from Compassion telling me that the child I was going to visit had left her project and moved away, so even if I had booked on to the trip, I wouldn’t have been able to meet her. Because I now had a free week of my Easter holidays, I decided to volunteer at an event here in the UK called Spring Harvest. I worked on the Compassion stand for a week and made some incredible friends. God really blessed me that week, and I wouldn’t have been able to go had I have traveled to Colombia.
This is turning into an incredibly long story, so let’s fast forward a few months.
Between September 2013 and June 2014, I was studying for the final year of my degree at Bible College. Part of my course provided the opportunity to spend five weeks working for an organisation or church of our choice, gaining experience in the field that we wish to pursue once our degree is complete. Another bonus to this is a set amount of money is provided by the college, and we were allowed to travel and work overseas for our placement.
I was so nervous pushing doors to find out where God would have me go for this placement. Part of me wanted to find an organisation here in the UK so I wouldn’t need to face the heartbreak of more closed doors and not being able to travel overseas, but I felt God prompting me to be brave and push some doors.
I attend an Elim church, and this particular denomination has a missions department, with missionaries working across the globe serving in all sorts of different environments and capacities. I gave them a call to find out if a placement was something they could facilitate. Some calls were made and questions asked, and they told me that this was definitely something they could organise! I was emailed a list of suitable countries, with some information about the work they do and was told to choose one. I now felt like I had 100 doors opening instead of just one.
I read through the information and inquired about going to work with a missionary based in Haiti who was helping earthquake victims. Some more questions were asked, and I was told that I wouldn’t be able to travel to Haiti because the missionary there was moving on. I quickly began feeling the heartbreak of more closed doors again, but felt God prompt me forwards to try again. I reread the list and decided to inquire about going to spend five weeks in India, working with a charity called Frishta (which, by the way, is the Hindi word for angel!), which is an orphanage for street and railway children. Yet more questions were asked, and I received the go ahead from both Elim and my College!
In February 2014, I got to spend five weeks with twenty one of the most amazing children and young people I have ever met. The challenges they have faced completely broke me, but their joy and their faith was just incredible. I have never met a group of children more passionate about walking with Jesus, and those five weeks completely changed my life.
I’ve been home from India for nearly six months now, and God is still teaching me so much through this trip. Almost as soon as I arrived home I began planning for my next trip, but every trip I looked at, I felt God redirecting me. I decided to stop looking and I began to pray where God would have me go. A couple of days later, I received an email from the wonderful people at Compassion UK inviting me to travel to Kenya for a week with them in November! Not only will I get to see firsthand the work they are doing in this beautiful country, but I will also get to visit one of my precious sponsored children, eighteen year old Dorcus!
This trip worked out perfectly. I sponsored Dorcus last Summer in memory of my nan, who passed away when I was fifteen. I struggled a lot with bullying at school, and it was always my nan that I went to for help (or just for a good cry), and Dorcus also struggles in school. On top of this, she also shares a birthday with my nan, so meeting her in person is going to be extra special.
Your prayers for this trip would be so appreciated. I’m launching a huge (in my eyes!) fundraiser starting this coming week to go alongside another that’s been running for about four weeks now. I have just under a month to find the remaining £900 that I need. In my eyes, this is impossible but I know that God always provides for us when He calls us somewhere, and I have seen this proven so many times in my life.
To financially support Shelley's trip to Kenya, please check out her GoFundMe page here. Even if you can't give financially, please be praying for her upcoming trip, particularly for speedy financial provisions!