In 2006 I was turning fifteen and entering my freshman year of high school. It would be the beginning of a new chapter in my life, but I had another calling-a stronger one. Instead of idly waiting away my summer days I chose to go to Douala, Cameroon, Africa, on a three month long missions trip, through Teen Missions International, a nonprofit organization that sends passionate people of all ages out into the world to serve the Lord.
Prior to leaving for Douala I had to undergo training. The training took place in the hot, murky, humid swamps of Florida. Twenty-four other teenagers and I along with four adult leaders, learned how to efficiently work together and how to trust God to guide us. After the two-week training, we left for Africa well aware that our three months sojourned there would cut us off from the outside world.
Upon arrival in Douala we were picked up from the airport by a missionary couple that lived in Cameroon and worked for Teen Missions International. When signing up for this mission trip our job would be to make a clearing for an airstrip in a rural area. The airstrip would provide United States missionaries the chance to spread the word of God to the people of Cameroon. Much to my dismay we were then informed that we would not be clearing the area for an airstrip but would instead be training the children of Cameroon to serve the Lord as we were. After training the children we would construct a building for the African missionaries who live at the Teen Missions International base in Douala.
It was no easy task constructing a building. Our team had to move part of a mountain back three feet to create flat land for the building. At this point all twenty-five team members spread out to do different jobs and there were many; some dug ten feet deep holes, some dug two feet deep trenches, while others put together rebar pillars to go in the holes. And incredulously all this work was accomplished without the power tools so taken for granted here in the United States. Instead we used simple wheelbarrows, dull shovels, and unsharpened saws.
My team and I faced many obstacles in Douala. Enduring several plane delays, project changes, sickness, exhaustion, and torrential rain, prayer was essential. The virtue I learned the most about on this trip was patience. Patience was required daily as situations occurred every day that caused plans to change. One day we could have plans to get up at five thirty am, work for three hours, eat breakfast and do devotions. But that could all change instantly. Some mornings the rain prevented us from working. But our patience was really tested with one another. Waking up early, working all day, and going to bed late caused much frustration. In these instances I would pray to the Lord to help calm my anxieties and to give me the patience I needed.
Douala changed my life completely. It showed me there is so much more to life than trivial earthly possessions. Seeing the muddy cramped, no electricity, and damp huts that the people live in, the torn and dirty clothes that the children wear every day, and the pot holed streets that make me so blessed to live in the United States.
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