Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Africa to Burma

My life consists of strange parallels. It's funny to look back at certain events in your life and see how all the dots connect.

I think back a lot to when I was a senior in high school and my social studies teacher showed my class a documentary about Sierra Leone & the conflict diamonds. I remember being shocked, wondering how the heck anything so horrendous could be happening and no one know about it. I also remember telling myself I would never go to Africa because of the dangers there.

Then I look back to OBU and my wonderful friends. Feeling free and dreaming of the west coast. I didn't know why I always wanted to be on the west coast. I just did. I longed for it. Then I think back to one night, shortly after I transferred to UCO, I'd traveled back to Shawnee and watched a documentary called, "Invisible Children: The Rough Cut" with some girlfriends. And how I left feeling like my life had just had a serious wake up call...that I needed to get my priorities straight and start opening my eyes to the world, not just what's in front of me. My heart opened to Africa that night.

Then I think of how two months after seeing the documentary I attended the "Global Night Commute" in OKC, an event put on by IC. Then I reflect on my classes at UCO, how they challenged me to think globally and in turn caused me to become socially aware of everything, even down to the shirt on my back. And how I had zero friends at UCO but eventually made friends with the girl who sat next to me in one of my classes. She always talked about a place called Sierra Leone and how she was traveling there. I remember thinking then "Ha. Weird. I actually know about Sierra Leone because of a documentary I watched in high school." The same girl encouraged me to go to Africa. I told her I'd think about it. She told me to pray about it. So I did and a year later I was with her and 28 others, including a girl named Courtny, in Sierra Leone. I laugh at this because fast forward a year and I'm back in Sierra Leone with Courtny. Two months after the trip, Courtny is in San Diego working for Invisible Children. She encourages me to apply so I do. Four months later, I'm in San Diego working for the very organization that opened my heart to Africa and it just so happens to be on the west coast-the place I dreamed of living for so long.

Now stop and rewind two years, post-Africa for the first time.
I was searching a lot. For answers, opportunities. I remember coming across an article on the BBC about this placed called Myanmar, previously called Burma. I was oddly intrigued and I think back to how, for a period then, I researched protests that were taking place. I read about this woman, Aung San Suu Kyi. I admired her and her bravery. She stood up for democracy and her people. Burma was a scary place. It IS a scary place. I even wrote about it briefly on my xanga in September of 2007. Weird.

Fast forward to post-Africa trip #2. My mind was on India a lot. I was hoping to travel there this summer with the same group I'd gone with to Africa. A guy named Sunny flew over from India and talked to the group about ministries there. He showed us photos and I remember one photo in particular of a beautiful little boy. My eyes welled up at the photo and I told Sunny I had to meet this little boy. He explained to me that the child was Burmese, one of many they work with near the border. My mind immediately went back to the time I'd become intrigued with Burma. I was familiar with it.

Fast forward to February 2009. I'm working for Invisible Children, living on the west coast, praying that God open doors to new friendships and networking. Soon after, I meet Bryan. He was teaching me HTML and we got to talking about our passions. He tells me he and his friends have started an organization called Eleho. They help raise awareness about Myanmar, or Burma. Funny, I thought. I knew of Burma. I tell him about how I'd been intrigued by stories from there a couple of years back. He encourages me to travel with them sometime.

Weeks later, I get a call from Bryan. We'd become good friends at this point. He asks if I want to travel with them to Thailand this summer. We'd fly there and venture over to Burma for media purposes. I couldn't do it because I was scheduled to shoot a wedding during that time frame. He tells me to pray about it so I do.

About two weeks later I get an email. The couple I was shooting the wedding for had made other arrangements. Odd, I thought. The one thing keeping me from Thailand had now freed up. I tell Bryan and he tells me I'm going to Thailand. I tell him the money will have to fall into my lap. He tells me to pray about it. So I do.

One month later, I'm traveling from "The Rescue" event in OKC to the event in Arkansas. I'm driving with my friend Lauren and we are talking about how she's hoping to go to Thailand this summer. (Funny, she'd gone with me to Africa too) All of a sudden I get a text. It's Bryan. He tells me how he was re-considering Burma this year because he didn't want to send out support letters. Well, Eastlake Church, a place I'd visited with him before, hired him for a media project. Basically, he can pay his way...and mine.

And now: I'm going to Thailand and into Burma at the end of June. I'm assisting Bryan with videography and doing photography. WHAT?!

Never tell God you're willing to go wherever He wants you, unless you're ready to accept the challenge. Of course, He was playing it out long before I even recognized it at the time. Funny how He works. I'm anxious to see where this goes...humbled that I was chosen for this trip.

God is real.

Prayers appreciated


Jacquelyn said...

I am always in awe of your awesome heart and complete openess and willingness to serve God... no matter what, or where. And how he rewards you with that is amazing! You are so confident in your faith and sure in His plan and I admire that so so so much! I love you, Abby.

Anonymous said...

I loved reading the story again and pretended we were walking to the Padres game when you first told me about the Thailand trip. :) Sending my love and prayers. Can't wait to see the photos.

Don't stop continent hoping!

Dana said...

Abby this is a great story of God working in your life. It's very encouraging for me as I'm looking at several options for next year. I'm so excited for you and hope you keep us updated on your trip. Praying for you...

About Me

My photo
I follow my heart & pursue my dreams.