It was a Friday night after youth. I was cleaning the women's bathroom by myself. I normally clean it with my two best friends, but they were in a meeting. I found myself almost in tears. Not because I was cleaning the bathroom alone. But because I was confused. I was about to graduate. And though 3 months before I had everything planned for the fall, that was no longer the case.
"What should I do? What is my purpose here?" I cried out to God while scrubbing a toilet. Here we're my options: School. Work. Africa. Wait, Africa? Where did that even come from? I hadn't thought about Africa in years. I mean, yeah, it has always been in the back of my mind, but that wasn't really a possibility was it? No. No way. No chance! I couldn't leave my family, even for a short time. "Long term." I heard in my head, but loud enough to really get me to think.
I tried to shake the thought. All I needed right now was for Amanda and Alec to walk around the corner and say "Let's finish this!" and a hug from Amanda, but I looked outside and saw no one.
Keith Haines and Bob Dryer were cleaning the men's bathroom. I asked Bob to help me with the trash key, and that's when he asked what was up. I have known Bob since by 5th/6th grade year. He was my Jr. High youth pastor, and more importantly, he was that older brother I never had. I know if I ever needed anything, I could go to him for help.
That's when I broke down to Bob. Not crying, but on the verge, and just dropped everything about my future, Africa, what I wanted to do with life. But a lot about Africa. I remember telling myself "What are you saying? You haven't even prayed about this recently! This isn't God's plan!" I continued talking anyways. This wasn't me talking. I had no idea what I wanted! I kept looking at the door for Amanda or Alec to come in and save me from this conversation. "This is all a big mistake. Emma, shut up and finish the bathroom," I told myself countless times. I finished my little rant, took a deep breath and looked at Bob. There was a little silence for a minute, and I kept feeling like I should fill it, but decided against it because what I had already said sounded stupid and anything else I could say would sound stupid.
There was an awkward eye contact and Bob just said one word, at first: "Go." He told me. What? What in the world was I hearing? Wait, he possibly couldn't be telling me to go to Africa is he? No. He's just telling me to "go" finish the bathroom.. Yeah. That's it. But then he started to explain that he could see me in Africa and lots of other things (about Africa and such) but my mind was spinning too fast to catch anything except that he thought I could do it and he would support me 100% through whatever I chose. He left the bathroom, and my head was spinning. I went to finish the bathroom and while I was in the Handicap stall I stopped and just stood there.
Maybe I really could do this.
Maybe this could be a crazy adventure I would never forget.
Maybe that why I was having dreams about the Benkert family and little Luella.
THE DREAMS! I hadn't even thought about that.
The Benkert's are a family from our church, living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They have lived there for 3 years, doing God's work. They come back during summers, and I figured that's what the dreams were. I'm sure I was just up late Facebooking and happened to see a status Levi or Jessie posted about their trip this summer. But now I began to think differently. But at that point my brain was on overload and I needed to shut out the rest of thoughts, at least until I got home.
Amanda and Alec finally came down when I was mopping the hallway, so the bathroom was done. These two can read me as easy as a child's book. Separately they came down the stairs, and separately they both asked my what was up, something was on my mind. I told them. I remember one of them asking why I had never mentioned it to them, and I couldn't give an answer except I didn't even know I was thinking about it until that night, about 20 minutes before. Before I left that night they both told me they would support me in whatever I did, and that they were happy I was thinking more about it than just making an on the spot decision of 'no' like I felt like I should do. I had my best friends, my brother, and most importantly, My Jesus standing behind me with whatever I did.
Before I left, Bob told me I had to tell my parents. Not that I had to that night, but he highly recommended that I talk to them about it. And soon, since I was still living under their roof. My heart dropped. My mom might understand, but my dad? No way. He would never let me go. I'm his youngest biological daughter. Yeah, we didn't have the best relationship, but he still wouldn't want me to pick up and leave as a long term missionary, and, and, and..
Too much for one night! My brain was about to explode.
Amanda took me outside before I left and she told me just to breathe. We looked in and Bob was standing at the door mouthing "Africa! Africa! Africa!" We both giggled like little girls, and we had a little talk about girly stuff. It was getting late, and we knew we had to leave soon so we finished our talk and hugged, because that's just what girls do. "I'm gonna miss you." She said softly in my ear. "Amanda, it's just an idea. I don't know what's gonna happen with it. We'll see though." I don't remember her exact words after that, but she told me she knew my heart well enough that I wouldn't be this tore up about something I didn't really want to do. Yeah I wanted to do it. But could I? "You can do it." She said tossing all my negative thoughts away. We went inside and I felt a little more relaxed.
Why was I stressing about it this much? I really shouldn't be. I had Jesus on my side! And I knew I could get through anything, even something as big as moving across the world, as long as I had him. I didn't know where I was going. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know where I would be in 6,8, 10 months! All I knew is that I believed that I would be right where God wanted me. And that was enough to get me through.
And this is only the beginning...