Kristen Keplinger | The Voice of Zion September 2018 --
I didn’t know if I could leave our six-year-old, Laine. She was born with brittle bone disease and I had not traveled far from her. Traumatic events and everyday risks have kept me by her side.
So when I heard it would be possible to join my dad, Pete Lever, on a mission trip to Africa, I was torn.
I had heard of his many previous trips, and his experiences made me want to visit there myself. I’ve always had a strong desire to experience different cultures and to see the world and the beauty of God’s varied creation. I particularly enjoy conversations with people anywhere I travel. My family encouraged me to go to Africa and promised to care for Laine’s needs.
I soon learned that Missy Loukusa, with whom I had visited about Africa before, would also join the trip!
In one village in Togo, we visited a believing home. We kept services with just the husband and wife because the children were at school. The husband, Jerome, related how a few years ago he met a childhood friend, whom he had not seen in 30 years. He noticed that the friend was so calm and peaceful, and he told him that he wanted to achieve the same contentment the friend had. He told Jerome how he had found God’s kingdom and was now a speaker-brother. He sent believers from Lomé to visit Jerome and his wife. They received the grace of repentance and the gift of faith!
Jerome also told how he had sustained many injuries in a motorcycle accident. As a result, he had a metal rod in his leg. I shared some experiences we’ve had with our daughter Laine’s condition and showed photos of her recent leg surgery. It turned out they have a metal rod in the same leg!
Sharing life stories and hearing how believers in Africa found God’s kingdom were special experiences. It reminded me what a precious gift faith is.
We received permission to visit the local school. It was wonderful to see attentive students with minimal school supplies and such a desire to learn. We met the children from the believing family. I enjoyed watching my dad and Juha Kaarivaara, the mission speaker from Finland, teach the children phrases in English and Finnish.
The daughter of Joseph, a speaker-brother we were traveling with, lived at a boarding school. We went to visit her. It was amazing to see the staff and students busy in the classroom and with various tasks, such as hauling water and cleaning dorms. Joyce, the believing girl we stopped to visit, walked back to the van with us. Before we left, she and her father embraced and blessed each other. This familiar sight brought tears to my eyes. I remembered the many times my children have left home and how comforting it is to bid farewell with the gospel. Witnessing this was one of many ways I felt the unity of faith with these believers so far away from home.
I look back on my trip and recall many experiences that impacted me. I cherish the instant bond I felt with the believers there. I had wonderful visits with my dad, Juha, Missy and the African brothers and sisters on our long van rides in Ghana and Togo. The lives of many women—wives, daughters, mothers, grandmothers—looked so different, but felt very similar to mine. The children’s joy especially touched me.
The people we met were so grateful for our time and efforts, yet I feel an even larger debt of gratitude to them. Their love and kindness are indescribable. I was thousands of miles away from my husband and children, but I was surrounded by believers who are also my family; they have the same ability to support me with the gospel in my life of faith. Missy and I shared a close bond and supported each other throughout our travels. It was nice to have the companionship of another female. Our trip was blessed in many ways.
I am thankful for my experiences in Togo and Ghana and warmly encourage others to visit the believers there when the opportunity arises!
The Water of Life Flows in Bena
Melissa Loukusa | The Voice of Zion September 2018 --
Curious onlookers gathered to listen. Women, from whom we had minutes earlier purchased fresh, hot corn on the cob, and school children on their lunch break paid close attention to the conversation between our brother in faith, Emmanuel, and a few of the women. I was curious too, so I quickly found a spot near another dear brother, Kofi, who began translating the conversation for me.
Since childhood I had often pondered the lives of people such as these African villagers. Now I was in Africa on a mission trip. We had been driving along a newly built highway when Emmanuel asked if we’d like some corn. The spontaneous stop for corn in this Togolese village called Bena was an opportunity to glimpse the local people’s daily lives.
I listened as Kofi recounted that Emmanuel had asked the villagers how it was possible that every time he passed by, they always had fresh corn to sell, even in the dry season. “We have the river,” they answered. More discussion ensued. They use this water and drink it, but do they know where the river begins? Or where it ends? Or how it came to be? I saw furrowed brows and perplexed expressions followed by relief when they had an answer.
“God,” the women said. God had created the river and He created them also, they affirmed, nodding their heads. Emmanuel explained how our lives are like the river. God is the originator of life and He knows when life ends. We do not ask our parents to be born. One day we will go somewhere else. Today we are alive, but one day we must answer to God for how we lived our lives here on earth. Emmanuel asked, “Do any of you have sin?” The listeners admitted that yes, they did have sin. They listened intently to the loving instruction on the need to repent. Emmanuel spoke to them about the gospel that God has given to His disciples through the Holy Spirit. “We have ourselves drunk from this gospel and our sins are washed away. Therefore, we want to share the gospel’s good news: God’s Son, Jesus Christ has also paid for your sins,” Emmanuel continued. “Today we offer to you, through the power of the Holy Ghost, no other thing than forgiveness of sins in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I watched one villager after another come forward to receive the grace to believe in the Word of reconciliation. My heart rejoiced with gladness and thanksgiving. How marvelous is our God and Savior!
When it was time for us to continue our journey, some women didn’t want us to leave. “How will we be able to continue?” they asked. Emmanuel encouraged them, “The important matter is to believe personally and to be cleansed. The Holy Spirit has come to dwell in your hearts and will teach and guide you in your life of faith.”