It has been several months now since we returned from Africa. I know that I had planned to write this final reflection within days of returning, but to be honest I was just too tired. I apologize to everyone for that. Since then I’ve had work, school and swimming. And while I’ve had no time to sit down and write this last impression of my summertime Scouting mission, one thing has remained true: it has always been on my mind.
If I’ve found one thing to be constant between all three of my missions, it is that I’ve always felt a desire to do even more; to continue what we started and to “return to the scene of the crime,” so to speak, because God’s work is never truly done on Earth. In this trip in particular, I felt like there was more to do. Originally, we entered the Congo as a team with the idea that we would be setting up a camp for Scouts who had no idea what camp was, and imparting all of our wonderful wisdom to them so that they could simply come back the next year and run camp themselves. In the end, our concept of what we had really been called to do had changed dramatically. As I’ve written before, these Scouts were more than capable of completing skills and organizing themselves. They were intelligent, organized and strong. In working with them, we discovered they really needed something else. They simply needed encouragement and excitement.
As a group, we were there to support our brothers in Africa and to let them know that the fire of Scouting was still burning bright all over the world. These kids lived in a place where even their local Scouting center in Kamina refused to send them supplies and help. There were lots of uniforms and books in Kamina and yet despite all of Tenke’s requests, not a single one was sent out. We needed to ensure them that we cared and so should they, and that even in America, Scouting was very important. We needed to spread scouting throughout the country as well. Our chaplain in the camp was actually not a huge supporter of Scouting, but had agreed to come share the word with us anyway. By the end of the week, he was one of our biggest backers. We’ve heard that since the Jamboree, he has been traveling and spreading the message of Scouting throughout his region. All of these things we definitely accomplished.
We learned something too. In talking with people, we found that our conception of Africa as helpless was completely wrong. These people do not need us to come fix their problems for them. Instead, they need us to come help them fix their problems according to their plans. We can provide the tools and the work, but unless they own the problem and own the fix, it will not last. I think this is something that will be key in my mission efforts going forward. We want to enable the Africans to help themselves. We are not the solutions; we are tools for them to use to make solutions.
Finally, I learned that sometimes you could travel halfway around the world and still really make one of the best impacts back at home. I’ve heard countless times from people who have read my blog posts and have been inspired or motivated themselves. They’ve grown simply as a result of the things that we went through and the difference that we made. Again, thank you to every single person who has read my posts or who helped to make this whole thing possible. You have truly changed lives.
Through all of this, we did still impart some knowledge to the Scouts. Nikki definitely revolutionized their concepts of women in society, and Dave and I were able to teach them newer, more powerful methods of youth leadership. We were there to teach them how to change their leadership to be catalysts for future leaders. We were there to share our expertise in the few areas where they were not yet experts themselves. And in reverse, I think we can learn a LOT from them about being 100% dedicated to Scouting and to truly doing our best.
In the end, I discovered that this mission was not just for me in any way. In fact, it was for the Scouts only. In my past experiences, I have gained something personally from each experience in the way of a spiritual epiphany. In those times, it seemed like the mission was about me. I was constantly searching for that moment on this trip, but it never quite came. I think that this is because I was already spiritually prepared for this journey. This is not at all to say that I didn’t have the time of my life, because I couldn’t be more thankful and overjoyed for the experiences I had! And as I’ve said, I learned SO MUCH, about how to help others in the future, how we can make huge impacts on people everywhere, and how to dedicate myself. The cultural experience was irreplaceable. I’ll never forget the time I played soccer in Africa with the Africans and almost won! The friends I made still put a smile on my face, and I almost tear up thinking about how much I miss them after knowing them just a week. Actually, the personal epiphany comes to me now just as I write this. God works in mysterious ways.
I personally plan to go ahead with my own brand of mission effort. Over time I’ve developed the concept of reaching out to others in Christ through sports. My mission will be the G.A.M.E., or Global Athletic Mission Effort, which will look to instill life lessons and create positive environments for people through sports. I know that the impact of sports on my life has been huge and I want to share this with others. I think that my experiences in Africa will better prepare me for this because I have actually seen what life there is like, and I have a more concrete grasp on the most effective way to help people and to reach out to what they need.
With Scouting, there is always hope. And with us, these Scouts could truly see that. As a group, we realized that as missionaries we would go to the ends of the earth just because. We need to real reason, we need to incentive or money or prize. We just need to know that we made a difference for one person. That’s why I can rest easy when I think of this trip. As my pastor put it one time, “if we give money to 10 beggars and 9 of them were cons, we still helped one person and that makes all the difference in the world. “While I always want to go back and do more, what we did still makes all the difference. What you did to support us was key. Again, THANK YOU ALL.