My Journey Towards Africa


 


Since I returned from my backpacking and volunteering odyssey in Israel and Jordan, I have been feverishly planning and booking and researching all the things that I need to confirm for my Africa trip this December! I will be going for nearly three months and it will be an exciting journey spanning several countries. I’ll be passing through South Africa, then staying for the most part in Zimbabwe while doing missions, spending some time with a Zimbabwean friend and his family, and also heading to the Zimbabwean-Mozambican border at a small town called Mutare where I’ll be doing some work with Serving in Mission (SIM) and their sister organisation Hope for Aids. I’ll also be going to the land of a thousand hills – Rwanda (!!!) – to visit one of the only music schools there, Kigali Music School affiliated with Musicians without Borders, and to finally meet my Compassion sponsor child of the past two years. Her name is Ntawangaheza and she lives in a village in the southern hills of Rwanda with her family.


After Rwanda, I head to Kenya, my last stop. I will be visiting a project with Spur Afrika in the urban slums of Kibera and then travelling some before I embark on my final project – teaching music at a school in Nairobi while staying with a Kenyan family. Phew. I can’t believe I bought the tickets for these internal flights – even before knowing what I’ll do there or how I’ll get the money. But really, it’s been a step out in faith. As I continued to do my research, I found new opportunities and made new contacts for the places I’d be going to. There always seems to be just enough, from my music earnings and from past savings (although I’ve spent quite a bit travelling to the Middle East). And of course, I can’t thank God enough for the Volunteer Africa grant that I was awarded by Mission Travel Group last year.


You know, I just wanna’ say, I cannot for the life of me have ever conjured – even in the most ludicrous of imaginations – the idea that I’d one day be going to all these places in Africa and also finally getting to meet my Zimbabwean friend as well as my sponsor child in Rwanda. I honestly can only thank God with all my heart, and with my life, because none of this would have been possible without His guidance. As I knocked on many different doors, I asked God to allow the right ones to be open at the best times. And He has. I cannot believe that these are mere coincidences, because they have been way too specific to the things I have prayed about, the things I have asked for, the things that even perfect strangers or friends who had known nothing about my plans have spoken to me about, the things I have journalled in the midnight hours and cried about. This is my story, and I know if there’s a reason I got here, there’s a reason for me to share it.


Two years ago, when I made a trip back to Malaysia with my family as well as travelled in Bangkok, I was convicted to do something different with my life. It sounds dramatic, but at the time, it was simply a prayer from my heart and soul. When I walked the streets of Bangkok and saw the horrible things that most tourists would casually glide past, I felt this compassion within me for the lost and weary, for those sitting in darkness and in difficult places. I believe this passion was being fanned into flame by God himself. Since then, it has grown. This conviction has solidified into something weighty and centripetal in my life, as I continued to dig deeper, read about people from different and difficult places, make connections with others from various cultural backgrounds and religions I never thought I’d befriend, and ask God for opportunities to use my love for music and travel to go where he wants me to go. It all sounds very exciting, but at the time, I was still only eighteen turning nineteen. I had just graduated from highschool the year before and begun my music performance degree at the Melbourne Conservatorium. I knew I wasn’t quite ready yet to travel on my own or to do all these overwhelmingly big things that were in my mind’s vision. All I could do was cry out to God and ask Him to lead me.


Several times, I felt God whisper into my thoughts, either while I was praying, playing music, taking a long walk, journaling or reading my Bible – that He would lead me to places I never thought of before. He would take me to people living in spiritually dark places – people who were losing hope and who were in prison to their own vices or the religion imposed on them by their culture or society. God assured me, through all this, no matter how difficult things seem, how impossible they appear, how far-fetched they are, that I will not lack a single good thing. Since then He has always reminded me to not look to the left or to the right – to not worry about what other people are doing or not doing. I need to focus on what I can do right now and what He has already placed before me. So that’s what I have been doing.


All the stuff I’d been involved in during the past two years – my volunteering at The Song Room not-for-profit organisation and teaching children from Sudanese refugee families, serving with the African church and youth in Dandenong, writing and performing music with my Congolese band, leading a university girls group with Crossway’s Young Adults, solo travelling around Australia and then most recently in Israel, and so much more – has definitely shaped me to be the person that I am. God has and is still preparing me for what is to come.


Admittedly, I’ve made mistakes along the way, I have been untruthful at times to myself and to those closest to me. I have tried to ignore God’s voice, I have disappointed my family in many ways, I have gone astray and done things I’d be ashamed to speak of. But through all this, God has kept me. He really has. His grace and truth has been my anchor. Even though I had made some wrong turns, and I believe last year was a year I was going off track (it was as if the devil himself was trying to stop me from arriving at this pivotal year in my life – 2014 – where I would have all these crazy opportunities open to me), God has brought me back. The thought itself fills me with hope and wonder. God has brought me home! This realization led me to write a song of His unconditional love, and one of the lines goes: ‘How can the God of the universe, love me as His own? Oh just how marvellous this is!’


In the end, I have realized that it’s not about how bad I’ve messed up – though I  still might have to face the consequences of my actions – it’s about coming back Home. God loves us beyond our craziest, deepest comprehension. I’ve come to realize that there’s nothing out there in the world that can satisfy me. Nothing at all. I’ve gone there and it’s a dark, bleak place. It’s cool for a while, it’s entertaining for a bit, but then it begins to lose meaning – and then you find yourself lost in the din. It was only in brokenness and tears that I found Yeshua reaching out to me. He always had been. It was I who had slipped away. And He let me, knowing that through my mistake, I would eventually be able to confront the truth and experience His peace with deeper conviction.


In 2012 when I made that prayer while in Bangkok, telling God that I want to do something with my life that would coincide with His purpose for me, I never have thought that two years later I’d be going to volunteer and backpack in Israel and in the same year embark on a trip to Africa. If someone told me that by the time I’m 20, I’d be playing music and talking about faith with some new friends in a predominantly Arab village in north Israel, or that I would be going to see my Zimbabwean friend and my Rwandan sponsor child, all in the same year – I would have laughed nervously and dismissed your lunacy. But it’s happening now. How?


All I can say is that it has happened over time, over months of prayer and committing new things to God, over days and weeks of research and reading, over long walks and tears shed and silent dark nights of the soul. People often think that I make decisions ‘spontaneously’, because I only tell everyone a few months before where I am going or what I’m doing. But in actual fact, it has been brewing in my mind for a substantial amount of time already. Nevertheless, I do also operate quite spontaneously – but that is usually when I’m already on the move! Still, I don’t like telling anyone until I know I’ve got the facts right and I’m actually going to do it. In the past, I have made the mistake of talking about things too early, when I didn’t yet know if I could commit myself to them. I still fall into that trap sometimes, but I’m learning to watch my words.


Honestly, this story is so long, as there are so many facets to the journey. People may ask me why I chose to go to Zimbabwe, why this, why that, and a whole lot of other questions that would take all day to answer. But let’s start with Zim. It’s simple, and it’s quite crazy, to think of it.


Around one and a half years ago, I met a friend from Zimbabwe – not face to face, but through my blog writings on For A Purpose. This guy named Marc sent me a very encouraging message after reading one of my articles about faith and a topic on those lines. We kept in touch because I found that we shared similar perspectives on life and faith and various things. He also wrote really insightful articles on his own website, The Timeless Spectator. Incredibly, we were on the same spiritual journey and shared a similar plane of thought. Just in our written conversations, I was learning a lot. One day we asked each other about our churches, and he was telling me about the amazing worship music that his church band leads. I remember saying, oh one day I hope to visit your church - Celebration Ministries - in Zimbabwe! And I wasn’t just saying it. I remember now that at that moment, I stopped writing to ask God for the opportunity one day to go to Zimbabwe, meet my friend, visit his church and possibly do more than just travel there. Since then, we’ve continued to keep in touch and we exchange voice notes all the time. He has been a real friend, a real encourager and a blessing in my life. I know it’s hard to believe – but I’ve always found it difficult to tell people the full details of the things I do and the encounters I’ve had in various places. They’re always a bit out of the ordinary.


Anyway, since I won the Volunteer Africa grant with Mission Travel Group last December, I had decided I wanted to use it to do some missions work in Zimbabwe. My friend Marc, I believe, has truly been God-sent – he has been able to educate me thoroughly about the situation in Zim, and given me a lot of sound advice in terms of travel and outreach. I can’t believe that God could send me someone so like-minded and also passionate about Jesus and empowering young people, who is halfway across the world, to speak into my life and to give me pointers about going to Africa! How, of all websites did he happen to find mine while Googling for something else? I told you, I don’t believe in coincidences anymore.


To be continued…


[I will share about how and why I'm going to Rwanda!]

2 thoughts:

McNorris Hakata said...

i am honored Jan! Great things ahead!

McNorris Hakata said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

The Difference

Wayfarers walk by faith and dream with eyes wide open. Living simply, they go places, break barriers, embrace people, and build bridges. They're cool if things go wrong; it's the journey that counts. They like being on their own, but love the company of like-minded people anytime! Wayfarers love to hang with the locals, make music in unusual places, and share stories. They're creative about ways to touch the world both on the home turf and on the road. Wayfarers are on the life-long odyssey of discovery with hearts anchored in Faith, Hope and Love.

 

The Wayfarer

The Wayfarer
Get in touch with Janielle: janiellebeh@gmail.com :)

About the Author

Hello, my name is Janielle, a 23 year-old muso based in Melbourne. Join me on my unpredictably audacious quest to embrace people of peace in tough places, use music to inspire creative education, spark spiritual conversations that challenge the status quo, and collaborate with like-minded young people to catalyze passion for Jesus' mission of reconciliation through acts of justice, truth and compassion among the young & free. Being a nomad at heart, I find ‘home’ when I stay with people on the ground, encounter the culture & discover what life's like for others. One Life | One Love | One Legacy.

Home Page