What if God sends me to Africa?

 photos by Jason Duran

photos by Jason Duran

 

“It’s a scary thought to think that God might send me to Africa.” This rolled around in the mind of Jason Duran for more than four decades. He admits that even as he made his first trip to Africa as part of a vision trip last year, he experienced some anxiety. If you are honest, chances are that something akin to the thought has probably crossed your mind as well.  

On October 9, a group of five men associated with First Baptist Starkville embarked on a journey that would lead them to Lesotho, a mountainous, landlocked country in Southern Africa. The country of Lesotho is an enclave that is entirely surrounded by South Africa.  After a seventeen-hour flight, which was followed by an eight-hour car ride, the team finally made it to Katse, a tiny village nestled on the hillside at about 7500 feet above sea level in the Lesotho Highlands. Katse was originally located in the valley of the Maluti Mountains where there is very fertile land for farming; however, in the mid-nineties, the Katse Dam was built as a part of an effort to supplement the water supply of South Africa.  The construction of the dam forced the people of Katse to relocate the village higher up in the mountains. To put it more bluntly, they were pushed out of their homeland and up into the hills in order to flood the valley.  As you can imagine, the higher and more rocky elevation creates an area that is not nearly as fertile as the land that provided their livelihood in previous years.  As a result, many of the farmers have had difficulty re-establishing new livelihoods.  In addition, the village people struggle with high rates of lung cancer, tuberculosis, and HIV.  

The team split their time between working with an orphan care ministry teaching basic hygiene and public health, leading educational and veterinary seminars for the shepherds, and assisting with some agricultural education training for the farmers.  Jason Duran, Family and Discipleship Minister at FBC, led the team, and he was amazed by the eagerness with which the training was received. Their new knowledge was put on display when one recently trained shepherd immediately left the seminar and was seen sharing what he had learned with another shepherd who had not been in attendance. Jason had watched Dr. Richard Hopper teach the shepherds for two solid days, and throughout that time he kept thinking, “Are these guys really understanding this?  Are they even willing to try some of this stuff?”  He knew his answer as he watched the shepherd walk out and immediately begin to teach others what he had learned.  Jason went on to say, “That’s when we got to see it [the answer] before our eyes.  You never get to see that!” 

Jason was really taken back by “how easy the everyday stuff that we know applies to them and changes their life.” He said, “I was so amazed that we went in there with this perspective of we don’t know what we’re going to offer, we don’t know for sure what we are going to do, but we’re going to be available.  And when BJ sat down or when Richard sat down and just had one-on-one conversations with these people, it was drastic in their learning.  Here you have a pharmaceutical professional and a well-known veterinarian, both at the top of their fields, and they're making themselves available to the lowest of the low.”  

Jason has been out of the country on nine mission trips throughout his tenure in ministry.  He said this regarding his most recent trips to Africa: “The two times I’ve gone to Africa, they have been better than any other trip that I’ve been on.  It’s hard to get there, but once you’re there, it is better than any other place (that I’ve been).  So don’t be afraid of going to Africa.” Jason is planning to take a team back to Katse in the future. Whatever your profession, skill set, etc., you can be used in Africa. Is God potentially leading you to Africa?  Is it possible that you are scared to take that leap? To steal a quote from Chip Stevens, maybe you need to be reminded that “God always proves Himself faithful to those that trust in Him.”  If you choose to trust Him, He will prove His faithfulness.

 
Ashley Taylor