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TOGO OR NOT TO GO?
THAT WAS MY QUESTION
In the months leading up to the 2017 SMART trip, I had a lot of doubts about
whether or not God really wanted me to go. It was a busy time for me. I had just
finished college and moved to South Dakota. I was struggling to find a job and
pay the bills—borrowing money several times, picking up whatever odd jobs I
could find (it seemed like no one wanted to hire someone that was about to leave
the country for a month). I had my wedding coming up just a month and a half after the trip. And in the midst
of all this, expenses and preparation for the trip overwhelmed me. It was far from convenient, and it felt like it
was right smack dab in the middle of everything else that was going on in my life. Satan took every opportunity
to tell me things like, “You could have a good job right now… You could be putting money that you desperately
need in the bank… Are you really going to just leave your fiancée alone for a month with no communication?”
I thought to myself several times, “Surely I can wait until next year to do this trip. I mean, there’s a SMART trip
every year; it’s no big deal if I miss this one. And if I wait until next year I could take my wife with me.” To be
honest, the only thing that kept me going those last few months was a duty to what I had told everyone I was
going to do. If I’m being completely honest, in those last few weeks leading up to the trip, my heart wasn’t in it.
But God knew that I needed this trip far more than I needed a good job, money in the bank, or time to help plan
a wedding. In the midst of my busyness, I had been losing sight of the needs of the world. I had started getting
comfortable where I was. I knew God had called me to missions, but in my mind I had been pushing it farther
and farther into the future. I had started to think that maybe after I live out some of my plans and dreams for
my life, I would get to that eventually. And God knew that before I started my marriage, what I needed more than
anything was a spiritual renewal and a fresh look at the needs around the world.
The weeks we spent in Togo and France were exactly that. It was such a refreshing time as I stepped away from
my comfort zone, away from my cell phone, away from all the distractions, and just spent time ministering to
people and studying God’s Word and seeking Him in a deeper way.
In Togo we had so many opportunities to be immersed in the culture, spend time with the people, and learn
valuable lessons from the missionaries there. I loved the times that we were able to spend with the children,
seeing their shy smiles, learning their names, playing games with them, and watching them all wave as we drove
away. My heart daily felt drawn to the people. There were so many times when I would watch the children
playing in the street, or look out over the villages and see the people working in the fields, or just pass by the
houses in the evening and see families sitting around laughing and spending time with each other, and I would
just have an unexplainable feeling deep in my heart that the African people are the people that I want to live
among, minister to, and give my life to.
Strangely enough though, it was actually in France that God solidified that burden in my heart. We had an
opportunity to go to the village of Laon and spend a few days with Clare Baughman, an older missionary that has
ministered there for almost four decades. The church he pastors is made up mostly of refugees from countries all
over Africa—Nigeria, Tanzania, Cameroon, Congo, Rwanda to name a few. As I sat
in that Sunday morning service, and then spent time with the people throughout the
day, I knew that those were the people God has called me to minister to.
The experiences, the people I met, and the impressions left on my heart are
something you cannot put a price tag on. This SMART trip changed my life, and I
am so thankful that in spite of my doubts, the answer to my struggle, to go or not to
go, was right there the whole time! TOGO and France! God was guiding every step
of my journey. He always gave me just what I needed—always pushing me to trust
Him in a deeper way and always reminding me that His way is perfect.
Jonathan (CB I ’13b, SM ’17) grew up as a missionary kid in Trinidad. He married
Sarah on July 28, and they are continuing their preparation for missions together.
Togo, West Africa
10 CAMP BIMI