The Apostle Paul, Gladys Ayward, Cameron Townsend, Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor . . . these are the people whose life stories initially tugged at my heart. My mom read missionary stories to me as a part of my homeschool curriculum. I quickly realized that these people were more than the typical heroes you read about in storybooks. Instead of fighting with swords, they fought with love, patience and gentleness. When everything seemed to be crashing down around them, they would get on their knees and pray or sing a song of praise to God. These stories fed my interest in the international workers who spoke at our church. Soon after accepting Christ into my heart when I was nine, the sensitivity I had toward missions grew into a desire to someday work on a foreign mission field.

Although I hate to admit it, I secretly have always loved it when somebody in my family has gotten sick. It gives me a chance to “play nurse”: getting glasses of water, fluffing pillows, supplying tissues. I just have always liked making people feel better! This trait, paired with a two-year addiction to reruns of Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman and a great admiration for an aunt who is an obstetrics nurse, led to my great interest in medical missions.

In October 2010 I had the incredible opportunity to go on a missions trip with my father to the C&MA’s Hospital for Women and Children in Koutiala, Mali. I was thrilled! Even though I am only 14, I have wanted to go on a missions trip for several years. I admit, though, that until the night before our departure, it didn’t seem real. I had never left the country; I had never even been on a plane!

While I was in Africa, I saw a healthy baby girl take her first breath and a sickly 10-year-old breathe her last on the same day. I saw women from the ages of 14 to 45 give birth. I saw many women and children suffering from the effects of malaria. I experienced a true African rain, which is more beautiful than I can describe, and I also saw little children going to the bathroom on the side of the road. I witnessed and took part in the celebration and joy of a bridal shower for a local Christian, and I found out about the huge difficulties a woman in a Muslim home faces if she decides to follow Jesus. These are the women who need Christ so much, and these are the women who experience the love and care that the hospital provides.

In just a few words, this is Africa: joy and pain, laughter and sorrow, beauty and utter poverty, so full of God and yet, so empty. Some are called to pray. Some are called to give. Some are called to go. God has place the call on my heart to go. Right now, God has given me a mission here at home to reach out to my friends and neighbors, and I will do so with a joyful heart. But when my time comes, I will go.

More images from Mali

Photos by Damon Adelgren

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