By: Alyssa Sharp
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! –Psalm 133:1
The sun rose above the dry-land mountains into the cloudless sky. Ten of us stepped off a small commuter plane and into the Kingdom of Swaziland as the warmth of April touched our skin. We were in Africa.
It was the first visit for everyone on the team. Few expectations had been formed. This allowed us to be open to God’s plan for the trip. What could we take back from this experience? Where was God leading us? How will He use us to work for His kingdom?
I didn’t ask those questions out right. They were in the back of my mind. But I made it a point not to focus on them while praying each morning. This was my fifth mission trip in six years. I wanted to shake things up a bit. Mission teams tend to go into a trip begging for God to do something great. To show something new. Why don’t we live like that daily when we are at home, school, or work? Either way I decided that I would treat this trip as a normal week as I would back home. Seek God, pray for His will, and wait on Him.
On day two we met our Swazi Christian brothers and sisters. God’s love formed an immediate unity in the group as they welcomed us like family. Missing were the awkward introductions and shallow small talk that often takes over in the busyness of The States. The fruit of our team’s prayers blessed us from the start of our mission through Children’s Cup. We felt like old friends who had not seen each other in a while, with worship and devotion drawing us even closer. Each day was filled with the same love, generosity and humbleness that was evident in the early church. I was reminded of the words in Acts 2:46 and 47 – They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
Conversations among the team and our Swazi counterparts revolved mostly around lifting up and encouraging each other in the Lord. Everyone completed each task assigned to them with a servant’s heart. We were able to set up and tear down for community outreaches in a quick manner. Some moved chairs, while others made sure supplies went to their necessary destinations. This organization and work effort made our mission there effective and easy. Because of this unity in the body, we accomplished amazing things in God’s kingdom. We saw families and children reached through Swazis and Americans working alongside each other in local communities. There was a small group of Americans and Swazis who brought food and basic needs to a homestead on a Saturday morning. The team didn’t know that this family had run out of food, on the brink of starvation. It was God’s perfect timing. He provided for their needs that day.
Through our willingness to “Go”, we learned that lives are affected when we are obedient to God in our calling to serve others. But not only to serve, but to work in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. A lady, overlooked and forgotten, was healed and regained her ability to walk after not having use of her legs for years. Children, some with only one parent, or no parents at all, experienced the love of Christ through someone merely holding their hand and providing a little comfort, if only for a short time. If we are unable to serve our brothers or sisters in Christ, how much harder will it be to serve someone who doesn’t know God!
God’s spirit of unity dwelled among us as we played with kids, gave them food, prayed for families, all showing and sharing His love for them in Swaziland. Their eyes lit up, smiles grew, and there was a deep connection formed between the team members and the locals. As we obeyed God, he continued to show up, not only on the mission field, but in our devotion time together. Encouragement, joy, and pure adoration for God embodied our time of praise and worship. As members of the body shared in obedience what they’d heard God speak, the power of the Lord came alive.
Why did this touch me more than times before? I am around the body of Christ in the states on a daily basis, but sometimes I fail to see the fruit of the fellowship. In Swaziland, everyone valued each other. They allowed God to use them to encourage and lift up one another. Through sharing uplifting words and the knowledge each person had received from the Lord, the strength of the body of Christ grew. Those around us are then impacted for the Kingdom of God as we choose to put those words into practice, whether by serving the helpless, loving the orphan, or praying for another’s healing.
In Swaziland, God answered all of the questions I’d ask when I set out on any foreign mission. Yet, only the Spirit of the Lord could truly express the work He did in Swaziland. But God gave me a fresh vision regarding my career as it relates to missions. And once again He showed me how much He truly loves me and cares by answering the tiny prayers that I often pray, or don’t even speak aloud. And by making the decision to serve others and to dwell in unity with the body, I came back with an experience filled with joy and God’s goodness. He led each team member in our own calling, and He used us to further His kingdom. He also gave us new family and friends to share in His love.
Maybe it will take a trip to Swaziland or another foreign country for each of us to experience how the body of Christ can bless those around us and increase our love for each other. Or maybe we can start right here in our own neighborhood, serving the poor, reaching the lost, and lifting each other up. Whichever we choose, it will require the pouring out of ourselves to serve others. Becoming less, so that Christ can become more in our lives. Imagine the countless needs of the poor and forgotten that could be met if we just worked in unity with our brothers and sisters. Think of how many children would go home with full stomachs, and how those in pain could receive healing. The opportunity to serve others is all around us, now all we have to do is be obedient to His call and tear down the borders between us all.
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27
Alyssa Sharp will graduate from Louisiana State University in May 2012 with a degree in Business Management, emphasizing her passion for Entrepreneurship. Alyssa wants to own a business to support missions for widows and orphans, and people in need. Her eagerness to help others and spread the Gospel started young. At age sixteen, Alyssa spearheaded her first mission trip to the unreached in Costa Rica. Subsequent trips followed, which included Romania in 2011. From that trip, Alyssa launched Project 3:17 for The Smiles Foundation. And in the Spring of 2012, God presented another opportunity to serve Him through missions. This time in Swaziland, Africa with Children’s Cup. And in her spare time, Alyssa enjoys old movies, reading, writing, baking sweets, and exploring plantations and old buildings with family and friends.