The terrain was both beautiful and unforgiving. The heat during the day was often over 100 and there were creatures, big and small, that had to be dealt with but knowing all of that, Melissa still longed to visit and work in Africa.
With a degree in Sociology and a master’s in Business, Melissa was given a grant that would enable her to work and live in Africa and also take special trips to such key areas in the south to research and help those who needed planning and organization tools.
Thirty and single, Melissa felt that she was better prepared for such a mission, for she had no ties to a husband, children or family. Her parents, long dead from a terrible car crash, had forced her to be independent, with a strong need to be involved and make a difference in areas where life and resources were a challenge. .
And so it was on a September morning when she arrived at the airport, ready and eager to fly to Africa. She felt excited but nervous, for this would be her first overseas trip. But after an hour into the trip, she relaxed and soon found confidence and hope returning to her heart..
After many travel hours, she arrived in Africa and was taken to a nearby hotel. As the taxi droned on, she enjoyed the unfolding view. Never before had she seen such beauty. There were animals—big and small—along the way who seemed oblivious to the cars and people traveling through. She suspected that they had adapted to the many invaders of their environment and had come to terms with the never-ending encroachment of ‘their’ environment.
She couldn’t decide which was the most beautiful—the sky, the land or the animals. Everything was so lush and lovely; it was hard to decide. The weather was arid and warm in the morning but turned hot and dry in the afternoon. With such beauty, she thought, there was always a price to pay..
After an hour of travel, she arrived at her hotel and later unpacked and had some lunch. There were plans to meet with Mr. Joe Biden of Environment First the following day. She would be oriented to her new job as assistant director and then begin her work..
Those first days in Africa were memorable and for Melissa, a slice of paradise.
Her first day of work started out well. She was introduced to several of her co-workers and everyone seemed helpful and kind.
It was during her fourth week when she noticed a change. The change was seen in several of her co-workers. They began treating a co-worker, who professed to be a Christian, in a negative and demeaning way. At first, they snickered at her love for Christ and then they began mocking and telling lies about her work ethics and close friends. It became obvious to many that they were persecuting her for her love in Jesus.
Melissa didn’t know what to do to help her new found friend but then decided that as a Christian, she needed to take action.
Her first step to help Mary was in prayer. She asked for God’s guidance, and she also prayed for those who were persecuting her new friend. Then, she asked God to help and bless those who were troubling Mary. Then, she took her friend aside the following day and spoke with her.
“Mary, I know what you’re going through and would like to help. Let’s pray together and ask God for help. Melissa began, “Father, please help this group of people, for they are troubled, hurt and need your help and forgiveness. Help us to forgive them, too, and bless them in good ways. Give us also, Father, the strength and courage to get through this and to forge ahead with joy and hope in our hearts, knowing that you’re with us.”
Afterwards, Mary with tears forming in her eyes said, “Thank you, Melissa. I feel a peace and help that I have not felt before.”
Things didn’t change right away but days and weeks later Melissa noticed that the group that used to bother Mary was no longer harassing her but treating her with respect and decency.
Later Melissa pondered on God’s grace and goodness. What was particularly wonderful, she thought, was that God gives not just on certain occasions, to certain people, but everyday to all who ask for help.
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