Each spring Sunnydale Academy provides students with an opportunity to experience an overseas mission trip. This year, one of their mission trips was to Tanzania. Hailey Wolfe, a recent Sunnydale graduate–then a senior–shares about her experience below.

I began this experience with a paralyzing fear of the unknown and overwhelming feelings of uncertainty. My first 17 years of life had been spent mostly in the familiar bubble of rural USA. My comfort zone didn’t extend far beyond the confines of the Midwest and, as far as I knew, the rest of the world was far beyond my reach and much too scary for a small-town girl like me.

The desire to explore was undeniably present deep within my being, but I had begun to suppress those desires due to circumstances. Nevertheless, going on a mission trip with Sunnydale my senior year was a goal I had set for myself long before I started high school, so I decided to go.

When the time came to prepare, however, I was stunting my own progress by raising funds as non-aggressively as possible. I was wrestling with a crippling fear of flying and a selfish inclination to stay where I knew I was safe. Little did I know the real danger masked itself under the guise of security and that the trip had nothing to do with whether or not I would be comfortable; rather, it had everything to do with whether or not I would follow God’s plan and go about doing His work.

When I finally settled into that concept, it became clear that I couldn’t keep fighting against Him. And with that realization, I found peace from my anxiety and answered the call I had been hearing for years.

I’m home now, and though no words could ever truly express my appreciation for the time at Kibidula, perhaps I can begin to scrape the surface.

I sincerely believe God sent me to Kibidula not only so I could be a blessing to others, but so that I could become the recipient of a blessing beyond measure.

Every morning my soul was refreshed at the mere thought of going to the primary school and hearing the melodious choir of cheerful voices singing heartfelt songs of praise. I especially loved observing the kids as they assembled the day’s chosen craft with careful diligence and excited anticipation for the final result.

At the end of each meeting we would hand out small toys, such as a spinning top or a bouncy ball. Their abounding gratitude for such seemingly miniscule gifts taught me a lesson about my often ungrateful attitude toward much greater blessings. I can say with confidence that the children taught me far more than they learned from me. God undoubtedly worked through them to teach me things about life I previously would have failed to comprehend.

Before I came to Tanzania, the lens through which I saw the world was blurred by a lack of experience and understanding. My exposure, which was limited to American luxury and society, left me nearly blind to the culture outside our borders. It’s one thing to see commercialized poverty in the media, but it’s a different experience entirely to see with your own eyes the effects of indigence. Additionally, I had never known the beautiful spirit of thankfulness that dwells within the hearts of Tanzanian children or the joy they find in simple things I wouldn’t give a second thought.

Prior to my arrival, I could never have predicted the impact this trip would have on my life. I will forever cherish the people I met during my stay at Kibidula and the memories we made in such a short period of time.

If not in this life, I hope I can see all of the children’s beaming faces again someday in heaven. To know they lived their lives for Jesus would be the greatest reward I could ever ask for. The end of my experience ended on a very different note than the beginning, thankfully, and instead of returning home relieved and exhausted, I returned home with a newfound understanding of God and appreciation for different cultures.