I clearly remember the night that Kylee told MiKayla that she wanted to go on a mission trip to Africa this summer. Kylee had already talked to me about it on the phone, and I encouraged Kylee to tell MiKayla when we were together one night on the weekend. I knew it was going to be big news for MiKayla and a lot for her to process and to adjust to in her mind. It was a lot for me to process through as well. I think even though it has been almost two weeks since we took Kylee to her bus to leave for Africa that perhaps MiKayla and I are still processing. 🙂
When Kylee was a sophomore, she had discussed the mission trips that her ministry group was doing each summer. It was not a surprise in her junior year that she was ready to go. Kylee was planning to be a part of the mission group this summer and after meeting with her academic advisor then she was reconsidering going on this trip. All of the requirements that she needed to meet for the program that she was planning on majoring in seemed to be conflicting with her mission trip according to her adviser. In March, Kylee told her sister and I while we were at her track meet that she did want to go and felt like she could work everything out. I remember thinking that was a short time to raise the support that she needed; however, I knew that we were surrounded with people that were very supportive of mission trips from all of the people that Kirk and I had been so blessed to know and work with through the years and also from our large and wonderful family. I would like to thank each one who gave to Kylee’s mission trip and helped her to meet her financial goals in such a short time. Kylee felt the love and support from so many of you, and this was truly a priceless gift to her heart and to her mom’s heart. Thank you each so very much.
Kylee’s spring semester went by so quickly as she continued on in her classes, traveled with her track team, and continued to be a part of many aspects of the student ministry that she is involved with at her university. What a true joy it has been to watch all of Kylee’s growth and healing especially this past year. Kylee, MiKayla, and I have all had to put in a lot of emotional work to sort through the loss of my husband in August 2011 in a work related accident and from the instant death of my only son PK at the age of 18 in a car accident in June 2013. I have been so thankful to see the healing and growth that I have witnessed in both of my daughters as they continue in their individual journeys. Kylee has spent a lot of time focusing on her spiritual growth especially in this last year. She was beyond excited to take this mission trip this summer.
My daughter MiKayla was doing her best to be supportive of her sister; however, there were times I could sense MiKayla’s anxiety in having her sister travel so far away. As a mom, I felt like I was split in two. I was thrilled that my daughter had a heart that wanted to serve others and help those in need, but I was battling my own anxiety while thinking about my daughter traveling across the world without me. This anxiety and fear creep in with their ugly heads every so often in relation to my two daughters. After my son died five years ago this month, I was wanting to put my daughters in some sort of protective box and let nothing harm them. Of course, all parents have these feelings about protecting our children, but I do believe mine were highly escalated after having to bury my only son. As I have shared before, my desire is for my two girls to soar, grow, and experience all that they desire and are purposed to do. I do not want fear and anxiety to be a hindrance in any of our lives, and I am committed to continuing to battle it in prayer and in the battlefield of my mind.
Up until the time that it was close for Kylee to leave, I did not spend much time studying the two countries in Africa where she would be staying and working. Perhaps I was in a little bit of denial over the massive amount of distance that was going to exist between us. I was praying and working really hard on managing my anxiety about it all. I did not want anything to dampen Kylee’s excitement over the trip, and I want to be a supportive and encouraging mom to her in each adventure that she travels on throughout her life. As the time approached, then I begin to study Kylee’s schedule and the places where she would be. I knew that I was going to have to truly trust The Lord with my girl and to continue to cover her in prayer.
I have been working on rebuilding and renewing my faith since I became a widow and burying my only son. In life, when we are experiencing the happy and “easier” seasons then it is much easier to declare how we trust The Lord and how we want to live in faith. When we are traveling through some of life’s darkest valleys that are filled with “whys” and gut-wrenching pain, then often this is when we truly see how much we actually trust and have faith in The Lord. It is one thing to praise The Lord in our times of abundance and joy. Praising God in the midst of the most difficult times of our lives is a completely different experience. I believe that in our darkest valleys is when we need our faith and trust in The Lord the most, but I will truthfully share that some of the events that had occurred in my life and most especially the death of my only son were challenging my faith and trust in Him. It was not that I did not want to have faith in God and trust Him. I did desire to live in trust and faith. My son’s death had especially damaged me. I was struggling to trust because I did not feel taken care of, and I did not feel like my son was taken care of. In these moments are the times where I was truly trying to rebuild and renew my faith, but it has been a process. I have by no means “arrived”, but I am trying to keep traveling in the right direction. I knew placing my daughter on a bus and knowing that she was traveling across the world without me was going to be another time for me to rebuild and renew my faith and trust.
As we got closer to the trip, then Kylee dropped one of the biggest bombshells on me. I had just assumed that I would be able to communicate with her in some manner while she was gone whether by email or Facebook messenger or something. Kylee informed me that their leadership team had informed them that they would not be contacting their family or friends . We were offered a group Facebook page that would provide updates to family and friends of 3 different teams that would be in Africa by the leaders. I smile as I look back on how I was feeling at this news. It was not good. Often for the girls and I, connecting with each other and knowing where one another was has been a way that my two girls and I have “felt better” in those times where we were battling anxiety. For the month of June, then I would also be losing this comfort and assurance as well. My Kylee laughed as she knew how her mom would feel about that bombshell, but she dropped the bomb and kept going. I tried to adjust in my mind and tried to place lots of hope in the updates that would be provided.
As I drove Kylee to the city that she was leaving from on Tuesday night, May 29th, then I worked really hard to stay upbeat and excited for her. My excitement was genuine… I was thrilled for my daughter that she was getting this experience and was going to help those in need and to spread God’s love. We went to dinner and spent some time at one of her friend’s apartments. Kylee was to be at the bus at 11:45 pm. As each moment that passed by and as we got closer and closer to the “drop off” time, I kept fighting back a wave of emotions and anxiety. I was battling in my mind and my heart; however, I was fiercely determined to give my daughter an excited, loving send off. As Kylee was making her final preparations, then she would catch my eye at different times and smile knowingly. Kylee girl knows me very well, and my guess is even though I was not verbalizing what was happening inside of me, Kylee probably had some pretty good guesses. Thankfully, I was able to keep the focus and the excitement on Kylee.
As MiKayla and I drove Kylee to the bus, then I knew we were about to that dreaded time. Tears begin to flow as we waited outside with her. When it came time to hug and say “See you Soon”, not goodbye, then MiKayla and I hugged our Kylee for a long time and started our journey home. We have continued to cover our Kylee girl in prayers and are so thankful for each one of you who are also praying for Kylee. Kylee and I had both left letters for one another. I had crammed a letter to her in her very packed bag, and she had left beautiful letters for her sister and I back at our home.
Thanks to technology today then I was actually able to check in on a flight tracker for Kylee’s first two long flights. Once she began her 11 1/2 hour bus ride and her final flight, then I was unable to track or see when those arrived. All I could do was pray and wait with the others. The great thing about the Facebook page was that it was clear that I was not the only parent truly wanting updates or sometimes not feeling patient during the waiting process. 🙂 I was thankful for the other families who were asking to hear if their family member had arrived safely.
Last weekend when I knew that Kylee had made it to her destination safely after traveling for four days, then I was able to get some true rest. I did sleep some each night while she was traveling, but I slept more contently once I knew she had arrived at her first destination. On our updates, we have been able to hear of a few projects that Kylee and her team have been working on including working in fields that feed 400+ children in the area that are in need and also “mudding” a hut for a widow and the five children that she cares for. We have been blessed with a few pictures on our updates as well as a video when they are working the mud to get it ready to put on the hut. We have heard of how they are sharing their faith and the love of God with whomever they are able to.
On Friday afternoon, I received a surprise video call on Facebook from one of her leader’s pages. It was a huge surprise, and I cannot tell you the true joy that I felt looking at Kylee on the video and hearing her voice. Tears fell from my eyes during the entire call. Kylee shared how much she was learning and how wonderful the people were that they were serving. Kylee shared how the people that they were working with were living in God’s love and what a blessing it was just to be around them. Kylee shared about what she was eating, the cold showers, sleeping in a tent, and how beautiful it was in Mozambique. Kylee shared how she hoped to see a tiger. Kylee shared how she was asked to share her testimony at church and all of the love that she received after church from the members and her team as they listened to Kylee’s story. Kylee shared with everyone all that God has brought her through and all of the ways that He is growing her into who He purposed her to be. It was the best call that I have ever had.
One of the things that Kylee was not looking forward to was that she was told that she would have to kill a chicken and give it to the host family that she would stay with per tradition in that area. Kylee would find out on Saturday if the host family that she would be staying with wanted one. She was definitely hoping that they would not. 🙂
Throughout the night as I kept reflecting on the call and as I shared all of the details with MiKayla then I kept feeling like I was emotionally exhaling. I kept marveling how it has felt like I was holding my emotional breath for days since I dropped my Kylee off and had not realized that I was doing that. How thankful I am for that time to hear from Kylee. How grateful I am for the tremendous growing experience that she is being blessed with! How thankful I am for each one that has supported her through prayers and has given to her financially in order for her to make this journey. I am so thankful for this tremendous opportunity for my girl!! Thank you God for protecting and blessing Kylee! Thank you to all who are participating and journeying with us!!
“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve… You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.