By Mommy Emily

I’ve wrapped up 18 gifts from the thrift store for my kids to open, one for each of the days I’m gone. I’ve snuggled and wept. I’ve had a slumber party with dancing and games and too many stories, because tomorrow I will say goodbye to my family and step onto a plane taking me to four different African countries in just under three weeks.

First I’ll fly into west Africa, to visit our dear brother Pastor Sonnel in the villages of Sierra Leone. He’ll take me from church plant to church plant, from village to village, crossing Lil’ Scary river in a hand-hewn canoe, kissing the kind lines of mothers’ faces, and shaking the hands of blind grandfathers; giggling with little girls whose eyes are filled with love as fierce as the Sub-Saharan sun.

After four short days, Pastor Sonnel and I will drive his van to the border of Liberia, then take public transport into the bustling city of Monrovia, and head through Liberia, a country I’ve never been before — to meet a man I’ve never met before, Pastor David Zawu.

The Lord led Pastor Sonnel to Pastor David in a dream. We sent Sonnel to Liberia saying, “God wants us to partner with someone there. We’ve been praying for a year now. Would you go and find him?” And so, guided by visions and prayer, the Lord took Sonnel to David’s doorstep — a man who’s heading up a school of 500 children and overseeing multiple churches and agricultural projects.

Once there I’ll have the honor of shaking hands with this humble shepherd who’s worked alone in the heart of his country for the past decade. Then I’ll head back to Monrovia after just a few days to fly across the belt of Africa to Uganda, a place as familiar to me now as the freckles on my forearm. A place God first took me near six years ago. The Pearl of Africa which hangs on a chain around my broken heart.

After visiting Jinja’s villages briefly to encourage the pastors, teen mamas and teachers, this pathway to east Africa will veer northward to South Sudan. I’ll meet up with Pastor Santos in the refugee camps along the border, getting reconnected with his precious wife, their seven adopted and biological children, and the 18 they’ve taken in from child-headed homes. Then he and I will take his van into Nimule, South Sudan, to meet up with his colleague, Pastor Francis.

I met Pastor Francis briefly on my last trip. He’s a tall man who exudes authority and kindness. A friend of Pastor Santos, he lives in one of the few peace-filled towns in South Sudan, a town with over 50 different tribes and 10 different churches. Francis oversees these churches in addition to sharing weekly on a Christian radio program that broadcasts across the country.

I’ll stay for a few days with these pastors in this quiet town of Nimule, witnessing the work they are so faithfully doing, and then head back to Kampala, Uganda, to fly home December 6th.

And what will hold this trip together like a long stretch of African red-dirt road? It will be the prayers of you, brothers and sisters, our faithful army, whose intercession keeps our hands lifted and the enemy from winning. Please don’t stop. How we need you, dear ones, for this is in fact the most difficult trip yet.

But we are trusting, too, that even as Jesus journeyed down to earth, leaving everything to become a shivering babe in a manger, that this story too ends with a resurrection and new life — the resurrection of the church in Africa, of dead bones being revived, of the poorest of the poor witnessing God’s glory in the highest. Not because I’m going. But because Jesus is already there, the Lord of the harvest. He sends. He saves. He alone makes all things new. Hallelujah.

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze. -Isaiah 43:1-2

Dear friends of the Lulu Tree, please pray with us through the next 18 days as Emily travels. Together, let’s cover her in prayer for her health, safety, a deep connection with our Lulu Africa family, and a trip that exceeds all hopes and expectations in its fruitfulness. Please pray for guidance, clarity, and unity as well as joyful fellowship. And, pray for Emily’s family at home. -Erica Hale, VP of The Lulu Tree