Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Is 41:10 NLT

In 2015, I went to Kenya, Africa, on a mission trip. I, as in me. As in… me and Kenya and mission trip together in the same sentence. Surreal, yet real. This was not “Reach for the stars”. This was “Reach for something completely undefined and unknown”.

This was an adventure into the great unknown, above and beyond any unknown I had ever encountered before.

Unknown is not my friend, and that’s an understatement. What’s even stranger about this trip is that I chose it. God did not prompt anyone to offer encouragement or give a gentle, or not so gentle, push. He knows I need pushing sometimes and He uses people in my life like that. But this…this was a direct call from God to me. I made the decision to go on this trip because I felt so strongly that I was supposed to do this.

We arrived on Saturday evening and got settled in at the home of the missionaries we were staying with. We met in the dining area where we were given details of all we would be doing on this trip. Everyone else was pumped and excited. I was terrified. I had a wide variety of fears that turned out to be completely unfounded. Like…what if I somehow inadvertently offend the children at the school because their culture is so different?

God said: “I know you, and I know you need reassurance. OK, I’ll show you.”

The first day we worked at the school, I noticed a little girl standing in the midst of the melee of recess, just looking around and taking it all in. Kids running and shouting and sliding and swinging and laughing all around her. She was content to just stand there watching everything intently. And I felt an immediate unmistakable connection with her. Why? Because she was me as a child. I was a super shy, quiet, serious minded child who felt much more at ease watching intently as life happened in front of me. I was the hide-behind-Mom child who didn’t like meeting new people, and the hold tightly to routine and structure child who didn’t go for adventure. I saw her, and I saw myself.

I had someone take a picture of her in that moment, a treasure I still have.

I didn’t approach her at that point and I didn’t show her any favoritism. But inexplicably, she felt the bond I felt. She sought me out on her own, repeatedly. The first time was a day or two after I first saw her. I was standing talking to a member of our team on the playground when suddenly I felt these little arms around my legs and looked down to see her upturned face and her brilliant smile. I picked her up and then I sat and held her on my lap for a while and she relaxed and cuddled. After that, she continued to come to me unbidden whenever she saw me.

God used this special connection to show me I was not alone and I was there because He called me there. It turned out that in every way I ministered there, God gave me His precious gift of reassurance and affirmation.

This trip was God’s miraculous gift to me. It was absolutely a miracle that I went, and another miracle that God showed me how I can help make a tiny bit of difference simply by giving a hug or holding a hand or giving a high five.

I also learned that I don’t have to have an inborn passion for missions to be a viable participant, an integral part of God’s plan.

I came, I saw, but I didn’t conquer. No far better than that. I was conquered. And when I was finally out of the way, God showed me more than I could have ever imagined.

Lauri Smith is just an ordinary person with an in-born passion for writing and a deep desire to honor Jesus Christ.  Read more from Lauri here.