As I began writing this, I read through my tour journal. 6 months of life with 30 strangers who became the people dearest to my heart! It had me crying because I miss them but mostly laughing through all the stories. We also had a group chat of things the kids would say and I re read all of them in order to write this. I laughed so hard I cried. I don’t know how to explain 6 months of Daraja tour to you except for the fact that it will change your life.
I graduated high school in 2018 and knew I wanted to take a gap year and “do something cool for the Lord.” So selfishly, I applied to some long-term, international mission trips. In May 2018, Daraja came to my church and worshipped with us. I applied that night! I knew God was pulling my heart in a different direction than what I originally thought. So I ended up being a 2019 Daraja Intern.
So on January 6th, myself, along with six interns plus our tour leaders, arrived at the 410 Bridge offices in Alpharetta. We spent the next five days learning everything we could about tour life, Daraja, and the kids we were about to love on. We also played a lot of Spicy Uno and I pretended to journal while everyone else actually journaled. At the end of the week, I knew that God has so intricately designed our team to serve Him to the best of our abilities.
So feeling prepared, well rested and unstoppable, we headed to the Atlanta airport to pick up the kids. This is one of my favorite memories. I can’t even remember which kid said what or who I hugged but when they came out of customs one sweet little girl ran and jumped into my arms and gave me the biggest and tightest hug and said “I love you, Auntie!” She had no idea who I was and I will never be able to tell you which Daraja kid it was but that will always be one of my favorite hugs.
For the next two weeks, the entire team lived at North Georgia Christian Camp. Here, the kids practiced their songs and the interns counted, organized, and prepped for 6 months on the road. Some of my favorite memories were at camp when it was just our Daraja team. I remember at the time being very cold, tired, and unsure of the whole situation! Now that I look back on it, I notice the little details of God working. How he provided people to come cook for us. How there was always a car when we needed it. How there was always a bucket of ice cream in the freezer on the really crazy days. We always had enough even when it looked like it might not be there. I know the other interns agree with me, we would all go back to “camp” in a heartbeat for just a little more time with these sweet Daraja kids.
After those two weeks of getting to know the kids and me finally learning their names, we were on the road! My jobs were Greenroom and Child Welfare. For Greenroom, I ironed costumes before the concerts and then helped the kids get ready and on stage. I loved this special time I got with the kids. Some days it was just five minutes before they went out to worship and sometimes the kids and I would worship (sometimes worship was just screaming loudly about the love of God in another language) together for an hour before a worship service. I cherished this time so much and always looked forward to getting to be with the kids. Greenroom itself was generally kind of crazy. I tried to teach the kids how to use spray deodorant alone; it ended disastrously. Once, I sewed a boy’s costume closed and had to cut him out after the service. As crazy as some days were, God always provided the time to rest in His presence or a wise word from Papa Kaws before a worship service. I will never forget the sweet voices of the kids praying over each other right before going to worship with a church.
As the Child Welfare coordinator, I took care of clothes for the kids as well as inventory on all of our toiletries. It sounds silly, but it was amazing to see God work in this area of tour. It really is wild how often kids grow out of blue jeans or get a hole in the knee. Then multiply that by 17! It felt like there was no way to keep up and most days there wasn’t. A kid would show up with a three random, holey socks in their backpack and no one would ever know where they came from. But God being the gracious provider He is, always came in and showed me His provision. I need four bottles of soap for the next location? Someone would donate four bottles of soap. It seems so small but I could see God working and teaching me about His provision in my own life.
To finish tour, our entire team along with a wonderful group of people from Canvas Christian Church traveled to Kaihura, Uganda to meet the Daraja kids parents and see their home. I can not say it enough; the Lord was present! He worked every single day in each of our lives through the conversations we had and the people we met. Leaving the kids was painful. That is my human flesh speaking. Ask any intern, I’m the crier of the group and I was not doing well! But seeing God work in each Daraja child’s life and seeing our kids speaking truth in their families and communities was incredible. These moments I will never forget.
So when I think of Daraja, I first think of the kids. Their joy. Their obedience, Their faithfulness. They got it. You could see it by the way they lived their lives. They taught me so much and will continue to do so even from 7,868 miles away. When sweet Innocent sang Living Hope with a tiny tear rolling down his cheek, I saw that he got it. He knew the Lord’s provision in his own life. I saw it when Mariam prayed with authority and power. She truly believed that God was moving and working. I know these 17 tiny people who sang and worshipped with thousands of people, had another purpose of teaching me dependence and reliance on God. Daraja’s impact in my life did not stop on July 4th when I got back home but it continues to play out in my everyday life. I’m thankful for the kids and the season that I got to love and care for them. I’m thankful for the staff and interns who push me to be better and pray for me. Daraja brought together a family of 30 and through that God taught each of us in so many different ways.