Sunday, February 27, 2011

Going Where God Leads

Hannah Miller was a shy teenager in 1999 when she first participated in a mission trip to New York City with her church’s youth group.

Her positive experiences helped define the course of her life, leading to similar trips to Tennessee, New Orleans, Florida and West Virginia, among others.

"Through the years, I’ve fallen in love with volunteering and helping people. It’s a big part of who I am,” she says. “I’ve also grown in my faith and trust in God. By the Holy Spirit working through me, I’ve overcome a lot of my shyness.”

So much so that Miller, who lives in Augusta, eventually helped lead a 2005 trip to Belize.

“We worshiped with the Belizian people and worked and played with their children. While we were never able to build the church we had planned, we left the tools and money we had raised so they could build it when they were ready.”

A year later, Miller felt a strong call to do a longer-term mission to Africa. She signed on with the Eastern Mennonite Missions’ Youth Evangelism Service. Instead of being placed in Africa, however, she was sent to Israel-Palestine for a year.

“It wasn’t God's plan for me to go to Africa then,” she says. “Instead, I served with the Bethlehem Bible College as their guest house manager and helped at House of Hope, a home and school for children and young adults with developmental disabilities.”

As guest house manager, Miller enjoyed her role educating guests about Palestinians and their culture. She also received her own education.

“I learned to see people beyond stereotypes. We had been sent to encourage Arab Christians, and it was they who encouraged me more. The Palestinians have difficult lives, but were cheerful and always willing to share meals and a hot drink. They may not have had much, but they would always find a way to be hospitable.”

Providing she can overcome the challenge of receiving a travel visa, Miller will follow God’s call in mid-May to the place she felt drawn to five years ago – Zambia, Africa.

Her 3-1/2-week mission with the Women’s Initiatives that Strengthen and Empower (WISE) program will involve volunteering as part of a 20-person group in small rural Zambian towns like Kaoma.

She has raised the $4,000 needed for the trip through support provided by friends, family, other missionaries, churches and her church family at Faith Christian Church (FCC) in Gardiner.

During the past 25 years, WISE has worked to empower Zambian women and improve their lives by providing them with education, skills and support.

WISE also works to ensure Zambian orphans and other vulnerable children have their basic and educational needs met.

“I’d like to work at the children's orphanage or school but will work wherever they need me,” she says. “I feel God has provided me with this great opportunity to strengthen my walk with Him and His walk with others.”

When she returns from Africa, Miller will visit her sponsoring churches and share her experiences about living and working with the Zambian people. In late July, she and others also will lead the FCC After Shock middle and high school youth groups on a mission trip to Cincinnati.

For now, however, she’ll continuing making trip plans and corresponding with the Washington, D.C. agency handling her visa application.

“Visa issues are always difficult, but I have faith in God to provide,” she says. “And I will go to Zambia with an open heart and a willingness to serve however I am needed.”

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