One of the most important parts of NATIVITY:NIGERIA is reflection. The team joins in reflection nightly in Abuja and frequently in the days and weeks following their return to Timonium. Below is a reflection by Kristin Costanza, Director of Creative Live Presentations at Church of the Nativity. Kristin was part of the first team that Church of the Nativity sent to Nigeria during the summer of 2007.
I spent my teenage years at Nativity serving in every ministry possible, attending work camps, meeting new people and discovering my love for Christian music. A lot of songs we sang, came complete with hand motions, which everyone pretended to hate by secretly loved. One song in particular was called "Hands and Feet" by a fantastic, now dispersed group called Audio Adrenaline. At the end of the chorus it says, "I'll go where you send me." I remember singing that line loudly, waving my arms back and forth, with confidence that I would willingly go wherever God wanted to send me. This theme comes up a lot in Scripture, most familiar in Isaiah 6:8, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Then God told me to go to Africa in 2007. No really, He did. Through conversations with people, through articles I read, through prayer and through the prodding I felt in my soul. My response looked kind of like this:
"No, no, God you must have misunderstood me. I didn't mean ANYWHERE in the world. I meant I'll talk to different people, and bring up Jesus... you know, stuff like that. You can't seriously want me to go to Africa. You KNOW I hate to travel, you know I don't like to be away from home. You KNOW I don't have any money."
It disappointed me that this was my reaction. I WANTED to be willing to go wherever. I WANTED to jump at the chance to serve God in another country. I WANTED to be a part of the foundation of Nativity’s mission to Nigeria. But wanting to have a certain attitude about something isn’t enough. I was forced to come to grips with the fact that God saw all of me all the time. The good, the bad, the ugly and the unwilling.
Somewhere in all of my fighting and begging and ignoring and complaining, the papers were signed, the visa was approved and the plane ticket was purchased. There was no way out now. (And believe me, if there was a way out I would have found it). Turns out, if God wants you to do something, you can’t really get around it.
The trip ended up changing my life. It changed my perspective on things. My relationship with God became different. I learned more about trust than I ever have. Even though many, many times I would comment to one of my three guy friends who went with me “Are we really in Africa? Are there really no adults with us?” (We were all about 21-22 at the time). I met the most amazing people, with the most incredible faith life, doing some unbelievable things. Some of the purpose God had for me in Nigeria has been revealed, and some has not. I’m sure throughout my life God is going to show me more and more about why He wanted me to go to Nigeria.
God has so much purpose for every single life. Sometimes He prods us towards things we aren’t thrilled about, or downright DON’T want to do. Sometimes He leads us slowly step by step, and sometimes He asks us to jump right off the building, and trust that He’ll catch us.
I’d like to say that these days I’m way more willing to go where God sends me. But the truth is, I still have the same attitude sometimes. But what I am better at is learning that God has such a bigger view of everything. And He will not steer me wrong no matter what. And He brings amazing things out of what we’re scared of.
And that thinking we’re incompetent doesn’t make you unusable. In fact it’s very old school. All throughout the Bible people thought they weren’t good enough or weren’t psyched about doing what God asked. They thought they weren’t good enough.
But God combats that by saying, “I made You good enough. You’re mine and I send you because I believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself.”