How do you begin to put into words an experience that leaves you absolutely speechless?
This is how we felt about our first trip to the continent of Africa and the country of South Africa. On Sunday, August 27, 2017, the co-founders of The Orchid Project, Jennifer Rice and Delesslyn Kennebrew boarded a plane to go where we had never gone before in order to live out of our passion for girls succeeding in their education. There were a few basic things that we expected to learn. We expected to learn a few words in Zulu. We expected to learn the names of our new partners in ministry. We expected to learn about some of the cultural differences between the United States and South Africa. We expected to learn of ways our nonprofit organization could better respond to the challenges girls were facing by missing school during menstruation, but we can both testify that our actual experience was exceeding abundantly above all that we could have ever asked, thought about, imagined or expected to learn. From the moment we met our host and our new friend, Lynn, our mind was blown by how open she was open to our vision. Our vision is to invest in the lives of girls in Africa by meeting a basic need to promote healthy personal hygiene and cultivate positive self-esteem in order to prepare them to be leaders in their local schools and in our global community. Lynn works with an outreach program of our host church, within the first hour of our meeting, began to speak words that connected with our vision for the future of The Orchid Project with such an urgency that we both somehow knew that our future was now.
We met with Lynn after we settled in to strategize for the days we would be there. We planned to tour the church property and programs. We planned to visit at least three different schools. We planned how to distribute the Empowerment packages that we brought with us. We planned to have honest dialogue with girls about a natural process in their bodies. We planned to share our story and our hope for their future. We planned to check in with Lynn along the way to pause and hear from each other what God might be saying to us all. We were able to do everything we planned to do and so much more!
Overall, we made new friends for life and met new partners in mission. We both experienced moments of complete awe of what God was doing with The Orchid Project in South Africa and most of all how God was shifting our minds into gear to lead this magnificent effort so that we could be a blessing to the lives of so many girls.
Our first trip was unforgettable. It was a necessary first step. It was confirmation that our vision was relevant. It was encouraging to know that our dream had become our reality. The Orchid Project experienced a new beginning on our trip to South Africa and we are grateful to all who helped us to get there, all who will continue to help us return and expand, and to God for calling forth this mission and our leadership for such a time as this!