For a year and a half, Shannon DeLoach lived with the family of Coach Hugh Freeze and it is here that she first learned about Reclaimed Project’s trip to Lesotho.  Shannon originally had no plans to partake in the trip.  She had spent two weeks of May in California doing a trial run for the company she now works for and upon her return to Oxford, Coach Freeze asked how she would be spending her time until she returned to California later that summer.  He encouraged Shannon to go to Africa with his wife and daughters.  Shannon thought the coach had gone crazy.  The trip would be costly and the team was headed out in five days, a time that seemed far too soon to prepare for.  And, honestly, Shannon did not want to go to Africa.  Well, the Lord works in funny ways and five days later Shannon was on a plane headed to Lesotho, taking the place of the Freeze’s youngest daughter.  She was scared of the plane ride.  She was hesitant.  She was anxious.  She did not want to go.  But what Shannon wanted was not important in that moment.  God wanted her to go.  God was calling her to Africa.  So, she went.

Lesotho was not Shannon’s first time to do mission work.  In high school, she did locally based mission trips that often revolved around building and similar work.  Last spring, she went with the Freezes to Haiti and spent time evangelizing and interacting with the local community.  However, Shannon felt that this trip to Africa was different.  She felt challenged more.  Her time in Lesotho was spent focusing on the women and children of the community.  She spent a good amount of her time working in the schools and care centers for orphans.  She, along with the others on the trip, would go to the schools and pass the time playing with the children.  They would also give encouragement to the teachers in the schools, such as a group of teachers they met who had been volunteers for two years.  Their biggest prayer was simply to earn a salary.  Despite the lack of a salary, these women continued to give their all and make an impact on the children they work with.  The group would also go to the care centers and hold a Vacation Bible School type of event for the kids, in which they would play games, make crafts, and share the gospel.  It was at the care center that Shannon met Matsi Etsi.  On one of their first nights in Africa, the group was told Matsi Etsi’s story and it broke Shannon’s heart.  This little girl is not valued by her family and she does so much work only to receive no love or anything in return.  Well, it turns out that Matsi Etsi was in Shannon’s care center group and the two spent lots of time together.  In Shannon’s words, Matsi Etsi is “a brilliant and beautiful girl,” who speaks English well enough to hold a conversation with Shannon and who possesses a bright and brilliant smile that lights up the room.  Perhaps what captured Shannon the most about Matsi Etsi was her joy.  She radiated joy at even the simplest of things.  Shannon specifically remembers how one day they were decorating a craft, hearts to be specific, and Matsi Etsi wrote on hers, “Jesus died for me.  He is always with me.  God brought me these clothes.”

One day, the group even held a women’s conference where the women of the village were able to come be encouraged by different speakers among the group, eat some delicious food, spend time worshipping, and just enjoy the company and fellowship of one another.  Shannon said that to see these women come together with a sense of community and be encouraged was incredible.  At this women’s conference, Shannon saw a former san goma (witch doctor) praising God.  She possessed a joy and a passion for worship that Shannon had never seen, and it amazed her that this woman who worshipped God so profoundly used to be a witch doctor.

One specific moment from the trip that clearly stands out in Shannon’s mind is an incident that occurred on the last day.  The group was out evangelizing and decided to visit the home of a san goma as well as the home of a false prophet.  Shannon enjoyed sharing the gospel with these individuals and the san goma’s husband gave his life to Christ that day.  However, their conversation with the false prophet got pretty heated.  A few weeks later, Shannon was checking the Facebook page of a friend of hers who was still in Africa.  It was here that she saw that the very same false prophet whom she had had a heated conversation with weeks before, had given her life to Jesus.

While Shannon was helping to encourage the community, the community was also helping to encourage her.  Specifically, through the church.  Shannon loved going to the church in the community.  The genuine heart and passion of the worship greatly encouraged her.  Shannon says that church in Africa differs quite a bit in comparison to church here in the United States.  In Africa, there is an abundance of singing and dancing and genuine, heartfelt worship.  Services are long and instead of a brick building with pews, the church is a tent outside with dirt to sit on.  Shannon says that one aspect of the church that was really cool to experience was the time in which individuals would come to the front and share something that God is currently doing in their lives.

Though the trip may have been filled with joyous encounters and wonderful occasions, that does not mean that it lacked challenges.  For Shannon, her personal greatest challenge was overcoming her desire to workout.  Shannon does CrossFit and she is incredibly into working out, so much so that when she goes several days without lifting weights, her body begins to feel weak and like it is losing muscle.  So, spending a long period of time in a place where she did not have access to weights was a battle.  The two weeks Shannon spent in Africa were the longest she has gone without working out since the day she started.  She had to consistently remind herself that while physical training holds importance, the value of spiritual training far exceeds it.  Healthy bodies are good but nothing outweighs the importance of a healthy relationship with the Lord.  Shannon also found a challenge in the lack of a cell phone.  For Shannon, checking her phone is the first thing she wants to do every morning.  With no access to her cell phone, Shannon was forced to spend the time she would normally spend with her phone with God, helping her relationship with Him to grow and helping her to experience Him even more tangibly.

Now that Shannon has returned home, she says that her life has seen a drastic change.  She catches herself at times settling into a routine and she has to remind herself of the lessons God instilled in her in Africa about surrendering every day and truly living for Him.  Her mindset on things like poverty and wealth has changed and she feels as though she is living a simpler life now.  She has an alarm on her phone labeled “Pray for Lesotho,” and each night it rings and she does exactly what it says.  She says that right now, she feels praying is the most important thing she can do. When asked if she thought she would ever return to Africa, Shannon’s response was an enthusiastic “Definitely!”  In fact, she has a desire to move to Africa one day and start a CrossFit gym which will function as a ministry as well as a place for people to invest their time in to something that is both enjoyable and beneficial to their health.  Her desire is to create a place where she can help people grow in their physical strength and their spiritual strength.

 It was on this trip that God taught Shannon she is not her own.  Shannon, like so many of us, finds herself oftentimes getting caught up in the day to day hectic pace of life.  She finds herself simply going through the motions, living simply for herself and failing to recognize that God places people in specific places in order to further His kingdom.  This trip taught Shannon the importance of making disciples.  She realized that while we all may not be called to be missionaries, in the professional sense of the word, we are all called to live our lives on mission.  Whether it be Africa or your hometown, a faraway village or the subdivision you live in, complete strangers who speak in a foreign tongue or your friends, family, and coworkers, we all are called somewhere.  Each place we are called to becomes our mission field and it is in these places that we need to minister to those around us.