Dispatches

Walk Far

If you want to walk fast, walk alone.  
If you want to walk far, 
walk with others.         
- African Proverb

April Foster has served for 29 years in overseas ministry in Jamaica, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. In her series, “Walk Far,” she shares lessons learned along the way. April is currently the director of Others – Trade for Hope, an initiative by The Salvation Army to help people generate a steady source of income by selling their products through Army channels.  http://www.tradeforhope.com/home

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The night I got saved, I was lying on the floor of our corps’ chapel, half underneath the grand piano, surrounded by friends in a gospel group called New Direction. I felt an overwhelming sense of need for God, combined with the confidence that He was there waiting for me.

When I arrived home, my mother knew that something had changed. She said it was as if a light was shining from inside me. I was 17 at the time, and I had no idea what God had planned for me.

In 1983, at the New York City Temple, Commissioner Orval Taylor sent me out to Kingston, Jamaica. Little did I know that this would launch a journey of almost 30 years to many places far from home. Along the way, even the idea of “home” took on new meaning.

Goodbyes that opened the way to an extraordinary collection of hellos. I met people new people around the globe: in Jamaica, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Rwanda, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, India and Bangladesh.

But at that moment, as a 17-year-old in Kearny, New Jersey, lying under a piano, I couldn’t imagine what God had in store.

REALLY SEEING

My first term as a layperson serving overseas was at the Salvation Army School for the Blind in Kingston, Jamaica. I lived in a small apartment in the boys’ dormitory on school grounds. Just over the wall was a bar that played reggae music 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

One day, I gave an exam in a religious education class. As I read the questions, students typed up their answers on their Braille machines. After a few questions, I observed one student slip his hand onto the Braille paper of his neighbor, read the answer and then type it into his own machine. This pattern continued for several more questions. I coughed to alert him, but nothing worked. Finally, I said, “Matthew.”

“Yes, Ms. Foster?” He said.
“You know I can see, right?”
“Yes, Miss.”
“You know I can see everything you are doing.”
A smile of realization crossed his face. “Yes, Miss. Sorry, Miss.”

For three years, I lived in a community where I was one of only a few sighted people. But I learned that seeing, really seeing, is more than just eyesight.

During a rare period of violence in our neighborhood, a military helicopter landed on our school compound. Fully armed SWAT–like police emerged, scattering into the neighborhood. I could see everything as the sound of gunshots surrounded us. I will never forget one student who took my hand during that time and said, “Don’t worry, Ms. Foster. Everything’s going to be okay.”

What we see is determined largely by what we believe. Do we see beauty, truth and goodness? Or do we only see faults? Do we see God’s hand at work, even in things we don’t understand? God’s watchful eyes survey the whole earth looking for those who put their trust in Him, like that student, and for you and me as well.

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