My family and I traveled to South Africa in February on a Mission Trip. We had the opportunity to bring educational materials to a local school and feed the hungry with food from Meals from the Heartland. Because of this organization, I have seen firsthand the benefit of packaging meals for those in need.

We also spent time with orphans and donated money to help build a well in honor of my father, Dwight Churchill.  My dad believed strongly in education, hard work and helping others to help themselves. He was a great man and I miss him very much. This well will help with a self-sustaining food program.

The trip to South Africa was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Here’s why:

  • The country and its people are beautiful.
  • The loving people celebrate God in all circumstances.
  • The experience made me more aware of the power of gratitude. The people celebrate one meal a day and are grateful for a plate of rice and beans.

I had the privilege of playing with and hugging beautiful children without a family to call their own, and it breaks my heart, as it should. Some are called “rescues”—these children have a parent, but are removed because they are being beaten or starved. This happens especially in stepfamily situations.

One young girl had the whole side of her face burned and had just gotten out of the hospital when we met her at Anna’s orphanage.

Another little girl had been beaten by her step mom. She was only allowed to watch her family eat, and occasionally could eat if there was anything leftover. When they finally removed her from the situation, she was too weak to even sit up off of the ground. She asks the question “Why doesn’t anybody love me?”

I got the wonderful opportunity to serve many people during this trip and to try to be a shining light in the darkness for that moment. My family and I feel truly blessed and changed by this experience. It was an added gift for me to see my children love and serve others.

I have many faces and stories stored in my mind, and I think of them often and what I can do to help them in the future.