As part of our preparation for the trip, each of us going had to share "our story." What pivotal milestones had led us to where we are now? How had God prepared us for this time and this place?
I was very hesitant to do this, and struggled for a week and a half, trying to decide what to share.
I've been a Christian more or less my whole life. And yes, I do know that you aren't born a Christian. At some point each person has to answer God's call on their own. I just don't remember exactly when I did that. My dad is a clergyman and started a church the year I was born. I was always involved in things happening at church, my closest friends and the community that helped raised me came from that church. I loved church. I loved God.
I do remember once looking over one of those 5,000-piece puzzles my sisters and I had been working on (probably more them since I was probably only 6 or 7), and we had been assembling the puzzle on a desk that sat right in front of a window. I remember sunlight streaming in and resting on this puzzle, and I kind of had the image of that light being God reaching down and shining on us.
But I also remember not really understanding the "once saved, always saved" doctrine--the assurance we can have that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. And I remember asking to Jesus to come live in my heart multiple times between the ages of 8 and 10. Every wrong choice I made had me fearing I would no longer be loved by Him. And being loved by people was (still is) a big deal for me.
My soul has hungered and has been thirsty for one thing my whole life: relationships. And I have been blessed with great parents, siblings and friends. But even so, my soul hungered and thirst for more. So I sought out relationships and being loved from boyfriends, too.
I wasn't a serial dater or anything, but I definitely went from one long-term relationship to another. Pouring my heart and soul out--laboring to hold on to these relationships even after they had sucked me dry, and sometimes even long after they had ended (or should have ended).
"Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which doesn't satisfy" -- Isaiah 55:2a
This is the question I hear God ask me. And that I ask myself as I reflect on all those relationships. None of them satisfied me or filled my need to be loved. In fact, as each one ended, my fears of being unworthy and unlovable simply grew. Yet, I never turned to the One who could love me as unconditionally as I wanted.
My self-worth was tied up so much in how each of these boys saw me, that they wanted to be with me. My choices were made based on what I thought would make sure they didn't discard me and tell me I was no longer worth it.
Things came crashing down in one relationship. In general, I'm really good at "going with the flow." As fiery as I can be about certain things, I am not always vocal about things because I fear how that will affect the other person's view of me. But going with the flow eventually leads to being dragged down and nearly drowned by a strong current.
This particular relationship became that strong current that dragged me down and proceeded to drown me. My sisters and a few close friends suspected and subtly sought to rescue me. But I'll admit I was stubborn, and very much ashamed, and wouldn't take their help. But I also was too ashamed to even share the depths of my despair and how much I needed help. No one knew how bad it had gotten.
In fact, no one still knows. I've never felt bold enough to share how bad things had gotten, how trapped I felt. I remember trying to share it with one friend and she threw in, "If you're unhappy, just break up with him." But it's really a hard thing to do to give up the "security" for the unknown. And there was a lot of unknowns. The biggest one being: What if no one else will want to date me after all this?
The year after we officially broke up, I was still in a difficult place. He was kind of leaving a string dangling in front of me, trying to "woo me back," but also pursuing a relationship with someone else. I had gotten to a place where I recognized my worth enough not to be okay with that, but not enough to cut him off altogether. I was also becoming very depressed and at one point, a little suicidal.
But this is where I learned how good our God is. I was weary, I was disillusioned, I was feeling hopeless. But God met me in that place. It was a trying year, but it was a year where my faith was being worked out and I learned to lean more and more into God's love. I still don't know all He has plan and in what ways He was moving at that time, but as I have begun to prepare for India I'm beginning to think, "perhaps it was for a time such as this."
I was first introduced to As Our Own in my Life Bible Study class. They were asking us to join in on the I Will Run campaign and help raise $750 each for one of their daughters. One of their employees came on a specific Sunday and shared some individual stories of their daughters. One story he shared was about the daughter who was the first to get married. In India, who your family is is a BIG deal. And as they sought a husband for her, they knew they would have to share her true background with this man and his family. And her background was that her father was unknown and her mom was a prostitute. But their daughter said something along the lines of, "I know who my family is, and that is not my family. I know who my father is, it is God. And I'm confident that that's enough." She knew that God defined her worth and her value. And when she did meet her husband and they told him about her past family and her current family, he was okay with that. He agreed that her worth came from God first, and because she was a daughter of the King she was more than worth it to him.
That story made me decide to run for As Our Own last October.
And it ultimately inspired my decision to visit India this summer.
I still struggle with feeling uncertain of my worth in Christ, but I also truly do believe that God's grace can cover our past and make it pure again. And unlike me, who made conscious choices and had a great background, the victims of human trafficking had been given no choice and often come from broken family backgrounds. But God can redeem them.
If He can redeem me, He can redeem them. If He can redeem them, He can redeem me.
And what's awesome is that God chooses each of us--he's chosen me, to do something for Him despite my failures and past mistakes, whatever limitations I may have, or whatever inadequacies I might feel.
I am so excited to go to India this summer and shower God's love on these girls and continue to pour into them and remind them that they are worth it, they are wanted, they are loved.
If you'd like to help support me as I prepare for this trip, I'd greatly appreciate it. Mostly I crave and covet your prayers. But, the trip will also cost me $3,900 and so financial support would also be greatly appreciated. To donate to my trip, click here. Click "Give to Mission Trips." Chose "India" as the missionary journey you'd like to support, and type in my name (Bunmi Ishola) as the person you'd like to directly support. As long as you don't give anonymously, I'll be able to send a proper thank you your way and the outcome of the trip when I get back!