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Operation: Escape to Mexico-Part Two

**All names in the story have been changed.

After my failed attempt at launching Live Love Dream in January 2019 and the realization that God had already warned me four days prior during my prayer time that I was going to lose it, I was in utter shock and awe. In shock, because that was the first time that I had experienced what I call a “serious course correction” or chastening of God. I mean I had corrections before but nothing on this level or magnitude or significance. I was in awe of God and His ways, His providence, and just His sheer power and might. Who can do the things that He does? No one. It just reminded me of the many times in the bible when God would tell the children of Israel of things to come before they happened so when they did, they would know without a shadow of a doubt that it was Him—The One True God. The Mighty God. There was no way that I could even try to deny what had just taken place.

When I finally settled down a little bit I decided to go on a fast. I would typically take the first week of the new year to get before God to hear His heart and plans for me, but because I was so consumed with launching the blog that year, I had pushed it aside. But now, more than ever, I needed to hear what He had to say because clearly I was off in the weeds doing my own thing and had missed Him terribly. 

During that time of fasting and praying, I remember asking God to show me my heart. I didn’t want to be going about doing my own thing. Heck, I honestly thought I was doing what He wanted me to do. After all, He had given me the idea for the blog. But I had no clue what was in my heart. Only He knew. So just like the loving Father that He is, He began to show me my heart which lead me back to May 2018 when I made a decision that would change everything.

In January 2018,  as I was having my typical beginning-of-the-year pow-wow with the Lord, one of the things He revealed to me was that my time in California was up. It was time to move. I had fallen in love with Cali—as I like to say with the sunshine, palm trees, and mountains. But I knew that feeling in my spirit when a season was ending and it was time to pick up my tent and move into whatever God was doing next. So, I didn’t protest. I was actually excited! I was even more excited when I asked the Lord where He wanted me to go next and He told me “Wherever I wanted to go!” I was thrilled. This time I was getting to choose the destination unlike my journey to Cali when He told me exactly where He was sending me. Living in Cali was never even a thought or dream of mine. But when God told me back in July 2008 that he was sending me there I was not a happy camper. But after three months of protest, I finally surrendered and decided to move. It would be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. But now it was time for a new beginning and I was ready.

It didn’t take long for me to decide on my destination. I was going to move to Medellin Colombia! It had always been a desire of mine to live in another country and now seemed like the perfect time to do it. My dear friend Felicia had already paved the way and inspired me with her move to Medellin in 2017. I remember she called me out of the blue very shortly after I was given the green light to move. After our inspiring chat, I was sold. She hooked me up with some resources and contacts in Medellin and I was well on my way and planning my departure. As an added bonus, I was going to spend the entire summer traveling in Europe with my friend Misty and her family. I really don’t have words enough to describe the sheer joy and excitement I had about my new adventure and journey. 

The timing for the departure seemed perfect. Those ten years I had spent in Cali were life-changing. It was there that God began the process of showing me, Me. It was there that He began revealing my true identity in Him. I had fallen in love with myself and that was important. More important than I would ever know. I wouldn’t realize the significance of this until He began taking me through the process of showing me my heart in 2019. I needed that firm foundation of knowing who He was and who I was in Him before He would get into the nitty gritty work of actually transforming me into the woman He had purposed me to be. I had to “know” the love of God and “know” and “love myself” deeply enough to experience the brokenness I was about to endure.

As I began sharing my departure with those around me I was met with lots of well wishes and a few blank stares followed by “You’re going where? By yourself?” But none of this phased me. I knew I had heard from God and I was confident in my decision to live in Medellin. And as usual, I was getting confirmation after confirmation that I was headed in the right direction. God had also given me a glimpse of what I was going to be doing while there. I was going to be sitting at His feet, studying and writing. I was also to start a bible study. I had learned through my research and chats that people were longing for connection and fellowship with other believers because most of the churches there were Spanish-speaking only. This truly resonated with me. God had been speaking to me more about ministry and what He had specifically called me to do. I was like, “Yes, Lord! Let’s do this.” 

I was about a month away from my departure when everything changed. It was my first week off from work and I was just chillin’ in my room. I left my job at the end of April to give myself time to pack up my belongings and get things in order before I left in June. I also wanted to go and spend time with my family back in Chicago before I left, especially, since I was planning to be out of the country for the next several months.  There was a knock at my bedroom door and it happened to be one of my roommates, Ashely. Ashley and I were typically like two ships passing in the night. We rarely saw one another or were at home at the same time because of work schedules. But this particular day I was home and so was she.

“Hey!” I greeted her as I stood in my doorway.

“I’m surprised you’re here,” she replied.

“Oh, my last day of work was last Friday. I’m getting ready for my trip.”

She proceeds to invite me to her church to see her perform.

“I wanted to invite you to my church Sunday. I’ll be performing.”

Now my normal response to these types of requests would usually be “Let me get back to you.” It was a practice and useful tool I had learned and developed during my time in Cali to manage the social anxiety and people-pleasing ways that had plagued me for years. But for some reason, when she asked me, without thinking as if something had completely come over me, I replied, “Yes, I’ll come! I’ll be there.” 

“Great!” she replied. 

I remember immediately closing my door and thinking, “Why did you just say that?” But I just shrugged it off and didn’t think any more about it.

Sunday rolls around and I show up at her church. It is a small start-up church that was just about a year old with a 99.7% African congregation. Anita was from Uganda and most of the congregation there were from Uganda as well. But this totally didn’t matter because the service, as well as the people, were amazing! I had never truly been amongst a group of Christians of another nationality before. It was so refreshing to see their unique expression of God. I was kind of digging it. So much so, that I remember thinking to myself, “Too bad I’m leaving in a few weeks because I would definitely come back to visit.” During my time in Cali, I visited many different ministries and tried putting down roots in a few of them, but I never had that check in my spirit that I was to settle down. I just continued to flow with the Holy Spirit as I always did and went wherever He would send me. But this was different. This experience excited me even more about my trip because I was going to be able to experience this type of unique expression in Medellin amongst the locals there. It was like a sneak peek of what was to come—or so I thought.

After service, they had dinner for everyone. I stayed for dinner and just mingled and chatted with some of the other members. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, especially, at church. This wasn’t the only small church I had visited during my time in Cali so I had experiences to compare it with. Most of all, the teaching by the lead pastor was great and reminded me of my church back home in Chicago. I missed that type of teaching and actually longed for it.

As things started to wind down and I was preparing to go, Anita asked me if I would stay for a bit longer because the lead pastor wanted to greet me personally. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I figured everyone here was so friendly and accommodating so why wouldn’t the pastor be too? I remember shaking his hand as he greeted me with a huge kind smile. “It’s so nice to meet you, Sister Anji,” in his deep Ugandan voice.

I extend a warm welcome back. Then he asked me if I wouldn’t mind stepping into the other room which was connected to the main room where service was held because it was loud. I agreed and we stepped into the other room which happened to be his office and he beckons me to have a seat. I tell him how much I enjoyed the service. He asks me if I had a church home and I told him no. That I was actually getting ready to move out of the country and do some traveling. He asked me what I’d be doing and I told him that I was going to be studying, writing, and starting a bible study.

He then proceeds to “speak into my life,” as we Christians like to call it.

He tells me that he can see the call of my life from God. That God wanted to use me to reach His people. I remember smiling and nodding my head in agreement. I knew this already. Then he tells me his testimony and story about how God led Him to come to California to start the ministry. He tells me about how he was a traveling evangelist who has spoken all over the world. Now, I’m just listening to his story at this point and not thinking anything at all about the specific details he’s sharing with me. I’m just listening to his story. Then he says that it’s too bad that I’m leaving because if I would stay and give him three months He would personally train me like he did the young man who opened up the service and that I’d be “ready.” He would teach me firsthand. 

Now this to me sounds intriguing mostly because I had attempted to submit applications to ministry school on three separate occasions over the years and each time the Lord told me, No. That ministry school was not the route He had for me. So I didn’t go. But this right here was different. It wasn’t ministry school but like on-the-job training. I would be learning firsthand and serving. It would be like when He sent me to work at the magazine in Chicago. But there was more to it. What I didn’t know at the time was what was in my heart that would become a huge stumbling block.

I remember feeling conflicted. “Being in ministry” was always something I desired and that I knew God had called me to but I never had the opportunity to fully pursue it. But here was a ministry that was not only welcoming but a pastor who said he could see what God had placed in me. He could see me. I had another pastor in Cali who would also say that he could see me and what God had called me to but who tried to use that to manipulate me and betrayed my trust in such a horrible way. But this looked different.

By the end of our conversation, I had decided that I was going to forego the first part of my trip to Europe and just move to Medellin once I finished here with the pastor. This had to be God, right? Wouldn’t he want me to receive some training before I left?  I reasoned all this out “in my head” and made the decision that I thought was “God-led” and canceled the first half of my trip. I thought I was making a “sacrifice” for what God had called me to do. This seemed like the Christian thing to do. But that decision would be the biggest mistake that I’ve ever made in my life and would have very dire consequences. And I’ve had some pretty jacked-up mistakes in the past but nothing like this. Nothing that would completely bankrupt me financially, emotionally, mentally, and almost spiritually. Nothing that would send me back home to Chicago and leave me with nothing more than two suitcases, a gaping hole in my heart, and the burning question “Why?”

Well…That’s all I got for you right now, Fam!

Stay tuned for Operation: Escape to Mexico Part Three…I’ll be revealing how I came up with the title and wrap up the saga!!

Until next time…Smooches😘

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