by Michelle Hettmann
Read Psalm 118:19-29.
This past fall, I studied abroad in Lugano, Switzerland, and Adigrat, Ethiopia. I was so blessed to have the opportunity to set foot in over 10 countries and experience glimpses of life in communities all over Europe and parts of eastern Africa. Being abroad was a wonderful experience, but also a challenging one. I was away from my friends and family for four months while they were here doing life together. I felt loneliness and sadness in the midst of the adventure. It was the biggest test of my faith and trust in God that I’ve experienced in my life.
While the experience wasn’t always easy, I experienced God in ways that I probably wouldn’t have if I wasn’t in that situation.
“Open the gates of righteousness for me so I can come in and give thanks to the Lord… I thank you because you answered me, because you were my saving help.” Psalm 118: 19, 21 (CEB)
This psalm is a rejoicing cry out to God. “Jesus, let me into your Kingdom. I want to thank you! You’ve been so good to me. You have gotten me through a lot of things in this life. Let me live for you. I praise you because you are my God.” I can relate to this prayer so much! I prayed it often while I was abroad. I clung to God the whole time I was gone- sometimes God was the only thing I felt like I could cling to. It was such a cool experience realizing that God is so much bigger than I had ever been able to imagine. Thinking about and experiencing the fact that God is everywhere was powerful. God was with me in Gainesville when I was preparing for my trip, God was with me on the plane ride from Dulles to Istanbul and the next one from Istanbul to Milan. God was with me throughout my travels around Europe. God was with me in Ethiopia and Rwanda. God was with me through the easy and the hard, the joy and the trials.
There was one day that was especially rough. I was struggling with missing home, receiving push back from the community for being there volunteering, feeling sick, and worrying about relationships and group dynamics with my team. All I wanted to do was lay in bed all day. But that wasn’t an option. We had to go to Adigrat Vision, the daycare we were volunteering at each afternoon. The teachers were counting on us being there, so we went. In the bajaj (Ethiopian taxi) ride over there, I was thinking about I could push through this; how can I get through this day? I prayed that God would reveal something to me to help me out. Well, God came through. That day I got to spend time with my favorite 6 year olds taking pictures, sharing out things, and laughing a lot. Even though we couldn’t communicate through formal organized language, we found other special ways to connect. I was relieved and beyond thankful that God allowed me to feel God’s presence and experience such a powerful moment of goodness being created out of chaos.
“Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, his faithful love lasts forever.” Psalm 118: 29 (CEB)
God is good.
God is loving.
God is faithful.
God promises to be here through it all, and I fully trust in that promise.
Michelle is a junior studying Human Development at Virginia Tech. She is involved with Wesley Campus Ministry and is an admitted candidate for ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church.