Africa Part 1: stitches on my heart

Monday, July 16

Blah, blah, blah. Here I was, my sophomore year of college and this girl across from me is droning on about how much she loves the African history course she is taking. Ya, I get it, you love africa, ok, I’m over it. Blah blah blah, I could think of nothing more boring or depressing to study.

That was me. To even admit it now renders me red in the face with embarrassment. But I’ll admit it, growing up, Africa was not etched on the map in my mind, you know, that map that you dream of exploring and discovering. I had entered college studying International Relations, and minoring in Italian, and had big plans to travel every inch of Europe and Asia and South America. I wanted to be an ambassador or a politician (my nightmare now!), wear high heels (double nightmare!), make policies, and drink coffee with the best of ‘em. But Africa? I may not have ever been good at math, but I could tell you right then and there that Africa most certainly did not factor into my equation for the future.

And then I met him.

On a bus.

I was having a hard time getting my chair on the bus down, and with the whip of his hand, my seat was now functioning. I looked up.

 7 feet I thought. He was wearing a beanie in the cold Illinois air.

I knew next to nothing about the continent, but I knew Africa was his home.

Our eyes locked, and I couldn’t pull away. “Where?” I thought, then verbalized.

Sudan. His words sang softly and silently, openness.

Nothing registered in my head, blank.

Tell me, I breathed, your story.

And he did. Five minutes on the bus, turned into an hour in our hotel lobby. Those poignant eyes, dark and lovely, spilled stories of love and horror, of families, his family, torn apart- children walking across deserts with no food, mothers murdered. Devastation, loss, war. Of refugee camps in Ethiopia, then Kenya. Of chaos swallowing his country, his home.

“I am a lost boy” he says.

No words. Wide eyes flooded, I was beyond lost in his scars. I couldn’t shake the inevitable thoughts, “How does this happen? How do I not know anything about it?”

For the rest of the week at the conference, I shuffled close to Amal. He invited me to African dance night, where heart and soul and love for the mother land was palpable in the air, and I breathed it. Over 20 countries in Africa were represented, and with each drum beat and praise and prayer, a part of my heart began to beat differently. New eyes.

I will forever be grateful to Amal for sharing his story with me. His words, his courage and perseverance, but mostly his trust in God in the face of horrific pain, stitched a new story for my life.

And soon that fabric added Africa to the map in my mind, and my globe seemed to revolve around it.

I went back to college and started studying African history, and soon it easily became my favorite subject to study, it would be an understatement to tell you that I couldn’t get enough. I studied African film, I became entrenched in apartheid South Africa, I mulled over UN accounts of child soldiers from Liberia and Sierra Leone, I memorized geography and could tell you all sorts of facts about the Hausa and Fulani of West Africa.

And then I went. I spent a summer in South Africa and God continued to stitch love into a little heart. I was a sponge and just soaked. I saw the rhythm of the Holy Spirit move in ways I’d never experienced, and my South African friends ministered to me in ways I could have never imagined. They shared their hopes and dreams, and I literally saw beauty rise from the ashes of a system based on hate and prejudice. It was as if God’s redemption story was unfolding in front of my eyes, bold and brave and trusting in the only one who could give strength.

One night back in California, I showed up late to a Bible study and saw the end of a documentary that God used to stitch and stich more, Invisible Children. I had studied the LRA in my classes, but to see the devastation play out ruined me. I showed everyone I knew, hosting screenings on campus, and rallied a jog-a-thon, knowing that every little bit helped! A few years later I worked for Invisible Children for a year, and stories of transformation continued to unfold before my eyes. (As a side-note, if you have more questions about IC after all the Kony 2012 craziness, please don’t hesitate to ask!).

When I look back on these formative years where Africa and I collided most epically, I am drawn to the conclusion that God will forever surprise us with ways that draw us back to Him.

If I am called to love my neighbor and if we are called to carry each others burdens (which, newsflash, we ARE), then who I am if I ignore the rest of the world and live comfortably in my own little orbit filled with starbucks and the bachelorette?

But Abba calls us into a BIGGER story, out of ourselves, and into HIM. Where relationships and action and prayer for the world usher in HIS Kingdom.

And that is where I begin with Africa.

But my journey is not finished, and hopefully by the end of this week you will get to read
Part 2. Not only am I excited to continue sharing my story, but I also have a fun and meaningful give-a-way for you my dearest of readers of a product that is ever so near and dear to my heart.

Much love,

Part 2
Part 3


  1. *sigh* A woman after my own heart. Seriously, it amazes me the more I find out about how similar we are. I've only seen a sliver of the African continent, but it absolutely etched itself on my heart as well and I can't wait to go back. I'm reading an amazing book right now- Kisses from Katie about a girl who went to Uganda to teach for a year and wound up falling in love with the place and adopting fourteen girls.

    Can't wait to read part two. I'm so glad we found each other on the blogosphere- you are such a blessing to me :)

    1. Kaity! that book is on my list...I LOVE her blog though:) I want to hear more of YOUR story now:) Love K

  2. what neat experiences you have! so cool that God has placed that desire in your heart for the people of Africa. Looking forward to more of your story!

  3. Wow! It's so awesome to get a taste of your passion here on your blog for Africa =) In fact your entire blog is awesome too ;) I've had so much fun reading about your travels, faith, and how your met your husband. Thanks for stopping by my blog and following =) I can't wait to read more of yours.

  4. Oh girl thank you so much for this reminder to get outside myself and look upon the needs of others. A shot of much needed conviction came through your words today and I'm so grateful.

    My heart too sings for Africa. I only spent a short time there but God used it tremendously in my life. At the base mountain in Tanzania, I realized for the first time that God was real and cared for me. I think it might be impossible to go to Africa and return unchanged. Thanks for sharing sweet Katie!

  5. Goodness gracious, I can tell that you poured your heart into this post. Your love for the Lord and the nation He has etched in your heart jumps of the page with every word. I appreciate your transparency and baring your heart!

  6. I LOVE that you LOVE my continent so much because I LOVE my continent very much!!!

  7. It's so exciting to see this kind of God-given passion! You're right, we really don't even have a legitimate option to choose to stay inside our comfort zones and enjoy our luxuries without realizing the needs that have to be met in the greater world.

  8. Oh friend you are so radiant inside and out. I loved reading this post. Did I tell you I still wear my Africa Hope shirt you made (the ones you sold in college)? I have 3 of them actually and wear em often!

  9. I LOVE how the Lord works and how He gives us a heart for his people! That's such an awesome and encouraging story!!!

  10. I love love love love love this post! Thanks for sharing your story and your heart for Africa :) It makes me smile when I see someone so in love with their Heavenly Father that they can't wait to serve Him!

  11. Love how the Lord can give you the desires of your heart. Such an encouraging post. Thanks for sharing your story! PS - I'm emailing you back ASAP! My best friend got married and the events started last tuesday night and JUST ended!!

    Ahhh... so grateful for your blog and how it speaks to me :)


  12. This is such a sweet and inspiring story. Can't wait to read more! I'm your 100 follower. Yay!

  13. hi katie!! thanks for finding my blog, because it led me to yours!! what a sweet and kingdom centered heart you have. so excited to meet you and get to know you!!! :)

  14. Oh my gosh, this is amazing. Your writing, your passion, your transparency... I am just in awe! I can't wait to read more of your blog :) And thanks for stopping by at mine!

  15. Amal's story is amazing!!!
    May God bless him and the people you met in Africa!

  16. You write so beautifully my friend!!! Wow - thanks for sharing! My first major trip away from home, without my family was to Kenya when I was 16. That place is still so very much on my heart - I learnt so much when I was there and I am still learning and I look back and reflect on my time there. Happy Weekend! Blessings, Sally xoxo

  17. Ahh, Katie, I just started really reading your blog this morning and I already love you and your way of story-telling! Seriously, this is such an encouragement to me. I absolutely LOVE reading the way God brought about this love for Africa into your heart! What a beautiful experience in meeting that man. I'm blown away at God's sovereign design for your life, my dear. He's so good!

  18. Hi Katie, I just recently started reading your blog, and it really speaks to me- as another Katie, as another native Californian, travel lover, and changemaker. I work for a company called Art With Cause, which makes fine art editions inspired by charitable organizations, and $100 from each print sold goes the the charity. Right now we are running a campaign for the John Dau Foundation. John Dau was a Lost Boy as well, and the video on our site captures his amazing story.

    Keep writing!

  19. Katie, I just started reading your blog, and it really spoke to me. As another Katie, another native Californian, travel lover, and changemaker. I work for an organization called Art With Cause. We make fine art editions inspired by charitable organizations, and $100 from each print sold goes to the charity that inspired the piece. 1 of our campaigns right now is for the John Dau Foundation. John was a Lost Boy also.

    I hope you find this inspiring as well!

    Keep writing! Katie


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