A trip to remember

I had been looking forward to this trip for months. I was on a glorious flight to South Africa—one of my favorite places in the world—to see my extended family and do service work for a not-for-profit organization that takes high school students to South Africa to do sustainable community service. I couldn’t wait to buckle up and take off! I love long flights and always take advantage of the opportunity to watch movies, read, listen to music, and sleep.

Unfortunately, I landed in South Africa with cold symptoms and pretty bad jet lag. I almost felt selfish to be feeling this unwell because instead of spending my first day enjoying the beautiful country with my grandma, all I could think about was how terrible I felt. 

Plane
Hayley Ball—Illustrator

My initial thought was: “Go to bed. You just need to sleep it off.” So I did. Giving up a few precious hours I could have spent with the cousins I see only once a year, I slept. But when I woke up, I didn’t feel better at all. My grandma, a longtime Christian Scientist, Sunday School teacher, and Christian Science practitioner, came into my room to see how I was doing. I told her I didn’t want the way I was feeling to ruin my trip.

My grandma reminded me of something I’d learned in the Christian Science Sunday School, and that we’d been studying in my Bible class in school: God gave me dominion and made me perfect, spiritual, in His own image. And He maintains me in my perfection (see Genesis 1:26, 27). 

She went on to share that because God is omnipotent and omnipresent, there is no space in His kingdom for anything unlike Him: not a sore throat, headache, jet lag, or blocked ears! No way! I was in South Africa to do His work, to be good and selfless. Sickness couldn’t interfere with the power of good.

Our conversation reminded me of something I had learned in Sunday School when I was little. My Sunday School teacher raised both of his hands and told me to think of his left hand as God and his right hand as me. Then he joined his hands together and challenged me to try to pull them apart. At seven years old, my attempt was pretty pathetic, but the message was clear: I was one with God no matter what, and I could never be outside, or parted from, His omnipresence.

The ideas my grandma shared with me gave me the strength to claim and practice my God-given dominion. I was able to get out of bed, and from that moment forward, I felt God’s support in being able to participate fully in the trip. Joyfully, I was able to spend time with my family, carry heavy bags of cement, dig holes under the hot African sun, help build a playground for a school, and celebrate by dancing and hugging the community’s beautiful children.

In less than a day, all the cold symptoms and fatigue vanished, and I was completely healed. I am so grateful for the way feeling God’s presence and my God-given dominion allowed me to have an incredible experience in South Africa and to do the service work with joy, energy, and love.

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