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After months of fundraising for a mission trip to Africa, 17-year-old Shelbi Neufeld suddenly found herself stripped of all $700 she had planned to take with her.
Working through an organization for teen mission trips called Global Missions, the Marlow High School senior set out to meet with the rest of her group in Texas before leaving together for Africa. The night before her flight, Neufeld’s room that she occupied with three other girls was ransacked, leaving her with no money.
Frightened and upset, Neufeld called her mom who just happened to be in the company of her daughter’s youth group from Immanuel Baptist Church and told them of the disaster. Within that one evening, the group raised $1,600 to replace the money she had lost.
“I was freaked out but God came through,” said Neufeld. “I’m so thankful.”
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only road block Neufeld hit before her travels. She had left her yellow fever card at home, an item that was necessary for travel to Africa. But again, things worked out when her parents were able to overnight Fedex the card to her.
“It all happened the same day and I thought I would have to go home,” she said.
While Neufeld had previously been on mission trips within the states, this was her first overseas trip. She was glad to have the company of one of her best friends within the group that left on July 7 and returned Aug. 2.
What she experienced was a bit different than what she imagined the trip would be and it took her a while to have it sink in that she was in another country.
Despite the strange smells and huts that sat across from her hotel, it wasn’t until she interacted with the children of schools and orphanages the mission was working with that Neufeld realized the difference.
“It hit me the second week we were there,” she said. “This little girl was talking to me about how she’d been through rape and war. It was heartbreaking.”
The mission was to go into schools and orphanages to witness to the children about God. Because they couldn’t go in straight to that subject, they began their time by talking about abstinence and leading into a conversation about faith.
“We were like rockstars to them and it was awesome,” said Neufeld.
“They were always wanting to give us gifts and hold our hand or pray with them and they were so open.”
Neufeld said there were two main lessons she took away from the experience. One stems from the trouble she ran into in the beginning and the second, from the time spent with the African children.
“I learned to never lose faith because I thought I’d have to go home but He pulled through,” said Neufeld. “Also, to not be selfish because (the African kid’s) rich is our poor.”
Despite the homesickness she felt each night, when she was with the children, Neufeld said she didn’t feel it but when the time came to fly home, she was ready. However, she said two days after being back home, she wished she were still in Africa.
Similar mission trips are something she plans on doing again, and soon.
“I want to go to Baja, Mexico, this December and this time I want to take my brother,” she said about brother Kirby, a junior at MHS.
“We are really close and I think it would be good for him.”
As far as the money that was raised and gifted to her, Neufeld only spent $700 of it. The rest she gave to the schools and orphanages and $400 of it went to a Women’s Clinic in Africa.
She also purchased wristbands for the youth group, which she handed out at a gathering where she expressed her gratitude and shared her experience.
“I cried and then I said they did amazing,” she said. “If it hadn’t been for everyone, I would have had to start over.”