Juli Phillips of Greenville College recently visited Agape House. This is her story.
“On January 7, 2016, I boarded a plane in Washington D.C, about to embark on the craziest, best, most life-changing trip of my entire life. I was about to leave my comfy United States for the first time ever as a 20-year-old college student. Not only was I leaving the United States for the first time, but my destination was to a tiny country in Africa called Malawi. I feel like the first time out of the country for most people is to places like Mexico or Canada; on the same continent. But, I was going halfway around the world without my parents. I was terrified. The distance and location weren’t the only reasons why I was nervous. I was going to work at a school for street kids in the poorest country in the world. I was about to face poverty in a way I had never imagined. Not only that, but I’m also not what anyone would consider a “kid person”. In fact, I normally do everything I can to avoid interacting with children; simply because I have no idea what to say or do. So why exactly was I going? To tell the truth, I have no idea what compelled me to go. I heard about the plans for the trip the prior January, and I simply could not forget about it. I called my parents one day and told them, “Next year, I’m going to Africa. I need to raise a lot of money.” All of these thoughts were going through my mind the next 24 hours or so that it took to actually get to Malawi.
I felt as if I belonged there, even though everywhere I went people would stare at me. I could write a book about what I experienced in Malawi, but I’ll just expand on one extremely significant moment-or series of moments-that happened on the trip. After the first day or so at Agape House (the school I was working at), I started to really like kids. It was the strangest thing- kids would just come up to me and hug me and want me to play a game with them, or fight over who got to sit next to me and hold my hand. This had never happened to me; kids aren’t exactly drawn to me in the United States. But, I was finding myself LOVING these kids. One little boy in particular stole my heart. His name is Blessings. I imagine he is about four or five years old. He immediately became my buddy at Agape. He would run up and hug me every day, sit on my lap during class, and during recess we would play clap games. The last day we were at Agape House, he wasn’t at school. I was devastated. I thought I would never see him again. But, the next day (on our way to the airport to leave), we stopped by Agape House to say goodbye to the staff. I walked in the gate of the yard and about the same time I look over and there was Blessings, getting a drink of water. I waved at him, and he got the biggest grin on his face and ran towards me. He jumped up and gave me the biggest hug. I started crying. (I am NOT a crier). I did not want to leave. Even though I had to leave and I probably won’t ever see him again, Blessings definitely impacted my life. I have a picture of us in my dorm room on my desk. Whenever I get stressed about school or whatever life throws at me, I am reminded of Blessings and Malawi and am thankful to God for having given me the biggest blessing in the poorest country in the world.”