The opportunity to travel with a team to Sierra Leone and visit our center is just one unique feature of The Raining Season. Traveling with The Raining Season is more than a mission trip. From the very beginning, we have welcomed and encouraged our supporters to visit our center in Freetown. What would come from these trips was more than we could have ever imagined or prayed for. You see, not only were our travelers loving and serving, but they were also building deeper connections and relationships. Relationships with our children, our staff, and the community. Relationships that would leave travelers coming back a second, a third, and even a fourth time.
It is difficult to put into words and describe the travel experience. We are thankful for people who have said “Yes!” to traveling. Seeing the Lord at work in Sierra Leone and within The Raining Season is enough to say “Yes!” again and again. Community outreach is just one part of the travel experience. Today we are excited to share a story with you from a recent traveler, Will Nichols. This past August, Will made his second trip to Sierra Leone. Will grew up in Franklin, Tennessee, and is currently attending college at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Will’s parents traveled on a team with their church to Sierra Leone around 2010. In 2012, Will made his first trip to Sierra Leone, along with his father and several other team members from Tennessee and Texas.
Will’s first trip was a little unique in the fact that he was only fourteen years old at the time. We have welcomed travelers of all ages, however, the most common traveler is typically college-aged and above. On this particular trip, Will was by far the youngest traveler on the team. However, despite being only fourteen, Will’s first trip to Sierra Leone left a lasting impression on him - an impression that would come full circle on his most recent trip. The most impactful day of that first trip was the day he visited Auntie Margaret’s orphanage.
If you have ever traveled on a team to Sierra Leone, you have likely visited Auntie Margaret’s orphanage. Auntie Margaret lost her husband in the war. She was living in a refugee camp in Grafton, just outside of Freetown, when she eventually began caring for orphans. This evolved into a small orphanage that she continues to run and operate today. Auntie Margaret has received help from outside organizations, including The Raining Season, but she has been solely caring for the children in her orphanage. Auntie Margaret is a woman full of faith. She is serving the Lord by caring for these children. She provides them with care and education. She even has several children that have gone on to college. It is not surprising that this visit made an impact on Will. However, there is so much more to the story.
It was during a visit to Auntie Margaret’s orphanage that Will met Omar. Will shared, “As a 14-year-old, I did not understand the reality of the world we live in until that day. Once we got to Auntie Margaret’s, I met everyone and talked to all of the children there, some were my age and some were younger. And then I met Omar. At the time, Omar was about 20 years and was helping Auntie Margaret with everything and caring for all of the children. He attended bible school at the time where he would walk 4 miles in total there and back every day. Seeing a man that young work so hard and care for so many people was an inspiration and I wanted to stay connected with him after I left.”
With the help of his parents and several others in Freetown, Will was able to send a letter to Omar one year later, wishing him well and letting him know that he was still praying for him. He also included the picture they took together the day they met. Will was happy to hear that he received the letter, but did not hear back from him.
Fast forward to early 2019 when Will felt it on his heart that it was time to travel back to Sierra Leone. As Will prepared for his trip, he knew one thing for sure, “I have to find Omar.” Six years had passed since his first trip. He sent a letter years prior but knew nothing about Omar or how he had been in recent years. He suspected that he might be somewhere else now and that he would not be able to find him, but Will put his trust in the Lord that a miracle would happen. With the help of several others in Freetown, word spread and eventually made it to Omar that “a friend” was coming to see him at a certain day and time. Omar was confused, but reached to the bottom of his bag to find the picture of Will and Omar from 2012 and had a feeling it was Will. To be sure he didn’t miss this visit, Omar waited at Auntie Margaret’s for nearly a day to make sure he didn’t miss Will.
On August 15th, Will and Omar reconnected in the place where they first met six years ago. Will shared, “The day we reconnected was a blessing and a day I will never forget! We were both amazed that we were seeing each other again and did not even know what to say because we were so shocked! We caught up on life, went through scripture together, and prayed for each other in that second meeting. I also got more info on how I could help him. Omar told me he is struggling today, as he was too old for sponsorship, too old to be there at the center, and without an income. With no support, I wanted to make sure he was taken care of and proceeded to do so!”
In the months since Will traveled to Sierra Leone and reconnected with Omar, he has continued to stay in touch with Omar. He can talk to him when Omar borrows a cell phone, and thankfully, that is pretty often! The first meeting six years ago and their reuniting this past August was no mistake. The experience left a lasting impact on both Will and Omar. Two young men from very different backgrounds were able to experience the Lord working in both their lives.
Are you feeling it on your heart to travel with a team to our center? Traveling for the first (or even the second or tenth time) can be a little overwhelming and scary. When you travel, not only will you be surprised by what you learn, but you’ll be surprised how you see God move in your own life. Will shared this advice to any traveler, “My advice to first-time travelers is to put everything into your trip as you can. You never know who you will meet, who you may reconnect with one day, or who will greatly impact you. Talk to many people, share the gospel, and do not forget that the Lord has you there for a reason!”
A big thank you to Will for sharing this story. We are SO thankful for people like Will who love and serve at our center and in Sierra Leone. Join us in praying for Omar. We pray that Omar will find a job to support himself. We pray for the impact that he has on those around him in Sierra Leone. We pray that Omar continues to be a light to others regardless of his circumstances. Finally, join us in praying for his well being and that he can be known by others for making Jesus known throughout his village, his city, and all of Sierra Leone!
The Raining Season