Mzungu Memoirs

HEATHER

My testimony and the story of God’s leading in my life really starts with my parents and the circumstances surrounding me at my birth.  I was born in France while my parents were in language school preparing to serve as educational missionaries with the Presbyterian Church in the bush country of Zaire.  We moved to Zaire when I was six months old and lived there for two years until the political climate of the country forced the Presbyterian Church to pull all their “non-essential” missionaries, basically anyone who was not clergy or medical personnel.  Faced with the choice of going back to language school for another year to finish the last two years of their four-year term in another country or returning to the States, my parents chose to return home.

Their faith in God was not deterred by the political turmoil they had experienced, but rather they remained faithful to the call to be an active part of God’s family here on earth.  After several years in New York where we were part of a fairly sizable church, my family moved to Tucson, Arizona, where we became part of a fledgling congregation on the outskirts of town, St. John on the Desert.  In fact, we were one of the first four founding families.  You could say I grew up with this church, not just in it.  We spent nine years at St. John’s, and the church family there was truly instrumental in my growth as a Christian.  My biological family was always active in the church, but I also become active in my own right, particularly in the youth group.  It was at St. John’s that I made my Profession of Faith and accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior.

We moved from Tucson to Austin, Texas, when I was in High School.  I remained active in the youth group of Hope Presbyterian, the church we attended there, attending youth retreats, lock-ins and mini mission trips.  I was selected to be part of the delegation sent by the Mission Presbytery to the 1989 Youth Triennium, the largest Presbyterian youth conference held at Purdue University every three years.  In college, my youth group activities naturally transitioned into involvement with a group called University Ministries, a campus ministry supported by Presbyterian churches in the Lubbock, Texas area.  Towards the end of my college career, I served as a student leader for this group.

After college, my spiritual journey began to shift.  The young man I was dating at the time who would become my husband, Robert Donahue, was from a different religious background than mine, and he began to question me in what I believed and why.  It was a challenging time for both of us but one in which I had a great amount of spiritual growth.  I began attending and was baptized into the Church of Christ, not because I thought what my parents and the Presbyterian Church had taught me was wrong but because I felt the Church of Christ was right for me at the time.

I continued to serve and worship with Robert in the Church of Christ until a series of events in the particular church were attending at the time splintered the congregation and left us searching and questioning again.  We began visiting a range of congregations of varying denominational backgrounds.  We were just beginning to settle into a rather large evangelical congregation when a shift in Robert’s career caused us to relocate to new community and begin our search again.  At the urging of friends, we visited a Church of Christ congregation that we found very refreshing after our seemingly long search and it quickly became our church home.  Boulder Valley Church of Christ has offered us rest and recovery from our previous difficult experience with the Church of Christ, and I truly believe they have been an instrumental part in God’s preparation of us to serve with eMi.

While serving with eMi has not always been at the forefront of my heart and mind, I believe the seeds were planted years ago when I was in Zaire with my parents.  I was too young when we returned to the States to have formulated any memories of my own, but I grew up listening to the stories my parents told of the people and places there.  In 2003, Robert asked me to join him on an eMi mission trip to Mozambique.  One of my fondest memories of that trip was attending a local church service, where somehow I felt amazingly at home.  I believe something from my infancy in Zaire was awakened in me.  Yet God wasn’t calling me to Africa, at least not yet.  Robert wanted to begin a service with eMi at that time, but I think God knew I wasn’t quite ready.  I believe, in addition to other things going on in my life, He has used the last several years and the many trips I have watched Robert go on with eMi to prepare me for this point in my life where I am ready to return to Africa.  After the initial hesitation of years ago, I can truly say that now I am as excited, sometimes more, about the prospect of serving eMi in Uganda as Robert.

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