Guest Post: Zach and Jenn Sportsman


It is said that the journey of 1000 miles begins with one step. Our journey of 1000 miles is actually 6000 miles to be exact: the distance from Kansas City Missouri to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (West Africa). That journey began in 2008 in a missionary deputation service of Bro. Steve Willoughby. I walked into that service a sin-sick drug addict and walked out forever altered by the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. With every chain broken and with a fresh fire in my soul I began to take my first step by seeking God. In prayer God began to plant seeds of Africa in my spirit. I met my wife not long after this experience in prayer, and she too had a burden for Africa. We were married in 2010, went on AIM to Burkina Faso in 2012 and were appointed as Intermediate Missionaries in 2015. Everything that has happened in my life from 2008-Present has served as preparation and training.”

I want to share with you a quote that paints the picture of my point: ‘To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.’ (Winston Churchill) God tapped me on the shoulder in 2008. What is He tapping on your shoulder about today? We encourage you to attend Global ConNextions and every training that is within your grasp. The season of your finest hour is approaching. Will you be prepared?

Isaiah 6:8: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am. Send me!”

Zach and Jenn Sportsman

Where’s Your Heart this Morning?

Kenna Graves:

After being up for thirty-seven hours straight and then getting between twelve to thirteen hours of sleep, I made my way to the kitchen and opened up the screen door. It was empty and quiet and it hit me all over again. My family is no longer here. That’s what you all became to me. You were like my sisters. It was an honor to travel this beautiful country and experience this culture along with some of the most amazing, strong, and hardworking people I know. You’re all part of the reasons Next Steps 2014 was life changing and forever remembered.

Courtney Boyd:

– Sitting in my favorite chair.
– Cuddling with my favorite blanket.
– Drinking from my favorite mug.

I used to cherish the things above, which are on “My Favorite Things” list. And even though these things still warm my heart, they don’t make me feel at home. My heart just isn’t the same after leaving Africa. Looking back, most of those things were simply material. Now my favorite things are not material, rather the little things and moments that helped mold my life.

– I miss sitting under the Africa sky being completely overwhelmed by how beautiful the moon was, and how it was as if I could reach out and pluck it from the galaxy’s abyss.
– I miss cuddling (nugging) with my girls in the “safe space.”
– I miss drinking from my favorite coconuts that I’d freeze beforehand.

Brandi Young:

How weird it was waking up to a cold, quiet house this morning. No sounds of kids laughing through the village, no woman yelling and selling bread, no sound of motorbikes or trucks passing by. Those sounds drove me crazy at 5am in Africa and I never thought I would miss them! But man, waking up to silence; that was hard. Saw the pic my best friend painted me this morning and lost it because it is so, so true.


If it’s true “home is where the heart is” I have a feeling there is a group of young people today with bodies in one continent and hearts at home in another.

No Money, No Income, But Great Faith – Guest Post

A Guest Post by Brier Scott

The dream began at fourteen years of age when I started to feel the burden for missions tugging at my heart. I remember receiving an AYC flyer and wanting to go so bad on a missions trip, but I was two years too young at the time. I still remember how hard it was for me to wait those two years until I could apply. After what seemed like an eternity, I turned sixteen and was finally old enough. I was technically still too young to go on an international trip since the age restriction was seventeen or up. But, I was determined to go overseas so I went ahead and applied for an international trip anyway. I thought “it’s worth a shot.” I am so glad I did because I indeed was accepted to go to on the AYC Switzerland/Lichtenstein trip.

I applied for this trip with no money saved, no source of income, but with great faith! I just knew God would provide somehow. And He did. I sent out letters, I sang with my guitar at Pikes Place market (in Seattle), and began to make connections with different people through my fundraising efforts. All these things provided some income, but not nearly enough for the amount I needed to raise.  I had never had a job before, but I knew in reality I would need to get one. While I trusted God to provide, I knew I would need to do everything I could to raise the funds for my trip.  So, after applying for a few jobs, it was only about two or three weeks until I got a call back for an interview. I went in for the meeting and started working at Taco Time NW three days later. With that job I was able to raise most all the funds I needed. It was a sacrifice and stressful at times since I worked full-time while trying to stay caught up with full-time online high school and having to miss out on many church-related events. But, I knew that job was a God-given opportunity for me so I was thankful for it nonetheless.


However in the midst of God’s blessings and provision, things weren’t always easy. Working at this job was difficult because I was constantly surrounded by poor, worldly influences that began to wear at me. During that time I learned that even though I was taking these God-given opportunities so I could do His work it didn’t exempt me from having to experience trials and trying times. Yes, God provided, but it was up to me to continue to do my best to live righteously and according to His word.

So I went to Switzerland and got to experience the mission field there and I was hooked. I was already anticipating applying for my second trip because I felt the burden so strongly. I think I would have applied for Next Steps if I would have known about it since I felt a burden so heavily for missions, But, then I wouldn’t have had the wonderful opportunity to experience all that I did while in El Salvador. I am so thankful I did.

I had quit my job upon the return from my first mission’s trip so I once again had no money saved, no source of income, but great faith when I applied for my second trip to El Salvador.

Since this trip was not as costly as my first, I raised the majority of my funds through letters and other fundraising methods. But I still didn’t have enough for my third payment. So I did what any reasonable seventeen year old full-time college student would do, I sold my car praying and believing that somehow God would provide other means of transportation for me. I was willing to take the bus to college if I had to (long commute). But God came through for me once again and provided me a new car shortly after and enough funds to get me to El Salvador.

After my second AYC trip, I knew that my missions work was just beginning. I was ready for more, and I felt the call stronger than ever on my life. I didn’t want to settle for another ten day trip, but something more long term to give me a deeper glimpse of what being a missionary is really like. So I went on the AIM website and stumbled upon Next Steps.

I do not think it was by coincidence that I came across this program, but I believe it was by God’s hand and after much prayer and godly council, I made the decision to apply for this trip.

And for the third time (and probably not the last), I had no money saved, no source of income, but great faith knowing that God WOULD provide the financial means for me to go and continue on my journey of fulfilling Gods greater purpose in my life.

God once again, like I knew He would because He did it before, provided me with an excellent job that allowed me to have the time off I needed and that was God’s blessing of meeting my financial means so I could go on Next Steps 2014 in Togo.

photo credit: danielmoyle via photopin cc

Saying Good-bye Never Gets Easy

Eight weeks has passed for the Next Steps participants in Togo, West Africa. They have been challenged, convicted, convinced, changed, and leave more committed than ever before. Here are a few of the parting words these fine young people.

Abby Mustread:

Today is my final day in Africa. I cannot believe it! These past two months have been absolutely incredible! The memories and friendships made will forever hold a special place in my heart. Today I was honored to attend my final church service in Africa. The service was incredible and I think I spent the entire time in tears as I realized it was good-bye. I will be heading to the airport soon and saying my final good-byes to my fellow next steppers and the Togo team. I know it is going to be one of the hardest things I will ever have to do. I don’t even have the words to describe what these individuals mean to me. Africa has completely changed my life, and I pray that I will return again. I know I am leaving a huge piece of my heart here with these beautiful people.

Alana Killman:

As I say goodbye to all these beautiful smiles and faces, my heart is literally being ripped in two. I have been crying all day, and we still have seven hours until we fly out. My time here in Togo has been the most life changing experience. I am forever changed. I have made lifelong friends, and I have fallen completely in love with working in the harvest field. My passion is deeper, and my vision is greater. Togo, I love you. Revival is sweeping all over this country, and will continue until the Lord comes back. If I never come back to Togo, heaven will be so much better. As I said goodbye, it is not goodbye for good; we will meet again. 

Brandi Young:

Saying goodbye never gets easier. I can’t believe my time in Africa is over. My heart has broken in two again today. I literally don’t think I have another tear to cry. Why does this have to be so hard?! 

Elycia Ruggiero:

I cannot describe what this trip has done for me. To say the least it was life changing. A piece of my heart will always be in Africa whether or not I step foot on African soil again. I will miss all of the next steppers, aimers, and missionaries dearly.

Jessica Green:

Eight weeks was not enough. No time probably would be enough. I’ll miss everything about this place, even the not so pleasant things. But most of all, I’ll miss the people and sweet faces.


Brier Scott:

At the beginning of this Next Steps journey we were told saying “goodbye” wouldn’t be easy, but I never imagined it would be this hard. It seems so surreal that all of it has come to end, but I feel so blessed and honored to be a part of the amazing Next Steps 2014 team. It has truly been a once in a lifetime experience with some of the most incredible people that I know. There are just no words.

Africa has given me a whole new heart for Children.

After this flight I’ll be back in the U.S., but my heart will still be in Africa.

In the midst of tears and on your journey home, take this word from Dr. Seuss:


I love this picture of Courtney Boyd, a creative young lady from Arkansas. Also note the pages out of her journal.



From the Distance or Up Close?

An old African story tries to explain why God withdrew into the heavens. The Old Woman was pounding her fufu. Each time she hit the Old Man in the head with the blunt end of her pounding stick. The Old Man, tired of being beaten, escaped into the skies above; always keeping His distance. Not bad for an old story. However, it does not contain any biblical truth. God occupies heaven, but also fills the earth. He is everywhere. He loves to be close to His people; lives with us; and in us.


Another old woman (this one in God’s Word) felt that God had withdrawn from her. But one day she heard a rumor that provided her hope, that God had returned and turned His favor toward His people. “Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread” (Ruth 1:6).