GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Imagine. You are a 20-year-old college student involved in a leadership and discipleship program in which you are growing spiritually. You’re working in a beautiful place with people you have come to love. You know God has called you to this place of service for the summer. Then, suddenly, he tells you to leave all of this and go to Africa.
That is what happened to Candace Dunavent, a student from Kentucky who participated in the High Point student servant leadership program at LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center during the summer.
“It just all happened so quickly,” Dunavent said. “On Monday, July 16, I was sitting in the Holy Grounds coffee shop [at Glorieta] reading Commission magazine [published by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board]. Several of my friends who are in High Point with me and I had been praying in preparation for the Aug. 3 Pray for Africa Day.
“As I sat there reading, I began to feel God strongly moving in me,” she said. “I began crying. I knew God was drawing me to Africa.
“As I was feeling all this,” Dunavent said, “I couldn’t even finish reading the article. God was saying to me, ‘You’re going.’ But I thought he meant later.”
Not being able to get the strong feeling off her mind, she decided to check the IMB website to see what volunteer options were available.
“We can use the Internet at ‘Hilton’ [a building on the Glorieta campus used for summer staff activities], but it closes at 11 [p.m.]. I finally got there about 10 minutes after 11 and the light was still on,” Dunavent said.
On the IMB website, she saw an opening for the July 28-Aug. 6 Ivory Coast prayerwalking trip.
“I just thought, ‘This is not only inconvenient, but impossible.’ I would have to raise the money and leave in 13 days!” Dunavent said.
“As I read further, I saw a sentence that said, ‘Of course it’s inconvenient. That’s why you should go.’ I burst out laughing when I saw that.”
With the words “impossible” and “inconvenient” still dancing in her head, Dunavent sent an e-mail to the IMB asking for information.
On the way back to her dorm, she met her friend Cody Garrett. “I told him what had happened, but it just seemed too crazy,” Dunavent said.
The next day, she called the IMB to ask some questions about the trip, still thinking that going would be impossible.
Then Dunavent called her mother to tell her what was going on. “My mom has learned that if God wants me to do something, he’ll arrange for it, so she just sort of laughed and said, ‘Are you sure about this?'”
By the end of that week, Dunavent had been earnestly praying about the Ivory Coast and had only shared the possibility with a few close friends.
On July 23, the information from the IMB arrived in the mail. “I knew this was what God wanted me to do, but I just didn’t see how it would happen,” she said.
Dunavent’s friend Cody Garrett had looked up the price of a plane ticket on the Internet and found out it would be almost $5,000.
By July 24, four days before she would have to depart from the New Mexico conference center, “I just turned it all over to [friends and fellow High Point students] Cody, Melissa [Troudt], Kat [Biddlecome] and Risa [Rutland]. I was physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally exhausted about the whole thing — just overwhelmed. I had told the IMB I would do this, but still didn’t have any money.”
Dunavent’s friends told her they thought the summer staff at Glorieta would help to support her. They began to spread the word and, at lunch the next day, the fundraising project began.
“By 3 that afternoon, they had raised $2,600 from the staff. By 7 that evening, they had raised $3,400, and had pledges for about $1,500 more,” Dunavent said.
Taking a step of faith that the pledges would come in, “Cody bought my plane ticket on the 27th, using about $500 of his own money. That same day I got an e-mail from the IMB saying I would be in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast,” she said.
“By the time I left, the overflow was $850. I prayed God would show me how to use that money,” she said. Dunavent gave $500 for ministry to an unreached people group in the Ivory Coast and $350 to purchase Bibles for a church in Abidjan.
When she returned to New Mexico, Cody, Melissa, Kat and Risa were waiting for Dunavent at the airport in Albuquerque.
“When I got there, Cody handed me an envelope. Another $1,000 above the pledges had been raised after I left. After paying Cody back, we decided to send the rest to be used in the Ivory Coast,” Dunavent said.
While in the Ivory Coast, Dunavent said she grasped a new vision for God’s love for the people of the world.
“I was prepared for the poverty. I expected that. But I was surprised at how I saw the beauty of God’s creation. The beaches were dirty … the people use them for bathrooms … and a lot of the people were dirty and barely clothed, but there was a beauty there because they were made by God,” she said.
“I was a little disappointed at first, because I was expecting some ‘divine appointment’ where I would get to share Christ and lead someone to the Lord, but that didn’t happen,” she said. “What God showed me, what he had planned for me, was I saw all the needs he wants me to pray for. The biggest need for the Ivory Coast, and anywhere else, is prayer, the incense of prayer going up to God.”
Dunavent said she also saw that believers in the Ivory Coast worship with great passion.
“If only we would worship Christ with the same spiritual fervor,” she said.
Looking back at all the people who played a role in getting her to the Ivory Coast, Dunavent said, “I can never thank this summer staff enough. They let God use them to help me go. It was so humbling. They gave to help me do God’s plan for my life.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: CANDACE DUNAVENT.