21 year old Naomi Plant left her family, friends and church to make the move over to South Africa to become a missionary and pursue her passion of impacting people with the love of Jesus.
Leading up to this, Naomi was part of a project for three years called Respect Me, which is run by The Message Trust charity, based in Manchester. The project’s focus is to help young people deal with issues of sexuality, self-image and abuse. Having recently introduced their sessions in to the schools in South Africa, we caught up with Naomi to find out how she was getting on!
Naomi, thanks for chatting to us! First of all, what is the heart of The Message Trust all about?
The heart is simply Jesus. We are a bunch of people, from all different walks of life, different countries, backgrounds, education, skills, and food tastes! But we all have one thing in common; we want everyone to know that there is an incredible guy called Jesus that wants to be part of their life! We do this in loads of different ways including working in prisons with ex-offenders on their journey to life outside, dangerous communities that need a lot of love, and schools that need the opportunity to talk about those “sticky” topics…All with a bit of creative arts thrown in! We use different vehicles to share the same message – Jesus!
That sounds an amazing project to be part of! What made you first decide that you wanted to be part of a charity project rather than pursue a “normal” career?
I’m the kind of person who is ALL or NOTHING, and when I was around 14 years old I was sat talking Jesus and felt Him ask me “are you in or out?” I had to make a choice that day… Naomi, you are ALL in and you go for it as hard as you can, or you are completely 100% out. I chose IN and told God that I would go wherever He wanted me to go, and do whatever He wanted me to do. Whether I was to become a teacher or clean the toilets in a coffee shop I promised God I would do it for Him. I love people, and more importantly I love people knowing that they are worth SO much more than what the world tells them.
I think when you love doing something your life will begin to naturally gravitate itself towards that thing, and my life gravitated towards helping young people discover their potential and faith.
We think it’s amazing that you’ve decided to continue the work over in South Africa. How did you know that was the right move for you?
It’s so funny you ask that because for so long I would to and fro about this decision. I would ask God “did I hear you right?… Really God? South Africa?” I’m the sort of person who needs to be told something a thousand times before I believe it and I remember having coffee with Jesus (which is something I LOVE to do) and I just really felt Him say to me “Are you gonna jump in? Are you gonna trust me?” And I said yes! So then I just kept pursuing this crazy idea of moving continents and the more I did, the more I saw God move things into place.
For me, peace is how God speaks. He gives me this crazy, over-whelming sense of calm and that’s when I know that I am in the right place. I visited South Africa a few years ago and that is what I felt – a massive sense of peace. So I began to dream dreams, push doors, and after two years of doing that I ended up moving!
Wow, that really shows us how important it is to keep ourselves in conversation with God, and ready to hear from Him. Now you’ve been over there a little while, what have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far?
The biggest challenge is that EVERYTHING is different; people, food, the way you say hello, the heat, the way you celebrate Christmas, the clothes you wear, the cost of things, the times you can go out. The way you live life is so different over here and it’s like your body goes into shock at first. It really needs lots of time to adjust – I think we underestimate the power that time has. We sometimes get bored and become incredibly impatient, but time is actually such a gift, and it’s only been since moving countries that I have been able to realise that!
Yeah, the adjustment period must be a big learning curve! But I guess there are lots of highlights for you too?
I think one of my biggest highlights has to be my first day in school. On a tuesday night, in my first month here, I got a call from someone at work saying “Can you deliver a Respect Me session tomorrow in school?” So obviously I freaked out!! After taking a deep breath I delivered my first session and the response was amazing! It was in that moment that God really confirmed for me that all of the hard stuff which comes with moving countries is SO WORTH IT!
That’s brilliant that you had such a great response to your first session. It must really help on the days when you get homesick and miss your family and friends. How do you keep yourself motivated and focused to carry on with the project?
I know that if I create room for God to do great things, not just at work but in my everyday life, I will see amazing things continue to happen. But it’s also knowing that He is enough. Yes it is hard, yes I miss my family, yes I completely miss how cheap terry’s chocolate orange is, all I need is Him. All I need is to know Jesus. Walk with Jesus. And do what He wants me to do – that’s what brings me such joy.
When you begin to see people the way Jesus see’s them you can’t help but do everything you can to draw out the best in them. Whether that is being a doctor in the UK, a shopkeeper in Australia or a missionary schools worker in South Africa, if you are doing it for Him then you are doing it right!
That’s so true and brings such a refreshing perspective to our everyday lives. What practical advice do you have for anyone who wants to prepare to work for a charity or be part of a mission project?
If you are wanting to work for a charity in another country make sure you do your research! Try and learn as much as you can about the the environment and culture before you go.
Make a great music playlist, buy a good suitcase (mine didn’t arrive at the same time as me!) and make sure that you build solid friendships back home. You need friends that can support you from a distance, long distance family and friends can actually be really fun!
But more than any of that remain humble, always seek to have a learners heart and include Jesus in EVERY step you take on the way. And if you plan on coming to South Africa, make sure you come and say hello!