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HerStory: Rachel Johnson

Today’s blog is by a friend of mine so dear to me, she is like a sister. She is a passionate, comical, adventurous girl with a caring heart that inspires me every day. When she’s not traveling, writing or exploring, she’s helping save the world as the Director of Project Development for Touch A Life Foundation. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Rach!

I love you, girl!

Photo by Nancy Borowick,

I need Africa more than Africa needs me.

Right, let me backtrack. I’m a Chicago-born-and-bred-kid-turned-Malibu-resident-at-heart who now lives, loves, and laughs deep in the heart of Texas (Dallas, that is). I work for the Touch A Life Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to eradicate human trafficking and empower children in crisis. I love my work and I also appreciate everything travel-related, the Chicago Bears, cupcakes for breakfast, Space 8 at the Malibu/Point Dume Trailer Park, marathon training, the work of aspiring photographers, Will Ferrell movies, pumpkin-flavored anything, and Chris Brown’s “Forever” on repeat.

Oh, and also: I’m a woman who, like so many others, has battled with image issues. These issues didn’t materialize until recently. Growing up, I was blessed with a family who consistently made me feel loved, blessed, and beautiful. I played soccer in high school and appreciated that my body was able to successfully perform slide tackles. While in college, I ran a marathon in Rome, and a half in Long Beach. I had my weak moments of insecurity here and there but overall, I felt confident.

And then I had knee surgery, unexpectedly and suddenly, two months after I moved to Dallas. I was eating emotionally because I missed my life in Malibu. I was spending more time in restaurants as I attempted to make new friends, and less in the gym or out on runs due to my knee’s recovery process. As my body changed, I realized how much worth and value I had put into my body’s ability to run and play. When I thought that my athleticism had been stripped from me, I no longer felt quite as valuable or beautiful. My identity, seemingly, had partially been rooted in my athletic abilities. If I wasn’t a runner/soccer player/gym enthusiast, then who was I?

I struggled. And struggled. And struggled some more. A few months after my surgery, I went on a work trip to Ghana, West Africa. There I spent time with the children in Touch A Life’s programs, kids who were former child slaves on Lake Volta, a body of water in northern Ghana. They are now happy, healthy, and free. As I ran around playing soccer with the kids (achy and creaky, but running nonetheless), a thought hit me like the cliched ton of bricks: knee surgery or not, I am blessed with health, family, community, and so many other of life’s greatest joys. I am a resident of a country where I am free to pursue my dreams, live where I please, meet friends for coffee, cast a vote in an election, and praise the God who made me in His own image. In His image. To think I am not worthy would be to criticize His creation. The beautiful children continued running around me, screaming and laughing. They had suffered so much; it was almost difficult to reconcile the joy on their faces with the details of the past. Yet there they were, smiling, loving, happy, joyful. And I, I was feeling a few pounds too heavy, cringing over the thought of buying a larger size of jeans, whining about therapy appointments.

I had been to Ghana many times, and I never ceased to be amazed by the beautiful, thankful spirits of these children. But on this particular trip, I realized the gravity of their situations and of mine. Those children remind me of all that I am blessed to have, including a body that is healthy and strong and made in the image of the divine Creator. As they always do, the children reminded me that I need Africa more than Africa needs me. And above all, they reminded me that each and every one of us was made in the image of a God who wants to be the source of our value and worth, if only we let Him.

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