In the spring of 2005, ten years into my career in oil and gas, I was given the opportunity to conduct an audit of an international location. I had traveled to several overseas locations, so I decided to pick a place I hadn’t been. I connected with a manager, named Paul, assigned in Russia, and began discussing possible dates. Suddenly, the manager who was eager for me to join his audit team was transferred, and now the audit would need to take place in West Africa. I eagerly recalled how fascinated I was with Mother Africa when I was in college, but then came his warnings about the conditions and dangers of malaria. Suddenly my eager “YES!” became a wavering “OK, I’ll go”. The decision was made, I was going to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, and Douala Cameroon to conduct an audit.

But the moment I arrived in the dusty, underdeveloped country, I knew I had been sent for another purpose. My hosts (who were from the US), filled me in on the social, political, and spiritual climate of the city we were in. I saw unclothed children fetching water, shanties that people lived in, talked to the local workers who went home to dirt floors and no electricity. Those working security for the staff housing laid watch outside around the clock rain or shine. I witnessed a presidential motorcade of excess, young girls being exploited for the parade of oilfield workers coming through, and I felt helpless seeing it all.

After three days in Malabo, our team headed to Douala and while the standard of living was higher there, it was still considerably lower than what we have here in the US. I was able to connect to the internet from my hotel room and I sent an email to friends and family about my experience so far. I was so overwhelmed by what I’d witnessed, I sent an email about my heavy heart and stated that there was nothing I could do. Moments later, I received a reply back from my uncle who had just read my email, and he responded “Or is there?” That message gave me hope, and I sprang into action. That turned into a clothes and supply drive for the people who lived there, helping to clothe children and adults. We even got rain gear for the security workers. What the company meant for an audit, God used for his purpose and His glory. I refer to that trip as my accidental mission trip. I’m reminded of the impact I made “accidentally”, knowing there’s so much more I could do with the right strategy and intentions.

As I packed my bags to travel to Honduras with my church on an intentional mission trip, I couldn’t help but reflect on that life-changing experience 13 years prior. The difference this time was there was no “OK… I’ll go”…only a resounding “YES, SEND ME, I’LL GO!”

What are you challenging yourself to do? What’s holding you back from giving a resounding YES!? What people, places, or events have helped you see your PURPOSE, identify your PASSIONS, and clarify your PRIORITIES? Or in other words, What’s Your Catalyst?


About the author:

Alana has had a colorful career in project and program management spanning more than two decades, several functions, and multiple continents. Alana is an energy industry veteran with an engineering and IT background, which she has leveraged to help develop talent in organizations worldwide. She is a passionate keynote speaker, author, and consultant known for her dynamic and engaging presence. Her latest book “What’s Your Catalyst? The Power of Managed Change” guides professionals in their personal and career growth while encouraging contributions in their organizations and the world at large.