“How was Africa?” For the past week and a half, I have tried to find an adequate, one word answer to this incredibly vague question. The fact of the matter is, there just isn’t one. This question comes with good intentions, but it’s impossible for me to give a five second answer to convey how life-changing and faith-stretching the past three months have been. So I reply with things such as “great” or “wonderful,” and then choose to move on with the conversation, feeling a little more homesick than before. And by homesick, I mean Africa, not America.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” -Isaiah 43:19
I have never really been good with big changes in my life. The night before I boarded a plane to leave America for three months, I weeped, wailed, and cried out to God in an utter panic. I was not ready to leave behind my friends and family. I was not ready to give up my everyday comforts. In all honesty, I wasn’t ready for God to take my life into His hands and turn it completely upside down. I left the States kicking and screaming, not ready to relinquish control of my life and future. But inevitably, it happened. Slowly yet all at once, God changed me.
“Oh God, it’s not the way I had things planned. But then, what of real, lasting value ever is?” -Jonathan, Redeeming Love
I can’t really point to an exact moment when Zambia began to feel like home to me. My days were spent surrounded by twelve amazing followers of Christ. This family I had for the past three months loved and encouraged each other in our darkest times, laughed with each other in the happy moments, wrapped our arms around each other in our brokenness, shared every meal together, spent time pouring out our hearts and testimonies to each other, and showed each other Christ in all circumstances. This group made 8,000 miles away feel like home. These people showed me a true depiction of what Christ meant for His body and His church. And let me tell you, it was beautiful.
“The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more everything else between us will recede, and the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and His work become the one and only thing that is alive between us.” -Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope
My friends and I lived among people that most would consider “poor.” You see the statistics on poverty, and they are soul crushing to say the least. Half of the world’s population (over 3 billion people) live on less than $3 a day. More than one billion children are living in poverty as we speak. Why would God sentence people to a life of poverty? Most of the people we met, loved, and cared about while in Zambia would be included in these statistics. Hear me when I say this: these people are the last thing from poor. Most of these people have enough food to eat, water to drink, a shelter to protect them and their families, and clothes on their backs. The food may be nshima for all three meals. The shelter may be a one room hut made from thatch and mud. They may only have a few shirts and a few pairs of pants. But honestly, what does that matter? They have an unmatched joy and an unrelenting love for our Lord and Savior. They have plenty. I for one am pretty jealous of them.
“When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” –Psalm 73:16-17
Since returning back to America, many people have said things such as “you must have changed a lot of lives” or “I’m sure you did a lot of good for those poor people.” And my response is always the same: “They changed my life a lot more than I changed theirs.” This is usually met with a laugh or change of topic, but it is one of the truest things I could say about my trip. Sure I helped out in the clinic, played with some babies at the Havens, planted some vegetables in a community garden, but God used this trip to change me more than anything else. He completely altered my worldview and my ideas on missions. He gave me lifelong friends that show me Christ’s love and forgiveness on a daily basis. He chiseled away my selfishness and materialism to make room for His plans for my life and my future.
“Becoming more like Jesus is always more important than figuring out what to do with my life. Rather than focus on what is God’s will for me, I should focus on how these experiences can make me more spiritually mature. Once we are spiritually mature, there is no limit to how or where God can use us.” -Gary Green, Now What
So, here I am, three months later, facing another unimaginable change. Immersed in materialism and gluttony. Surrounded by ungratefulness and rudeness. I could be bitter and angry, but I am trying to choose a better path. I thank God that these injustices infuriate me, because that means He has changed my worldview. It means that I am in a advantageous position to minister to people through my experiences. It means that even though I can’t be back in Zambia, the Lord continues to work through me and the lessons He taught me while in Africa. It means that God is continuing to reveal His plans and will for my life, one trial and hardship at a time.
“Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for a future that only He can see.” -Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place
I’m still not very sure where to call home. I left a big chunk of my heart back in Africa. Most of my friends are back in Searcy, continuing their semester without me there. But here’s something God has revealed to me in the past week: “Your home is in heaven.” I am unable to feel completely satisfied in one place because I am an alien here on this earth. I was created for more than this earthly life. One glorious day, I will be called home by my Father and Savior. And I can’t wait.
“For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.” –Hebrews 13:14