click HERE to read Part 1!
March 3rd, 2015:
After years of knowing, months of preparation, weeks of goodbyes, and days of no sleep, here we were pulling out of our driveway for the last time.
It was a bitterly cold day. A thin blanket of snow coated a solid inch of ice. My family and I were all wearing our warmest jackets (we wouldn’t need coats in Zambia) as we drove the 4 hours to my Aunt’s house. We had enough time to say final goodbyes to my Aunt and cousins along with my grandparents before hitting the road once more.
That was honestly the first time I’d ever seen my grandpa unashamedly cry…
I almost wish I could say I was emotional at this time; but again I was so tired reality didn’t seem real.
My Uncle drove with us through the night to Atlanta where we boarded our first flight at 6am.
We were Zambia bound!
The physical journey was long and tiresome. I remember first feeling like I was in Africa when we landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I had just come out of the restroom (also an adventure) and a lady began rapidly speaking to me in Amharic, gesturing unclearly as she did so. I don’t speak Amharic so had no clue what she was saying. Someone tried to tell me in English what the woman was saying, but their accent was such that I couldn’t understand them either the first couple times…Yup, I certainly wasn’t in the U.S. anymore! My first hint into the fact that communication in Africa is not easy…
I was high on adrenaline that final flight from Ethiopia to Zambia. Despite getting very little sleep on the previous 19+ hours of flying, my mind was racing! Sleeping the final two hours of the journey was out of the question.
I remember vividly when the captain informed us we were coming into Ndola. I immediately began looking out my window, anxious to see our new home.
My mind was more puzzling than comprehendible at this point: “YAY! We’re finally here! I can’t WAIT to get home! Wait…did I just say home? I’ve never even seen the house before. Why did I just call it home? Wow…This is so strange. I feel in a way like I’m home; but then again, I feel so far from home.”
Those final thoughts are somehow both true and have remained true to this day. “I feel like I’m home; but then again, I feel so far from home.”
In fact, that statement has only become truer…
Like I wrote in a previous post, I never expected to change when I came to Zambia. It wasn’t where I really wanted to be; so why would it change me?
I’ve never been so wrong in my life.
I’ve written story upon story of my life here in Zambia for this blog. Right now, I want to summarize the key things God has taught me through being in Zambia.
Don’t get too comfortable: before moving to Zambia I HATED traveling! I loved my small little town of West Plains, Missouri and didn’t really care if I never left. These feelings aren’t inherently wrong; but for me these feelings were all rooted in me idolizing my home, the people there, and my own personal comforts.
Because I was too comfortable, I became unwilling to do what God wanted. My life was all about me, what I wanted, and what made me happy rather than being about what God wanted for my life.
When I became too comfortable I blinded myself to many realities. My vision was honed in on the things that make me happy and comfortable and I didn’t allow myself to see anything else. This is a dangerous mindset to possess…
The world is much larger than West Plains, Missouri…
My next lesson ties in with this one:
Be content wherever God has me: I think often times “comfort” and “contentment” are incorrectly used synonymously. For a long time, I was guilty of this in my own life. If I wasn’t comfortable, I wasn’t content. If I wasn’t content, I was also uncomfortable. The two went hand-in-hand in my mind. I couldn’t have one without the other. But that’s simply not true.
Let’s define the two words:
Comfort: a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.1
Contentment: a state of peaceful satistaction2
A quick difference I see between the two is one (comfort) mostly refers to our physical well-being and the other (contentment) only refers to our mental well-being.
It is possible to feel discomfort but still be content.
In fact, I’d almost go so far as to say discomfort is the key to Biblical contentment.
Why? Well to put it simply, how can I be content where God has me if I’m not willing to push through the hardships and difficulties? What is contentment if it isn’t being willing to face trials? If we didn’t have to face difficulties we’d all be content!
As Christians, we are promised challenges in life. They may be minimal; they may be substantial; or there may be some of both. Yet even through these challenges (which will naturally bring discomfort of some kind) we are still called to be content.
If I have a poor and discontent attitude about life I will never go far and will never be able to live my life to its fullest potential.
This is where we are called to say “not my will but Thine” and make the most of our situation in life. Ultimately, we’re going to find that when we submit to God’s will for our lives, even in the challenges, our lives will feel far more rewarding and be much more full of joy.
Wherever I am, today, right now: THAT is my mission field: Often times when people hear the word missionary they take it to mean someone who lives in a foreign country with no electricity or contact with the outside world.
Sure this is sometimes the case! But I would like to propose that those people would be correctly titled a “foreign missionary”. Why am I nitpicking words here? Well, if you want to know the truth it’s because, Biblically speaking, every Christian is a missionary.
Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
This command was not given to the individual (quite obviously, every person cannot visit every country). This command was given to the universal, worldwide church as a whole. God has my family serving in Zambia right now. God has our dear friends in Utah. God may have me in back in the U.S. next year.
God has you right where you for a reason…
Your mission field is where you are right now! Even if you’re sitting in a coffee shop, at your desk at work, or rocking your child to sleep; THAT is your mission field! We as Christians need to recognize this and live like the missionaries God created us to be! We need to seek God with our lives and ask Him how He wants us to serve on our mission field.
Never again will I view a “missionary” as limited to someone out of the country. Yes, people who move out of the country to share the Good News of Jesus Christ are missionaries; but I will still be a missionary for Christ if I move back to the U.S.. Wherever I am today, right now, THAT is my mission field…
I’ll never be “home” again: This lesson has definitely been the hardest with which to cope. When I’m in Zambia I miss the U.S. so very much! I’m American and naturally my heart is tied to my country. I also spent 16 years of my life there and have incredibly strong ties! Even still, when I’m in the U.S., my heart longs for the beautiful sound of Zambian music and the relational community.
My heart no longer belongs to one place.
My heart is always partially elsewhere.
This is where contentment in discomfort comes in. Some days I’m uncomfortable and I miss my American life. That’s perfectly understandable and condonable; so long as I’m willing to be wherever God has me…I’m very content to be in Zambia even though there are hard days.
Since I’ve learned not to idolize a place, not get too comfortable, and to be content; I can now honestly say I’d be content to move or live anywhere. Not saying living “anywhere” would necessarily be easy. No matter where I live there will always be challenges and difficulties; but I know God will mold my heart to fit right where He wants me. I’m so grateful for this lesson!
He is enough: This is a lesson I feel like I am constantly learning. As I discussed in part 1, I have a strong tendency to idolize relationships.
Well, God sure has really taught me a lesson since I’ve been to Zambia!
I have no idea why this is the case, but people here don’t tend to stay in one place very long. The people I was close to when we first moved to Zambia have nearly all moved away; and now my sphere of people I’m around often is totally new.
I’ve made some incredible friends only to have them move away just as we were becoming close.
This has been especially difficult for me.
Because of all this, I haven’t really had the chance to idolize people. Just when we start to bond as friends, the person moves away.
God has used this to show me that I don’t *need* friends to survive.
Yes, friends are a BEAUTIFUL gift from God! I have a best friend (I could write a whole blog post about how incredible she is) who I talk to every day over text (since we live on two different continents). Of course I still have friends!
However, God is enough….He has taken friends away from me to show me that when I’m bored, need help, want to have fun, etc., I can call on Him for all these things. I don’t have to solely rely on friends. Even when my closest friends in Zambia leave or when my life-long friends are on the other side of the world, God is still with me and will never leave.
Christ is and always will be enough…
God has revealed multiple other things to me since I’ve lived in Zambia. Every day I feel like God teaches me something new!! These are just the highlights of what God has taught me regarding the big picture…
As I look back on this incredible journey and as I ponder what the future holds for my life, all I can think to say is how incredible my God is! All the glory goes to Him!! Life in Zambia would not have been such an incredible experience had it not been for God working to change my heart.
I wouldn’t have fallen in love with Zambia the way I have.
I wouldn’t have all these amazing stories of what God is doing to share with all of you.
I wouldn’t have made so many new relationships.
I wouldn’t have learned all these incredible lessons.
I wouldn’t change a thing about my journey.
If I were to summarize what I would hope to say to encourage you from my story it’s this: Don’t lose heart. In every circumstance, look to God for help; and never stop asking God to grow you and teach you new things.
Life is challenging. Life brings us emotions of all kinds! We have good days and bad days…good years and bad years. It’s a part of life! But never give up! God has a plan for you even when you’re going through the most difficult circumstance of your life.
Don’t give up. When you are weary, look to Jesus.
Don’t ever get too comfortable with where you are in life. Always seek the Lord to mold you, shape you, and teach you new things! The journey may be difficult, but I promise it’s worth it when your relationship with God is stronger on the other side.
And just a warning, if you do become too comfortable, be prepared for God to teach you a lesson whether you want Him to or not (my story is a case in point).
I pray my story has been an encouragement to you. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.