Thank you to all who have been following this blog – especially during and since my recent trip to Zambia. I can’t express how reassuring it was to travel so far knowing that so many were thinking about, praying for and following what was happening there. I probably also owe an apology to those who followed my posts while I was there or have talked to me since – I think I am just beginning to realize how overwhelmed and out of it I was for those two weeks and for the couple of weeks after returning. I can only imagine how all of that came across as I did my best to articulate what I couldn’t even yet sort out in my own mind.
I obviously haven’t had the chance to talk to most of you since that trip, but many have asked how it was and how we were doing – so I’ll do my best to share now that I am settling back in before the final push (about 90 days and counting by the way. I have to just keep saying that out loud!).
First of all, the trip was absolutely amazing. I was stunned at the beauty of the people, the land and the culture of Zambia. Once I got my bearings there – honestly, once I got beyond my initial fears and ignorance – I found the place and people to be very welcoming, friendly and warm. One of the themes that struck me very early on was one of absolute Joy. Several times I was struck by an overwhelming sense of joy and pureness – elements that seem to exist naturally in this land of contrasts. Several times since, I’ve said that for all that we (in North America) supposedly have figured out, we certainly don’t seem to naturally enjoy the level of joy and peace that Zambians do. When one considers the state of things there - the standard of living that most of us couldn’t even imagine much less endure every day - this is truly a significant point.
I’m sure this difference could be attributed to several factors, but I believe that in North America we find it so easy to live our daily lives apart from God. Our blessings are obvious in this land of plenty, but this threat is a subtle one. We are conditioned to work hard to provide for ourselves and, to be quite honest, are able to do so for the most part without having to rely on God or each other much, if ever, by all appearances. For most of us then, this means that at best it takes work to make time and take time to spend with God and recognize our need for Him when our basic need isn’t so immediate and tangible. At worst, we might sail through days and weeks without much consideration at all for the most important part of our existence – fellowship with the One who created us. This leaves many feeling disconnected and empty.
In Zambia, as throughout the rest of the developing world, the challenges are often overt, but the blessings must be seen beneath the surface. There, basic physical needs are immediate and real and their solutions often not readily available. This creates an absolute necessity for living in closer communion with others and God. The dependence on Him for daily sustainence is a given – never taken for granted or questioned. The concept of praying for daily bread took on a whole new meaning for me, but so did the joy of doing so. This runs so counter to our understanding and our on-demand, drive-through, speed-of-light culture that it is taking some time to process.
All of this has also left me..well…half-hearted. Not half-hearted in my committment or desire to serve in this land. Actually, the trip only strenghtened my resolve and passion for the journey God has prepared for us. Half-hearted is my best way of describing this awkward sense of being stuck between two continents…stuck with half of my heart in each of two very different cultures and recognizing the beauty and challenges of each. I, of course, appreciate living in a land that has been as richly blessed as ours and all of the comforts and security of life as we know it. But I also have now tasted the richness of living in total dependence on God and catching a stride living fully in his will. I’ve also enjoyed the peace of living at a manageable pace of life where one is not just allowed, but expected to take the time to enjoy life for the sake of living and taking time to share it with others and with the One who created it as a gift to those He loves.
I pray that somehow we all find a way to capture the benefits of both examples of living. I imagine that doing so would literally offer a taste of heaven to those of us on either end of the world and facing the challenges that each place brings.