“Brooke, I’m giving you the option to build an altar and, if you choose, you can put your ‘self’ upon it.”
This, my friends, was the beautiful and painful invitation that The Lord gave me at the beginning of this week. I know that laying your self down is exactly what the life of a follower of Jesus should be like, but I have never so tangibly been faced with the agony that comes with making that choice moment-by-moment. I wanted the prize of what can come from this trip instantly and in my comfort. I didn’t want to plant the tree and nurture it and wait for it to mature enough to start bearing fruit. And so thus far my time in Zambia has been a major struggle. Comfort zones were left behind the moment that first plane hit the air and I’ve been desperately searching to get them back, with no luck, ever since. You can imagine, then, the difficulty in making the choice to build that altar and say, “Jesus, this discomfort is okay and I’m even giving you the permission and the welcome for it to continue.”
With a lot of tears and my flesh still fighting back, I’ve been building that altar, and I’m going to continue building it every day that I’m here. I must admit He has encouraged me much with glimpses of the potential of the outcome, but it’s the present moments and living in the mess that has me still singing. (Read: singing, not happy. The pruning that I went through in preparation for this trip was like child’s play compared to this, but I can feel myself changing, and for that reason alone, I can still sing.)
That’s the thing: transformation is much less about what you become than it is about the becoming. The final product is valuable but the road to get there is long and winding and is all that we experience until we finally do get to where we are going. We call it life, but really it’s a series of occasions and moments where we are repeatedly called higher and given the option to take His hand or not.
It’s easy to see your destination in the distance and fool yourself into thinking that it’s only 100 meters ahead, but it’s what you don’t see that means a whole lot more. Because what you don’t see is that in 10 meters, the path veers left and you have to go through mountains before it ever veers right again. It’s often better to just look up and make the decision that the path you’re on really does lead where you want to go. It’s by His grace, alone, that I’m writing this all as if I understand it. I’ve fought it and fought it, but all of a sudden the storm has ceased. I can’t quite explain it but theses words were the best I know how. I’m still in the middle of the ocean and there are more storms on the horizon but I don’t’ feel the urgency to fight the tide anymore. I think I’ve learned that there’s less value in me trying to steer around unavoidable rough waters than simply trusting my captain.
So, that’s what’s been going on inside, but outside, week three has been packed as well.
Day one in Luanshya involved making bricks at a school in a small nearby village. They have been finding that something like 70-80% of people being convicted in the nearby cities grew up in this village. This school was established for the many children that live there, but aren’t able to pay for it or attend somewhere far away. The community decided that to help pay for the cost of running the school and for the cost of books, they would pitch in together to make bricks and sell them for a (very small) profit.
Day two we went to the Luanshya Mine Hospital. We spent the morning doing yard work. I, believe it or not, was responsible for cleaning out sewer drains with machetes. Fun times. We also stumbled across the biggest spider I’ve seen yet in my team here. (And I didn’t die.) We are guessing from our googling that it was a “Black and Yellow Garden Spider” and it was about the size of half my hand. I will admit it was kind of cool looking. But I’d be very happy to never see it again, that’s for sure.
Since Luanshya is in the copper belt, we also got to drive around town after lunch and see some of the copper mine shafts and the communities that surround them. It was really interesting to see knowing that a lot of people’s lives are centered around them. We then drove back to the hospital and prayed over all of the patients. My group was assigned to the women’s ward and the maternity ward. It was so encouraging to talk with lots of women and hear little bits about their lives, even though some of the conversations had to take place mostly through our teammate Limpo for translations. It was also really exciting to watch her translating in a language she didn’t know very well (the Spirit was definitely at work!). One woman that we prayed for, we all kept getting different words for her that all confirmed each other and as we continued to share, she ended up sharing that her son was in prison back in Livingstone (where we stay) and was suspect for a murder that he didn’t commit. There was a chance that he was going to be released the next day if someone didn’t show up to the court, so we were able to pray for her, but also with her for her son. It was crazy how much she was closed off, but how much she opened up as the Lord moved.
Day three we went to a “home for the aged” in the village. There was, once again, a language barrier here, but we were able to help clean and then pray for some people, even one man who had been having nightmares. We then had an AMAZING opportunity to join some local house church leaders for their bi-weekly gathering. Some walk many kilometers to come to share testimony and encouragement with other house church leaders. It was incredible talking to some of them and hearing how they ‘do house church’, mostly because as they described their experiences, it sounded more and more how house church at home is! Based off of the church in acts, everyone comes with “something to bring”. They worship together, take offering, share communion, pray for each other, have times of confession and practice the gifts. In the gathering there were babies and just like at home it was church in the midst of life, exactly how it should be. They described to us that since they started the house churches in the village, they’ve seen big changes. This community was once a neglected one, and in about 5 years of casting things out and praying and allowing God to choose leaders, they have seen witch doctors and criminals just leave, drinking and prostitution keep disappearing. Many used to talk about this village with fear and say, “You cannot enter this place. Even if the Lord tells you to. They will kill you.” And it has completely turned around.
That afternoon, I got to finish reading the first Narnia book and spending more time with the Lord. This is part of what I wrote after my time with Him:
“The Lord, I think, gave me a very unique gift the day I really met Him: a raw and deep understanding that this world is not all there is. Every childhood imagination, awe, and wonder in my head all of a sudden put to worthwhile use. It’s something, I’m learning, that all of this world doesn’t necessarily know and I’m so thankful that, for some reason, I do…”
It was so encouraging to spend that time with Him as it was very taxing to continue ‘building that altar’. It also got me into a really good place for day four, which came by a huge and beautiful surprise.
Day four, we traveled to the headquarters of FCE (Foundation for Cross-Cultural Education) at Koti ni Eden (which means “just like eden”). The campus was beautiful so that had to have been part of it, but I also, for some strong reason, felt like it was a little bit like ‘home’. After falling in love with the campus, we then had the pleasure of meeting with one of the founders and hearing about the mission, and I fell in love with that, too. Everything about their organization resonated with me and, even more, much of what he said confirmed words I have heard from the Lord. I wish I had remembered a notebook and pen because I would’ve wanted to quote basically everything that he said. One was this: “Missions is just the byproduct of people who have been truly discipled.” The organization is all about teaching skills and discipling people and training people to go out and be “missionaries” and use those skills in whatever they do. This included a lot of self-sustainable living and agricultural techniques, which were very interesting to learn about. They also talked about how ‘church’ in much of Africa (and I would argue the USA as well) doesn’t look like how God intended, that you should have a 1 day a week gathering and that’s your entire Christian life. We, as believers, are the church, and we’ve forgotten that, yet it is so important.
I’m very excited to see what the Lord has for me in the future of this program. It felt like a very defining moment and, if anything, I will be taking much of what I learned from them and applying it to the communities I live in from now on. I also will continue to ask if there is something with their organization in my future. (We will for sure be serving with FCE in the northern province of Zambia during our 2 week outreach towards the end of July).
That, for the most part, sums up my time in Luanshya and since we have been back in Livingstone, we have been mostly resting. Next week we will be on base and I hopefully will be able to communicate a little bit more as most of us are purchasing SIM cards for our phones so that we can have some contact with home when there’s no wifi. There’s also some BIG plans for this coming Saturday that my friend Emily and I are looking forward, too. I won’t ruin the surprise, but I will say it’s going to probably be my favorite part of the trip, if not life.
Thank you, as always, for your continued prayers and support.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brooke Jeries • 2015 International Immersion Intern