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Encountering a wider family

Published on August 7, 2018 by Caleb Foust

It’s been a few weeks since we left and I haven’t been the same since. We returned home from Choma, Zambia and each of us who went share this unspoken bond that can’t be explained to anyone that didn’t make the 21 hours of flights with us. We now know that we have family that we didn’t know before… they just happen to live in Kabana and Mapona, or Choma, Zambia, or Hamburg New York. We share smiles and quick words when people ask us how our trip was; leaving them unaware that there isn’t enough time in a day to share with them all that we learned about God, our neighbor, and ourselves. But we do know that living out our faith 8,500 miles away from home has helped us articulate who God created us to be and how we can better be those people back here in High Point and that excites us through the tears of having had to say goodbye to some of our family and friends around the world.

We encountered God on dusty roads and grassy fields, through smiling faces of friends and strangers of all ages. We practiced the idea that there is no such thing as a stranger, just a child of God we don’t recognize, and that helped us remember that we weren’t taking God anywhere that God wasn’t already present. One of my favorite things about the Zambians we met was that I never felt like they had somewhere else to be that was more important than being present with one another. Time was just a number, the person in front of them was what was most important to them, and that is how I believe Jesus sees us, and that is how I want to be my friends and family now that I am back home.

While this was my first time in Zambia, every person I met made me feel like they had known me my whole life and that they were glad to see me, not because of anything I could offer them but simply because they were seeing me. Our church has supported the Emert family since before I started in my capacity of mission pastor, but this was the first time that we had the opportunity to see first hand what they do, and it was a privilege to walk alongside them in working towards building the kind of community where God is actively moving through and walking alongside. Since our return the most frequently asked question has been “so what did you do?” to which I respond, we watched, we learned, we worshipped, through song and through word, and through play. We worshipped around the table over shared meals, and we worshipped in the back of canters as we drove through the beautiful landscape of Zambia and marveled at the creation we found ourselves in the midst of. We encountered god through the faces of Poetice interns, and campers, and staffers alike, and we realized how important community is for the Global church.

Every time I step into another culture I am reminded of how much more beautiful the family of God is the wider we make the circle. From the moment we arrived, we were welcomed as brothers and sisters and it becomes easy to drop your facade when you know you’re around family and really be vulnerable with one another. We had deep, meaningful theological conversations that never once felt forced or fake, and that’s because we knew we were in a sanctuary, a safe space. We were encouraged to be ourselves as those we were with were wholly themselves as well. This is one of the things that was evident to me that Poetice does so well…living authentically without any walls up. How much better could we be as a culture in the U.S.? What if we implemented in our churches, in our cities, in our lives what we learned through the radical hospitality and welcome that was extended to us as total strangers? What if we approached our lives in a way that said that what is right in front of us at this moment is exactly what God wants us to tackle right now? How much better would we understand our callings, as children of God and as followers of Christ, if we encouraged one another to live into and use the gifts that God has given them that are unique to them? It always happens on mission trips, you go somewhere else thinking you’re going to do something or give something that they need, and you return having realized that you have been given a new outlook on life and why relationships are what Jesus is really asking us to take part in. My hope is that our team can continue our journey together as we teach our church, our town, and our families what we learned, and we can continue to watch and The Emerts and Poetice in their journey as well, loving and living in a beautiful Zambia with beautiful people!

Grace and Peace.

Caleb Foust is the Students and Missions Pastor at Emerywood Baptist Church in High Point, NC.