On June 25th our team of 14 met at 2:30 am to being our trek to the airport for a 5:30 am flight. The final destination…Choma, Zambia. All of our funds had been raised, our team meetings were over, the last tears from parents had been shed, and we were on our way. We were the first ones in line at the ticket counter, hearts racing, minds wondering, we were ready to go. The counter opens, two of us walk up to hear the 5 worst words we could imagine coming our way… “Your flight has been canceled.”
That’s how our trip began, after some maneuvering and rebooking we made it to our destination, and only 24 hours late! I believe this was the first miracle of our trip.
All of that was actually preparing us. Preparing us to have our eyes opened again and again to see God work. He got our attention early that morning, and He held onto it for the duration of our trip. I have had the privilege of going on a number of trips such as this one over the years, but never have I experienced the love of God the way I did this time. Our team consisted of 8 high school students, a college student, and 5 adults. Shortly into our trip, we realized we had become a family.
The purpose of our trip was to participate in a camp for Zambian kids. The first two days 40 Zambian youth came to a discipleship camp. We slept in the same rooms, ate together, worshipped together, learned together, cried together and we saw our family grow. The relationships that were built during these two days were remarkable. Students from the US and Zambia bonding together and instead of seeing differences we saw how much we were alike. For these two days, everyone was mixed and I believe I saw a picture of the Kingdom of God where we are all one as the Body of Christ.
Over the next two days, the floodgates were opened and all children and teens from the community were invited to come for day camp. On day 1 we had close to 250 campers and the second day saw over 300 campers. Under the banner of Poetice Youth, Americans and the 40 Zambians, presented bible stories, led the dramas, taught object lessons, played games, taught memory verses, did crafts, and loved on all who came. Under the hot African sun, our family grew still larger. The days were filled with laughter, smiles, hand holding, and joy. It was an oasis in the middle of normal life for so many. The love of Christ was on display for all to see and again I saw a picture of the Kingdom of God.
All of our new friends went home following the second day of the day camp. Before they left our team had an opportunity to speak words of life and encouragement to the 40 Zambians we had just spent the last 4 days with. We told them how we saw the love of Christ in them and we spoke blessings over them. MANY tears were shed as encouraging words flowed. Many of the Zambians are orphans so hearing that they are special, loved, and valued was foreign to them. The power of encouraging words was on display for all to see. These are things families do, and why should this new family be any different. Again, I saw the Kingdom of God on display.
The next day our team had the opportunity to do home visits. We went to see where some of our new family members lived and what we experienced was another picture of the Kingdom of God. Experiencing humble hospitality in a developing county is a remarkable experience. Our hosts were very happy to welcome us and to share their stories with us. Our team quickly realized the disparity from life in the US to what we were experiencing. The fake reality that is offered so freely by social media that ensnares so many was replaced by this raw and real window into the lives of our new found brothers and sisters. And somehow this was much more appealing. Real life and relationships are always better than the sanitized reality so many experience on their favorite app. Our team was hooked and wanted more. They wanted to feel this new raw reality and continue to have their worlds expanded. They wanted to continue to have experiences that challenged everything they had ever learned. They wanted to explore more of the Kingdom of God.
Then it happened, the cruel reality of going home set in. Many would have gladly thrown their passports into Victoria Falls if it meant continuing in this new world. Never have I experienced a connection like this team made. One that undoubtedly will have a profound impact on the way they live as global citizens, the way they live in the Kingdom of God.
The words “life-changing” are often overused when it comes to experiences like this. However, I can’t think of a better way to sum up what happened. All of our lives were changed. There is something special when you experience the Kingdom of God on Earth. You want more of it, and then more still. In fact, you never stop craving it. That is what happened to our team. We have been transformed by experiencing the power of the Kingdom of God.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Gartley is a Disciple Making Pastor
at Watermark Wesleyan Church in Hamburg, NY.