One lesson I’m constantly learning is to savor experiences and foster contentment in every situation. For years, thankfulness has been a prominent anthem of my life. I want to encourage others to keep their eyes open to the reality that we all have so much to be thankful for, and to carry out daily lives full of joyful gratitude that bubbles up in response. While I’ll surely be writing more on this as I transition back into life in the States, I’d like to focus now on one of my favorite results of this approach.
The more I realize the grandness and vastness of God’s affections for me and for every other living soul, life becomes ever less mundane. I see his love and care in the little things, and that makes me want to get as much as possible out of every moment I’m alive. But what does that look like? If I’m in the classroom, I want to realize what a gift it is to learn and be as focused as I can. Or if it’s on me to clean the toilet this week, then I hope I’ll realize how that chore blesses others and honors God by taking good care of what I’ve been given. This carries into everything I experience in life – from giving my time and attention to another in real conversation, to working my hardest in the swimming pool, to accepting the unexpected with positivity and grace. The Apostle Paul worded this idea nicely when he encouraged the Colossians to do all things, words and deeds, in the name of Jesus Christ, but I personally love the quote from legendary Wheaton Alumnus Jim Elliot:
“Wherever you are, be all there.”
Exhortations like these have challenged me to be present and engaged in each stage of my three months in Zambia. During the first few weeks, I missed my friends and family almost unbearably, but the Lord helped me realize that the community around me was gradually becoming a family, and the more I pushed into that development, the tighter the bonds became. As the experience progressed, I saw more clearly how it was beginning to fly by and concentrated even more on savoring the experience. When things approached their end and I questioned why God would bring our group so close only to disperse us come August, I continued to make memories that I’ll have forever instead of pouting over my lack of insight. I obviously wasn’t as perfectly present as I would’ve liked to be – there’s room to improve next time – but I’m so thankful that I went into things hoping to cherish each moment. This whole practice was more of a challenge than usual during the home stretch of my internship.
A few weeks ago, the last time I had time available to sit and write, we traveled to the Northern Province to work alongside FCE. Upon our return to Livingstone, we spent a week debriefing the summer and celebrating our time here. This process was beautiful and incredibly helpful as I begin to look at life after the Elijah Experience, but it wasn’t the end of our story. Debrief week and EXP graduation was administered because two of our American sisters needed to return home and fulfill previous commitments (read: they have grown-up jobs). Once the excitement of graduation had passed, those of us who remained turned to our last hurrah: Program Ten.
Program Ten is a ministry vehicle that delegates leadership responsibilities for the purpose of accomplishing a ten-day project. My fellow EXP-ers were in charge of departments like finance, accommodation, emceeing and several others while I was deemed the worship leader and storyteller of the project. If you know me, then you know that this put a big ole smile on my face. Program Ten can be applied to any kind of project, but ours was putting on a camp for students at David Livingstone Secondary School.
Following the conclusion of Beat the Drum at David Livingstone over a month ago, those of us still in town helped the students who really wanted lasting transformation to form a club called Reach 4 Life, where they meet weekly to share their sexual struggles and encourage one another to pursue righteousness. Those who consistently attended club meetings were invited to attend camp, where the Lord did astounding things. As we had been during Beat the Drum week, we were blessed by the presence of yet another contingent from my original stomping grounds, Hamburg Wesleyan. Those guys are seriously unbelievable, and I’m hoping to do another piece only focusing on them. But despite providential preparation and the rush accompanying that, there was no getting around the reality that we EXP former-interns, the ones primarily responsible for the Hamburg team’s week-long visit and the three-day camp, were running on fumes. I sure am thankful that we serve a God who works through our weaknesses!
Throughout our final week, both at camp and serving alongside Hamburg in our local ministries, there was a constant temptation, at least for me, to put my head down and power through the return journey, where I find myself now. I probably could’ve done it, too – the tasks would’ve been accomplished had I merely gone through the motions. I praise the Lord that there are just too many good reasons to do nothing halfway. That said, it was hard, often times exhausting, both bearing the inevitable reality of approaching goodbyes and still pouring my heart and energy into God’s people. This was the case even though they had so clearly been placed in Livingstone or at camp so that they could continue their own stories of transformation – the same kind of inner change I’ve been exploring with this project all summer. Can I show you an example?
So, my boy and mentor Eyram Kpodo moderates the Reach 4 Life club at David Livingstone, and therefore he made a lot of the calls when it came to camp. For some reason, he assigned me the task of waking the campers for a six AM wake-up excerise. The original suggestion was pots and pans, but if you take a look at Eyram’s story, you’ll remember that my experience with that method didn’t bear much promise. Instead, I enlisted my Hamburg brother, Matt, and we sang at the top of our lungs this ridiculous, soulful, down-to-the-river-esque Sunday School song outside each tent and cabin. We had a blast acting twelve, and instead of being greeted by irritated teenagers, the students came pouring out of their quarters laughing, singing and eventually running in a giant circle without being told to do so. As a particularly slow waker-upper, I was astounded and couldn’t help but gape with unbelief. The best part, though, was that this goofy morning set Matt and I up to lead camp in an unforgettable night of powerful, passionate worship. We started our set with our silly little call and response from the morning, and that was enough to get every student up and more than ready to follow us into God’s presence. Neither of us were able to speak the next morning, but that was a small price to pay for such an amazing encounter with the Lord and his people.
No matter where we are in life, no matter how content we are with the big picture, there will always be times when we have to do things we probably wouldn’t choose to do on our own. Most of the wise people I know, though, agree that while your circumstances have a small influence on your life, the attitude with which you receive each storm and each celebration makes almost all the difference. Personally, I want to be so overflowing with contentment and thankfulness in any circumstance that nothing can shake me. If you haven’t taken much time to count your blessings, big and small, then give it a shot! It sure beats complaining, if you ask me.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR
William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern