To say that this week has been stretching would be the best word I can think of to describe it and yet it is still such an understatement. I’ve been stretched to my limits physically, mentally, and spiritually in the best possible ways.
I remember finding my gate in the Grand Rapids airport, jubilant and proud that I had taken “my first step” into this new adventure. This didn’t last too long, however, as my flight got delayed so much that I would be arriving in my next stop: Washington D.C., exactly one minute after the rest of my team would be taking off together on the next leg of the journey over the ocean. I realized that I would have to do the rest of the traveling through foreign countries on my own, and that this solo trip would have to be extended to a whopping 67 hours of traveling. Cue: anxiety.
When I landed in D.C., I was overwhelmed wandering around the airport, being sent to desk after desk with no one who could help me. I kept tearing up and realizing just how big of a deal this adventure was… not only for the kingdom of God, but also against the kingdom of darkness. The enemy was fighting back and was going to continue doing so if I was really in the will of God. // I’m choosing that it’s worth the fight.
I did finally get the help I needed and spent the night in D.C. waiting for my new flight. The next day, Jesus surprised me with a gift as my friend Kyla (who I haven’t seen in a year and now lives in DC) took an uber car to the airport just to hang out with me in the airport lobby for a few hours. It was so refreshing to my already worn-out soul. I’m so thankful that Jesus knew my heart so well and made that happen. I’m also thankful for friendships that time and distance can’t destroy.
Next came the 17-hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa (with a stop in Dakar, Senegal. Though we couldn’t get off the plane, it was still a really interesting city to see from the plane window. It was also crazy to think that 8 hours before, I had been in America and what a drastic difference I was seeing on the other side.). Spending the night by myself in a hotel in Johannesburg, I realized even more how crazy of a thing it was that I was doing. I don’t think I can quite explain to you how much anxiety I had… My current situation was so mind-boggling to the person I always thought I was that there was nothing but room for Jesus to speak. I realized 2 main things:
1) Sometimes being an adult sucks, and while we are definitely supposed to be like children when we approach the father, there’s also a time in the world when you have to realize you’ve done it… you’ve grown up. I wasn’t like those kids always wishing I was older. I was quite the opposite… but maybe I just watched Peter Pan too many times. It has been hitting me really hard this past year (and especially in this traveling experience) that there is a certain beauty in childhood that I can’t hang on to forever and that that’s okay. There’s also much importance, though, in intentionally fostering the heavenly aspects of childhood that should never go away. He’s teaching me the parts that need to stay and what needs to go. It’s painful and beautiful at the same time, as all the best things are.
2) He’s such a proud dad. I’ve never felt so much affirmation from The Father than I did on those plane rides. I kept blushing and laughing from the intensity of His beaming smile. I may not be “winning hundreds of souls” right now, but I’m being obedient, and there is nothing that I (or He) want(s) more than that.
On Tuesday, I finally arrived in Livingstone, Zambia at 1pm and was driven straight from the airport to the bush on the banks of the Zambezi River (pre-Victoria Falls) to join the rest of my team in their “challenge” day. I arrived just in time for our next task: catching 3 chickens. It was time to start making dinner. After catching them, we had to kill them, pluck the feathers out, clean them, and prepare them while others made a fire. We also prepared nshima. It was getting dark by the time we were ready to eat and I got my first peak at this side of the Earth’s night sky. Wow. You want to see stars? Go to the African bush. We talked and made a giant roaring fire and performed skits for each other before eventually retiring to our tents for the night. It was a difficult night of sleep for me anyway because I hadn’t really slept in about 4 days, but add the fact that I was sleeping on the ground in what felt like the middle of nowhere and that right outside the tent were crocodiles, snakes, and hippos (yes, all three. Especially the hippos… who splashed and made terrifying noises at us all night at us because we were sleeping in the spot where they usually ate. I remember being a kid and seeing the robotic hippo outside of Rainforest Café wondering why they made it look so scary. I get it now.). But, I survived J and somehow the adventure of it all gave me enough energy to keep going, even though I was now on day 5 with extremely minimal sleep, and the first thing we did in the morning was pack up the tents and the rest of camp and embark on the ~8 mile hike back to the main road.
That morning was when I learned another big lesson… this one on grace. I’ve been told that I can be too hard on myself sometimes (Yes, Staci, I do listen to you.) and this trip so far has been no exception. On that hike I found myself literally to the end of my strength. I don’t think I have ever been so sleep-deprived in my life and with each step I became more and more exhausted. I was even more frustrated because I began falling behind my group and two new friends walked beside me behind everyone else. I kept saying how bad I felt and they kept shooting my apologies down and reassuring me. I felt like I heard Jesus say: “Brooke, which voice sounds more like me in this situation? Yours or theirs?” It was obvious… theirs. They were extending grace that I desperately needed. I’ve been given the mind of Christ and so from now on // I’m choosing to give myself grace.
The rest of the week was extremely eventful but I won’t be going into as much detail. One of the best things that we did was share our stories. To give us time to reflect on it, we went to the ground of The Royal Livingstone Hotel (read: ‘bougie’ hotel). Once again we were on the shores of the Zambezi River, but closer to the Falls and we could see them from the deck we sat on. There were also Zebras and monkeys and antelopes all roaming around. It was such a cool place to spend time with the Lord discovering and rediscovering our stories.
Speaking of those, He has had me open up about things I have never had the courage to talk about, and over and over I keep finding myself meeting grace again. // It’s uncomfortable, but there are chains falling in those moments, I know it and I’m choosing to declare it.
So, how am I really doing after week one? A wise new friend recently told me that often times, the “worst of you” comes out on trips like these. I’m finding already that this is very true. Too much of the time, all I want to do is leave this place to go home or to simply go somewhere more comfortable. But when did the gospel ever mention comfort as a good thing to seek after? I should be rejoicing in my discomfort and the stretching that’s happening instead of wishing it away, but that is a hard mindset to have and I don’t think I can make myself have it either. And so that is my prayer right now: that even when it seems impossible, He would make me desire this place I’m at right now rather than what might be more comfortable. Here, I can’t talk to the people I love and I am left without things I usually use. I’m missing a lot of the things I love to do and I am so tired and weak. But I can talk with the One I love most and I have everything I truly need. In Him, I lack no good thing and the joy of the Lord is my strength.
I’m choosing that it’s worth the fight.
I’m choosing to give myself grace.
I’m choosing to declare that chains are falling.
I’m choosing to invest here.
And I’m choosing to trust my Father.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brooke Jeries • 2015 International Immersion Intern