Reflections: Africa (In the Bush)
(Real quick– Here’s some need to know lingo:
BUSH: a time period where you and your team take the big lovely army truck anywhere from 5-12 hours away from the Base to reach a rural village, pitch tents, preach the Gospel, and live in the Zambian desert with the locals)
I have been thinking about what to type in this empty space for a month, and I just have no idea how to put the experience into words that could sufficiently explain all that happened in Zambia this summer.
Well, I guess I can start off by saying– Holy Cow.
You know how before you do something, you build up a whole lot of expectations for what the experience will be like? Well, I had a ton of expectations of what this trip was going to look like but I couldn’t have even begun to anticipate beforehand what God had in store for the us and the Zambians.
A few days before we left for Africa, the scribbles in my journal said mostly phrases such as this:
– What am I going to say?
– Is my testimony even RELATABLE?!
– What if they ask me to speak? I dunno what to SAY!
– I’m scared
– I’m scared
– I’m scared
– Am I even spiritual enough to go?
– Do I know enough scripture?
– WHAT AM I DOING!?
I had no idea what things were going to be like. I have heard many amazing testimonies from missionaries about the wonders they experienced overseas and I was like “Sheesh. These people and God must be TIGHT to have experienced what they have!” I had the picture in my head that in order to be a missionary overseas you had to “have it all together” so to say.
So, that was kind of my mindset going into it- So… I downloaded some books, then bought some books, downloaded a junk ton of podcasts and decided that the whole flight to Africa I would try to cram as much “Jesus” into my mind as I could so that when I got there, I would be ‘spirit filled’ and equipped with a lot of knowledge about Jesus and the Gospel to share with people. I truly felt that I needed to work really hard to equip myself to be ready to do this ministry and to get to experience the kinds of things that people had told me about, as if I had to deserve them somehow.
(And, you can guess Who wrecked that mentality when I got there.. But that’s another story for another blog!)
After over 24 hours of flying and a lovely 12 hour layover in Germany, we finally reached the land of Zambia! Our AMAZING leaders came and picked us up from the airport and we rode in a large army truck back to the Base Camp. At Base Camp, there were lots of other full time missionaries, part time missionaries, expedition teams, and many students going through a program called Advanced Missions Training. It was seriously so cool to be surrounded by tons of other believers who were truly pressing into the presence of God and seeking His heart constantly. I loved getting to know other people and hear about what they were learning in the season of life they were in.
Not only were the people beautiful, but so was the land surrounding us.
We were literally sharing the same air as the Zambezi River. The top of the camp overlooked this BEAUTIFUL gorge ( which we also got to hike down! And by we I mean- they (my team) .. I only made it halfway down! Haa.)
One particular morning, bright and early, I got to have some quiet time over looking this beautiful scene. The air was fresh, I could hear the clashing of the waters below me, and these sweet little birds were a chirpin’ away. It was oh so peaceful. During my time with the Lord that morning, He began to reveal to me the flaws in the ways that I looked at my relationship with Him.
I was seeing my relationship with Him as severed. As in, we were separate beings. I am a sinner and He is Jesus. End of story.
But that wasn’t the end of the story.
That was the BEGINNING of the story!
I was a sinner. Dead in my sins and headed for nothing more than a life of abandonment, loneliness and eternal emptiness.
But then, Jesus began to draw me to Himself, opening my eyes to see that as humans, all we are capable of doing is what is natural to us – Sin. No matter how many “good things” we have done or will do. But God loved us so much that He gave his son Jesus as a sacrifice to become our sin, take the penalty for our sins, and put its’ power over us to death. It is only by believing that His sacrifice was sufficient for my sins and trusting that it is only through Him that I can be made right with God. And if I am made right with God through Jesus, that would require us to be one, or for some sort of identity exchange to take place. And it did. What is mine is now His, and what is His is now mine. We are ONE! My identity is now in Him and who He is.
Galatians 2:20 explains this exchange perfectly:
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Being the visual person I am, I had to draw it out 🙂
** In this picture, we are two separate people. This relationship would require me to do things by myself, call on Him when I need Him to come to me and help me, and ask and ask and ask until He comes. This is not the relationship I have entered in to.
It is this one:
** In this relationship, Jesus lives in me and I in Him. Because I have received His Spirit by believing He is who he says and that He lived, died and was raised to life by God’s power– I no longer have to strive for Him to come to me– He is with me. Christ is the head, and I am His hands and His feet– Where He goes, I go.**
Through these truths, I began to realize that I often tried to live for Jesus by trusting in my own effort– by being my own salvation. God gently showed me that we were one– And that I was to continue walking in this journey by trusting not in myself and what I could and could not do, but by “trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”.
With this new truth, I felt a little more assured about being in Africa, because it wouldn’t be me at work, but it would be Him. Still I was super afraid.
Every morning, we would all worship together, pray over one another, speak over one another and just build one another up! I have never experienced anything like this before.
I know in the Bible it talks all about building the church, and after seeing the way this community of believers encouraged and interceded on each other’s behalf– It clicked.
During our worship and prayers times, there would be multiple people that came up to me and to others and would say, “Hey! God has a word of encouragement for you that He has told me and I would like to speak it over you” or ” I feel lead to pray for you” or during worship, somebody would speak up after the song and tell about a revelation that God had given them during the song. These visions and revelations were just so beautiful, pictorial, awe inspiring and so full of truth. I just kept shaking my head at God saying, “What in the world…This is so friggin cool… YOU are COOL.”
And. It. Just. Got. BETTER!
Before our expedition team left, the whole base prayed over our team. And right in the middle of the prayer, the man leading the prayer ( I forgot his name!) spoke up and said, “Which of you here is afraid?”
Ha. Crap. THAT would be me!
Right over here
PRAYING no one will raise their hand and we can move the heck on so I won’t be found out!
I just wanted to shrivel up to the floor and crawl on my knees out the door– I KNEW that was me.
So I awkwardly raise my hand, and a few other people did to.
“Stand in the middle. We’re prayin’ that fear away and off of you.”
Eeesh. Well alrighty!
So this man and all of our base friends surrounded us and began praying bold things over us commanding that spirit of fear to leave and to never return and all these other things that made me bawl like a baby. But dang- It was so good. In that moment I felt the Lord’s presence come over me and bring the very comfort I needed to step forward in faith.
Little did I know that those very prayers lifted up by our friends would be answered in full measure by the Lord on this trip and continue to bear fruit in my life.
He came up to the three of us afterward and he looked at us and said “Now. I want to talk to you when you get back from the bush.”
We all nodded our heads in agreement.
Then! Off we went– 5 hours to reach the village called Siatchitema!