I know it. I feel it. Something’s off and I can’t quite put my finger on it; but it’s not me. At least that’s what I tell myself. It’s not me. But I can only blame whatever it is on jet lag for so long. The statute of limitations for jet lag has long since and very officially run out. So now what? To what do I attribute this feeling of not fitting so smoothly back into my old life, a life which I didn’t leave for that long, I might add? I mean nothing has changed in my absence. (well my grocery store did close while I was gone, but other than that . . . ?) I’m seeing the same people, going to the same places, doing the same things that I did before, but something’s off. And it’s not me. Or is it?
Now as I said, I wasn’t gone for that long and I’ve been on short term mission trips before this one. So I should have remembered this phase which follows the trip, re-entry. I am attempting to re-enter my old life, which has remained the same in my absence, but I am changed and the fit is no longer as comfortable as it once was. But shouldn’t the time needed for re-entry be directly proportional to the amount of time spent away? That would make sense, a formula could be devised, and re-entry would be predictable. I could know how long until this feeling wears off and I fit once again into the life I left with such temporary intentions, fully intending to take it up again upon my return. Only now, it doesn’t fit, something’s off. My old life doesn’t fit my new, changed self. I have a new perspective because my eyes have been opened along with my heart. Would I want to close either after what God has shown me? Would I dare to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to what I have seen and heard, to the need and the opportunity to be a part of meeting that need in Jesus’ name?
After all, I’m not the first person to go on a short term mission trip. Nor was this my first trip on a short term mission. I have seen poverty firsthand, it already has a name and a face, actually many names and many faces. But nothing has worn off, rather something has been added, become a part of me each time, making fitting back into the life I left impossible each time. I should have remembered that and acknowledged the re-entry process, signaled by the awareness that “something’s off” and it IS me. Re-entry is hard, I have been changed and God will help me find what fits now. “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13) And God’s purposes are always good.
He has changed my heart, again. My heart needs to be continually changed. I’m so glad God’s not done with me yet. There are ten new spaces in my heart for ten little Zambian girls whose names and faces I now know and carry with me. But His burden is light and His yoke is easy. This is a joy to carry their stories to those who will listen and to those who might also care. My Heavenly Father is altering my eyesight, my perspective once again; so that I might view His world more clearly, as He sees it. Not as I would see it on my own with my selfish, limited perspective. My Father wants to give me His eyes as well as His heart. I just need to be willing to receive what He wants to give.
Oh, dear readers, if I could only find enough words or the right words to tell you about this Zambian experience and what God is doing there right now. It would fill your heart with hope and joy to know that something so wonderful is taking place right now in this little part of the world, even as we go about our daily lives knowing only of the danger and despair our nightly news brings to our attention. I have often heard it said to find where God is at work and join Him there. That is what I had the privilege of doing during my week in Zambia.
There were one thousand one hundred plus children at “Camp Life” the week I was there, the week I had come to serve. The theme was, “God is your Father and He loves you.” Simple, direct, powerful, life changing truth that these children need to hear, made all the more relevant by the fact that these children are orphans and vulnerable children who often have no one to care for them. They feel they have no hope and no future. But God’s word says otherwise. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jer.29:11)
As God’s words were spoken out, proclaimed if you will, to these children each day, transformation was taking place in them. Some of it was visible, but I suspect far more will be seen later as God’s truth continues to work in their minds and find its way into their hearts. I didn’t realize it was a message I needed to hear as well. (not that I hadn’t heard it many times before over the years) But God’s word is living and active, new every time. What do I have in common with these poor orphan children living on the other side of the world, speaking a different language, living a very different life? Pretty much everything, that’s what.
With both my parents gone, I realize how much I feel my current orphan status. I also understand having an absent or less than ideal earthly father. I understand what it is to be lonely and vulnerable. I am a broken child in need of my Creator’s healing touch and powerful presence just as each child at Camp Life is. I came to “help” them and hopefully by God’s grace I fulfilled some of that somehow, but I am also one of them. I was “helped” as well as my Heavenly Father reminded me that He loves me, too.
We were taught God is our provider, which called to mind, “The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:15-16) And that He is our protector. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) How can such old words have such a new impact each time they are proclaimed? Because God’s word is living and full of power. That’s why our words have the impact that they do. (I wrote about this in previous post “Walking Wounded”)
It’s a surprise to travel so far and feel such a kinship with those who were strangers only the day before. I look at my pictures from Zambia as I try to find my new “fit” here in my old life, something’s gotta give. I am forever changed again, so for now, something’s off. (and it is me).
more in my next post, “Zealous for Zambia” sincerely, Grace Day
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.” (Psalm 68:5)