If there’s one thing God has taught me during my time in Africa it’s this: I can’t do anything without him. The things God has called me to do are so much greater than I could ever accomplish on my own, yet that is exactly how it is supposed to be. The moment I start relying on myself to do these things is the moment I start flailing about in the deep waters of self-defeat. My need for Jesus has been made so much clearer to me being on the mission field, and I find myself clinging to him like a drowning man clings to a life preserver.
I’m ashamed to say that way too often I still attempt to do things in my own strength; and I inevitably fail. It’s at that point of coming to the end of myself where I go to God saying, “I give up. I can’t do it without you.” In those moments it’s almost as if God were saying, “It’s about time! I never intended you to do it on your own anyway. I’ve been waiting for you to figure that out! Now we can really get to work!” Then God provides more than enough of whatever it is I’m lacking, and he gives me the grace to do exactly what He’s asked me to do.
This has been extremely evident in my life lately. I knew that teaching in an orphan school was going to be tough, but prior to actually getting here my mind kept running back to those quintessential mission trip pictures. You know the ones-- with white girls surrounded by malnourished-looking African children. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that my time here would be about more than just holding kids’ hands and smiling for pictures, but I guess I didn’t realize the extent to what God had for me here. Being a teacher here is just plain hard. Possibly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And to put it simply, I can’t do it. Not without God’s grace in my life. I don’t have the patience to deal with difficult students. I don’t know how to love unconditionally when people are driving me crazy. I can’t forgive people when they do something to hurt me. I can’t do any of it by myself. But God has already done all of that for me, and by his grace he’s given me the ability to do it too. It’s nothing short of miraculous.
I remember someone telling me that the mission field turns your life upside down. Many an outreach person has come to Zambia planning to change the world, only to discover that God has some serious work to do in their own heart. I must say, I’m discovering the same thing. God has placed me in this mission field and allowed me to face these challenges so I will learn how to trust in him and rely completely on his strength, not my own. It’s a lesson he’s been teaching me my whole life, and I feel like this is my mid-term. Here’s hoping I pass this time!