Tomorrow morning we leave for Africa with a lot of varying emotions. We are both excited and anxious; excited to experience a different culture and for all of the adventures that are ahead of us, and anxious due to a lot of unknowns and the possibility of a lot of things that we might find uncomfortable and challenging.
We had the privilege of traveling to South Africa and Zambia this past summer and I was blessed with the opportunity to sit next to a young woman from Zimbabwe on the long flight home. We had a great conversation but it was very eye-opening and thought provoking as she honestly shared some of the concerns she had with attitudes of missionaries who come into her country to help her people.
Little did I know then that I would be headed off to her country to serve as a short-term missionary myself with all of her words swirling around in my head. God has been using those thoughts to help develop my own attitudes so that hopefully we will be able to be a positive addition to the work already being done my those serving in the local ministry.
We will be helping at a Methodist church compound that has a hospital for women in the vast area who have at-risk pregnancies and need help with the birthing process, as well as a boarding school for teens. The compound has a church with a local pastor who ministers to the people who live in the area and also a group of men who farm the land in order to help feed the large amount of people who live in the compound.
We are taking a number of laptop computers over for the kids in the school that were donated by our High School here in Milbank, as well as parts for the tractor and other farm equipment sent on a container earlier in the year. An earlier group unloaded the contents of the container which held a lot of supplies that are not available in the area, that have been donated by people who wanted to be a part of the project. We will be helping with the farm equipment, doing maintenance on the facility, ministering and connecting with the people.
The observations the young woman made on the plane were that while the people in Zimbabwe are very much in need of help and truly appreciate it, the missionaries she has encountered often come in with the attitude that they know what is best for the people, without really knowing about them or their culture. She also emphasized the idea that missionaries need to come in with the attitude that they are there to serve the people and are not there for a vacation.
So here is what our hopes are for this trip:
1. We will be able to learn. I hope that while we are in an entirely different culture, we will be able to learn what life is like there and what the needs are. I also hope that we can enter in with humility, not with an attitude that the way we do things is the right way and that they need to adopt them.
In Brene Brown's book I Thought It was Just Me..but it isn't she talks about the idea that we often have a "We...They" mentality. It keeps us separate from those who live differently than we do due to a sense of self pride. We can fall into a dangerous mindset dividing "we who live in houses" with "they who live in trailers", "we who speak in English" with "they who are learning English", or "we who live in the United States" with "they who live in other countries".
I was convicted with the absurdity of this way of thinking because it can be so natural for all of us. My hope is that we will not fall prey to this as we go and meet the Zimbabwe people on their terms.
2. We will be able to serve. The greatest motivation we have in going on a missions trip is to be able to rise to the challenge that Jesus gave us to proclaim the news of His death and resurrection to the world and to make disciples of all nations. We can do that best by living out His example of both serving and proclaiming.
I hope that we will be able to genuinely serve the needs of those we meet, even if we are at times out of our comfort zone. In Mark 1:40-45 Jesus healed a man with leprosy by reaching out and touching him. Then, he declared him healed. What struck me was that Jesus was willing to thoroughly get involved and touch the man even if it wasn't the acceptable or even the safest thing to do. I hope we can rise to that same challenge.
3. We will be able to connect. We were recently in a church in Minneapolis and were able to hear a pastor from Zambia speak. It was so powerful to not only hear what he had to share, but to be reminded that the God of the United States is the same God in Africa and the world. So often I can see God as an American and forget that those who trust in the saving grace of Jesus Christ are all one body, one church, no matter where we live, which language we speak, or how we worship according to our own culture.
I hope that as we travel to Zimbabwe that we can deeply connect with others who love the Lord with all their hearts so that we can testify to each other the works of the Lord in our individual lives.
I will be excited to be able to share all of our adventures with you and to share how God chooses to use us to accomplish His work!