It has truly been a season of change, adaptation and growth for Byron and I. When I look back and reflect on the past year and on the past six months, in particular, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come – spiritually, emotionally and mentally – and to see how God has led us to this exact place at this exact moment in time. If you’ve followed our blog posts up to this point, you know exactly what our journey has been like so far and have shared in all the ups and downs we’ve experienced since setting foot on African soil. As is the case with anybody sharing their journey through a blog, at the time that we write each post, we share our emotions and thoughts as they are felt right in that moment. Often, during the ‘downs’, Byron and I wonder, “What’s the point of all this?” or why things have to be so difficult. Often, it seemed as though every facet of life in Zambia, as newly-wed volunteers, was testing us in some way, whether it had to do with our work, our dealings with ‘official’ stuff like our car or work permits, or even our relationships (both external and with each other!). But, I can honestly say, it’s only in hindsight and only from the perspective of someone looking back at our journey, that I can see how countless, invaluable lessons were imparted on us all along the way.
Patience. Grace. Sacrifice. Service. Faith. Some more patience … All have taken on new meaning. I have learned more about each one of these in the past six months than I otherwise would have, and in a way that could only have been taught to me by having gone through what we have since being in Africa. Even though six months is a relatively short amount of time, with everything we’ve experienced and learned, I can’t help but feel that these past six months were to prepare us for the six months that lay ahead. As we grow deeper into our respective roles and learn more about African culture, I can so clearly see how these lessons will continue to be so important to us.
My deeper understanding of each of these has resulted from both my dealings with locals at our Service Centre or in the communities that we support, and from experiences in my personal relationships. I think about the times when, after long, difficult and frustrating days at the Service Centre, both Byron and I felt so hopeless and felt as though, despite the effort of Hands to equip and build capacity into the locals, there was no way the people of Africa could ever reach the point where they would able to effectively care for their own. It was during those moments, when I found myself doubting our (both Hands’ and Byron and I’s) impact here and our ability to truly make a lasting difference, that I was reminded of the level of faith and patience we are called to have when doing the work we do. This reality was best described to us recently by someone at Hands who’s been around long enough to know a thing or two about our challenges.
“The key is to remember that our work isn’t racehorse work. Strangely, our work is truly best accomplished through prayer, patience, relationship and very slow, tedious steps. As urgent as this work is, it cannot be rushed.”
As much as we want to produce results and to see the locals we work with transformed into organized, productive little workers, we are learning that the fruits of our labour may not be seen for a long, long time. We are truly learning what it means to have patience and, above all else, learning to remain faithful when things appear to be a disaster! This means remaining confident in our decision to come to Africa to serve the poorest of the poor, and staying true to my personal belief that Byron and I are being used in the exact way, in the exact place, we are meant to be used! And of course, all this is easier said than done, especially for my super A-type, super results-oriented, husband.
This level of faith extends well beyond just the work we are doing but into our personal lives as well. Fears about the future still plague us. I still worry about our future family and when the right time to start one is; whether we’ll stay in Africa after our year is up, go home to Calgary, or begin another journey somewhere else; whether sacrificing time with our families and friends back home is the right thing to do, etc. For both of us (especially for Byron), all our worrying can be exhausting sometimes! What I’ve come to realize in the past six months is that while planning for the future in a thoughtful and intentional way is important, at this stage in our lives, it’s almost impossible. Our emotions and our perspectives change almost daily! The ups and the downs will continue to come and will continue to shape our experience here. It’s definitely going to require a full-on leap of faith to lead us to where we’re supposed to be. In the meantime, we’re just trying to not take for granted all the experiences we go through (as joyful or frustrating as they may be) and to move through life one step at a time.