Friday, March 25, 2011


To the best of human ability to make plans, Jim and I plan to be in Zambia at some point this year.

We could have gone in April, and almost did- but the dates of the trip fell directly over a week that we absolutely can't be away.  So, the decision was easy to discern.  The plan is to go later.

For about a month (since we decided not to go) people have asked me if I'm sad I'm not going, etc.  That's sort of a hard thing to answer.

I feel an incredible burden for Africa.  But, like I tried (and I feel, failed) to articulate fully here, a burden for orphans, poverty, and exploited people that used to leave me feeling helpless, and led me to guilt with almost no productivity, now has been converted to a steady burn, one that leaves Africa always on my heart, always in my thoughts.  And it fuels a greater clarity and burden for my own country, everything connected. It's really sort of blown my mind (and my heart).  And any deeply-hidden concept that Africa "needs" America more than America needs Africa-  God is slowly demolishing those places in my heart.  I'm trying not to fight it.

What this burden does not do, though, is leave me feeling like there's nothing I can do.  Essentially, caring this much about these things has made life messier, grander, and richer- but it doesn't leave me overwhelmed to the point that I actually do nothing.

All that to say- the burden is light.  I don't feel helpless anymore.

Going isn't the one way you "do" something in a situation like this.  The going is very humbling- you can't measure how much "good" you're doing by your works, or by what you bring and leave behind- going with just yourself to bring, allowing God to do the accomplishing through you and in you is a complicated, immeasurable, messy thing.

The doing happens more in my everyday- in all the myriad ways life has gotten shaken up for me, and my family, thanks to this little trip I took to "go and see".  From the top down my choices are weighed by things I can't ignore anymore. 

Since I've returned, God has thrown all kinds of "doing" into my family's lap.  Africa is always right there in our conversations, and my kids talk about it all the time.  It affects how we live our life, in lots of ways.

Before I even left for Zambia, God made a good arrangement for when I got back.  Within a week or so of returning, we were introduced to our huge, wonderful refugee family from Chad.  (And now, we've gained another family of friends from Darfur.)  Our families run and play and talk and jumble together, all of us learning from one another.  It's wonderful. It's good for 100 reasons, but, I'll just say it- God knew it was the perfect way to blend Africa right in to my family's life- rather than culture shock in coming back, I was immediately experiencing a blending of the 2 together- and my family has been fully involved.  It was perfect timing.  So, Africa really isn't that "far" away for us.  It's right here in Sioux Falls. 

Another big part of doing is sharing my own story here, with all of you, whoever you are out there.  There were many times thinking about my experience in Africa, and how to communicate it, seemed exhausting to me.  And, well, it's also quite vulnerable.  But writing is good for me, so I did it anyway.  That invites other people into the story.  And that can open a door for them to go and see too.  If writing about all of this in my imperfect way accomplishes anything, I hope it's bringing the Author glory, and opening doors for many more people to be included and wrecked for something far greater than what we've been settling for.

So it's not just about going.  I would love to hop on a jet plane and be back in Zambia, working with the people I've grown to love so much.  I am sold. 

I can't always go.  But I can do whatever it is that's put before me- and I can invite other people in.  That's the point, right?  It is, I suppose, not about me anyway.

To all of my friends in Africa reading this- When I was with you, my own family across the ocean was always on my heart.  Now that I'm back here with them, you are always on my heart.  I pray for you throughout the day, you are always on my mind, and I won't stop inviting people in to the story God is writing in your lives.  It's brought me so much joy to be a small part of it.  Thank you for welcoming me in.

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