We had a visitor in Lusaka this week!!! She is the first person that purposefully came to Zambia just to visit us, what a true gift! Phylis is our dear friend and former boss, and we were so thankful she dedicated a few days to check in on how some of her former interns were doing in this crazy place called Zambia.
Phylis showcasing the cinnamon roll we got to share together while she was here, because cinnamon rolls are our favorite!
We definitely enjoyed visiting with Phylis and getting to introduce her around to some of our favorite people and places in Zambia. It was also cool to hear from her about our family and friends back home. Sometimes being far away makes me think our old life just went on pause for a little bit while we carry out our adventure, but it doesn’t work that way. People move on, the students in the youth group we used to work with are growing up, and many others are carrying out their own adventures.
Nostalgia aside, Phylis also made her way over to this gigantic continent to knock something really cool off her bucket list. Before coming to Zambia, she spent a week in Malawi building two houses with Habitat for Humanity along with her husband, friends, and a team of others she now knows from all over the world.
It was really fun to be on the tail end of her experience there because we got to hear all the excitement she had form the Habitat trip, and we had an opportunity to debrief with her about what it means to come over here and work for a while and then go home.
Malawi is a beautiful country, bordering Zambia with a similar welcoming culture and friendly community. I haven’t been there yet, but a few of our neighbors that are students with Drew are from Malawi. However, from what we have heard, Malawi is much less developed than Zambia. It’s a smaller country with a similar population to Zambia, but much less infrastructure. So much so, Phylis was beginning to have reverse culture shock experiencing all the shops, malls and restaurants of Lusaka.
Phylis’ heart seemed to be broken for the people of Malawi, although her group came to build something meaningful for the people there, it seemed to be hard for her to not focus on all of the other needs the people would still have after she left. She was obviously moved by her time there, and as the outreach and youth director at her church back home, they were already doing a lot with their partners in Malawi. Together with some other churches in the Denver area, they sponsored a group of pastors furthering their education and working together to improve the spiritual and physical state of their communities.
However, as with many powerful things we experience in life, they all have to come to an end. We have to go home. We have to decide if we will allow God to use these experiences to mold and shape us more like Him. While the comforts of home can begin calling our name, the weight of what we experience often beckons us to stay. There is a good tension in those feelings, but what we should do after an intense encounter with the deep needs of the world is different for everyone.
Many people go home from trips like this and begin to feel guilty. The sad stories and sad things they saw can haunt them, and make them feel like life back home is meaningless since we are so far from that sadness and it feels as if there is nothing we can do. But I believe this guilt is not something from God.
He doesn’t show us more about the needs of His people around the world so that we will feel guilty. He wants to teach us more about His love and compassion, and yes this does cause us to want to do something, but doing something driven by guilt may not be worth doing at all.
I thought about this more as we were revisiting some passages about what the Gospel should also do in us. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians,
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved…not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:4-5,9-10
This is where we must start. When we feel God moving in us and making changes in our heart, we must remember that it is because of His great love that we are alive and know Him today. That is true for us and true for every person we meet. God’s love for the world is as deep as what His Son did for us once and for all on the cross. He saves us from ourselves and shows us the depth of our sin and our need for a Savior, but it doesn’t stop there. Because we know his saving grace, He chooses to use us to extend that grace through the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do.
This is cause for rejoicing, not guilt. We don’t do as many good things as we can in order to undo all the bad things. We are called to participate in the larger story of what God is doing to redeem our entire world. And while we may be called to grieve with the world about different circumstances and true needs that have to be met, because of Christ we will also be comforted. Because of Christ, we are not responsible for making people whole, but we must carry out where we feel called to be his hands and feet that bring about true wholeness in this world.
I am so excited that Phylis came, but I am even more excited that she gets to bring what she learned here home. She gets to use the ways God moved in her heart while she was here, and participate in other good works God has prepared for her back home.
If it wasn’t for Phylis willing to take on both Drew and I at different times as her interns, who knows if we would be as involved in youth ministry here. It is because she carried out good works through teaching and investing in us as interns that we are able to continue the good works God has called us to in Zambia.
What are the good works you know God has called you to that will carry out the Gospel in your world? You never know the impact they may have around the world! May we continue following the call of the Gospel that changed us, in order to bring about His changes in the world now and the world to come.