Note: this blog post was written by one of our 2014 summer interns, Ellen Taylor
I have been back from Africa for some time now and I am just now getting around to writing this post. I guess it takes that long to process through a trip like the one I had the opportunity to experience. A life-giving, life-changing trip. A trip that shook me to the core and taught me lessons that I am still learning almost three months later. It was an unforgettable month.
Exhausting. Hard. Good. Draining. Eye-opening. Incredible.
These are just some of the words I have used to describe my time in Lusaka, Zambia this past summer. Whenever people ask me about my month there, these few, simple words are all that I can usually muster up. It’s hard for me to even start describing my experience because it was one that was completely different than I could ever have pictured. It was a day-to-day humbling, uncomfortable, but incredibly life-changing month.
For those longer conversations with good friends over coffee or a shared meal, I tell them stories. I tell them about the people that I met and the pure joy that overflowed from them despite all the hurt they had been through. I tell them about the beautiful, precious kids I got to know and the determination many of them have to overcome the obstacles they face for a brighter future. I talk about the antics that went down when you throw 5 college-age girls together for a month and the sweet community that happened with these girls whom I had never met before our trip. I talk about how my internship changed me and challenged what I want for my future. And most importantly, I tell them that Jesus is better. That He is better than anything that this world can offer or supply. That our circumstances should not define our joy and limit our Savior. That Jesus is better today, and He will be better tomorrow and every day after.
The media and the Western world tend to shape people’s view on Africa. I know it did for me. They paint a picture of a broken, hurting, poverty-stricken continent that is full of desolation and in desperate need of our resources and occasionally our help. They tell us that we must fix their symptoms through tangible resources instead of fixing their deeper needs. Yes, I saw hurt and heartache. I walked through dark streets and had my eyes opened to a life that is completely different than the one I live here in Texas. But, what the media and Western world leaves out, is that these are hurting people. People like you and me. People who have a deep, abiding, unending amount of joy. Who do not let their circumstances define them and steal this joy away. I saw Jesus clearer in these people than I ever have before. Time and time again, they taught me what James commands us to do in James 1:2:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”
To simply rejoice. To give all the glory to God, no matter what life throws at you. My friends in Lusaka live this out daily and taught me that I still have so much to learn when it comes to trusting my Savior. I learned by watching them live their lives for Jesus that we were made to know Him. And to make Him known. When something good happened to them, they gave all the glory to God. When something bad happened, they still gave all the glory to God. They knew that they were loved and known by Jesus. I only hope that one day I can be as half as loving, grace-giving, humble, and generous as them. I look up to them for their strength, courage, and compassion. And most importantly, I look up to them because they understand that Jesus is better than what this earth can supply us.
I could go on and on about my time in Zambia. I could fill blog post after blog post about all the lessons, big and small, that I learned from my time there. I am so thankful that the Lord sent me there this summer to meet and get to know the people that I did. I am forever changed by them. Jesus is greater y’all. And so much better.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” // Ephesians 3:20-21
- Ellen Taylor