Three weeks ago, I returned from my two week long mission trip to Doma, Zimbabwe. Here are a few words that describe my experience: fulfilling, exhausting, fun, beautiful, busy, productive, and cold. (Any of these words surprise you?) I am so grateful for the support of so many people, both financially and spiritually, while I was there. Three Southwestern College students participated on the trip as well as two of my nieces, Maddy and Savannah. The mission was a powerful experience for all.
Throughout the trip, various members of our team of 20 people blogged. If you’re interested, take a look at the reflections here: Http://ashlandtoafrica.blogspot.com.
I wanted to share a couple of my most significant impressions from this experience with you. This was neither my first time on an international mission trip nor my first visit to Africa (and I don’t believe that it will be my last, either). I was prepared for leaving behind the conveniences to which I’m usually accustomed. Things like…beds, wifi, daily showers, privacy, central heating/air conditioning, endless water usage. As it turned out, despite being prepared for rather Spartan conditions (I thought that I would be sleeping in a tent in their backyard), I discovered many more comforts than I expected. They did indeed have wifi, and it and the necessary electricity worked about 90% of the time! Additionally, I had a bed in which to sleep (and it was even inside the house!) and a shower whenever I wanted. Of course I knew that the water was coming from a well that provided clean water for about 800 people, so I didn’t linger longer than necessary. Even though I was prepared for austerity, we experienced more comforts from home than I expected. And yet, even all of our comforts had an African twist. Take for example the house that I stayed in. It was the home of Rory and Judy Ervine. Rory oversees the farm and its many workers and Judy oversees the clinic. Back to the house: it was basically a glorified “mud hut” with thatch roof, complete with birds who nested in the layers of the thatch and woke us in the mornings earlier than our alarms. But don’t let this description mislead you. The house was really a piece of art. It was soundly built, had cement and tile floors, running water and electricity (and windows!). My favorite feature was the tree (branch) in the living room on which hung metal and wood animals and insects. The house was absolutely breathtaking and full of life. It was so much more than meets the eye. Just like everything else that I experienced.
At first glance, the house of Susan and Kevin Fry was a bustling, packed, busy place of organized chaos. People were coming and going, leaving things, taking things, talking, working, and coordinating. We added significantly to the chaos because of our 44 trunks full of donations and supplies for our time in Zimbabwe. Our stuff seemed to multiply and divide, leaving trails of sewing machine parts, medical supplies, and stuff for kids in every nook and cranny. But after spending time in this “mission center,” it became clear that emanating from this place were ministries that would educate nearly 200 orphans, feed nearly 800 people (orphans, missionaries, workers and their families, and neighbors), and impact a whole region. Sure, it may have looked like chaos, but God brings order out of chaos, and people are empowered to go about God’s work through the many items that were carried over from our homes.
One of the framing motivations for our mission to Zimbabwe was James 1:27: “True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.” I first discovered this brief scripture when I was in college. The impact of it has stuck with me. Often, we try to complicate things—we debate what “church” should look like, who can do what in worship, how we spend our time and money—but I think that there is something much simpler to keep in mind: are we caring for the most vulnerable, and are we living our lives in a way that reflects God’s holiness and love in the world. I don’t want to diminish the importance of guarding the faith and teaching right doctrine. However, this simple orienting reminder of what is at God’s heart was often curiously looking at me in the face through cropped hair, brown eyes, and hands that were constantly reaching out for a hug.
Thanks for your support! If you want to look at some pictures, there will likely be some on our Ashland to Africa blog, but there are already some on my Facebook page. If you think of it, please do keep Eden Children’s Village in your prayers. You can check out their incredible work here: www.edenchildrensvillage.org.