I married my husband Chris in September 2017 and two days after our wedding we boarded a plane for Zambia, the beautiful country that I now call home. Saying goodbye to friends, family and everything familiar was by far the most difficult thing I had done up to that point in my life, but I felt a sense of peace and contentment as this new adventure began. After all I have a God who goes before me, is with me, and will never leave me...what could possibly go wrong?
My life in Zambia consists of teaching at a local community school and providing love and care for fifty-four sweet orphans at the Hillwood Children’s Home in a very remote corner of the country. Chris is a helicopter pilot and safari guide here at Nchila Wildlife Reserve, which is owned and operated by his parents. Prior to our wedding, Chris had been struggling with a bad back but since he was only twenty-seven, we figured it was nothing that a chiropractor couldn’t fix.
Things took a turn for the worse as we arrived in Zambia and after various tests and appointments, we decided to fly to India for surgery in November. After returning to Zambia, Chris began experiencing more pain and weakness so after five difficult months of much research and prayer, we flew to South Africa for a second surgery. Since this surgery, we are grateful that Chris has seen a great deal of improvement and although he still has his bad days, he has been able to return to work and normal activity which has been such a blessing!
I, myself, have learned many lessons in a short time as I have watched Chris go through this trial. Most importantly, I’ve learned that although I love my husband deeply, it is crucial for me to continue relying on God first for all of my needs—for my happiness, confidence, fulfillment, comfort, guidance, self worth, and wisdom. It is vital to look to God for these things since trials and suffering often result in a spouse being unable to fulfill these needs in the way we might want or expect.
Throughout this past year I’ve experienced periods of anger and fear, loneliness and moments of asking God, “Why? Why such smooth sailing up until our wedding? Why open up all of the doors to India only to result in a failed surgery? Why Chris, rather than me?” There were days when all I wanted to do was pack everything up and go back “home” to my family and all things familiar. It turns out that I was exactly where God wanted me in order to teach us a critical lesson that will stay with us as we live and work in our community.
As a couple, Chris and I agree that the biggest lesson learned through this experience can be summed up like this: for us, the most effective way to deal with suffering is to show God’s love, grace and encouragement to others who are suffering around you. We live in a community in which people have nothing and God reminded us of this each time a new struggle arose. When we felt alone, a new orphan would arrive needing love and care. When Chris was in pain, we would be provided with opportunity to support someone suffering from chronic pain or terminal illness. When I felt that I needed a break, opportunities opened up to teach extra classes and begin classes with the youth. The list goes on. When we allow ourselves to enter into the fullness of God’s grace and attempt in some small way to imitate Christ’s love towards others, our perspective changes. The focus shifts from feeling sorry for ourselves to feeling empathy for those around us.
I will finish by sharing a verse that has become a staple for us—a reminder that trials and suffering will come, frustrations will come and we will inevitably ask why—but we have the God of comfort in our corner always. He is a gift just waiting to be shared with others suffering around us!
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1: 3-4).