(By Jennah Sailor)
I had gone to Zambia for the first time in the summer of 2017 to volunteer as a nurse in Chitokoloki Mission Hospital and to help in the surrounding village outreach work. I went through a culture shock beyond words and experienced one of the biggest emotional roller coasters of my life! By the time I arrived home, I had made up my mind that I would not be returning to Zambia anytime soon. But God had other plans and He began convicting me that I needed to go back, this time with the possibility of Zambia being the place where He was calling me to live and serve.
I would love to tell you that after I surrendered to the possibility of living in Zambia, everything was just peachy. However, when we serve the Lord, it is rarely easy. Even though I had surrendered, I still had a huge fear of going to Zambia. I prayed God would replace that fear with His perfect peace. He answered my prayer by bringing me to the story of Esther. Two of her statements gave me peace and courage: “For such a time as this” and “If I perish I perish" (Esther 4:14,16). Esther didn’t completely understand why she was chosen, but God did. Despite the uncertain future, He was still in control and was working things out for His glory and her good. This applied to me too.
I arrived in Zambia and I thought since I had already been there once that I would have this all under control. Since I had already dealt with the culture shock last time, and since I assumed that would be the biggest difficulty there, I assumed that the hardest part was already over. Well, it was much more challenging than I had supposed. This time the difficulty was in dealing with expectations and interpersonal dynamics. I had to learn a lot about showing grace. I was working with people who often had totally different expectations and mindsets than mine. I had been studying in Philippians and Ephesians and there is so much in there about unity, working together, showing grace and love.
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:2, 31-32
Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then...I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. Philippians 1:27
I had been doing the “book work” and now it was time for the “practicum” part of the lesson. It was quite challenging at times but through it all, I learned so much more about God’s grace and established some wonderful friendships! Another thing I learned while working in Chitokoloki is that helping patients doesn’t always involve medical aspects. Sometimes, a warm smile, kind words, quality time, and generosity work wonders on a person who is sick. There were times when my friend and I would take a break from the medical part and just pass out little gifts such as puzzles, paper and colored pencils, combs, stickers, balls, balloons, etc. and then spend time talking to the patients or playing a game with them. There was often a language barrier so my understanding that love is an action became very real in that setting. To watch patients transform from ones who lay in a bed or sat in a chair with gloomy faces and a loss of motivation into patients who were smiling and improving was such a blessing!
When I left for Zambia, I fully expected God to show me that Chitokoloki was indeed to be my new home. However, while I was visiting, I learned that it was not where God was calling me. God used many things and people to show me this. I believe that this trip was used as a test of faith and to teach me about the joy that comes from being fully surrendered to God. I am reminded of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham didn’t understand why God would ask him to sacrifice Isaac, but He trusted God and took it one step at a time, believing that God would work. It was not until Abraham had his knife raised and poised that God said “Stop!” and provided a ram as a substitute. God used my trip to Chitokoloki to teach me how to walk more by faith and less by sight. He showed me the blessing and joy of surrendering to Him. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6).