My only thought was, “How did I even get here?” All my worries had built up until I couldn’t even think straight or comprehend anyone talking to me. Any questions I had were monotonous, irrational, or seemed just plain silly. My emotions were a roller coaster and there was no getting off. As soon as I stepped off the plane, a sense of peace gave my heart a little squeeze and a small voice fought its way to my soul that says, “You know this place, you’ve been here before. I’ve brought you here for a reason.” With a sense of courage, I walked boldly into a summer that would take the biggest piece of my heart, and the most out of me that I ever bargained for.
This summer was a time of challenging growth, the art of finding myself, and seeking out how to love unconditionally like the Father. I had the privilege of spending six weeks as an intern at the Haven in Zambia. The Haven is a loving place where children go when they have lost a parent, have health conditions, or need a temporary home because of an unfortunate situation. The goal of the Haven is to care for the children until the time comes when they can return home with their family, immediate or extended. I had the beautiful opportunity to study abroad at this same place just a short two years ago, so me returning to a familiar place that God has engraved on my heart was a true blessing and gracious gift. Even still, the emotions I felt were quite unmatched to any other.
Unlike my study abroad experience, this summer I was immersed in language class, a set schedule, a supplemental role at the Haven, and was with three of my dearest friends. My role at the Haven was to spend one on one time with each of the children in the house I was assigned to each week. We worked on developmental needs such as gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and occasionally some physical therapy. We had class daily at school, and just enjoyed each others presence all day long.
As the first few weeks progressed, I realized how much I had to learn about this culture, this life, this reality, and myself. Whoa, my roller coaster just halted, right there on the climb up. I found myself in an uncomfortable place, contemplating what in the world I had to bring to the table of this experience, and still the question remained of how I got there. I was seeing the reality of being a missionary and what how this life looks and works. It was unmatched to any other I knew and I was letting go. Over the weeks, I found my courage because I started listening to God. Slowly and surely, my roller coaster started to climb upwards again. Little did I know, I was about to plunge into the act of surrender.
I distinctly remember the day when I decided to take the plunge and embrace feeling uncomfortable, scared, and being clueless on what I should do in each situation. It was a Thursday and I was overwhelmed out of my mind. I felt like I just couldn’t relate or do an adequate job with the babies I was working with that day. It seemed like I never had enough books to read with them, activities to do, or Tonga words memorized to get on their level. That night we went to stay with our friends in the village. As if the day hadn’t gotten the best of me already, the dear auntie I stayed with each week was off that day and her son was supposed to come and get me to walk the rest of the way to her home. Night came and no one arrived. After anxiously waiting, three boys came and another auntie said the family was here to walk with me. I had no idea who it was. But, I decided to just go, take a leap of faith, and take a risk. So, there I was, walking in the middle of nowhere Africa, in the black of night, with three boys I didn’t know. After feeling in over my head and quite helpless, I started doing what I do best: talking, questioning, and laughing. This really was my friend’s family; it was her son that had just grown since I was last there! After much laughing and talking, in that moment I realized the depth of how much God was in control and even more so how much God had to show me in these next few weeks. He was longing for me to get out of my comfort zone and TRUST him. Right then and there, my roller coaster was flying downhill faster than I even imagined. I dove in headfirst and what I found was truly remarkable. I got there because God had something to teach me in this moment.
The biggest lesson that I’m continually learning from my experience would have to be about courage, risk, and living in the unknown. When we break free from our comfort and dare to dance in the unknown, that’s when we do our best growing. It’s in those times when we search for God with wreck less abandon. Let’s face it, it’s because we truly need him. In those scary moments, we are frantic for God, grasping at anything that brings us closer, digging deeper until we have a solid hold on the Savior. I imagine in those moments that I’m clinging to the Father in a bear hug with all my might while we take the plunge together. Isn’t that beautiful?
The most fulfilling humbling blessing from it all is that love is simple. To love simply is to love deeply. I hold on to the realization that I learned the best love lessons from all the babies and children I grew to know this summer. It was a privilege to love them. I’m still gaining a better understanding of the Savior’s love. To love unconditionally with no reservations is to love when it hurts, to love when life cannot seem to be any better, and to love when you think you have no more love left to give. I want to love to the core. I want to love from my heart, my being, my soul.
Here’s to a Father that knows how to convince me to jump off the edge head- first and love from the deepest corners of my heart.
May we both chase and long for the opportunities to cling to our Creator for courage and an unfathomable love.
Close your eyes and jump.