If you’ve seen my photos on instagram (sporadicly shared photos – internet connection hasn’t been reliable so far), you know our family has arrived in Africa! The LONG flight (15 hours from Atlanta to Johannesburg) went really well. I can’t help myself, I have to brag for a moment – our kids were rockstars throughout the two long days of travel. They all slept great on the plane and loved the unlimited access to movies and iPad game time.
Our first couple of days here were slow and full of resting and downtime. We grocery shopped, swam and spent a day with friends in the area – our kids immediately hit it off and played as though they’ve known one another for years. The adaptability of kiddos and their innate curiosity makes them naturals for traveling to new places.
We decided to travel as a family to South Africa after I committed to a trip with Help One Now to Zimbabwe. Dave and I both strongly feel God calling us to this place. We don’t know what our role will be here but we know Pastor John, his wife Orpah, their local church and Help One Now are doing incredible, Kingdom-building work here and we want to come alongside them in some way. I knew God was asking me to come meet the leaders and the children and to learn about the work being done.
This trip was also about being obedient when God calls. As much as I wanted to ignore the call, as much as I wanted to stay home where it is safe and comfortable, I knew I had to go. Dave and I figured we might as well make the trip a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our whole family. They have stayed behind in South Africa, while I’m here in Zim for the week. After I arrive back in Johannesburg, we will go on together to serve with our friends who run a ministry just outside of Pretoria, spend a few days on a game reserve, travel to the eastern coast and then to Cape Town in order relax and unwind before going back home to the freezing temperatures and demands of regular life.
As we prepared for this trip, God gave me a couple of visions. The first: a starting line, with our family standing at the start of a freshly paved path.
“You’ve been wandering around this hill country long enough; turn northward.” Deuteronomy 2:3
In the other, I could see our family standing together with heavy bags on our backs and shoulders. Slowly, we each heaved the bags to the floor. While doing so, we exhaled deeply and audibly.
I think God is inviting us into a season of restoration, asking us to lay down the burdens and pain of the past few years. I have seen this trip as a very specific opportunity for healing. A time to redeem what the locusts have stolen from my daughter and our family. My hope is that seeing some place new, on the same continent as Sylvie’s birth country, will add to her (and my own) memories of Africa with ones of wholeness. Memories that include our entire family together, witnessing beauty and experiencing peacefulness.
I won’t pretend I was brave boarding that flight to Zimbabwe, leaving Dave and my babies behind in a foreign country. I woke up at midnight the night before I left, gripped with fear. I couldn’t shake my worries and found myself texting a few close friends who are praying for our family. I re-listened to a voicemail another friend left before we traveled, reminding me that fear is a spirit from the enemy. I have the power and authority through Christ to capture and bind fear. For God does not give us a spirit of fear – He casts out all fear with His perfect love. As I prayed and friends on the other side of the ocean prayed with me, I felt peace descend.
The next morning, before leaving for the airport, I opened my Bible and was led to Deuteronomy 4:40:
“If you obey all the laws and commands that I will give you today, all will be well with you and your children. Then you will enjoy a long life in the land the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”
It wasn’t until I read the note I had written in the margins that I realized what God was showing me. I had written, “Obedience brings blessing and life.”
God knows me. He knows the last place I want to be is in a metal tube in the sky away from my family. So, with five words, He reminded me that my going to this unknown place for an unknown purpose is an act of obedience. I’m walking not of my own power but through faith alone.
When Dave and the kids dropped me off at the airport, I was a blubbering mess. My sweet Ben looked at me and said, “Momma, I’m proud of you.” That did it. I was undone and filled up in the same moment.
Teary goodbyes were said, multiple hugs were given, and then I slowly made my way into the airport. I checked in and found myself standing at the entrance to the security line for what seemed like hours, paralyzed in fear. I wanted to turn around and run back to my family. I didn’t want to face unknowns. I didn’t want to step into any more pain. Images from my time in Congo replayed in my mind again and again. Other than the couple of days I had just spent in South Africa, Congo was my only reference point for what life is like in Africa. As much as I love the country and the people there, my experiences there were painful and really hard.
Then, we landed here in Zimbabwe and walked into an airport not unlike millions of others around the globe. There were no machine guns or shouting. No chaos. Instead, orderly, calm lines waiting to receive entrance visas. The customs officer joked with me as he stamped my passport. Armed guards didn’t stand at the exit, searching through my bag only to take whatever items suited them. We simply exited the airport peacefully. God whispered to my heart, See. It is going to be different this time.
Greeting us, Pastor John Chinyowa.
Dave met Pastor John when he traveled here a little over a year ago and has been telling me ever since that I had to come and meet him for myself. Now, I see why. This is a man of God. He absolutely exudes joy.
As we drove to lunch and then on to Pastor John’s warm and welcoming home, I was struck by the beauty of this place. The lushness of the land, the vivid green grass and trees, the bright blue of the clear sky. After arriving to his home, we walked to the end of the road in order to see the sunset. By this time, dark clouds had rolled in, covering the glow of the setting sun. Regardless, the dark clouds could not conceal the awe-inspiring beauty before us.
I think that is the lesson for my first day here in Zimbabwe: No matter how dark the clouds, beauty remains.
The heavens tell of the glory of God.
The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship.