If there is one thing I’m sure I’ve heard God tell me during my time in Africa this summer, it’s to slow down and enjoy the present. Don’t worry about tomorrow; don’t worry about next week or next month or even next year (because yes, my thoughts in the past month have wandered on more than one occasion all the way to 2013). I’ve heard the Lord say to me over and over not to be anxious, but to slow down and be thankful for all that He has so lovingly blessed me with today. Coming to Zimbabwe, this was especially a struggle for me. I knew my time was going to be short, so I wanted to stay busy doing as many things as I could and seeing as many people as possible. But the Lord had other plans. He’s still allowed me to see all my dear friends and have many wonderful experiences but He wanted me to go at a slower pace, so that I could truly cherish my time here. So, God put people in my path that would stop me to talk for 20 or 30 minutes when I was on my way to a meeting. He put questions and stories in my mind so that I sat talking for hours rather the 30-minutes I may have expected. He turned the electricity off so that the only thing I could do in our house was enjoy the company of others. I could go on, but it became clear over and over again that God was reminding me the importance of slowing down and truly spending time in His presence and in the presence of others.
I was asked by one of the girls I’m living with what are some of the things that I love about Africa; what are the things that draw me back year after year? Of course, my immediate response was “the people”. There’s a joyful, intentional, humble, genuine attitude about many of the people I’ve met in Africa that I love, and it has taught me a lot about my own personality. But my next answer was one that I hadn’t thought about too often in the past. It goes back to what the Lord has been teaching me here. It’s the pace of life in Africa. As many who’ve been to Africa know, time is different here. Often, it seems slower. But mostly, time just isn’t the huge cause of stress as it is for many people in the United States. When I’m at Duke, I often wish I had more hours in the day or days in the week to get everything on my “to do” list finished. And maybe this is the difference between “time” in Africa and America. The “to do” list is the most important thing on my mind in the U.S., while in Africa the “to do” list comes secondary to spending time with other people, to relationships. There are so many opportunities that I’m sure I missed this past year to deepen my relationships with friends and family because I was “too busy” scratching things off the “to do” list. I even arrived in Zimbabwe with a mental list of things I wanted to do, but while I’ve been here the Lord has gently reminded me the most important way I can be spending my time. After six weeks of God prompting me to take note of what I get the most joy from and which experiences are the most rewarding, I hope that when I return to the U.S. (in only two days!), these reminders will still be on my heart. I’m making a new goal that, despite the hustle and bustle of the typical American lifestyle, I will slow down and truly enjoy the experiences and the people God has purposefully placed in my life.
Thinking back over the past few days, these are the moments and experiences that brought a smile to my face. I visited my friend Mai Chimbo again and soaked in so many wise words from her. A woman of many talents and incredible faith, I aspire to be like her in so many ways.
Thursday afternoon I spent time in house nine playing with the children and taking lots of pictures. I taught them each how to take a photo with my camera and one by one they took photos (mostly of really random things, like the edge of the kitchen table) and then laughed hysterically as we sat on the couch and looked through them all. Here’s one that was taken by Denzel and actually turned out pretty well:
I also spent some time outside playing on the playground, holding little hands, pushing kids on the swings, and running around. We had choir practice on Saturday and the “American girls” taught two songs: “Every Move I Make” and “Trading My Sorrows (Yes, Lord),” with all the motions of course!
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been an actual soccer game for me to watch and cheer for while I’ve been here; but seeing the pride that Arabie takes in coaching the Fairfield soccer team and the excitement with which the kids runs down to the field for practice has me keeping my fingers crossed that they will be able to play before I leave!
On Friday night, I made chocolate chip cookies from scratch, thanks to all the years of practice with Nana when I was little! Of course, they weren’t as good as the ones I used to make with her, but I must have learned a thing or two because everyone said they were delicious! They disappeared so quickly that we made another batch last night!
Cooking is only one of the many activities that I love doing with the three girls I’m living with; we are having such a good time together. We have successfully made macaroni and cheese from scratch, as well as some very fluffy pancakes! Each meal has been a new adventure and we always get a good laugh in the process! We’ve enjoyed watching a couple movies late at night too, accompanied by homemade popcorn, of course! One morning we spent some down time painting our nails, reading, and laughing as we sang along to old Backstreet Boys and Hanson music. Together we’ve been doing a Beth Moore bible study and I’ve been encouraged every single day through the conversations I have with my new friends! I know I’ll miss them once I get back to the U.S., they have truly been such a blessing to me these past couple weeks in Zimbabwe.
While the girls and I were talking to Nyasha, one of the mothers here at Fairfield, she asked if we wanted a tour of her home. The first thing we noticed as we were walking around is that she runs a tight ship! Every bed was made perfectly; the blinds were all neatly pulled back. The floors were spotless and shiny; absolutely nothing was out of place! In the very last room we went into, where four of the girls sleep, Nyasha was telling us who slept in each bed and one of the stuffed animals caught my attention. I went over to pick it up and realized that a little girl in house 8 sleeps every night with an old teddy bear dressed in a hot pink dance costume with rhinestones down the side that used to be mine!! I had completely forgotten that I’d sent my stuffed animals on one of the containers a couple years back and seeing that little bear lying on her pillow just made my heart happy.
Yesterday we were invited to the Pastor’s house after church and spent a lovely afternoon with him and his wife. When we returned to Fairfield, I was amazed at the creative toys the kids had made out of bamboo, grass, and metal odds and ends. They called them “airplanes” and ran around with their toys for hours as they buzzed and whipped around in the wind.
Of course, I can’t write a blog post without mentioning my sweet boy, Chris. He didn’t let go of my hand for most of yesterday evening while we were outside. I just love this sweet little one to pieces.
Last night before going to bed I peeked outside my window, as I have done every night here, to look at the stars before lying down. I cannot put into words how beautiful the Zimbabwean sky is at night; it is simply indescribable. The stars are innumerable and the blackness of night, without the haze of city lights, makes them even more stunning. And while I sat there, as 99% of Fairfield was sound asleep, God once again reminded me to cherish the quiet moment and just be still. In the morning the children and mothers of Fairfield would already be wandering about outside when I open my curtain. But while it was dark and quiet, I just sat there thinking about the incredible gift that being in African has been to me. God has blessed me beyond anything I deserve by sending me to two beautiful African countries this summer. As I thought about all the children and their mothers here at Fairfield, all my friends living on the Old Mutare Mission, Sara’s family, all the organizations, and friends all around the southwestern parts of Kenya, my heart filled with joy and thanksgiving that I have had the opportunity to know, live with, and learn from such incredible people.