This is Where it Begins – Zambia 2013

DSC06746 - Version 2I’m leaving for Africa at 6:45 tonight and frankly, I’m a little shaky.

I already know this won’t be an easy trip, so I need your help. When you’re on your knees today, or hiking in the woods, or sitting with a cup of tea in a quiet, sunny spot, please send up a prayer for me and our 18 member team.

  • Pray we are gentle with each other when we are frustrated.
  • Pray we hit water on our fourth try at a new village well.
  • Pray we stay healthy.
  • Pray we exhibit the love of God, no matter what happens.

Thanks so much for your love and support. I will post Youtube videos of the village as soon as I can.


Is Your Mission Trip Worth It?

Colorado RockiesOn Saturday night, 20 people gathered at my house to eat, plan and pray about our upcoming  medical mission trip to Africa. After dinner, I asked all of them to write down one thing they are afraid of.

While there were many answers, one stood out (probably because I share it):

Not being useful/productive enough to justify the astonishing expense of taking 20 Texans to Zambia for three weeks.

Shouldn’t we just send the money instead? Isn’t that more effective?

What a wonderfully American way of looking at the world. Unfortunately, throwing money at a problem is a great way of helping “poor people” without admitting our complicity or acknowledging that we too are poor and broken, only in entirely different ways.

And really, how many chicken coops must I build to justify the cost of my presence? Three? Six?

What if God wants me to sit still instead? Can I handle that? What if in my stillness a child with no mother crawls up on my lap? What if I can pray over that baby, washing him in the love of God, which is the only real thing I have anyway.

Is that worth the money?

Over the past six months I’ve gotten to know the members of this team and each meeting I am astonished by the depth of their spiritual wells. We have 20 year-old women saying things like this:

I am going on a Mission Trip to Africa. But when I say this, people often miss the impact this trip has had on my life. God has taught me that with an open heart, He will change my world. He has taught me to rely solely on Him for this mission…There is so much I feel lost on and out of control and helpless, but at the same time – I KNOW I am meant to go on this mission. I just have no idea what God has for me on the other side. – Khaliah


Everybody on this trip “knows” they are meant to go, even though many, like me, don’t understand why. Is it really to clean wounds or fix a chicken coop? Or is it to get on with the business of co-creating with God, making a scorched bit of earth slightly more like it is in heaven?

I was reminded by my teammates on Saturday, people I am growing to love for their candor, that we operate on a different framework – one where it’s acceptable to fly to the other side and bottom of the world for reasons we don’t completely understand.

One team member, Rickey a carpenter, put it like this:

“I don’t care if I don’t build shelves, I do that every day here. If I have to walk down the street in shorts carrying a sign that says I love Jesus, that’s fine. I just want to show his love.”

We leave in a week.

On Taking Things For Granted

The other night, Tim Garland of SCRUBS Medical Mission described what it is like to be peed on by a child that isn’t yours, knowing a shower is nowhere in sight.

“Somehow, it doesn’t bother me.”

At the Light-Hope School in Chongwe, Zambia, a child, who is literally and figuratively hungry, is likely to crawl into your lap to be held. Sometimes they fall asleep and pee.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls (Photo credit: tonymz)

Why am I desperate to go on this upcoming medical mission trip to Zambia? Why do I want to sleep in a crowded grass hut, in a village with dirty water, hungry children and people who walk for miles for help with an infected tooth. Why do I want to go somewhere for two weeks and make a negligible dent in human suffering?

Because I believe the gospel, but I take it for granted.

What if you never heard of a God who so loved the world he sent his son to save it? What if you never heard of Isaiah who predicted a savior would come and announce:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1

Jesus showed up 700 years later and said: “I’m Him, I’m the one you’re waiting for.”

Doesn’t that sound like good news? Especially if you’re broken-hearted, mourning, captive or poor?

It’s unbelievable of course, and yet here are a bunch of his followers, rich Americans not eating overpriced hot dogs at Disneyland but kneeling in the dirt, hungry and unshowered too, cleaning a wound on a child they don’t know. Why would they do such a thing?

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

Initially, I believed going to Zambia was about bringing my skills to them, but that’s silly, I’m not that skilled. Rather, I think God just wants my faith, so he can show me miracles. He wants to show me what He can do among people – African and American – who will believe Him without disclaimer.

Why can’t I do that in Texas?

Because I don’t know how. I’m stupefied by my own excess, the petty tyranny of my first world problems and what passes for Christian behavior in our culture. I don’t have enough faith to say “give us this day, our daily bread” and mean it literally.

So I’m planning to take what little I’ve got and lay it before God, and do what he asks:

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8