Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chapter 17: Letting Go

So I started my life in Africa.  I moved in with a local family who immediately accepted me as one of their own.  Living with them was the very best way to learn about the culture, religion, and language.  I loved just sitting, listening to them talk, and soaking it all in.  I learned that immersing myself in the language was really helpful, so most evenings I would just sit downstairs with the family and watch the news or soccer games on their little TV.  They fed me, took me shopping, taught me local music, and called me their daughter/sister.  I shared my heart with them, the Gospel, and they listened with love and respect.  But they never moved from their own faith in Islam.  This happened with so many people that I got to know and care about, and I can only pray that a seed was planted. 
The focus of my job was to help start a women’s ministry at the local University, so I enrolled as a student!  I studied French, the national language, at l’Institut de Francais pour Etrangers.  I began visiting students I met in the dormitories and made an effort to meet all of their neighbors.  One day, I met a girl who decided she wanted to accept Christ as her Lord and Savior.  She laughed at me as I struggled to share the Gospel with her in French and said, “You know I speak English, right?”  I’ve never been so shocked in all my life.  It turns out she was from an English speaking country in Africa, and she was there pursuing a medical degree.  We quickly became friends, and she began going with me to share the Gospel in the dorms.  I started teaching a weekly English class, a hilarious swim class, and before we knew it… we had a Bible study.

My life and work in Africa became pretty routine after that.  Well, as routine as life can get in a third world country.  We would have spontaneous power cuts and water outages almost on a daily basis, especially during the hot season.  One day I had to travel by myself to a part of the city I’d never been before to buy a book for school.  It was a busy part of downtown, full of people and beggars.  My taxi driver’s car stalled like 5 times getting there, and there was this big hole right where my feet should’ve been so I could see the dirty road flying past underneath the car.  It was hot.  And when I say hot, I mean like 115 degrees with 100% humidity.  When we arrived, I got out and looked around only to find that he had brought me to the wrong location.  So there I was.  Lost, miserable, surrounded by beggars pulling at my clothes and purse, not understanding any of the village languages being spoken around me, and I realized right then and there that I’d never been so helpless in my entire life.  It’s a horrible feeling when you realize, for the first time, that you really have no control over your life or the situation you’re currently in.  I had no control at all, and I felt broken inside.  After hopelessly wandering around for about an hour, I finally hailed a taxi and went home empty handed.  I curled up on my bed, cried, and then slept for like hours.  I was exhausted.  That night I went over to the missionaries’ house for dinner.  They had the exact book I was looking for.  So I learned two lessons that day.  1) Be patient.  Don’t jump into things before doing a little research.  Take a breath and realize that life does not revolve around you or your time schedule.  2) Let it go.  Let go of worry and trying to control your life.  Isaiah 41:10 says, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  I learned that you have to actually let go of control and fall into the Lord’s arms in order for Him to uphold you.  About a month after this crazy day, the truth of these lessons really took hold on my heart when the Lord opened my eyes to the fact that I had an eating disorder.  I’d never actually acknowledged it.  I finally realized how broken I was, and how I was still hanging on to parts of my life that I wanted to change or control.  So I let go.  I gave it to God, and I have had to daily give these things to the Lord ever since.  I still struggle with them, but I have assurance that the Lord will carry me through the day without worry.  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)  After this, I was able to embrace the extreme laid back lifestyle of Africa.  There is no time schedule; no deadlines that can’t be moved.  When you’re invited to lunch, you could eat anywhere from noon to 5pm.  Classes never start on time, and people may not come back to work after lunch siesta.  But that’s life.  You just go prepared for anything…     

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