Finding God in Africa

Here I sit, on a deeply-cushioned couch, with a laptop at my fingertips and numerous pieces of technology within a 5-foot diameter. My house is not only a stable building, but a decorated and clean living space. I sit with jewelry around my neck, in my ears, and on my hands; teeth whitening strips in my mouth; food in the cupboards; a car in the driveway. I’ve always had each of these things, I’ve always felt secure and safe.

But today, today I realized just how much I take each of these things for granted. I take for granted the love my parents pour into me, I take for granted the accessibility of having Walgreens, Target, Walmart, and more within 10 minutes of my home, I take for granted the access I have to the Word of God. I take for granted our consistent electricity and warm running water, I forget to thank God for our dust-free air and paved streets.

I guess experiencing a new country changes people. Aside from this culture shock, there are greater lessons I’ve learned from my trip to Africa.

1.Social media. I’ve always been hesitant about my time spent on social media. I’ve rarely felt pleased, filled, or satisfied after endless scrolling. Many influencers do upload encouraging posts, but I’m still in a phase where it’s easy for me to get trapped and sucked into comparisons, judgements, and feelings of envy. Oh, how easy it is to disregard an emotion by clicking on an app to “clear” my mind.

Mozambique has shown me the power in the present. In Chokwe, Mozambique, everyone knows everyone through being present, not through cellular messaging. Chokwe, like everywhere else in this world, has a need, and these needs are seldom met through a motivational script on Instagram. I’ve never had more of a desire to avoid social media than now. The children in Chokwe have shown me their creative minds. They spend their time playing outside, making toys from scraps, washing cars or selling cashews for money. And me? I spend my time shoveling snacks in my mouth as I tap through my phone. But no more. God has shown me a world other than my own. A world so different, so unique in comparison to mine, that I am encouraged and motivated to alter my way of living. My goal is to get closer to God and to know myself at a deeper level. How much do you know and understand about yourself?

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” -Aristotle

2. Joy is recognizable in any culture. The smiles and hugs from children who look and smell differently, who speak a different language and have different rules, have notable joy. They are innocent and have a full-heart through every task in school, a true inspiration. The workers of the school are genuine. God’s Spirit is dwelling in that school ground, in those people, and everywhere they go.

A little confession: for a few days, I didn’t feel God’s presence any stronger than I do on a regular basis. I prayed and prayed for His Spirit to overwhelm me and break my heart. It wasn’t until church on Sunday that I felt God urging me to pray in tongues, not just in church, but in all prayer for the rest of the trip. Through prayers of healing while laying hands on someone, to circling up and giving thanks, to just quietly lift my own prayers up to Him. In the shower? Pray in tongues. The choir is singing? Pray in tongues. And there He was. Equipping me with the power and joy that I lacked before I acknowledged His Spirit.

The best part of this aha-moment was going to church this past Sunday here in MN- this new sermon series is all about the Holy Spirit. I also have been reading Acts and reflecting at a deeper level than I have before to ensure I am hearing all God wants me to hear.

3. The Lord keeps His promises! Y’all, I was so nervous about taking Malaria-prevention pills and flying 16 hours in one sitting. I prayed over and over for weeks before the trip, I asked for prayers from many people I know, and He listened! He promised me safety and health, mentally and physically, just like I asked for.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” -Matthew 7:7

I didn’t just beg for my wellbeing, I trusted Him. I rehearsed His Words in my mind, wrote them on colored Post-its, and incorporated them into my prayers. I had the choice to worry over something I can’t control, or to ask God for His Spirit to lead me. I asked for His love and wisdom as I had opportunities to speak life to a flight attendant or pay for someone else’s meal. I chose to abide in His Word to continue to bring Him glory instead of letting my self-less fears take hold of me.

It’s difficult to summarize my changed thoughts into one blog post, and it’s especially difficult to make it understandable. It’s hard to imagine a world so different; the best thing to do is explore it first-hand. The song lyric that can’t seem to leave my mind is,

“I know we’re different, but deep inside us, we’re not that different at all”

sung by Phil Collins in Tarzan. Aside from the language barrier, the people I met have God’s love igniting out of them, they smiled and laughed too, they know pain and abandonment, just like the rest of us.

You’ll be in my heart, Mozambique.

xoxo

gretch

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