International -

She went to Zambia for Education, and Left with a Changed Heart. —

By Libby Rekas, Engage Student

At the end of July, I experienced the blessing of being able to travel to Zambia for a mission trip through CIY Engage. While my original intentions were to learn about clean water systems and see if that’s something that I would like to pursue a career in, God used this opportunity to focus on other areas and redirect my heart. I got to see for myself how His incredible love extends to a part of the world that many view as desperate and broken. If his love reaches that far, how much more can God reach the desperate and broken pieces of our own hearts? The trip was challenging physically, emotionally, and spiritually.


My favorite part of serving was getting to spend time with the hundreds of children we met while installing biosand filters and leading VBS. However, we became witnesses to some heartbreaking situations during this time. The physical poverty was very evident. The majority of the children wore clothes that were ragged and did not fit; their homes were simple, brick, one-room structures with either thatch or tin roofs. We played with kiddos whose bellies were swollen from either parasites or malnutrition, and a lot of them had stunted growth, also from the lack of proper nutrition. The social poverty was clear as well, as children fought to take our hands or sit in our laps or hold our attention. Some of them cried the moment we looked away. For me, the hardest thing to see was the sickness. In addition to the malnutrition, we saw children with uncovered and infected sores on their legs or heads. A little girl fell to the ground right in front of us when she had a seizure during VBS and she had to be practically carried home by two of her friends. We visited the special needs ward of an orphanage where the children were so physically and mentally incapacitated that they couldn’t even keep the flies off of their faces, much less walk. One of my teammates cried as she held a baby that was silent except for the weak coughs that came from its tiny body.


That baby’s name is Miracle. Despite the hardships that they face every day of their lives, that’s what each of those children are: a miracle! I can’t tell you how much joy it brought me to see their smiling faces chasing after our truck the moment we arrived in their villages. To share in laughing with one another as we danced and played. To have such special moments when we cuddled with them and observed their fascination with our pale skin and strange, long hair. God has not forgotten those children. They are his and he has blessed them with beautiful and vibrant hearts!

 

" God has not forgotten those children. They are his and he has blessed them with beautiful and vibrant hearts! "

Another bright side of the trip was getting to know the amazing Zambians that run Seeds of Hope International Partnership (SHIP), which is the organization that we were working with. They greeted us warmly and throughout the week taught us about their culture, including some of their language and the special way that Zambians shake hands with each other. After a long, challenging week we got to go on a safari and have a picnic with them. It was special to not only get to work alongside them in the villages and at the SHIP resource center, but to relax and play together as well. On the way home from the animal reserve, they taught us worship songs, half in English and half in Bemba; we sang at the tops of our lungs as we bounced along in the bed of a truck while being buffeted by the wind and watching the sunset.

Our hope is that we were as much as an encouragement to them as they were to us. Seeds of Hope is not in the best situation financially right now, but they are continuing to serve their communities to the best of their ability and furthering God’s kingdom. They are a shining light in the midst of darkness.

Since returning to the U.S., God has been revealing himself to me in new ways. The day after I arrived home, I attended a Bible study where we talked about hearing from God. We set aside several minutes to pray and open our hearts to him to hear what he had to say. Almost immediately, I was flooded with this incredible feeling that my Father was simply holding me. He gave me such peace and joy that I started crying! I felt at rest. A few days later as I joined my church in worship, I had another encounter with the Lord that again resulted in me bursting into tears. This time I was crying so hard that I retreated to the back of the sanctuary so that I wouldn’t alarm my friends. The only words I have to describe it is that I felt crushed by the weight of his goodness. It was beautiful and sobering.

 

I’m heading into my freshman year of college and I fully expected that on this trip God would give me confirmation that I have chosen the right major. I expected him to give me clarity that yes, I should work with clean water systems. He did the complete opposite and I feel like I have less of a sense of direction than ever before! However, I have never been more confident that I can rely on Him in my uncertainty. I have witnessed the power of his mighty hand and I know that wherever I go, he goes before me and behind. He will never leave me nor forsake me, just like his beloved people in Zambia.