I’m sitting here trying to remember what it felt like to pack up my belongings, get on a plane and arrive on a continent almost 9,000 miles (over 14,700 km) away from “home,” family and friends.
It’s been one year, exactly, today.
It’d be a cliché to say, “It’s all a blur. Time flew by quickly…” But the truth is, time did fly and some of my memories, so far, exist only in pictures.
I’ve lived and oh, how I’ve learned.
I rejoice today, not because I’m here in Africa, but because—by the grace of God—I’m being obedient to Christ. I believe in obedience over location. It’s not where I’ve gone; it’s whom I’ve followed. And that person is Jesus.
So here’s a small list of things I’ve learned following Jesus in the last year.
1) True JOY means finding Jesus in everything I do.
I enjoy traveling, tasting new foods, meeting new people, and doing things I’ve never done before. I love adventure. All those things wouldn’t be as fulfilling, though, if Jesus wasn’t in them. I don’t do those things to be filled, momentarily gratified, and then be emptied again.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…” (1 Peter 1:8) When the travel stops, the food tastes OK, the people aren’t nice and I’m sitting at a desk day to day waiting for my ‘next adventure’ my joy doesn’t have to stop. He’s there in the everyday things.
2) It can be lonely, but I’m never alone.
I’m single. In the words of a friend, I’m “single single, like there’s not a guy in the picture at all…” And at times I’m completely cool with that. When I have a bad day or a really great day and I come back to my flat, make dinner for one and celebrate/cope by watching “The Office” or painting a picture, it makes me very aware that I’m alone.
Yes, I’ve learned to live in community. I’ve learned that singleness is a gift. I’ve also learned that life can be lonely whether I’m in my flat by myself or with a crowd of people on Christmas. “…For it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave your or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8). So though I’m lonely, I’m never alone. Can I get an amen?
3) Less isn’t always more; it’s just easier with less.
Downsizing was perhaps one of the most painful and freeing things I’ve ever done. When I left for Africa I had two suitcases full of clothes and shoes, and a duffle bag filled with miscellaneous. It wasn’t much.
Having less clothes, less food, less options in general, makes the item less appealing and the occasion more meaningful. It’s not about what I’m wearing, but who I’m meeting. So to me, less isn’t more, it’s just easier.
4) I’d rather have experience than expectations.
When it comes to doing “new” things and seeing “new” places, I keep my expectations low and my experience high. When you wipe your plate of expectations, it’s no longer about what you could get, but rather receiving the moment as it comes. It took me moving to Africa, to learn this.
5) The Gospel changes everything.
I’ve seen it. I’ve felt it. There’s people I’ve met and places I’ve been that will never be the same because Jesus made himself known… And me? I’ll never be the same.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in (me) will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6) Praise the Lord, because I still have so much to learn.