Thoughts on Being in Zambia for Five Years

DSC01235Us with John and Eta on January 21, 2011. One of our earliest pictures here. 

Yesterday, January 17th, marked our five year anniversary of coming back to Zambia. Including our time five years earlier as singles, we have now lived in Zambia for 6 1/2 years. To commemorate our five year anniversary, I have five thoughts about our five years:

  1. Living cross-culturally is hard. No matter how much of an advertuous or easy going person you are, living cross-culturally is just hard, and it’s a hard adjustment and one that never stops. It can be even harder if the culture you crossed into is in the developing world. Not only are you adjusting to a new culture, which is weird and strange, but you are adjusting to a new way of life, a life of uncertainties – government problems and corruption, water issues, electricity issues, crime, where to get your car fixed, is the grocery store going to have this or that, bad roads, etc. When you live cross-culturally, you never stop learning and you never arrive. You peel back one layer, and you realize there are many, many more. The longer we are here, the more I feel that I don’t know very much about this culture. And how could I? We’ve only been here five years!
  2. Being a missionary is to constantly be and live in transition. If you became a missionary to have a life of stability, you should probably think about changing vocations. In the time that Kristin and I have been back on the field, we’ve seen three missionary units leave that were here when we came. Two have come and gone during our five years here. And now two more have come. I’m not saying that people coming and going is necessarily bad. People sign up for set times, life happens, and people feel that God is calling them elsewhere. But all that to say, being a missionary means a lot of transition. Then, on top of just people on your team, you have all the transitions in the country (in our case, Zambia) – presidents/government, the Kwacha (our currency here) getting rebased, prices going up and down by 50-100%, new regulations about a host of things, no power for eight hours a day, etc, etc.
  3. Having kids on the field is challenging. Kristin and I came back to field in January 2011 without any children. Now, five years later, we have two boys. Our first year back in 2011, we did ministry and life together. Now, I go out and do ministry, and Kristin stays with the boys at home. That’s been and continues to be hard for us. We love these two little guys and are so thankful for them. But with only having one vehicle and living behind an 8-foot wall with a 2-foot tall electric fence on top of that, it can start to feel pretty isolating for Kristin and the boys. Obviously, there are pros and cons to having kids before or after you come to the field, and each family is different in what they would prefer. But it has been a challenge for us and a big adjustment. Also, in our five years, we’ve had two home assignments that last about 4 1/2 months each. Trying to pack in seeing family, friends, supporters, supporting churches, and having a baby during each of those times is pretty exhausting. Our advice, which we’ve heard from many others as well, is that if you need to go back to your home country to have a baby, just go back and do that! 🙂 Schedule your actual home assignment time for another time.
  4. Do I really get to do this? Even though Zambia and living here has its challenges. There are still so many times when I’m driving on crazy roads, in crazy traffic, sitting in some impoverished compound/slum teaching, fellowshipping with a local pastor here, talking with other missionaries, seeing the beauty of Zambia, admiring something about the culture here, seeing lightbulbs come on in people’s hearts and minds as they study the Word, that I think, “Wow! Do I really get do this for a living? For a ministry?!” We feel very privileged and blessed that God has called us to Zambia, and we pray that we are glorifying Him in our ministry here.
  5. Time is weird here. We have been back here five years, but why does it feel like it should be 15 or 20 by now. One time, I said, “Time moves really fast here, in an excruciatingly slow sort of way.” I feel like every day goes by so fast, but then when I think back to an event that happened two weeks ago, it always feels like that was months ago. How could it have happened only two weeks ago?! I don’t know why that is the case for me. Maybe because the weather in Zambia is so similar – it’s sunny, it may rain once in a while during raining season, it is hot, or it is a little cooler. The seasons are not as defined here, and we really only have three seasons, instead of four. But I actually think this time phenomena is because there is so much unpredictability here and is related to always living in transition.

Well, there’s a lot more that could be said and more thoughts to write, but there you have my five thoughts on being here for five years. We want to thank all of you so much who are praying for us and supporting us here!!

I guess I have one more final thought, or set of thoughts. I am thankful for Christ and his work in my life these past five years. I’m thankful for my wife and kids that are amazing, and whom I love so much. I’m thankful for this ACTION Zambia Team and the ministries that God has called us to here in Zambia – to help strengthen the local Church. And I’m thankful that we are called to serve in Zambia.

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