Lauren L., a college student at Michigan State, recently travelled with our CRU team to Zimbabwe. Below she shares about her experience.
This past summer I went to Zimbabwe with a team of fifteen girls. During the trip we visited multiple village schools and huts, helped the locals with a discipleship camp, and helped feed the school children.
Here are just four of the life lessons that I encountered on the trip:
1- God has a TON of children. I was born and raised in the United States (‘Merica!). Although I’ve left the country a few times, I’ve been surrounded by fellow Americans the majority of my life. Because of this, I tend to think of God’s children as confined to my little portion of the world. While I always understood logically that Christians existed throughout the world and that God loves them all, I underestimated the vastness of this statement. There are BILLIONS of people on this planet—BILLIONS! What amazes me about this concept is that God created each of these individuals as carefully as He made me and has walked them through life with the same commitment He has with me. That just blows my mind…
2- Hearing and seeing are very different things. I’ve heard about poverty, seen it in the news, witnessed it in fiction movies, etc. If I’m being completely transparent with you, I didn’t get it. Sure, it’s depressing to hear about children who starve to death or people dying from diseases found in their water. Some of us might even shed a tear about it every once in a great while. What I didn’t understand is that poverty is not just a vague, irrelevant concept. When you see people who live through it every day, hold the hands of children that might not have eaten yet that day, and laugh with people who have lost loved ones due to disease, it becomes real. No news story or movie can replace that.
3- Joy is NOT circumstantial. While it was natural for me to believe that those in Zimbabwe would be depressed, dejected, and miserable, this was simply not the case. Spending time with people in unbelievable poverty taught me that happiness has absolutely nothing to do with circumstance. I was amazed at the smiles and giggles of each child, the warmness of the adults, and the friendly community of the entire village. Despite everything they could possibly complain about, I did not hear one grumble the entire time. Where I’m from, children are angry when their parents buy them the wrong toy. I get angry when a terrible driver swerves in front of me. In Zimbabwe, happiness comes from community and faith–the very things we take for granted.
4- Travel is GOOD for you. While I understand that not all of us have the opportunity to travel as much as we’d like, I feel as though it needs to be more of a priority for those of us who can. Coming into contact with other cultures, whether similar or worlds apart from our own, is an important growth experience! Seeing how others live, how different groups of people interact, and how they view their faith teaches us how big and diverse this world really is. Suddenly life is put into broader perspective, and that’s something that cannot be taught in school or cinema. As much as I love my country, I am slowly beginning to realize how large and meaningful the rest of the world really is, as well as how much I can learn from people who are different from myself.