“I was holding onto a lot of anger and hurt,” says MJ, a member of the Student Impact serving team that went to Zambia over the summer. “But when I was in Zambia, I truly recognized that the second Jesus died on the cross for me was the second I was given freedom in Him. Living that way changes everything you do, say, and how you view your relationship with God.”
Before going on the trip, MJ expected to see God move in Zambia. She wanted to experience the Zambian culture, to serve and see God’s love through His people there, and she hoped to discover how she could grow in her faith. But what she received was so much more.
MJ’s team was tasked with painting the exterior of a community school recently built as an addition to a local church in the Mapalo community of Ndola, Zambia. In this region of the world, families struggle with extreme poverty, and resources are very limited. Parents must devote everything to finding a way to feed their children, so education is not always a top priority—especially when school is an added expense and far from home. Too often, children drop out of school at a young age and start working to help support their families. That’s why this community school is so important.
Access to education is a huge piece in the larger puzzle to help break the cycle of poverty. Willow’s partner in Zambia, Jubilee Center, is working to provide better access to education through community schools like the one MJ’s team helped finish, and finding ways to encourage more kids to stay in school. One of their programs, Junior Parliament, mobilizes high school students and young adults to advocate for their communities, encourage education, and gain leadership development skills. By building into the youth, they hope to create sustainable change in Zambia.
MJ and her team spent time throughout the week with some Junior Parliament students, learning about the vast challenges their communities face every day and the personal struggles their families and peer groups experience: poverty, peer pressure, drug and alcohol abuse, health issues, lack of resources. “At times I was frustrated because I wanted to do more to help the community,” MJ says. “Other times, I got frustrated with myself for not being as grateful as I ought to be for all the blessings in my life. There were times when God just seemed to break my heart a little and open my eyes to the more important things in life.”
But MJ was also encouraged to see how the Zambian students used their leadership training to take action and bring change to their communities by working with the local government and with the church. And she admired how they hold strong to their faith despite their struggles, letting the love of God shine through in every aspect of their lives.
She developed a close bond with one of the students, a 15-year-old boy named Jabez. Though some people might pull away from God after enduring the pain Jabez had experienced, he leaned into his faith and used his experiences as a testimony to encourage others, and he talked openly about how excited he was to be baptized. “Hearing how strong his faith was and seeing how he truly embraces it in everything he does really touched me and inspired me,” MJ says.
In Zambia, MJ realized God was bigger than any problems she had. She knew God led her on this trip and met her with a purpose. “There were times God was speaking directly to me through the people in Zambia,” she says. God prompted her to let go of the things she was holding onto and to pursue Him with everything within her—to love, work, and live with her faith fully evident.
“I have been completely changed after this trip,” MJ says. “I am so much more aware of God in my life and just how big He is. My perspective and choices now revolve around God and how I can live out my faith like the people we worked with in Zambia.”
MJ asks us all to pray for Zambia, for Willow’s partners and the work they’re doing, and for the people of Mapalo to overcome their current circumstances.
If you’re interested in learning about how you can join a team like the one MJ was on, please visit willowcreek.org/globalteams. We will open all 2020 global serving teams on October 12.