Although Allison has finished her most recent trip to Zimbabwe, we can read the steps that led her to return. As we gear up for this next season, where will you be led? |
by Allison Cartmill |
In her book 40 Days of Decrease, Alicia Britt Chole states, “Obedience is not a moment, it is a process connected by countless moments.” When people ask me about why I am going back to Zimbabwe, it is hard to express because the journey to returning wasn’t a moment, but a series of moments: memories, conversations, lessons, wrestling, and realizing surrender is worth it.
On the walls of my home and my middle school classroom, you’ll find pictures of my time in Zimbabwe two years ago. My students, my friends, and my family have heard numerous statements that begin with, “In Zimbabwe…” In Zimbabwe moved by a woman worshiping with abandon and without shame brought me to tears. In Zimbabwe I saw a culture of caring for others I want emulated in my classroom. In Zimbabwe I realized my family is bigger than I imagined. In Zimbabwe God changed my heart and my perspective. In Zimbabwe I realized God has more to teach me about compassion.
Even with “in Zimbabwe” stories in my path each day, choosing to go back was a decision that did not come quickly. I wrestled with how God has changed me and where he was taking me. I wrestled with control and expectations I placed on myself and let others place over me. I could look back and recognize how two years ago going to Zimbabwe began a journey in compassion. Yet, I was wrestling with wanting to stay home and away from change.
Then one of my middle school students asked me if I was going back to Zimbabwe. Then a few friends all at different times and places asked me the same question. As I took notes during a sermon on Felix and making decisions, I knew God was calling me to surrender my expectations and go.
The first time I went, there was this excitement and clarity that I needed to step out and go. This time it feels more like obedience. It’s not about an experience for me, but about being present for others. Zim is a place of family. I am being called to spend time with my family: to play, to listen, to share, to pray, to love. I do not know why the calling is now, but I know it is real.
One of the moments that keeps coming back to me from two years ago was reading the story of Joseph with a small group of teenage girls. They wanted me to read it because he is a dreamer. When your life is not what you expected, when your parents are no longer part of your story, when people in your family are lost, when getting an education does not come easily, dreaming is hard. My hope is not to build up grandiose dreams in the lives of the children and teenagers we spend time with, but to instill courage to dream and hope with God. When people know they are truly loved and valued, when they are known, there is a courage that comes. We all need courage to dream.
I don’t know what the “in Zimbabwe” stories will be this time. Sharing my hopes and story in returning is a struggle. Not because the hopes are not there, but because I believe God is more creative than I allow Him to be. I want space for the story He will write. Maybe that’s what obedience looks like, giving space for God to write. So for now, I will look forward to seeing my family in Africa and dreaming of what will happen in Zimbabwe…