Greetings to you in the precious name of our Lord, Jesus Christ! This month,10 years ago, I left my job with IU School of Medicine Psychiatry Department and embarked on a new journey with the Lord, finally being obedient after running for 4 years from Him! I moved to Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, Africa with a 2 year commitment (that stretched to 7 years) to establish a counseling ministry. In honor of my 10-year anniversary of serving the Lord in ministry, I thought I would put together a top 10 list of the things I have learned and share some photo's from that first year.
1. Serving in cross-cultural ministry requires sacrifice. I have missed funerals, birthdays, and holidays. Goodbyes at the airports are bittersweet. Sometimes the sacrifice are things we take for granted: electricity, clean water, medical and dental care (have I ever shared my horrific dentist experience of drilling with no Novocaine?!?!), and being able to go to the grocery store and pick up my list instead of learning what substitutions I need to make. I have sacrificed convenience, independence, and privacy. I am continually sacrificing my pride. I left a great job and learned how to depend on God daily for my needs, which He always provided. What stays at the forefront of my mind is that what I am sacrificing is nothing compared to what Jesus has sacrificed for me.
2. My life will never be the same after our traumatic experience (break in). However, I learned that joy does indeed come in the morning, though maybe not the very next morning! I learned that the support of those who love me was vital to my healing. I am thankful for these treasured friends who laughed and cried with me and shared my burdens; those who let me be the most vulnerable and ask questions they could not answer but just sat and listened non-judgmentally as I processed. I also learned about God’s incredible character in suffering and I do indeed see the good He has woven out of the situation-I am a much better counselor, trainer, and source for mission care for others-but more importantly my foundation in the Lord is more solid and grounded.
3. I learned quickly about spiritual warfare and how vital it is to daily put on my armor, have a prayer team support me, and staying in God's Word. The devil truly is prowling around like a lion and would love nothing more than to divide and destroy ministries by creating conflict and disunity among believers.
4. They weren’t kidding when they said flexibility and adaptability is the key to longevity on the field!
5. The body of Christ has no colors, boundaries, or prejudices. Some of my closest friends, those I have served with, and many who have provided support during times of challenges are American, Zimbabwean, British, Afrikaner, and Ethiopian. Revelation 7:9 says, "After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands." I have seen a small glimpse of this in working in cross cultural ministry.
6. It becomes very difficult to answer the question where home is; it is also difficult when people say to me in the states “Welcome Home”. Suddenly I realize I have multiple homes and that Africa is just as much my home as America is. And re-entry to the states is very difficult; be prepared for a meltdown in the Walmart cereal aisle!
7. The need for counseling is great-multiple traumas, abuse, abandonment, suicide, addiction, etc. but more importantly the need to train up others in that culture, equipping and empowering them, is even greater. There are so many barriers: language, cultural norms, customs, etc. that it is extremely vital to allow the nationals to be the ones to offer hope and healing in their community.
8. When I am holding filthy little hands, or cradling a child with open wounds on their bodies, or pulling their thin bodies onto my lap to hold them, I am truly doing what Christ has told us to do-caring for the least of these.
9. I need discernment daily from the Lord as the needs around me are so great, frequent, and desperate. The Lord needs to speak to my heart about how to help without hurting, directing me on how to spend my time, resources, and how best to build relationships. The Lord also can protect my heart from hardening to the poverty.
10. The final and most valuable lesson I have learned is I could not have survived the last 10 years without all of you!! My financial partners, prayer partners, encouragers, and emotional and spiritual supporters is what has enabled me to not just survive but to thrive over the 10 years! The fruit born from my time in Zimbabwe? Rumbie, 3 years later, still doing counseling and now having her own vision for ministry-that would not have happened without each one of you!! So from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for making these 10 years happen!
What does the Lord have in store for the next 10 years?! Stay tuned to see!!
Just for fun, there have been some humorous lessons I have learned too:
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Thank you so much! And may God bless you richly with His presence!
Misty Bodkins has a Master's degree in clinical psychology. She has worked both stateside and internationally doing counseling, training, teaching, and research. Her passion is working with people who are in crisis.