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Here’s a picture from our boat ride on the Amazon this morning. After the boat ride, we took rickshaws to Mazan. We had a great first day of clinic and saw around 200 patients. I helped in triage and with fitting people for reading glasses. It was great to have opportunities to pray and talk with patients. I’m so grateful for my translator, Damaris! She and another translator are the only people who have ever thanked me for talking too fast. They said it helps them with their English. Ha!
The weather right now is pretty much like Alabama in the summer time–hot and humid…very humid.
I’m excited for the rest of the week…I know the Lord has great things in store!

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Clinic Day 1

Vitamins and Prayers for Peru

As most of you know, in about a week and a half, I’ll be heading to Iquitos, Peru, with an e3 Partners medical team.  I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for our time with patients in clinic and as we equip and encourage local pastors.  I’ve loved learning more about e3’s mission and vision over the past couple of months and am excited to see their strategies play out on the field. 

There are two huge ways you can help my team:

1.Vitamins

e3 has partnered with Pure Charity for fundraising campaigns.  In our medical clinic, we will be distributing vitamins to our patients.  Click here to donate funds that will go to purchasing these vitamins and to learn a little more about our trip.

2. Prayer

We covet your prayers not just while we’re traveling and in country but also as we prepare and as we return home.  Below is a prayer calendar with specific requests.

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Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!

Shifting Gears

Well, it’s been almost a month since I left Zambia.  There are some days that it feels like a lifetime ago and others where I feel like it’s my first day back in America.  In my typical Liz Bryant fashion, I’ve been keeping busy—catching up with friends, going on road trips, attempting to cook, working, and pondering what I’m supposed to do with my life.  I’m so incredibly blessed to have a fulltime job at Surgical Dermatology Group as the phone operator. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m enjoying it so far and am grateful to be employed!

While I was in Zambia, I realized that I need to learn how to drive a stick shift if I’m going to ever spend an extended amount of time in another country.  I had one lesson in Ndola in the middle of the night with some friends, but my sweet grandfather has risen to the challenge on the home front.  We’ve only had one lesson so far and I’m definitely going to need more—but I think I did an okay job.   During our lesson, I also saw some similarities to where I am in life right now.

  • Getting going is the hardest part.  In our lesson, I always had trouble going from being stopped to getting going.  Most times, I would freak out and let the clutch go too fast, too soon and stall the engine.
    I do this in life as well. I’m hesitant to take the first step, to get going but then when I do, it’s too much, too soon.  You see, one of my spiritual gifts is getting excited (unconventional, I know).  I can get excited about just about anything.   But far too often I let my excitement take over and forget to ask the Lord to weigh-in and direct my steps from there.  Then when something goes wrong or not as I expected, I stall out.  I get discouraged and just want to quit.
  • Teachers and encouragers are a necessity.  Without my grandfather (and friends in Zambia), I wouldn’t have known where to start or what I was doing wrong when the engine stalled, to learn for the next (inevitable) time it happens.  I also wouldn’t have wanted to keep trying.
    Life is the same way!  I’m learning more and more that it is imperative to have people who lovingly speak truth into our lives.  We need people firmly rooted in and seeking after Christ to point us towards the cross, to tell us when we’ve mis-stepped, to help us weigh the options.  We also need encouragement, in the good times and the not so good times.  This is a big one for me, as words of encouragement is one of my love languages.  I’m so grateful to have people in my life who encourage me on a daily basis.  Without all of you, this season of transition and not being 100% sure of what’s next would be unbearable.  Thank you for your support!
  • New things are scary.  Learning to drive a stick shift is a little scary to me—mainly because I’m slightly terrified I’m going to ruin the engine of the truck I’m learning in.  But I have to learn somehow, right?
    I received some great advice from my friend Laurie who lives in Zambia with her husband and two sons:  “As long as you are seeking to be the best Elizabeth, fully using and stretching who God has made you to be, not allowing for fear to dictate the decisions…you can’t go wrong.”  As much as I want to say that I don’t allow fear to hinder what I do, I can’t.  The other day I told the Lord that I don’t really feel equipped to do anything at all.  This is probably my biggest fear right now—that I’m going to go into something and not be able to do it.  Yes, I know God will equip me if He calls me, that I’ll have to rely on Him completely, that in my weakness Christ can be glorified (2 Corinthians 12:9), but still…that’s scary.
  • If at first you don’t succeed…The first time I tried to drive a stick shift, I didn’t get it perfectly.  I didn’t the second time either.  I got so frustrated with myself and couldn’t understand why it didn’t just come naturally.   I do that with pretty much everything.  When I’m faced with a challenge or am trying something new and I don’t get it right the first time, I just want to give up because I’m so frustrated.  How silly!  How prideful!

When I first got home, I wanted to play the martyr and not enjoy being here, instead only focusing on going back to Zambia.  But the truth is, I’m loving being home (granted, it’s only been a few weeks).  Being surrounded by the people who know, love, and encourage me best is just what I need right now.  Part of me wants to stay here forever.  However, another part of me wants to be in Zambia hanging out with some of the most amazing, coolest, strongest people I’ve ever met.  When I think to myself or talk to my friends about wanting to stay in America, the Lord tends to throw in some kind of reminder of what He’s called me to do.  For instance, at church on Sunday I got teary-eyed hearing a lady speak about building relationships through the ministry she works with.  Then during Dr. Barnette’s sermon about effective missions, I got a little fired up (just ask my friend Katie who was sitting next to me).  He brought up great points about how we, as the church universal, have fallen short in our missional activities.  He talked about what I lived and learned during my time in Zambia—hearing someone else talking about what I talk about every day made me want to be back there even more!

BUT I know that I am at home for a reason.  I honestly don’t know if I’ll go back to Zambia in three months or three years or really if I’ll ever go back—we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow!  For now, I’m trying to get my futuristic mindset, planning self to enjoy where I am now–to soak up every moment with my family and friends, to allow the Lord to fill me now so that eventually, when He says it’s time, I can be emptied again and pour out all that I’ve soaked in.  Until then, I’m going to continually seek and ask how what I learned in Zambia can be shared and applied here at home.

Thank you for your prayers–I’m so grateful for my incredible team of supporters.  If you’re near Birmingham, I’d love to meet up and chat more about I’ve learned and am continuing to learn.  Give me a call!

Feels Like Home

After nearly two months of living in Zambia, I’m starting to know my way around and starting to feel comfortable here.  But as time goes on, I’ve started noticing many similarities between life and culture here and life and culture in the United States.  Granted there are many differences.  In the States, people don’t yell “mzungu” at me everywhere I go, you don’t normally see men out and about drunk/drinking before 8AM, people don’t come up to your car and ask for a lift, people I’ve never met don’t try to take my picture because I’m white, only knowing English allows you to communicate with the vast majority of people you’ll meet, cars have headlights and break lights, I can get in my car whenever I want to and go wherever I want, the public education system produces people who can think creatively and critically (even though it has it’s flaws), I have my handy iPhone to look up answers to random questions and text/call my friends anytime I want, and cars are driven on the right hand side of the road just to name a few.

But the similarities are present as well. Yesterday’s Chipolopolo qualifying match reminded me of an SEC football game—people painted up and covered from head to toe in their team’s colors, making all kinds of noise all day long.  I also see glimpses of home in all the friendly Zambians who greet you and wave, even if you’ve never met.  And Zambians love fried food…just like we do in Alabama.  However, at home we don’t eat fried caterpillars and here they do (I tried them last week and didn’t think they were that bad!), but I did go to a restaurant that served fried chicken with nshima.  Zambians also love their sugar and sweets.  I thought we liked sweet tea in the South—here, one might put 6 or 7 spoonfuls of sugar in their tea (granted, here it’s hot tea).  Although it’s definitely magnified here, I see a similarity to the States in that one’s title and perceived status is important.

The biggest similarity I see between the South and Zambia is the presence of cultural Christianity.  Having spent my entire life in the “Bible Belt,” I’m used to seeing churches of all shapes, sizes, and color on every corner; it’s the same way here.  Anywhere you go, you’ll pass several churches along the way—there are some of denominations I’ve never even heard of before.  Each time you meet a new person, it’s very likely they’ll ask where you go to church; the church one belongs to is a big part of their identity.

While going to church and being a part of a body of believers is a good, necessary thing, it isn’t the only thing that makes you a Christian.  Again, spending my life in the Bible Belt, I’ve met a lot of people who say they’re Christian and tell me about the church they go to and all that but whose lives don’t reflect being a Christ follower in the slightest.  Going to a building, singing a few songs, and trying to stay awake during a sermon each Sunday doesn’t make you a Christian.  Instead, it’s a relationship with Christ.

Cultural Christianity is one of the main reasons that nonbelievers want nothing to do with the church, as it creates hypocrisy.  I’ve been reading No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu about his experiences during and after apartheid in South Africa.  In describing the persecutors Tutu writes, “They read the Bible, they went to church—how they went to church!…Our people were very often left perplexed by this remarkable fact, that those who treated them so abominably were not heathen but claimed to be fellow Christian who read the same Bible.”  This can ring true for the Church today!  Granted, it might not be as extreme as the horrors of apartheid, but we are still responsible for treating people “abominably.”  We don’t live lives, as Colossians 1 says, “worthy of the Lord.”

At home in the States, it is sometimes a bit more difficult to see cultural Christianity without really getting to know someone.  Here, it’s much closer to the surface.  Churches are crowded on Sunday mornings and services last well into the afternoon.  The singing is beautiful and the prayers loud and powerful.  However, there’s a disconnect between the head and the heart—they have the Bible memorized and know a lot of facts, but a lot of times it has no impact on their lives.

It’s easy to say that people here just don’t understand and start trying to figure out how this problem can be remedied.  But the truth is, it’s not just in Zambia where this is happening.  As the Church Universal, it is imperative that we evaluate whether or not our lives reflect what we say we believe and whether or not we’re living our day-to-day lives in a way that is pleasing to God.

 

It is about entering a story.  It is about orienting our lives around what God has been doing throughout history.  And it is about being sent forth into the world to help write the next chapter of that story.  Wandering the world in search of meaning and purpose, we may not even realize how desperately we need a story.  But we know we’ve found something priceless when we find ourselves in God’s narrative.
Common Prayer

Lately

The past two weeks have been packed full of all sorts of fun things.  First off, we’ve had full day extra lessons at Isubilo since the kids have been on holiday. I taught Grade 9 and Grade 12 Geography and English as well a few math and English lessons with the younger grades. It was a challenge but also a lot of fun. I’m usually with the younger kids so it was nice to get to know some of the older ones.

Last weekend, Kristi and I went down to Livingstone so that she could run the Victoria Falls Half Marathon.  We made a long weekend out of it and spent some time at the Falls.  To get there, we endured the roughly 14 hour bus ride journey to Livingstone.  The coolest thing we did while there was the Devil’s Pool.  You take a boat out to Livingstone Island, walk around a bit, and then get to jump in the Falls and sit right on the edge. It was incredible!  It’s crazy to look down and see a 100+ meter of drop.  After our little (extremely cold) swim, we had a lovely breakfast on the island.

Afterwards, we crossed the border to Zimbabwe where the race was.  While Kristi ran on Sunday, I went to Botswana for a safari.  It was neat to see so many different types of animals! I spent the day with a lovely Spanish couple that has traveled all over the world.  They’ve even been to many places in the States I’ve always wanted to go to but haven’t had the chance.  On Monday, we flew back to Ndola, which was much nicer than the bus ride to get there. =)

Today I got to talk with the kids about prayer again.  We broke into groups, and each group got a page from a newspaper.  They had to find an article about a topic that they thought we needed to pray about, either thanking God for blessing the country or asking for His guidance and protection.  Then someone from each group reported back to everyone.  It was a great reminder (even for me!) that we need to be in prayer for our country, its leaders, and its citizens.  Afterwards, we played with bubbles and ate nshima—what a great morning!

I can’t believe that this time next month I’ll be back in Birmingham.  It’s so weird to think about, especially as I get more and more comfortable here.  Although I have no idea what it’s going to entail, I’m excited about what the Lord has in store for this next chapter of my life.

 

It’s so funny to look at my Facebook newsfeed and be reminded about things like college football and Labor Day weekend….those things haven’t even been on my radar!  I hope everyone has a safe and fun long weekend!

Futuristic

First off, I think my last post came across a lot more pitiful than intended.  The truth is, things aren’t always easy.  Life overseas is different and can be frustrating—you can’t understand this if the longest you’ve been in a different culture is just a week or two.  I’m grateful to have people in my life who know exactly what it’s like and can tell me they’ve been in the same place—that it’s okay.  Missions is oftentimes over-romanticized, and it’s comforting to have someone tell you they’ve been in the same place and to remind you of the growth that comes from different seasons in our lives.

This week was really great, as the Lord has shown me that He can use our gifts and talents in so many ways—it’s almost like He’s purposefully gifted each of us in the ways He has, like He put some thought into it. Hmmmm…. =)

In other news….

The screensaver on my computer is a collection of random photos of random things and random people I’ve encountered since graduating high school in 2008.  Although I haven’t added many new pictures to this collection over the last year, it is a broad representation of the past four years—concerts, Braves games, friends, food, family, college, CentriKid, mission trips, traveling, even my last Beach Retreat.  When the screensaver comes on, I usually close my computer, move the mouse to bring the desktop back, or just don’t pay any attention to it.

That being said, I just spent 20 minutes staring at the screen as the pictures scrolled by.  During this time, I was reminded of many of the beautiful places I’ve been and the beautiful people the Lord has put in my life.  Some of the faces I still see while some of them I haven’t seen in a long time.  This made me realize how often I take moments for granted.

Towards the end of my GEM Program experience this past year, we completed the StrengthsFinder questionnaire.  According to this little test, one of my strengths is that I am futuristic.  This is so true! I’m always thinking and dreaming about the future, wondering what’s in store.  And while having direction and a vision is a good thing, it can also be a bit not so great.  Instead of enjoying where God has me in the present, I far too often, get distracted by the future.

Lately, this happens far too often with my being a recent college graduate who doesn’t really know the next step.  It’s my prayer that instead of only thinking about the future, I don’t miss out on the here and now.  Why worry about tomorrow when today has enough worry of its own?  We are but a breath on this earth—I don’t want to miss out on what God has planned and what He is already doing because I was too busy pondering where to step next.  Far too often I try to take charge and make plans, plans, plans instead of trusting and resting in the fact that the Lord has a plan that’s far greater than anything I could ever imagine.

I’ve been reading through Acts lately, studying the early church and the first Christians.  The other day as I was reading chapter 9, I was struck by verse 31:

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up.  And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

I don’t know where I’ll be in five years or even much further than five weeks from now , but I do know that I want to be “walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit”—I want to be resting in the Lord’s will.  That is the only place to be in order to see the Kingdom grow and the Great Commission carried out…the only way disciples can be made.

 

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One Month

I’ve probably mentioned this in each of the posts I’ve written since getting to Zambia four weeks ago (I can’t believe it’s been so long!), but I am learning so much.  Lately, it hasn’t been easy lessons.  The Lord is teaching me a lot about myself and my character, and it’s been tough.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve noticed that my personality is a whole lot different.  Just to give you an idea, a few Zambians have told me that I don’t talk enough; my whole life, I’ve heard the opposite of this!  It seems as though I don’t ever really have much to say—I just sit and listen to what other people have to say.  I’ve also struggled to feel apart of what’s going on around me.  It’s that “in a room full of people but I feel all alone” feeling.

I’m still trying to figure out why I am here.  To be honest, a lot of the time it just feels like I’m in the way and taking up space.  I hate this feeling!  It’s become so clear to me that I am incredibly task-oriented (maybe too task-oriented).  Without a specific task, I feel useless.  It’s also difficult to not always know what’s going on around me.  Krissy made a great observation when we Skyped a couple weeks ago:  for the past couple years, I’ve been someone that people can come to to get information.  During college (and even high school), I was blessed with some incredible leadership opportunities that allowed me grow as an individual and foster my leadership abilities.  Now I’m in a place where I really know nothing and have had to become dependent on other people (so not easy for me).  It’s a stark contrast from just a few months ago.

This past week has been hard for me—it’s safe to say the honeymoon phase is over. I miss being surrounded by friends, family, and familiarity.  I wish I could hang out with the people who know and love me best, who know when I need a hug and can tell when I’m upset….people who know just what to say to simultaneously encourage and challenge me.

This morning in church, I some great moments with the Lord (which was really cool, especially because I found the service quite…distracting. Let’s just say it wasn’t quite what I’m used to).  He made it clear to me that I am trying to fill voids in my life with all the wrong things.  I far too often try to be satisfied, filled, encouraged, and accepted by created beings, created things.  This morning the Lord reminded me that He loves me and cares for me, that He has a plan for me…that I can “search for all eternity long and find there is none like [Him].”

Tomorrow is the first day of classes at Georgia College.  Part of me wishes that I was in Milledgeville, going to dinner at El Tequila and going home to 721 to watch Dr. Quinn with Krissy, Amanda, and Julia…but I’m not. I’m grateful for the season of life I had in that crazy little city but am excited to see what the Lord has in store.  I think the biggest thing is that I’m a little bit scared (okay, maybe more than a little bit). I honestly have no idea what my next step is.

But God is good.  He has a plan.  He loves me.  Why and how do I so easily forget these simple truths?

For now, I’m going to hang out with some of the coolest kids I’ve ever met and try my best to proactively trust in the Lord’s provision of comfort and guidance.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD.  At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.
–Psalm 69:13