My husband, Wes, and I (Laurie), have lived in Zambia, Africa, for 25 years. Together, we minister as Directors of New Day Orphanage. Though we began as traditional church planters, God redirected our paths to grow His Church through the children of Zambia.
Small-scale farming is the primary means of survival for the villages surrounding New Day. Rainy season brings tall maize hiding the villages. During dry season, these lofty grasses are burned in preparation for the new growing season, which means we are fighting fires that threaten the orphanage.
We work among the BaTonga people, the third-largest people group in Zambia. English is the official language, but most rural people speak Chitonga. Wes and I took a short course in Tonga, but certainly aren’t fluent, which presents challenges.
New Day is like an oasis in the desert by providing orphaned children a safe place to live, hear about Jesus, and receive an education. Reading, writing, and math are taught in New Day School, but they also learn hands-on skills necessary for Zambian everyday life, like farming, sewing, gardening, and handwashing clothes.
Most importantly, they learn how Jesus loves them and wants a personal relationship with them. We want every child to know that a relationship is more than going to church, which is especially important because Zambians are very religious people. The majority claim Christianity, but are deeply entrenched in witchcraft, suspicion, and fear, which pervades every aspect of life.
On Saturday or Sunday, they gather together for worship under trees, in meeting halls, open-air thatch-roofed shelters, or concrete block buildings. They sit on floor mats, rickety benches, or chairs for hours to sing, dance, and read the Bible in their language. While this may sound spiritually rich, worship is, sadly, mostly a social gathering.
Living in rural Zambia presses us on all sides; even getting simple supplies from town requires planning. Healthcare isn’t wonderful, but a mission hospital isn’t far. Poor internet sometimes cuts us off from the world’s happenings. As white people, we are expected to solve poverty, be perfect, have all the answers, and help everyone who comes to our door. We live in a glass box, always being watched!
We experience frequent power outages, water shortages, dirt, bugs, snakes, rough roads, flooded bridges, and countless cultural differences to which we’ve never quite acclimated, despite many hard-fought attempts!
Mission life is not glamorous!
We love hosting volunteer teams to minister with us, but it’s obvious they have a false idea of our lives. Short-term teams view Zambian life as an adventure, forgetting that the challenges they faced in the span of one week continue daily for us.
As pressing as daily life is, we also struggle balancing our human abilities with our desire to meet every need while not enabling others to depend on man instead of God.
Let me explain…
At 4am, my phone’s alarm sounds like a siren, waking me from deep sleep. Because of the drought, Zambians experience daily power cuts, which makes me thankful for solar lights and battery fans. Still, it had been a long, restless night without electricity, so my eyelids were heavy, and I was already feeling hot. I knew I needed to get up if I would have any time to pray and read my Bible.
Climbing from bed, I moved to the kitchen and my coffee pot. Grabbing a cup of fresh brew, I headed to the living room for prayer. I felt groggy and knew I would be fighting to stay awake, but I also knew this time with the Lord was exactly the fuel I needed for the day ahead.
I opened my Bible to Mark 14:1-9 and, as the Lord often arranges, my morning devotion was just what I needed to hear.
While reclining at the table for a Passover feast, a woman came to Jesus carrying an alabaster jar of costly perfume. She broke the jar and poured the fragrance on His head. Some complained she was wasteful, rebuking her harshly. She could have sold the perfume and donated to the poor!
Jesus took on her critics, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for Me.” (verse 6)
Jesus understood the woman’s heart, knowing she had sacrificed her perfume as an act of lavish love. The gift’s costliness hadn’t entered her mind. She wasn’t looking for praise from others; her highest aim was to give her best to her Savior.
As I read this, I thought about missionary life.
It isn’t easy serving others.
The needs and expectations of our people are many, encompassing the orphaned children and each staff member, but every villager also assumes we can meet their needs.
The people scolded the woman for her act, but Jesus commended her.
She made the right decision.
It was better to please Christ than please people.
As I prepared for the day, I knew many would come to our door wanting food, money, transportation, or other requests. I knew these needs would cost my time, so I asked the Lord to show me the best way to serve Him that day.
How could I lavishly express my love to Him?
Sure, we were Zambian missionaries purposed with sharing Jesus’ love with people, but we were here to serve the Lord, not man. I prayed He would keep me from allowing daily pressures and people’s expectations to determine my decisions.
Instead, I wanted to pour out my best perfume on my Savior.
As I began the short walk to New Day School, where I anticipated joyful children sounds, I saw the guard moving toward me. This signaled someone was already waiting at the gate with a need. I whispered a prayer, “Lord, help me pour out my best perfume on You today regardless of what others say. We will always have the poor with us, but how can we best serve You?”
Living in a third-world country where poverty surrounds us, desperate needs feel overwhelming. The challenge to be wise in who and how to help brings stress because we would love to help everyone, but we simply cannot, and neither should we.
We want everyone to know Jesus, and place their dependency on Him, not us.
We cannot save them, only Jesus can.
As you pray for missionaries overseas, ask the Lord to give wisdom in knowing the “best perfume” to pour out in their everyday life. Then pray for those who are watching through the “glass box,” that they will see Jesus in the middle of the daily pressing.
Prayer is central to our ministry as believers in Jesus as we carry eachother’s burdens and intercede for one another. Our team is honored to share the work of praying alongside you!
Authentically living out a life of worship to the God who rescued us from darkness requires accountability and intentionality. Join a GT POD and take the next step in your faith journey!