They handed me my diploma and said, “Go change the world.” So with a heart full of dreams and a head full of nursing theory I set out to do just that. I knew I didn’t know everything, but I did know quite a lot. And moving to Africa was sure to be the biggest adventure yet.
My feet found red dirt and quickly grew calloused, and my hair became steadily more wild. Here I was, long skirts and chacos, living the dream. I found myself in a tribe of people whose language was unlike anything I’ve ever heard, and did not resemble the catchy songs in Lion King so much as deep, drum-thudding rhythms of the earth itself. My tongue twisted and stumbled over strange syllables and I couldn’t walk anywhere without the color of my skin making me stand out like some neon beacon. I told Jesus stories and found myself helping to start a clinic in the middle of the bush, something that my BSN did not begin to prepare me for. So what if living the dream doesn’t look quite so dreamy in the hard real of the daily grind? When your clothes smell like bush, no matter how many times they’re washed and meals take hours to prepare, and sometimes surviving seems to take all the energy you have for the day. When the language still is a struggle and the people are entrenched in witchcraft and tribalism that is heartbreaking to see. It doesn’t look much like I’m changing the world. It doesn’t look like I’m doing much of anything. But the talk in town about the clinic run by the muzungu (white) girls is that you leave there feeling better, not just in your body but also your soul, because they genuinely care and pray with each patient. Mother Teresa said, “we can do no great things, only small things with great love.” That was my senior quote back in the class of 2011 at DHS. I thought I understood it then, but I’m learning everyday how true it is for missionary life. So the clinic keeps rocking on, and I feel overwhelmed by my role as doctor- diagnosing and prescribing treatment, praying desperately for Jesus to help them because I really wasn’t trained for this. But it is making some kind of difference. People are still hearing the name of Jesus. It’s not earth-shattering or world-changing, but it’s me being obedient and that’s all Jesus asks of each of us anyway.
I came to the ends of the earth to do my part in changing the world. But I’m learning that maybe God had a different kind of plan. Maybe He brought me all this way to change me. You read that story about God going out for the lost sheep, for the one who needs to know his love, the one who has strayed from the flock… and ambitious little Amanda-girl packs her bags and hops on a plane to partner with Jesus in finding that one lost sheep. Imagine my surprise, then, when I’m covered in this red dust of Africa and tears lurk at the corners of my eyes because I really thought that I would be better at this missionary thing… and God whispers to my heart that’s wrapped in the lies of not-good-enough, “Don’t you see, my daughter? You’re the one. You’re the wandering sheep I’m after. This life season I’m changing you.” But that feels incredibly selfish and self-absorbed doesn’t it? That God would bring me all the way to Africa to change me. What about these people wandering in darkness who need Your light? And again that peaceful voice, “I’m making my light shine through you brighter because of the work I’m doing in your heart. You are not the shepherd. You are one of the sheep. You are the one whose heart I am after because you need to know me more in order to shout my love from the mountaintops. I am teaching you.” There’s peace and freedom in that. I don’t have to work harder or do more to be a better missionary. I have to do what He calls each of us to do: abide in Him. Listen and obey. Give love to our fellow humans. Tell His story of grace come down- every follower of Jesus has a story like that.
There’s still a piece of my heart that dreams of changing the world. But I now know that it looks different than what I once thought. It looks like loving the people God puts in your path today. Loving each human- the one. Because that is what He has done for me. He has seen me and known me and come after me, the one silly stubborn wandering sheep. And that changes everything. These are the steps that change the world for someone. You, with Jesus-love in your heart and an ear tuned to His voice saying “This is the way, walk in it” can do small big things. But don’t miss how He might be working on your heart too.