Friday, September 2, 2011

Beyond Fear

It has been a while since I sat down and decided to put my thoughts in writing and share with you all, but hopefully this is the beginning of a change in that regard.

A couple of weeks ago, on a bright and rather windy Sunday morning, I was given the privilege of leading the Bible Study session at my home church in Lusaka. This was not the first time that I was accorded such an opportunity, nor was it the last. Prior to leading the session that morning, I had prayed and asked God to give me the right words and topic to lead the discussion. The topic for this particular morning was “Beyond Fear”. The text was from the book of Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears,” (NIV). I opened the discussion by posing a question about the audience’s personal fears. It was quite astounding to listen to people name their fears, and sometimes more so because some fears were common than we could have imagined.

The past couple of months that I have been home with family have been some of the best, and surprisingly some of the most challenging months since my Graduation from AU. Coming home after being away for about three years was a huge blessing, but perhaps I had my expectations set so high that when reality hit, I was left quite disappointed at times. This is in regards to finding work. I have applied for more jobs than I care to count, all in my area of study and well within my scope of a career, but it has been frustrating at times to wait for several weeks on end without so much as a whisper from potential employers. I began to live in fear…fear that a job opportunity would not open up anytime soon.

Norman Vincent Peale, in his address on the topic of fear, had this simple advice to give. He said, “Do not build up obstacles in your imagination. Difficulties must be studied and dealt with, but they must not be magnified by fear.” The author of this particular topic then stresses that Peale is absolutely right—"the decision to face a fear instead of running from it is always an exercise in character building." I found myself being challenged by these words, and little did I know that as I shared that morning, other people would find encouragement in these words. See, most of the time we are confronted by fears so big and scary that we forget the simple, yet very reassuring words of Jesus when He spoke to His disciples saying, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid,” Matthew 14:27, NIV). We tend to magnify these fears till we are consumed by them, by worrying about them till kingdom come. At times, when I have found myself deep in thought worrying about something, I mean let’s face it, as human beings, we sometimes cannot help but worry about things despite the command of Christ not to worry (Matthew 6:25-34). Whenever I find myself worrying, the image of a rocking chair and the quote about worry and a rocking chair comes to mind. “Worry is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do but doesn’t take you anywhere.” It’s so easy to get caught up worrying about earthly things, but at the end of the day, last I checked, worrying about somethin’ don’t make it better.

As I continue pressing on and remaining steadfast in my job search, I pray for one thing, that God would not lead me to a “safe” place, but that He would lead me to the “right” place. See, the safe place is where anyone of us would want to be--free from worry, anxiety, trouble, and everything is all good. But it may not necessarily be the best place for us, because it is a place of our choosing. Instead, we should yearn to be led to the right place, because that is the place that God has pre-ordained for us. He does, after all, have all the best intentions and plans in store for us (Jeremiah 29:11). The safe place and the right place are seldom the same; the only and most important difference is this: the right place is God’s place.

So next time you find yourself being fearful or worrying, I hope you can take comfort in these words. Remember…”When we meditate on God and remember the promises He has given us in His word, our faith grows, and our fears dissolve,” ~ Charles Stanley.

Be blessed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

And The Beat Goes On...

What a week it has been! Wonderful memories made, albeit some bittersweet, but wonderful nonetheless. This past week, two important milestones came to fruition in my life. I got to celebrate my twenty third birthday on May 5th and two days later, celebrated my graduation from college!

I have been looking forward to celebrating my twenty third birthday for quite some time, mainly in part due to the second milestone in my life--graduating from college. For the third time in four years and during my time at Anderson University, I was done with exams the day before my big day. I hated it my freshmen year when I discovered my birthday would be during finals week, but it has been a joy that the last three years I have had no finals on May 5th. Coincidentally, my birthday is also the day when the Mexican populace commemorates Cinco de Mayo, celebrating Mexican heritage and pride, and the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War. As has been tradition two years running, some friends of mine made way to Real Hacienda, a Mexican Restaurant in Anderson to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and my 23rd birthday. It was a joyous occasion that entailed amazing Mexican cuisine, a Sombrero, and getting my face plastered with pie. Afterwards, my friends gathered at my house and threw a surprise birthday party and dance party. A memorable night I will soon not forget.

Two days later, I woke up frantically and realized I was running my graduation! Not a great start to what would turn out to be a most excellent day! lol. The night before, I had in mind to set my alarm to 7:35am in order to give myself adequate time to shower and get dressed, and be in the Decker Breezeway (where all graduates were asked to meet) at 9:15am. My alarm went off at 8:35, how that happened I have no clue. Needless to say, I frantically got up, took a very, very quick shower , got dressed and practically ran to get to Decker in time. It took us about 40 minutes to get ready and make our way into Reardon Auditorium for the Baccalaureate service that morning, during which time I realized I had no need to rush to get to the breezeway.

We made our way into Reardon in two lines and were seated by ushers. It was quite a spectacle in Reardon, seeing the AU Chorale ready to sing their hearts out to mark this special occasion. Our guest speaker that morning was the Reverend Charles Myricks Jr., better known as Chuck. He proceeded to give a wonderful sermon about dreams, knowing who the interpreter for our dreams is--God--and allowing Him and trusting Him to know the plans for our lives. The service concluded with the singing of the Alma Mater.

Following the service, I made my way to the second floor of Decker Hall to attend the Cultural Resource Center (CRC) Graduate Reception. The CRC houses the offices of International Student Services (ISS) and Multicultural Student Services (MSS). It was good to meet with friends and family, to chill for a bit in the midst of all the craziness that was going on. The highlight of the day came when my aunt Suzanne, accompanied by my uncle Paul and my cousin Paul Jr., waled in after driving the whole morning from Maryland. She is one of the people that played a vital role in my coming to the U.S. for school, she picked me up at the airport my very first day in the States, and helped me get settled into college. She was there when it all began, and I couldn't be happier that she here, finally, at the end of my journey at AU.

After the reception, I made my way into Reardon Auditorium once more and this time we got lined up in order, and given instructions for Commencement. We made the long walk from Reardon to the Kardatzke Wellness Center for Commencement--a long, bittersweet walk. The honorary isle--with Professors and Staff members lined up on either side--was all set up as we walked into Kardatzke, a final opportunity to say thanks and bye to some of the most amazing teachers and people I have ever had the privilege of getting to know. At the end of the isle stood University President Dr. James Edwards and the guest speaker for Commencement, Steven Curtis Chapman, who would later be awarded the honorary title of Doctor. He proceeded to give a well thought out speech and received a arousing applause afterwards, and then...the moment we had all been waiting for arrived. First came the Doctoral and Master of Theology and Divinity degrees, followed by the Doctoral and Master degrees in Business Administration and Nursing, and finally, the Bachelor of Arts degrees. I waited anxiously and nervously as names were called, and finally heard my name called. I couldn't resist the hand-pumping-finger-pointing-to-the-sky-face-turned-to-the-camera gesture as I walked up to shake President Edwards' hand and receive the empty folder with a letter from the Financial Services office explaining that due to a financial hold on my account, I was not getting my degree just yet. That did not deter me from giving the crowd a big smile and in turn, smiled at the camera. After barely sitting down, I got a text from my mum letting me know they had seen me walk across the stage via live webcast made possible by AU, and I couldn't help the rush of emotion that came over me with that text. I was happy and I wasn't afraid to let the whole world know. I had made it. God had seen me through! What a wonderful day! But it was far from over...

Following the end of Commencement, we made our way into the O.C Lewis Gymnasium for a reception as there was fear that the grounds outside were too wet for this event. After half an hour of mingling and taking pictures with friends and family, it was time to head out to the York Seminary Apartments for a joint Open House Party with Hellen Obwoge, a School of Theology graduate from Kenya. It was a wonderful time with family and friends, enjoying some Kenyan and American cuisine and snacks, followed by a few words from both parties.

It's been a few days since the day of graduation, but I am still not over the euphoria of that day, nor of the day I celebrated my 23rd birthday. You could say I am still in the honeymoon stage of post graduation. I have a somewhat obscure picture of what the next few weeks and months are going to look like, but I have also come to know that sometimes what we think is the way is not God's way, and it's therefore, cardinal that we learn to trust God for direction. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that God will open and is opening doors for the next chapter of my life, but in the mean time...the beat goes on.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Did I Miss the Announcement?

Ode to Leroy Jethro Gibbs, leading character of my favorite T.V. show NCIS for the title of this post :)

There are certain times I like to sit down and ponder things that are going on around me in this day and age, and there are some things that I observe that when I think about them, I ask myself the question, "Did I miss the announcement?" I mean, since when is being a jerk considered the "new cool"? I have observed so many of my fellow males act like complete jerks towards other people, especially those of the opposite gender, and their friends giving them pats on the back and high-fiving them like it's no man's business. What? You think it's cool or something? Some say chivalry is dead, (I don't believe it is) but even so, what happened to acting civilized in front of other people? Whenever I think about acting like a jerk towards somebody, the image of my mama comes to mind and I remember her words. The prospect of her popping out of nowhere with a wooden stick scares the hell out of me too! lol And so when I observe my fellow young men (and sometimes boys) acting like jerks like it's the coolest thing on the block, I ask myself, "Did I miss the announcement?"

I'm in the cafeteria of our student center during Sunday brunch one afternoon and I am in front of these two male students and I happen to eavesdrop on their conversation (I mean, would I be too far from the truth in assuming we've all done it at some point in our lives?). Anyways, these two guys are in to it debating over a particular topic. I couldn't help laugh a little, but also feel really sad at the conversation I was eavesdropping on. These two guys were busy debating whether or not "Jewish" was a religion. I mean, last I checked, Jewish (or Jewish people) are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating with the Israelites or Hebrews. Judaism is the traditional faith of the nation. On so many other occasions, I have been left speechless and dumbfounded at the level of ignorance exhibited by some of my peers. "Do you speak African?" "Do you ride elephants to school back home?" "Do you know such and such a person? He's from Africa?" And a personal favorite, "You are from Africa right? Did you leave a wife and children to come to school in America?" Please note this is not intended to be a pun on my brothers and sisters that I have had the privilege of getting to know during my time in the States, but sometimes things like that boggle my mind. If we are going to continue to brag that our generation is so much advanced technologically, which makes access to information so much easier, shouldn't we take time to read up and become knowledgeable on some of these issues? We can no longer condone mediocrity and ignorance, not in this day and age. But when I encounter such mediocrity and ignorance, and some people being okay with it, I ask myself, "Did I miss the announcement?"

On occasion, I like to go online and read up on the current affairs in my home country reported by the major newspapers. I came across an article in The Post Newspaper, the country's leading news reporter, about drinking. The article had the following title, "You are not drunk until you are belegede (basically passed out or...worse)." While the article in of itself was in no way advocating drunkenness, it highlighted the drinking situation at home. Basically, it has become the norm that on weekend's, most Zambians (particularly the youth) indulge the bottle and feel there is no point of drinking unless you are belegede. Such is the moral decay of our society that this article made me sick to my stomach. Since when is getting drunk on the weekend a social norm? And since when is being belegede the acceptable standard for drinking? "Did I miss the announcement?"

Recently, due to technological innovation and advancement, I have been able to reconnect with some of my friends from back home through Facebook--friends that I went to high school with. Now, this is in not intended to question the moral character of my friends. One thing that I have seen as a trend is that when most of my friends post pictures on Facebook, it's pictures of their kids. Now, I graduated from high school in 2005, quite some time has elapsed and things do happen, people change, blah blah blah. So sometimes I imagine myself, at 23 here in a couple of weeks, having one, two, maybe three kids, and of course, it's just my imagination running wild. There are times I feel like I'm being left behind you know, know that feeling? But then again, this is not a race or about who has the most kids by a certain point. But I wonder sometimes, when I sit down and ponder such things, I find myself asking the question, "Did I miss the announcement?"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

And so the countdown begins...

Yes, I would be one to start a countdown a month away from such an important milestone in my life, but you know what? I am totally okay with that. I know of some people that start a countdown a year from the actual date, and I am okay with that. Some start it six months before, three months before, a week before, a day before, or, if you really want to be really picky, hours, minutes, or even seconds before and guess what? I am okay with that too! :)

I mentioned it's an important milestone in my life, well, it's actually two important milestones in my life, as to which is more important, well, I'll save that for another time. The first and closer (by about 48 hours), yes, I am counting the hours, is my 23rd birthday (May 5th). In the summer of 2008 when I went back home, I had a wonderful opportunity to speak during a church service at my home church in Lusaka, Zambia. I shared about how God has blessings in store for us, but we sometimes fail to claim them. I used an example of having a certain amount of blessings in store each day, and all you have to do is claim them. Feeling the need to explain this point further, I used the number 23, joking that I chose that number because I would be 23 when I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management. It was a prophesy to some degreel. What if you had 23 blessings (I am not in any way trying to limit the number of blessings for you because in fact, they are countless) just waiting for you each day you woke up, and all you had to do was say, "Lord, I am claiming my blessings for today?" Anyways, 23 has become somewhat of a significant number for me, for some reason or another, and I find myself waiting eagerly and in great anticipation of my 23rd birthday.

The second milestone is my graduation, which as of today, is exactly only a month away. Scary yet exciting! This is a major achievement for me, not only graduating, but the realization of a childhood dream to one day study abroad. God answered my prayers in a huge way but opening doors to AU for me, and on May 7th, walking up that aisle onto the platform and receiving my diploma is a way of saying, "I did it" and more importantly, "God did it for me!"

And so, with that said, the countdown begins: 28 days till my 23rd birthday, and 30 days till Graduation/ Commencement!


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A bittersweet feeling...

This past weekend, the International Student Association (ISA) at Anderson University (AU) hosted the International Dinner: Recognition Dinner- a semi-annual event that seeks to fulfill the ISA mission of sharing culture with the AU and Anderson communities. For those that know my story, it should not come as a surprise when i say I have been involved in the ISA all four years of my time here at AU, serving as Vice President in my Sophomore year of college and as President in my Junior and Senior years. Nonetheless, April 2nd, 2011, the date of the event this semester, marked the 8th time in a row that I have attended the International Dinner at AU, and sad to say, my last as an undergraduate student and as President.

The very first time I stepped on the AU campus, I was met by students that were in the ISA and who served on the ISA Council. These particular students went to great lengths to make sure that, as an incoming international student, my transition to life in a new environment was a smooth one. Their presence was a major factor in my acculturation process. This was the birth of a passion in me-a passion and desire to give back to this organization. And so, leading up to my Sophomore year, I was encouraged and expressed interest in serving on the ISA Council, for me, a chance to give back. in a rather unprecedented turn of events, I found myself taking on the role of Vice President. I made a commitment to myself, a commitment to help other incoming students adjust to their new life and environment, a commitment to do all I could to ensure the transition process was smooth. This became my driving force in my years of service, and it has been an incredibly wonderful journey. And like most journeys, it has had its ups and downs, the low points when all I wanted to do was call it quits, but the force (not to confuse this with "the force") kept me going in those rough times.

It's kinda crazy as we near the end of this semester, and for me, as is the case for most seniors at AU, the end of our Undergraduate journey, to look back to how far we've come, and as sad it may be, that we have made it. We also look to the future with anticipation, excited to discover what lies ahead in the next phase of this journey we call life. As I look back, I cannot help but express my heartfelt thanks and appreciate to all who have played such an important role in my journey. You have helped enrich my experience, and your support and encouragement these past few years has meant so much to me. From the bottom of my heart, zikomo kwambiri.

Finally, as the days trickle by and May 7th draws closer and closer, as sad as it is that these are my final days at AU, I am so excited to see what God has in store for me. The following words bring so much comfort and so much hope for me: "I may not know what tomorrow holds, but I know who holds my tomorrow."

Stay blessed.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Life According to Mother Teresa.

Ran across this quote by Mother Teresa and thought I should share...

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.

Live Life Like You Mean It.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I Dreamed of Africa...

I find myself walking down the familiar dusty street from my house. I kick a pebble or two just for the fun of it. I breathe in the familiar scent. Ahhhh....I am home. I am walking towards the bus stop. I can't help but smile with excitement and sheer anticipation to see my friends at the University of Zambia (UNZA), friends I have not seen in a really, really long time. The course of my brief trip is running through my mind...I can already see myself getting on the blue and white van we call mini-buses, going past Avondale extension, past pa chimtengo, past the Chelstone Police Post, past pa tank, NRDC, Munali, and we are finally approaching Marshlands. We don't have official names for bus stops, only popular landmarks such as "pa Unza"- referring to the university, "pa Northmead", "pa Arcades", etc. This is Zambia. This is home. I can already see the faces of my friends eagerly waiting my arrival. It's going to be a fantastic time catching up. The anticipation is getting the better of me and I'm now walking faster, anxious to get to the bus station. I hear someone call my's a familiar voice I've heard before. It's a little boy I played football (soccer) with just yesterday. "Muli bwanji?" he asks, "bwino bwanji?" I respond to him. "Muli shani ba Oscar?" I hear another familiar voice ask, she is smiling at me. I smile back and respond that I'm doing pretty good. She then asks me about my family. I realize how much I've missed being greeted like that, not just a formality...she is actually interested in wanting to know how I have been since the last time we saw each other. I realize how much I missed seeing her smiling much joy on her face and in her eyes. "How could she have so much joy when she has lost everything?" I ask myself. This is Zambia, my home...and oh, how I have missed it so. Only here can I see someone genuinely smile in the face of hopelessness, only here can I see someone have so much joy despite circumstances. Only here can I see people view themselves as being rich when they have nothing....It may be overly stereotypical of me, but in this moment, that's all I can think about. Tears start streaming down my did I lose this part of me? I feel lost and I want to be found.

I'm at the dining room table and I look around, I see my all of my family sitting around the table...faces beaming. Tears again start streaming down my eyes, this time, tears of joy. I am so thankful to finally be with my family and about to partake in this meal together. There is so much joy and laughter, so much love in the room. It is so overwhelming. We are family. Together. Again. At long last. How I have waited so long for this moment, and I can hardly believe it's here. "If I could command time to pause for this brief moment"....Oh, how I wish that were possible. My thoughts are interrupted by my mum leaving the table to go and check on the meal she is preparing. She is cooking an extra special dish with Nshima, beans, kapenta, vegetables, and my favorite, Chikanda. The sweet and delicious aroma fills the room and my nostrils and makes my mouth water. I have missed my mum's cooking. The meals she prepares with so much love. I am home. My sisters help my mum bring dishes to the table. I'm dying to taste these delicacies. We hold hands and say grace. We wash our hands and prepare to eat. I have missed this simple act of washing hands and eating with my hands. I take the lids off the serving pots. Just as I am getting ready to take a bite, I open my was just a dream. It was all just a dream. I start to cry. I have missed home so much and cannot wait to be back. Africa is in my blood, there is no escaping that. I dreamed of Africa, and I miss it so....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mwe Lesa muli bakulu, Tata.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." ~Joshua 1:9

Today begun what is my last semester as an undergraduate at Anderson University. What I thought would be a rather miserable day for me turned out to be a wonderful day; I have a feeling of being at a loss that my time at AU is coming to an end. This past week and weekend has been a mix of emotions for me ranging from completely clueless of what the future looks like, to feeling at a loss that my sister Charity will be spending about 5 months studying abroad-again-in Barcelona, Spain, and joy and fulfillment of what has been, and anticipation of what is to come. Truth is, I was worried. Now, I have learned long ago something about worry...."Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but does not get you anywhere." I have made a resolution for this year to trust more, and learn to rely more on God, and I believe I am learning to do that more each day....

This past Sunday, while on a visit with my sister to my friend Abigail Richardson's house in Franklin, IN., I was invited to be a part of the worship team to lead worship on Sunday morning. While brainstorming which songs to include during worship, my sister suggested a song that we sung at my home church back in Zambia: "Mwelesa muli bakulu tata"...Our God you are great, Father. The message that morning centered on the theme: Do not be afraid. Be strong and courageous. It came at just the right time for me as I was on the verge of beginning what is the last leg of this chapter of my life.

It has been a bittersweet day to say the least, but a wonderful day nonetheless. The first day of class was great, all things considered and given that the first day of class is usually, if not always solely devoted to get a 'glimpse' of what the semester will look like, and so far, I like what lies in store. Outside of class, it was great to reunite with friends and colleague after a month apart. I even got to reunite with a friend who has been away from AU for about a year and a half! What a fantastic start to the semester!

What it comes down to is that I am sad that this is my last semester at Anderson, but I am excited to be graduating and putting this chapter of my life under the belt. Truth is I don't know what the future holds and that's a scary thought, but I am learning what it is to not be afraid, to be strong and courageous, to not be anxious but to trust in God-pantu, Lesa wandi mukulu, ewamaka, elo e Tata wandi.Takandekeleshe :-)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Resolution

Happy New Year!!

Wow! I cannot believe 2010 has ended and we are starting a brand new year already. Looking back to this past year, a lot of ups and downs, but it was a great year nonetheless. Some of the most wonderful memories made in 2010, some of the most meaningful relationships developed, and all in all, a year of both personal and spiritual growth for me.

With the beginning of a new year comes a desire to set resolution(s) for the year. What really is a resolution, but more specific, what is a new year resolution? "A new year resolution is a commitment that an individual makes to a personal goal, project, or the reforming of a habit...generally a goal someone sets to accomplish in the coming year." I view a resolution as some sort of road map that will help guide the course of action one wishes to undertake on this 'journey' we call life. And what a journey it has been so far!

I spent sometime...a lot of time actually trying to come up with a resolution for this year; I wanted to have one that was encompassing-focusing on not just one but all aspects of my life at this point. It came down to this: "To live life to the fullest." Big deal, right! Yes, and very ambitious you might be thinking. I know I was, and still am. What does it actually mean to "live life to the fullest"?

I believe that my life has a purpose, a plan destined by Papa above (Jeremiah 29:11). I believe that as I strive to live my life according to His plan and purpose, He does immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and things work out for good (Romans 8:28). In that my friends, lies the secret to living life to the fullest, but it's no secret any you know :-) I am going to live my life to the fullest by standing on the promises of God!

As I live my life to the fullest this year, I want to, with God's help and guidance: pray more, love more, care more, laugh more, cry more (yes, I believe it is healthy once in a while to let tears flow), play more, share more, give more, serve more, listen more and talk less. I want to make the most of my remaining time at AU as I begin my last undergraduate semester and look to graduate in May. I want to be a better son, a better brother, friend, classmate, roommate, colleague. I want to be a better servant, a better leader and example to those that Papa has placed in my area of responsibility. I want live out my personal mission, "striving to live a life of faith and love by living out the love of Christ in my day to day life."

That is my resolution for this year, so help me God.