The people in Zambia, they walk everywhere.
The sun melts behind the horizon, the dirt road stretches to nowhere, and as we drive along that bumpy road, men and women walk in twos and threes next to our van. Their arms swing and their bags are full and I cannot help but wonder where they could possibly be headed.
As far as I can tell, there’s nothing out here except fading sunlight, the quiet echo of space and the whisper of the King.
Before I left for Africa, my pastor asked me to write down my testimony.
I was to write down all the things that had brought me to that place, the struggles that I had overcome, the love I’d lived without, the joy I’d lost and found.
For me, and maybe for you, that’s what a testimony was. A declaration of the goodness of the King in a life full of valleys. A written word, a spoken word, a beautiful story of life after tragedy, of joy in the middle of pain, of healing in the midst of disease. A story to convince others that the King was good.
I didn’t have one.
I had lived a life of plenty. Love had been freely given, joy had been bountiful, tragedy had been fleeting. I had parents who loved me in the way the King intended. Talents that gave me joy, purpose, drive. I had shared secrets with girlfriends, walked barefoot in a hundred backyards, eaten s’mores around countless campfires.
I had lived and loved and laughed in the arms of amazing grace.
What testimony then, did I have? What lesson was there in a life without challenges, in family dinners around the dining room table, in hot chocolate on Christmas morning?
I went to Africa without a testimony. My edges were too clean, my family too happy, my joys too complete. I had nothing to share that said “Look at what He does. Look at who He is.”
I went to Africa and I joined their story, embarrassed that I had no story to tell of my own.
I laughed at the orphanages, held hands at the AIDS clinics, got blisters at the new build. I slept with cockroaches, laughed at the showers, bought bracelets to help me remember. I wandered down the street and shared the King with the babies who lived there. I showed Jesus to a tiny little foot on a tiny little boy, all in the form of a white cotton sock.
I wrote page after page of a story of Africa. And it’s a beautiful story, I promise you that. Marked by laughter and pain. Anger and tears. Jesus and joy.
I went and I found the least of these and I showed them the King, just as He commands us to do.
And my pages of testimony still lay blank in the front of journal.
My sisters and I, we kept peeking out the panes of the living room window. My parents had been gone far too long. It’s the tell-tale sign of bad news. Good appointments are short, sweet. “Congratulations, all is well!” Those are everyone’s favorite kind. But these long ones, they never meant good things. So we sat in the living room and we watched out the window and we waited to hear out loud what our hearts already feared.
My mom and dad sat on the love seat. Our upright piano sat behind the couch, weathered by years of little fingers pounding out scales. The sun was low in the sky now, graceful on that early spring night. He sat on her right and he held her hand and tears coursed down both of their cheeks as they told us what we already knew. Mom had cancer. And it was time to fight.
It’s a mind-numbing, gut-clenching fear. Suddenly all the days you had aren’t enough and all the days left seem too short and why in the world did we take for granted what we’d had for so long?
And all of sudden, the pen moves across those blank pages in my journal.
Had I asked for this? I wanted a testimony. I wanted to be vulnerable. I wanted a story to share that said, “Look, the King is good. The things that He promises are true.”
Had the King given me a testimony that would mean my mother’s life?
Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines testimony in so many ways.
I need you to hear this one.
I needed to hear this one.
Testimony (noun) test-i-mo-ny: proof or evidence that something exists or is true
Years after Africa, I still wrestle with this truth.
That the simplest of lives are the most beautiful proof that He exists.
Why did I think my life of love and joy and grace had no testimony in it? Why did I believe that the workings of the King only existed in tragedy, in loss, in living without? Why did I see the King all over Africa, but have to look so hard for Him in my clean, happy life back home?
Why do we fail to see the King in the goodness of our lives?
Every joy, every victory, every love in my life was proof and evidence that the King existed and He was true.
“Look at what He does. Look at who He is.”
I had a testimony. I have always had a testimony. I needed to lose nothing to make it true.
The King is good.
The King is faithful.
The King is true.
That was the testimony of Africa.