This post was written by Jessica Duca, who helps lead the CURE U chapter at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She served on the CURE U trip to Zambia this summer.
“How was your trip?” It’s the question each person is asked when returning from a mission trip in another country. A question that I was asked many times, unsure how to answer. Thousands of thoughts run through your mind, trying to remember every detail of the trip, but realizing that only a few stories wouldn’t even scratch the surface of all that you’ve experienced. You respond by saying “amazing,” or trying to think of one word that would capture your experience. Yet again, you can’t seem to find a word to even slightly highlight the experience. You so desperately want to share with people and have them fully experience what you have, but in reality, no one will TRULY experience what you have, and I’m learning that is really okay.
When I found out about the mission trip to Zambia this summer, I was hesitant at first, not fully trusting I could raise enough money (God clearly proved He is way bigger than my worries or doubts). There was a string pulling on my heart to take the next step with CURE and go on a CURE trip to Zambia. So off I went, a little nervous and unsure of what to expect, but when God says go, you just have to trust, GO, and partner with Him on the journey He is going to take you on.
Within seconds of meeting the other members of the CURE U team to Zambia, I knew God had already exceeded my expectations with this incredible team (shout out to “Zamfam”). I had entered this place that was so unfamiliar, yet I already felt such a deep connection to it. Maybe because God knew I was going to be there all along, and already had written my days in advance (Psalm 139:16).
The first day at the hospital, we were all hesitant to jump in because we weren’t totally sure how to interact. We quickly learned that smiles, laughs, bubbles, coloring, silly songs, and games have no language barrier to them. This was just the beginning of God’s outpouring of his love and healing. At the hospital, we were able to see a child named Travenia come in with a limb deformity in her foot, and come out of surgery with her foot straight. Though the pain was immense, we were able to sit there, cry with her, and pray with her.
What was so beautiful about this culture was that they lived out Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (NIV). They were such a tight-knit community that when someone was suffering, they all would suffer: when someone was rejoicing, they would all rejoice. It was beautiful to see the scripture come to life in these moments with these people. The entire week was connecting with beautiful people and their families, encouraging them that even though it may be hard, they have a God-given purpose in this life regardless of their circumstances. They are not cursed by God because of their physical disabilities, but instead God loves them SO much.
I continued to see God’s love work in the hospital through the staff with how generous and kind they were. I was able to see a hydrocephalus surgery and experience the staff listening to worship music and reading the Bible while they did the surgery. Yet again, there was God’s power through love and healing in these men and women’s hearts. I saw it through the passion of their worship when they would sing and dance, and through the team that loved on these children so beautifully. It was so cool to meet the CUREkids Coordinator (shout out to Mubita!) who showed us that the messages we send online and the get well cards we make at our universities for the children are actually getting to them. He reads them to the kids. What an incredible moment to see our efforts on campus truly making a difference in these children’s lives through fundraising for their surgeries, prayers, and get well messages. It was hard to say goodbye to the children who were discharged, but we knew they were on the road to full recovery, and we were able to share God’s love with one another. That is something eternal.
The next week we headed to Choma, a community about four hours from the hospital in Lusaka. This was the outreach portion of the trip, personally the most challenging, yet most eye-opening part of the trip. As soon as we arrived in Choma, we were once again greeted by such loving people with open arms. We settled into our tents and were headed to dinner where hard-working women cooked for us.
One of my favorite moments of the entire trip: we were all sitting around the fire, children were playing and giggling, people were singing, and some were looking at the stars, which were the most beautiful of all. I remember looking up and every single one of my teammates were looking up at the stars, or just looking around, not talking because this was truly a moment that took our breath away. We all agreed that night this was a night that truly felt like heaven on Earth. It was just an eye-opening revelation that God had placed us exactly where we were supposed to be in that moment. Every single one of us, though we were all from different parts of the world, was in the right place and right time in that moment. After that night, each day was a whole new experience greater than the day before, but in its own unique way.
As the day went on, we set out with a few pastors on each team and went to evangelize. These were the opportunities that we were blessed to experience the Holy Spirit moving so powerfully. We would share the gospel, solely relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us about what to say to the families we would meet. We would share testimonies and parts of the gospel, whatever we felt like the Holy Spirit was laying on our hearts. We were able to tell these people, whom Jesus loves SO much, that He went to the cross to die for them so they could have access to the loving Father who loves them deeply regardless of circumstances. Even the first day of evangelizing, I was able to hold the hand of a woman that barely knew anything about Jesus but was now wanting to spend eternity with Him. It was such an amazing moment, and that was just the beginning.
Everyday we would have VBS (Vacation Bible School) with the kids from the surrounding villages. We would see almost a hundred children come to learn about the Lord and we would play games with them. I’ve never laughed so hard playing dance games with them. They all showed us what it meant to have fun and look a little crazy while doing it. The days were packed with serving and spending time with amazing people.
Before this trip, I had been praying for some time to just love people the way the He does, so deeply and passionately and to truly see more of His love and who He is. Something He continues to show me is His love is absolutely everywhere if we just open our eyes to see it. In smiles, laughs, kindness, servants’ hearts, hard workers—I saw it everywhere and everyone was driven by love. I’ve realized since I came back, as well, that God is constantly speaking through His love everywhere we look. He loves so deeply and uniquely to every individual person.
Psalm 139 says, “Where can I go from your Spirit, where can I flee from your presence? If I go up heavens you are there, if I make my bed in the depths you are there, if I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (NIV)
He is everywhere, wanting to show His love and use us to show His love. We truly cannot get away from God and His love.
I am forever grateful to be apart of an organization that is truly “healing the sick and proclaiming the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:2). Also, their mission reaches far beyond. I saw His love for His people in Zambia, and He has called me to share in that love to people there, but He also wants me to share that same love when I returned home as well. Everywhere we go is a mission field, and He is just looking for a person to say YES to the plans He has for them: whether that is in Africa, California, or my own backyard. He has a plan and purpose for each one of us, no one greater than the other.