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A Year in Zambia...

Have you ever found yourself in a scenario where you genuinely thought that God was leading you in a decision you had to make or in a particular direction in life you were taking, but then you recalibrated and realised that you were actually leading yourself? Let’s be real, you probably have. I definitely have and I had to learn the hard way.

On a four-year Human Resource Management course at Lancaster University I had my future precisely planned out; I hoped to secure an internship at the renowned Unilever, with the prospect of relocating to another European country half way through – everything was all planned out. I had a successful mock interview with the company prior and they highly recommended me to apply when the official applications opened up and in all honestly I really thought I would do well. However my hopes soon faded. 

After being so engrossed in my studies I completely forgot to apply for Unilever and the irrevocable deadline passed, with no back up plan and no time or energy to tirelessly apply for other placements I was left scratching my head. Do I just apply other ‘big’ companies, which have long application processes or do I just half heartedly apply for smaller companies which have a less rigorous application procedure, I chose the latter. After numerous applications to small businesses around the UK and having no luck, I got fed up and planned to cancel my placement year and proceed straight to my final year. But then an idea sprouted in my head, why not try and get an internship at my aunty’s company in Zambia, it would be a change of scenery, a new start. 

Having moved to England at a very young age, I thought spending a year back home would help me get in touch with my roots and actually finally experience life in my motherland. Without prayer and seeking God’s guidance I applauded myself at the great idea. I also thought to myself, imagine how good this would look on my CV, imagine what my future employers would think: “a young man with a HR degree from a top university, who took a bold leap of faith to work in another continent”. In all honesty my prideful thinking appealed to my ego and drove me into convincing myself that this was a great idea.

Although newly baptised in November 2017, I was not yet accustomed to talking to God as a friend, I was not accustomed to leaning on Him and letting Him order and direct my steps. For me providence was a sign that my ideas were a good course to pursue, my rational was ‘if God was not stopping it then it must be alright’. To make matters worse I did not read His Word for counsel, I didn’t even really have any accountability with my decision making, but because of providence I thought all was well. But providence can be misleading, just because something is working out does not necessarily mean it in God’s will. 

When the winter holidays of 2017 arrived I went back to Zambia to visit family, I proposed my idea to my aunty about working for her as an intern for a whole year and she was very approving of my seemingly my wise proposal. After a somewhat unconvincing agreement to my proposal, it seemed like my self-ordained plans were cementing. After returning back to university after the holidays, the majority of my friends where still looking for placements; whilst the majority of people were panicking I was calm and collected, often my peers would inquire “Doug where are you going for placement?” I would always respond humbly with tone but pridefully at heart “I managed to get a placement in Africa as a HR Intern”, their envious and flattering response would always pet my ego and low-key confirm me in my decision, which I was yet to present before God. Nevertheless having self-ordained where I was heading for my placement I put my head down and focused on trying to attain my first class degree.

After finishing my second-year in July, I was preparing for my departure to Zambia. Assuming I would start in August, I was growing weary that nothing had been established not even my flights. After some chasing up, my plane tickets were finally sorted out on the 2nd of August 2018 and I would be flying out five days later on the 7th. However by this time the company still hadn’t confirmed with me anything yet: my wages, my job description, the duration of the placement and many other things along those lines. Although I was anxious, I was even more excited at the prospect of what life in Zambia would be like: my older brother also secured a job in Zambia with my aunty and he was preparing to move abroad too, I already envisioning the safari excursions, finally seeing Victoria Falls, the beautiful new experiences of Sabbaths in a new land, meeting new family members, the rekindling of the relationship with my father whom I only met a year ago, the blazing hot sun, the luxury of driving even though I had no license; my head was spewing with ideas about the possibilities of life in Zambia. 

After arriving in my motherland and quickly settling in to my new home most of my anxieties went away, I had my interview with my to be supervisor, my timetable was finalised and it did not conflict with Sabbath. After a couple of days I started my job as an HR Intern. However there was not much HR work to be done; it was relatively small company and the number of employees were not overabundant. When thinking of coming to Zambia I did not really consider the difference in work culture: the western world is very work oriented while Zambia is the polar opposite, people are much more relaxed. From my experience in the West I was expecting to be running around with tones of work to do but that was not the case. Actually I spent most of my time watching sermons and reading the Bible... at work.

I also realised that I should have done a lot more thinking about moving across the globe. I forgot to consider the important factor of friendships and family: every time I came to Zambia it would be a huge family reunion, all my family from around the world would flock there and so when envisioning being in Zambia that was what I had in mind. But when I came, all my close family weren’t present. What made matters worse was that besides family, I forgot that I had literally no friends. 

By the second week, after the excitement died out I soon started to realise the reality of things. Even though I had family around me and my brother was also present, they all were busy: my brother would work so many hours that I wouldn’t see him for days, my aunty was the director of the company so she also was always tied up.

But what about safari parks, travelling to different countries, Sabbaths in a new land? Well, firstly I had no driving license so I couldn’t tour Zambia in my spare time. Even if I wanted to go all my family were too busy to take me. Travelling to different countries was also a difficulty because I only had a British passport and it is a costly passport to tour Africa with. But I had another scratching head moment, upon my arrival and interview I was informed that my internship – it would not be a paid one. 

After only over two weeks in Zambia, I was growing weary. I had a lacklustre schedule of walking to work in a suit under the blazing sun, not much tasks assigned from my supervisor, spending most of my time in my room after work, having to walk or take a packed African bus to wherever I wanted escape to. All this was accompanied with the struggle of living as a vegetarian in a country that loves their meat, I was finding it hard to cope and envision a year of life like this. 

During this time however, my relationship with God flourished, I was constantly reading the Bible, watching sermons, praying, listening to gospel and other spiritual things. As a natural result I grew closer and closer to God, I was able to talk to Him as a friend, telling Him all my sorrows and all my pains, telling Him all that pleased me as well as what annoyed, it was literally My Lord and I

At the start of September, although my relationship was growing with God I was emotionally at an all time low. I would cry out to God that He would just help me to make the most of my experience and help me to thrive in spite of the circumstances. I knew that I would have to endure this for a year so the least I could do was make the most of it, but my optimistic outlook soon faded away. 

Although I am an internally emotional individual, I am not one to shed tears unless it is real – Zambia was real! It was one of the most difficult times I had faced. Although I lived in a house with my family, I felt so alone, I felt as though I couldn’t talk to anyone about how I was feeling: it was such a frustrating place, I was a fish out of water, I had no clue how to operate in a foreign country, I couldn’t speak my native tongue, I had no friends, my family felt far from me, I felt like I didn’t exist to anyone, I felt so un-relatable to everyone so making friends so much harder. Conversations with my works colleague were ‘Good Morning’, ‘See you later’, or ‘have a good weekend’– it was not what I was expecting. Church was great but the congregation was so packed that I was simply just a needle in a haystack, barely any youth in the church, everything just seemed out of place! I was out of place and the loneliness was taking its tole on me.

One day, after arriving home from work, as I usually did, I ate my food and was ready to watch a sermon, but something was not right in me. I couldn’t concentrate at all, the preacher’s words took no recognition with my ears, I just lost hope and was entangled in my emotions. My heart was heavy, my mind was heavy, all of me was just heavy, I just didn’t see a point in anything: I didn’t want to go to watch a sermon, I didn’t want to pray, I didn’t want to read the Word, I didn’t want to do anything – I am sure you have had the feeling. So I closed my laptop and just laid on my bed in silence. 

After some time passed, I thought I would try and cheer myself up with some snacks so I decided to go to the local supermarket and grab a treat. Not in mood to be a nuisance, I decided not to ask for a lift but thought it would be sensible to walk in the pitch black African night with only the cars headlights as my guide. Walking on the side of a dirt road, I was burdened and heavy at heart, all I could see was my present situation, I couldn’t see a way out of my loneliness. My emotions were brewing and I simply couldn’t hold it in any longer. While walking the floodgates of my heart opened, I just started bawling out in tears unable to contain my emotions. My loneliness and despair really came out in my tears, I haven’t cried like that since my mum passed, this was a sign to me that I could not do this any longer I needed to return back to England. 

Having mastered the art of hiding my emotions, I returned home from the shop, greeted my family with deceptive smile and I rushed straight to my room where the tears continued to stream. Over the next couple of days, I was contemplating how to get myself out of this difficult situation; I was on the other side of the planet, dying to go back to England but I did not want to disappoint my aunty. She had invested so much in me, how could I, after only just over a month say to her, I want to go back home as if was a simple bus fare. At the same time though I knew that I couldn’t endure any longer. But then I was faced with more challenges which I did not think about; what would I do about university, would I go back, would they accept me back? What about student finance, would they accept such a late finance application? Would I be able to pay for my accommodation? Is there any accommodation left? Again I was having a scratching my head moment. 

However, during this time I had really learnt to make God my friend, my counsellor and my refuge I was constantly talking to Him asking Him to order my steps. After prayer and counsel from friends in the UK I believed it was God’s will for me to return home. Straight way, I called my university to see if I could return to start in October, they agreed and affirmed me. I called student finance to find out whether they could pay my university fees and allot me finance for the year to come, they assured me in the affirmative. I called housing companies and asked if they had houses still available, they were and I there was no need to worry. I was assured that God was taking care of me and would take care of me! 

After finally finding the courage to tell my aunty that I wanted to go back home, we had a surprisingly relaxed conversation; I told her of my plans and briefly told her how I felt about being in Zambia. After hearing me out she made some jokes which lightened the mood, affirmed me in my decision and promised to sort out my flights as soon as possible. About a week later my flight was finalised, I would fly back home at the end of September. 

Finally the day of my departure came, I said all my goodbyes, although I was happy to be leaving, I was going to miss my family and other elements of Zambia. I was dropped off at the airport, my family left and I proceeded through the usual airport procedures. But Zambia had one last surprise: because I had a British passport, I was only allowed to stay in the country for a month. If I wanted to stay longer I would have to apply for a longer visa, I was there for over a month and did not upgrade my visa. Upon reaching immigration this was brought to my attention, I was told that because of overstaying my welcome, I would have to pay a hefty fee which I couldn’t pay nor my overdraft either. I was definitely scared to say the least, my family had already left the airport and I had no way of contacting them. But I whispered a prayer and believed God would intervene. 

After explaining myself, the man at the immigration went to speak to his manager, he was not gone for a while but it felt like decades. After coming back I was just anticipating what could possibly happen: looking at me then looking at my passport and doing so again, the man spoke ‘Mr. Gausi usually you would have to pay a fine because you have exceeded your stay, but because I can see you were born here in Lusaka, we will let you go, but make sure next time this does not happen’. I just felt a huge load come off my shoulders. After thanking God for answering my prayers, I was off to England to finish my degree…

This experience really taught me that whatever I may go through God is always there! He knows what we go through, our tears are not wasted;

"You number my wanderings;

Put my tears into Your bottle;

Are they not in Your book?" - Psalms 56:8

The beauty about God is that even though I did my own will and not His, even though I did not ask Him to order my steps and ultimately got myself into a mess. He was still there for me, He never left me, He was there all the time.

But God does not want it to be that way, He wants us to trust Him, to seek His guidance because He knows what is best. However in every experience there is always a lesson to be learnt and this quote beautifully summarises what I learnt:

“Your feelings of unrest and homesickness or loneliness may be for your good. Your heavenly Father means to teach you to find in Him the friendship and love and consolation that will satisfy your most earnest hopes and desires…."

Our High Calling p.64

God is the only one that will always be there for you, make Him your best friend, make Him your counsellor, be honest and real with Him. From my experience here is a note to you:

When feeling weak, it is Him you should seek

When you are down, He will lift up your frown

Whenever you experience grief, He will give you that relief

When you have tears, He will wipe away all your fears 

When in despair, He will always be there

God will take care of you


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