The ‘Before’

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21

Since I’ve been convicted to start, I figured the beginning should be a brief introduction. Due to the nature of blogging, I have no way of knowing who you are, and if you know anything about me. So, to cover the basics: My name is Rachel, I am 22 years old, I recently graduated university during a global pandemic, and followed God to work at an International Christian School in Arusha, Tanzania (still during a global pandemic). I have been living here just over a month, and the ways God has been revealing himself to me during this time are truly remarkable. 

Before I dive into everything He has been doing since arriving, I feel it is necessary to unravel the details of my life that shows me how He was orchestrating this long before my arrival. There are three main areas that I can explicitly point to God preparing me for this experience: the profession, the lifestyle, and the location.  

In regards to the profession, teaching is a seed of passion that was planted in me from a very early age. I come from a family of teachers, and once I grew out of the phase of having mildly ridiculous job dreams like “hair stylist” and “marine biologist”, I have never wanted to be anything other than a teacher. I was blessed to have it easy in that area of college, since I never had to switch between majors or question what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Of course, when I entered my studies I was operating under the plan that when I graduated I would move back to my hometown and get a job at the high school that I attended. I had been provided the “what” by God for many many years, but the “how” and the “where” were still details that He was withholding from me. 

The lifestyle is a little bit trickier to nail down in specifics for those who do not intimately know me to understand. The best that I can explain it is that there are certain aspects of my personality and belief system that control how I choose to live my life. These choices are mainly rooted in simplicity, and environmental consciousness. They are not necessarily widely practiced by others in the States, and I have more than once been called a dirty hippie for them. Yet, these practices are perfectly suitable for the life I live here. This accomodation has alleviated much stress in terms of shifting routines, which seemed to be a large point of concern for those around me prior to my departure. If anything, I am able to do more things that I enjoy and feel natural for me than I was able to in the life I was living previously. The things God has included in the recipe of “me” are not things that everyone in my life has fully understood or agreed with, so it is a great gift from Him to have been placed somewhere that provides me with not just freedom, but acceptance. 

Now, the matter of the location was a drawn out process with many key steps. The first being when I was a freshman in university, and I discovered a study abroad program that would take me to India for three weeks. The school component of the trip was centered on social work, but the spiritual component was centered on molding my heart for countries other than my own. It opened my eyes to lifestyles, struggles, traditions, and cultures that I had never truly understood were there. I didn’t live a “sheltered” life per se, but there is only so much of the world you can experience from a suburb in Colorado. As I had conversations and formed friendships, the mental division between others and myself began to melt away. This trip didn’t cause me to change my major to social work, but it have an impact that extended into every summer that followed. 

The next year, God began moving me further down His path for me by providing the opportunity for me to travel to Livingstone, Zambia and teach through another study abroad program led by my university. During another chunk of three weeks, I was able to grow deeper in friendship with women I still hold very dear to me, as well as grow deeper in my understanding of the calling God has placed in my heart. I learned about the damaging superiority that sometimes comes with educating, and how remarkably important it is to hold tightly to our humility and commit to seeing ourselves as lifelong learners. No one on this planet has everything figured out, and everyone has something to teach others – even children / especially children – This trip solidified two things for me: I was definitely going to be a teacher, and it was not going to be only in the United States. 

Last summer, He took me on an adventure to Zanzibar – an island off the coast of Tanzania. This set the stage for where I am now. Zanzibar was the last stepping stone I had to reach before being prepared to take this leap and moving to Tanzania full time. I travelled to the island with the same volunteer organization that we had paired with in Zambia called African Impact. The thing that made this trip different from the rest was that I didn’t go with school, but on my own. I initially tried to find a program offered by my university to do for my last summer, but I didn’t receive any peace surrounding any of them. So, I ended up planning, arranging, and traveling completely on my own. It was a leap in independance that I questioned my readiness for the entire time. This final set of three weeks were packed full of experiences, relationships, laughter, tears, and moments that I will hold dear for the rest of my life. When it was time to go home, I knew that I would be coming back. 

I had been searching through job postings to find a way to get back to Tanzania, and kept coming up short. I was even entertaining the idea of just volunteering in exchange for food and shelter. I knew God was calling me back, and I was going to do anything to answer that call. 

Finally, God sent an email. The teaching program at my university is constantly receiving job postings that are distributed to the teaching students who are about to graduate, and have already graduated to connect them with jobs. A former Ram sent a posting that made it to my inbox for an international school based in Arusha, Tanzania. Not only was the location exactly what I was looking for, but it was a Christian school. Talk about a match made in heaven. I applied for, phone interviewed with a nine hour time difference, and was offered the job back in March of this year. I was watching Cheaper by the Dozen with my roommate when I found out, and immediately started crying tears of joy. 

This summer was filled with many anxieties as the preparations continued along with the pandemic. There were many uncertain days, and half formulated backup plans floating in my mind. Yet, God is faithful – as if He ever isn’t – and I have safely made it to my new home. This new journey He has me on is already so sweet with His blessings, and His fingerprints are all around me. 

Here I Go Again

The initial intention of creating this blog a year ago was for me to have my own little section of the internet void to shout into. Life did what it does, and sucked me away from that intention, explaining the single post that lives here from over a year ago. My father encouraged me to take up the practice of posting regularly on here, not as a shout into the void, but to allow a space for others to know about my life. 

When presented with the presumption that there are people out there that might be interested in knowing about my life, I was struck with both discomfort and disbelief. Discomfort rooted in the opinion that my life is my own and private and that others do not have a claim to it. Disbelief rooted in the feeling that even if I opened a door and left an open invitation that no one would feel inclined to come inside. 

These are both mindsets God has been shaking out of me, mainly because they are both giving “me” way too much agency in the life I have been gifted. The logic that the life I have is my own and worthy of “privacy” is not Biblically accurate. The life I am living is one that was granted to me by the architect of the universe as a way to further His glory. If that is the purpose of my life, then do I really have any right to keep others from knowing about what He is doing with it? And if I am called to be a witness for Him, and that I will receive the power of the Holy Spirit when I do ( Acts 1:8 ), then how could I be surprised that He would provide the people who need to hear what I have to say? 

So, if you are reading these words, know that I am grateful for the opportunity to be a witness of the Lord my God for you. I pray that God blesses my words, giving them the power to meet you where you are, and be what He needs them to be for you. 


Why am I here?

What a weighty, existential question. However, I’m not getting into all the complexities and facets of the extent of that question (yet). For now I just wanted to explore the ‘why’ behind creating this space, mainly for me, but also for whatever wandering eyes happen to stumble across it. At its core, this is a place of expression. I have found myself in a season of my life where I need to speak and not receive a response. There is value in human interaction and conversation, but there is also value in speaking into the void- that is the beauty of the internet. I can’t quite explain why I feel the need to publicize my thoughts, but I think it has something to do with accountability in terms of quality. Writing is a way to process experiences, as well as the thoughts and feelings associated with them. I typically do this reflective process in a private journal, but there is a certain standard that I don’t hold myself to when I know I am the only one going to read it. Now, there is a very high chance I will still be the only one to ever read these entries and ramblings, but the slim possibility of an audience somehow puts me in a different headspace that I want to spend more time writing in. As I grow in my writing life, I need to practice writing for others and not just for myself. So this place is for you, anonymous and random reader, but it is also for me. Thanks for embarking on this journey with me, please be gracious in my growth.