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From Martha to Mary

By Jessica Connor

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “ Martha, Martha,”  the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10:38-42)

I can be a Martha — so caught up in working and spinning my wheels that I lose sight of the big picture. I value Mary’s style: relationships, contemplative learning, being in the moment. But all too often, my anxiety or my workaholism takes over, and I spend way too much time doing instead of being.

My recent mission trip to Zimbabwe made me realize my deep need for a lot more Mary  in my life and a lot less Martha. 

My trip to Zim was a beautiful experience, but what we intended to do on the trip was not what we did in the least.

We expected the church to be nearly finished. We expected to be painting or landscaping. Instead, we found a shell of a structure without even a roof. Unexpected funding delays meant our mission wasn t quite on-schedule.

We got a quick lesson in flexibility. We threw all our expectations out the window.

Instead, while we had plenty of work to do building the ring beam for the roof, our trip ended up being about connecting with the people who live at Hatcliffe. I found I had little need for work gloves or even the industrial boots I d brought along.

Forget painting “ I was in the kitchen, chatting up the pastor s wife. I was at the well, drawing water with the strongest 13-year-old girls I ve ever known (simba, strong, is now my new favorite word in Shona). I was kneeling over an outdoor fire with my new Zimbabwe bestie Gladys, learning how to make African French fries. I was playing soccer and eating candy with a handful of preteen boys who could kick the ball better barefoot or in shoes four sizes too big than I could in my expensive Nikes.

I had the time of my life.

Yes, I worked my tail off. But I also connected “ truly connected “ with people like never before. I stopped looking for work to do. Rather, I looked for people to talk with, learn from, spend time with. And I didn t guilty. I ˆfelt right.

My team became my family. Forget modesty “ with no running water, you learn to get extra comfortable with your friends very quickly.

I got to hold an African baby on my back, Zim-style (with a towel wrapped around my waist and her baby feet sticking out on either side of my waist). I learned how to play the bongo drums from a 12-year-old boy named Joseph. I had a deep talk about patience with Zumbai, who runs the daycare, and prayed about the meaning of life with Hatcliffe s pastor, Rev. Washington.  I mastered peeling a potato with an actual knife (not a fancy peeler!) and learned how to made sadza for dinner with my new Zim girlfriends. With the Southern cross in the night sky overhead, I learned Shona from my new mudzidzisi (teacher), a dear, dear man with the kindest eyes I ve ever seen.

I even ate mystery meat and liked it.

My first international mission trip was a life-changer “ a transformative experience. I will never be the same. I can t wait to go on my next one, and my next one, and my next one ¦

And I hope this workaholic newspaper editor can retain some of the Mary lessons learned in Zimbabwe. For good.

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