Visitors Blog – Judy Atkins

Judy Atkins“You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And then I find you in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand……”*

I started to regularly attend Metro Church on June 9, 2013 and shortly after I learned of the Zimele trip to Africa. From the very moment I heard about the trip; my heart leapt and I needed/wanted to go. I saved and saved out of every paycheck.

I remember talking about it with my girlfriend, and I couldn’t clearly say or feel what I could do to help on the trip. I felt a severe lack of ability and total inadequacy; I was quite discouraged. Still, I knew I needed and wanted to go. I could give love and that was an important gift. I’ve never been out of the country or flew across the ocean and I’ve never flown for such a long time. I was terrified and very excited at the same time. This anxiety went on every single day and night for eight solid months.

And then three weeks before the trip, the doctor’s news hit me and I crashed!  I couldn’t breathe….Literally and emotionally. My husband was diagnosed with cancer. The week before the trip was a roller-coaster….inconclusive tests implied it possibly spread.

How could I conceivably leave him? I didn’t sleep or eat and was completely torn. What was wrong with me that I could possibly entertain the thought of leaving? I sobbed uncontrollably….my husband…my very best friend….the love of my life…my partner…my blessing…

The trip was bigger than that.

…and Bruce kept urging me to go because he knew from the beginning the intense importance, which was comforting and heart-breaking at the same time.

Two days before the flight, Bruce and I finally got a consultation with the oncologist, and were told that the prognosis was good because we caught it early. God is good.

“And I will call upon your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace…..”*

Within two hours of landing in Africa, I burned the soles of my feet with second-degree burns, which rapidly became infected. I went into shock; I was terrified and couldn’t catch my breath again: I was in a strange country on the other side of the world in another hemisphere. I was so sick and helpless and I was 19 hours away from my husband.

I felt horrible because I was not going to be with the group. I was restricted to a chair on wheels. This wasn’t at all what I came on this trip for. I was very furious and extremely angry with myself, and very dejected and depressed. I just wanted to be with everybody and help. I was supposed to spread love and joy and assist. I wasn’t going to be doing it.

I remember thinking why was this happening to me? Our team leader came to me and told me this was no accident. God wanted me to take some time for me.

“Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You never failed and you won’t start now….”*

The team quickly pitched in with cheer and kindness in their care: some of the guys carried me wherever I needed to go, others brought me food and drink, and made sure I didn’t need anything, but mostly they shared their love. One of my teammates took it upon herself to stay with me round the clock and never leave my side. I was overcome and cried a lot, both inside and out. Miranda, a Zimele staff member took me to the doctor and also went to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions. She doted on me: preparing scrumptious meals and sitting and chatting: a gracious Angel sent from God.

“Spirit lead me when my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior…..”*

In retrospect, I saw and I felt God’s love for me in Africa, both in the beloved people and also in the restorative and serene beauty of the landscape…..and in everyone on my incredible team. A truly multi-faceted miracle was enfolding and I was a part of it.

I only missed 3 1/2 days (the first village) before I could rejoin my team.
We went to the second village, where we were greeted with miraculous hope and joy. They showered us with smiles and laughter. They were so proud and were anxious to share what they had learned and how it had impacted their lives. They showed us how they learned composting and also how they irrigate their crops. We helped them bring the cattle home at the end of the day from the fields and played with their beautiful and spirited children. We sang and some of the villagers and the team danced. We all shared a meal the villagers prepared and we all prayed together. It didn’t matter that I used crutches.

The following day, I attended a wonderful Zimele conference with my phenomenal and outstanding team. Mama Zuma, a spiritual matriarch from the first village, sought me out and enveloped me in her arms and prayed specially to Jesus for my feet to heal. Within 30 minutes I threw my crutches aside and walked! God’s miracle was flowing again. I was able to continue on to go to the third village. I was able to participate in two hikes the following two days! Praise God!

I truly met Jesus, not just once or even twice.

My feet healed and I was able to walk and even hike…and eventually after flying home, ran back into my awaiting husband’s arms.

I was hoping to meet Him through His Spirit and the Love of the villagers …and I most certainly did.
I met Him again when I felt my love for the villagers and my Zimele team, which is perpetually ongoing and will never ever leave.

“I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine”*

Judy Atkins

*”Oceans (Where feet may fail)” written by Matt Crocker, Joel Houston, Solomon Lighthelm

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