Some of the women in our business and leadership. From left: Margarett, Colleen, Cleopatra, Grace Lombardi, Crescencia, and Bridget.

In a small yellow room filled with benches and chairs, a group of Zags prepare a stack of certificates to pass out. They sit next to a messy stack of nametags and two plates stacked haphazardly with cookies. Today is the graduation ceremony for the Gonzaga-in-Zambezi classes.  This celebration signals that the end of our time in Zambezi is sadly within sight. As the students enter the small classroom and take a seat, the air is heavy with a large mixture of joy and melancholy. As certificates are passed out, hundreds of photos are taken, and treats are exchanged along with congratulatory phrases and heartfelt messages, I begin to question my purpose here. 

Not surprisingly I, like many Zags, have struggled for awhile now to understand my presence in Zambezi.  While I was told prior to the trip that this would certainly happen, I never expected to be this caught up in the questions.  I questioned the depth and value of the teaching I have provided my students in the short 10 days of class I have taught.  Instead of the teacher leaving the students enriched in knowledge after their teachings, I can’t help but feel as though everyday the classroom has been reversed, and I have learned more from them.  Many in this community have a deep-rooted and rare desire to focus on serving others before serving themselves.  In the business and leadership class, many students stated their selfless desire to start a business that would first and foremost employ others while feeding and helping those who needed it, putting profit second. On a separate occasion I questioned a student on why he plans to let people pay for their orders after they are made rather than before, or why if someone doesn’t have enough money he will simply let them pay when they can. His response was a quizzical look followed by a smile that made me question why I even asked the question. The authentic lessons I have learned from my students and the surrounding community about being genuine, honest, and trustworthy people are far greater than any lesson I could possible give on creating businesses that earn profits and knowing how to lead it well. 

The end of classes has caused me to pause and reflect on my time in Zambezi. Most of my time here, I have struggled to identify how and what I am feeling. This struggle and the readings we did while preparing to come here, along with our discussions every night and the interactions we have everyday before and after class, I frequently have lifted both my hands to feel for my head and make sure it’s still attached to my body. My desires and dream to be truly immersed in this incredible community seem to be impossible while I am here. I wonder if I even deserve to be immersed because I am only here for a short time.  Have I evenfulfilled my purpose of being here?

There are moments in between trips or classes that fill my heart with joy when I see others fulfill their purpose. Just a day ago we visited a local orphanage where we separated into a female group and a male group. The health team was able to educate the adolescent girls on hormones and puberty with an accurate and incredible presentation starring Holly–who I know is destined to be an incredible nurse. They provided them with a reusable period pack while simultaneously chanting, “We are woman! We are strong!” The strength my fellow Zags showed in educating these young woman on adulthood and providing them with the means to attend school on days they normally couldn’t was an amazing display of the positive impact they have had on the Zambezi community.

The type of engaging interpersonal work that we are engaging in while abroad on this trip are ones that we cannot be taught but must experience on our own, outside of a classroom.  This has left me grateful for every experience I have had here and even the tension I sit with between balancing my understanding of the world and my purpose here. All I can say is that I am grateful for this opportunity to learn because it has taught me more than about myself than I could ever learn inside of a classroom.


Grace Lombardi


PS- SISTER!!! Congratulations on graduating!  I am so proud of you and still look up to you in more ways than one.  I love you so much and wish I was there to celebrate with you on your special day-Cal Poly is lucky to have you.

PSS- Brian!!! Congratulations on (almost) finishing and graduating.  I wish I could have been there and hope I see you before you leave for Italy or within the next year. Love and miss you- please bring me something fun back!

PSSS- Nonnie! Don’t worry I’ve been going to mass every Sunday and every mass has been 3-4 hours long so I’ve been saying lots of prayers for you an everyone else.  Your always in my thoughts and prayers- I love and miss you everyday.

PSSSS- Mom/Dad & Family and everyone else- I love and care about you all please know how dearly I miss you all and have been thinking about you everyday.

PSSSSS- PFC, I can’t wait to see you all soon! Please send updates on everyone and how everything is going! Miss you all




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13 Responses to Purpose

  1. jimbodiehardzag says:

    Grace, a poignant and stunning response on the importance of intentional experience. We are women, and WE ARE STRONG! In a world run by patriarchy, it’s glorious to see you’ve noticed the beauty of embracing your struggles, and not subduing them. Never subdue them! Do not wait for your constipated struggles to explode out your orifices as dismal, devastating deeds that dump on those at the margins. Dig in to them! And realize how lovely it is to discover that we are all struggling, together. Even Jeff Dodd is struggling. And Garret is struggling with whether his birth name is Carrot, or Garret. But actually, I’m serious about this last point. Let’s not beet around the bush here, WHAT THE HELL IS HIS REAL NAME??!! FOR THE LOVE OF NSHIMA PEAS TELL ME! I DON’T KNOW HOW MUSHROOM I HAVE IN MY HEART FOR THIS TORMINT! A maize of baffled bewilderment, his name will bind me to chains until I find out the truth of it all. But that is the beauty of struggle, perhaps we will never know, we can only come together, hand in hand an march to the gates of hell for only Satan can dill with a matter this raw, this rooted in evil. I wait for your hand, to struggle with me in a show of solidarity. Carrot you have foiled us all.

  2. Katie Shoenberger says:

    I feel like I’m getting to know you all!! Trying not to cry too much at these beautiful posts, but….tears do fall! Bridget, we love you and miss you and I have noticed the calendar a little more than usual. This month has gone by so fast. You’ve all had an impact. Spending time with your Zambezi family and friends as you pour out love, kindness, compassion and a tiny peek at a world that is so completely different theirs, is the gift you leave. And the gift they give to you, oh, so much bigger. Give everyone a hug for me. Bridget, do a little extra shopping at that wonderful market and take lots of pictures. You may not be back for a while. I can’t imagine how hard it will be to leave. I can’t wait to hear about the safari and Victoria Falls. Love to all our ZagZamFam!! xoxoxo

  3. Rachel Bohan says:

    hi grace!!
    I love hearing about your trip and reading about your amazing experiences. Your transparency in your post leaves me sitting in awe at the wonderful and honest human you truly are. I’ve had similar feelings of questioning my purpose in a place where I walk in feeling so privileged and am overwhelmed by the sense of love and compassion that surrounds me. But don’t forget what wonderful gifts you have and the stories that make you who you are. Often you don’t change somebody’s life by a great deed or gift, but instead by a simple sharing of stories or a little action. It can be the smallest thing that can have the largest impact. I hope you are having the best time and cannot wait to hear all about it!! Love you girl. Thankful to know you

  4. Shellie & Don Groscost says:

    To Alyssa G.,
    Loved seeing your picture in the June 1st post. Sounds like everyone is having an incredible time! Love you and miss you lots!!


  5. Kathy Schindele says:

    Grace and the ZamZags,

    What a raw description of your journey. I would love to see the students receive their certificates. I can imagine the happiness on your students faces. Weather or not your students learned new information from you while you were there, their lives have been blessed by your very presence there!!

    Thank you for sharing your lives and journey through your stories of struggle and realizations. Be proud of yourselves and give yourselves more credit than you have. God has put you Exactly where you are meant to be!! God has blessed you all with love and compassion & the willingness to help others.

    Morgan, I can’t wait to see you and give you a big hug myself! I look forward to hearing all your stories. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good!

    Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.
    – Fitzhugh Mullan

    Love and prayers,
    Mama Schin

  6. Kelen Ahearn says:

    Hey Grace,

    You are powerful, you are valuable, and you are known. Keep on questioning and shining while doing it. I am so so proud of you.


  7. Isaak qaqish says:

    Hope you are having a good time Margret. The family misses you. I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip and get home safe.

  8. Margaret Hoban says:

    Thank you for your post Grace and the included beautiful photo! I so enjoy reading all the experiences you Zags are having. Showing such patience, compassion and humility. Congratulations to all the Zambezi graduates…an inspiring time for all! Enjoy the rest of your travels

    Madelyn Hoban, we can’t wait to see you eight days!!!❤️

  9. Bette Lombardi says:

    My Grace Girl, I love your story. It’s beautiful and helps me understand the wonder of being there and living in the moment. I can imagine all the students and how thrilled they must be for their graduation and how they must appreciate whatever knowledge they’ve accessed from all of you Zags. (Your value is more than a goat and a sofa! Lol ). Life and its meaning seem to have more clarity when viewed through the lens of your students and the village. How blessed you are to be able to shine your own light on others while at the same time they have let you bask in the warm embrace of their village. It seems like you’ve gained much more knowledge on this journey than your students 🙂 which is probably not what you expected. We send all our love to you and wish you safe travels. All is well here….Tipper says “hello” as well. Did you see George Jr yet?
    Love you to the moon and back!
    Mom and Dad

  10. Momma Ebel says:

    Beautiful story Grace ! It sounds like each person has learned so many valuable lessons in such a short period of time. And all of these amazing memories will last a lifetime. Thank you for sharing your fulfilling story.
    PS. I bet Holly had something to do with the “girl power” chant. LOL ! Lift them up and keep them strong my love. You are amazing !

  11. Tia Beck says:

    Grace!! You’re heart is so large and I am so excited to hear more about your experience when you get back to GU!! Praying for you and everyone on this trip every day.

    Missing you a lot recently. I cry almost every time Lani sends me texts from you (and I share them with my momma and she cries with me lol) Praying for you as always and can’t wait to see you soon. I have been doing devotionals and reading my Bible when I can just so I can impress you with some verses when you come home 🙂 Enjoy the rest of the trip and remember that His plan is greater than yours.

    Xoxo T

  12. Sean Price says:

    You’re an amazing writer Grace can’t wait to hear all about your journey!

  13. Nonnie Barbara says:

    Just finished reading the blog from all the Zag students and am so blown away by their
    eloquence in making their stay in Zambia so real and heartbreaking! Please tell Grace how proud I am of her and how all of the Zag students have made a difference. Miss you G
    Love and Hug. Nonnie Barbara

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