The Speed of Growth

Happy Sabbath! This morning, Julia and I woke up at the home of our homestay host, Steve. Steve is a student of both the business and leadership and health classes, so while we knew him from class, we were excited to hear his story first hand. Upon arrival to his home, he introduced us to all of his neighbors and showed us our room (which was his room that he had given up for the night). We enjoyed a delicious dinner of nshima, beef, and tomato soup while we learned about his children, work, time in the army, his work with the Red Cross and the local Catholic Church. After dinner, he turned on his favorite reggae music from his home of Angola. A neighbor child, Hope joined us when he heard the music. When Hope peaked behind the curtain, Steve welcomed him with a classic Zambian “Feel Free,” and then turned to Julia and I and said, “Hope likes to come over when he hears the music. He knows he is welcome here.” Similar to Hope, we knew we were welcome at Steve’s house. We taught them Spoons and how to shuffle and they taught us an Uno-like game that we caught most of. Steve’s welcome was yet another radical display of hospitality that we have experienced during our time in Zambia. 

As I was brushing my teeth this morning outside of Steve’s house, another neighbor greeted me. We exchanged “chimene mwanes” and then “How are yous.” He responded as many Zambians do, “Fine.” 

When I first heard this over a week ago when I arrived in Zambezi, I must admit that I was taken aback. At home, when you say “I’m fine,” it usually means you are feeling any emotion but fine. But here, fine really does mean fine. An acknowledgement of the ordinary and a contentment with the present. 

Contentment has always been a hard practice for me. I am an 8 on the ennegram, and if I want something, there are very few things that can stop me from achieving that. And while my make-it-happen nature is one of my greatest strengths, it can also cause me to arrange my life and schedule in a way that feels like a never ending hamster wheel that I cannot escape. Getting on the plane in Seattle over two weeks ago, I resonated deeply with that image of a hamster wheel. 

Today, we attended Mass for the second time at Our Lady of Fatima Church (except for this time we enjoyed the 3 hour Corpus Christi service), which also means that today, in the Christian tradition, is the Sabbath- the call to both rest and relaxation, just as God did on the 7th day. 

The practice of Sabbath is something that has landed on my New Year’s resolution list for three years now. It is deeply challenging to my do-er nature. At home, I have attempted Sabbath more times than I want to admit. Speeding through the first six days of the week in order to “earn” my rest on the 7th. I quickly become frustrated when the constant noise and inner dialog refused to allow my heart to settle, to enjoy the true rest of the 7th day. 

In many ways the past week, has felt like an extended sabbath. Our pace of life here is hard to explain. While it is much slower than life at home, the days seem to come and go much faster. My metrics for a successful day look much different here – an intentional conversation while I work with a fellow zag to start a brasier, meeting a new shop owner in the market, and at least a couple hours of football and volleyball in the convent courtyard. 

Today is a true sabbath for me. The chore wheel has assigned me the task of writing the blog today. This means that my fellow zags are busy around me pumping water, preparing meals, doing the dishes, writing in the group journal, blessing our food, and today, the party planning committee (led by Katie) is busy making Jackson feel loved and celebrated on his birthday. The community we are participating in is one of deep dependence on one another for some of our most basic needs. Sabbath looks much different here not only because of the slower pace of life we have the opportunity to experience, but also because of the community we have created here in the convent. 

This is in sharp contrast to my life at home. My stubbornness rarely allows me to ask for help, especially not for my most basic needs. The practice of relying on this community is teaching me a lot about who I am and how I want to live in relation to others. In reflecting on my failed attempts of sabbath at home, I realizing that the resistance to dependence often prevents me from rest. My independence is the thing that stands between me and true sabbath. 

Yesterday, I was sharing these movements of my heart with Lucia on a morning walk by the river. Lucia (or our theologian as Dominic lovely dubbed her) wisely noticed this tension as the “Mary” and “Martha” within me. When we returned home, I began to explore this biblical tension because even after our 3 hour Mass this morning, I needed a bit of a refresher. 

“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

In the middle of our conversation, we walked by two women. We greeted them, and introduced ourselves. Melody and Mary where there names. Lucia and I both smiled as we walked away. “Of course her name is Mary.” 

Zambezi is teaching me to live into my Mary, to “sit at the Lord’s feet listening.” Listening to the diverse stories of this community, listening to how this experience is changing the hearts of my fellow ZamZags, and listening to how God is moving in my own heart. 

“Emily, Emily, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one” – listening. 

One thing both Josh and past ZamZags have encouraged us to do during our time here is to lean into our senses. As I write this, I hear the sounds of children playing outside the convent, Jeff getting an early start on Jackson’s birthday dinner, many roosters and a very quiet living room with many reading Zags. The sounds of Zambezi and the convent have their own music to them, one that is becoming familiar and making our concrete space across the world feel like home.

“Hope likes to come when [it] hears the music. [It] knows [it] is welcome here.”

Zambezi is teaching me that “Fine” days teach us the most, that sabbath cannot exist without community, that my heart is most in need of “Mary” energy, and that a hopeful heart must first feel welcomed. 

Love to all my friends and family back home. I miss you all dearly and am praying for a fruitful sabbath for each of you today. 


Emily Even ’24

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14 Responses to The Speed of Growth

  1. Kat Franklin says:

    HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY JACKSON! I hope your birthday wish comes true!

  2. Colleen Schmidt (Jackson’s mom) says:

    Emily, such a beautiful reflection with grounding reminders for us all.

    Happy Birthday Jax, we love you and are sending hugs!!!

  3. Michelle Doty says:

    Beautiful Reflection, Emily. Thanks for bringing us into your home stay, sharing your busy mind and your lovely soul.
    Happy Birthday to Jackson! Would love to see your braided hair!
    Hi, Loosh!

  4. Doug Schmidt says:

    Beautiful and thoughtful reflections, Emily!

    And to my number one boy, we are all thinking of you on your 20th birthday! We love you buddy. Take good care of you and the wonderful people around you. -Dad

  5. Allison Croft says:

    What a beautiful reflection. From a fellow do-er

  6. Kylie Mukai says:

    I love you and your heart. What a beautiful reflection! Happy birthday, Jackson! Sending you all so much love.

  7. Christine Sloan says:

    Beautiful post Emily! I have just recently caught up with the blog. Happy Birthday Jackson!!

    I miss you all so much. Seeing the photo of everyone made me both happy and sad. Happy to see you all looking so good and bonded, sad because I am unable to be with you. It was so providential that Jeff could drop everything and come. I’m truly grateful for you Jeff. The leg is slowly healing. I am one week post-op. The care has been quite good yet very different than the US system. I am so grateful for the ability to begin healing. We leave tomorrow, 6/4 for US. I can’t wait to talk to you!! Go ZamZags!!

    • Colleen Schmidt (Jackson’s mom) says:

      Chris, so glad the surgery went well and you are on a good path to recovery. Safe travels back to the US and know we are all praying for your continued wellbeing and healing!

  8. Rebecca Even ( Emily’s Mom) says:

    Emily Rose Even,
    Beautiful reflection! Back home, thanks to you, we are striving to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry too”. Our Sabbath began and ended with a mission trip to Tucson. The highlight is when Uncle Scott gave Connor a new DAD outfit as a shower gift. Kaki shorts, bucket hat, white Nike’s and calf length white crew socks. We had fun showing everyone your Bungee photos. Tyler, Brandon and Connor all squealed… she’s got _____! We are so thankful you and your ZamFam are having this extraordinary experience. Soak up all the amazing experiences! We continue to wrap you all in our prayers! Sky… Sky Em! Love, Mom

  9. Sean Even says:

    Emily, thank you so much for your insightful reflection. I feel as though I am with you in Zambezi. To me, what you are expressing is fearlessly enjoying the moment in which you dwell and that is beautiful. This reminds me of a verse that a friend shared with me recently, Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Trouble is what makes life interesting, but I too often find myself worrying about problems to come. I’m glad that you find reprieve in the music of each moment and hope that you many mighty fine days ahead.

  10. John Even says:

    Emily Rose, what a beautiful and inspiring reflection! From another do-er on the hamster wheel trying to slow down and enjoy the moment, I think God is showing you the secret to enjoying life. It’s about the people, the relationships, the conversations, and the experiences. I too am ruthlessly trying to eliminate the hurry and the rush in my life, for the most part unsuccessfully, but the sabbath gives me a new chance to rest and to enjoy the moment by slowing down for one day out of seven. I am so glad that you are having the chance to experience all the things you are experiencing in Zambezi. Thank you for your prayers for us! Please know that we are praying for you and everyone there too. What a blessing you are to us, Emily Rose, and to the whole world! Keep leaning into your Mary and enjoy the music, which always brings hope, one day at a time! Love, Dad

  11. Annie Fowle says:

    Ok so I’m literally crying right now because I miss your wisdom so very much Miss Emily Even. That was beautiful. And so very needed for so many, including myself, as you are well aware. I’m so proud of you for pushing yourself and leaning into the natural beat of the community there in Zambezi. You are the root of my sabbath, I just want you to know. I will forever be inspired your profound knowledge of yourself and deep love for connecting with God and those around you. I’ll be praying for you as continue this journey! Missing my favorite enneagram 8 right now ❤️❤️❤️

  12. Sophia Riva says:

    What a beautiful reflection Emily! I hope you continue to find moments where you accept and welcome contentment in Zambia. You are truly a light for others. I’m in awe of the person you are & love hearing about the people who continue to shape your experience in Zambia. You give me so much to think about within myself and the Sabbath that I’ll be thinking about as I head to Greece tomorrow. I hope you know how much I deeply love and miss you. Can’t wait to hear more about the people you meet & places you see. Xoxo

  13. Pam Wittman says:

    Wow, what raw, straightforward honesty and vulnerability. You are so lovely, Emily, and I cannot wait to dig deeper and listen in more closely to all that you are learning about yourself and a very tender-hearted Mary. You might be on the hamster wheel, but I know your incredibly tender and teachable heart. It is honestly an honor to listen in, I am humbly grateful for your “yes” to going.
    Holding you and all the Zam-Fam in daily mass.

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