Learning to live outside my comfort zone
It’s UK volunteering week, so we’re taking a moment to understand what it means for some of our UK volunteers to spend time serving overseas.
What does comfort zone mean to you? According to Google, comfort zone is a situation where one feels safe or at ease / a settled method of working that requires little effort and yields only barely acceptable results.
My decision to spend six months overseas was the moment I consciously decided to step outside my comfort zone – leaving behind my home, comfy sofa and everything familiar.
I chose to get on that plane with a suitcase and fly to a new country with different ways. And not just for the sake of travelling but to serve God in communities in Cambodia.
It’s been four months. Just two left. The thought of having to leave behind the dusty streets and the oven temperatures is beginning to dawn on me with more than a twinge of sadness.
Cambodia has changed me
Although it seemed like another world in the beginning, it has now grown close to my heart and feels like a second home.
But coming to this point took a while and I still often feel decidedly uncomfortable and challenged because I’m not living in my comfort zone.
The reason I came to Cambodia, was to volunteer with Tearfund’s partner CHO (Cambodian Hope Organisation). One of the main things I’ve been involved in is teaching English at Safe Haven School which provides full-time education for vulnerable children.
Teaching has really pushed me out of my comfort zone.
The first lesson was terrifying and the comfort zone was well and truly out of sight. I had to quickly learn how to lesson plan, innovate and get creative – encouraging 30 children to improve their English.
It felt like an enormous task. It felt like I was responsible to help all the students learn enough to get a good job and lift themselves out of poverty. It felt like it was down to me if I changed their lives or not.
But I’ve grown through those lessons. I’ve grown into my role as a teacher.
I’ve grown to love the children. I’m not sure how much I’m helping. I often feel like I’m failing the students or myself or God because I can’t see any change.
And sometimes I feel like I could despair and lose hope and give up. But God has been teaching me something while I’ve been living outside my comfort zone. It’s different and uncomfortable and new because I cannot do it in my own strength.
When the lessons feel impossible, God is close and he reminds me I was never meant to do it in my own strength. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. And when I am inadequate, he is more than enough.
All the heroes in the Bible weren’t ready for what God had planned for them. Take Moses, Gideon, David or Peter. But what they did was say ‘yes’ and God worked through their weakness to produce mind-blowing results.
So, whenever I feel like the lessons are going nowhere and no-one is learning anything, I need to remember that it is God who is making the seeds grow that I’ve planted in all those children.
And I can rest and trust in him to yield far more than barely acceptable results.
So, what about that comfort zone? I’ve stepped over the line of the comfort zone, I am following God’s call to where he wants me to be. And that was my part: to say yes, to follow, to be available. That’s our part. That’s all God expects from us. It’s not our part to produce the results. God is in control of growing and watering and pruning. And I couldn’t be more glad that I can leave it to him.
‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ Eph. 2:10
Tearfund offer incredible opportunities to serve overseas. Find out more.