Inspiration seems to come at me in stutters – thoughts and words acting us rays of sunlight bursting through the cloud that so often fogs over my heart.
It’s difficult to capture all that I am learning here in South Africa. Its like cupping your hands in front of you during a rainstorm – you may catch a few drops but most of the water falls around you, seeping into the ground until it is gone. Every day seems to hold a new lesson, a new challenge, a new joy – and it’s too much for my mind and heart to hold sometimes. This will just be a little update as to my wanderings.
The last month has been full of adventure:
Two weeks ago we started the service component of our trip. We have been taking a Community Engagement course where we learn how to empower the oppressed and appreciate their unique culture as we go out into the field and serve at some incredible ministries.
I am so so so so so SO blessed to serve at a ministry called Walk In The Light with seven of my peers. This ministry exists to love and support people in the township of Haniville by providing transportation for the sick and elderly, creating a place of refuge for adolescents and children, and pouring income back into the community through crop farming. The fingerprint of God unmistakably covers this ministry – past, present, and future.
Last week we spent four days living on site in a guesthouse while working in the community garden, playing with children, and attending what I can only describe as a community worship conference.
On Saturday young adults gathered in Walk In The Light’s meeting room where they cried out to the Lord in song and preaching for over eight hours. When I say they cried out to Jesus, I seriously mean it. They sang at the TOP of their lungs, worshiping with their whole bodies as they danced before His throne. They fell to the ground sobbing and yelling in a language that I do not understand, and all I could do was watch and wonder at what meaning was flowing from their lips.
I will never know the kind of pain that brings these beautiful people to their knees. I cannot fathom what it is like to grow up in a township where young children are taken advantage of and medical care is hard to come by. I do not know the stories behind the scars that paint many of their limbs. I do not yet know what darkness the Lord has pulled these people out of.
But I know well the hope that I see on their faces.
My culture and language have not taught me to worship as they do, but I know the joy that makes hands raise towards heaven. I know the revelation of salvation that brings tears to the eyes and causes the knees to buckle.
I – a privileged white girl from suburban America – have also been saved by a grace that I cannot begin to explain. Often I have felt guilty for my place of origin. Why was I born into a loving family in free America while others are born into destitution and poverty? Who am I to walk into their lives as an outsider unfamiliar with their joys and their sorrows? How can I be expected to bring them relief or salvation or change?
But this is not what I have come to do. I have come to learn. I have come to hear their stories and experience their hearts so that I can appreciate their unique culture and the way our Lord has come down to save them. I have come to try to understand. I have come to love.
May all of us who are involved in peaceful struggles for human promotion bear this in mind always; it is good that our hands help the flight of the poor, but may we never dare to take the place of their wings. – Dom Helder Camara
I will not pretend to know the answer to these people’s problems, but I will love with all that I have in the hope that they will be empowered to look inside themselves for the solution to their pain. It is my hope that as my team looks up to the heavens for guidance, the people of Haniville will also train their eyes on the horizon – toward the only One who can invade both of our cultures, both of our hearts, and bring us the grace we so desperately need.
And I will return to America without feeling guilty for my heritage and family and story. For just as Jesus has saved them in their cultural context, so have I been saved in the midst of mine. Just as they can use their experiences for His glory, so I can use mine to give Him praise. Just as they must sacrifice their resources for His benefit, so must I use what I have been given to further His kingdom. We are different in so many ways, but we are all servants of the same God. And as long as our hearts are dedicated to His calling, we need not play a game of comparison and shame.
I wrote the above the above paragraphs last week after returning from overnight stays at Walk In the Light. Frankly, my sentiments have been greatly challenged through the last few days of our service. The effectiveness of our efforts are not obvious at WITL since most of our days are spent laboring in the fields, weeding and planting so that the ministry can generate more income from farming Rose Geranium plants. We have not been as directly involved in the community as I had hoped we would be.
Once again, Jesus is shattering our expectations and molding us in ways that we don’t always understand or appreciate in the moment.
I believe that true integrity and character is tested in the small moments, not necessarily the big ones. It is faithfulness and obedience in the seemingly insignificant, repetitive, tiresome moments of our lives where we are put to the test.
As my sore body squats in the blazing sun, cut and bruised fingers digging at dry, hard dirt to make room for a tiny plant to root and grow, my faith is stretched. I must admit that in the last week my heart has grown faint as I searched for my purpose here. What tiny dent does my labor make in all that must be accomplished on this farm? How is my isolated work benefiting the oppressed in this community? How can I love the widow and the orphan when I spend most of my days bent over plant and soil?
Honestly, I still cannot give you a complete answer. I know that our hands make room for the workers to rest a bit, and that they are grateful for our efforts, but my pride longs to know that lives are touched and changed by my presence.
Once again, I know I need to unclench my tiny fists and uncross my stubborn arms. I need to be like Mary and sit down at the Master’s feet to learn and listen, rather than running around like Martha, frantic to create purpose and meaning with my actions.
WOW – even with the above narrative I have not fully conveyed all that I am wrestling through and learning here in South Africa. With only a little over a month left in this country, I am determined to look for joy and remain rooted in the present no matter what discomfort or challenge I face.
I know that even in my frustrations, I am being transformed. I will return to America changed from when I left two and a half months ago. Despite all that I miss from home, I am so thankful for this experience and for those who are wrestling through it with me.
Until next time, cyber world.