I will be serving the people of South Africa July 4th-August 15th by ministering to children who have been impacted by HIV/AIDs. I would love for you to follow me along the journey.
As I sat with Nontando, Zimkhita, Zintle, and Onika I didn’t want to face the fact that it was my last chance to spend that kind of quality time with them. As I have shared before, night times are the best with these girls. One of the things I have been so grateful for is that I had the chance to live in the same hallway as them, because that last hour of their day that I spend with them is by far the best part of being at the Academy. When the whole day is finished, the girls are ready to relax and chat with me. Because I am in their room, they feel safe to open up and we end up having honest, good conversations. Of course, they are still high school girls, so we spend plenty of time talking about boys, playing with each other’s hair, and laughing at things that are only funny because of the time of night. But those are the moments I will remember most. It’s then that I felt like I was really a part of their lives. I got to play a “big sister” role for them. The house parents would come into the room and get after the girls because they should have already been asleep and then they would find me, the one keeping them awake. Luckily, they were very patient with me and understood how much I valued those times with the girls.
Well, last night (it was probably a couple nights ago now but I have been travelling for hours so I don’t know what day it is) was my final chance to have this time with the girls. They had already gone to their rooms late (my fault for having extra long devotions, but hey, I needed to use that last opportunity of having all their attentions at once to tell them how much I love them). When I went to their room, I planned to simply say “goodnight” and leave them to sleep. However, Onika grabbed one hand and Nontando grabbed the other and they told me they weren’t going to allow me to leave. I spent the next 1 ½ hours laying on Nontando’s bed chatting with the 5 girls who stayed awake with me. I repeatedly tried to leave cause I didn’t want the house parents to catch me keeping the girls awake so late, but when they begged me not to leave, I just couldn’t (this is why I’m the big sister and not the mom).
In our conversation, the girls said a number of times, “You are just like one of us. You belong in South Africa.” Of course, this made me feel pretty special. But beyond that, I couldn’t help but think, “You are preaching to the choir, girls. I feel the same way.” There is a large part of me that feels at home with these girls. I have known for a while that God wanted me in South Africa at some point. But I had no idea for how long He would have me here. When this opportunity presented itself, I felt like it was a good chance to get a glimpse of what role God may have me play in this country in the future. I would love to tell you that I now know exactly what God has in store for me, but when has that ever been the case?
I am not sure yet if God has long-term plans for me in South Africa or not. What I do know is that I am leaving this country knowing that it is not a “goodbye” but a “see you later.” I know that God has given me the opportunity to lead a trip with a group of students from Biola and we will be coming back to South Africa in January. I know that God is not finished with this yet.
Although I do not fully know what God has in store beyond now, I do know that He has started something that I am ready to continue. I know that I will not be leaving these relationships in my past. I know that God knows what will be and like usual, He will most likely work out a plan that is unexpected and better than one I could have made for myself.
For now, I will go home with these kids on my mind and in my heart. I will continue to seek God for the next steps and I will choose to trust His sovereign hand. It hasn’t failed me yet.
South Africa, I will see you later :)
I leave tomorrow. I have much to say about the last few days here. However, it is almost midnight and I am substitute teaching 6 periods of class tomorrow before I leave for the airport. I need to sleep! More details about my last week will come later.
For now, I would appreciate your prayers as leaving tomorrow is going to be heartbreaking. Pray for me as well as the kids whom I’ve grown close to, that we would all be at peace about the closing of this chapter.
Thanks for being a part of my journey. I’m not ready for it to end.