My stint in South Africa is wrapping up back where it began, in the hectic chaos of the Scheepers’ household. The location is different than when I landed in November—they’ve moved into the newly-minted Adieu Good News Centre, and so far I have been able to find a seat in the lounge every single day (!) The pace is the same if not faster—multiple bulk food buys, parcel assembly and distribution, uniform purchasing, Saturday Bible club, giving out crèche resources, homework club, crèche courses, cooking courses, jumble sales, prep work for the Women @ the Well weekend, and the on-going project of painting, rearranging, and kitting out the new volunteer accommodation. (And that was all just this past week….)
The days are flying. The weeks are flying. And I cannot believe how quickly the past 8 months have gone.
My time in South Africa has been such an incredible, challenging, beautiful, and convicting experience.
Here are a few of the lessons that I have learned:
I have learned that God always comes through in the clutch. Always. The food stretches. The car goes miles and miles after the gas light comes on. Helping hands show up at exactly the moment you need them most. People fly in from all over the world, and always seem to have exactly the right answers to the questions you have been grappling with. Prayers are answered. Needs are met.
Some mornings you will be out the door before sunrise, running on coffee and prayers and a vague semi-idea of where you’re supposed to be going. You will find the place. The people you are supposed to be meeting will show up. You will all end up where you’re supposed to be. It will all come together. Not because you planned it well and controlled all the variables, but simply because God is holding everything together.
Some afternoons you will roll into the township by yourself, in a car that you only just barely know how to drive properly (on the left side of the road, at that), and your car will be met by dozens of children, way more than usual, expecting you to lead a class. You will find tables and chairs and pencils and papers for all of them. They will listen to most of what you have to say. The older ones lean in, eyes bright, as you explain something they missed the first time through. The younger ones press up against you, chattering in Zulu, content in your presence. And you will just stand in wonder, this blonde Canadian girl alone in the middle of a South African township, feeling somehow completely at home.
I have learned that while I have a lot of weaknesses and limitations, God doesn’t. Our God is great, and powerful, and mighty to save, and able. There are countless times when my first inclination to a request was to say no, not me, I can’t do it, choose someone else. But so much of the time, there simply is no one else. And so you take a breath, and say a prayer, and suddenly you are driving stick shift, you are hemming shirts, you are cooking meals, you are organizing hundreds of strangers, you are teaching a Sunday school lesson on 10 seconds notice, you are the ambulance, you are the mediator, you are the voice somehow rising above the clamour a hundred kids. I am none of those things. Previous to South Africa, I had never done any of those things. But you take a breath, and say a prayer, and God comes through, and takes over, and uses you. Because that’s really the only way that any of those things happened. I have a lot of weaknesses and limitations, but God can use me anyways.
I have learned that the body of Christ is incredibly diverse, and that it is also incredibly beautiful. Services of remembrance often don’t look the same in South Africa as they do in Canada. The roof leaks, you sit around the buckets on the floor, collecting water. The windows are broken, loud beats drift in from the neighbours next door. Toddlers wander in and out, and no one is quite sure who they belong to. Some parts of the service are in English, most parts are Zulu. Sometimes there is a translator. Sometimes you don’t need one. The singing is acapella. You stand up. You clap your hands. You sway. Sometimes you jump. Sometimes everyone is out into the aisles, dancing up to the front. And in the African sunshine, or in the African downpour, you are huddled close to men and women who are your brothers and sisters. And their eyes shine, and their singing is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard, and you are with family, and Jesus is there, in that room.
I have learned that the good news of the Kingdom of God is not merely bound up in future fulfilment. The reality of God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice change things in the here and now. I’ve seen the hungry fed, the poor clothed, orphans taken in, the sick healed. I’ve seen the downtrodden begin to grow into the stature of Christ, the oppressed lifting up their hands in praise to God for the showers of blessings they have received. I have seen faith in a hospital, hope in a squatter camp, and love in a country with a history of dehumanizing oppression. I’ve witnessed the call of Jesus being acted out, and I have seen the way that this call, this message, is changing individuals, families, and entire communities. The Kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing.
I am deeply thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to spend so much time learning here. The brothers and sisters of South Africa have been incredibly hospitable and encouraging throughout my stay. The volunteers that I’ve had the privilege of serving alongside have been an on-going source of inspiration, support, and laughter. God has been utterly steadfast in His love and guidance. He who promised is faithful.
And He will bring it to pass.