There are moments that connect me with Africa…moments that transcend time and place…moments that quicken the joy in my heart, and cause me to pause. The sunrise. The majestic faithfulness of it’s pinks and oranges, illuminating the horizon…bringing with it hope for the day, and great joy in the possibilities. The sunrise settling on the horizon, in vivid pinks, purples, oranges and reds…bringing comfort, and a sweet peace that settles on the valley. Dusk brings a warmth and a settling of my soul that wraps my heart and my mind in serenity. It causes me to pause and thank the maker of all things for what He’s given me that day. The brilliance of the moon, the majesty of a star-filled sky. They remind me that though this world is immeasurably too much for me to fathom, it is also small enough that I look upon the same moon as African children…
“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (the Message)
Oh friends! I am so thankful to my husband, who has listened intently and carefully to hours upon hours of stories from South Africa. At 3am, when I cannot sleep, he lays awake next to me, wraps his arms around me and listens. He listens as I call the children by name, as I talk about the days, and reminisce the moments of joy, and celebrate the challenging moments when God saw us through.
This trip for me was a restoration of joy. My last trip to South Africa allowed the Lord the opportunity to open a wound, to clear out the infection, to spread His healing balm on the pain, and pour out His spirit of healing. This trip was all about joy…discovering who I am on the mission field, and returning to a place that holds my heart with a deep, spiritual call.I first want to thank the Lord for an amazing group of people to serve with…our team from theHeart, the Emoyeni & Children’s Cup teams, the Wakeman family, the church in Mooiplass. I count it one of the great privileges of my life to pull weeds, carry cinder blocks, pray, serve food, lead songs, and teach children with an amazing team of people…who were called and appointed for a specific time and season. When the airline tried to charge us $400 for luggage, when our first flight was delayed and we thought we’d miss our Johannesburg flight, when our luggage was delayed 3 days and then arrived wet and mildewy…not one complaint. Not one murmur. No one was distracted or distraught. We carried on…we laughed…we thanked God…and we borrowed Janine’s clothes for church on Sunday. 🙂
This trip was the culmination of one prayer…and one revelation. That He would take care of it. It was His. Night after night I would lay in my bed and say, “God, I can’t do this.” And He would say, “You don’t have to. I am the One who is doing this.” Followed by, “Lord, what if no one wants to come?” “I will call them.” “Lord, what if I don’t have what it takes to lead them?” “I will lead them.” “How will we raise the funds?” “I am your Provider.” “Lord, it’s too hard to leave our girls.” “I will take care of them, as I do every day.” “Lord, I’m afraid.” “That’s why I am here.” “Am I really called to do this? Am I supposed to go?” “Yes, my beloved, yes.”
In the mornings our team prepared the land…laid bricks for the stove…and prepared for the foundation of the Care Point in Mooiplaas. The Care Point is on the property next door to the church. It’s perfect. There is an existing building on the property that they are using as a starting point. From there, classrooms are being built…a kitchen is being built. Stairs with access to the bathrooms at the church were built. There was something so substantial to my spirit about preparing the ground and helping with the foundation of this building. Something so significant about building a stove that will serve hundreds of children. Currently the cooks prepare the meals at a home and carry huge pots down the road to the church to serve the children. No more. As we speak, they can use the stove to prepare the meal right there at the Care Point, and the children can eat at the church until the Care Point is finished. If you carried one of their pots, you’d quickly realize why there is so much joy in the stove being completed. They are heavy! Faithfully these women have prepared and carried these pots…and now the Lord has provided.
In the afternoons smiling children would walk through the gate. Their tummies hungry for food, their hearts ready for love, their spirits ready to receive truth. We spent the week singing, dancing, sharing testimonies and messages, playing soccer, doing art, teaching health and hygiene, laughing at funny skits, busy with crafts…with one main message: He created you. He created you with worth and value. No man can take this away…no matter what they say, no matter what they do to you. He created you, He loves you. He wants to have a friendship with you. He wants to be involved in your life every day. He knows the hairs on your head, He knows every crease in your palm and every print of your finger.
Together we sang, “He knows my name. He knows my every thought. He sees each tear that falls. And hears me when I call.”
This church and the Care Point serve the vulnerable children in the community of Mooiplaas. Children can come to the Care Point for meals, education and tutoring, medical clinics and care, discipleship and love. One of the ways we prepared for this trip was to ask our church family to sponsor children from this specific Care Point. It was such a joy to see how organized and efficient our partner ministries, Emoyeni and Children’s Cup, are in serving these vulnerable children. I was able to meet the child we sponsor, Sanele, and to see firsthand the impact these sponsorships have for these children. On Thursday morning, our team did some home visits to families, to encourage and pray. As we stepped into a Grandmother’s home, she began to list the six grandchildren who live with her. One of them ‘just happened’ to be Sanele. Her grandmother went on to say how she doesn’t have much food or income to provide for the children. She said in the morning she feeds the children pap (similar to cornmeal) and some okra if she has it. She said she tries to give them bread but they don’t always have that. She worries when the children come home from school about what she will feed them. She tries to sell tomatoes, beans, and sweets from her ‘garage’ to provide for the kids. She said she is so full of joy when they come home from the Care Point and tell her that their bellies are full. She doesn’t have to worry. The Lord has provided.
We are trying to spread the word about sponsorship. It is $35 per month for a basic sponsorship, $45 per month to include school fees/expenses. Once 150 children are sponsored the Care Point becomes ‘self-funded’ through sponsorship. This helps to pay the Coordinator of the Care Point and the staff, including the cooks. It employs these precious people and gives the children a ‘home away from home’.
Why are these children vulnerable? Most of them are living with only their mom or grandmother. Sanele lives with her grandmother, one sister, and four cousins. Some are child-headed households. Some are living with relatives who have a hard time providing for their primary family members, let alone additional children. Some carry the burdens of abuse, neglect, and abandonment. Each is so precious. So precious.
It is our church, theHeart’s, vision to maintain a long-term relationship with this community, this church, this Care Point, these children and their families. Sponsored children will receive letters. We’ll continue to take short term teams to this community…each time serving the local church, the Care Point, and the children as our partner ministries, Emoyeni and Children’s Cup, recommend. This is what made me so thrilled about this ministry opportunity. This isn’t a one-time stop in. This is relationship. This is long-term. This is investment. Emoyeni, Children’s Cup, and the local church maintain continual contact and ministry to these kids…from afar and near, we will also. Our hope is that when we return, we’ll continue to invest in the people of this community and that sponsors will be able to meet their sponsored children.
Even as I reread this, my heart quickens. I am full of passion to see these kids taken care of. When we adopted Amari, I knew that God was calling us to this significant place of adoption. I feel a similar feeling to this work. These kids don’t need to be adopted, but they can be sponsored and helped. Each time they receive care, love, affection…their heart builds resilience. They grow stronger. They are better able to face tomorrow, whatever it may bring. That light in their eyes each time they receive a meal, each time they receive help with homework, or learn about God…it builds a strength in them that helps them get through the day, the night, their youth. This is a way to pour into their lives and their hearts in a very tangible and spiritual way.
One of the projects we completed while we were there was a canvas. We painted a heart, matching our logo for our church, theHeart. Each of the children, the team, and the church members who were with us that week put their fingerprints within this heart. The canvas will be displayed in the Care Point. When Pastor Maxwell came into the church and saw the Canvas I explained what the heart meant, and that the children could remember our church family at theHeart. He said, “Aw, I know what to name the Care Point/Preschool.”Pastor Maxwell continued, “Sinethando (We have love)” from theHeart. It was perfect. Beth, who will oversee the classrooms and the preschool said that she was looking for something to put in every classroom to distinguish it from the others – she has decided to put the heart symbol in different colors in each classroom. (The Care Point will also serve as a daycare and preschool. The Care Point will serve children from daycare to youth.)
Every detail of this trip was perfectly designed and appointed. The morning of our departure to go home, I sat on a rock wall and said my goodbyes to Africa in the midst of a gorgeous sunrise. I asked the Lord when I would be back, and if I could bring my family. I closed my eyes and breathed in His spirit, and the spirit of Africa. Until next time…I will hold you in my heart. I will pray. I will remember. I will fight for you in the spirit. I will walk with you. I will dream of that red dirt that covered my toes. And the children who filled my arms. And I will love you.
Africa. You are always a great gift to me. I never leave your land unchanged. Always closer to Him and more in awe of who He is…and who you are.
Thank you for welcoming me…for welcoming our team. We consider it one of the great privileges of our lives to have walked on your soil, to have been challenged by your love, to have witnessed your great strength.
We wait in anticipation for the next time we will behold you, His beloved, in person.
“My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us.” 1 John 3:18-24 (the Message)