These Stories Are Just As Much Mine As They Are Yours

Darling, South Africa is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The mountains in the distance, rolling hills dotted with tiny white farmhouses, fields and fields of purple and white flowers, it was breathtaking. But really I think the people in Darling are what truly make the Western Cape so beautiful. While working alongside a church ministry called Jeria Sending, my team and I had the privilege of speaking God’s word to over 150 classrooms, preaching to 18 congregations, taking one shower during the month of October (no worries we took bucket baths every now and again), and making so many new friends that became part of our family, praise Jesus!

The staff members at Jeria and the volunteers are such Spirit-filled people who rely on Christ in ALL ways, I have learned so much by their example. When they pray, they pray passionately, when they teach, they teach truthfully, and when they worship, they worship with all their hearts. The staff members at Jeria Sending work so hard, dedicating all their time to missions, keeping nothing back and giving it all to Christ. After this past month I am thoroughly exhausted, but the work I was doing and more is what these people do all the time day in and day out, and they do it while overflowing with joy. What I witnessed while working alongside them is such an awe-inspiring example of shining Christ’s light. I could go on and on about the many miracles of God I experienced this past month, but let me just share a couple stories and a little bit of my heart.

Darling, and the surrounding towns, is full of alcoholism, abuse, and gangs, we saw the effects of these things so often during our time there. At one of the schools we went to, some of my team members had the opportunity to pray for a 4th grade classroom. When they asked if anyone had specific prayers one kid spoke up and shared that he and some of his classmates were in trouble with the law. He confessed that he and his friends were so drunk the weekend before that they nearly burnt down a building; this was a group of 4th graders, nine or ten years old. They live this lifestyle because honestly they know nothing else, it completely breaks my heart, and all we could truly do was pray. Learning about people’s hurts and sorrows, it’s so difficult, but then again what an honor to be let in. What an honor to know, to be apart of this broken story, to pray for healing and to pray that that day and for many more to come they glimpse just a bit of Jesus’ unfailing love and redemption. That one day, Christ alone captivates their hearts. My entire experience in South Africa has been marked by painful stories like these, but my experience has also been full of Christ reminding me of His unfailing love for everyone.

The story of the rich young man has been on my heart lately. The man asks Jesus “what must I do to have eternal life”, and Jesus lists the commandments, and the rich man says, “Yeah I’ve followed all these commandments”. But Jesus says, “there’s more, give everything you have to the poor and then you will have treasure in heaven. Come, follow me”. And the man walks away filled with sadness, because he couldn’t give up his possessions for Christ. There’s so much I could say on giving everything to Christ, but what has been on my heart is that in the Mark account of this story it says, “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” (Mark 10:21a, italics mine). The man’s heart wasn’t on Christ; it was on his earthly possessions, yet Christ looked at him with love. It’s a love that doesn’t make sense, but I want more and more of it. In Darling I experienced this crazy love in so many ways.

Yeah, Darling is fighting some pretty big fights, poverty, alcoholism, abuse, and even though I spent time with people who told me stories that broke my heart, I also experienced the hope and redemption that Christ is bringing. A friend of mine, Estelle, is mother of four crazy kids, she’s a real comedian and makes me laugh uncontrollably. I had the opportunity to visit the small farm she grew up on and lived in until she was 18. It’s difficult for me to write about honestly, and I almost don’t have words to describe what I experienced while there, because it was such a broken community. The adults fumbling around in a drunken stupor, the children fending for themselves, my mind so easily going to, “there is no hope for these people what are we even doing here?” Then dear Estelle came to my mind. If you ask her about her life she describes it as “God delivered me from that place.” She now lives in a small group of houses near the mission, spends her time raising her kids, is best friends with her sister-in-law, and comes along to the many church services that Jeria Sending has, she’s so full of love and joy. There’s no logical explanation. On a tiny farm where hope seems lost God delivered a young girl and made her new. And I truly believe He’ll do it again and again until His kingdom come. So standing there on that farm, why am here? To stand alongside, to hold the crying woman, to pray over the household, to love people with that crazy Love, to let Christ use my life for His glory. Darling will always hold a piece of my heart.