Now headed into our fifth week in South Africa, I can say with all honesty that I have never fallen in love with anything the way that I have with everything about this place. Even through the chaotic, tough, exhausting days, God has proven undeniably faithful. There has not been a day to pass by that was not made beautiful by His love. When the days get difficult, the sheer joy from the kids, mentors, teachers and my host family surpasses all of the adversity.
Each day, we wake up in the homes of families who have graciously opened their doors and hearts to host us. It is quite remarkable to me, the people that I have gotten to know in my life because of the love of Christ being shared among nations. Through the name of Jesus, our team has gotten to not only experience life on another continent, but live out our day-to-day routine alongside those who call this place home. These people that God has placed in my path, the children especially, have absolutely captivated my heart and filled it to a capacity I didn’t know was possible. I have also come to embrace God’s hand in having my heart simultaneously be shattered yet overwhelmingly overjoyed. When I asked God to break my heart for what breaks His, He was faithful no doubt and remains faithful. When I asked Him to give me even a glimpse of His love for all people, He delivered to say the very least and is still revealing His heart daily. As contrary as these things may seem, I have learned and really come to know that He makes indescribably beautiful things out of ruins. When it’s difficult to pick my heart up off the floor because it’s been made unbearably heavy that day, God’s love dives in and lifts me higher than I had been before. When I look into the eyes of the little girls or little boys at the school and know they have a rough home life, aren’t doing well in school and struggle to believe they have what it takes to thrive, I hurt for them. God was giving me exactly what I asked for; a heart for all people. C.S. Lewis once said “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” Giving your heart away is paralyzing, especially when your past contains a lot of hurt, but I promise you that burying your heart to keep it safe only suffocates it. Truly loving and investing in someone means to embrace what breaks their heart as your own heartbreak. No, this isn’t easy, but when you have Christ walking at your side, revealing to you that He is present, His love overcomes, and He hasn’t given up on any of us, there is restoration. Loving one another, even through the hardship, to love Christ above all else changes everything. Instead of loving to be loved in return, but rather selflessly pouring into people, having your heart break for theirs and allowing Jesus’ love to be the cornerstone of it all brings insurmountable joy and healing to the dark, beaten and tattered places.
On the days my heart is heavy for the people I’ve come to adore, I am reminded that God loves them so much more than I ever could and He not only wants what’s best for them, but has what is best for them. I have learned many things about people and life, I have also unlearned so much that was previously known to me. Without a doubt, though, the most valuable thing I have learned to live out in my daily life is to have a complete reliance, trust and dependence on God, that He will make all things beautiful, even what may seem to only be ruins.
Now for story time…
Each day, I get to be a part of a first grade class with 17 beautiful, and often rambunctious, students. Although it has its challenges mentally and physically, I absolutely love each and every one of them (along with all of the others I’ve had the opportunity to know). Despite knowing the tough situations of many of these beautiful children, nothing compares to having them know they’re loved first by the King of Kings and that they know they have all the love my heart can give. This past week one of my little girls, who is as rowdy as can be, came to me and asked me if I thought she was beautiful. That was the first time I had seen her stand still long enough to be serious about anything and that is what she asked? From then on, all of my little girls and little boys got told they are crazy, beautiful and loved. Soon it became a silly song and dance.
“Are youuu crazy?” to which anywhere from 3-15 kids at any given time respond with “Yeees we’re crazy” while doing a goofy jig.
“Are youuu beautiful?” doing a sassy number they respond “Yeees we’re beautiful.”
“Do I love you?” making hearts with their hands, waving them in the air, they sing back “Yeees ma’am loves us.”
“Does God love you?” reaching their hands to the sky, they finish off with “Yeees God loves us!!!!”
It’s so simple, but through the tough situations, that silly little dance brings so much joy to all of us. Now, throughout the day I have any given number of kids pulling at my shirt asking for me to do the dance with them. And before I leave for the day, I can ask any one of these kids “Hey, what are you?” to which I get the response “I am beautiful girl/boy”. It is no longer a question in their minds whether they’re beautiful, whether I love them or whether they have the love of Christ. So even when they get a question wrong in class, don’t understand the lesson or know life at home isn’t ideal, they have a place to know they are crazy, beautiful and loved. I thank d continuously for His love, this place, the people He surrounds me with and each and every one of these children.
I love people, because I love Him and He is love.
2 John 1:12 -“Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”
Until next time, friends.
So much love from South Africa. God bless.