Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sawubona, iNingizimu Afrika

On my way to church this morning I saw a man on the side of the road being assisted by an ambulance crew. He couldn't even sit up, which led me to be assume he was either drunk or dying. Judging by his gaunt frame and the look in his eyes, I am guessing it was the latter.

In that moment, when most people would look away, something snapped in me. My mind finally caught up with my body and a feeling of settledness came over me. As I drove past the burnt veld and the winter landscape, past the street hawkers and newspaper sellers, reassurance washed over me and I made this commitment:
Republic of South Africa, I am making my home with you. I will not turn my eye from your pain and suffering or from your brokenness. I will listen to you. I will reach out and touch you. I will love you. I will journey with you as I follow Jesus and try to understand how His love and redemption make all the difference in the world. I will share my life with you and one day I shall die as one of you. Sawubona, iNingizimu Afrika. I see you.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Living Within the Brokenness

As a Westerner it's my tendency to want to fix what's broken - things, situations... even people. As a Christian I was taught how to "fix" people - quote Romans 8:28, give them godly advice and send them on their way with a quick "I'll be praying for you!" Many times, however, that only leaves people more broken.

I hope I've changed. I hope I'm still changing, because here's what I've discovered so far:

To enter into someone's pain - without fixing it, without advising, and above all without judging - is to share the journey as a fellow traveler, as an equal. To be trusted with someone's deep (and sometimes dark) secrets is to have the honour of holding their heart in your hands. It is a holy moment. And to cry with someone and ache for them as much as they ache for themselves is sometimes the most Christ-like thing you can do.

Love doesn't always need words.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Different Realities

It's our second week back in South Africa and I'm starting to get back into the routine of things, that is to say, my mind is slowly catching up with my body. I'm over jet lag and the worst of my culture shock has passed. There's a lingering disconnect, though, that's been following me around.

A day or two after we returned we found out that a friend of ours had died. Samuel was a hard worker who had the hugest smile and the whitest teeth. We waved to each other every single day, and when he needed medicine he sometimes came to us. There's an empty spot now when I drive by and he's not there to wave and smile. That emptiness is heavy.

This week I found out that the husband of one of my friends is dying. There's nothing - apart from a miracle - that can be done for him, and she is wondering how to tell her 7-year-old daughter. I feel so helpless talking to her. I want so much to DO something... make it better... fix it. There aren't always words to comfort, though. Sometimes all we can do is listen and cry with our friends.

The reality of South Africa is different than the reality of the United States. Death is very much a part of life here. It's raw and gritty and in your face week after week after week like an annoying neighbour who won't leave you alone. It keeps knocking on your door at the most inopportune times.

I wasn't ready for this so soon, but then, is anyone?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Further Thoughts On Jet Lag

The thing about air travel is that it gets you to your destination fast. I went from summer to winter, from northern hemisphere to southern hemisphere, from driving on the right side of the road to driving on the left, and from using Dollars to Rand in less than two days.

The downside to air travel is that while it gets your body to your destination rather quickly, it doesn't give your mind enough time to make a smooth transition.

I've been wandering around aimlessly the past four days and making all sorts of mistakes. I looked for 1-cent coins because I forgot to round down to the nearest 5 cents. I thanked someone in Spanish. I *did* remember to drive on the left side of the road, but I forgot that it's illegal to pump your own petrol here. And I'm grieving the distance between friends and family.

I have this romantic notion that, had I traveled by ship, I would have a few weeks for my mind to wrap itself around all of the changes. I could lean over the ship's railing and add a little salt water into the ocean as I grieve the losses. I could write poetry in my tiny cabin to process my feelings. And I would have time to become excited as the coast of Africa came into view.

Somehow mankind got this idea that faster is better, and maybe it is, but not for everything.

Definitely not for everything.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Home Again

We arrived home yesterday to a layer of dust on everything. If you leave anything in Africa unattended, nature takes over very quickly. Unpacking our clothes was the easy part. Unpacking the journey is quite another.

I keep feeling like I'm standing at a luggage carousel pulling off suitcases filled with my memories. Every time I grab one and try to load it onto the trolley it falls off and spills open, consuming me with pictures, events and strong emotions. It takes so much time to gather the contents back into the suitcase and get it on the trolley, and by that time another suitcase has fallen off and spilled its contents.

Transitions are hard.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The End of Furlough

How can I put into words the past month? Work training, family, friends, dad's funeral, driving back and forth across the state, fitting in coffee dates with as many people as possible, speaking at churches, giving reports to donors and supporters, fundraising and trying to help my kids readjust to their home culture. I literally did not have a free moment to myself except when I was sleeping or going to the bathroom.

I am exhausted. I am empty. I want to cry. I feel pulled in a hundred different directions, and there are still those who are disappointed that we didn't spend enough time with them.

Today the good-byes have started. More people are coming over in a few minutes, people are here now, and I've been with people all day.

I feel incredibly sad.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Don't Worry; I'm Still Here

I realise that I haven't posted in a long time. We've been in the States on a whirlwind tour and I am still dealing with reverse culture shock. I keep rounding down to the nearest 5 cents, I can't get enough Mexican food and I cry every time I go to the grocery store. I am eating fast food at an alarming rate, I get in the car on the wrong side and I haven't had a single moment to myself except when I'm sleeping or using the bathroom.

I had an incredible week of work training, I attended my father's funeral, and I reconnected with friends and family. We traveled the state and I am feeling tired, peopled-out and incredibly loved.

We leave in less than a week and the good-byes have started. They never get any easier.