As you know, we just got back from a 10-day trip to South Africa with a group of blog readers. Many people asked for more details on why we went, what we did on the trip, and who went with us.
I have a lot of posts I want to share in the upcoming days with various stories from the trip, lessons learned, things that especially impacted me, plus lots and lots of pictures. But before I get to those, I wanted to start by sharing some of the backstory on the trip and what the purpose of the trip was.
As most of you know, our family has been very invested in South Africa for the past two and a half years. Earlier this year, we were brainstorming with our friends from Help One Now about ways to be more involved and proactive about the work of Take Action Ministry in South Africa.
At that meeting, I happened to briefly mention something about a dream of mine to take a group of readers with me to South Africa so they could see the work that is happening there firsthand. That small comment soon turned into real conversations and emails about an actual trip.
Pretty soon, we were mapping out the details and coming up with the application form for me to post on my blog for those interested in applying.
In all honesty, asking people to pay for the trip, travel halfway around the world, and make a lot of sacrifices to make this happen was scary to me. I wondered, “What if no one applies?” “What if we do all of this work and then no one actually commits to the trip?”
The day that we posted the application was a little nerve-wracking for me. But I did it, because I really felt strongly that this was the next step in the journey of being involved in South Africa.
And guess what? We had a lot more applications than we could accept!
My team and the folks from Take Action and Help One Now sifted through the applications and ended up choosing the final based upon a lot of different factors (I wasn’t involved in this process because I knew it would be too hard for me to try to choose who should and shouldn’t be accepted!!)
Once they’d chosen the final team of people and those team members had committed, we got down to planning the nuts and bolts of the actual trip — from dates to flights to what we’d be doing while on the ground, plus all of the logistics that would be required to pull off a trip like this.
I’m incredibly grateful for all of our friends in South Africa who put in a LOT of time and effort to plan the itinerary for us and then go to so much effort to make sure that our trip was as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
The hospitality of the South Africans is just amazing. They truly seemed to think of every little detail — beforehand and while we were there. From making sure we had time to rest, to giving us a detailed itinerary every day, to making sure we had more than adequate food and snacks (and cake!!), to seeing that we got to experience a lot of the rich culture of South Africa, too, and so much more!
They took such good care of us and I’ve already heard from multiple people who were on the trip asking if there’s a chance they can go again! 🙂
While I was so happy for everyone to get to experience the amazing warmth and welcome from the South Africans, the goal of the trip was much more than that! I had three main objectives for the trip:
1. To share the work being done by Take Action Ministry
A blog post about the projects and opportunities and amazing impact and potential just could never compare to actually going and being on the ground and getting to see things up close and first hand.
I try to share as much as I can here in words and with pictures, but it’s nothing like getting to go and touch, taste, see, smell, and hear it yourself.
We got to go and see the Centres, meet the leaders and Caregivers, visit the homes, hear about the programs in place for preventing hunger and providing nutritional food, see the desperate needs with our own eyes, play with the kids, learn about the educational programs in place, see the Community Gardens and meet with those who are teaching the locals about farming and agriculture, eat with the locals, hear about the ongoing water shortage crisis, hug the babies, dance and sing with the kids, help pass out food, go to the grocery store, try new foods, encourage the local leaders, learn more about the job creation programs, and get to pray with the Take Action Ministry Team.
2. To encourage & support the local leaders
I have a very limited knowledge of overseas missions, but from my experience with the Take Action Ministry team, I’m learning that it means the world for people to not just pray and give from afar, but to actually make the effort and sacrifice to come and be with them.
To hang out with them, to celebrate the progress that has been made, to talk about their current struggles, to really listen to their hearts and needs, to pray with them, to laugh with them, to eat together, to enjoy everyday life together… most of all, to just be with them. To let them know that they are not alone, that they are not forgotten, and that we are standing with them in the work they have been called to do.
It was amazing to get to bring a team of people this time — people who were eager to learn more, to hear more about the work, to ask questions, to love these local leaders well, and to prayerfully consider how God would have them be involved in this work longterm.
That’s why this was not a Mission Trip, but a Relationship Trip. We were going to learn from the local leaders, to love on them, and to introduce our good friends in South Africa to blog readers who have cared about them from afar and wanted to get to know them in real-life.
Watching the relationships unfold throughout the trip was utterly beautiful! And by the end of the trip, we all felt this strong bond with one another… and were very sad to say goodbye!
3. To assess the current needs & how we can better help
While you can hear about needs from a distance and pray and give from a distance, there’s nothing that beats getting a firsthand look at the needs and brainstorming the best ways for us to come alongside and help meet those needs. Each time we go to South Africa, we come back with a better plan of action for being able to support our friends from Take Action Ministry.
This time around, the group of people who came with us all expressed interest in being involved longterm with the work there. So we exchanged a lot of ideas, talked at length with the Take Action Ministry Team about their most pressing needs, and went home prayerfully seeking the Lord on how we should move forward.
Since this is my third trip to South Africa in less than two years, I realized anew just how much our hearts are tied to this country and how much less foreign and much more familiar it feels.
I know a number of the leaders and some of the locals, I’ve learned some of the basic Afrikaans and Tswana words, I’ve tried a lot of the South African food, I’m familiar with the location of where things are, I know some of the history and stories, the 16-hour flight to get there and back doesn’t seem crazy long anymore, I can find my way around at the stores, I can converse with the locals and understand their accent, I feel very comfortable at the Centres and interacting with the children — even if they can’t speak English, and I’m not even that scared of elephants in the wild (see video proof here)!
I walked through the gate of the Maubane Community Centre the second day and the pastor came over and excitedly greeted me saying, “You’re back!!!”
And I kind of felt like I had come home after months of being away. Because South Africa has become like a second home to me.
We love the people. We love the amazing hope that is shining forth in the midst of great need. We love the food. We love the warmth of the people. And our South African friends have become like family to us — even though so many, many miles separate us.
This country holds such a big piece of my heart. To have the privilege of partnering with Help One Now and Take Action Ministry to impact the lives of hundreds of children and adults and communities just gives me goosebumps.
I love the work that God is doing in South Africa. And I love that God has given our family the opportunity to play a small part in all of it.
And as we come home from this trip, I’m inspired to do all I can to use what God has entrusted to me so I can give more away.