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I found my happiest place on earth!

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The second to last day in South Africa, we visited the Maubane Community and participated in their children’s church service. There are not words to describe how incredible this experience was.

You see, most of these children live right across the street from this colorful playground (that you helped build!) in little homes — mostly made of cast-off supplies they’ve recycled into building materials. Many of these children don’t have parents or their parents are working in the city so they don’t see them but maybe on the weekends.

The majority of these children know hunger and want as a daily part of their lives. They have very few possessions and very little to look forward to. Despite all that, every Sunday, these children gather with Pastor Norman for an exuberant children’s church service.

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To see these children joyfully and enthusiastically clapping and shouting and singing about the goodness of God… it was soul stirring.

I didn’t understand a lot of the words they were saying and shouting and singing at the top of their lungs, but I didn’t need to. Their enthusiasm, their heart, their hope, their happiness all spoke louder than words ever could.

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After they were finished with their church service, the toddlers were called over to line up for food. They had a very special treat that day — Walkie Talkies (i.e. chicken feet & chicken beaks). The leaders there told me that it is rare for them to have meat so this was a very special occasion for them. {Take Action Ministries paid for some of the locals to make this for them as a treat because we were going to be there visiting.}

The leaders also told me that they have the toddlers line up first to give the older children a short break from caring for their younger siblings. Since there are so few parents around in this community on a daily basis, the older children often have to look after their younger siblings much of the time.

These older children shoulder a great deal of responsibility and burden and the church leaders try to give them a break as often as they can by having the toddlers all line up and sit down to eat together so the older kids can talk and play together.

We spent some time hanging out with the older kids. Taking pictures, laughing, talking, and even being quite goofy (as those who know me well know I am an expert at!)

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I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but pretty soon, different children just randomly started coming up to me and hugging me. From the littlest ones to the teens, they all seemed desperate for love and affection. And the more kids who hugged me, the more the line grew of kids wanting to be hugged.

As more and more children hugged me and held on tightly, my heart began feeling like it just might rip into shreds. I tried to look into each child’s eyes and also speak words of life:

“You are loved.”

“You matter.”

“God has something special for you to do.”

“I love you.”

I felt so overwhelmed by the needs. It wasn’t just the need for food and shelter and clothes and schooling. More than any of that, these children are starving for love. To know that someone cares about them. To know that they have value.

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As I found myself surrounded by these beautiful children, I wanted to just weep and laugh at the same time. Because I knew then and there that, going forward, one of my callings in life would be to see to it that none of these children in the Maubane Community go hungry again.

That none of them die from disease. That none of them miss out on an education. But most importantly, that I do all I can to provide opportunities for them to know that they are loved — not only by other people, but by a Heavenly Father who created them and has infused them with gifts and talents and worth.

Right there, on the red dirt of South African soil in that huddle of children, I discovered my happiest place on earth.

Somewhere deep in my soul, I felt right at home. Right where I was supposed to be. Doing what I was created to do. The only that would have made it more complete would have been to have my husband and children by my side experiencing it with me.


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When I finally had to say goodbye, I could barely keep back the tears. One boy who was around 13 years old asked me, “Why are you going?”

I thought, “Trust me, child, I’m asking the same thing!”

But instead, I told him: “I will come back.”

And, by the grace of God, I will. I will come back as often as I can. And when I’m not there I will carry the stories and the faces and the hugs with me everywhere I go.

Because I left part of my heart behind in South Africa. And I will never be the same.

P.S. Thank you, thank you, thank you to each of you who have joined me in this cause that I have become fiercely passionate about. I know not everyone has the wiggle room in your budget to give money and not everyone is called to give to this project, but you have no idea how humbly grateful and excited I am that 130 of you have joined Lisa-Jo and me in making a difference in these poor communities in South Africa!

Your partnership in the #TenDollarTribe is going to make a major difference in the lives of all of the children you see pictured in this post plus many more. And it thrills my heart!

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  • Lisa-Jo says:

    Just covered in chills reading this. Isn’t amazing how often it’s all that power of hope and joy and potential that moves us more than anything else. Like I HAVE to be part of that, yes? Still can hardly believe the gift of you coming with us Crystal. Thank you thank you thank you. #Family

  • Charlotte says:

    I feel the same way about my foster children. You just don’t know the shape the kids will come to you in. The more I learned about their life at home the more I just wanted to keep them with me to protect them and keep them out of harm’s way. The kids starve for a mother and a father that will love them unconditionally. When my husband comes home, they cling to him. I didn’t know what kind of difference I would make and I am so glad to have brought these children into my home. The Lord has truly blessed me by it. I am glad the Lord has blessed you by helping the children in South Africa. Your stories have been wonderful to read.

  • Kelly says:

    I love that the Lord is using me to reach children in South Africa to show the love of Jesus! Thank-you Crystal for doing your part!

  • Becky says:


  • Ginger says:

    I love this SO much!!! Excited to see the big ways the Lord will be using you!!!

    • Katina says:

      I’m just blown away and speechless. All of sudden tears is just streaming down face. I’m just so touched and moved. Thank you for all you do.

  • Tracy Walker says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful experience and story with us!! God bless you, Crystal.

  • Cari says:

    That must be an amazing feeling to feel at home and doing what you feel you were made to do! Obviously they felt it too as they were drawn to you and the love you had for them. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story!

  • Nichole says:

    Your stories about Africa have opened my heart. At first I didn’t want to read them, but when I read about not complaining about dishes it really hit home. I’ve been struggling so much with seeing that as a burden.
    it gave me a new perspective and opened my eyes to see that food is foundational in a child’s life. I know when my 16 month old daughter is hungry she doesn’t function well. So I have asked me husband if we can give to an organization that feeds children.

  • janelle says:

    Tears, heartache, the weight of the world. That is what I felt as I read this post from the comfort of my sleep number bed in a toasty warm 4 bedroom, two car garage home. I can’t even imagine how those children must feel. I am so, so appreciative of your posts like this that *really* take me out of my comfort zone. I have a toddler, and my heart absolutely aches for the older children caring for toddlers day in and day out with such a small reprieve during mealtime. I told my husband that for Mother’s day I wanted to join this tribe. I joined online this morning. Thank you so much for putting this on my heart. Please continue to do so.

  • SK Bell says:

    I am just sitting here SOBBING right now!
    I have a 22-month old and a 3-week-old and I just don’t believe right now is the time for me to go to Africa… but someday I WILL go there and experience this joy and beauty for myself.

    I was really inspired by some of your earlier stories and Instagram posts about the trip and it’s been weighing on my heart all this time. We sponsor a young man in Uganda through Compassion and we felt like God was calling us to find a way to sponsor another child. We weren’t sure how we could swing it financially but I kept feeling God was saying “Just find a way. FIND A WAY.”
    So we decided to try and do it as a group effort. I shared about it on my blog yesterday, for anyone who is interested, and now we’re sponsoring a young lady in Rwanda and hope to have family and friends join in. It brings tears to my eyes when I imagine writing her letters each week telling her just how many people are praying for her, contributing to the sponsorship, etc.

    Thank you SO much for being such a beacon of encouragement Crystal! Your blog and books have encouraged me in so many areas and even though it seems silly since I’ve never met you, I really do think you have made me a better wife, mother, person and are pushing and encouraging even more growth every day. THANKS!!

  • Chanda Crowder says:

    Keep up the good work, fight the good fight, I will be praying for you and the children.

  • Zoleka Mredlana says:

    Oh my Lord, I just can’t believe you were here in my country for real!
    Thank you for the good work that you continue to do. May God bless you and your family. I remember reading that your mother is going to take care of your kids while you were away. Thank you for thinking about us, South Africans.

    Zoleka Mredlana

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