Y’all. My heart feels like it just might burst right in two. I have fallen madly in love with South Africa.
So many people asked me why I was going on this trip. Part of me knew why: so Lisa-Jo and I could meet with some of the local leaders here and see the work that Take Action Ministries is doing in partnership with Help One Now.
For many months, we’ve been talking and dreaming and praying and planning about how we can come alongside and help in a long-term capacity. I wanted to go and see first before we started any long-term commitment. It was important for me to get to know the people behind the ministry, to get to see the work in person, and to really have a better grasp of the needs in South Africa.
So that was one part of why I said yes to this trip.
But there was another part of me that felt like there were more reasons why I was going on this trip. That God had bigger plans and purposes — that He wanted to do something through this trip that couldn’t be accomplished by me just sending money from afar or reading about a ministry or even seeing pictures or Skyping with those involved in the ministry.
I knew I was supposed to step outside my safe Americanized bubble and go.
And if today was the only day we had on this whole trip, it was every bit worth me coming.
It was worth the time spent preparing.
It was worth a long drive to DC with my family and getting in at 3:30 a.m. in the morning only to discover there had been some miscommunication and our hotel was completely booked (and it was quite the adventure to find another hotel with an open room at 3:30 a.m.!)
It was worth leaving my family in DC and braving an 18-hour flight.
It was worth working through the what ifs.
It was worth every one of those things and so much more.
You see, because today I saw one of the beautiful examples of hope I’ve ever witnessed. Hope in the middle of what many would consider a hopeless situation. Hope where many would have long ago given up.
And not just hope, but joy, and life, and amazing impact.
But before I tell you about that hope, I want to first back up and contrast it with telling you about a woman we met with this morning who lacked hope.
We pulled up to her two-room shack this morning and you could immediately tell that she was tired, exhausted, worn out, and feeling completely overwhelmed with life. She lives in the shack with 3 other adults and 9 children. She spends her days taking care of her two young children and her neighbor’s children, as well as her nieces and nephews.
We tried to encourage her. We brought fruit for the children. We asked about her needs. But the whole time, her eyes just had this glazed over look. From what she told us, she’s been living like this for a long time and she doesn’t see a way out.
She’s lost any drive or motivation she once had. And she’s just barely making it through each day.
Her facial expressions and tone of voice just exuded lifelessness and hopelessness. Take Action Ministries has been checking in on her and doing what they can to help her. They’ve encouraged her to do what she can to take some baby steps toward progress in her life. But she’s lost her drive and motivation.
As I watched her, my heart hurt for her. This is the only life she knows. She’s probably never had any good examples or models in her life. But at the same time, if she doesn’t want to take tiny steps to climb out of the hole she’s in, she’s never going to make any progress.
Take Action is going to continue encouraging her and making sure her children have food to eat and clothes to wear and they also want to do all they can to encourage her children to break free from this vicious cycle of hopelessness.
When we left her house, we had many discussions about what we could do to spark even a drop of hope in the lives of women like this. There are so many women who feel just like this mom does and it’s an epidemic that’s sweeping so many countries — including America.
For the next few hours, as we had meetings with the amazing folks from the Take Action Team. We talked more about the pressing needs, the greatest struggles, and how we can partner with them in the most effective manner.
(Side note: We’ve bonded so quickly with the Take Action Team — Annelien, Wanda, Jonna, Peter, Darrin, and Morne — that we feel like we’ve known them for years. These are truly some of the most selfless, warm, gracious, and giving people I’ve ever. They’ve opened their homes and hearts to us and we are already dreading having to say goodbye to them in a few days!)
All the while, my brain was in fast-forward strategy and analyst mode thinking of how we can actually spark hope for these women who are struggling with so much hopelessness. The need is staggering and there are no quick fixes or pat answers.
As I was contemplating this, we drove up to our next destination, the Reagoboka Drop-in Centre and Early Childhood Development Centre, and sparks of hope came hitting at us from all directions. Elizabeth, the beaming leader of these centers came running out to greet us.
She was excitedly laughing and exclaiming over and over again about all of the wonderful things happening in their centers. She was the epitome of hope.
But here’s the thing: in many people’s eyes, she shouldn’t have hope. In fact, she should be exhausted, overwhelmed, and discouraged. She’s worked incredibly hard, managed what little she has well, and has poured out herself for her community.
Because Elizabeth has chosen to persevere in spite of the odds, because she’s chosen to make the most of the little she has, because she’s chosen to do all she can to make an impact in her community, literally hundreds of children have been fed, cared for, loved on, and invested in over these past years she’s been running the home.
And we got to meet these children and we were blown away by the joy in their faces, the spark in their eyes, and zest they all have for life.
We played with the children, held the little ones, met the incredible team of Care Givers, asked lots of questions, saw their tiny facilities and how they are making the most of them for the 100+ children they currently help, and ate lunch with them.
The children were all smiles and hugs and the Care Givers were laughing and playing with the kids and exclaiming to us how much they loved working with the children and helping the community. All around, we saw hope bursting forth. I was contagious and inspiring.
And it was all because one woman chose to not be overwhelmed by her limited circumstances, but to do what she could, with what she had.
She has not only inspired and impacted countless families in this community, but her life will forever impact mine.
A big thank you to Anthony Churchyard for donating his time and skills to capture hundreds of pictures and videos for us today! There will be many more stories and pictures to come in the weeks and months ahead! I have dozens of blog posts percolating in my brain right now. 🙂