Well guess what? I have successfully arrived in my new home country of South Africa. It all feels like a dream to me. Please bear with me on what is bound to be a long post. I just have so much to share with everyone.
When thinking about what to name this post, I thought that the title patience would be appropriate for a few reasons. The first one being me wanting to thank you guys for your patience with me. I know that many of you have been waiting for this blog, but surprisingly even after graduation, the procrastination continues!
So for those of you who have been waiting, here is my blog! Before I left, many had quite a few questions about what I was doing, where I was going... Hopefully I am going to answer some of your questions here.
1.) Where are you going? (or where are you?)
I am currently in Johannesburg, South Africa at my in country orientation. On Tuesday we will be relocating to Pietermaritzburg until the following Monday. That Monday will be an exciting day as I move to my year long home in rural Masealama, Limpopo, South Africa. I will be hosted by the Dean (lutheran pastor), but will be living on my own in her house.
2.) Who are you going with?
I am blessed to be able to be working as a volunteer for the next year with the ELCA's young adult group missions program called YAGM. This year they have sent 65 young adults all over the world accompanying those they meet.
I have started this journey with 9 awesome individuals from all of the United States. (Even Alaska). We have spent the past week and a half together for orientation, and will continue to stay together for about another week. At the end of this week we will be starting out for something new. Each and everyone of us has our own placement site. In fact, some of us are quite a good distance from each other. The next time the all of us will be together will be in November! Although I am so very excited to get to my new home, it is going to be quite sad to leave these amazing people!
3.) What are you doing?
As a volunteer this year, I have the responsibility of working 35-40 hours a week at my placement sites. My placements are more than perfect for me. I first will be working at a creche, which is a daycare/preschool and also at the local church. Over the summer I have been asked quite a few times how are you serving in this community? The answer is through accompaniment.
Now what is accompaniment?
Accompaniment is: walking together in solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality. In this walk, gifts, resources and experiences are shared with mutual advice and admonition to deepen and expand our work within God's mission.
When reading this definition the first thought that pops into my mind is relationship. Building a relationship in hopes to learn others stories and developing the opportunity to share mine. To be honest this idea of just growing in relationship use to be a challenge for me. Years back I use to believe that the only way to help another person was through giving them something. Whether it be a meal, a roof or a new bathroom floor, whatever I could provide had to be tangible. It wasn't until working for the Appalachia Service Project that I realized the importance of just a simple conversation. Building a roof or a floor may only last a number of years, but building in a relationship can last a lifetime. A few years ago, while working for ASP, I found this quote and it became something that I referred to every once in a while to remind myself to slow down and love the people around me.
"More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories, and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but you truly love them." ~Henri Nouwen
Our God is a God of relationships, and it is my goal to love the people and build relationships with the Masealama community, just as He taught us.
This past week, at our orientation in Chicago, I learned so much about being in relationship and ministry with others. Before leaving for I questioned what we could possibly be doing for a week? It wasn't until I got there that I realized it's importance. What an amazing feeling it is to be surrounded by 65 young people fired up for The Lord and ready to explore the world. I told my mom the other day "these are my people!" Spending time in sessions, worship and relaxation put me in the most unbelievable place of peace. I had never felt anything like it. From the second I stepped into orientation, the peace was there. Guess what, it is still there! Hallelujah...I have found my place! For those who may not know, I have struggled a good portion of my life being content where I am. I am grateful to be able to say that I am more than content, I am HAPPY. While there is no doubt that I miss my family and friends already, I know that The Lord called me to this place and this is where I belong. This is where my second point of patience comes in. I have spent years trying to find the right fit for me. It feels so great to have found it!
I am realizing that this post is getting pretty lengthy and to be honest I need to go to bed (jet lag is still killing me! ). I will be writing another post soon about the amazing things I am experiencing just at orientation.
Thank you for listening to the beginning or my journey, and thank you so much to those who have supported me financially, spiritually and emotionally!
Hamba kahle (goodbye in Zulu- see I've learned things already! :) )
Go Boldly. Shine brightly. And do all things for the Glory of God!