So one year ago today we arrived in South Africa. I think we were still in shock that our missing passports actually arrived and that we left only 24 hours after our initial departure date. I am thankful that today we are not flying around the world with 3 little ones. But as I write this we are in the midsts of packing once again to move in two weeks and expecting our fourth baby in January.
There is no possible way to summarize a whole year or explain all that has happened. But needless to say we have had days of joy, days of challenges and then seasons of both. God has provided His grace abundantly.
In some ways it feels like we have been here a lot longer than a year. For most missionaries they are in a totally foreign place but for us this felt like coming home. We jumped back into a place that felt familiar. And in other ways it was brand new. We moved to a new city where we didn’t know anyone and soon realized that our new city was very different from where we had lived before.
When we were raising support everyone told us to raise more than what we needed because people would drop their support for various reasons in your first year. By God’s grace we have such a wonderful team of partners. So a year later we are still at 100% and so humbled by each and every person, family, and church that chooses to make this ministry and our family a part of their lives each month. Thank you to those who are a part of this. Your giving does not go unnoticed from this side and we love you all!
This year has not been without its challenges though. We have had to learn to say no. We have had to push our insecurities aside and push through difficult situations. Working to plant a church that reflects our entire community with each culture represented has been hard. We have had many people leave when we started moving in this direction saying that “if we aren’t the majority race we cannot come here”. In a city that is still very segregated we feel we go against the grain most days. But there has been an equal amount of joy in knowing that each person the Lord has brought to the church is such a gift. To see our church here really grasp the vision for what the boy of Christ looks like is so encouraging. Colossians 3:23-24 I need reminded of constantly. That we do all of this with all that we have but not for men, for the Lord.
When we came here there were 2 kids in the Sunday School program and in the last 3 months since changing venues it has grown to 30+ kids. We have 4 home languages represented and even two dogs that like to make a regular appearance. For me (Tara) this has been one of the most challenging tasks. How to you integrate kids from totally different cultures, languages, and experiences. The lessons from scripture apply to all of them but they need very different things. To be honest it has been emotionally draining. To have kids ages 4-9 years old come to church dirty, hungry, and high from smoking pot and sniffing glue is heartbreaking. Actually that doesn’t even describe it. It feels soul crushing at times. Most of these kids are young boys.
In a culture that tells them that
they aren’t worth much,
they should dull their minds with drugs because it’s better,
be tough because that’s the only way to survive,
push and bully others, especially women because that’s how you will gain respect,
don’t worry about school it’s mostly a waste of time,
and there is no hope of a different life for you…ever.
My heart so longs for them to know the truth of God’s word that says
they are fearfully and wonderfully made,
living for a purpose,
deeply loved by God,
worth Him sending His Son to die for them.
I watch those kids walk home every week and pray for them. It’s rare that I sleep well on Sunday nights. Okay, being 8 months pregnant might have something to do with that as rolling over seems to be more challenging these days but it’s not just that. I often wake up in the night prompted to pray for them. It’s a spiritual battle that is strong. Can you imagine how much their lives would be changed by meeting and knowing Jesus? How a community could change because young men grew in the love an knowledge of Christ? I come away every week knowing how much Satan does not want us here.
We have had the privilege to develop some wonderful friendships and build into others lives. And be built into by many at our church and other friends in ministry.
Just this last week we were able to attend the graduation for the bible school Wade teaches at. There were 13 from Wade’s class. Truly inspiring to see these men and women who have worked so hard for the last two years be honored. Its so exciting to see how God will use them in their churches, families, and our community. We are praying that one day soon God will allow one of these students to lead the church plant here.
Our family has grown in MANY ways this last year. Aislinn turned 3, Finnegan just turned 6 and Maeve who was only 7 months when we arrived is now 19 months. And now a little boy will be added to the family soon. The kids have adjusted so well. Finnegan is about to finish up what is equivalent to Kindergarten and will move into grade 1 in January. He loves school, wants to be a vet when we grows up and has just lost his second tooth. Aislinn has only grown in her personality and love for life. She has done so well at her school this year which is all in Xhosa. It is very cute to hear her walking around clicking and using her new words. The other day she named one of her stuffed animals “Mgqibelo” which means Saturday. Then she decided that his name should be hopefulness. She is very excited for the new baby to come soon! Maeve it feels is a totally different child. She is walking, has almost a full mouth of teeth, and loves to get into everything! She thinks she is one of the big kids now and wants to do everything she sees her older siblings doing. So she is keeping us laughing and on our toes these days.
For Wade and I one of the things I am most thankful for this last year is that in a time that has been full of transitions we are still in love. It might sound silly but it doesn’t seem like that to us. We have been pulled in many different directions, asked to do a lot of new things that take us outside of our comfort zone and have needed to depend on each other in new ways than before. Roles, schedules, expectations have changed, but in all of this we have grown closer to each other.
So a year is at a close but we are looking forward to what the next one brings. Reflecting on all that has happened we praise God for holding us close and leading us. Thank you for your prayers, support and encouragement. Please pray for us as we move into a new year and anticipate lots of changes.