So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. (NLT)
This month of April I have discovered that I am the richest girl in the world! No I did not win the lottery or have millions in the bank. I am not even receiving a real paycheck (#TeamFullTimeVolunteer), but despite not illustrating the world’s view of wealth and riches, I have realized that I am in fact the richest girl in the world! So where does my wealth come from? Well it certainly is not found in a bank or in my wallet, but it is found in the amazing, loving, and giving people God has placed in my path all month long! From the start of the month, God has ordered my steps and placed me into unexpected situations surrounded by unexpected families.
I knew but I didn’t truly know how difficult the month of April would be for me here in South Africa. During my first journey here three years ago, April was the month I said goodbye to this amazing place and traveled back home. Home was and is more than just an address but it was my safe place. My place that I am able to let the loud and crazy ‘me’ dance and sing all over everywhere without the threat of judgment or criticism. It is the place where I feel free and accepted. It is where love for one another seems to bubble over and fill the rooms. It is the place where laughter is plentiful and tears are few. It is what I long for even now as I write these words, but what makes it so great are the people that are there. But God with His amazing mindfulness of me, surprised me with deposits of family all month long! So here are several real life stories of family and how I became the richest girl in the world!Big Lecture Theater
During the first week in April, I had my second session of class at Rhodes. Since my program is non-traditional, we only meet for a week every two to three months. Many of the students in my course travel many hours to attend the class sessions. So even though we only see each other for a week every few months, for the entire week we become one, big, happy family! At the start of one of the classes that week, before many of the students arrived I sat in the large lecture hall and experienced something quite amazing. Out of nowhere, one of my colleagues stands and starts singing this beautiful, unfamiliar melody in a language I can’t understand. Then before I know it others in the class join in to form this impromptu choir all singing in perfect harmony and pitch. I feel like I am involved in a flash mob of voices, but as I look around and see other colleagues standing and singing I find myself standing as well. Once the song is over, one of the singers leads the class in a word of prayer also in a language I can’t understand, but I bow my head in reverence. Although I haven’t the slightest idea what the person is saying, the unmistakable presence of God in that place was certainly something very familiar. This beautiful wonder occurred every day after that, and every day I stood and reveled in the Spirit that graced the halls of the lecture room through the melodious songs and prayers. Here was my family. United by the desire to succeed in this academic world and realizing the path to this success is found in supporting each other by building up and not tearing down. Rich!Empty Carport Braai
At the close of that week, I was invited to share a meal with one of the ladies that I work with at the Lebone Centre and partake in my first, official South African Braai (a.k.a a BBQ with more meat than sides). I didn’t know what to expect, but God certainly supplied two very important things I miss dearly about my family: food and laughter! As I sat underneath the makeshift carport listening to music being played from the car radio parked in the driveway surrounded by aunts, uncles, moms, dads, and grandchildren watching the meat cook on the small grill. I felt the connection I didn’t realize I was missing but so glad to be a part of. Filling my belly with traditional Afrikaans food and watching one of the other invited guests dancing and singing to the music who was sipping on a mixture of whiskey and coke, my heart was warmed. What a privilege to be included in such a wonderful moment. Although my life was very different from all of the people there, they still accepted me as part of the family.Braiding Shop
I am very particular about who puts their hands in my hair, so after wearing my natural curls for a few months, I was ready to put some braids in as a protective style, so I decided try out a new braiding shop one of my coworkers recommended. I arrived very early that Saturday morning, at the request of the stylist, in order to be the first customer of the day and prevent spending my entire Saturday in the braiding shop. When I reached the small braiding shop and knocked on the door, to my surprise a small boy peaked through the blinds, I assume, to verify who was knocking on the door so early in the morning. Once I was invited in, I was taken a back to see the shop owner, her sister, daughter, and son all still in their bed clothes and sleepily wiping the nights dreams from their eyes. I didn’t realize that not only is this small building the hair salon but it was also their home. There were two rooms in the back where I assume were bedrooms and a small bathroom and kitchen off the main room where all of the styling and braiding takes place. They invited me to have a seat and wait while they had a short prayer and devotion before starting on my hair. They started off by singing a song of praise and worship to the God who provides all. Then the owner said a word of prayer which I was honored and surprised to be included in as she asked for God’s blessings even for me a stranger. Next she read a devotion and even took the time to explain the scripture and how we can apply it to our everyday lives. Finally she closed with another word of prayer which I also had the privilege of being a part of. What a beautiful blessing to be privy to such a personal and sacred time for this family. They could have easily asked me to wait outside or skipped this whole custom altogether, but they still took the time to honor God and even pray for God’s blessings over my life. I was truly touched by their generosity and thoughtfulness.THaba Nchu, Free State
I took some time off and visited Johannesburg last week. Instead of just hopping on a plane, I had the opportunity to see more of South Africa and travel with my new friend who is the chaplain at one of the private schools here in Grahamstown. We drove through the beautiful hills and mountains of South Africa all the way to the Free State where we stayed overnight in Thaba Nchu (look it up). We stayed with some of her family members in a lovely brick house in the township. Once again I was embraced by the loving family, stuffed with delicious food (dinner and breakfast the next day), and establishing “forever” connections with people that were strangers less than 24 hours ago. God was once again extending His loving arms to me through His humble servants that were placed in my path. The next morning before resuming our journey north east to Joburg, we all joined hands and received a beautiful blessing of protection and safe travels. Although the prayer was said in a tongue I could not understand, once again a translation was not needed. If fact once the prayer concluded, the matriarch of the family asked if I knew what was said. I told her, “No, but I felt the Spirit of God’s love and protection in every syllable you uttered.” Love deposits.American International School – Johannesburg
Once I made it to Jozi, the BIG city! I had two wonderful opportunities to experience beautiful families although quite different in structure but similar in love. First I was invited to have dinner with the teacher who invited me to visit my dream school (The American International School, Johannesburg). I shared a beautiful dinner with him and his husband and two gorgeous adopted daughters. I also had an opportunity to talk with another American woman who was teaching at the school about her experience in South Africa. In those short hours at their home, I left with not only love deposits but also career deposits!Witriver
The reason I was in Johannesburg was to visit my professor that I lived with during my first trip to South Africa. She invited me to spend the Easter weekend with her family on the family farm. My new adopted family, the Baxens, quickly drew me in and refused to let me go. It almost seemed as if I had known them for my whole life. Before the weekend was over, I found myself saying Aunty and Uncle and Grandma along with everyone else. The weekend seemed magical! From the breathtaking scenery to the scrumptious, endless food to the laughter about dodging the snakes in the garden everything seemed heaven sent, perfectly wrapped with my name on it. God was pouring out His great love for me by filling my heart with the warm touch of family. Talk about God being mindful of me!
I returned home so full and so rich. Rich with love and many invitations and offerings to host me again. God was supplying the covering that I desperately missed from home. He was demonstrating His great mindfulness of me by blessing me with so many loving and like-minded people in my path. The pockets of my heart are overflowing with the many deposits of love and family!