In December of 2011, my family moved to South Africa.
We moved away from family, friends, our culture, and everything that seemed familiar. The trip didn’t feel like it was actually happening until the shock came on full force as we exited the plane. A realization smacked me hard in the face: my life and the life of everyone else in my family had been rerouted completely. And through this experience, I’ve been extremely lucky and blessed to witness aspects of God that I, truthfully, probably wouldn’t have witnessed if my family had passed up the opportunity to go on this sweet adventure!
The main aspect of God that’s been super apparent time and time again is His faithfulness. Not that I wouldn’t have seen God’s faithfulness if I hadn’t come to South Africa, of course. I absolutely feel, though, like several factors have contributed in making it more real than ever before, two in particular:
If you or a friend have ever looked into visiting South Africa, the main drawback becomes immediately and frighteningly clear: the crime is pretty crazy (an understatement). Most people have fences, gates, and/or barbed wire; some have electric fences; and some even have security companies that are called when an alarm in the yard gets tripped during the night. Yet, even with this seemingly impenetrable protection, people still get broken into all the time. No matter what measures of security you have, the risk of getting robbed is ever-present. And while that’s terrifying, it also forces you to rely completely on God. The reality of “He will never leave you, nor forsake you” was super impactful for me when I realized that He’s the only thing stopping someone from climbing over the wall of my family’s house at any second.
And whenever I do hear a thud outside my window in the night, I often find myself calling on God and praying to Him more passionately than I ever would in a situation where I didn’t fear possible danger. The imminent threat of crime helped me realize that I only truly call on God when I’m in a time of need. That’s pretty scary. I’m thankful that, through experiencing crime and its effects first hand, God can use anything to help His people grow!
(Note: most likely the only time I’ll ever be thankful for crime.)
The Separation from People You Know
The aspect of missionary life that has both affected me the most and shown me how much I need to mature as a Christian, is the separation from family and friends. Not being able to hang out with your grandparents or uncles and aunts on the weekends or a monthly basis can take its toll and make you feel like you are, to an extent, isolated.
Last year (2017), my family went on furlough back to the States. I ended up visiting a co-op – whenever we could swing it between church traveling – and making tons of new friends. I can say with certainty that flying back and leaving those friends (and family) behind was one of the only times I can remember actually being frustrated with God. In retrospect, it wasn’t nearly as big of a deal as it seemed at the time, but I’m still extremely glad that I went through it. Because of that parting, God helped me realize that, no matter what country or part of the world I’m in, He’ll be forever faithful. He’ll stick with me even when I’m acting like a moron.
If I could sum up my experiences as a missionary in one verse, it would be Romans 8:38-39:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angles nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV)