So I haven’t really posted anything about how I have been doing spiritually so I figure it is high time that I let you all know how I’m doing.
A lot of people asked me how I was going to keep from being spiritually dry while I was over here, being away from everything I had ever known and what not. To be honest I didn’t have a real idea how I was. I knew that I would try and find a church and continue on the reading plan that the NW BSU is doing but other than that I was just trusting that God would take care of that. Boy did He ever.
My first encounter was at IAD in D.C. As I was boarding my flight that would eventually take me to Johannesburg after a brief stop in Dakar, a woman came up to me and asked me if they had just called on our section to board. Looking back now it is ironic because it was the first time I had ever flown out of the country and it turns out that I would later discover she had been traveling internationally for seven years. What are the chances that a pro like her asks a rookie like me questions about a flight?? Anyway, I told her and I can’t remember what they keyword she used was but it was something to the effect of “ministry.” I picked up on it and we soon found out that we were both believers. I proceeded to tell her about where I was going, why, etc. I also told her I would be looking for a church when I got there.
Her name was Amy and she is a middle aged woman who used to be vice-president of a mega banking corporation in LA. Her story is amazing and I can honestly say that I have never heard anything like it before. As we were boarding I had no idea about any of this. Our seats were nowhere next to each other and I didn’t see her again. But it just so happened that 20 hours later when I was waiting to board my flight from Jo’burg to Cape Town that I heard someone behind me call my name. Sure enough it was her and we were heading the same place. We hadn’t time to share anything other than our names back in D.C. and this is where I got to hear her testimony. It is too long to post here and I will definitely be sharing it in person when I get back to whoever wants to know. Basically she was living the comfortable American Dream and received guidance from the Lord that her life needed to change. She quit and has been spreading the Gospel throughout the world for the past seven years. She knew of a collegiate ministry of about 1500 students in Cape Town and gave me the name and number of the person in charge and to tell them that she had sent me. Then we both prayed for each other right there in the middle of the airport; it was so good to feel the Holy Spirit so close in the midst of all those people.
So I have been getting settled and still feel like I’m finding my way around this place even though I have been here for three weeks. Unfortunately I haven’t been to the place she mentioned, but it is for a good reason.
I go to an Internet Café that is R 10/hour. Monday through Saturday it is the same girl working behind the desk, her name is Wendy. Originally she thought I was the Seth that acted on the American TV show “The OC.” I knew there used to be such a show but never saw it so I can’t say whether it is a good thing or not. Side note: I blend in pretty well but she and all the kids I work with peg me as American right off the bat. Why? My accent; it is the same one that they here in the movies. The influence of the American media continues to amaze me. Anyway, one day I heard her playing How Great Thou Art and My Redeemer Lives. I mentioned that I liked those songs and she invited me to a bible study that night. Because my meals in the evening are brought to me I told her that I couldn’t that night until I could plan ahead. She gave me a card inviting me to services at the Calvary Chapel Community Church of Cape Town. So the following Sunday I went. She wasn’t there, and I have been giving her a hard time for it! However I did have a couple people introduce themselves to me. One is Johann, the worship leader. He invited me for coffee during the week and is a pretty cool guy.
Today, though, was special. If you have talked to me you know that I am giving these three months to the Lord to show me what He wants me to do for the rest of my life. Too many times in my life I have pursued what I want; invariably what I want and what God wants for me are always two very different things and I end up very disappointed. So now I am just coming in here as open-minded as possible and trusting that He will show me the path to follow after I graduate. Personally, I have a heart towards helping these kids. I have so much that I take for granted. Specifically education. The kids are just like kids everywhere; they are ornery and loud but they are just as bright as kids anywhere else in the world. I think sometimes we tend to think that because they are poor that they somehow have less to offer this world than we do. I want to send these kids to a good high school so they can get a decent education. There is a girl, Nandipa, who could be president if she wanted to. She is very politically aware and is being sent to a very good school by someone who volunteered here previously. She is just one of many bright kids in the townships but unfortunately is only one of a handful who will get to realize their potential. For reasons already posted, the education system here is unequal and many kids will not realize their potential; kids that deserve the same chances you and I had.
Equal education is the key to bridging the gap here in South Africa.
So coming back to Calvary, it is a great place to worship the Lord! It is contemporary and mostly consists of a congregation of young people. 20s and 30s mostly. However, an older gentleman introduced himself to me today as Pieter Pretorius. Funny thing, he turns out to be a lawyer. He invited me for coffee after church and we both shared our testimonies. He gave me invaluable insight into the world that lawyers live in today. I cannot say how encouraged I was, he told me he felt led to come speak to me. Awesome. He has mentored young people before and is often a mentor to young lawyers in his firm. I explained my journey from laughing at the thought of studying abroad to where I am now. He graciously offered to speak to a friend of his, the Dean of Law at the University of Stellenbosch, on my behalf. “Not forcing the Lord’s hand, of course,” he said, “but it doesn’t hurt to talk to him to see what we can find out.” How awesome is that?! That only reaffirmed to me that I am in the exact place that God wants me to be. I don’t know where this will lead but it is comforting to know that God hasn’t forgotten about me and that He has a plan for my life. I was so nervous that I would get home and be just as clueless with God’s will for my career as I was when I had left. Doesn’t look like that is going to be the case. Pieter gave me all of his personal contact information and we set a date for me to visit his home in the country. There are lots of young singles my age at the church and he said it would be a great time for me to make friends.
“26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the first born among many brethren; 30and these whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Romans 8:26-30
This passage speaks to me in several ways. One, the Spirit will pray for me to seek restoration between myself as a sinful believer and God who is sinless so that I may live according to the will of God, even when I don’t know what that is. Two, even though it says “… God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…” it is a fact that the only reason I can love God is because He first loved me (1 John 4:10, 19). Third, as a believer, God has made me like Jesus. All the good characteristics that I possess are the characteristics of Jesus. Because God first loved me and chose me, he allowed my sin to be justified by sending His son and because I am like Jesus I am glorified.
So in summary: when I’m lost for words, God isn’t. God is going to have my life work for His good because I love Him, even though the only reason I can love Him is because He first loved me. Whenever I meet someone and make an impression enough for them to invite me to their home and to offer hospitality, it isn’t because I’m a good person. It is because God has conformed me to the image of Jesus, and when you see the characteristics of Jesus people will take notice. So I am conformed to the image of Jesus because I love God, but I can only love God because He loved me first and predestined that I would know Him, which was a result of the Holy Spirit interceding on my behalf through the limitless power of prayer.
I get lots of feelings from this. It is humbling that in my life God doesn’t need my input or my help. Yet I am also comforted. God has my life in control, not me. And that’s a good thing. If you or I were in control of our lives we would surely mess it up. The only reason all things can work together for my good is because God is good and because He wants them to. My love or works are not needed by Him and the things I do are not factored into the equation. It is all God doing good things for my life, because He wants to accomplish His will and He is good.