Monday, I spoke at a small private school. They had me give a motivational talk and say a prayer. Many of you don’t know, but when I was 18 and 19 I traveled with one of the top five motivational speakers in the country. We went to high school assemblies and talked about acceptance and tolerance of others. It was very cool experience and prepared me for public speaking which I am not the best at. The principal said a prayer over me before I left.
In the afternoon, I went to Michael’s Children’s Home. It is an orphanage home for the children in the surrounding area. I was able to help with school lessons and play with the children. Hearing some of their stories is truly heart breaking. One of my favorite little girls is there because her mom has AIDS and is an alcoholic. She nearly beat her and her sister to death. Her sister would take her away from the abuse and stay wherever people would take them in. Their payment for staying was sexual favors which result in the spread of disease and emotional damage. I got to do lesson plans with her Monday and Tuesday. She is eager to learn and so beautiful!!!! This is just one of the stories of the children there.
That evening, Eben and I ate with Jo and Terry. They are from America, and Terry used to work for NASA. They have traveled all over the world because of his technological capabilities. Jo runs the garden on campus and did an edible plant walk with me. We even took leaves from a weed growing under a nearby tree and scrubbed our teeth with them because apparently they remove plaque. This was the coolest thing to me (coming from someone who ate grass and flowers as a child). She showed me what plants we would be eating for dinner, and then had me help prepare it. We had venison and feta stuffed mulberry leaves, ostrich and cucuza quiche, sesame and spekboom salad, filo parcels with leeks and cucuza, and mango and banana smoothies for dessert. We talked government conspiracies followed by watching a Hindi film. It was such a pleasant evening. Once again, I feel so blessed by the genuine care and educated conversations.
Tuesday, I was back at Michael’s Children’s Home. Here I met Tiesa who is from Iowa. Shortly after we started talking, we figured out that one of my best friend’s dad taught her in a missions program, she has worked with my uncle, and she came to my church when I was a little girl. We both did the same ministry and worked in the same church in Bellevue, Nebraska about 9 years apart, and here we are meeting South Africa! What a small world. It was great working with the children again, and I am sad my time there was so short. Dee, one of the directors, and Tiesa prayed for me before I left. They had some amazing words of wisdom for me, and once again they told me exactly what I was needing to hear. Dee laid her hand on me, and I immediately began to cry. I could feel God move through her and touch a tender place in my heart. It is crazy how God has really spoken to me through the people here. My faith has grown greatly in just a week.
I shared dinner with Daniel and Laura that evening. Laura is pregnant with their third baby. She is into all natural birthing and shared with me her experience of birthing in South Africa compared to America. She and Daniel met in California and then moved to be missionaries in South Africa. I told them how I was leaving the next day and had an overnight layover in Johannesburg before flying to Nairobi. Daniel asked where I was staying, but I did’t really know yet. I’ve heard sketchy about taxis and getting around. The internet had been down, so I hadn’t been able to research accommodations. He made a phone call and a few minutes later informed me his mom would pick me up from the airport. Once again, I feel so blessed. I’ve heard sketchy stories about Johannesburg, trusting taxis, and getting around.
The next morning, Eben, Carna, and I climbed Legogote which translates as Pride Rock. The last part was really steep, and I climbed ahead of the guys. I reached the highest point and took a panoramic picture. As I was turning, I noticed a swarm of flying ants gathering around me. I freaked out!! They were sticking to my sweat everywhere! I was dancing and flailing my arms. I finally got the bug spray out of my bag and was spraying myself all over while wiping hundreds of ants off me. I am not exaggerating. They were coming off by the hand fulls. I was able to get most of them off by the time the guys caught up. They missed the whole scene. Eben said, “If you go to the top be careful, there is a nest of stinging ants up there.”
I said, “I know.” Thankfully these ants didn’t sting.
We enjoyed the highest peek of the lowveld before making our way back down. I was still finding random ants stuck to my sweat, in my shirt, and in my hair. As we were coming down I took a step and slid forward nearly falling over. I slid through a pile of fresh cattle poo. My foot was covered. I tried wiping some on the grass, but it was no use. Having learned my lesson about watching where I step, I looked down the rest of the way. When we were near the bottom, I took a step and froze. Eben nearly bumped into me as I backed away. There was a huge black mamba crossing the path. He proceeded to tell me that was the biggest one he had ever seen and they are known to be really aggressive. It slithered across the path and we waited moment before passing by. They are the fastest snakes in the world and rise up to attack. Thankfully, it didn’t have the taste for human that day. Eben repeated the whole way down how lucky I was that I didn’t get bit because I would be dead.
Packing my room up was emotional. I had really grown to love this place. I am going to miss the people, the campus, and even the spider in my bath. There is something so simple about the way of life yet so fulfilling. The people have been inspiring, uplifting, and made my whole trip worth it. Who knows where I will end up, but this is a place I could easily live.
Once in Johannesburg, I was greeted by Debbie, Daniel’s mom, and Andrew, his brother. They took me home and made me feel so welcomed. Debbie and Steve, her husband, wanted to know about travels and my life story. Again, I was touched by the authenticity of their interest in me. After having conversations with people who care so much, it will hard to have the shallow ones I’ve grown accustomed to. Don’t attempt this because I will probably just slap you and walk away. Just kidding, but seriously. Debbie asked me, “If money wasn’t an issue, what would you do with your life?” What a great question.
I am on my way to Kenya now, still thinking about the answer. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to find my place in the world. Maybe I don’t have one, but many. I am excited to work in Kenya. For the next two weeks I’ll be at a school/orphanage. Where I am staying there is no running water or electricity, so I am not sure how often I will be able to get Wifi. This weekend I am helping with an outreach where we go into the community and work on various projects. This will definitely be a growing experience. Thank you for all the prayers and support!!
P.S. I think the guy next to me on the flight is a spy or informant or something. I get a really weird vibe, a spy vibe. We briefly talked and he asked me some weird questions. I gave him my yogurt and muffin as a peace offering before falling sleep.