Monday, April 6, 2009

Reflections From Africa

I am back.  Glad to be home.  A bit disoriented, tired from jet lag.  

It is difficult to go to a place in the world that has so little, then return to a life that has so much and reconcile the two.  I am still processing all that I saw, experienced and learned while in Africa.

We returned on Friday evening, and on Sunday my friend Mindie spoke at our church about a girl that we met while in South Africa.  I asked her permission to post what she shared, and I thought it would be a great start to some reflections on our experiences there.  (*Note* When she mentions "Kerri", she is referring to an amazing girl that we met that is working with the Peace Corp in South Africa and also works alongside those in Ten Thousand Homes.  Here is Kerri with some of the kids from Mbonisweni)

NUMZOMU    By Mindie Runnels

Her name is Numzomu. She's 19 years old, living in the impoverished community of Mbonisweni. Her life is a constant sacrifice to the people and community around her. I met her our first day in Mbonisweni. A few people from our team went with Kerri to meet her and then spend the rest of the day following Numzomu's bare feet up and down 4-6 miles of backwoods mountain, visiting sick men and women and lonley orphans who are raising themselves and their siblings. We delivered food to these families - probably the only food they would have for the week: 2 bags of beans. The first man we visited was literally on his death bed. Laying in his own wastes, unable to move or feed or care for himself. Numzomu fed him by hand.
Before we could finish, a few members of his family showed up, scolding Numzomu, asking her not to return. Numzomu told us they don't take care of him, and how it frustrated her. But then, she quickly said that their criticism no longer bothers her. That she would continue to visit and care for him as she was able. Her perseverance in the midst of persecution was so incredible. She was so selfless. So driven in her service to those around her - even at the loss of her own reputation. I wished I was more like this. More concerned with God, than myself. More inspired by the love of others than affected by the fear of man.

There were three days of our trip that I got to see and serve with Numzomu. The last day I was with her, Courtney and I asked her a little more about her life - her plans for the future. As we talked, she shared with us how she had lost most of her friends. Many of them have had teenage pregnancies and criticize Numzomu for the seperate life she has chosen. They discriminate her for her time spent serving with white people, like us. Like me. They call her names, racially isolating her, saying she is a black girl who acts white on the outside.

I was so frustrated by her story, but she told us that her friends wouldn't change the person she was inside. That she would keep being who she is and doing what she does regardless of their criticism and discrimination. She knew who she was and was unwavering in her pursuit of literally laying her life down for "the least of these". I couldn't believe her sacrifice and her selfless love. I told her how great I though she was. That she had an amazing heart! That she was an awesome girl! I was so sorry for her loss of friendship and what the people around her had said and done to her. She responded -

"It's OK! It's not so bad - I still have some friends. I still have you & Kerri!"

It broke my heart!I reached out and hugged her. I was only with Numzomu for 3 days. I was about to leave, probably never to see her again. And she considered me one of her closest friends. This wasn't a friendship. But it's the closest thing she has. Suddenly, God's work in South Africa, through TenThousandHomes, began to make sense. These people in the village are serving with or without us. BUT WITH US, they have hope. They begin to have a small taste of what I get to experience on a daily basis: COMMUNITY! Friendship! With us - they aren't alone!

Ephesian 5 says - Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and LIVE A LIFE OF LOVE just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

I've been studying that verse and asking myself what it looks like to live a life of love. I saw a picture of that with Numzomu. Now I ask myself - will I love - will I serve - will I lay down my life the way that she has? At the risk of isolation? Rejection? Persecution? Will I be different? Will my life be changed by selfless and sacrificial love? Will my community be changed? It's my prayer that we will!!


Barbara said...

I'm so glad you posted this!

life with the wisners said...

well, oh my. i can't wait to catch up and hear all about it. totally prayed for you and your time there. love to you, friend. will get together soon?

Jen said...

That's a beautiful story. Miss you guys already, Courtney! We'll have to do that knitting session next time around!

us three said...

Hi! I followed you here from Jen's blog. We are orginally from SA, but living in New Zealand for a few years (hopefully not too long). Your post made me so homesick. It made me miss the African communities and people. I'm glad that you got to experience what Jen and Jeremy do and that your heart was moved.

Love your blog by the way. It's really fun!

julia d. hull said...

Mindie's testimony is so moving and provoking...thank you for sharing it. I only wish I could read it and not feel 'less than' a person because I don't know that my life or contributions will EVER measure up to that...I pray that God will bless Numzomu with good health and the resources she needs and joy as she serves her people. God, please bless her.