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Fernweh Collective – The Beginning

The truest words to describe my childhood are comfortable and safe. Growing up I lived in a bounded social mold, leading a life that, for the most part, was shaped by the circumstances of my existence. As I navigated through high school a longing to break free of everything I knew, or thought I knew, began to emerge. I often found myself sitting at home, daydreaming about living outside of my element, as a stranger in a distant land. This unidentifiable yearning consumed me—for I didn’t know what I was looking for or where I longed to go, but I knew I had to get on my way. So I traveled across the earth, leaving behind the confines of my secure and limited reality in search of something, somewhere else.  

I now know the ambiguous feeling of the German word, fernweh; a word with no equivalent in the English language. When broken down, fernweh literally translates to, “farsickness,” and is often unsatisfyingly paraphrased as, “an ache for distant places.” Despite the translational shortcomings, and whether explained in German or English, the word remains difficult to grasp, perhaps because the feeling fernweh aims to describe is inherently ungraspable.  

The best way to understand fernweh is through analyzing exactly what it is not—homesickness. A familiar term and common feeling many have experienced at some point in time, homesickness is an acute longing for one’s home during a prolonged time in its absence. While homesickness can lead to distress and suffering, it is nonetheless, in most cases, a mendable ‘sickness’—we can always return home. Fernweh, or farsickness, is also a suffering, but is less clear cut. It is a consuming longing to be somewhere you’ve never been; an aching to be in a distant and unknown land, an ambiguous yearning for anything, anywhere else, as anyone else. But how do we go about searching for a place we’ve never been? How do we fulfill a yearning, the source of which is unknown to us? And the most pertinent question remains: why do we ache for places we’ve never known?

When we are homesick, we long for a place known to us, a place of safety, comfort, and stability. On a surface level, we miss a physical structure with walls, a front door, a place filled with objects, memories and people whose faces are as familiar as our own. Home is a place we can touch, smell and see. Fernweh is an ache for experiences never had and sensations never felt. Where homesickness is a yearning for the familiar, fernweh is a yearning for the complete unknown—a place free from the limiting confines of our familiar society and home. It’s a purposeful desire to recognize nothing and no one.  Instead of longing for a physical structure, it’s a desire to discover home under the wide open sky in a far away land, where the front door is the expansive sea and the bedroom, its sandy shores.

But the question remains: why do we yearn for unknown experiences in unknown lands? The unknown is a place for reinvention. It’s a space of limitless possibilities and, as such, an opportunity to wipe our slates clean and begin anew. It is a chance to relinquish confining mental constructs of the self—how we view ourselves and how others view us. The formlessness inherent in fernweh allows us to re-conceptualize and re-create our being in any way we choose.

But, in the end, homesickness isn’t really about home at all. When we are homesick, we miss the feelings and comforts that the physical environment inherently provides. We miss the feeling of belonging somewhere. The root cause of fernweh is also fueled by a desire to be somewhere you belong—the somewhere that allows you to be the truest expression of yourself. Fernweh is also about finding home inside of us, anywhere in the world—on a mountain peak or winding road in the middle of the earth, recognizing nothing, but being part of everything. 

We can come back home, but how do we amend fernweh? Maybe it can never be permanently relieved because when it strikes once, it will strike again, perhaps even harder the second time around. But fernweh is a feeling for dreamers—where we imagine endless possibilities and realize how limitless the conditions of our existence really are. And the world can always use a few more dreamers.

2018…here we go!

well 2018 is here and it’s going…it came quick and hit the ground running.

I can’t believe it’s already 22 days into the new year, time stops for no one. But in the start of the new year I’ve finally found the time to reflect, pray, and dream for 2018…a few days late, but hey life happens.

I have a friend who introduced me to this practice of adopting a word for your year. A word to hold onto for the whole year and see what God does. As I began to pray for 2018 and the world that God has for me I couldn’t help but look back at 2017.

2017 was a hard year. One to bury in a box, to never look back on again. It threw me off course more times than I would like to count, but somehow, I am here in 2018 knowing what it means to dwell in a place of self-grace. What is self-grace? It is my word of the year and means to simply allow yourself to be who you are…all of the crazy, the pain, the dreams, the confusion, the joy, the restlessness, the doubt…it’s accepting what you are feeling, recognizing what brought you to this point and truly believing what you are going through to be valid. It’s knowing we are exactly where we are supposed to be no matter the circumstance because our mighty Author won’t lead us astray.

Moving forward into 2018 though…it’s on my heart to encourage you (and myself) to keep accepting yourself and smothering yourself in self-grace. (this is what I’m learning) What does that look like? Well it’s different for each of us…

Maybe it’s quitting a job or asking for a raise.

Maybe it’s packing your bags or deciding to finally sit still.

It could be learning a new skill or giving one up that doesn’t make your soul feel alive.

It might be deciding to stay with that person despite everything or knowing the healthiest thing is going your separate ways.

Perhaps it’s deciding to start your family or changing directions on how you go about doing that.

It could be changing majors in university or taking the risk to walk away from what you thought your future was always supposed to look like.

Moving back home or to a new city where you know no one.

Maybe you finally make that appointment with the counselor whose number you have been holding onto forever.

Maybe you finally call that person who hurt your heart so badly once, but you are ready to tell them you forgive them.

Your sight might be set to touch the highest of mountain tops or to take that literal jump out of the plane to feel your body soar through the sky.

Maybe it’s allowing 2018 to be the year of saying no or possibly finally saying yes…

Whatever it is for you, LET IT BE. You do you. Allow yourself to be inspired, but don’t conform. Take that leap or actually… let yourself sit still. (sounds harder than you think) When you feel lost, know you are far from alone. You are surrounded by people who love you and a unrelentless God who will be with you no matter which direction you choose to go.

Cheers to a 2018, a whole new year ahead of us…we still have 343 days this year to make them look like however you dream of them looking like and when they start to look different, embracing them and yourself anyway.

-S

Dance This Christmas . . .

This Christmas, give yourself permission to not be merry or bright. Excuse yourself from the manufactured pressures of Christmas cheer.

 

The holiday season comes sharp and brittle for some. Maybe even for you, if I’m being honest this season has been a whirlwind for myself. Be gentle with others. Be gentle with yourself.

 

Finish with your frenetic shopping and buying and list-making, and be done. Let what you are giving be enough, even as every billboard and commercial and email promotion makes you feel as though it’s not. After all, the gifts themselves were never really the point. The point is the reaching across the room or across the country or across the neighborhood toward someone else. The point is, To you, from me: I see you. I love you. You are my people.

 

Call your grandpa. Call your grandma who sometimes can’t remember who you are. Ask the  Walmart greeter how she is doing today. Look into her eyes. Learn her name, and remember it.

 

Put a dollar in the Salvation Army bucket, not because you feel guilty walking by it or because it’s “the right thing to do,” but because this is where we find God: in the eyes of the large man ringing the bell, his face wrapped entirely in a scarf so all you can see is his bulbous nose. His shifting, holy eyes.

 

At the Christmas Eve candlelight service, notice the shadows cast by the flames even as you sing “Silent Night.” This is the purpose of those candles, with their paper collars and dripping wax: not to make you feel cozy and Christmas-y and merry, but to reveal something about the nature of Immanuel, God with us: a flickering flame that contains both shadow and light.

 

Sing the songs even if you’re not sure if you believe them, if you ever believed them, if you ever could. Don’t worry that it’s inauthentic, that it’s some kind of lie to join in the song, to let the impossible words fill up your mouth. In the Thomas Kinkade version of this thing, the whole world is pristine and cobble-stoned and lit gently with streetlamps, and everyone singing believes perfectly. But this is not the truth of Christmas.

 

Beside you, around you, the chairs are filled with shattered people, with those whose hearts are filled with doubt and darkness. People who are singing anyway. Join them. You belong to this broken chorus.

 

Don’t be surprised when Christmas Day comes with interruptions and inconveniences. The serving dish full of mashed potatoes will fall on the floor and shatter. The new toy won’t work like it’s meant to. You will have forgotten to buy batteries. Someone you expected won’t show; someone you didn’t expect will…and the whole thing will feel different than you wanted, than you expected.

 

Don’t be surprised to find yourself thrown off-balance. Don’t shame yourself for that moment of sharp disappointment that pierces the manufactured bubble of “Christmas magic.” Notice what it feels like when the plans spin out of your control. Look around from the shifted earth on which you are standing. There is a good chance it is holy ground.

 

If there are children at your gathering, pay attention to their wonder, to that Christmas-morning look on their faces. But notice, too, their ingrown selfishness as they rip into their gifts and have to be reminded to say thank you. Remember that when Jesus said to receive the kingdom of God like a child, he knew about both of these things—the awestruck wonder, the acute self-centeredness—and still he said, “Let the children come to me.”

 

So come.

 

Bring your own complicated, disappointed, self-centered, wonder-filled, jaded heart to the manger—the one you have read about year after year after year, but never really paid attention to. Sometimes worship looks unremarkable. Sometimes it’s only just showing up at the same place again…because where else would you go but the stable? Where else but to the manger-bed of the unlikely, impossible King?

 

When all of it is done—when the presents are unwrapped and the living room floor is covered with paper, when the leftover gravy is congealing on the counter, when you are so tired you want to curl into a ball in the corner—then, just then turn on the music as loud as it goes. And dance.

 

Dance badly. Dance wild and silly. Dance in your living room or your kitchen, or haul yourself to the nearest Christmas celebration and kick up your heels. Spin your children in circles, throw your arms around your sister, push the coffee table out of the way and breakdance on the carpet.

 

Dance not because you’re merry, not because it’s bright, but because if Christmas is anything, it is the most audacious kind of hope. It is that teenage virgin-mother singing a revolutionary song: The lowly are raised up! The hungry are filled with good things! The world is being made new! Love has come!

 

Dance for Aleppo and for the refugees; dance for the depressed and the downtrodden; dance for your own broken heart during Christmas.

 

Let the song fill you up—every valley shall be exalted! Dance until, for one breathless moment, you believe it all.

Ghana, Guac, and Goodbye

Saying goodbye sucks.
So I usually avoid it.

Saying goodbye sucks and although I would love to avoid it, it’s inevitable and sometimes I just have to pony up and do it. 

It seems as though this stage in life has been filled with quite a few goodbyes and quite frankly, I want a new change of pace. Growing up and doing life sometimes requires leaving the familiar places and the familiar people; it brings new friends who stay for long or some who only stay for a nice acquaintance…it sucks, but it’s oh so necessary. 

But then, I came to Ghana and The Justice School happened.

Right when I thought I was content in life and I had said my goodbyes for the season, I met a whole new set of 10 amazing people. 

For those of you who have never experienced a youth camp, being a leader for a retreat, or any other leadership experience involving bonding with strangers, you may not fully appreciate the impact that these short-term best friends make on your life. 

Saying goodbye to best friends is probably the worst goodbye a person will have to ever face, but saying goodbye to a group of people who just recently walked into your life and then so quickly walked out is a weird feeling. 
I spent weeks messaging and emailing this group of strangers trying to figure out who they are and then once Ghana hit and The Justice School commenced, the 24 hour a day interactions turned these strangers into family. 

We ate together, we woke up early and stayed up late together, we made fools of ourselves and observed as others did the same. We had deep conversations and gossiped about the events of the night huddled together on the balcony. Games were played, coffee & debrief was a thing, songs were sung, killers was played, and all throughout these events, we bonded. We became a group of leaders rather than 11 leaders placed in one room. 

We worked together and it was one of the greatest experienced we could have had this summer. But instead of going back home and picking up where we left off, reality set in and I realized that we don’t have the opportunity to do that. Our “camp high” will hit its low right when we departed to our respective flights at the airport on Monday.

That feeling, that goodbye, sucks. 

Saying goodbye to someone when there is still so much time to say hello is weird. It doesn’t feel fair to me that these relationships are being cut short before most of them really fully took flight.

I am excited for all of us. I am excited for the paths we will be taking at home and for the whole new set of strangers we will meet and call our friends. As excited as I am, I didn’t expect to be this taken back by how bummed I feel. 

I know that if it’s worth it, we will stay in touch. I know that as time passes, it will get harder and harder to do just that. I know that as weird as these goodbyes may feel, I have a trip full of memories to keep me stoked on these people.

Saying goodbye sucks. But the people you are saying goodbye to make it totally worth it. 

Thanks to my Justice School family -let’s not become too estranged, ya?

To those of us out there having to say goodbye: good friends, acquaintances, best friends and family, or even those people who just came to say hello, Goodnight and Goodluck.

I was made for more than flesh and bones . . .

Today I am one week away from leaving for Ghana, Africa. It hasn’t fully hit me the realities that I will be in Ghana learning to combat and fight injustice, specifically human trafficking, and I will be gone for about a month. But with it only being a week away the enemy has found the perfect time to attack. This week has been rough, it’s been filled with spiritual attacks from the enemy, some family issues, and personal issues. My papa was having health issues and had to spend some time in the hospital, he’s home now (praise Jesus), but the reality of it is he’s getting older and his health isn’t what it used to be. And the other day my car broke down on the way to volunteer at youth group, (just some added stress). And with the business of life the enemy has tried to fill my head with lies and false narratives in my vulnerable state.

But this morning as I woke up, sat on my bed, and sat with God I began to hear him speak, “You are my son, I have you.” I sat there for a moment in silence to let the words sink into my soul and I began to speak out, “I am a child of God.” I just spoke it out over and over again vocalizing this truth over myself. I could feel the heaviness of this week and the weight just begin to fall all me. It was like God himself was lifting the burdens off of me.

As I sat in the truth of being a child of the King I reflected on these past few months leading up to this trip, I mean I still have a week before I leave, but truth is God has preparing me for this trip for a while now; I was made for this.

Whenever I would tell people about this trip and the work that I will be doing their first response would be, “Wow that’s some heavy stuff,” or “Are you scared?” And to be completely honest I have never felt an ounce of fear or worrisome about this trip. From the moment I heard about the trip to Ghana I knew I was supposed to be on the team. Have you ever felt so sure of something that it didn’t make sense any other way? Well that’s how I felt about this trip.

There’s a Kim Walker-Smith song, Show Me Your Glory, with a line that exactly expresses how I feel about this trip to Ghana.

“I see the cloud, I step in.

I see the cloud, and I jump in

I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid

Show me your glory, Show me your glory”

I know that God has called me to Ghana, I know God has called me to join the fight of human trafficking. And I know that God has called me to be a part of this team, my heart is ready, my heart is not afraid because I know God has a plan for me in this. I’m not going to let Satan intervene in this, so I’m running towards this opportunity because it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be.

I was created for more than flesh and bones. God has given me gifts, talents, and abilities to build His kingdom. But the enemy is real and will do everything in his power to keep you and me from the kingdom work. But this is the call He has placed on my life and what a dishonoring if don’t do just that.

As I take a step back and look at the greater picture, where God has brought me and where he’s taking me, I realize that this week was just a small tiny storm in God’s great plan. So here’s to where ever God is calling you or whatever God has awaken in you; don’t be discouraged or disheartened you were created for more than just flesh and bones, you were created to build the kingdom because you are a son or daughter of the king!

 

 

It Wasn’t Always FUN In Fundraising, But I Did Learn To Trust God In It

I am overwhelmed with joy in the accomplishment of completely fundraising my goal for my trip to Ghana this summer. To say this was an easy task and I never felt like giving up would be a complete lie, but then again fundraising never is.

I’ve had my fair share of times where I had to fundraise, for sports, camp, or mission trip, and every time I’ve always met my goal. I was always confident the funds would come in, yet in each circumstance I always seemed to stress the issue of having enough money. But for some reason this time seemed different.

This journey has been one of complete surrender and trust; surrender that God would have control of every aspect of my life in preparations for this trip: finances, heart, mind, and spirit. And Trust that God would provide the necessary means for this trip to happen. I don’t know what it is about this trip, but I’ve felt like the enemy has been constantly taunting me with false narratives or throwing curve balls at me like catapult.

Whether it be family situations, financial crisis, or job changes, this season of life has been a constant transition in the midst of fundraising for this trip to Ghana. It hasn’t been easy, but one thing has been ever clear in this season….God has my back. It’s been amazing to see the ways God has shown up in every so called “crisis situation.”

I remember times where I felt so defeated I almost gave up and backed out of the trip, but then a little whisper of hope from God would come through a friend or the director of program, affirming the fact that I am supposed to be on this trip; God had chosen me for this trip and picked me to take his love across the water to Ghana. Or the time when I was so defeated and in talks with the directors about dropping the program because my taxes had come in and ended up owing more money than I had expected. I remember praying to God in frustration and a little angry I must confess, asking Him to show me a sign or something that would give me hope. Well He heard me because the very next day a big portion of my fundraising came in affirming my place on this team.

In my lifegroup we’ve been studying the book of Hebrews. And to be honest it’s been really convicting, it’s been a reminder of how little faith I have sometimes, especially in this whole fundraising process. So often in Hebrews it says By Faith so and so did this….which is exactly where I needed to, but so often wasn’t.

So with the later half of my fundraising I made the commitment to have faith and not doubt the funds would come in, to completely trust God in this and surrender completely to Him. It was through the prayers and encouragement of my very supportive tribe and the grace of God that I was able to fundraise my complete amount with two days to spare, I feel like that was God showing me He had control the whole time.

So I leave you with a little encouragement; no matter the giant or circumstance that you are facing God is standing with you in it, so trust him and surrender the situation completely to him because you never know how he will show up.

Stay Rad.

-S

Reminiscing a Wandering Heart: Finding God Amidst a Heart of Turmoil

I sat in Church this past Sunday listening to the Word and singing worship as I usually do, but then I was hit with a ton of bricks when we started to sing one particular song, You Are With Me Still. I don’t know what happened, but I was filled with an overwhelming sense the Holy Spirit and just as Jesus did, I wept. As I stood there singing praises to God, singing the words to this song I couldn’t help but cry. Tears filled my eyes as I sang every word because as I sang every word, they rang true to me, my life, and my heart. God was with me still…

These past few months have been incredibly….overwhelming; emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally I was all over the map. I felt as though I was in this fog, haze, and unsure of whether God was even with me. But as I sang the words of this song I was assured that He indeed was still with me.

He is with me still…

…as I still grieve the loss of my Gramma and still continue to comprehend the fact that she’s no longer here on earth.

…as I question whether I ‘m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Am I making the right decisions?

…as I reminisce about my time in South Africa and my heart breaks for the people I met there, missing them so much.

…as my mom has good days and bad days, struggling to overcome the grief of losing her mom.

…as my family goes through rough times. We’re not perfect, we’re human, we don’t always get along.

…as I try to plan for the future and figure out where God is calling me next in life. Where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to do? God I just want you to tell me what to do.

…as I try to find the balance between school, work, and a social life. It’s hard, I can’t do everything, but I want to it all.

…as I try to handle my finances, trying to get by as a barista paying my way through college. I know God will provide, but that trust is not easy.

…as I find the strength to continue to follow God’s call to share the Gospel. Stepping out of my comfort zone, doing things I never would have imagined.

…as I find the courage to say YES, Lord! Each and every day. Some days I would love to just do nothing, but God is calling me to something much greater than myself.

These are some of the thought’s that raced through my mind as I sang this song. It seems like a lot, but in that moment I was in complete peace singing every word because I knew it to be true that God was still with me. Even through all of these thoughts of darkness, doubts, questions, fear, hopelessness, pain, grief, and so much more He is with me.

It seems like we often forget that we’re not in this alone. When the world seems to fail us, we think we’re on our own, but in fact we are never in this alone, God is always with us…fighting our battles with us…grieving our losses with us…questioning our purpose with us…He is with us still.

Our darkest days are no match to what God can handle. He is there with us through it all. His love will endure. His promise is sure. His mercy remains. He will give you strength, Just look…You’ve made it this far.

I hope you find encouragement and hope in this. No matter what you’re going through, He is with you still. Take a moment, take a listen, and see what God has to say…

-S

Listen to the Song Here

Catch the Story of the Song Here

Reminiscing A Wandering Heart: The Boy in South Africa

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My time in South Africa was something that I have yet to completely process…it’s something that is always on my mind and something that I am ever grateful to have had the opportunity. But it was only the beginning. So as the days go by and the time passes I find it useful to write out my experiences and the emotions I felt and since I was not on this journey alone, but I invited many to walk along side me I thought I would start a series of post reminiscing my heart and the memories of South Africa. This experience was rather life changing and my hope in sharing it with you is simply give you a glimpse of the work God did in my life with the hope that you can recognize the work He is doing in your own life.

In South Africa there was a little boy the age 7. He was like any other 7 year old boy, rambunctious and fearless, yet he captured my heart like no one ever had. He had a smile that won my heart the second I saw it. He was as most people call, my one. The one who was always sitting on my lap; the one who I was always holding; the one who I clung to as we said goodbye.

Our time together while he attended the VBS/camp we hosted in South Africa is something I’ll cherish forever. There was one memory I have when the group was playing on the field, kids running all over playing dodgeball, soccer, and picking flowers. I was sitting with a group near the bags and the kids were playing and climbing on us, the the boy climbed inside the bags and started to zip himself up, so playing along I grabbed the bag and told him he was coming home with me back to the states; he literally fit inside our bag. It was that moment that I really struck me and made me think…I really love this little boy. He laughed and had the hugest smile on his face it filled my heart with overwhelming joy.

As the week went on my love for this little boy continued to grow and I dreaded the idea of him leaving. Although there were times when he was up to trouble and I would have to tell him to stop doing something, he would turn around and look at me with a huge smile from ear to ear that totally won my heart. There wasn’t a chance that I could be mad at him, but simply give him a big ‘ol hug!

The relationship that was formed in a matter of only a few days is that of one that often takes years to form. But this little boy was so accepting of the love I had to offer and craved that love, he changed my life in more ways than I could ever offer him. It wasn’t till just a few days ago that I realized why God had put that boy in my life and the relationship that was formed with him. I was with my mentor walking through a prayer exercise of how I see God and my relationship with Him.

As I was in this prayer state of just me and God, He gave me an image…an image I was very familiar with that I often have when I reminisce my time in South Africa. It was the image of my relationship with that boy in South Africa; playing with him, holding him, sitting with him, and simply loving him. A huge grin on both of our faces laughing as I held him in my arms. This was so significant because God revealed that this was the way He wanted to love me. For so often I forgotten to come to God as my Father, simply for Him to hold me tight and whisper in my ear…”I love you.” This was a moment of complete and utter joy, so overwhelming I found myself in tears. God took a moment that I cherished so much and reminisced about often to give me a glimpse of a tangible relationship that He wanted with me. It was simply beautiful, just as the the little boy in South Africa was.

I was reminded that God wants us to come running to His is arms simply to be held by His sweet embrace. He wants to hold us and laugh with us through every good and bad experience. He wants to love his child unconditionally. My prayer is that you would not forget this and that you would accept this love God is offering to you. The relationship I had with that little boy in South Africa is something I can only describe, but I hope that you may feel that type of love someday and maybe some of you already. But I hope you get to feel that love with our Almighty Father because who knows it just might change your life…

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Red X & Slavery . . .

Red X

On Thursday this past week you probably saw a lot of red X’s on peoples hands, most likey you had one yourself, and you saw a lot of #enditmovement or #endit on all social media platforms. I must say I had a red X on my hand and I fully support the movement and I strive to making people aware of this issue of modern day slavery. But I was posed with a good question by a friend that day. They asked me, “Why do you have a red X on your hand? Do you really believe that putting a red X on your hand will end slavery?” At first I was shaken by this question, but it brought a good point. What was the reason behind my choosing to have a red X on my hand.

I can agree that putting a red X on our hands did not end slavery. I woke up on Friday and those 27 million people were still in bondage through their various forms of slavery; human trafficing, prostitution, factory, labor, and more. But what it did was bring awareness through a simple act of putting red X on your hand. This symbol was something that brought hope and inspired so many people. It was much more than simply putting a red X on hand, it was about being a part of something much greater than yourself. We can only do so much on our own, but when we stand together we can make waves. It doesn’t mean that every person who put a red X on their hand is gonna be out there raiding brothels, storming factories, and questioning neighbors. But they are committed to standing up for justice.

In actuality we should all be a part of this End It Movement. I know that I’m not doing much to end slavery, but I am educating people, raising awareness, and praying. I have committed to pray for these people who are oppressed and suffering. I pray for freedom and redemption all through the work of Jesus Christ.
So I know that at the end of the day putting a red X on my hand won’t end slavery or bring drastic changes, but I know that I am part of a movement that is working for change and freedom. This symbol didn’t change anything, but if it inspires more people to fight, then I am all in. because a symbol or act don’t change things…people do!

A red X won’t end slavery, but the people who wear it just might…

Open Letter After My South Africa Mission Trip

Dear Friends and Family,

            I hope this letter finds you well! I bet you’re probably wondering why you haven’t heard from me or why this letter is coming so late as I’ve been home from South Africa for a whole month now. But if I’m being completely honest with you it has been one of the hardest things for me being home. I want nothing more than to sell everything and move to South Africa, but we all know that’s not logical. I know God has me here for a purpose and He took me to South Africa for a reason, but I do miss it. As much as I prepared for God to send me to South Africa, I was not ready for the reality of coming home. Since being home I have been trying to process the trip as a whole and it’s been extremely tough; as cliché as it sounds I left my heart in South Africa. God stirred something up in me and I fell in love with South Africa; the kids, staff, community, and people.

            While I was in South Africa God completely transformed my heart. He opened my eyes to appreciate the little things and I got to experience His love in a totally new way. I felt so at home and at peace while I was there. I never knew you could fall in love with people in such a short amount of time so fast. I can honestly say I love the people I met in South Africa and they are family to me now. No matter the distance between us I know that we are bonded together in the love of Jesus Christ. And that brings such joy to my heart; to know that they have Jesus into their hearts. I don’t know whether I will ever see them here on this earth, but I can find comfort in the fact that I will see them again in our Heavenly home with our Almighty Father.

            As I prepared for the trip I thought that I was preparing to pour into the lives of the people of South Africa, but when I got there I was in for much more than I had imagined. I went with no expectations because I knew I could not hinder the work of God. But the people of South Africa filled me with so much more than I could ever offer to them. They embraced me with so much love and joy it literally brings a smile to my face. On the last day when we were leaving I was in tears saying our good-byes and the kids were encouraging me telling me, “Don’t worry, God is with you” and “God loves you.” I thought I should have been telling them that, but because I had showed them God’s love continuously over the two weeks they knew it was exactly what I needed.

            As most of you know a month before I left for South Africa my Gramma passed away. It was a really difficult time, but I knew God had picked me for the team for a purpose so I put my trust in Him and I went. While I was in country I saw people who had so much joy and happiness, despite their losses. God showed me that even through the pain and sorrow there is hope. These kids who had lost their parents to AIDS had suffered so much pain and hurt in their short lives, yet they were still filled with so much joy. It’s crazy that God had to take me all the way to South Africa just to tell me that He was with me through my pain; that He was embracing with love in my pain and hurt just as He was with the people of South Africa.

            Since being home I have been constantly thinking and praying for the people I met in South Africa. They have captured my heart and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go. And I personally want to thank you for all your love and support. I never would have been able to take this leap of faith without your prayers and encouragement. I am so thankful to have had you on this journey of faith, but I must admit this is only the beginning. I don’t know where God is calling me next in mission, but I know God has put South Africa on my heart. The love I encountered in South Africa was something I’ll never forget; it was true genuine unconditional love. I found peace in South Africa amidst a broken world, but it’s evident that God is doing work in South Africa and I’m blessed to have been a part it and I’m excited to see His Kingdom further in South Africa.

 

This letter is only a glimpse of the work God is doing in South Africa and how He used me. There are plenty of other stories and encounters, but I would have to write a novel to just touch the surface. So I encourage you if you would like to hear more or simply just want to talk I am open to get coffee or dinner or simply meet up anywhere. I would love to share my heart for mission and South Africa with you. I will leave my contact information at the bottom if you wish to get together or you can check out my blog. I thank you again for all of the ways that you have supported me; It means more than I can ever express in words.

I ask that you would please pray for the people of South Africa and the work God is doing there. I also ask that you please pray for me as I continue to process the trip and transition being home, even though I’ve been home for a month I still find it hard at times. Thank you again and I will be praying for you my friends! I love you!

Thank you taking the time to read this! I value your time and I thank you. Continue to seek Him and All His Glory!

-Steven

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