Running in Soweto

Last week, my Nashville church, St. George’s, lost a beloved and faithful member. Across the miles, I feel the loss of Don, a dear friend and an instrumental role-player in my journey to become a missionary to South Africa.

2007 Team. (Don is on the far left.)
2007 Team. (Don is on the far left.)

I first started coming to South Africa with outreach teams from St. George’s, and Don was one of the organizers. I have many fond memories of him on these trips, but my favourite one is of his running in Soweto. In this township where so many white South Africans are too scared to venture in, Don, a short, white American man, would get up early in the morning to go running. I thought this was super cool but rather risky. Yet I enjoyed hearing his stories about the people with whom he met and talked along the way. I thought it would be cool to go running with Don one morning, but 1) I don’t run and 2) he got up really, really EARLY to go running; and I was always exhausted and ready for any extra minutes of sleep I could get on these jam-packed mission trips.

Now I wish I had gone running with Don, but I am grateful for this memory I have of him and for this lesson he taught me about perceptions of certain areas. Sometimes we just need to get out of our comfort zone and take a run—or a nice long walk.

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Expectations of Hope

Recently, I got to experience two celebrations with two groups of special young people—the opening of the school hall at Heathfield High and confirmation at my Cape Town parish church, All Saints Plumstead.

It was such a privilege and a joy to be at the school hall opening because I feel such a connection to that school, due to my IMG_0670relationship with the learners and teachers because of the Alpha course we ran last year and are currently running now. Plus, I have friends and family members who attended this school. At the ceremony, I got to sit with the teachers, which was a real treat; and I kept thinking of my dad, who taught school for 36 years. I truly believe for many children, after their parents and grandparents, teachers play the most important role in their lives. That was certainly the case in my life.

All Saints Confirmation 2015On Sunday, we had eight young people to get confirmed at my church. I know these young people quite well because my husband served as their youth leader for several years. It was truly special to witness them take this commitment, this important step in their faith formation. I know this commitment meant something to them, that they will strive to serve the Lord with all their heart; and that truly makes me happy.

When I think about the young people who were just confirmed and about the youth who are taking the Alpha course at Heathfield High, I get excited. In the States and in South Africa (and probably in every country in the world), many adults like to complain about young people. But when I look at the youth in both my countries, I see hope. Young people rise to the level of expectations, and we adults often have low expectations of them, which is a dis-service to them. We can do better than that. Let’s have great expectations for our youth; they deserve nothing less.

Balancing Act

Trying to balance ministry, family, me-time, God-time and friend-time is hard. I more or less always feel the tension. Recently, I have felt it a lot and have not responded well.

When I get overwhelmed, stressed, or way out of balance, I get cranky and irritable. My to-do list grows, as I try to control what I can. When I don’t tick off everything on my to-do list, which I rarely do, I feel like I failed. This leads to feelings of guilt that, in turn, leads to more moodiness. It becomes a vicious cycle, and those close to me almost have to be saints to put up with me.

I feel as though I am disappointing a lot of people these days. I am so busy that I have little time to spend with my family and friends on this side and to talk with my family and friends on that side. Last Thursday, I had a stress headache, which is a huge warning sign that I need to slow down and take a break. So instead of going to the gym after work, I came home and watched a musical. I enjoyed it—yet I felt guilty about indulging in a luxury, watching a movie during a weekday. I had supper to cook, lunches to make, clothes to wash—why on earth was I watching a movie?

Guilt

Guys & Dolls, one of my favourite musicals, happens to be about a missionary
Guys & Dolls, one of my favourite musicals, happens to be about a missionary

I think I am in need of a holiday, a real vacation in which Wayne and I can go away for a while and just relax. In the meantime, I am relieving my stress through musicals, which have become a sort of a mental escape for me. I can totally switch off and sing to my heart’s delight.

I admit: I am an over-achiever, a product of my American-driven culture. Being a missionary has not cured that part of my personality. On the contrary, I have carried that part of me into my ministry, which is not necessarily a good thing. When I don’t see the results that I want to see or expect to see, I feel like I am failing. But who puts that pressure on me? It’s me. I am my own worst enemy.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

In times like these, I try to keep in mind two of my favourite quotations:

God calls us to be faithful, not to be successful.”
–Mother Teresa

Man is born to live, not to prepare for life.”
–Boris Pasternak

I pray, asking God to help me live in the moment and for wisdom on how to put my life back in balance. And I dream about what sort of musical my life would be if I could portray it in song and dance.