Remembering

Last night, during a spiritual exercise with my “cell” (small) group, I thought about some people who had played a special role in my life. Who immediately came to mind was my dear friend John Mogabgab, who recently passed away. If you had the blessing and honour to know John, then you know how hard it is describe him, this marvelous man with a gentle spirit and a wonderful wit, a beard like a desert father, a pupil and scholar of Henri Nouwen, and the founding editor of Weavings. Yet, last night, I realised a special gift John and his wife, Marjorie, gave me and that was the gift of listening to God. The two of them, through their contemplative spirituality, showed me through practice and example how to be intentional about listening to God. Although I don’t do a very good job setting aside quiet time to just listen to God, I am grateful for this lovely and essential gift John and Marjorie gave me, and I’m trying to cultivate in my life a pattern of listening.

On another and a very surprising note, I also thought about the math teachers I had in high school and at university. While listening to a friend share about her child’s struggle with math and with the school’s frequent change of math teachers, I realised for the first time in my life how blessed I was to have the math teachers I had. No doubt, my high school and university friends can’t believe what they are reading, as I struggled so much and complained endlessly about math. However, with one exception, all the math teachers I had were good at teaching their subjects and were so patient with me, going beyond the call of duty to offer me special help. Geometry gave me the hardest time, but my teacher regularly tutored

geometryme after school. I don’t even remember his name; it has been that long ago, but I remember his face and his kindness. Honestly, if I didn’t have helpful math teachers, my academic life could have noise-dived; and I could have become so discouraged. Who would have known that twenty-plus years later, I would give thanks for the math teachers in my life?

I continue to live into my life of Ubuntu, as I continue to realise that my “humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up in yours”—my dear friend John and my math teachers.

 

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Adapting

I can hardly believe it, but I have been living in Cape Town for nearly six weeks. Saturday will mark the milestone. All is going well. I continue to work hard on the Anglicans Ablaze study guide booklet. I’m beginning to meet with local and provincial youth leaders so that we can start building relationships. I participated in my first Rooted in Jesus training, and on Saturday I will start the Mission Shaped Ministry course, in the hopes that Growing the Church will have the opportunity to help start a Fresh Expressions of Church at a local university.

 CarOn the home front, I have moved into a lovely flat, opened a bank account, subscribed to an ISP, and started grocery shopping on my own. I bought a car earlier this week, and I’m beginning to drive. (Today I drove on the motorway for the first time!) I am spending a lot of time with my South African friends and getting to know them and their families better. I enjoy this time the most, and I am learning loads about South African culture from them.

I am also beginning to miss the familiar—my family, my friends, my church, food, the shops, Starbucks, an active social life, work that was routine, tennis, kickboxing, walks around my neighborhood, grocery stores with aisles of choices, houses that aren’t gated in with fences and barb wire and locked up with burglary bars, walks in the parks, the freedom to come and go as I please by myself, my puppy-nephew, taxis that abide by traffic rules, words spelled with z‘s and not s‘s.

There are many things that I love about my new culture; others I find rather strange. No doubt my feelings indicate the birth pangs of culture shock, which is just a natural part of the process of living in another country. During my missionary training at MTI, we were warned about the phase of culture shock and were prepped for it. I think being aware of this phase is key and will make going through the process much easier than if I didn’t know otherwise. The most important thing about culture shock is not getting stuck in it. Equally important, I believe, is not blitzing through it, trying to escape the discomfort. I’m praying for the courage to live into the culture shock, to acknowledge the discomfort, to reflect deeply on my home culture and on my adopted culture, to emerge on the other side as a person who can live healthy and happily in both of her worlds.

God Moments

At this point in my preparation for the big move, it is easy for me to lose God in the details. But sometimes God surprises me in unexpected ways, reminding me of his faithful presence and guidance along my journey and of his work in the lives of others and in the world.

This week, I have seen God in the young family who invited me over to dinner to talk with their kids about my future work in South Africa. On so many levels, this couple “gets it,” perhaps even more than I do, as they try to cultivate hearts of compassion in their children.

I have seen God in one of my self-defense instructors who has used a family tragedy to help we women better protect ourselves.

Penguin
Penguins in South Africa? Yes. Another God Surprise? Perhaps.

I have seen God in my new friend who is going through a painful breakup. Instead of allowing the pain and hurt to drive him away from God, my friend is turning to God, growing deeper in faith.

I have seen God in a couple who, upon learning of a connection with a mutual friend, invited me, a mere stranger, to their dinner party. At the gathering, I reconnected with some old high school and college friends and I made new friends. This couple has the gift of hospitality and a love for South Africa; I’m glad I can call them friends.

These are some extreme examples of “God moments,” but I believe each day is filled with God’s touches and flourishes. Unfortunately, I’m often too busy to notice them. I’m praying to be more aware of God in my everyday life.