Tag Archives: south africa

fear no evil

Last night, I went to a worship concert with several friends. It was an amazing time, worshiping with friends and singing some of my favorite worship songs. One of these songs was Oceans, by Hillsong United. While this song has been a bit overplayed in the last year, its words were just as meaningful last night as the first time I heard them.

Until last night, the last time I had seen Hillsong live was in Cape Town. They came to South Africa as part of their Zion tour and that was the first time I heard “Oceans.” It had incredible meaning for me then, because I had been in this foreign country less than a month, and there were still a lot of unknown things. I had to trust God a whole lot more than usual because I was way out of my comfort zone. I wrote another post about this last year (you can read it here), so clearly it was a significant memory for me.

Hearing the song last night was a bit surreal…which may seem strange because I’ve heard it countless times in between. But the presence of God was so heavy, and when I closed my eyes it was as if the thousands of people disappeared and I was alone with Jesus.

I was reminded of a moment last month at the beach with my family. Anyone who knows me knows that the beach is my absolute favorite place to be. One of the days I was out in the water with my sister and cousin. The water was perfect; fairly calm spells followed by HUGE waves which were perfect for riding. We were floating along enjoying the swells, when I tried to stand up and check to make sure we hadn’t floated too far down the beach. But I couldn’t touch the bottom. A mild wave of panic briefly fluttered through my head as I calmly told the girls to swim inland a little bit. We had simply allowed the swells to carry us out past where we could touch. This wouldn’t have been that big of a deal, but with all the shark attacks happening this year it was a little scary being out that far.

As we got to the bridge of the song, I understood why God had brought this memory to my mind:

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,
let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”

Deeper than my feet could ever wander. Hmm. Do I tend to panic when I get too far out and forget to trust in God’s sovereignty? Do I really believe those words, asking Him to take me deeper? I am much more comfortable where I can touch the bottom. That’s where I am in control. I can direct my movements, I can stand on solid ground. I feel safe. But these words I was singing…I was asking Him to take me deeper than my feet can go – that requires trust. And surrender.

If I am afraid, I will never get to the place where I fully trust Him, where I can most be used by Him. If I am in control, that means He is not. It’s time to pick up my feet and let Him move me.

This is not an easy thing to do – there are so many unknowns. Which way will the current flow? What if there is a storm? But I hear Him say, “Trust, my love. I will never let you drown.” He owns the ocean, He formed it’s every wave. Who better to trust with my life than the One who gave me breath? Fear may try to creep in, but His love is stronger.

I will admit, the crazy amount of shark attacks in North Carolina this summer has been quite unnerving, but that still didn’t keep me out of the water. My love for the ocean is stronger than the fear of something bad happening. The same is true for any risk I take for the Kingdom. Of course there is fear that I will fail. But His love covers me. I am accepted, loved, and chosen by the King of Kings. Yes, there is evil in the world. There are sharks in the water. There always will be. But that shouldn’t keep us from diving in. I don’t want to be afraid to go where He asks me to go, and do what He asks me to do. I think a lot of times I keep my feet planted firmly on the ground so long that I forget what it feels like to float freely along. I can no longer hear Him calling me out into the waves. Fear is faith’s greatest enemy. And often the things that take the most faith result in the greatest reward.

If Jesus can walk on water and calm the storm, He can surely keep my head above the waves. With a new season ahead of me, where I will most likely feel as though I am drowning in reading and homework – I will fix my eyes on my life preserver, the One who saved my soul and continues to do so. He alone is worthy of my trust, my love, and my life. It is in His presence where I am safest – even if my feet cannot touch the ground.

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shining stars

star (noun, adjective, verb)
1. any of the large, self-luminous, heavenly bodies, as the sun, etc.
2. celebrated, prominent, or distinguished; preeminent
 
OR…
About a hundred crazy kids, bursting with energy, desperate for love and attention. Little 5 year olds who just want to be held. Boisterous 9 year old boys who don’t know how to express themselves with words so they just tackle each other. Quiet 12 year old girls who watch from afar, wishing someone would sit and talk with them.
 
People aren’t problems to be fixed. People are people, for us to walk alongside and journey with and help pick up the pieces with and, when they drop them again, to get back down and help them pick them up again. And that’s real love – without condition and without expectation. 
– Brooke Fraser
 
The first time I went to Manenberg was during our orientation week. They took us on buses to visit some of the SHAWCO project sites in the townships.  SHAWCO is one of the largest student organizations at UCT. Student volunteers go to one of the 11 project sites throughout the week to help with either health or education projects. The project in Manenberg is called STAR, and it operates out of the primary school there. This particular township is almost exclusively an Afrikaans-speaking, coloured community. The townships are some of the poorest areas in Cape Town, but there are some nicer houses there too (made of concrete rather than sheets of metal). But it is so different from the city. When we first came there, the kids were jumping all over us before we could even get off the bus! They were so excited to see us. I met a little 6 year old girl named Ashlyn. She climbed into my arms and asked me a million questions. She was fascinated that I was from America. When we had to leave, she asked me if I was coming back. And for some reason I couldn’t say no.
 
So naturally, when it was time to choose our projects, I signed up for STAR. It worked well with my schedule, and I wanted to see Ashlyn again. Our first week, there were about 17 of us volunteers…and about 150 kids. Probably more, but it was impossible to tell. Not all the kids are actually in the program, and so basically it was all just organized chaos. Actually, no…it was just chaos. We were split up into age groups – I was with the grades R-1 (the little ones – mostly age 5 and 6), and the other groups were grades 2-3 and 4-5. They did reading groups and worked in the computer lab. Our group played outside to get some energy out, and then went inside to color and play games. It was quite loud and overwhelming…the little girls just wanted to be held or spun around, and the boys wanted something to punch and kick. Trying to get them all to do the hokey pokey was like trying to get a bunch of pigeons to stand in a line. (I’m not comparing children to pigeons…just roll with it). I love the energy they have, and it was definitely fun to play with them, but it was quite exhausting! 
 
The next week, I went with the older kids, grades 4-5. We started out in the library to practice their reading. There were only a few of them at first, so it was going pretty well. The 5 of us split up between the kids and read with one or two of them. But more kids came one by one and soon the room was full of like 30 kids…and there weren’t enough of us to read with them, so the others were just running around distracting the kids trying to read. A few of the kids I read with did pretty well, besides the fact that they are barely reading at a first grade level. It breaks my heart to think about how much these kids struggle in school not being able to read well. Especially as they get older. We would take turns reading every other page, or sometimes they would read the whole book themselves. One boy was doing really well, but his friends kept jumping on his back and distracting him. At one point I looked up to see one of the boys climbing the bookshelf like a ladder. Sheesh. I did feel like I was making more a difference working with these kids though. They were a little bit more under control than the younger ones, and some of them were really trying. We went to the computer lab later where they do a program with English or math questions. As long as they got higher than 50% they could play games when they finished. Most of them just guess until they get 50%. I wish they had higher expectations of themselves. I can’t imagine how hard it is for them to make it through high school like that. The education system in South Africa is not good.
 
While it is overwhelming to see these kids struggle, and to see their cries for attention, I already love them all, and I can’t wait to work with them every week. I really hope that we can influence these kids and motivate them to work hard. The older ones understand that better than the little ones, but at the end of the day, as long as they feel like someone cares about them, that’s good enough for me.
 
I am only one, still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do. – Helen Keller