It was last year late September, that I heard – first from people, then from God – that I was to go to Stellenbosch, South Africa to partake in a year of youth and student pastor training at our churches head quarters. And though the idea excited me, I was clearly unsure about it at first, until I heard from God about it.
Now I have approached my last week here in Stellenbosch, before returning to Namibia and then immigrating to Germany.
This is a letter of reflection … may God speak to you about your own life, as you read it.
So 1st October I resigned from my teaching job in appropriate time (our school year in Namibia ends in December).
January 2014 came and I was about to leave Namibia to go and live in South Africa, in Stellenbosch for a year. I had never in my life visited the Western Cape before, nor was I familiar with church services of 1000 people, rather than the 150 I was used to. I did not have family here, I did not know where I would stay or with whom, I did not know what the training would entail in detail or whether I would be able to relate to or love the people I was about to meet.
Whoever has ever visited Swakopmund in Namibia and also visited Stellenbosch in South Africa knows, that when it comes to surrounding nature, the two could hardly be more different. I love the desert and the Atlantic Ocean (like in Swakopmund) and here in Stellenbosch I was to be surrounded by mountains, oak trees, squirrels I would see daily, rivers that actually carried water and so called rain spiders, that have a solid hands-palm size, are black and hairy and enter your home when the rain comes and are able to jump.
There are those moments where you repeatedly in seasons of your life would certainly affirm you have not only hatched, and grown feathers, but are also already able to fly and soar like an eagle. I had such a moment when I moved to Namibia end of 2010, just to be surprised that I had just left the nest for the first time in my spiritual journey and yet knew nothing about flying – contrary to my assumption. Now I would again encounter such a moment when arriving here in Stellenbosch… and even though I knew much more about flying at that stage it was a sorrowful flapping and had nothing eagle-like about it.
But with every such desperate flapping of ever-tiring wings, I learned lessons that would change my life. Allow me to elaborate on merely five of them (I chose some that most people, Christian or not, will be able to relate to):
Flying-lesson 1: God knows me AND he knows the people that are now around me, that is: my boss, my colleagues, etc. If I want to be offended, I must be offended with God, rather than with them – God intentionally put them there, knowing how our characters would clash!
THAT sorted things quickly and painfully! It would be the first and most hurtful lesson to learn, but one ever so valuable!
Flying-lesson 2: People are different! (This sounds like an obvious lesson, but believe me, when you are in it, it is not.) They respond to things differently than I do. What excites me doesn’t excite them. The social values I find enculturated in me are not theirs. My ideas do not always create excitement in them and the way I do things is not theirs. Oh yes, and communicating about it, doesn’t always help.
In short… you discover you are not a good communicator, for otherwise not as many misunderstandings would happen. And without friends that love you even though you come across rude most of the time in their culture – the time would have been aweful.
Flying-lesson 3: Never assume you will not undergo a culture-shock. There is that moment, after having arrived when flapping-lesson 2 hits home hard. You have found yourself constantly misunderstood and feel like you are swallowing everything handed to you as challenges, but others are not. It is good to have a mentor to pray during this time and bring the issues you are having to God as quickly as you can and as often as needed as to avoid offence or bitterness.
Flying-lesson 4: Language barriers are real, even when you understand basics of a language. The best way to deal with it is be open about it, let people know when you need translation and do your best as to learn the language!!! I started off this year struggling to follow a simple conversation in Afrikaans, asking people to speak slowly or to swop into English. During the past months I have taught Bible School year 2 in Afrikaans, comfortably pray for people in Afrikaans and answer phone-calls in that language at ease.
The challenge I am now left with is being tri-lingual and sometimes my brain gets the wrong language *laughs*.
Flying-lesson 5: You learn things, you never planned on learning. However never underestimate the power of a servant’s heart. I noticed the other night as I was about to fall asleep: I know the exact coffee, tea and ‘other’ drinking habits of 34 people here at Head Quarters. Why? I make them tea, coffee, … . Is it my job? NO. But I learned for what reason who of them likes and appreciates it how at which stage of their daily routines. For the one it is all about the touch on the shoulder when I bring the coffee, for the other it is just that short friendly smile interaction and for some it is just what it is… an urgently needed cup of coffee.
The amount of lessons I learned would be much longer than any email, blogpost or letter can hold. I chose these five at random and trust you will be able to relate to some of them.
I feel privileged when I look back at this year. I never had as many spiritual growing pains ever in my life – and I cannot tell you how grateful I am for all of them! I can see how I grew. I can see how not only my knowledge and intellect was fed and increased, but how I grew relationally equally much!
I was privileged to live with the most amazing woman of God, and her life-style and how real God is to her life, challenged me daily. Thank you, Co – I grew because of the legacy you left with me!
I was privileged to experience financial, time, relational and informational … impartation by Shofar Christian Church, our pastors here, my home base church of Shofar, friends, colleagues, students, and people I met. I never had too little, I never found myself wanting because of you… and I now not only have heard about covenant relationships, but I have experienced them first hand! You changed my life!
However my biggest thank you goes out to my family. The skype conversations were like a lifeline at times, your sms’s and whatsapp messages, the times spent on holiday, … you are amazing! My parents who supported me throughout, even though I presume they sometimes find it hard to relate to how I live my faith. My siblings who encouraged me, gave advise and where always also a part of the journey, my grandmothers and other relatives, that shared in my journey by reading regular emails.
I am about to say my good-byes to some of the most amazing people I know to return to Namibia. And while my heart is filled with sadness, it is also filled with gratitude, awe and excitement for the future.
Many of my friends as far away as Thailand, Germany, UK, America, Namibia, South Africa, Brazil, India, Australia and New Zealand and Pakistan… have prayed for me throughout this year. They carried me on eagles wings (the wings I did not have), they interceded and inquired how I was doing, they held me accountable, encouraged me and cheered me on. They loved me and journeyed with me, most of them via newsletters I would send out. To you I want to say: if I changed and matured in this time, it was because of Christ in you! I love you and I pray we will journey together some more!
I loved my year here! It has been the most exciting and amazing journey! Yes, it had plenty challenges… but it was like climbing mountains… it is hard to get up at times, but once on top it is breathtaking. You are the ones who made it possible!
May God bless you!