Sunday, November 6, 2016

Some lessons from our first month in South Africa

Sawubona from South Africa! We arrived on the cold and rainy evening of September 28th to the smiling faces of our TEAM coworkers Eric, Susan, and Marci, who greeted us with warm hugs and flowers. 

Since then, we have been describing our landing as a bit rocky. Perhaps we were a bit naive coming in - full of excitement and general optimism for the adventures to come. But suffice it to say that it has taken us longer than we expected to get settled in (still working on that!); that while there is so much we love about our new culture, the difficulties have been pronounced; that we've jumped into language study without particular pieces in place to facilitate a great learning experience; and that overall, we've been in more of a survival mode than we had expected ourselves to be at this point in our transition. 

It has taken us a bit to get our feet back on the ground and we can literally feel ourselves acclimating (like growing pains, remember - those aches in your legs!?) a day at a time. But, as my husband and children can attest to, all it seems to take to derail my mental and emotional stability is the smallest of inconveniences or disappointments. What had otherwise been a pretty swell day could become rather devastating over a seemingly small issue. I have been able to identify that much of what we are experiencing is indeed normal - although it's debatable how comforting that truly is (about as comforting as it is to hear that your awful nausea during your first trimester in pregnancy is normal). 

And so, thankfully, after a month, I am already able to identify some lessons that the Lord has been teaching me:

1. I am weak. Honestly, I do not remember thinking that I was a particularly strong person before moving overseas, but I also know that I did not actively dwell on my weakness. This first month here has revealed to me (and my family) just how weak I truly am. As you can imagine, this realization has been painful. What is wrong with me? Why can I not handle this seemingly insignificant disappointment? How will I function without _____? What I do know is what God has already said: "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" and so I joyfully affirm what Paul has said, "therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of God may rest upon me" (2 Cor. 12:9). I am not strong enough to do this - to say goodbye to everyone dear, to leave our home and move our family across continents, to settle in somewhere completely new, to learn a language I've never heard before, to keep my children quiet through a 3 and a half hour service and try to listen for the few Zulu words I know, but, through my inadequacy and because of my weakness, God's power will prevail in my life. It is his power that enables me, in my great weakness, to get up every morning and seek to glorify him anew. To God be the glory! 

2. Be patient. I have heard parents say that they thought they were very patient people... until they had children. Yes, so were we. And I would say that I was generally patient about certain things getting accomplished... until we moved overseas. A new perspective on patience has emerged, also painfully. We had expected to move into our new home within a couple of days upon arriving; instead, we waited for two weeks. If I could just tell my then-in-a-tizzy-self, be patient - you will be in your own home soon, you will not be homeless forever I think those weeks would have been much less stressful. So now, the Lord graciously has reminded me of his provision for us, one step at a time, one detail at a time. Be patient - he will indeed take care of us, and the details will work out. Some day soon we will have our own internet. Soon we will own a vehicle. In a few months, and then a few years, we will be able to communicate so much more than we can currently. Soon, we will make new friends and find a home church. Be patient. 

3. Set your eyes upon Jesus and find comfort in his character, faithfulness, and provision. It is easy and natural in the midst of stress to focus on myself, to bury my head under the covers, and to throw something of a pity party. But to take my eyes and turn them upward, to remind myself of all the ways that the Lord has been faithful again, and again, and again, and to relish in his perfect, unchanging nature amidst my very imperfect and transitional life is the best antidote for any stress, grief, or disappointment. He has indeed taken my life, raised it from the pit of sinfulness and death, and through Jesus given me status in his kingdom as an heir and daughter; he has faithfully provided for my every need - physical, spiritual, emotional, mental - in the way he sees fit and according to his perfect purposes, and he will continue to do so; he has given me access to his very word as recorded in the Bible and in it is all that I need for my life. There is much to be said about his character, faithfulness and provision, and much for me to dwell upon in difficult moments. What an immense privilege and blessing! 

And so, if this challenging first month was meant only for me to learn these invaluable lessons, then I will be thankful for it and embrace this education, however painful along the way. 

"We must hide our unholiness in the wounds of Christ as Moses hid himself in the cleft of the rock while the glory of God passed by. We must take refuge from God in God. Above all we must believe that God sees us perfect in His Son while He disciplines and chastens and purges us that we may be partakers of His holiness."
 A. W. Tozer (The Knowledge of the Holy, 107).


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