Ode To Joy. ♡
“South Africa” triggers many memories & feelings within me, & while I was thinking of a topic to focus on for this blog, I felt my heart whisper ⇢ “JOY.” My mission experience was more than an introduction to a new culture or an opportunity to do “good,” it was a beautiful exchange.
Port Shepstone, South Africa…how to describe it? Physically & aesthetically pleasing with it’s green, lush, & hilly landscapes. Goats, cows, donkeys, dogs & the occasional monkey roam the streets made up of gravel, dirt & clay. You will find many who walk far & wide traveling to & from school (or work), & may even be surprised to see those who journey by foot across the main “highway” in order to get to where they need to go! At a moments change, you can go from passing by acres of mansion estates to then gazing upon homes made up of merely scraps of sheet metal & clay. If you drive to the coast, you can stand upon rock formations looking out into the wavy Indian Ocean 〜, dipping your toes in (if you dare)! This place is truly stunning, truly unique & multi-dimensional in ways beyond it’s physicality!
J-O-Y. How do you know when joy is present? Joy is a presence that is both visually seen & felt deep down in the spirit. It’s something hard to describe, yet we know it is not temporary & fleeting like happiness; it is something deep-rooted in us ⚘ & often comes from a source beyond the outskirts of our circumstance. I believe that a real testament of joy is when it is dominantly present in a person’s life despite the fact that they may be facing extreme set backs & difficulties. Although South Africa may have appeared different on the surface, our personal & interactive experiences shined light ☀︎ on the fact that as humans we all have the same struggles, are all in need of encouragement & above all things: LOVE.
Where there is LOVE there is JOY. ❤︎
Days leading up to our departure from Chicago ✈︎, I was still spinning my wheels asking myself, “how am I going to make a difference on this trip?” In that moment I felt God tell me, “Steph, just listen & love on them-it’s really that simple. Sometimes (most times) that’s all that is needed.” As my first mission trip, who would have thought that loving on people was the foundational need of even beginning to make an impact?!; of course providing those in need with the appropriate material goods (done the right way) can definitely be a blessing, yet without love behind it, it is nothing more than an empty gift.
“If I speak with human eloquence & angelic ecstasy but I don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s word with power, revealing all his mysteries & making everything plain as day, & if I have faith that says to a mountain, “jump,” & it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor & even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, & what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”
(1 Corinthians 13: 1-7)
I can think of many moments & highlights from this trip that were personal & joy-filled. My fiancé & I (side note: South Africa was where we got engaged! ☺︎) were blessed by an organization called, “Soles for Jesus,” who graciously gave us 50 pairs of shoes to bring with us to donate. With the help of one of our great partnering leaders from a children’s school in South Africa, we were able to deliver a handful of shoes to a family nearby in need. We walked over to their home ⌂, & not only gave them shoes, but prayed with them, making sure they knew: that even though we may not have personally known them up until that point, we loved them ♡.
Looking back now I see that it wasn’t the shoes themselves that brought the joy, but it was the heart behind the hands that gave & the heart of those on the receiving end. A mutual joy that was exchanged ⇆ & shared-such a moment to remember; a moment among many! Through the students & the teachers, through the hospice patients, through the babies at the orphanage, through the church, through it ALL…there was a beautiful exchange. An exchange that was transformational, inspirational, & one that will continue to push us forth ☞ in all we are called to be & do! Thank you, LOVE & thank you, JOY!; this is an ode to you.
Jump in this safari & take a ride with me as we journey through the hills, in the homes, & above great horizons!⇞
KHULA CRECHE. (Daycare/School.)
BONUS: ENGAGEMENT SURPRISE!