Watching Them Grow

I have worked in Africa for over 15 years.  When I think about what I have accomplished, I feel like I just arrived yesterday.  When I reflect on the lessons that I have learned, it seems as if I have been in Africa for a lifetime. My life is peppered with the struggles, mistakes, and grace that living in a culture different from your own can bring.  However, I am never reminded so much of my age as when I meet with and see my former students.  When I first arrived in South Africa in 2001, I was confident and ready to take over the world!  I figured I could make my impression on South Africa in a few years, then move on to bigger and better adventures.  I did not understand then that South Africa had a lifetime of lessons still to teach me and more gifts to give than I could carry with both hands.  I’m glad that I stayed around to learn those lessons and to receive those gifts.  I doubt that I could have learned them any other way.

What is most surprising is that although time seems to stand still for me personally, I see its passage most in the development of our former students.  I can hardly contain my pride as I watch them become teachers, lawyers, mothers, fathers, pharmacists, carpenters, and the list goes on.  When I come across them around town and they tell me of their own adventures and the ways that they are going to take over the world, I cannot help but bristle with pride.  Pride, not because of any particular mark that I made in their lives, but in knowing that the Lord could bring a rather unremarkable girl to a small village in the middle of nowhere to witness what only He can do in the lives of those who seek Him.

I still stand in awe of Him.  I see the Lord in the faces of these new adults as they talk to me about how differently they are bringing up their own children.  I hear His voice when they speak about how they still love and serve Him.  I’m humbled by His grace when they confess their wrong thoughts and actions as if we are still teacher and student and reference a Bible lesson I once taught them so long ago.  Yet, all in all, I know that they are the ones who are going to change this country.  Perhaps not in the one great revival I had hoped for, but certainly in the incremental changes that comes with being a witness in their own right.  They are defeating the demons of alcoholism, racism, and sexual immorality that plagued their parents.  The battle to create a Kingdom culture in their communities is a difficult one filled with bumps, pitfalls, and pain alongside success and victory, but it is a fight that they are still waging.  I am honored to have served them.  I am privileged to see what they have become.  I am grateful that the Lord allowed me to walk beside them in their journey.  To God be the glory!

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