I have a mental list of some of my very favorite things about this beautiful place we call home, and one of the top three is the white lilies. At the end of a wet winter, you look around and realize there is a blanket of green over each and every mountain, streams are flowing in and out of land, and colors are blooming around every corner. Still, nothing quite beats the white lilies that stand tall in the most prevalent and the most unanticipated of places. River beds are lined with these elegant flowers, roadsides and fence lines boast them gracefully, and if you look closely, you will find one or two that have scattered into the most wonderful spots in which they stand proudly and alone. They don’t discriminate based on location or community, but they bloom in all their splendor wherever they can. With the white lilies, I am reminded to take delight in having my thirst quenched with Living Water and to bloom wherever I am planted. I am brought to my knees in thanksgiving for beauty after the storms, knowing there was a hope and a future all along. Most of all, I am thrilled for the new. New perspectives. New chances. New life. We serve a most artistic God!
As I so nonchalantly described our "familiar" arrival back into South Africa, there still remains quite the level of “new” as well. Thus continues the theme that Cape Town is such a city of contrast. Mountains/ocean. Rich/Poor. Black/white. Known/unknown. Clean/Dirty. Familiar/New. This all carries so intricately into every crevice of our lives. We have new ministries, new plans, new relationships, and new strategies all staring us in the face. And I can say we are staring proudly back and donning our “bring it on” faces! Because with new also comes excitement, planning, and discovery.
Common Ground is our South African church and they so beautifully advocate outward expressions of faith in our community. Thus, they have begun initiatives to reach people in very practical ways. That’s where literacy comes in… The newest thing for me is the opportunity to be a part of a literacy program each week in the primary school here. I get the chance to sit with a few second grade children and not only teach them the sounds of the letters, but affirm them for who they are and restore confidence that has been lost along the way. Many of the kids speak a traditional African language at home, are taught in Afrikaans at school, and we are teaching them in English. They are truly extraordinary! What a miracle it is to watch their backs straighten, their lips raise into a smile, and their voices pick up a little pep when they read a word or a letter sound for the first time. Knowledge is power that can change the course of who you become. I consider it a privilege to watch these sweet children realize that they deserve to become something wonderful. It’s new and exciting to watch them stand tall!
New is also resonating through the farm, constantly on the lips of every member of the team. There have been times that call for dropping back to punt, a redirection of vision when it comes to new tunnels and new crops. There has been the opportunity to add pillars on which the program is based and expand into the foundation of discipleship on top of business and agriculture. There have been staff changes as life moves people in and out, opening opportunities to employ local staff that we pray is yet another step toward sustainability. God is shifting and moving and connecting all the pieces and we are holding onto His faithfulness as He continues to lead us into uncharted territory. New strategies and new opportunities call for putting our faith into the familiar provisions of our great, big God.
Something about South African culture has a way of lending itself to a sense of newness. It’s hard to say with certainty what a day will look like. Something that was one way yesterday, has potential to be very different today. From the way the grocery store is organized, to the traffic patterns, to the weather- it is all constantly in motion and keeping you guessing what comes next; so it is in the lives of our club kids as well. There is a major move happening in the Mountain View community in which the whole community will eventually relocate. We are smack in the middle of this slow relocation process, and it has drastically changed the structure of our club. Some come, some don’t. No day looks alike and no planning is ever sure to be executed how you thought. In Ocean View, another one of our communities, our club had become an intimate girls’ Bible study made up of just three other teen girls. We were going deep, asking hard questions, finding life-giving Truths. But in true South African style, the rhythms of life carried us out of that time and into something totally different. A few boys joined our group, then another two younger girls. One of the original girls and a great contributor to the group went away for some time in drug rehab, the second original teen just gave birth to a little baby girl last night, and the third girl has become distant without her core there with her. So… the cherished time the four of us used to spend together on Mondays and Wednesdays has now become something so altered from what it was. Not bad. Not ineffective. Just different. The season is changing. We have a new group to shower with the Lord’s eternal love. God is sending the rain again so that the lilies can pop up in due time. And when they do, it will be breathtakingly beautiful. The last season vanished like a mist, and I am reminded of Paul’s words in Ephesians 5: live as children of the Light, make the most of opportunities, live wisely, seek out God’s will, make music from your heart to the Lord, and give thanks in everything. (paraphrase)
There is so much that is new in this second year of life in South Africa, which means there are new things to discover about our God. We get to see Him work and shed His character across life and ministry in fresh ways. When we look back on the familiar, on the things we’ve known and done, we remember the lilies that pop up where we least expect them. His promises and His faithfulness work in much the same way, bringing with them great delight in worshipping a God that has been making all things new since the beginning of time. He is good. All the time.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19