The time has come and I am doing my best to embrace this new birthday number that is creeping up. I thought since I was turning 40 I would just have a moment to remember things that happened in my 30’s.
My 30’s had things happen that I never would have ever thought of. As with most anyone turning 30 you would think you would be married and have kids but that hasn’t happened yet but what has happened in my 30’s is so many children who have come into my life!! God knows my love for children and has given me lots that I get to be a part of their lives. I am blessed to have some of the greatest nieces and nephews in the whole world (that are adopted to me in love). I was also given the name DD from these nieces and nephews. I never knew a name could mean so much to me!! Sometimes it is hard to only see them once a year but those visits mean so much. I am very thankful for skype, face time, and text messaging to not feel so far away.
One definite thing I can say is in my 30’s I realized my love for South Africa. It was in these years that God used mission trips to open my eyes to what HIS PLANS were for me. And of course as anyone who knows me knows…..it took a while for me to listen to what God was saying! So now as I reflect on the end of my 30’s and think about what God has done I just don’t have words! I have been able to serve as a missionary for 7 ½ years and had the opportunity to travel to a couple other countries in Africa. I have been able to use the gifts and talents that God has given me to help others and that gets me super excited.
I would have to say that 39 has been the hardest year of my life. This last year started out very dark upon hearing the news that I would need to have surgery that would change a lot for me and also changed dreams and plans that I had for my life. This year has been incredibly challenging and has had many valleys. I know with the valleys come the mountaintops and over the last couple of months I am learning about those mountains tops and have literally hiked a couple of them!! This year has also been a year where I have felt God’s presence more than any other time in my life. God has most definitely used this year to show me that HE HAS PLANS FOR ME.
I don’t know what the future hold but I know WHO holds the future and as I look back on the last 10 years I believe it is only going to get better!
So watch out 40 here I come………
Today marks five weeks since having surgery! I feel like this week is the first time since surgery that I am starting to almost feel like myself. I am still healing and having to see a wound sister (nurse) every two days to check on my incision but things are looking up. I feel like the journey has taken a new turn and it is the downhill part since there has been so many uphill battles over the last five weeks that right now I am having this time of just enjoying the moment.
The past week the Lord has taken this verse and put it in my mind and in my face many times.
Isaiah 30:18 “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”
When I read this verse there are a few things that stand out to me as I think about the past five weeks and the emotional rollercoaster I have been on:
1. The fact that the Lord LONGS to be gracious to us/me and rises to show us/me compassion. That is a beautiful image as I start to think about it. Over the last weeks I know the Lord has been so gracious to me as he listened to me complain and just have hard moments of trying to understand everything that was going on. The Lord’s compassion is bigger than anything I can think of and to know that he rises to show it to me/us.
2. WAITING….this is a word that I don’t like to hear. I have done a lot of it in the past five weeks. In fact right now I am even reading a book about waiting. Waiting/God’s timing…….these are two things that I have been learning so much about. Not the two easiest things to be learning about!! Over the last week God has really been drawing me back into Him and spending more time with Him and learning more about Him. All of this can be happening because I am in the waiting of not being able to fully dive back into work so I still have extra time and at a place where I am waiting to hear from God!
As I look back on the last five weeks and realizing how far I have come and then I also remember that it has been one day at a time and there were many hard days but also good days where I saw God in many different ways. Right now I am still in the waiting of the healing process for two more things…….. to be cleared to be able to go back to the gym and to be cleared to be able to pick things up. The picking things up is hard because I haven’t been able to pick up and get real kiddo hugs in five weeks and for those of you who really know me know that is really hard! Again WAITING!!
Since it is coming to that time of the year when everyone begins to reflect about the year….let’s just say I have had time to do some reflecting. Last week in one of my quiet times I read 2 Corinthians 5:7 which says, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” I can’t count the amount of times that I have read this verse or heard it referenced. However, this time I see this verse in a whole different way. I feel like this has been a year where I am truly beginning to understand what that verse means.
From the start of 2014 taking a huge step in faith and beginning to dive head first into focusing on getting healthy. Not knowing what things were going to look like but trusting God and the past 8 months have been amazing, I am able to do things I never thought I could do and for the first time in a long time I am beginning to feel good about myself!
Ministry at Living Hope this year has been filled with a lot of times of living by faith especially when it came to curriculum and deciding what would be best for different events we were doing throughout the year. I have had days when I wondered what God was doing because I wasn’t seeing anything and then a Life Skill Educator would share something that happened at club or I go to club and see the children really understanding how God’s word applies to them.
This past month has been a definite living by faith from having to make the decision to have surgery, finishing work earlier than planned, and having complications from the surgery which is now causing a slower recovery.
As I reflect on the year, I can see why God allowed certain things to happen and of course the things He has taught me through the situations. Which brings this verse back into my mind of “living by faith, not by sight”, I know God is in control and the reminder I may not see it that is why it is called a FAITH journey! God is definitely reminding me He is in control and He has plans and I need to be patient and at this point take it one day at a time and He will reveal things in His timing not mine!!
The past six months have been a time where I have really sought God in a different way then I ever have. When I found out the news that I was going to have to have this surgery it led to a whole lot of questions. I am sure for those of you who know me well you know that of course I would have some questions for God. Then as I tried to process things again God’s timing changed and we put surgery on hold which allowed me to focus on getting healthy! As I was plugging along thinking surgery would be something in 2015 I get that call from the doctor that says ummm we need to do surgery in the next three months the sooner the better. The reason being because test results came back abnormal and of course no one likes the word abnormal! Once my brain was able to think I realized after talking to some people why not do it now and be able to have time to recuperate. Again God’s Timing…..as I knew that I was going to have a South African Christmas I did not think it would be recuperating from surgery….I thought I would be working on a tan and missing snow! I have been spending a lot of time talking to God and so thankful for His patience with me. I am thankful for His Word that brings comfort that just can’t be described. Right now I am clinging to Psalm 121 which God shared with me Sunday at church and it says, ” I lift my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip-he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you-the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm-he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
Also most everyone knows how much I enjoy listening to Chris Tomlin and he has a song called “Sovereign” and I have to say that is my heart’s cry during this time and knowing that God’s Timing is everything and He knows the plans He has for me……..HE IS SOVERIGN!
Here is how you can pray:
1. Pray for the surgery that will be happening on Friday morning 7:30am Cape Town time (11:30pm CST in the USA)
2. Pray for my stay in the hospital that all would be well and I would rest and there would not be any complications
3. Pray for the recovery time the first week I am staying with dear friends as I begin to heal.
4. Pray for me as I have to be willing to ask for help, this can be a little hard but I know that during the next 4-6 weeks I am going to need help!!
The perfect timing of a sunset.
This picture was taken in my first week or arriving in Cape Town in May 2008.
The group of locals from Zimbabwe that I have had the pleasure of working with! Such a great group.
One of the many photos of the group of Life Skill Educators I get to work with!!
I have been spending some time the last month thinking about the number 6. Thinking about things that come in groups of six, which include donuts and soda….two things that are definitely not good for me! The number 6 also shares the amount of time I have spent in South Africa. This was going to be a one-year adventure that I was going to do and then go back to my “normal life.” What I did not know was that South Africa was going to become my normal life. I remember being this girl who really didn’t do much alone and couldn’t even stay in my house alone at night… to becoming a girl that lives clear on the other side of the world and has travelled to 4 different African countries since moving here in 2008.
As I think about this past year one big thing that sticks out to me has been my travel to Zimbabwe. This year I have had the chance to visit three times, the last two trips made all by myself! The idea of getting to go to new areas and help train, educate, and mentor locals in children’s ministry is just unbelievable and something that six years ago when I said yes to the call to South Africa never knew that doing traveling and training outside of Cape Town was going to be a part of it.
This past year has also begun a time of trying to make sure to take care of myself more to be able to serve for as long as God sees fit. God is showing me it is ok to spend time alone and to do things for myself. Again this from a girl who never liked to be alone before, this is a big idea that God is really working with me on!
Doing life and ministry here is something I can’t explain but to say it is LIFE CHANGING! As well as to say that EVERY DAY I am here I feel so blessed that God called me to move to this beautiful place in the world and serve alongside some amazing talented locals!!!!!!!
On Friday afternoon and evening I was lucky enough to attend a Leadership Conference called Leadercast. Living Hope had been given tickets and of course I thought it would be a great opportunity. It was an evening filled with different speakers sharing about different principals in regards to leadership. The theme of the event was Leadership Beyond You. The interesting thing was it was a non Christian event but quite a few of the speakers were Christians and you could just tell a difference when they spoke.
One of the speakers was Laura Bush and I was so excited to hear her speak….however it ended up being a video she wasn’t live but she was still great! The event was a streamed event from Atlanta, Georgia but Cape Town also had one of the speakers which was Archbishop Desmond Tutu so I had the chance to see and hear Desmond Tutu in person.
I must confess I have never thought of myself in previous years as a leader I thought of myself as Danielle…..the school teacher or the friend or the Sunday School teacher and most recently the missionary. Now I realize that through it all God was putting me in leadership positions I just wasn’t aware of it.
I have so many ideas and thoughts from that evening and so I thought I would just write a blog to help me gather my mind around some of the things that stuck out to me.
- Andy Stanley shared this quote and it got me thinking, “The value of a life is always measured by how much of it is given away.”
- Andy Stanley also said, “If your leadership isn’t all about you it will live beyond you!”
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “A person is a person through a person.” I loved this quote because we are who we are because of the different people who are in our lives.
- Simon Sinek shared about leadership and how it is about taking care of others and sacrifices on our part.
There is so much I am still trying to process with ideas that came out of that conference but one thing that I learned was that all of us are leaders in our lives. Where I used to think I wasn’t a leader but we all are whether we are in the business world, church world, parent world. We all have people around us who are looking to us to lead and how do we do it the way God would have us?
This week I have seen FAITH and TRUST in a whole new light. On Friday the Life Skill Educators were told that the DAD (Dollar A Day) funding that covers all of the cost of what we do is very low and there is only 33% of what is needed to cover our monthly expenses. Which means that each Life Skill Educator could get 1/3 of their salary or we need to let 2/3 of the Life Skill Educators go. When I heard the news my heart just broke and I was in shock; however, as I sat in the room I was amazed by their reaction. They shared how they have taken things for granted and that they need to turn back to God and have FAITH and TRUST Him for everything. Then we began to pray and sing and just hearing them share their hearts and cry out to God was so humbling.
As this week has gone one the ONLY concern that the Life Skill Educators have shared is their worry for the children and teens that come to the afternoon clubs. They want to make sure that the kids and teens will still be able to have food. For a majority of our kids and teens that come to our afternoon clubs the sandwich and piece of fruit or juice Living Hope gives may be one of the only things they eat for the day.
I am sharing this to ask you to help us in one or two ways ……..
1. On Friday November 29th “Black Friday” we are having a Face-a-thon and prayer vigil. The Life Skill Educators and other Living Hope staff and volunteers will be up through the night taking turns praying for the 16 hours of the event. Here is how you can help………ask all of your friends to check out the Living Hope facebook page that day as we will be posting stories, videos, and testimonies every hour about the Life Skill Educators and the lives they are touching on a daily basis. Also if you can share the Living Hope facebook updates to all of your friends. We are hoping that this event will help raise awareness of what the Life Skill Educators do as well as help take care of being able to pay the Life Skill Educators for the rest of 2013. We are looking to raise 26,000 US Dollars.
2. Pray for this event as well as the Life Skill Educators as they are TRUSTING GOD in complete FAITH!
Today these two words became so real to me! Fridays are the day when all of the Life Skill Educators get together and we have training. This morning started with a devotion that dealt with leadership ….the fact that Leadership is Built on Relationships. The devotion was based on Romans 12:15 which says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Gail who was bringing the devotion shared that we have people who rejoice with us and people who share in our tears and how important it is to have people who do that in our lives.
The main topic for this morning was to debrief and talk about our Holiday Festivals that we did at the end of September and boy was I in for a SURPRISE. Gail had us divide into tables to sit with people we normally don’t sit with and she also made sure that each branch of Life Skill Educators split up. At each table there were around 5 of us. We each got a piece of paper and wrote our name on it and then each person at the table had to write something they saw in us during the Holiday Festivals since this was a time when all of the Life Skill Educators worked together.
After writing something for each of the people at my table…I read my paper and I was just silent for a moment and in awe by what the 4 at my table wrote. I was speechless when I read what they wrote!! Words have the power to give such life!! We then decided to read everyone’s out loud and I had to hold back tears as I shared what some of the Life Skill Educators had written about each other! We all need encouragement and words have the awesome power to do that…..also it is because of the relationships that we have with others that those words mean so much!!!
This past week was one of the school holiday weeks. Normally we have a Holiday Club (aka Vacation Bible School) well this week I really thought and felt led to do something new. The reason for this was to change things up a little bit and also give the Life Skill Educators a chance to all work together as well as work in each other’s communities. Because of the work that they do they don’t have the opportunity to necessarily work in each other’s community so this was also one of the perks to doing something new. So here is how the week looked: each day we went to a different community and hosted a carnival in the morning and then again in the afternoon. For each community the carnivals took on a different look based on what the Life Skill Educators in that community thought would be best. Each carnival did have circle games, face painting, balloon animals, and other fun activities to keep the kids excited.
The first two days of carnivals I was running around making sure things were going well……then on the last two days I was able to get involved in the carnivals. I was able for the last two days to be at the face painting table. It was two days of being able to bring children and teenagers smiles simply by giving them a little bit of attention
and painting something on their cheek. Now I am not a skilled artist by any stretch of the means but that didn’t matter the kids faces would just light up once you would hold the mirror in front of their face and show them what you painted. Such a simple thing but just meant so much to the children and teenagers that came to each of the carnivals. Amazing what some paint, brushes, and water can do for a child!!
I know it has been a while since I have blogged and I am sorry for that. I just get involved in day to day things here and then before I know it months have passed. The past couple of months have been fast moving but I have also been able to have some quiet days as well which have been a huge blessing. I am so excited about something and I wanted to share it with everyone…..
In April Living Hope expanded to the Eastern Cape to an area called East London. For the past couple of weeks we have begun Skype calls with our fellow workers in East London. Over the past month the opportunity has come for them to start teaching Grade 8 Life Skills Classes in the local high school. To help them start off on the right foot we knew we needed to send one of our staff to help them and just also be there for encouragement and support. I am so excited we are sending Desmond our Masi Life Skill Educator Team Leader. It has been amazing to see Desmond grow and become an amazing testimony of what God is doing in his life. It has been so fun to help get him ready by having conversations and talking about planning, schedules, curriculum, lesson plans, and other kinds of paperwork.
The reason I share this is because this is what Living Hope is all about…empowering others to change their communities and Desmond is a testimony to that.
Below is a picture of us praying over Desmond………..