God sent me to South Africa with Restoration Hope in December of 2013. I went not by my own orchestration or physical strength, but it was God alone who made this trip possible. Two weeks prior to the trip, I broke my ankle and was forced to hobble around in a boot and crutches. This is not exactly ideal for African terrain, but by His grace, God made it possible. After overcoming numerous obstacles leading up to the day of departure, I knew that God must have something really special in store for this African adventure. On the plane ride to Johannesburg, all I could think about were the kids we were about to meet. We had been praying for each name and gazing at every sweet picture for 4 months, and now the time had finally come for us to meet them. My heart could hardly handle the anticipation!
We arrived at the Hope Centre exhausted from our travels, yet excited to be there. As we walked (hobbled) inside, I recognized sweet faces from the pictures of precious orphans we had been praying over, and my heart instantly melted. I already loved them. The following days were spent reading bible stories, singing songs, hanging Christmas decorations, bouncing on “jumping castles” and shopping for “swimming costumes.” We laughed hard and loved harder.
At night, all 42 kids were bathed, brushed, fed and ready for bed. Without a doubt, bedtime was my favorite part of the entire trip. Because there are so many children in the orphanage, it is a challenge to provide one-on-one time with each child; therefore we made it our mission to tuck each individual into bed at night. When I kissed every face it felt like I was kissing the face of Jesus himself.
With big, brown, beautiful eyes looking up at me as I whispered I love you, I knew that tender moments like these were rare and precious gifts. To tell a child that they are loved is special, indeed; but to actually see on a child’s face that they BELIEVE they are loved is indescribable. The presence and power of the Holy Spirit in those moments will always be ingrained in my soul.
God used my limited mobility as an opportunity to open my eyes in South Africa. I had no choice but to slow down and truly absorb my surroundings.
I remember driving through the slum of Sweetwaters, looking out the window at what seemed to be a hopeless place—full of death and sickness and sin. My heart broke to think about the conditions in which these babies lived. I vividly remember the words God spoke into my heart… I’m still here.
I felt a sense of understanding deep in my bones as those three words rang clear. I’m. Still. Here.
Even when sickness and death lay around every corner, God was still there. Even when crime rates were at their highest, God was still there. Even when orphaned children were left on the side of the road, God was still there. God had not left them. He had not failed them. He had not turned His face from these people. He was STILL there. Jesus was not defeated on the cross, but He conquered the grave!
He’s still alive and moving in South Africa. I could see Him in the eyes of those cherished children. I could feel Him on the streets of Sweetwaters. I could hear Him in the voices that filled Tabitha every morning singing praises: Sing to our God the Lord of nations, Come the New Jerusalem, Look what God has done!
When hope seems lost and life gets tough, we sometimes forget. We overlook the obvious and discredit the One who gives us breath. Whether it is in America or in an orphanage in South Africa, God’s still here. He is constant. He is unwavering. He is alive and He is here.
The Lord has done and is continuing to do great things in South Africa through Restoration Hope, and I look forward to one day proclaiming, “Look what God has done!”