Two years ago, I was 94 days into a mammoth adventure, a following of dreams and a chasing of God’s calling on my life.
It was a season of joy, pain, beauty and immense privilege, and it feels like just yesterday I landed in that beautiful land yet I can still vividly remember the day a year ago when I stepped back on that plane at OR Tambo to return home to Aotearoa.
I could spend all day telling you about the smiles and hugs, the joy of watching a child take their first steps or the absolute privilege it was to help raise these incredible children while they await their forever homes.
The truth is two years ago I was struggling, and I described my experience thus far as a beautiful brutal reality. I was challenged, I was encouraged, I was shown so much love and I endured more than I ever imagined I would in my first 50 days on African soil.
And so, I asked, what is the purpose?
I know without a doubt that God placed me on that farm in Johannesburg south for a reason and as I struggled to find my place, to find my peace and to continue surrendering my all to God I couldn’t find my purpose of being there other than loving those babies.
Today, two years on, a year after returning to New Zealand, I can tell you that the purpose of me being there was so much more than just loving those babies.
God changed me, he gave me the tools to heal, he gave me the chance to surrender more of myself than I had before and he gave me the right people to be vulnerable with and to develop deep and authentic relationships with.
I’ve always struggled to be the most authentic and vulnerable version of myself, to be someone who shows ‘life beyond the surface,’ to be the person I’m destined to be, to speak and share my flaws and vulnerabilities and to share with an open and honest heart.
Learning to be more authentic and vulnerable during my time in South Africa was one of the hardest yet most life-giving journeys of self-development I’ve been on these past few years.
Living a life so far from the norm of my life I’ve lived in Aotearoa and away from those in my life who know my heart, who know my struggles and my joys and my passion, away from those who have walked this journey of life with me thus far meant that I had to learn to trust, to be open and to expose my heart and the hard truths to people I haven’t journeyed with for very long in life.
I got to see the beauty of journeying authentically in relationship with people from all walks of life, with people who I wouldn’t normally become so close and deep with and with people who didn’t see me for the colour of my skin, the life I come from, or any other unimportant aspect of who I am.
They saw my heart, they heard the cries of my pain, they walked beside me through every challenge and every triumph.
These people didn’t know me. These kids didn’t see anything beyond the love and friendship I gave them.
I very quickly learnt that I wouldn’t survive without the art of being authentic, without the trust to share openly when the chaos of it all was too much and without the faith that no matter what came out of my mouth I would still be loved and accepted.
So, what now…?
I continue to thrive to be true to who I am, to who I’ve become and to who God destines me to be.
I continue to work hard daily to keep open, to remain authentic to myself and those around me and to continue to break down the walls I spent so long building to protect myself from the evil of this world and life.
I work daily to be authentic, not just for myself but for those who I align myself with.
I am a Young Salvationist who lives in Upper Hutt, Wellington. I am passionate about enhancing the life experiences of others and do this in my paid employment as a Support worker for those with Intellectual Disabilities and as a volunteer leader for GirlGuiding New Zealand. I love to create, write and travel the world and have a passion for submerging myself in the cultures of each place I travel. I left my heart in Africa a month before Covid sent the world into lockdown and I cannot wait to be able to return and serve in a continent that stole so much of my heart.