To risk stating the obvious, this summer has been absolutely, entirely different from any I’ve seen before. I’ve always grouped these months together with days of relaxation and play in the sun, quality memory making with my closest friends and even a few family vacations through the years. Even those seasons when I’ve worked have been lifeguarding on a beach and chaperoning children on top-notch field trips. Days before embarking on this journey, Micah from Poetice described what we’re doing as giving up our summers. I would respond that the trade off, everything we’ve seen and learned over the past two and a half months so far, has been more than worth it. Yet there’s truth in what he said – I haven’t had a chance this summer to swim or spend time with my friends back home in Buffalo. I’ve missed my parents and the opportunity to make some extra money for the upcoming school year. Again, this is the decision I made, and I don’t regret it one bit, but everything we choose to do means there’s something else we’re not doing. The other day, though, our team was blessed with an outing that closely resembled the treasured, carefree days of my memory.
Our first week here in Kalungu was very busy, and we had arrived at the conclusion of our weekend in the village totally exhausted. Actually, as I described in the last post, Prince and I were totally rested and rejuvenated, but the other pairs hadn’t been so pampered. Perhaps to balance out the hard work put in the week before, this one has been relatively light. We’ve had to be present for five forty-five AM prayer walks, and we put in an hour or so of children’s or sports ministry per day, but we’ve also gotten to have a bit of fun. This Tuesday was especially full of play and adventure. FCE has a farm in Isale, the village just North of Kalungu. While we got a workout relocating endless fifty kilogram sacks of maze last week, we returned to the property Tuesday for a day on the river. James the farmer had prepared several team-building activities for our group, most of which involved creatively crossing the river using bridges or swings made of rope. I felt like we were at summer camp, and the feeling of completing a challenge as a team is so rewarding!
After the structured stuff, we were showed another rope swing that launched you into a deep section of water. This kept us entertained for at least an hour, encouraging one another to face our nerves and try something new. The swing reminded me of the zip line over my dear friend’s pond, where we spent some of life’s best days. I even tried (and face planted) a backflip like we would do back then.
Like everything else here, there was a little something more to this happy time to make it unique and authentically African. Almost all of our team members who didn’t grow up in the States couldn’t swim. One would think this would produce an unconquerable fear of water and divide our team. Thankfully, to my surprise, this wasn’t the case at all! Knowing that I grew up swimming all the time, these friends of mine literally put their lives in my hands and went flying into deep water. The lifeguard in me was paralyzed with fear at all the possibilities for something to go wrong, but there was no stopping their simple trust in my ability to prevent any of that. By the grace of God, I was able to meet their confident expectations, and at the end of the day I was so reassured that our family had become just that – a body of brothers and sisters who trust one another, even in the most dire circumstances. It’s hard for me to express how thankful I am that we’ve reached this level, and that I get to be a part of something like this.
Once we finished swinging, we cooked up a picnic featuring genuine South African food, courtesy of James’ wife, Lindy, who’s from there. After that, as we packed up and prepared to return to the base, James casually instructed me to climb to the top of the tree supporting the rope swing in order to untie it. Now, I don’t have a huge problem with heights, but free climbing into the thin branches on a blustery day was a rush of its own. It wasn’t until I completed my task that he suggested that I scoot a bit further over the water and hop in. Momma, you would love this guy! Unable to turn down such a storytelling opportunity, it was with slow movement and shaky breath that I made my way out and finally worked up the courage to plunge twenty-plus feet into the cool, refreshing river. My heartbeat quickens just thinking about it, and it’s a memory I get to hold on to for the rest of my life.
Exciting, memorable days like this don’t epitomize or cover the fullness of life on mission. Some days are intensely hard and painful. Others are just plain boring. Each side of this life is worthwhile and makes it what it is, but it’s so life-giving when our loving, caring God feeds our soul with a fun day like this one. This post doesn’t have a dramatic, transformational narrative or a deep lesson to take away, only a reminder that we’re being taken care of and look forward to our homecoming. As difficult as it will be to leave this environment, it will also be so good to return to life as I know it and to put into practice everything I’ve learned here, especially when it comes to loving my people. Until then, though, I continue to savor every moment I’ve been given with these friends and in this place. See you soon!
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR
William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern