From Battles to Blessings
This life is a battlefield. Battles are won not by our own hands but when we’re on our knees lifting hands in prayer. I am so thankful for my prayer warriors back home because I would be a wreck already otherwise. I even have children at an orphanage in Peru praying for me! My friend Jess and Fr. Joe (who run it) know the type of warfare that comes with a mission such as this, so their own kids pray for us here! While there are plenty of battles, a man reminded me just the other day though not to forget about the blessings. “Get ready for the blessings!” he exclaimed to me after I relayed how I had resigned from a job I love back home to move here. He excitedly embraced me, saying blessings will follow obedience to the will of the Lord. The past week and a half has definitely been from battles to blessings!
To explain the battles would take too long because if you’re not here, it’ll be too hard to understand the daily conflict many of these girls face, the inner turmoil, and quiet suffering they rarely talk about. Like one girl who said, “Sometimes it’s better to be alone because no one can hurt you.” And another who wrote, “My heart is swimming in a bloody dam.” Or one girl who had silent tears stream down her face and was hesitant to let me console her. Another who says this home is her safety because there is no man here who can hurt her. It’s no wonder I’ve walked into a battlefield. It’s no wonder I’m so exhausted already. But like the American man told me, this also comes with blessings. It is a blessing that I can help carry these girls’ burdens and teach them how to lay them at the feet of Christ. While I’ve been frustrated quite a lot this past week, I can hardly remember why because the blessings indeed outshine the darkness. So, I’ll let you in on sharing in these moments of light.
I started a weekly outgoing called Dates with Mama Kate. This is my opportunity to get to know the girls better and treat them to lunch or dinner in the process. So far, I’ve had 3 of 13 of these dates. For Melissa’s date, we went to Nandos. Although her age puts her right in the middle of the lineup of our girls, her quiet demeanor and wisdom makes her seem like one of the oldest. I asked her what she would do if she could have three wishes come true. She wished for 1) Her sick sister to be well, 2) Her sister to get a job, and 3) Her brother to finish school and her other brothers to change their minds (about drinking and girls). Wow, what an amazing young woman; she didn’t use even one wish on herself. #blessed
Lately I’ve also had great one on one time with Ayanda and Sibussa. One night we got into some really good conversations that kept us up till midnight, even on a school night (oops)! We talked about boys, of course, and they relayed to me their checklist for their future husbands. They of course told me they didn’t have boyfriends though and wanted to wait until they were done with school before worrying about boys. It wasn’t until a few days later, I learned a completely different story. Ayanda was the first to spill the beans, “Okay, I’ll tell you the truth now.” She explained her own boyfriend situation as well as several other girls in the home.
“What?” I was shocked. “But you all just said the other day you would focus on school first.” I was a little hurt that even Ayanda hadn’t told me the truth.
“Yeah, they won’t tell you. We don’t tell any adults. They’ll be too scared to tell you.”
As we conversed, I told Ayanda I planned on having girl talk with all the older girls that night. She still claimed no one would be honest or talk about having boyfriends. I told her I’d find a way to get it out of them.
So later that night, I brought all the older girls into one of the bedrooms. They were all confused at first and wondering why I wanted to talk to them, thinking they were all in trouble. I started by saying, “Okay, we’re in here to talk about boys!” I smiled and they shifted nervously. “So, raise your hand if you have a boyfriend.”
Silence, no eye contact with me but glances at each other.
Then one girl slowly raised her hand…then another followed…then another…and one more.
“Oh,” I said surprised they had admitted it. I had rehearsed a completely different speech, thinking they weren’t going to admit it. “Okay,” I started, “Well, let me just share some advice with you. Now, I’ve shared this advice with my American girls back home and rarely do they listen…until it’s too late and then they say, ‘Oh, I should have listened to Mama Kate!’ So I’m going to give you all some advice and I hope you DON’T do what they did and ignore what I’m going to tell you.” I paused. Only one girl, Nonhlanhla made eye contact and eagerly awaited everything I was about to say. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I shared my own story, struggle with singleness, search for love, etc. and told them, “I’m not going to tell you that you can’t have boyfriends, because some of you will anyway, but I will tell you that it is much wiser to be single right now.” I explained the importance of waiting for the right one and how, as Paul says in Scripture, when we are single we can give ourselves fully to the Lord and not be distracted by a relationship. They were so quiet the whole time and I was a little disappointed by their lack of responses, because I wanted to hear more from them. But I left them with the invitation to talk openly about their relationships with me so I could help them if they needed it.
The following day I told Rachel and Kiley that I had a talk with all the older girls.
“We heard!” Kiley replied.
“Oh?” I questioned. “From who?”
“Tibonile said she broke up with her boyfriend today. She told him, ‘My mom doesn’t want me to have a boyfriend. So I’m just going to be in a relationship with Jesus right now.’”
I was so surprised. It reminded me of the other night at the hospital with Tibonile when a man asked to marry me and I said, “No, I’m already taken.” When he asked who the man was I smiled, “Jesus.” Tibonile thought that was the funniest thing ever, and now here she was saying the same thing to break up with her boyfriend. #blessed
I try to go into each room at night to pray for the girls and say goodnight. For the younger girls room, the first time I came in, they lit up. I kissed them each goodnight, and their smiles and excitement melted my heart, and reminded me how starved they are of motherly affection. #blessed
Sometimes at night when the girls are cleaning, we break into random song and dance. I love that they love that I love to dance. Siphesihle is an awesome hip hop dancer and can do a legit robot. I sometimes do my little stomp routine and Nonhlanhla tries to imitate it, and it’s hilarious. It’s so fun to spend time being crazy with them. #blessed
Thanks to my years counseling at Lutherdale Bible Camp, I have some fun movement songs I teach the girls. Their favorite is a song that has different actions they do with one another, like shake another hand, high another five, pat another back, etc. Their favorite is bump another rump and they go crazy throwing their hips at each other. Even Titi gets in on that one! Rachel wrote me a note the other day and encouraged me to keep leading worship because she sees how the whole room is transformed and spirits are lifted. #blessed
I finally finished my book and Ayanda has been eagerly reading it. She said she loves it because it makes her want to laugh and cry all at the same time. She said it keeps her wondering what’s going to happen next even though she’s already lived through what I’ve written about! Haha. Also, for her birthday, all Ayanda wanted to do was to learn to play basketball like me. So we bought her a basketball and shot around on an outside court. It was more like a birthday present for me! #blessed
We had a pastor come over to our house the other day to pray over all the girls because there was a bit of unrest. He rocked the house. He was phenomenal. By the end of it, he had all the girls up and yelling and laughing and calling on the Lord together as one. It was incredible. #blessed
Tenele’s prayer last night shook the heavens I’m sure. She prayed for so many people and such powerful and sincere pleas. She praised God for my pure heart and prayed that God would touch her real mother’s heart so that it can also be pure with love for Tenele and for her children. She thanked God for my family and prayed for her friends and girls in the home. She told God she’s sorry for her sins and wants to have a better heart for him. She prayed for her kids, for her “unanswered question that I ask you each time,” about why she has to have kids. Yet, she prayed for them that they would have a better life than she did and their father did. If only all of us prayed like she just did, all darkness would be pierced with light. She is already teaching me much! I just feel so blessed to have been a witness and a part of that prayer. #blessed
While there are numerous blessings in the home, it’s also nice to have outside support. I received my first letter in the mail from Rachael Schaefer and it was AMAZING, perfect, and at the exact time I needed it. Her words have always been so full of wisdom, and once again, I felt like God had written this letter to me through her. In her letter, I felt God confirming my move to Swazi and letting go of my American life, possibly forever.
Ally sent me a WhatsApp message and prayed this for me: “God will embrace you with comfort and grant you mighty strength…mentally, physically, and spiritually. May you overflow with hope, faith, patience, forgiveness, kindness, empathy, wisdom, understanding, and love.” Already the prayer is being answered in so many ways, especially strength, patience, and forgiveness. #blessed
Having Rachel and Kiley here with me has been incredible. We are doing our own book study, and one particular day that we were all having American cravings, we just curled up in bed with our books, journals, chocolate, and a spoonful of peanut butter. #blessed
Just the other day, Musa brought over a team from the States that has been doing ministry in Swazi. I had prayed in my journal the day before that God would bring with them an outpouring and would bless the work of their hands. God did more than answer that prayer! He poured out favor and blessings upon each girl in our home as the team brought them care packages, dresses, cookies, and Bibles of their own. They were so excited to have a SiSwati Bible with their own name on it! The team did a bible study with them and worshiped with them and prayed with them. It could not have come at a better time, as these girls were in need of great emotional and spiritual uplifting. They built shelves for the living room, fixed/rebuilt broken beds, and even added extra shelves in mine and Titi’s room! They didn’t stop there. They poured out blessings on me as they prayed over me and offered support of their own; one man committed to going home, getting on our website and giving us monthly donations, another couple offered their home in South Africa as a retreat and getaway for me when I need it (and can possibly help me publish my book!), another wanted contact information to keep updated on Hosea’s Heart, and Musa offers praise for my heart. #blessed
From battles to blessings, indeed!