My Teacher is a 16 Year Old

Isn’t it amazing that the people we think we’re teaching or helping are usually the ones changing, reforming, and refining us?  16 year old Ayanda never ceases to amaze me.  She is wise beyond years, tender beyond her tears, and firm in the face of fears.  I have learned more from Ayanda in the past two years than I have ever taught anyone else.  She might still call me “Mama” but I’ll have to start calling her “Teacha!”, especially after the conversation we just had…

I just got done having an hour long phone conversation with this brilliant Swazi girl, who made me laugh more in the course of one conversation than I have for the past two weeks!  Before I explain what exactly we talked about during this conversation that was so incredible, I’ll have to let you in on some hidden parts of my heart. 
When I was in Swazi for those nine months in 2010-2011, I experienced some of the most lonely and dangerous times of my life; however, some of that was expected being in a foreign country on my own.  But, when I feel that same stinging loneliness in my own country, in my own city, in my own job, in my own home, in my own heart, that’s not expected and that makes it more painful.  “Lord, if I’m feeling this lonely being here, why don’t I just go to Swazi and stay there?” I journaled one night.  I know the answer; I know I’m supposed to be here bearing the cross of living in two different worlds and loving two different families.  
But as I’ve been preparing for my students and classes that start in a few days, I’ve realized I’m addicted to the work.  I bury myself at school in the piles of work all day all week not just because it needs to be done but because it makes me feel like I have a purpose, it makes me feel less lonely… that is, until I realize working that much actually doesn’t improve my social life at all.  I feel like I’m stuck in an awkward stage of life; I’m just beginning my professional career, so in that respect I’m young.  But I’m also a soon-to-be 26 year old single woman whose social circles have for the most part moved on in different directions post college, and in that respect I feel old.  Society says I should have already met my prince charming (most likely in college), should be married, or at least on the road to engagement, and having kids soon.  I’m far from what society says, and though I know I’m not meant to conform to the ways of the world, I can’t help but feel the pressure to find a soul mate, and because that hasn’t happened yet it makes me feel even more empty or unworthy.  I could go on and on about that struggle, which always is a cycle; some days I think I could be single for the rest of my life knowing that’s how I could glorify God best, other days I cry out in frustration telling God, “It’s not fair.” Up until today, I was on the lower end of the cycle for longer than I thought.
“Hah? Mama?!” Ayanda squealed in delight as she recognized my voice.  I squealed in return because I had called Ayanda on a whim, thinking it wouldn’t connect because she rarely has the cell phone on.  “Mama, we miss you too much.”  My heart sank and smiled at the same time.  After an exchange of greetings and mutual excitement, Ayanda talked and talked and talked.  She said so many incredible, funny, silly, inspiring things I started writing some of them down.  Keep in mind, she has no idea what I’ve been struggling with as she launches into a spiel about how she loves me: “You are an open person.  You don’t keep secrets.  You tell us what’s your heart.  You cry in front of us.”
“A person who smiles all the time cries a lot.  For me… I laugh a lot.  But when it’s time to cry, I cry a lot.”
Ayanda, Johannes, Tenele, and Baby MK
Then she directed the conversation to when we departed them at the end of July.  “You were all crying when you hugged us goodbye… When you were gone, Johannes and I walked back to meet Tenele and Johannes started crying.  I laughed at first because I thought he was a man, and men don’t cry.  But then he cried so hard he made Tenele and I cry even harder.” 
Then she moved the conversation to why she had been crying earlier that day.  The Reed Dance (a cultural tradition where thousands and thousands of women and girls come to dance before the King where he would choose another wife [though the king doesn’t choose one like in the traditional past, it is still like a rite of passage for all Swazi girls]) has started and Ayanda couldn’t go because she didn’t have money.  All of her family and friends had left her for the Reed Dance so she was feeling sad and alone.  “But I have to laugh a lot like right now with you, because I can’t be sad for a long time,” she said before she started talking about the Swazi culture of a man marrying multiple wives.  
“Can you marry a man who has five wives?” she asked me.
“No,” I laughed.  “No way. Can you?”
“No.  I’d rather be alone. That’s why I want to be a lawyer.  I will make money so I can live alone.  Maybe I can adopt kids.  But I can’t marry a man that has more wives.  I would have a jealous!  I can’t share my husband.”
And if this conversation wasn’t enough, she boldly states:  “Mama, I think you’re going to get married… because I want a dad!”  A tear of joy clouded my vision for a brief moment.  She said exactly what my heart has been yearning for.  Every time I think about my future and whether or not God is calling me to a life of singleness or a life of marriage, I can’t get past the fact that these kids (my kids everywhere) need a father, not just a mother.  More than ever, the Swazi girls need to see a man love his wife and love his kids.  During this past July, Ayanda said she didn’t want a husband because they beat too much, and because “husbands are a headache every day.”  More than anything, this world needs more examples of what marriage is meant to be, as with Christ and his bride, the Church.  
I laughed and told her I would love that more than anything.  Then I started spilling my heart about loneliness and struggles, to which she adamantly responded:  
“I know God will give you a perfect husband.”

I laughed again…until she continued:  “Do you remember last time in Bible club when
you taught us love is patient, love is kind?…I think you will have a husband who
will be kind and patient.  Hey, don’t
forget that verse because you teach us that verse and I won’t forget so you
either. Promise?”

Through choked up words, I managed to say, “Yes, I promise.”
“I love that verse.  It always makes my heart feel better.  I always start with that verse.  
So don’t worry…you have to be patient.”
It took a 16 year old to finally get God’s message through to me.  BE PATIENT.  Because LOVE IS PATIENT!  It was like God said to me, “Hey, sweetheart, you can preach it all you want, but if you don’t believe it what good is that?” So he used Ayanda, who had been a “student” during Bible Club lessons in 2011, to teach me what I needed to hear, to believe, and to live out.
“But, Mom, I need a good man, okay?  One who will say, ‘Yeah, let’s go to Swazi together,’ not one who will just let you go alone.”  
As if this conversation wasn’t incredible enough, before we hung up she left me with this:

“But don’t worry…sooner or later you will have your husband…and my daddy!”

Ayanda’s hands forming a heart against the Swazi sunset makes the image of Hosea’s Heart, Inc. 

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