Our Plans are not His Plans (for a Reason)

From the beginning of this trip I’ve been trying to figure out plans for Tenele to move out of Mangwaneni.  She was the first to approach me and tell me she wanted to leave.  After my initial surprise, I began going through all the options I could think of as to where Tenele could stay.  I began feeling a little discouraged but during one of my quiet times, I felt the Lord calling me to action — now or never.  So I went to work on contacting people and coming up with my own plans for where to place Tenele and how  to do so safely.  I also wanted to make sure Tenele really wanted to leave, because it is going to be a hard transition out of that Mangwaneni life for her.

After no luck finding other places for her to stay or people for her to stay with, my brilliant plan was this: when our team leaves, Christina could stay in the volunteer house and Tenele could come live with here there!  Titi even agreed to help out and live with the two of them.  It could be a temporary “girls home” as we wait for the renovation of the other girls home to begin.  It was all so brilliant in my head until I proposed the idea to MYC.  Winile listened patiently at my idea and gently told me it wouldn’t work because, among other reasons, the house is strictly for volunteers.  But she also offered advice of getting the MYC social welfare office involved with Tenele and doing a home visit to find out more information about her background and see if there are any relatives in the area she could stay with. As we left that meeting, Christina nonchalantly commented, “Well, our plans are not always God’s plans.”  She could not be more correct!

Fortunately, I’ve been able to spend immense amounts of time with umtfwana wami this trip!  In fact, we’ve even had two sleepovers!  During all this time with Tenele it is so evident that her baby girl has had a huge impact on Tenele’s change of heart.  She loves her so much and baby MK (Lucia) loves her, too.  With all this time together I’ve been able to experience a side of Tenele that I have been praying for for three years now!  It is clear that the last step of Tenele’s life change is to get her out of her living situation, out of Mangwaneni.  Tenele told me about her real mother and that she wants to meet me.  So I arranged with Alban, the MYC social worker, to do a home visit with Tenele.  He eagerly jumped at the opportunity to help and even took me to Mangwaneni to find Cedric so we could talk to him about moving Tenele.  Alban was very clear that it is important we get Cedric’s “permission” otherwise it could turn in to a messy situation if Cedric wants to go looking for Tenele and the baby later.  I was so blessed by Alban’s eagerness to help when it wasn’t even his job.  The meeting with Cedric was wonderful.  He was very shy in front of Alban, but he agreed it would be good for Tenele to leave Mangwaneni.  We also invited him to join us for the home visit, but he kindly declined with a “maybe.”

After we arranged for a specific day for the home visit, Tenele said her mother wasn’t at home so we had to wait another day.  When this happened one more time, I started thinking this whole home visit ordeal was not going to work.  God is so good!  He lavished me with surprises this trip, and the home visit was the best one by far!  Finally, on Wednesday of this past week, Christina and I took Tenele to her home in Malindza (with the gracious MYC driver Mateo).  Her home is in the middle of nowhere, but the land surrounding it was beautiful.  Her mother greeted us with joyful smiles, as she couldn’t speak or understand any English.  Luckily, her step-father was there, so we were able to translate through him.

Christina and I had never done a “home visit” before so we didn’t know how in the world to even begin, but we had some paperwork with us, so we just went with it.  The step father, Moses, filled out the paper work as we visited with them and we learned more about Tenele’s life.  They said Tenele is the youngest of the family and they sent her to live with her “aunite” (which was really just a friend of the mother’s) because of poverty in the house.  Moses told us how they had an “agreement” with the auntie to raise Tenele and take her to school.  Moses then said, “But she didn’t hold up her end of the agreement.  Tenele didn’t have a good life.”  I was shocked that he acknowledged that to our faces.  Then he proceeded to say that they tried to call Tenele back home but she refused because she was already living with Cedric at this point.  So through both sides of the story, I was able to piece together a lot more of Tenele’s life:
In 2008, (shortly after I first met Tenele), a friend told her that the “mother” she was staying with was not her real mother.  Not wanting to endure the abuse anymore, Tenele left to find her real mother.  When she found her, however, the stepfather (Moses) didn’t want Tenele, so they sent her away.  That’s when she went to teh streets and lived as a prostitute for almost three years before she starting living with Cedric.  By that time, the parents had figured out what had happened to Tenele and had called her back home, but Tenele was already hurt by them and too far into prostitution and the live she lived that going back home wasn’t an option.

After learning all of this, I still didn’t think Tenele living back at home was an option.  But when I asked Moses repeatedly if there were any other relatives or friends or people we could trust to help Tenele find a place to live, he finally said, “Well, she can live here.”

“What?” I asked him to repeat what he said, not thinking those words were possible.
“Yah, she can stay here with us.”
“Really?”  I was quite shocked by his assured declaration, so I asked him if he was sure.  He began explaining as long as Tenele WANTED to come home and was going to leave the life with Cedric behind, she is welcome to come home.
I called Tenele back into the room so she could hear this.  We talked about it together and arranged plans for Tenele to move home.  The joy in Tenele’s face is absolutely priceless!  Moses gave us his cell phone number and we gave him ours and told him we’d (well, not me, but Christina) would be doing home visits to ensure Tenele’s still there and treated well, etc.  I also arranged with them that when Christina takes Tenele to move back home, I’d bring some food, soap, candles, diapers, etc. so that they wouldn’t be so burdened with taking care of two more lives right away.  Her mother was beaming with a smile from ear to ear.  Tenele said she really liked Moses and was excited to come home.  Her older sister Bongiwe was there, too, and told Tenele in English, “Make sure you don’t lie” about coming home.  But they all looked so happy to be together, it was just so amazing!

When I left Tenele’s home, I walked with her am in arm, beaming with joy and love together.  Then Tenele looked up at me with a big smile and said, “Mama, you go home on Monday, and I go home on Tuesday.”

 It was the FIRST time Tenele has mentioned my leaving without her crying!  How incredible!  It will also soothe my own pain of leaving her, knowing that she as I am going home, so is she!

God’s plans are truly not our own for a reason…because His are PERFECT, but He is Perfect.  He is our Jehovah-raah, the Shepherd, who not only provides and cares for us, but gives to us in abundance!  There is no greater love, no greater plan than His.  And there’s no greater picture than a sheep and the shepherd to sum up God’s pursuit of Tenele.  As a sheep, she strayed away, but the Lord stopped at nothing to call her back to him.  Now he is scooping her up in his arms, rejoicing in her, and holding her eternally in his truth.

Yes, Jehovah-raah, I will always follow you!

Recent Comments

  • Kim Crouse

    Saturday, 28 Jul, 2012

    I am so happy for tenele and her baby. Your perseverance and love has helped to build a bridge to God. What a beautiful gift! You are an amazing testimony for answering Gods call. Have a safe and healthy trip home,


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